The best monoculars can be just as effective as binoculars, and they are especially well suited to people who struggle with binocular vision and adjusting twin eyepieces. Monoculars offer a similarly huge range of applications that can make them useful for all sorts of people, from wildlife photographers to sports followers and birdwatchers.
Monoculars provide magnification for a single, as opposed to a pair of binoculars, which cater for both eyes. This makes monoculars substantially more lightweight and portable, meaning many hikers and walking photographers prefer to carry them. Monoculars offer the same degrees of magnification as the best binoculars, but if that's not enough for wildlife watching, take a look at the best spotting scopes too.
Some monoculars are simply for viewing with the naked eye, but some have image-capture abilities built in. Others come with smartphone or camera mounts that allow you to take pictures.
If you want to know more about monoculars and what to look for, there's a guide at the bottom of this article. If you already know what you want, however, here's our list of the best monoculars right now:
The best monoculars in 2022
Considering the low price of the Gosky 12x55, you might expect it to be a little flimsy, but it's an impressively rugged piece of kit. Handling the Gosky 12x55 is a pleasant and comfortable experience due to rubber armor.
Image quality is reasonably bright and clear, thanks to a BAK-4 prism and a multi-coated 55mm lens that optimizes light transmission. The monocular is also nitrogen purged for effectively combatting the elements: moisture doesn't interfere with observations and outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy unhindered views through the optical system.
What sets the Gosky 12x55 apart from many on the market is that it comes with a smartphone mount, which allows you to attach your iPhone or Android phone and take pictures of distant subjects with a good amount of stability.
The smartphone mount is not made with quite the same quality as the monocular, although that is to be expected at less than $100. It's simple enough to use though, and does the job.
Looking for a great waterproof monocular? The Hawke Endurance 8x42 has a multi-coated lens, a rubber-coated exterior, and a wide field of view – and can be used in the wet as well as the wilds, as its Endurance name suggests. The overall build is of an excellent quality, and will last wilderness enthusiasts for many observing sessions to come.
The 8x magnification gives you a great all-purpose view of what's in the bushes, or on the horizon. Observations are suitably bright image that boasts clarity thanks to the light-gathering prowess of the multi-coated 42mm objective and the phase corrected glass prisms, BAK-4 prisms.
Due to its light weight of 320g, the monocular is easily carried. The focusing knob is smooth to operate, and can be fine-tuned enough to ensure that images are critically sharp. Our only criticism is that if you're looking to mount the monocular to a tripod, you'll need to purchase a ball and socket head: the position of the existing thread isn't as supportive as we'd hoped.
The Hawke Endurance 8x42 comes fully equipped and is supplied with a protective case and a lanyard, plus the all-important lens cover (which stays attached to the monocular) for protecting the optics.
An impressive monocular for the price, the Celestron Outland X 10x50 is built for high performance. The large 50mm objective lens combines with anti-reflection coated optics to provide a crystal-clear view. Light transmission is excellent offering sights that are both bright and contrasty.
It's comfortable enough to use for relatively long periods and sports a generous eye relief, but for really steady views, we recommend mounting the Outland X 10x50 to a tripod. The monocular also comes with a smartphone adapter for digiscoping, while the O-ring is sealed against water, and nitrogen-filled to prevent fogging.
Thanks to the magnification and aperture, users can enjoy observations and take images through it during the day and night: it's great for getting up close to wildlife but is also suitable for some basic stargazing. As a simple monocular that boasts great quality and usability, it's effective and capable for the cost.
If you're looking to try some night-time nature-spotting, then we recommend giving the Bushnell Equinox Z2 6x50 Night Vision Monocular a try. It's water-resistant for use in a variety of outdoor conditions and comes with a magnification factor that, at 6x, is bigger than a good proportion of monoculars with the nighttime capability, and comes with an effective light-gathering 50mm lens.
This monocular is pricey for those on a low budget, but what you do get is built-in WiFi, which enables users to live-stream footage straight to a mobile device and even control the zoom for video, image capture and IR brightness direct. The on-board IR illuminator allows long-range subjects to be comfortably viewed day or night – although we discovered that this feature can quickly sap the monocular's battery (and batteries aren't included out of the box).
Video capture is full HD 1080p, which is respectable for its class. This appears to a comprehensively featured tool, albeit one that is a fair amount weightier than monoculars that aren't equipped with night vision. We recommend using a tripod for steady observations.
If clarity and portability are a must for you, the Opticron BGA WP 8x42 is one of the best options on the monocular market. Unlike smaller types of monocular, a ‘BGA’ monocular provides a viewing experience akin to a pair of average-sized roof prism binoculars, but in a pocket sized instrument. Perfect for "on-the-go" observing while travelling, especially given that the BGA WP 8x42 comes with a handy carry case and lanyard.
The Opticron BGA WP 8x42 is suitable for outdoor use in a variety of conditions: it is nitrogen-filled to prevent fogging and waterproof to a claimed depth of three meters. Optically, this monocular is sound with very little color fringing to speak of. A variety of targets were observed in impressive contrast and clarity, while the focuser operates smoothly and with ease.
Eye relief is generous enough at 16mm, making this monocular suitable for comfortable viewing with or without spectacles, while a 30-year guarantee provides peace of mind.
The Hawke Night-Eye 2000 5x40 is a more affordable option that most when it comes to night vision monoculars. With a 5x magnification and 40mm objective lens, this monocular offers a useful 200-metre range.
A welcome feature is the ability to not just view your subjects but ‘shoot’ them too, thanks to five megapixel stills and up to 10 minutes of VGA video at a time. The user's view is enhanced via a clever built-in infrared sensor with nine levels of brightness, and further peace of mind is provided via a two-year warranty.
Conveniently for venturing into the outdoors, the unit is waterproofed, while, unusually, it comes supplied with a 8GB microSD card out of the box – a welcome addition to the modest price tag. Completing the tech on offer, its battery is rechargeable via USB.
The Hawke Night-Eye 2000 is readily available in the US, but is harder to obtain in other territories.
The mid-priced Hawke Endurance ED 8x25 is an ideal general-purpose monocular that's perfect for travels, weighing in at just 150g. This well-made piece of kit provides a wide-angle field of view and a decent 8x magnification (if you need more magnification there’s also a 10x option in the same manufacturer’s range).
Good light transmission offers bright and clear images, while the inclusion of ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass reduces color fringing and provides exquisite detail when observing a variety of targets.
A roughened rubber-coated surface offers a firmer grip, and focusing is a one-handed affair thanks to a focus ring just in front of the eyecup. The focuser isn't too stiff, and provides enough resistance for fine-tuning your sights.
A lens cloth, lens cover, lanyard and carry case are all supplied with the Hawke Endurance ED 8x25, boasting a well-rounded package for a reasonable price.
When you buy a handcrafted Leica product you expect a build quality like no other, along with a splash of style and elegance – that's very much the case with the Monovid offering.
This monocular’s strong yet portably lightweight aluminum housing (just 112g in weight) is nitrogen-filled to prevent internal fogging, whatever climate it’s being used in. Meanwhile the waterproofed construction allows observers to submerge it in water up to depths of almost 5 meters. That makes the Leica Monovid 8x20 much better than just being splash resistant.
In the provided cylindrical carry case, you also get a close-up lens offering 8x magnification at distances as close as 25cm. Despite being as compact as a tube of Smarties, the observer will be treated to fine detail through this monocular. What's more, the Monovid 8x20 is comfortable to use too, thanks to a rugged surface, 15mm eye relief and handy central focusing knob.
You might be getting class-leading performance, but you'll need to pay top dollar for it. The Leica Monovid 8x20 is much more expensive compared to factory-made units, so much so you might want to add it to your list of insured items.
If it's a mini-monocular you're after, our pick is the MiniQuick 5x10 from leading optical specialist Carl Zeiss.
The Zeiss MiniQuick is not much bigger than a fountain pen, making it a truly ‘take anywhere’ device, which comes with its own handy pocket clip to prevent it from getting lost. What’s more, it's sufficiently ‘weather sealed’ to withstand water spray – although you probably don’t want to go swimming with it tucked into your trunks.
Despite its small proportions, the performance isn’t what you’d call unduly compromised; you still get a useful 5x magnification and a 10mm objective lens, plus 16.5mm eye relief. Sights are fair through the field of view and are reasonably clear given the small aperture.
At just 4.5-inches long, if you’re truly looking for an ultra lightweight pocket sized monocular, this very much fits the bill. However, if a small size isn’t your top consideration you will get more bang for your buck elsewhere.
If you're after a monocular to take backpacking, try the Conquest 10x25T, which manufacturer Zeiss likens to a mini-telescope. Like others in this list, it’s designed to bring distant objects into sharp focus, while remaining fairly compact and easy to carry without weighing you down. Despite the light design, the build is of excellent quality – and is reflected in the high-budget price.
The brand is known for its optical excellence, and the Conquest 10x25T certainly delivers thanks to Zeiss T* coated optics for a high-quality performance: targets are viewable in outstanding contrast and clarity. In terms of added value, a leather pouch and carrying strap are included, while a 15mm eye relief ensures comfortable viewing.
The Conquest 10x25T is sealed against water spray and can seamlessly function in temperatures that vary between -4 and 104 degrees, meaning it should stand up in a range of situations and climates.
Monocular features and what to look for
• Smartphone mount: Not the first thing you'd expect to see on a monocular, but it makes sense – you get one with the Gosky 12x55 at the top of our list.
• Magnification: Higher magnifications are good for distant subjects but it's harder to keep the view steady and the angle of view is narrower. Bigger isn't always better – a lower magnification can be good for wider scenic views or fast-moving subjects.
• Objective lens size: A bigger lens will gather more light and give you a clearer image at dusk or dawn. But a monocular with a bigger lens is heavier, harder to hold for extended periods and may not fit in a jacket pocket.
• Waterproof: Handy if you are out in the rain or accidentally drop your monocular into water.
• Fogproof: Sometimes monocular optics are nitrogen filled to expel all moist air and prevent internal fogging in cold air.
• Tripod mount: Perfect for longer wildlife-watching sessions, with hands-free viewing and a steady image.
• Night vision: Electronic amplification for viewing in darkness, with infra-red illumination and video recording.
• Compact size: Some monoculars are small enough for a shirt pocket and almost like a mini-telescope, e.g. the Zeiss Conquest 10x25T.
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