The Ultimate Monocular Buying Guide for Outdoorsmen
- Robert Townsend
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When planning to experience the outdoors, what you load in your bag depends on your reason for exploring. However, one thing you can never go without is a high-quality distant-vision optical instrument. And picking the most ideal can be a bit of a headache.
To those who prefer monocular, the issue of weight is instantly solved. But with so many brands out there all with appealing features, deciding what to choose can build a migraine. Surprisingly, you can still find the best one that fits your objectives. This is where a monocular buying guide comes in.
Monocular 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 binoculars, even though you look through just one eye. This is because they are basically built on the same prism technology as binoculars. The only difference is unlike binoculars, monocular only require you 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.
To get good value for your money, you need to study the variations between the numerous models of monocular out there. You also need to make sure you’re getting great equipment at the price you budgeted. Plus, choosing a monocular that works to your specific needs enhances your outdoor experience.
With this guide, you get to know the types of monocular out there, 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 on how to choose a monocular.
Monocular buying guide
Why am I calling this whole discussing a monocular buying guide? Because I’ll let you know almost everything there’s to know about this optical device so that you may know what you’re going to do the next time you’re purchasing a unit.
Knowing the types
A monocular basically combines the features of a telescope (singular viewing lens), and binoculars (prisms and lenses). This allows them to be used for image magnification with lesser stress, compared to binoculars. It also cuts down their weight and size. For an outdoorsman, this is a huge plus.
The compact design of a monocular is its appeal. When monocular are designed to be larger, they are called spotting scopes. These have more powerful lenses than wide field of view than the smaller monocular. They are also much heavier.
Monocular 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 work, so you can go for the one with the most satisfactory features offered.
These are the standard models and designs generally made to serve basic viewing functions on regular use. They usually come with lenses that are primed for just that purpose, making their function quite singular and specific. Golfers, hikers and casual outdoorsmen can easily get attracted to these devices.
- Easy to use
- Not too heavy. Average basic monocular 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.
These are small, pocket-friendly monocular designed for regular uses. 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 so many others easily opt for these mini monocular.
- Small, pocket sizes.
- Extra convenience. The can fit in small purses and even pockets.
- Comes in a wide range of models.
- Very light weight.
- Affordable prices.
- Limited view.
- Smaller magnification specifications.
Night Vision Monocular
These monocular units are specially designed to utilize what little light is available and still produce optimal view. As the name implies, such feature makes them most ideal for use at night or in very dim light. Some high-end units are capable of producing vision in daylight as well but 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.
These are special kinds of night vision monocular that 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 hunters and campers.
- Distinct night viewing capacity.
- Can double as day monocular.
- Affordable price.
- Very portable sizes and weight.
- Some may interfere with hunting as they come with detectable red lights.
Thermal Imaging Monocular
Another type of night vision monocular, these are 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 monocular and hunters especially go after these.
- Very impressive night viewing capacity.
- Dual use capacity for night or day.
- No switch required to turn on day use.
- Undetectable lenses that will not alert living targets.
- Very undetectable to living targets.
- Relatively more expensive than the other two.
- Vision may be interfered with by sudden bursts in heat levels.
Basically, compact monocular are the most widely used and often times, some models are fitted with night vision features. But most times, these variations are separated as combining them can influence overall design and price of the resulting device.
Understanding the important components and functions
Getting a firm overview of the basic operational features is the most important factor to be considered when buying a monocular. Each component is responsible for how one function or the other appeals to you. Knowing what does what in a monocular can help you focus your hunt towards devices with specifications that guarantee you the best intended use. Below are the elementals to analyze before check out.
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 when you look through it. Most monocular have magnification power ranging from 5× to 15×. The higher the magnification power, the more detail the monocular can catch.
The objective lens diameter is the size of the objective lens, usually expressed in millimeters. In the example presented, ‘B’ represents the size of the objective lens. The lens size is also responsible for the brightness of the image formed. Generally, objective lenses used in 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 number 9×40 indicates that the monocular has a magnification power of 9× and a lens size of 40mm. So, devices with 7×25 will definitely have low power compared to those with 9×35. Higher numbers indicate higher quality image formation.
Bear in mind that the lens size also determines the size of the monocular. Devices of 10×30 and above are usually heavier while those of 10×27 and below are pocket sized. However, smaller monocular are not as powerful as the larger ones, unless the quality is high. This, of course raises the price, so for affordable high quality viewing, pick monocular above 10×30.
Also note monocular with higher magnification are difficult to handle. Combine that with larger lens sizes and you might struggle with the device if you’re an amateur. Only settle for higher viewing specs if you already have good handling experience. Otherwise, just go for something below the suggested specs. For new users, 8×30 is a good start.
Field of View
The size of the circular image you can see from a monocular is its field of view. Higher magnification power indicates narrower field of view the images are clearer. But combining high magnification with high focus lens can create clear images even with wide field of view. Image clarity is usually good when the magnification and focal length of the objective lens are moderately set.
Quality of lens used also affect the field of view. Higher quality lenses will produce better field of view than cheaper ones. Lenses with zoom quality also improve this factor. So, when considering whether to buy a device with wide field of view, you might want to check the quality of the lens as well.
Knowing the various lens coatings is also part of learning how to buy a monocular. In order to improve functionality of the monocular, the lenses are usually coated with some kind of special material. The type of coating on a lens determines the brightness and clarity of the viewed image. It also prevents minimizes glare on the lens, making sure optimization of view is improved.
Lenses come in four coating forms; fully multi-coated, multi coated, fully coated and coated. Fully multi-coated are the highest quality, as they involve using 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 same quality as fully multi coated ones for a reasonably lesser 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 monocular with these kinds of lens coatings are very affordable.
For users who do not mind spending a lot on high image quality, monocular with fully multi-coated lenses are the best options. Those on a budget who still wish for quality image viewing should target multi-coated lenses devices while amateurs can begin with fully coated and coated monocular. Though of lesser optic quality, these devices will still fulfil the magnified viewing need which spurred going for monocular to begin with.
In order to get the best viewing experience, it helps when the monocular selected offers a focusing mechanism. This component allows you to adjust viewing focus, increase or level sharpness and image clarity. Since the distances of each target object varies as your move around, an adjustable focus mechanism is very 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 models fitted with some kind of focusing lever on the body of the device. Others offer sliding levers, toggles, focusing wheel and buttons. And in some devices, the focusing rings are two.
The mode of design for focusing mechanism in every monocular determines its easiness of use. Some allow users to operate the device with one hand while others require use of both. In the end, it comes down to what you are looking for in a device. If you enjoy the feel of using both hands, focus on designs that offer such. If you prefer 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 usually 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. If the focusing mechanisms in one-hand operated monocular you try prove too rigid, you might have to 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 monocular are available in the market and each one is fashioned in different manners. The component elements that make up a monocular greatly influences its overall outlook and performance. This can affect its size, compactness, weight, design and material. It also determines the waterproof properties of the device. The combination of the physical and functional specifications separates the pricey versions from the budget-friendly models.
As is already mentioned above, the size of the objective lens determines the size of the monocular, as does the magnification power. Considering the size of the device is necessary as bulkiness might affect the purpose of use. Also bear in mind that larger monocular offer more powerful viewing capacity than smaller one. And smaller ones are more portable. Before picking a device, ask yourself if the size matters.
In the case of smaller monocular, many users might wonder about the possibility of getting even smaller ones. This is especially common amongst light travelers, hikers and tourists who tend to avoid chunky gear. Compact monocular are ideal in such cases. Unfortunately, the magnifying power is very limited, making them unsuitable for farther dimensions. Most times though, such users not need to view wide ranges.
Just as the bulkiness is important, so is the weight. Knowing how heavy your device is can be a huge time and energy saver. Most devoices are usually lightweight, with the exception of larger, more powerful monocular. In such cases, users will have to cope with the heaviness if the functionality is more important to them. For those who detest getting weight down by equipment, smaller models are advised.
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. Monocular 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 monocular produce images with more depth and brightness. They work best for mid and close range viewing. They are also more durable, though less compact than roof prism monocular. The vibrancy of the image quality of porro prisms make them the most popularly used in monocular.
There is another monocular design, though not so popular as the first two. Galilean monoculars are lower magnification models with very small field of visions. These designs are much smaller and compact than the first two and they work best at close range.
The type of build material determines durability and physical resilience as devices are prone to knocks and field damage. Most monocular are built with metal or plastic, sometimes coated on the outside with rubber to absorb shock. The most commonly used are magnesium, aluminum and polycarbonate polymers. Of these, polycarbonate is the easiest to work with. Metal bodied monocular are usually advised as they tend to be more knock resistant.
Of the two metals, magnesium is the lightest and most expensive. Aluminum monocular are the most affordable in terms of price. For general use, you should consider purchasing a device with material that is affordable. Those who plan to spend more time in harsher terrains should consider stronger materials or even extra armor protection of rubber or plastic.
If you are planning to spend most of the time in the woods or outbacks, you would need a monocular that can withstand extreme conditions. Waterproof monocular 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 important factor for habitual outdoorsmen to consider. When moisture intrudes a monocular, it could fog up the lens, obstructing view. Fogproof monocular employ rubber seals and inert gases to prevent this. The feature also makes such monocular more expensive than normal ones. So, unless you plan on sitting in the cold or rain, it might not be necessary to lookout for fog proof.
Usability of a monocular
The basic design of monocular allow for a wide range of applications. The variations in magnification power, lens depth and field of views give prospective users a wide range of options. These include the following;
Monocular are a hunter’s best friend. They make tracking and following 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 be able to spend more time in the field without getting weighed down.
For birders, this device is especially useful. It comes in handy for those who love to spend time watching exotic species of birds in their natural terrain. It is also so simple to use, lightweight and comes in models specially designed for detailed view and quick employment.
Monocular are also useful in military, marine and other strategic purposes. Powerful models can be used to spot and observe distant ships, vehicles and other targets with ease. Individual personnel enjoy the comfort of the device as they enjoy the same features as in binoculars. Golfers can also apply monocular in making distances between the ball and the hole. Monocular are also ideal for people with one eye.
For those who enjoy taking long walks across long distances and harsh terrains, these are a great choice. 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. No need to even find space in your backpack for some models- they are so compact, they fit in your pocket.
Art enthusiasts, movie goers and theater lovers can also employ the use of these amazing and compact devices. They are very convenient in 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 monocular buying guide covers both aspects. Never forget that the final decision lies in your hands. Also remember that it is also better to get the one that works best for you. Working around your budget might seem tough but with these suggestions, it should be a cake walk. So, combine your desired specs with this guide and get started.