Best monocular 2024: tough, compact tools for wildlife watching and beyond

The best monoculars will help you spot wildlife or have a closer look at ships on the horizon without carrying bulky binoculars

best monocular: Woman Collecting Garbage and Watching Environment With Monocular
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In the world of outdoor observation, monoculars stand out as compact, versatile tools that offer an unparalleled viewing experience. With the best monoculars offering twice the versatility for half the weight and the bulk of binoculars, they have become a favoured choice for adventurers, nature enthusiasts, and sports fans alike.

What sets monoculars apart is their lightweight and pocket-friendly design, making them convenient companions for everyday use. Whether tucked into a jacket pocket or stowed away in a rucksack, monoculars are ready to unlock a world of observational possibilities at a moment's notice.

From birdwatching in the countryside to nature walks in the forest or even catching the action at a local football match, monoculars provide the perfect blend of portability and performance.

While the compact form factor of monoculars is their main advantage over binoculars and telescopes, it's their additional features that truly enhance the viewing experience. 

In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into everything you need to know about choosing the best monocular for your needs. From understanding key features and specifications to practical tips on usage and maintenance, we'll equip you with the knowledge to make an informed decision.

Plus, we'll highlight some of the top monoculars currently available on the market, ensuring that you find the perfect companion for your outdoor adventures. Join us as we explore the exciting world of monoculars!

The best monocular you can buy right now

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How to choose the best monocular for you

When selecting the perfect monocular, start by considering your budget and intended use. You might also want to weigh whether binoculars could serve you better. One key advantage of a monocular is its compactness and ease of use – with a lens in front, an eyepiece at the back, and a large focus knob, it's a breeze to handle with just one hand (and eye).

While monoculars offer a specialised experience compared to binoculars, their options may be slightly more limited. Focus on important specifications like magnification and objective lens size (e.g., 10x25). Typically, monoculars offer more modest magnification and a narrower field of view. Thus, the goal is to find the ideal balance of power, performance, and portability.

While most monoculars are designed for daytime use, there are also infrared-enabled models available for nighttime observations. For more information and options, check out our guide to the best night-vision binoculars and goggles.

How we test the best monoculars

Testing monoculars involves rigorous assessments to ensure their optical quality, durability, and suitability for different uses.

We first evaluate the optical quality by examining the clarity, sharpness, and brightness of the image produced under various lighting conditions. Then, we measure the monocular's magnification power and field of view.

We subject the monocular to impact, water, and environmental tests (within reason) to assess its resilience and reliability in demanding conditions. This evaluation ensures that the monocular can withstand rugged outdoor use without compromising its performance.

We may also test special features such as night vision capabilities for monoculars designed for low-light conditions.


What's the best magnification for a monocular?

The best magnification for a monocular depends on its intended use. For general-purpose monoculars, magnifications between 8x and 10x are popular choices, providing a good balance between magnification power and image stability. Higher magnifications, such as 12x or 16x, offer greater detail but may result in shakier images, especially without image stabilization features. Lower magnifications, like 6x or 7x, offer wider fields of view and increased stability but sacrifice some detail.

What are monoculars good for?

Monoculars serve multiple purposes across activities like hiking, birdwatching, and hunting, offering compactness and ease of use. They're favoured by travellers for sightseeing and exploring. In industries like surveillance and law enforcement, they aid in monitoring and enhancing situational awareness. Their portability and versatility make them indispensable tools for various hobbies and professional applications.

Why use a monocular instead of a binocular?

Using a monocular instead of a binocular offers several advantages depending on the situation and personal preference. Monoculars are typically smaller, lighter, and more compact, making them easier to carry and store, ideal for activities like hiking or birdwatching. They offer single-handed operation, allowing you to hold other equipment or maintain balance while viewing.

Gavin Stoker

Gavin Stoker has been writing about photography and technology for the past 20 years. He currently edits the trade magazine British Photographic Industry News - BPI News for short - which is a member of TIPA, the international Technical Imaging Press Association.

With contributions from