Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Monoculars: The Take-Anywhere Optic

Sometimes smaller is better.  If you have ever wished for a closer view when binoculars aren't handy or convenient, a monocular may be just the thing.  A monocular is an optical instrument which is technically 1/2 of a binocular. It can be thought of as a low-powered miniature spotting scope, since it is designed to be looked through with one eye.  Due to its smaller size, almost any monocular can be slipped in a pocket, purse, or glove compartment.  Some are as small as a permanent marker!  While there are certainly times when a binocular or scope are the more appropriate choice, a monocular not only comes in handy, but can be your best friend when you need a quick, closer look on the trail; from a car window; or from the sidelines. With a wide variety of models out there, it's easy to find one in a size and price to fit your budget.

Low magnification provides a wide field of view and is easy to hold steady.  This general rule about optics is important to apply when shopping for the small, lightweight monocular.  It feels quite different to hold a 25-ounce binocular to your eyes than it does to hold, for example, a 5-ounce instrument shaped like an eggroll.  So although a magnification of 7, 8, or higher is available, 5 or 6 is easier to use and in many cases more practical.

In regard to the objective (front) lens size: the bigger the lens, the heavier the monocular.  While a large lens may provide a brighter image (all other things being equal), remember that a monocular is meant to be used for quick peeks, not extended viewing.  Therefore, in my testing, I appreciated the ease of the small (14-20 mm.) objective lens sizes.  Here are a few monocular models I liked, from most to least expensive:

Leica Monovid 8 x 20 $499.  This little beauty has amazing optics, as you would expect, and a top-notch leather case with an additional close focus lens. If this fits your price range, spend the extra $50 for the red version: super cute!

Nikon 5 x 15 HG Monocular $189.99  Not quite 3" tall, with a nice shape and fine optical quality.

Minox Minoscope 8 x 25 $161.99   Fits comfortably in the hand, nice twist-up eyecup and smooth focus mechanism.

Zeiss Conquest MiniQuick 5 x 10 $149.99  You may try to write with it...then realize it's not your pen, but a 1/2-ounce, waterproof, dustproof optical marvel.

Brunton MacroScope 7 x 40 Monocular $129.  At a hefty 11 ounces, this has the look of a rugged flashlight, with a tripod thread and a round focus wheel.  While it is the largest monocular I reviewed, I found it to have smooth handling and a bright image.

Vortex Solo 8 x 25 $49.99   Nice feel, excellent viewgreat value.  Waterproof. Unconditional lifetime warranty. 'Nuff said!

You may find a monocular to be not only handy, but an indispensable addition to your optics collection. They make great gifts, too.

-Nina Cheney

Eagle Optics Staff

1 comment:

  1. Using the Leica Monovid with my iPhone has been the best little camera in the world! I got a MINITS iWitness CheckMate Kit from and now I don't even need my heavy camera. With the 5x of my iPhone 4s or 5 plus the Leica 8x I can get some great vacation shots! 40x! Fits in my purse. I love this for birding and even my kids sporting events. Works great. I can Skype and FaceTime live too!


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