Monoculars are the best lightweight alternative for nature viewing
You are hiking along a trail that weaves through woods and fields. It is a beautiful day and in the tree branches above you, you hear a bird calling softly. You wish you could see it. But if you decided that dragging along your heavy binoculars for this quick trip was not worth the effort, perhaps you need to invest in a light weight alternative to binoculars - a monocular scope. A monocular is a miniature, low powered telescope which you hold in your hand like a binocular but use with one eye like a telescope.
Monoculars offer a compact, portable way to quickly view things while hiking, golfing, and birding. Sometimes perceived as inferior to binoculars for wildlife viewing because of the flatter image derived from a single objective lens, monoculars have the advantage of being easier to carry and lighter in weight than binoculars. A monocular can fit in your pocket or be carried on a strap around your neck or looped on your belt. If you are considering compact binoculars because of their portability, you will find that monoculars provide better overall viewing performance than similarly priced compact binoculars. There is also a night vision monocular that uses infrared light to “paint” an object and light-gathering technology to render the image clear in the dark. The range of night vision monoculars is out to 80 yards or so, and the magnification is typically 2.5X to 5X.
Things you should know about monoculars:
1. Monoculars are not spot scopes. This is confusing because some products are offered as monocular spot scopes. However, a spot scope is much more powerful than a monocular, even more magnification than binoculars, and much more expensive. A spot scope works best with a tripod or stabilization platform whereas a monocular is hand held.
2. More magnification means greater challenges in holding the monoculars steady and keeping the object of interest within the field of view. For real utility, keep your monocular magnification in the 4x to 6x range.
3. Good optics are expensive. Cheap optical devices can be worse than useless. You should perform a price/performance trade-off before you make your selection.
4. Night vision monoculars are useful for hikers and campers to check around your campsite for unwanted critters or for viewing night birds like owls. First generation night vision monoculars are cost equivalent to day viewing monoculars. However second generation night vision monoculars with weather resistant coatings and greater distance capability are significantly more expensive – about £500.
5. Optical quality is more important than objective lens size in terms of performance.
6. As magnification goes up, field of view decreases. If you want a wide field of view, chose a lower magnification monocular.
The last piece of advice: Test before buying.
Monoculars come in several sizes, magnifications and quality. You cannot tell from a picture if the monocular you are considering will work for you. If you want a monocular that you will find useful and want to always have with you, you need to try it out before you buy it.