The Binocular Site
Compact Veiwing with Monoculars
You might be wondering what advantages monoculars have over other equipment. With the range of optics devices available, from binoculars and rangefinders to spotting scopes and telescopes, why choose monoculars?
Size Does Matter
Monoculars have one very distinct quality – they are compact. So compact, they fit in purses and pockets, and can be used at a second’s notice. No bags, straps, or grips to worry about, let alone tripods or mounts. No long barrels, nor heavy lenses.
Whether you’re on international missions as a man of mystery, or just want to get a look at that distant sale sign in the mall, monoculars have you covered.
Monoculars can be as short as your thumb and as thin as a pen. Keep them close at hand, but do keep a set of proper binoculars or a bigger scope as well. Because monoculars offer only one barrel, even the larger models are slimmer and sleeker than binoculars. Spotting scopes and telescopes are also one barreled, but typically much bulkier, longer, and ultimately more powerful.
A monocular will not meet your astronomy needs nor be made for long-term hunting use, but it will be an extra device to keep at hand at all times.
When To Choose A Monocular
You can keep a monocular in your pocket or purse to catch rare birds when the binoculars have been left in the car. When you’re hiking, a monocular in the pocket is worth two scopes in the backpack. Well, give or take. Some folks use monoculars in lecture halls, presentations, and university classes, to see distant writing on the chalkboard or get a clear look at projections.
When your vision isn’t always top-notch but you only need the extra help once in awhile, monoculars will do the trick. They can also be used to magnify tiny items such as plants or insects without dragging out an expensive microscope. Whereas other options give more power, there is no excuse to be without magnification – just have a monocular on hand.
Features To Look For
In terms of magnification, a monocular is most useful when it magnifies about 5x or 6x. Any more than that and your field of view will be too small. You want a monocular for a wider field of view and ultimately that means they stay at a lower magnification. That’s one reason these are best used when you also have another stronger device available for extended viewing.
Objective lens sizes vary considerably, and as with all optical devices, the bigger the lens, the better the viewing in low light. That said, a 5x15 monocular can certainly do a great job while remaining smaller than your thumb. A 10x40 monocular will still be half the size of binoculars.
Really when it comes to monoculars, what you want to invest in is optical quality. At such a tiny size, it is worth it to look for higher quality mechanisms and prisms, to ensure crystal clear images are visible. Don’t feel the need to choose a larger monocular, as the tiniest types can be just as useful due to their higher quality.
You can easily find a monocular with a field of view of 372 feet at 1000 yards, and in fact, you may want to choose smaller magnifications to ensure you do get the wider FOV. That way you can use them for a quick scan of the area, even if it means you can’t spend a lot of time viewing over long distances.
When you want to zoom in on insects and plants you might choose a monocular with a very close focus. This is the time to look for a device with focus measured in inches instead of yards. That way you can take a look at the finest details of that rare butterfly or the inner workings of the Venus Fly Trap. Zeiss has a 5x10 MiniQuick monocular that is the size of a pen and works as a great magnifier too. Imagine finding that in your Christmas stocking this year!
That said, you needn’t always go the teeny, tiny route. Bushnell offers some high quality night vision monoculars which remain lightweight without sacrificing quality. They have a hand-sized model in their Night Vision monocular line, at 2.5x42 and with the extra features that make night-time hunting, caving, or surveillance fun. The device is still quite compact and sleek and even comes with a high-sensitivity microphone and headphone to catch sounds within 90 yards. Another hand-sized option offers 2x24 and is much more rugged, with good quality tread grips and a built-in tripod mount.
Nikon also offers a nice quality monocular at 7x15, with multi-layered anti-reflective lens coatings, making it versatile in various lighting conditions yet easily stashed in your pocket. Here you have a close focus to 30” and it only weighs 2.4oz!
With all the monocular options available, you can see the value in keeping one on-hand. While it may not replace your bigger binoculars and telescopes, it’s an awesome tool for international espionage. Just make like James Bond and look for the monocular that best fits your sleeve.