If you are into wildlife viewing, hiking, hunting, camping, or any other activity involving the outdoors, you may be interested in purchasing a monocular or binocular. But what one should you choose?
These two optical instruments allow you to see distant objects close up, such as targets, wildlife, nature, or other distant landmarks.
While these optical instruments have a few similarities, they are also quite different.
Monoculars are much lighter-weight than binoculars and are often more affordable. These instruments are also very easy to use.
While binoculars are a bit heavier and harder to travel with, they produce higher-quality images since they support a wider field of view and produce three-dimensional images.
This guide will help you learn all of the differences between a monocular vs binocular and help you decide what one is best for you.
We will cover everything from what each instrument is and list all of their similarities.
If you are ready to learn more about monoculars and binoculars, keep on reading.
What Is a Monocular
A monocular is a type of refracting telescope that is modified. It looks like a pair of binoculars cut in half since it only has one viewing tube compared to two.
The main job of a monocular is to magnify distant objects by sending light through a series of prisms and lenses.
While monoculars are similar in many ways to telescopes and binoculars, they are much lighter weight and more compact than those instruments.
Due to these factors, monoculars are also a lot more affordable, making them more available to the general public.
Compared to popular optical instruments such as telescopes and binoculars, monoculars do not produce as high of quality images.
However, many people, such as hikers, hunters, wildlife watchers, and campers, prefer monoculars since they are easy to use and carry.
Furthermore, they are harder to damage since they are so small and light.
These optical instruments are also easy to travel with and keep around your neck. Compared to a heavy pair of binoculars, monoculars will be easy to haul up a mountain while hiking.
Most monoculars use the Porro prism design. Ignatio Porro developed this design in the 1850s, which utilizes curved lenses and prisms.
First of all, the curved lens takes in distant light and amplifies. When the lens amplifies the light and produces the image, the image is inverted to be upside down.
This is where the prism comes in. The main job of the prism is to invert the image. When the user looks in the eyepiece lens, they see the final image that the prism produces.
What Is a Binocular
Binoculars are a kind of optical instrument that magnifies images of distant objects. Also called field glasses, binoculars consist of two refracting telescopes that look like two individual eye tubes.
These tubes are mounted beside each other and face the same direction.
When using binoculars, users can look through one end of the instrument with both of their eyes to see a magnified image.
Most binoculars are handheld, making them easy to hold.
However, you can get binoculars in a variety of different sizes. Some are small such as opera glasses, while some will require tripods to use.
Even though binoculars are handheld, they are not the lightest instrument to carry. These instruments are much heavier than monoculars and are more difficult to travel with.
Furthermore, since they have two eye tubes, they are typically more expensive.
However, binoculars are typically more comfortable to look through since they have two eyepieces instead of one.
Binoculars also produce three-dimensional images, which adds more depth to the images.
There are three main designs that a binocular can have, including Porro prism, roof prism, and Galilean.
You will most often find Porro prism and roof prism binoculars on the market today; all modern binoculars use one of these designs.
While Galilean models are not popular today, this design was most popular in the 17th century.
Now that we know what monocular and binocular are, let’s compare the two. This section will review the similarities and differences between a monocular vs binocular.
We will cover the weight, design, and compatibility of each. By the end of this section, you should know what one is best for you.
Both Are Optical Instruments That Magnify Images
If you think about the two instruments on the most basic level, both monoculars and binoculars are optical instruments that magnify images using lenses and light.
While the two may do this in different ways, the main job stays the same; producing magnified images of small, distant objects.
Porro Prism Design
You can find both monoculars and binoculars using the Porro prism design. Most monoculars utilize this design, while a good chunk of binoculars use it as well.
In Porro prism instruments, all of the surfaces are reflective, which means it loses no light. Furthermore, these models are very easy to produce and are typically much less expensive.
Both Are Handheld Instruments
Another main similarity between the monocular vs binocular is that both are handheld devices.
While both instruments weigh different amounts, monoculars and binoculars are not difficult to carry and use for various activities.
While you can find models that require extra equipment like tripods, there are many options out there where you won’t need to bring any extra tools to use them.
You Can Use Both for the Same Activities
While there are a few distinct differences between the two instruments, which we will cover later, the two are similar enough that you can use them for the same activities.
You can use monoculars and binoculars for hunting, hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, and sporting events.
What instrument you choose will simply depend on your personal preference.
Both Instruments Have the Same Basic Parts
The individual parts of each instrument will differ. However, the two machines still have a few of the same basic parts.
You can find an ocular lens, a focus wheel, adjustable eyecup, and an objective lens on most monoculars and binoculars.
Same Magnification Levels
Even though binoculars may have more parts and be physically larger, monoculars and binoculars can support the same magnification levels.
You will usually find both binoculars and monoculars with magnification levels spanning from 7x to 12x magnification power.
You Can Use Both for Stargazing
It may come as a surprise that you can use both instruments for stargazing.
If you want a wider field of view to simply gaze at hundreds of stars at a time or look for constellations, binoculars will be the way to go.
On the other hand, if you want to search the night sky for single planets, a monocular will work better.
The shorter field of view on these instruments will make it less distracting as you search the sky for whatever you are trying to find.
You Can Use Accessories With Both
You can use a variety of different accessories with both monoculars and binoculars. Whether you want to pick up a phone adapter, tripod, or even a simple strap, you can use these with both optical instruments.
Monoculars and binoculars are pretty adaptable and can be tailored to suit your needs out on the field.
Monoculars Only Have One Eye Tube
The main and most obvious difference between the monocular vs binocular is that the former only has one eye tube. Monoculars are modified refracting telescopes.
For this reason, they only have one tube. However, binoculars have two eye tubes that are mounted together, facing the same direction.
Binoculars Are More Expensive
Since monoculars are basically binoculars cut in half, it makes sense why they are more affordable. Binoculars, on the other hand, have twice the equipment inside them.
For this reason, binoculars are usually more expensive than monoculars.
A typical pair of binoculars is around $100 to $500, with higher-end models reaching an upwards of $3000. Good-quality monoculars are usually between $50 to $300.
Binoculars Produce Three-Dimensional Images
Another main difference is that binoculars produce three-dimensional images while monoculars only produce two-dimensional images.
Since binoculars support three-dimensional images, the tool will have better depth perception.
You will also be able to collect more information from binoculars which will help your brain to produce a more accurate image.
Monoculars Are More Compact
A major reason why many people prefer monoculars is that they are more compact. These tools are very lightweight and are easy to bring on just about any trip.
You can slip them into a pocket or a backpack and not have to worry about the extra weight.
Binoculars Make for More Comfortable Viewing
While monoculars may be easier to bring along while hiking, it is typically more comfortable to look through a pair of binoculars.
Since binoculars have two eye tubes, you can look through the instrument with both eyes.
On the other hand, you can only look through monoculars with one eye. Doing so may feel uncomfortable and will not give you as clear of an image as binoculars will.
Binoculars Have a Wider Field of View
Another difference between the monocular vs binocular is that binoculars have a wider field of view.
This means that you will be able to see a wider image through a pair of binoculars. You won’t be able to cover as much square footage using a monocular.
Monoculars May Cause Eye Fatigue
As mentioned above, binoculars provide a more comfortable viewing experience since you can look through them with both eyes.
Since you can only use one eye with monoculars, you may experience a higher rate of eye fatigue with this instrument.
While looking through monoculars for a few seconds here and there won’t bother you, extended viewing with the instrument will lead to eye strain.
Which One Is for Me?
We have now covered the differences and similarities of a monocular vs binocular in depth. Now it is time to decide which one is for you.
This section will give you a few things to think about, including the price range, weight, and what kind of activity you will be doing.
By the end of this section, you should have a firm grasp of what device is better for you.
What Is Your Price Range?
The first thing you need to think about is the price range. If you are working with a tight budget, then a monocular may be the best way to go.
You will be able to pick up a monocular for around $50 on the low end or a higher-quality one for around $100.
If you are not too concerned about money, it may be worth spending a bit more to get a higher quality image. You can get a good pair of binoculars for around $200.
Does Weight Matter?
You should also think about weight. If you want the lightest instrument possible that is easy to bring along on hikes, go with a monocular.
Binoculars are much less portable than monoculars are and might end up dragging you down on long hikes through thick forest.
How Long Will You Be Looking Through the Lens?
If you intend to look through your optical instrument for long periods, you may want to go with binoculars.
Since you can use both eyes with binoculars, you will not experience as much eye strain.
However, if you do the same thing with monoculars, you will most likely experience eye fatigue.
You could also get a headache from looking through monoculars for too long.
What Kind of Activity Are You Using Them For?
Another easy way to decide what tool is for you is to think about what kind of activity you are using them for.
Typically, monoculars work better for activities where you will only be using the tool for a few seconds at a time.
For instance, many golfers and hunters love to use monoculars to quickly figure out how far their target is.
Binoculars are better for when you will be looking through the instrument for long periods, such as stargazing or wildlife viewing.
It will be more comfortable to use binoculars for these activities.
What Kind of Image Quality Do You Want?
Lastly, you should decide what kind of image quality you want. If you don’t care about having the best image, monoculars will work fine.
On the other hand, Binoculars will provide a wider field of view, better depth perception, and an overall clearer image.
Compared to monoculars which produce only two-dimensional images, binoculars also produce three-dimensional images.
When it comes to a monocular vs binocular, there are a few things to consider when choosing the right tool for you.
First of all, you should think about the price. Monoculars will be the more affordable option.
You can pick up a pair for around $50 to $300. Binoculars, on the other hand, will have a price range of $100 to $500.
When it comes to weight, monoculars are much lighter. They are more portable and easier to travel with.
Binoculars weigh more and are not ideal for having them around your neck for long treks.
If you want to look through the instrument for long periods, such as for wildlife viewing, binoculars will be the way to go.
These tools will not cause eye strain or headaches, whereas you might experience those effects with monoculars.
Monoculars are great for hunting or sports, where you only need to look through them for a few seconds at a time.
However, pick up binoculars if image quality is the most important factor for you.