Best Monocular Review – Updated for 2023

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Looking for the perfect monocular for your hobby? In this best monocular review we’ll take a look the top monoculars for hunting, bird watching, and also the top night vision and thermal imaging devices.

best monocular review

The Best Monoculars Reviewed Compared

In our opinion, these are the best monoculars available right now. We’ve chosen the best models in each budget range, and we’re pretty confident they’ll fulfil the monocular needs of hunters and bird watchers alike.

To start, take a look at the comparison table below. Here you can quickly compare the key features of the top models. Click on the image to check the latest price.

Following the table we have more in-depth monocular reviews. Find out what we think of them and why.

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Gosky Piper Monocular Telescope, 12x55 HD Monocular for Adult with BAK4 Prism & FMC Lens,...
Wingspan Optics Explorer High Powered 12X50 Monocular. Bright and Clear. Single Hand Focus....
Vortex Optics Solo R/T 8x36 Monocular
Details
  • x12 magnification
  • 55mm lens
  • 328 feet F.O.V.
  • 15.8 oz. weight
  • Lifetime warranty
  • x12 magnification
  • 50mm lens
  • 246 feet F.O.V.
  • 14 oz. weight
  • Lifetime warranty
  • x8 magnification
  • 36mm lens
  • 393feet F.O.V.
  • 10.2 oz. weight
  • Lifetime warranty
Check Price & Reviews
Best Overall
Image
Gosky Piper Monocular Telescope, 12x55 HD Monocular for Adult with BAK4 Prism & FMC Lens,...
Details
  • x12 magnification
  • 55mm lens
  • 328 feet F.O.V.
  • 15.8 oz. weight
  • Lifetime warranty
Reviews
Check Price & Reviews
Golden Middle Road
Image
Wingspan Optics Explorer High Powered 12X50 Monocular. Bright and Clear. Single Hand Focus....
Details
  • x12 magnification
  • 50mm lens
  • 246 feet F.O.V.
  • 14 oz. weight
  • Lifetime warranty
Reviews
Check Price & Reviews
Best Budget
Image
Vortex Optics Solo R/T 8x36 Monocular
Details
  • x8 magnification
  • 36mm lens
  • 393feet F.O.V.
  • 10.2 oz. weight
  • Lifetime warranty
Reviews
Check Price & Reviews

Whether it be for hunting, bird watching, or just capturing interesting experiences, monoculars are the light, compact, and effective long range viewing tool that you need.

In today’s massive guide we review the top performing monoculars for every situation.

Besides taking an in-depth look at the indispenable regular monoculars, we also review the best thermal imaging and night vision monoculars currently available.

We also pay special attention to the budget. Monoculars can get pretty expensive, so we’ve been careful to recommend the top performers in each budget range. Whether you’re running a tight ship or you’re prepared to splurge, we’ve got you covered in our ultimate guide.

Gosky High Definition Monocular Review   *Top Pick*

Gosky Piper Monocular Telescope, 12x55 HD Monocular for Adult with BAK4 Prism & FMC Lens,...
5,095 Reviews
Gosky Piper Monocular Telescope, 12×55 HD Monocular for Adult with BAK4 Prism & FMC Lens,…
  • 12× Magnification & 55mm Objective Lens: This Gosky monocular is equipped with 12×55 high power…
  • Premium FMC Lens & BAK-4 Prism: The HD monocular telescope uses 18mm BAK-4 optics prism and FMC…
  • Lightweight Monocular & IPX7 Waterproof: The comfortable and portable hand strap could prevent the…
  • Comfortable and Intimate Visual Experience: The long eye-relief that comes from the twist-up eyecup…

Lens: 12 x 55 mmField of View: 328 feetPrice: $$

The Gosky monocular also offers amazing value for money. This time with a slightly more generous 55mm lens. This is actually the largest lens on the list, and a field of view that is hard to beat. This 55 mm lens offers a viewing field of 328 feet @ 1000 yards distance. That compares to 246 feet @ 1000 yards for the Wingspan Optics model (see last review). That’s a huge viewable area that makes this model perfect for bird watching.

That does mean that this is one of the heavier models around, weighing almost 16 ounces. In the grand scheme of things that’s not awfully heavy, but it’s definitely worth considering if you’re going to be hiking long distances.

The lens also offers an incredible 12x magnification. Like the previously mentioned Wingspan Optics monocular, this is really powerful magnification that you’ll find very hard to beat. However, at this price point you’ll find the image quality isn’t quite as well defined as the next couple of models on our list of the top monoculars.

It actually comes with a smartphone holder, so that you can easily take photos and record videos of your adventures. The smartphone easily clips on over the viewfinder.

This offering from Gosky is dust-proof, waterproof and shockproof. I’m always a bit wary of things that claim to be shockproof, so I wouldn’t bank on it being any stronger or less fragile than any other monocular would be. Anyway, the lenses are sealed with O-rings to prevent anything getting in the way of a good view.

The eye-cup is adjustable to suit the user, and should be fine for use with glasses too. Unlike some of the cheaper models, this can also be mounted on a tripod for steady viewing.

  Bottom Line: The huge viewable area that the 55mm lens gives, makes this a great monocular for bird watchers. Besides the huge lens, it also offers amazing value for money. Another very solid budget device, that could be the best monocular for the money.

Wingspan Optics Explore Monocular Review   *The Budget Pick*

Wingspan Optics Explorer High Powered 12X50 Monocular. Bright and Clear. Single Hand Focus....
2,427 Reviews
Wingspan Optics Explorer High Powered 12X50 Monocular. Bright and Clear. Single Hand Focus….
  • 12X50 MAGNIFICATION – See things 12X closer and Get Clearer and Brighter range of view with 50mm…
  • DURABLE EXTERNAL ARMOR – Provides a secure, non-slip grip, and durable external protection.
  • WATERPROOF AND FOG PROOF – Prevents moisture, dust, and debris from getting inside the monocular -…
  • SINGLE HAND FOCUS – Ergonomic design helps you focus on your target quickly and accurately with one…

Lens: 12 x 50 mm

Field of View: 246 feet

Price: $

This monocular from Wingspan Optics offers incredible value for money that is hard to ignore. While the quality of the lens doesn’t quite match what the more expensive models offer, at this price the results are quite remarkable.

The lens is rated at 12 x 50. In layman’s terms that’s 12x magnification and a 50mm lens size. Magnification of this order is about as good as it gets in a monocular, and you’ll be hard pushed to find a more powerful lens than this one. The 50mm lens also offers a really wide field of view, and a bright, sharp image. The image clarity is not quite what the Bushell and Leica models offer (we review these a bit later on), but again I’ll point to the difference in price.

The wide field of view makes these great for bird watching or anything where you need a good general survey of an area before targeting in on something specifically. The monocular is waterproof and fog proof, so it’s also well prepared for life in changeable weather conditions.

Despite having such a large lens, it remains lightweight and easily portable. It measures 7.7 x 4.4 x 3.3 inches and weighs just 14 ounces. To put that into perspective, that’s the same weight as an American football.

A couple of final points that are worth noting are that it comes with a lifetime warranty and there is a carry case and lens covers included.

  Bottom Line: Despite being the cheapest of the monoculars we have featured, it actually has the (joint) most powerful magnification too. This is the perfect entry level monocular for those wondering whether to make the jump from binoculars. It offers amazing value for money!

Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Monocular Review   *Best Monocular for Bird Watching*

Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Monocular, Black, 10 x 42-mm
365 Reviews
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Monocular, Black, 10 x 42-mm
  • Exceptional optics with BaK-4 prisms, fully multi-coated optics, ED Prime Glass, and PC-3 Phase…
  • 100% waterproof; fogproof construction
  • Comfortable twist-up eyecups; includes Picatinny rail and carry clip

Lens: 10 x 42 mmField of View: 342 feetPrice: $$$

The Bushnell Legend Ultra HD is a premium monocular that uses some high quality glass and has a durable build. It offers 10x magnification using a 42 mm lens, which is about standard for a decent monocular. However, unlike the cheaper models, the Bushnell Legend has a wider field of view which allows you to see more of the observable landscape.

The 42 mm lens gives a field of view of 342 feet @ 1000 yards which is a wider field of view than both the Wingspan Optics and Gosky models we discussed previously. This is despite having a smaller lens. The main difference here is the quality of the glass. The Bushnell Legend uses what they call Extra-Low Dispersion fluorite glass. It makes the colors more defined and even performs well in low-light conditions.

The lenses and prisms also feature multiple coatings, each with a special performance enhancing purpose:

  • Anti-reflective coatings help to reduce eye strain and ensure the maximum amount of light reaches the eye.
  • PC3 Phase Coating ensures the image is synchronized after being manipulated by the roof prism. Find out how the light is corrected here.
  • Ultra Wide Band Coating gives optimum brightness and true color representation across the frequency spectrum.

The Bushnell Legend is put together to withstand all types of adverse weather conditions too. The patented lens coating is completely water repellent and causes moisture to bead together rather than smearing over the lens. This means a clearer and brighter view than regular monoculars when faced with rain, sleet, and snow.

The lenses are also totally waterproof and fog proof. Sealed O-rings and nitrogen gas ensure that even when submerged in water, the monocular will be dry inside.

The Bushnell Legend also features twist comfort eye-cups, and includes a Picatinny rail and carrying clip.

  Bottom Line: This is just perfect for bird watching. It’s got some really high quality glass, so you’ll get a detailed image, even from far away.

Vortex Optics Solo   *Best Monocular for Hunting*

Vortex Optics Solo R/T 8x36 Monocular
977 Reviews
Vortex Optics Solo R/T 8×36 Monocular
  • The Solo Recon Tactical Monocular with 8x magnification and a 36mm objective lens is a great choice…
  • Fully multi-coated lenses with anti-reflective coatings, the Solo R/T provides excellent light…
  • A large focus wheel and the smaller reticle focus allow the user to properly focus the image and…
  • The Solo R/T comes complete with a utility clip which attaches easily to a vest or belt for quick…

Lens: 8 x 36 mmField of View: 393 feetPrice: $$

The Vortex Optics Solo is a highly regarded mid-price monocular that comes in a range of lens options. Vortex Optics specialize in hunting equipment and are known for producing well put together products that are extremely durable.

The Solo model is no different and features a rubber armor to protect it from knocks. The rubber coating also provides a non-slip grip that keeps the monocular firmly in-hand, even in wet weather conditions. Besides being shockproof, the Solo is also fog-proof and waterproof.

Despite being such a sturdy and durable unit, it only weighs 9.7 ounces! That’s extremely light for a monocular, and is minuscule in comparison to the Gosky model which weighs 16 ounces. The 25 mm lens options are actually much lighter than this too.

The Solo comes in a range of lens options. We’re focusing on the 8 x 36 mm model but there’s also 8 x 25, 10 x 25 and 10 x 36 options available. There’s also that has an MRAD ranging reticle. The 8 x 36 mm model gives an exit pupil distance of 4.5 mm which compares favorably with our other reviews and means good low-light performance. Its field of view of 393 feet is also the biggest we have included and makes it perfect for observing moving targets and surveying landscapes. The lenses also feature special coatings to help define colors and present clear, precise images.

The 36 mm model has a utility belt clip, so that it can attach to flat edged surfaces and be quickly accessed when needed. It can easily clip onto a belt or strap and be ready to use in seconds. This kind of accessibility makes it perfect for the hunter or bird watcher.

The Solo range also include adjustable eye-cups to make use with glasses more comfortable. Like most monoculars, it also comes with a lifetime warranty.

 Bottom Line: Highly recommended for the hunters out there. It’s lightweight, durable, and perfect for spotting targets in the distance.

 

 

Buyer’s Guide for the Best Monocular Reviewed

Monoculars are generally pretty simple devices, but there are a few key things that you should look for before buying.

In this section we give a quick run through of the terminology and features you can expect to read about when shopping for a new monocular.

What do the numbers on a monocular mean?

If you’re an experienced monocular user then this section won’t be of much interest, but for you newbies and first time buyers, it’s really important that you understand what these numbers represent.

Like binoculars, monoculars are rated with two numbers separated by an ‘x’. For this example let’s use 12 x 50.

The first number indicates the magnification power of the lens. In our example, the lens offers magnification of 12x. The higher this number is, the further you will be able to see in detail. As the magnification power increases, the field of view will decrease too.

The second number indicated the lens size. In our example, we have a lens size of 50mm. The larger the lens size, the bigger the field of view the monocular has. That means a wider, brighter image. However, there’s a downside to having a bigger lens and that is physical size and weight. A large lens is quite a heavy and bulky piece of glass that you will have to carry.

These numbers should play a big part in choosing the right monocular. Consider your intended use and make sure you get the lens that suits it best.

Magnification

Magnification powers of monoculars are usually set, so it’s really important that you choose the right level for your use. If you get something too powerful then you’ll find the image is hard to keep steady and the field of view might be compromised too. However, monoculars with higher magnification are perfect for hobbies like bird watching, where you want to see as much detail as possible. The problem of an unsteady or jittery image can be solved by using a tripod.

Shorter magnification gives a wider field of view and things like watching sports are perfect for this type of monocular.

However, monoculars with adjustable zooms are available. The Bushnell Legend (which we review above) is one such example where the magnification can be changed according to the situation.

Field of View

The field of view is the viewable size of the image. Your natural field of view is huge but when looking through a magnified optic (like a monocular) it massively decreases in size.

Generally speaking, the more magnification, the smaller your field of view will be. It really depends on your intended use as to what kind of field of view is right for you. A wide field of view is much nicer for looking at moving objects. This might be the preference for bird watchers or sports enthusiasts.

The field of view is usually measured in feet at 1000 yards distance (though sometimes in meters). It can also be given in degrees. If ever presented with a statistic in degrees just remember that the regular field of view for humans is 114 degrees. Let’s take a look at the field of views of our 3 recommended monoculars.

ModelLensField of View
Wingspan Optics Explorer12 x 50mm246 feet
Gosky HD12 x 55mm328 feet
Bushnell Legend10 x 42mm342 feet
Vortex Optics Solo8 x 36 mm393 feet

The field of view in the table is given as feet @ 1000 yards distance.

From the table we can see that the Vortex Optics Solo has the greatest field of view. This makes sense given its lower magnification power. However, there’s quite a large difference between the Gosky and Wingspan Optics models. This can be attributed to the larger lens size of the Gosky model.

Exit Pupil

If you hold a monocular at arms length toward the sky, you will see a small, bright circle of light in the center of the eye piece. This column of light forms the exit pupil. The diameter of this circle is the exit pupil value.

Generally speaking the larger the exit pupil value, the more light reaches our eye. However, the limit to this is that only light that enters our pupils can be seen. There comes a threshold where our pupils are saturated with light and a bigger exit pupil won’t really make a difference. However, models with larger exit pupils will perform better in low-light conditions.

Exit pupil is easily calculated if the lens magnification and size are known. We just divide the lens size (in mm) by the magnification power.

For example, if our lens is 10 x 50mm, we have exit pupil of 50/10 = 5 mm.

This isn’t really an issue if you intend on using your monocular in bright daytime conditions. But, if you might experience low-light conditions then exit pupil should be a key factor in your decision.

Let’s take a look at the exit pupil for our recommended models.

ModelLensExit Pupil (mm)
Wingspan Optics Explorer12 x 50mm4.17
Gosky HD12 x 55mm4.58
Bushnell Legend10 x 42mm4.2
Vortex Optics Solo8 x 36 mm4.5

As we can see, the Gosky HD has the biggest exit pupil, closely followed by the Vortex Optics Solo. This means it allows the most light to enter the eye, and should have decent low-light performance. However, factors like lens coatings and glass quality also have a bearing on low-light performance.

Portability

Factors like the size and weight of the monocular should play a role in deciding how easily portable it is. The better quality models are usually a bit heavier due to the weight of the glass. They usually come with a protective case which can be easily clipped onto a backpack or stowed in a pocket.

Durability

Depending on your hobby this will have different levels of importance. For the hunter or hiker a very durable monocular will be a priority. For the bird watcher, this won’t be such an important factor.

A durable monocular will be:

  • Waterproof (to the degree that it can be submerged in water)
  • Fog-proof
  • Dustproof
  • Shockproof

Eye Relief

The eye relief is the distance from the viewing lens to the eye that provides the best image. It’s basically the optimum viewing distance with respect to the eye and the monocular. This is only really an issue for those that wear glasses. If the eye relief distance is too short, then the glasses might have to press hard against the eye-piece which might cause discomfort.

Those that wear glasses should look for a monocular with an adjustable eye-cup. This feature is perfect for wearers of glasses.

Digiscoping

Digiscoping is the somewhat new term given to the practice of attaching a camera or smartphone to the monocular and taking pictures or videos. Some monoculars provide mounts so that smartphones can be easily attached over the eye-piece. Mounts can easily be purchased as an extra at relatively little expense too.

Warranty

The best monocular reviewed here come with lifetime warranties and are built to last. There’s really nothing here that should break of its own accord. The number one cause of monocular failure is…. dropping it. Of course this isn’t covered by a warranty.

To see how our eye judges depth and distance with one of these devices, don’t miss our latest article.

Conclusion

So in this best monocular review we have gathered the best monoculars for various situations whether it is bird watching, hunting or other interesting situations. For the budget choice we went with the Wingspan, for bird watching we recommend to buy the Vortex and for hunting we think the Bushnell is great for bird watching. But best overall is the Gosky.

We hope you found our recommendations useful. Check out our other articles too!

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