Monoculars are the perfect accessory for any photography enthusiast – from the wildlife explorer looking to get a close-up view of a bird in the wild to the fashion photographer aiming to get a detailed look at an embellishment on a garment. Think of a monocular as a small retractable telescope that fits inside your pocket.
Monoculars also look very similar to a pair of binoculars, with the monocular essentially being half of a pair of binoculars. The main difference being that a monocular only requires one eye, but also only presents a 2D image.
The monocular does offer lots of great opportunities for the photographer though. For example, as they’re half the size of a typical pair of binoculars, monoculars normally weigh considerably less. Being more compact, easy to carry, and able to fold up into small packages makes them perfect for trekking when out shooting landscapes and nature.
They are also great for people with eyesight issues as they provide visual support with high-end models even encompassing eye relief lenses that relieve the strain on weaker eyes.
Monoculars are also typically less expensive than their counterparts. You can expect to pay more for a stronger exterior case, lens, or prism coating which affects the image brightness and light transmission, as well as varying focus mechanisms that impact the ability to quickly focus on images.
Monoculars also come in a variety of different ranges. The size of both the magnification lens as well as the optical lens diameter is one of the main considerations worth thinking about before buying a monocular.
The magnification lens represents the amount by which the image will be amplified signifying the distance between you and the object. The optical lens diameter is the lens that is furthest away from the eye which affects how much light the lens will gather impacting image quality.
The magnification and optical lens diameter offer better viewing for different requirements. An 8mm magnification lens will provide a wide image making it easy to locate specifics about an object that is in the distance such as a performer on stage at the theater.
A higher magnification lens such as 12mm will benefit your ability to see for longer distances, resulting in a more useful tool for wildlife photographers who want to view the distant nature up close.
There are lots of different monoculars on the market right now suiting a variety of different uses and purposes. Here are our top picks.
1. Leica Monovid 8×20 (Overall Winner)
The Leica Monovid 8×20 Monocular is the perfect all-round monocular for everyday use. It comes with a protective black leather case for easy and secure transportation. It also has an 8×20 detachable lens that means it’s great for seeing objects up close, as well as highlighting details. When the lens is removed you can expect a six-foot close focus, meaning that it’s also great for locating objects far away.
The Leica Monovid 8×20 also includes eye relief lens technology that provides a close-up zoom, which is great for people who have weaker eyesight. The internal central focusing knob makes finding your focus easy and quick.
The lens is great for outdoor adventurers and photographers who shoot nature, wildfire, and landscapes, as it comes equipped with Aqua Dura lens coating that is dirt- and water-repellent. The lens is also nitrogen-filled, which means that it will stay clear of mist, whatever the conditions.
On top of this, the Leica Monovid Monocular has a lens and prism coating, which provides fantastic image resolution. The image you see will always be crisp, clear, and bright in comparison with other cheaper models on the market.
The Leica Monovid 8×20 Monocular’s lightweight structure, leather carry case and detachable lens make it the perfect all-round monocular for everyday use.
The Opticron DBA VHD+ 8×42 Monocular is a lightweight, simple-to-use, well-designed device and is perfect for people with sight difficulties. The ocular lens has been made specifically for people who wear glasses with a simple twist eye-cup, making it easy to find your focus and view images clearly.
The Opticron DBA VHD+ also includes a bag, carry strap, and a microfiber cleaning cloth, as well as a nitrogen-filled lens to prevent misting. On top of this, it includes a hard metal exterior casing for protection against the elements.
The carry case, strap, and hard exterior make it ideal for taking anywhere and everywhere, while the 21mm eye relief range is one of the highest on the market making this the perfect monocular for everyday use.
The Celestron Oceana 8×42 Monocular offers a lot of great features on a budget. It comes complete with a metal exterior casing, a nitrogen-enthused lens to prevent fog and mist, as well as a built-in compass for navigation.
The close-range focus allows you to see objects as near as 13 meters away. The 42mm optical lens diameter makes this lens perfect for spotting objects in the distance. The 8mm magnification provides a wide angle for viewing and the added rubber exterior casing is also an extra layer of protection against the elements.
The one-hand focusing mechanism makes it quick and easy to focus on objects in the distance, while the built-in reticle helps pinpoint locations, directions, and objects with ease.
The Celestron Oceana 8×42 Monocular comes with a convenient belt strap carry case, lanyard, and eyepiece cover. It’s perfect for outdoor adventures whether you’re on a boat out at sea or in the woods watching birds.
The Vixen 1122 8×20 Multi Monocular is a midrange product perfect for viewing details up close. The near focus can get as close as 10 inches, making it perfect for seeing the fine details in an artwork at your favorite museum or gallery.
This monocular is also great for everyday use. The lightweight body and slick design make it both practice and easy to use. It’s great for people with vision issues as it can also be used as a magnifying glass for seeing anything up close.
The included carry case and lanyard encourage you to take it out with you, ready for whenever you might need to use it.
5. Levenhuk Wise 8×42 Handheld Monocular (Budget Winner)
The Levenhuk Wise 8×42 Monocular is another great piece of equipment for the outdoor explorer. This cheap and practical monocular is produced with three different specifications.
The magnification lens and optical lens diameters come in three sizes – 8×42, 8×32, and 10×42. All of these lens specifications offer a great wide-angle viewing lens capable of capturing a wide field view.
The lens also boasts an anti-reflective coating, giving you a bright and saturated image. The Bak-4 glass eliminates negative elements, leaving you with a sharply contrasting view through the lens.
The Levenhuk Wise 8×42 Handheld Monocular also comes complete with an easy-to-use focusing wheel, which you can use with just one hand. The simple design, range of lenses, and Bak-4 glass are what make this a great monocular for viewing outdoors on your next adventure.
What to Consider When Choosing Monoculars
When deciding which monocular is right for you, it’s important to consider what you intend to use it for. Different lens types will largely affect what you see and how clearly you can see it.
The magnification and optical lens diameter are definitely worth bearing in mind, as together they shape the scope of the monocular and dictate how magnified the image you see will be.
For those with less than perfect eyesight, it’s also a great idea to consider getting a monocular that offers a higher eye relief dimension, as this will make it easier and more practical for you to use. The monocular is both lightweight and easy to carry, which makes it the perfect visual aid for everyday use or taking on your next adventure.