It was a beautiful sunny morning. The birds were singing with such volume, I could hear them inside the house, and over the sound of my furnace. My 12 year old English Cocker Spaniel needed a walk so I dressed for the cool weather, slipped on my 10x50 Ranger binoculars and took off. We are lucky to have a wooded bike trail behind our home, a protected marsh area to our west and the University of Wisconsin Arboretum to the north. Those natural habitats provide some interesting birds passing through the neighborhood and I am trying to take advantage of this. Walking the dog with a pair of 10x50 binoculars worked out better than I thought. I had pretty good luck holding them still, despite the movement of the dog on a leash. But after a pretty long walk, I was starting to think about the Minox Macroscope I had just written about. By the end of my walk, I vowed to:
1. Buy the Eagle Optics Bino System Harness Strap, which birders can't do without.
2. Look at some monoculars for checking out the birds while walking my dog.
Like binoculars, comparing monoculars are best broken down by price range. In the under $100 range, Eagle Optics carries the Audubon 6x16, the Eagle Optics Insight 7x18, and the Vortex Solo 8x25. The Audubon's field of view is 473 feet/1000 yards and it has a close focus of 3 feet. Both features are great for observing nature near and far. It is an easy to use, slip in the pocket, inexpensive way to get a quick look. Personally, I prefer a higher magnification and I found the Insight 7x18 monocular does have a slight advantage with the 7x magnification. It too, has a great field of view at 470 feet/1000 yards and a decent close focus of 8 feet. Neither one would work well under low light conditions but would be a handy piece of equipment for adults and a fun optic for kids. The Vortex Solo 8x25 offers better magnification and light gathering ability. Waterproof and fogproof features make this a good monocular for all kinds of weather. Field of view is still a generous 430 feet/1000 yards, but the Solo has a close focus of 17 feet-not a good option for butterfly lovers. All three of these monoculars did a good job for the price, but as expected, lacked the brightness I found in the higher price grouping.
Over the $100 price range, you can find monoculars made by Minox, Nikon and Zeiss. I tried the Nikon 5x15 HG Monocular (471 ft. field of view/2 ft. close focus) and liked the bright, clear view with an easy to use focus wheel at the eyecup. Like the Audubon 6x16, I favor more magnification than the 5x and Nikon does offer this monocular in a 7x15 size. The Minox 8x16 MD Monocular (368 ft. field of view/5 ft. close focus) is different from the traditional tube style monocular. The MD is still palm size but has a rectangular shape. The focus wheel is a slide bar on the top and operates with a short travel. That can work well for quick focusing, but also takes a gentle touch to stop at the correct focus. Some practice and the MD can be an effective optic, but for a little more money, I still like the waterproof Minox Macroscope better.
The most expensive monocular I looked at from our warehouse, was the Zeiss DesignSelection 8x20 B T* Monocular. This tube style monocular has the bright, crisp view one would expect from Zeiss. It does have a smaller field of view (345 ft./1000 yds.) than the others and a close focus of 9.8 feet. The Zeiss DesignSelection focus wheel has a longer travel but it works very nicely to bring short and long distance views into a pleasing focus. The quality of this monocular makes it well suited for viewing architecture, birds and the landscape.
As I spend more time with the various sport optics available, I can definitely see the advantage to a monocular. Since I am just starting my collection of sport optics, I will probably stick with one of the more economical choices. But I must admit, I hope to own a high end monocular down the road. These would make a great gift for the graduate who wants to travel without the bulk of binoculars. Perhaps you have an active family member who would enjoy the ease of using a monocular. Whatever the purpose, monoculars fill a niche for anyone wanting an effortless way to view the numerous interesting things that daily come our way.
They will sure make bird watching easier when I walk my dog.
Eagle Optics Staff