Monocular vs. Binocular: Find Out What Suits You the Best
If you love the outdoors, monitoring game herding patterns, or hunting in the wild, you need an optic lens to help you see far-ranging distances.
The good news is that premium monocular and binoculars are readily available to buy online or over the counter. The bad news is that when you are in the market to choose the set that suits you the best, it’s also not the time to be constrained by budget. The higher the price, the better the vision your equipment will provide.
Picture used courtesy of African Sky
Monocular vs. Binocular Explained
Binoculars and monocular optic devices are used to view people, landscapes, or a target object in the distance.
What is a Monocular?
A monocular optic device helps with long-distance sight. They are relatively small in size; light in weight; and very compact. The most common comparison you could make is to liken a monocular device to a telescope or rangefinder.
Monoculars comes in a range of sizes, power capacity, and price points. No military operation or surveillance project would be complete without a night vision monocular in the kit. As previously mentioned, the vision capacity is always linked to the price.
What Are Binoculars?
Unlike a monocular, binoculars have two lenses. It allows you to see long distances using both of your eyes at the same time. They are the most well-known optical devices. Binoculars come in a wide range of sizes, colors, and performance features. As there are two lenses on this equipment, it is more expensive.
Every major optical company in the world prides itself on providing state-of-the-art binoculars. No safari or serious hiker would set out without a pair because they make the sightseeing experience so much better, this is an essential gadget to have. They are also widely used in military and surveillance operations.
A lot of similarities exist between monocular and binocular devices in terms of functionality and construction. But there are enough differences for it to be necessary to explore a bit more as to what they are.
There are some cost-effective binocular brands on the market that sees over longer distances
The Key Components and Functions of Binoculars and Monocular Devices
Looking at the structure of monocular vs. binocular devices, they are similar with a few small differences, as you will see. Here are a few optical features you should familiarise yourself with before buying.
Magnification: An optical device’s magnification power allows you to know in advance how clear and near the image will appear. The magnification properties of a monocular will be different based on its size. The larger a monocular is, the higher its magnification (although this will impede its portability).
The magnification of binoculars is different in that both lenses are operating the same enlargement capabilities. For this reason, binoculars are better kept at minimal magnification levels for easier operation by the user.
Objective Lens: This is the front lens on your device. It has the diameter measured in millimeters, which is good to know if you have trouble converting imperial to metric. The larger the front lens is on a monocular, the better the vision it will provide.
A binocular objective lens is based on the size of the device. The larger the binocular front lenses are and the wider the diameter, the better vision quality it will deliver. A binocular has twice the objective lens capabilities when compared to a monocular. This means it offers better optical quality.
The further away the object is that you want to see, you should use a device with the highest quality objective lens. This means you should consider binoculars. Monocular devices don’t have the same long-distance viewing capabilities.
Field of View: This optic device component allows you to know in advance the width and breadth of territory you will be able to view at any one time. With a monocular device, your field of view is measured in feet/centimeters against the yard/meters. This means that you will be able to see approximately 300’/100m for every 500’/150m in your forward viewpoint if your monocular field of view is 100m to 150m.
Binoculars have a better field of view performance because of its two lens capabilities. You are able to see double the field of view per yardage ratio compared to a monocular device. However, as the magnification of binoculars increases, your field of view will reduce down. This means you will only be able to see the widest viewpoint with the binocular magnification wound down.
Field of View used in Bird Watching
Eye Relief: This refers to how far away your eyes can be from the device’s eyepiece and still be able to have a clear view. It is measured in millimeters and will give you an estimate of where you have to place your eye for optimal image perception. If you wear glasses, paying attention to the eye relief stats are critical.
As binoculars can vary in the amount of eye relief they offer, if you wear glasses you might be better off choosing a monocular device. Also, if you plan on using your optical device in the extreme heat of summer, you might want to choose one that allows you to vary the eye relief. There’s nothing worse in the heat than having to press your eye close to a surface.
Picture used courtesy of Wikihow
Lens Coating: Lens thickness is known as the coating. It impacts the brightness levels or light-gathering capabilities on your optic device. Lens coating comes in:
- Coated – An anti-reflective coating layered thinly on one or more lens surface
- Bit coated
- Fully coated – At least one thin, anti-reflective coating on both sides of the lens, ocular lens system, and the long-side prism
- Partially multi-coated
- Fully multi-coated – Multiple coating layers on one or more of the lens surfaces
These descriptions apply to both monocular and binocular devices.
Clear Focus: Also called close focus, it is the minimum distance held between the object and the focus optics.
Now that you know monocular and binocular optic device features, let’s get busy finding out the pros and cons of both and their best uses.
Nearly every hunter will use a laser rangefinder plus a pair of binoculars while in the field. The rangefinder is often used in the place of the monocular. This can be a practical interchange between the two devices, although the rangefinder is a specialist piece of equipment that can’t be matched.
The monocular looks like binoculars with one barrel missing. It is a relatively low-powered optic device, similar in aperture to binoculars. They have become increasingly compact, slim, and portable.
- Covert glass capabilities
- Easy transport
- Fast to use
- Quick set-up and use
- Wear around neck or in pocket
- Easily hidden
- Perfect for wildlife observation
- Doubles up as a magnifying glass
- Best for targeted objects
- Cheaper than binoculars
- Ideal for observing dangerous animals
- Good for users with left/right variated eyesight
There are a few drawbacks to monocular use.
- You will experience eyestrain faster
- Not good for tracking moving targets or panning across landscapes
- Not so good for wide-angle viewing
- Lower power than binoculars
- Discomfort felt after protracted use
Picture used courtesy of Thermogears
Bonus Features in Some Monocular models
Sports optics manufacturers like to go the extra mile to give the customer a high quality monocular. These specialist features are a nice touch if you are looking for added value. Some of the extras to look out for are:
- Built-in compass
- Night vision or infrared
- Extreme zoom power
- Image stabilizer
- Gallery scope-viewing
- Available in a foldable design
Binoculars allow you to use both eyes to see a far-away image up close. This 3-dimensional image has a lot of advantages to the viewer. Hunters will never leave the house without them, even though a pair of binoculars with high-tech and high-powered features can cost thousands. They are worth every penny, and should be considered an investment. Here’s why:
- Many various designs and price points
- Various aperture and power platforms
- Compact and lightweight models now available (no more sore necks)
- 3-dimensional viewing
- Clear, acute glassing for details
- Can track moving targets easily
- Best for wildlife and safaris
- Can glance for long periods
- Keep you away from dangerous animals while still seeing them in detail
There are still a few binocular drawbacks:
- More expensive
- Not as discrete or covert as a monocular
- More tech means heavier, bulkier models
Independent focus binoculars are just some of the added extra bonus features available in upper price bracket models such as:
- Image stabilization capabilities
- Ballistic reticles
- Long-distance ranging
Let’s put Monocular vs. Binocular head to head in different activity-specific situations.
With large objectives in low-light conditions and increased depth of field that binoculars provide are an advantage. They give you better watching, tracking, and stalking capabilities than mono. The acute details and better panning make binoculars the clear favorite for hunting. You will see kill zones, gender, and approximate distance quicker and easier with binoculars.
Although monocular can match binoculars in just about every aspect of bird watching, the serious bird watcher is always going to choose binoculars. Long periods of comfortable glassing without eyestrain and squinting is the defining factor here.
Bird Watching Binoculars
Hiking and Wildlife Safaris/Excursions
The mono is the optical device of choice here. If you’re absolutely fanatical about ticking off the wildlife on your “See it in the Wild” card, you should also be looking at a spotting scope. The lightweight and compact monos don’t get knocked out of focus and align quickly.
To be able to maximize the total amount of light that is transmitted, you can get specially made high-powered astronomy binoculars. Monos can’t compete in this arena, and if a budding astronomer wants something better, they go for telescopes.
Best for Night Vision and Tactical
Here we have a tie. Both mono and binoculars have spectacular night vision capabilities. If you are hunting or bird watching at night, you can choose either type optical device.
For Gallery or Indoor Use
Haul out a pair of binoculars indoors to inspect something more closely while indoors, and you will be looked at like a bit of a joke. With monocular additional microscopic use and discrete presence, they are the best choice for indoor and gallery usage.
When it comes to portability, discreteness, and convenience, monocular definitely come out tops. If you use your sports optics for hunting, then don’t even consider anything other than a pair of binoculars. They are the more practical optic solution for the many sports and recreational scenarios you will encounter. Binoculars are user-friendly, versatile, and have interesting specialist features besides the deep-dimensional image quality.
With monocular being used in conjunction with smartphones to take telescopic pictures, and binoculars used as telescopes when placed on a tripod for stability, optic devices have just scratched the surface of practical usage.
Be activity-specific when it comes to the optical device you choose. Both monocular and binoculars have a place in the sports and hobbies arena. New technology is making these optics more accessible and high-powered every year. They will always bring a little something extra to your sport or hobby.