Monocular vs. Binocular: Which is Right for You?

Are you trying to decide whether to buy a monocular vs. binoculars? Use this article to help you decide whether a monocular vs. binocular is right for you!

Whether you like to hunt, birdwatch, or simply look at pretty things from far away, there are plenty of optical devices out there to help you see everything that you need to see. A common decision with which people are faced regarding optical devices is the question of monocular vs. binocular. Which is better? When you are hunting, it helps to be able to survey the terrain and pick up all of the contextual clues that you possibly can to track down that perfect spot to set up your blind or tree stand. Once you get set up, you will need to be able to keep a close watch on your surroundings to ensure that you are ready when that big moment comes. The trick is, you will probably need a little help from an optical device to see as far as the range on your weapon will allow you to shoot. This way you can maximize your range and be sure not to miss the moment when your target saunters into view.

If you are into birdwatching, you will know all too well that the hobby requires more than slapping a bird feeder outside of your kitchen window. Oftentimes, the bird that you so desperately want to see will flit and fly just far enough away that it will be hard to distinguish with the naked eye. With an optical device such as a monocular or binoculars, you can bring the bird up close without having to get too close.

Let’s take a look at some key differences regarding a monocular vs. binoculars and some examples of each to see which is right for you.

Using a Monocular

There are a few ‘elemental’ differences between a pair of binoculars and a monocular. The first is fairly obvious. A monocular only has one eyepiece and one objective lens. This makes for a very compact tool that can be easily packed up and carried around. Most of the time, a monocular can fit right into your pocket. This is a handy feature inherent to a monocular that will make travel a little easier and should cut back on the time it takes to spot what you are looking for. The magnification of a monocular is typically comparable to that of a pair of binoculars. Just be sure that when you are comparing, you pay attention to the magnification so that you can get something that will magnify to your expectations. Something else to keep in mind is that a good monocular will be less expensive than a good pair of binoculars because a monocular uses only half of the materials that a comparable pair of binoculars would be made of. The field of view is typically quite smaller through a monocular as well. Another drawback to using a monocular is that a monocular can tend to produce ‘sidelight’. This shows up in the view as bright ‘washes’ that can appear to emanate from the edges of the image. This and the fact that only one eye is to be used can cause rapid eye fatigue. A monocular is typically purchased for quick use or short-term applications such as a glance around to survey the area or to spot a deer and possibly measure distances.

PROS:
  • Lighter in weight
  • Smaller and more compact
  • Magnification is comparable to that of binoculars
  • Good for quick use (easy to grab)
  • Less expensive
CONS:
  • Causes eye fatigue
  • A smaller field of view
  • Prone to ‘sidelight’ effect
  • Not good for longer viewing times

A Few Examples of a Good Monocular

Vortex Optics Solo Monocular 10x25.

Vortex Optics Solo Monocular 10x25.

The first monocular that we should look at is the Vortex Optics Solo Monocular 10×25.

  • This monocular is, of course, small and lightweight.
  • The Vortex Solo has a magnification of 10x. The magnification is fixed, meaning that it cannot be used at a higher or lower magnification.
  • The objective lens is 25mm and is fully multi-coated. This means that the lens has anti-reflective properties and will allow more light into the monocular, producing a brighter image.
  • The body of this monocular is covered in rubber, protective, armor for added grip, and more durability.
  • The Vortex Solo is nitrogen purged and O-ring sealed, making it waterproof and fog proof.
  • The eyecups of this monocular are adjustable. This makes it comfortable to use with or without glasses.
  • The field of view is 315ft at 1000yds.
  • The close focus is 16.4ft.

Gosky 12x55 High Definition Monocular Telescope

Gosky 12x55 High Definition Monocular Telescope

Let’s look at the Gosky 12×55 High Definition Monocular Telescope, and then we will compare the two.

  • This monocular has a fixed magnification of 12x. Again, this means that neither a higher, nor a lower magnification can be used.
  • The objective lens on this monocular is 55mm in diameter. This is pretty large for a monocular and is more reminiscent of a spotting scope.
  • With the twist-up eyecup and generous eye relief, this monocular is designed to prolong the onset of eye fatigue.
  • The BAK4, fully multi-coated prism allows for optimum light-efficiency and crisp, clean images.
  • With a rubber armor, solid construction, and a nitrogen-purged body, it is waterproof, fog-proof, and dustproof.
  • The field of view is 325ft at 1000yds.
  • The close focus distance is 2.55mm.

Comparison of the specifications of the two monoculars

Here is a comparison of the specifications of the two monoculars:

  Magnification X Objective Lens (mm) Eye Relief Close Focus Field of View Weight Length
Vortex Optics Solo Monocular 10×25 14.5mm 16.4ft 315ft @ 1000yds 5.6oz 4.4in
Gosky High Definition Monocular Telescope 12×55 18mm 2.5mm 325ft @ 1000yds 15.85oz 2.19in

Using Binoculars

Although binoculars can be a little bit heavy and require a little more effort to pack in and out, the magnification is just the same as a monocular and the focus can be a bit more refined. A pair of binoculars has two eyepieces and two objective lenses. This means that a pair of binoculars will most likely have more total surface area of the objective lenses. This might seem like a small issue, but it means that more light will likely enter a pair of binoculars than will enter a monocular. More light means a brighter image and the ability to use the binoculars in low light conditions more effectively. With a wider field of view, binoculars are also inherently better for viewing moving targets. Binoculars are typically used for longer viewing applications since they are not as prone to cause eye fatigue very quickly. One of the downsides to binoculars is the cost. Since more materials like lenses and coatings are used, they are usually more expensive. Binoculars are much better for bird watching than a monocular, however.

PROS:
  • Better focusing capabilities
  • Has more objective lens area
  • Brighter images and better viewing at low light
  • Wider field of view
  • Not prone to causing eye fatigue
  • No ‘sidelight’ issues
  • Better for longer viewing time
  • Better for moving targets
CONS:
  • More expensive
  • Can be cumbersome
  • Not as easily accessed
  • Heavier
  • Focus can take longer

A Few Examples of Good Binoculars

Vortex Optics Crossfire HD Binoculars

Vortex Optics Crossfire HD Binoculars

The first binoculars we should look at are the Vortex Optics Crossfire HD Binoculars.

  • The Vortex Optics Crossfire HD Binoculars have a fixed magnification of 8x and 42mm objective lenses.
  • They have an easy-to-grip texture and a rubber armor for grip and durability.
  • The lenses are fully multi-coated for maximum light transmission and glass protection. This means that images will be bright and that the glass will not be as easy to scratch or chip.
  • The eyecups twist into and out of place for comfort and adjustment.
  • There is a center focus wheel to adjust the focus of both barrels and a diopter adjustment on the right eyepiece to accommodate for vision differences between your eyes. Having a diopter adjustment will allow for a very fine-tuned focus that requires little or no straining of the eyes.
  • These binoculars are nitrogen purged and O-ring sealed to ensure that they are waterproof and fog proof.
  • They are compatible with a tripod or a car window mount.
  • They are made to withstand recoil and other means of impact. This is an overlooked feature that is actually of great reassurance while hunting.

Celestron SkyMaster 25x70 Binoculars and compare the two pairs of binoculars.

Celestron SkyMaster 25x70 Binoculars and compare the two pairs of binoculars.

Now, let’s have a look at the Celestron SkyMaster 25×70 Binoculars and compare the two pairs of binoculars

  • The Celestron SkyMaster 25×70 Binoculars have a fixed magnification and Objective lenses of a whopping 70mm. This means that there is more than enough light allowed into the barrels for crisp, clear images, even in low light scenarios. The brightness is also maintained at long-range distances.
  • The field of view for the Celestron SkyMaster Binoculars is 141ft at 1000yds.
  • The optics are fully multi-coated for superb anti-reflective properties.
  • These binoculars have an eye relief of 13mm.
  • The rubber armor coating adds grip and durability. The rubber also helps to reduce the risk of getting dust or dirt caught inside of your binoculars.
  • These binoculars can be used for astronomical viewing as well as conventional, terrestrial viewing purposes. This is a great feature if you find yourself looking up at the moon and stars often.

Compare the specifications of the two pairs of binoculars:

Now let’s compare the specifications of the two pairs of binoculars:

  Magnification X Objective Lens (mm) Eye Relief Close Focus Field of View Weight Length
Vortex Optics Crossfire HD Binoculars 8×42 17mm 6ft 393ft @ 1000yds 23.8oz 6.3in.
Celestron SkyMaster Binoculars 25×70 13mm 75ft 141ft @ 1000yds 3.25lbs 11in.

The Nitty-Gritty About Monocular Vs. Binocular

After looking over the tables and some of the features of these four products, you have probably noticed that the differences between them are not as obvious as you might have thought. In fact, the differences between the similar products vary nearly as much as between a monocular and binoculars. This is not always the case, however, since there are so many options out there. So, you might be asking, “How, then, am I supposed to choose?”.

Which do I Choose?

The most important thing to consider is what you expect to do with your optical device. Since a monocular is light and more manageable to pack and carry, you might consider buying a monocular for applications that will require a quick glance or ‘surveillance’. They are great for taking a look at your surroundings and for trying to pinpoint a single animal to get an idea of its distance from you. If, however, you are needing something comfortable to use for long periods, a pair of binoculars will probably be your best bet. Binoculars also tend to have (but don’t always have) a wider field of view. Be sure to check out the specifications provided by the manufacturer before you make your choice. If you are planning to watch an animal for a long time, having as big of a field of view as possible will allow you to easily watch your target without having to move as often. Binoculars also tend to work better at dawn or dusk or in other low light situations. This is because they typically have more total surface area for their objective lenses and let in more light, thus providing a brighter image for a longer period during the day.

Verdict

At the end of the day, it will all come down to your expectations and preferences. The four products listed above make for a great starting point when choosing your monocular or binoculars. Be sure that you also consider issues like waterproofing and durability. The last thing that you would want to do is to take your new optical device on your next hunting trip, only to get rained on and discover that your new gadget has been rendered useless. When in doubt, it helps to make a checklist of what it is that you want your binoculars or monocular to do. Hopefully, you have found this article on monocular vs. binoculars to be useful in deciding on your next optical device. Happy viewing!

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