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The Ultimate Monocular Buying Guide for Outdoorsmen

Monocular buying guide
Written by Dan Goldsmith
Last Update: August 11, 2023

When planning to experience the outdoors, what you load in your bag depends on your reason for exploring.

However, you can never go wrong with a high-quality, distant-vision, optical instrument. And picking the ideal one for your specific needs can be daunting. That’s what this monocular buying guide is all about!

People usually use monoculars to avoid the weight and usability issue that comes with binoculars. But with so many brands out there, all with appealing features, choosing a monocular that’s perfect for you can develop a migraine!

Surprisingly, you can still find the best one that fits your objectives with some tips and tricks. This is where this guide can help!

Monoculars are so convenient to carry around that they make you thank the stars for taking them along.

Plus, they can perform almost the same levels of functions as multi-purpose hunting binoculars, even though you look through just one eye.

This is because they are built on the same prism technology as binoculars. The only difference is unlike binoculars, monoculars only require you to use one eye to view images.

Having the means to narrow down your options can be the difference between buying good equipment and a great one.

Good equipment gets the job done, but great equipment puts a smile on your face while you’re at it. So, learning how to choose a monocular should precede the shopping mission. Let’s get going!

Choosing a monocular that works to your specific needs enhance your outdoor experience.

To get good value for your money, you should study the variations between the numerous monocular models out there.

You also need to make sure you’re getting great equipment at the price you budgeted.

With this guide, you’ll get to know the types of monoculars available today, their specifications, and their functional features.

You’ll also get to check the pros and cons of each type, allowing you to compare and contrast. With information like this in mind, you’ll definitely become an expert in picking the best monoculars from a myriad of options.

The Ultimate Monocular Buying Guide: What to Look For

Monocular Buying Guide

Here are the things you need to know about Monoculars so that you can make the best bullying decision for your next one.

Knowing the Different Types of Monoculars

A monocular combines the features of a telescope (singular viewing lens) and binoculars (prisms and lenses).

This allows them to magnify images with less stress than binoculars. It also cuts down their weight and size. For an outdoorsman, this’s a huge plus!

The compact design of a monocular is its primary appeal. When monoculars are designed to be larger, they are called spotting scopes.

These have more powerful lenses and a wide field of view than the smaller monoculars. They are also much heavier.

Monoculars come in many variations based on how they work. These variations include compact, night vision, infrared, and thermal imaging.

It is necessary to know how each of these variations works so you can go for the one with the most satisfactory features offered.

1. Basic Monocular

These standard models and designs are generally made to serve basic viewing functions on a regular basis.

They usually come with lenses primed for that purpose, making their function singular and specific. Golfers, hikers, and casual outdoors people can easily get attracted to these devices.


  • Easy to use
  • Not too heavy. Average monoculars weigh less than a pound
  • Comes in a wide variety of viewing specifications
  • Wide price ranges


  • Higher qualities are expensive
  • Some models have limited functions

2. Compact Monocular

These are small, pocket-friendly monoculars designed for regular use. They are usually smaller than basic binoculars, though they can match up the same performance levels.

Their compact sizes make them easy to carry around, which is why they have a wide range of users. Travelers, hikers, theatre-goers, nature lovers, art enthusiasts, and many others opt for these mini monoculars.


  • Small, pocket sizes
  • Superb transportability
  • Comes in a wide range of models
  • Lightweight build quality
  • Affordable price


  • Limited view
  • Smaller magnification specifications

3. Night Vision Monocular

These monocular units are specially designed to utilize what little light is available and still produce the optimal view.

As the name implies, night vision monoculars are ideal for use at night or in very dim light. Some high-end units are capable of producing vision in daylight as well.

Still, these devices achieve primal function when used in the dark. Campers, hunters, and night strollers would love this one.


  • Clear vision in dim environments.
  • High utilization of little light.


  • Mostly limited to night use.
  • Slightly higher price than normal monocular.

4. Infrared Monocular

These particular kinds of night vision monoculars employ the infrared wavelength to produce vision at night.

They can also be used in daylight as the feature can be disabled at will. They enhance night viewing, and users can make out targets easily. These would also be very handy for night hunters and campers.


  • Distinct night viewing capacity
  • Can also be used as a day monocular
  • Affordable price
  • Very portable sizes and weight


  • Some may interfere with hunting as they come with detectable red lights.

5. Thermal Imaging Monocular

Another type of night vision monoculars is specially fitted with thermal imaging technology.

It enables them to read the heat radiated off the surfaces of targets and form images with it. This allows the user to spot targets in the dark or even behind thin surfaces such as vegetation.

They are the ultimate night vision monoculars, and hunters especially go after these.


  • Impressive night viewing capacity
  • Dual use capacity for night or day
  • No switch required to turn on the day use
  • Undetectable lenses that will not alert living targets


  • Relatively more expensive than the other options
  • Sudden bursts in heat levels may interfere with the vision

Compact monoculars are the most widely used globally; some models are often fitted with night vision features. But most times, these variations are separated as combining them can influence the overall design and price of the device.

Understanding the Important Components and Functions of the Monoculars

Important Components and Functions of a monocular

Getting a firm overview of the basic operational features is the most critical factor to consider when buying a monocular.

Knowing what does what in a monocular can help you focus your hunt toward devices with specifications that ensure better outcomes. Below are the elements to analyze before checking out.

1. Magnifications and Lens Diameter

When you pick up a monocular, you will notice two numbers on its casings in the form of AXB. These numbers are the viewing specifications of the device.

In the case above, ‘A’ represents the magnification power of the device, while ‘B’ denotes the size of its objective lens.

Magnification refers to how large the image on the device looks when you peek through it. Most monoculars have magnification power ranging from 5X to 15X. The higher the magnification power, the more detail the monocular can catch.

The objective lens’s diameter is the objective lens’s size, usually expressed in millimeters. In the example presented, ‘B’ represents the size of the objective lens.

The lens size is responsible for the brightness of the image formed. Generally, objective lenses used in a monocular range between 25mm to about 42mm.

The combination of the magnification power and the lens size indicates the level of viewing power and quality of the monocular.

A device with the number 9X40 indicates that the monocular has a magnification power of 9X and a lens size of 40mm.

So, devices with 7X25 will have low power compared to those with 9X35. Higher numbers indicate higher-quality image formation.

Bear in mind that the lens size also determines the size of the monocular. Devices of 10X30 and above are usually heavier, while those of 10X27 and below are pocket-sized.

However, smaller monoculars are usually less powerful than larger ones, unless the quality is high. This raises the price, so for affordable, high-quality viewing, pick a monocular with a magnification power above 10X30.

Also, note monoculars with higher magnification are challenging to handle, mainly due to their larger lens size. This is especially true if you’re a beginner.

Only settle for higher viewing specs if you already have good handling experience. Otherwise, go for something below the suggested specs. For new users, 8X30 can be a good start.

2. Field of View

The size of the circular image you can see from a monocular is its field of view. Higher magnification power indicates a narrower field of view and a more precise image.

But combining high magnification with a high focus lens can create clear images even with a wide field of view. Image clarity is usually good when the magnification and focal length of the objective lens is set moderately.

The quality of the lens also affects the field of view. Higher-quality lenses will produce a better field of view than cheaper ones. Lenses with zoom quality also improve this factor.

So, when considering whether to buy a device with a wide field of view, you should also check the lens’s quality.

3. Coating Options

Knowing the various lens coatings is also part of learning how to choose a monocular. The lenses are usually coated with some unique material to improve the functionality of the monocular.

The type of coating on a lens determines the brightness and clarity of the image produced. It also minimizes glare on the lens, ensuring the view is optimized.

Lenses come in four coating forms; fully multi-coated, multi-coated, and coated.

Fully multi-coated are the highest quality, as they use a combination of anti-glare coatings. The result is better detail, contrast, and color of images. They even include coatings that provide waterproof capabilities.

Multi-coated lenses offer almost the same quality as fully multi-coated ones for a reasonably lower price.

Coated and fully coated lenses are basically just single coating on the lenses, hence do not offer excellent image quality. They do, however, produce fairly visible images, and monoculars with these kinds of lens coatings are very affordable.

Monoculars with fully multi-coated lenses are the best options for users who are okay with spending a lot on high-image quality. Those on a budget who still wish for quality image viewing should target multi-coated lenses.

At the same time, amateurs can begin with fully coated and coated monoculars. Though of lesser optical quality, these devices will still fulfill the magnified viewing need, which spurred going for monoculars to begin with.

4. Focusing Mechanism

To get the best viewing experience, it helps when the monocular offers a focusing mechanism. This component allows you to adjust viewing focus and increase or level sharpness and image clarity.

Since the distances of each target vary as you move around, an adjustable focus mechanism is necessary.

Monocular focusing mechanisms come in many variations. In some models, the focus mechanism is a ring around the body or the objective lens. Others have a small ring located very close to the eyepiece.

There are also models fitted with some focusing lever on the device’s body. Others offer sliding levers, toggles, focusing wheels, and buttons. And some devices feature 2 focusing rings.

The mode of design for the focusing mechanism in every monocular determines its easiness of use. Some allow users to operate the device with one hand, while others require both.

Ultimately, it comes down to what you are looking for in a device. If you enjoy using both hands, focus on designs that offer such. If you prefer the handling and focusing the monocular with only one hand, those are the types you should consider.

Devices with focusing rings and levers usually require using two hands, as do those with dual focusing mechanisms. Some models claim the focusing rings and lever can be operated with one hand, but it might be stiff and interfere with the view.

Those with toggle, button, and wheel focusing mechanisms are much easier for one-hand operation. Of the three, the button and wheel mechanisms are the smoothest.

Knowing how to choose a monocular also requires considering the sensitivity of the focusing mechanism. Suppose the focusing mechanisms in the one-hand operated monocular prove too rigid!

In that case, you should reconsider the other option. The same applies to those who prefer the two-hand operated devices.

Understanding the Form Factors and Other Properties

So many variations of monoculars are available in the market, and each one comes with unique characteristics. The component elements that make up a monocular affect the monocular’s overall outlook and performance.

This can affect its size, compactness, weight, design, and material. The combination of the physical and functional specifications is what separates the pricey versions from the budget-friendly models.

1. Size

As mentioned above, the objective lens’s size determines the monocular size and magnification power. Considering the device’s size is necessary as bulkiness might affect the purpose of use.

Also, remember that larger monoculars offer more powerful viewing capacity than smaller ones. And smaller ones are more portable.

2. Compactness

In the case of smaller monoculars, many users might wonder about the possibility of getting even smaller ones. This is especially common among light travelers, hikers, and tourists who avoid chunky gear. Compact monoculars are ideal in such cases.

Unfortunately, these devices’ magnifying power is very limited, making them unsuitable for many outdoor activities. Most users do not need to view wide ranges.

3. Weight

Just as the high magnification is important, so is the weight. Knowing how heavy your device is can be a considerable time and energy saver. Most devices are usually lightweight, except for larger, more powerful monoculars.

In such cases, users will have to cope with the heaviness if the functionality is more important. Smaller models are advised for those who detest getting weight down by equipment.

4. Design

Monocular designs are usually based on the type of prisms they use to form images. As with binoculars, there are two types; roof prism and Porro prism monocular.

Monoculars with higher magnifications tend to use roof prisms, producing narrow images. These types are great for those seeking focal distance. They are also more compact in shape.

Porro prism monoculars produce images with more depth and brightness. They work best for mid and close-range viewing (like bird watching). They are also more durable and less compact than roof prism monoculars. The vibrancy of the image quality of Porro prisms makes them the most popularly used across the globe.

There is another monocular design, though less popular than the first two. Galilean monoculars are lower magnification models with a tiny field of vision. These designs are much smaller and more compact than the first two and work best at close range.

5. Material

The type of build material determines the durability and physical resilience as devices are prone to knocks and field damage. Most monoculars are built with metal or plastic, sometimes coated on the outside with rubber to absorb shock.

The most commonly used materials are magnesium, aluminum, and polycarbonate polymers. Of these, polycarbonate is the easiest to work with. Metal-bodied monoculars are usually advised as they tend to be more knock resistant.

Of the two metals, magnesium is the lightest and most expensive. Aluminum monoculars are the most affordable in terms of price.

For general use, consider purchasing a device built with inexpensive materials. Those who plan to spend more time in harsher terrains should consider stronger materials or even extra protection from rubber or plastic.

6. Waterproof Properties

If you are planning to spend most of the time in the woods or outbacks, you need a monocular that can withstand extreme conditions.

Waterproof monoculars carry features that prevent moisture intrusion. This is denoted by IP ratings, with two numbers, e.g., IP65. The numbers represent protection level; 6 for intrusion and 5 for water resistance. The higher the numbers, the higher the waterproof properties.

Fogproof is also an essential factor for habitual outdoors people to consider. When moisture intrudes a monocular, it could fog up the lens, obstructing the view.

Fogproof monoculars employ rubber seals and inert gases to prevent this. The feature also makes such monoculars more expensive than normal ones. Looking out for fog proof is optional unless you plan on sitting in the cold or rain.

Usability of a Monocular

The basic design of monoculars allows for a wide range of applications. The variations in magnification power, lens depth, and field of view give prospective users a wide range of options. These include the following;

1. Hunting Activities

Monoculars are a hunter’s best friend. They make tracking and following the game easier. Plus, their ease of use reduces the bulkiness present in binoculars.

Their compact sizes and weight also make carrying them around much easier. Plus, night vision models allow avid huntsmen to spend more time in the field without getting weighed down.

2. Birding Purposes

This device is handy for birders and wildlife enthusiasts. It is handy for those who love to watch exotic birds or animals in their natural terrain.

It is also so simple to use, lightweight and has models specially designed for a detailed view and temporary employment.

3. Tactical Tasks

Monoculars are also valuable for military, marine, and other strategic purposes. Powerful models can easily spot and observe distant ships, vehicles, and other targets.

Individual personnel enjoys the device’s comfort as they enjoy the same features as binoculars. Golfers can also apply monoculars in making distances between the ball and the hole.

Monoculars are also ideal for people with one eye or vision problems.

4. Hiking Adventures

These are an excellent choice for those who enjoy long walks across long distances and harsh terrains. You get the added benefit of easy use and portability while you observe nature.

Even if the need arises while you walk your dog or take an evening stroll. There is no need to find space in your backpack for some models- they are so compact that they fit right in your pocket!

5. Indoor Uses

Art enthusiasts, moviegoers, and theater lovers can also use these fantastic and compact devices. They are very convenient for spotting performers on stages and shows. They are also great for observing paintings, sculptures, and transcripts in museums and galleries.

Purchasing a monocular requires weighing quality and affordability. This article covers both aspects in great detail. Remember that the final decision lies in your hands.

Working around your budget might seem challenging, but with these suggestions, it should be a cakewalk. So, combine your desired specs following this monocular buying guide and get started.


What Is the Best Magnification for a Monocular?

Most monoculars feature 6X-10X. For most monocular applications like birdwatching, hunting, and hiking, that is enough. However, if you want a better magnification range, you can opt for larger magnification lenses. Keep in mind that the larger the magnification, the harder it’ll be to get a steady picture.

Is 10×36 better than 8×36?

Here, both objective lenses have the same diameter. The only difference here is the magnification power. The first one offers a 10X zoom capability whereas the latter can provide 8X magnification. AS a result, images from the first one will be crispier, with a narrower field of view.

Do Monoculars Take Pictures?

Not Every monocular can take pictures. The primary purpose of a monocular is to view distant objects. However, there are some newer models that feature a built-in image-capture capability. Others usually feature camera mounts that you can use to take pictures.

About the author

Dan Goldsmith

Hi, this is Dan. We all know firearms are dangerous, but only when one doesn’t know how to use and care for them. I have 30+ years of experience with different types of guns and for the last 10 years, I have taught numerous people how to hold and shoot a gun while staying safe and keeping the surroundings unharmed.

My neighbors are some of my biggest admirers who enjoy talking to me about their guns, firearms safety and maintenance.

Whenever I am able to catch a moment of free time, you will find me enjoying my family or heading to the range on my motorcycle. I have enjoyed shooting sports ever since my dad introduced them to me as a child.

I like to think of myself as an outdoorsman who lives his life to the fullest. I hope you will benefit from my efforts to create valuable resources on this website. Happy reading!

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