Monoculars have become a more popular alternative to binoculars in recent years. While binoculars will always have a loyal fan base and find their function in stargazing, bird watching and many other outdoor activities, monoculars are ideal in several fields for many reasons.
What is a night vision monocular and what is it used for?
Whereas binoculars have two primary lenses – one covering each eye – monoculars only have one primary eyepiece. They are essentially modified refracting telescopes (because like refracting telescopes monoculars make use of lenses and not mirrors.) Monoculars also make use of prisms which the light passes through.
One of the greatest advantages of choosing monoculars over binoculars and telescopes is that their design generally means they are compact, lightweight and portable. This makes them convenient to carry around and use for extended periods of time without becoming fatigued or uncomfortable.
Monoculars may be used by the visually impaired for viewing objects in the distance, be it a presentation in a boardroom or an event in a stadium. They are especially useful if vision between the eyes varies, as a way of ‘balancing’ your sight out.
Night vision monoculars in particular were originally used in military and marine operations. Other activities in which monoculars night vision monoculars are useful include:
- Bird watching
- Night time navigation
- Search and rescue operations
- Wildlife observation
- Exploring caves
- Viewing at art museums
- Viewing at large auditorium events
It is important to note that true night vision monoculars such as the ones originally used by the military are harder and more expensive to come by than the budget devices that are often misleadingly advertises as night vision monoculars or day/ night monoculars.
The easiest way to know that monoculars are truly night vision is that they will rely on a power source to effectively operate in Infrared. They are also bulkier and sturdier than normal compact monoculars.
Night Vision Monocular Reviews
Bushnell Equinox Z Digital Night Vision Monocular 3x30mm
Bushnell have a good name on the market, so that is the first plus to buying theses Equinox Z 3x30mm. This quality make of monocular offers a range of features. The 30mm objective lens ensures an excellent field of view and bright clarity. This day/night monocular comes with a built in Infrared illuminator with a viewing range of approximately 500 feet (150 metres). The quality optics are made with multicoated glass, and the device has water resistant housing.
You can mount these on a tripod, though there is almost no need. Despite all the many features, they are compact, light monoculars, weighing only 15 ounces (425 grams); making them convenient to carry around and comfortable to use for even long stretches.
Bonus features include basic image capture and video recording capabilities. The monoculars use four AA batteries. The great thing about these monoculars is that they can be powered via a USB port, and connected to an AC charger, keeping it going for hours on end.
A good choice for anyone seeking a reliable and quality monocular that covers all the basics.
Bestguarder Digital Night Vision Monocular 6x50mm
If you are looking for monoculars that have all the latest features and can be used in just about any circumstance possible, the Bestguarder Digital Night Vision Monocular is your best bet.
The 6x magnifying power provides great detail, and with a 50mm quality objective lens, the field of view could not be better.
This is the perfect scope for surveillance, observing wildlife, bird watching and more. Part of this is that it is weather resistant. The other reason why is that it comes with a 1.5 inch LCD screen, and excellent image capture and video recording. The video recorder is 720 p, and there is a 32GB micro SD card slot for all your images and videos.
The Bestguarder has an Infrared surveillance camera which can connect to your TV or computer via a USB cable.
It is also a very user friendly monocular. The menu set up has 7 different language options to choose from, and the online-purchasable kit comes with a pouch, a cleaning cloth, a removable strap, and a mountable tripod jack. Unfortunately, what is not included is the four AA batteries needed to operate. At 2 pounds (almost a kilogram) it is only slightly heavier than other monoculars, but that is a negligible trade-off for all the other features you are getting from the Bestguarder.
Fire Field 5×50 Nightfall 2 Night Vision Monocular
The Fire Field 5×50 Nightfall 2 is an excellent pair of beginner monoculars. If you are more of a hobbyist and will only be using monoculars occasionally, this is the set for you.
For starters, they are much cheaper than many other quality monoculars that offer the same features. The Fire Field 5×6 Nightfall 2 has all only the basics covered, but that is what makes it so streamlined and user friendly.
This monocular has an easy grip design and comes in at under 2 pounds. It has a high power built in Infrared illuminator, 15 degrees field of view, and a viewing range of up to 200 meters in full pitch back darkness.
It is also weather resistant, making it a good tool for camping, boating, and outdoor navigation.
Armasight Spark Multi-Purpose Night Vision Monocular (CORE IIT 60-70 lp/mm)
One of the added features of this Armasight night vision monocular that may appeal to some is that it is weapon mountable. The Armasight is a guaranteed win if you own a rifle and enjoy hunting. That said, the multi-use monocular is still so much more than just a scope you can mount to your weapon, and that shows in its specs.
These monoculars have the added option of being hands-free: you can mount them to your helmet, making them ideal for sporting activities. There is also the benefit of the monocular’s core being made from ceramic rather than glass, making them much more durable. It is also water and fog resistant.
For a 20mm objective lens, the Armasight has a great field of view with 35 degrees, though less magnification than is usually ideal – only 1 x magnification with an optional 3 x power. Regardless, the image is sharp and easy to focus. And if you wear glasses, you’re in luck: these monoculars have long eye relief of 20 mm.
They have a 40 hour battery life and operate on a single lithium battery.
With all these features, the Armasight monocular is still compact and lightweight.
Sightmark Ghost Hunter 2×24 Night Vision Monocular
Choose the entry level Sightmark Ghost Hunter Monocular if you are on a budget and do not need much more than the basics from your scope.
They are made from good optics, so despite their lower end price range, you do still get high quality image resolution. The design is great – it is lightweight, durable, powers up quickly (operates on only 2 AA batteries), and straight forward to use.
One of the only downsides is that although it is very easy to focus the scope, it is also very easily knocked out of focus, so handle with care.
Night Owl Optics 5 – Power NOXM50 Night Vision Monocular
Go for the Night Owl Optics 5 if you need monoculars with superior battery life. They can run for anywhere from 45 hours to 100 hours, which is essential in outdoor survival situations. The Night Owl is made with 50mm high quality glass optics. Expect a field of view of approximately 12.5 to 15 degrees, and magnification power of 5x.
These are a sturdy set of monoculars. They are impact resistant and also have thermoplastic lens housing.
SVBONY Night Vision Monocular 5×40
The SVBONY 5×40 is an excellent multifunctional day night monocular, with features that make it reliable in a variety of sports activities.
They have a wide field of view – 50 degrees – and sharp clarity. There is an option of 5 x magnification or 8 x digital zoom too, with a viewing range of up to 656 feet in full darkness.
You can photograph and record with these monoculars, and then download your images and video to your PC or TV via USB cable, and it features AV out/ DC in sockets.
Online kits usually come with a USB cable, pouch, AV video cable, cleaning cloth and external power adaptor, so it’s a complete package and excellent value for money.
What to Look for Purchasing Night Vision Monoculars
There are a number of specifications to look at and consider when choosing a quality monocular. There are even some new features available as monoculars become more common. Though these features aren’t 100% necessary, we will still take a look at them too, before moving on to reviews for some of the best monocular options on the market.
Magnification and Field of View
Also true for binoculars and telescopes, magnification and field of view are very important specifications to consider. Magnification is how much an image of what you are viewing is enlarged by your lens. Good magnification is not only about how much ‘bigger’ an image becomes, but more about testing the limits between having an enlarged image that still retains quality of detail. This is especially true with low end makes of optical instruments: magnification is oversold with large numbers, but in reality those ridiculous magnifications will only provide large blurred views without any detail.
That is why the quality of the optics and the quality of the make is just as important as magnification – if not more important.
Good magnification for a lightweight quality monocular can start at 6 x magnification although 8 x magnification is the better option, and that should be sufficient for most daily uses. Quality makes of monoculars that have 9x and 10x magnification can be used in all situations, as they are obviously stronger and provide better views with brighter images and far more clarity. On the other hand, do consider that they are more expensive and will inevitably be heavier and less comfortable to use for extended periods. Sometimes a lesser magnification is ideal for your specific daily needs.
Field of view and magnification are linked. Field of view can be described in simple terms as how much of an image you can see all at once. You can think of this as small windows which show you a narrow view of the outside world, and large windows which provide a wider view.
When you point your monoculars at something in the distance at higher magnifications, the image is zoomed in, leaving you with a narrower field of view. At lower magnifications you have a wider field of view. Monoculars that have a wide field of view even at higher magnifications are generally the way to go.
Size of the Primary Lens and Lens Coating
You will see two numbers displayed together on your monocular. Take for example 3x30mm. The first number is the magnification power of the monocular (3x). The second number is the size of the primary lens in millimetres. The size of the lens does play a part in how wide of a field of view you can have; and how clear, bright and detailed your images will be.
With lens size, bigger does mean more detailed images when the optics are of a quality make. Unfortunately that also once again means that the monoculars could end up being too bulky to use for long stretches at a time, and that you may have to have the monoculars mounted on a tripod.
Another component to your lenses that is often overlooked is the coating. Worthwhile monoculars should be coated with a quality finish and preferably be anti-glare. The top of the range monoculars will have fully multi coated lenses with anti-glare, which will not obscure or diminish the clarity of your view. On the other end of the spectrum, low end monoculars will only be coated and will not have an anti-glare finish. These are not suited for using in direct light. Mid-range to upper end monoculars will generally be fully coated or multi coated, but not fully multi coated. These are perfectly fine to use and can offer just as good quality viewing.
Eye relief is the space between your eyes and the eyepiece on an optical instrument, and is measured in millimetres. Eye relief can get quite technical, but to put it plainly, it is the distance you can move your eyes away from the eyepiece and still have a full field of view. The easiest way to be able to know this is to test run monoculars. Look through them using them as you would normally so that you can see the monocular’s full field of view. Slowly move the monoculars away from your eye and test whether or not you can still practically use the monoculars at a small distance from your eyes. This is important because it is not always comfortable to have an eyepiece directly on the eye for long stretches.
Eye relief becomes even more important when you wear glasses, as obviously there is a barrier putting distance between your eyes and the eyepiece. In this case you would need eye relief of at least 14mm. People who do not wear glasses usually do not require such long eye relief, but it is something that can vary for each individual.
A good wide field of view and strong magnification will not mean much if your monoculars do not focus well. This comes down to it being a quality make; from the materials to the build. You want monoculars that have a high close focus; that is, the distance at which it will focus on an object.
Size and Weight of the Monocular
Consider what you will be using your monoculars for. If you are vision impaired and likely to use monoculars in various daily circumstances, you will need an instrument that is light weight and portable enough to fit into your pocket. The size and weight of the monocular largely has to do with the size of the lenses, though other considerations – such as the material it is made from – do affect this too. Lenses of 25mm could be considered lightweight enough to be pocket sized.
Transmittance is the amount of light transmitted from the monoculars to your eyes, and is measured in percentages. As with all optical devices, internal constructs and lens coating etc. can cause some of the light to be lost before it reaches your eye. This causes a loss of detail and clarity in the final image produced. A good set of monocular will have at least 90% transmittance.
Monoculars can be surprisingly versatile devices. Because they can be used as surveillance devices and be part of outdoor/ survivalist kits, many monoculars come with added features. These include but are not limited to:
- Image capturing
- Video recording capabilities
- Connect to PC and TV via a USB cable
- Micro SD card slots
- LCD screens
- Can be mounted to a helmet etc.
- Can be mounted to a rifle
The importance of each of these added features will be entirely up to your individual needs, and what you will be using the monocular for. Often times, you could end up paying hundreds of dollars or more for monoculars which have added features you will hardly ever use, so keep that in mind when looking at a make’s specs sheet.
Most good monoculars go for only a couple of hundreds of dollars, so are generally can be quite affordable. However, why not have a go at making your own for even less? It is completely possible using only a few basic tools that you can find at any reliable hardware or hunting store. There are some very good instructional guides available online which show you how to make your own night vision monoculars in a few easy steps. These DIY projects are relatively simple, quite fun, and very rewarding.
All that said and done, the monocular you choose to purchase or make should meet these overall requirements:
- Have high quality optics
- Be durable and weather resistant
- Portable/ light weight
- Comfortable to use and hold
- Can be mounted to a tripod and/or helmet
- Have good battery life
- Have high focus and wide field of view
These key elements will ensure that you get the best use from your night vision monoculars.
- What is a night vision monocular and what is it used for?
- Night Vision Monocular Reviews
- Bushnell Equinox Z Digital Night Vision Monocular 3x30mm
- Bestguarder Digital Night Vision Monocular 6x50mm
- Fire Field 5×50 Nightfall 2 Night Vision Monocular
- Armasight Spark Multi-Purpose Night Vision Monocular (CORE IIT 60-70 lp/mm)
- Sightmark Ghost Hunter 2×24 Night Vision Monocular
- Night Owl Optics 5 – Power NOXM50 Night Vision Monocular
- SVBONY Night Vision Monocular 5×40
- What to Look for Purchasing Night Vision Monoculars