Monocular vs Binocular – Top Facts That You Need To Know

You’re thinking of traveling to an outdoor landscape this weekend. So you thought to bring a device to watch things from far away. Once you get to the shop to buy one of these devices, you get into a problem – there’s a battle between binocular vs monocular for your attention.

Which one will you choose? Well, you may not know yet – but you will soon.

In this article, we want to explain all the differences, similarities, uses, and everything in-between that monoculars and binoculars offer. That will teach you everything there’s to know about those – and how you can pick the right one for your needs.

At first, you just need to know that these are both magnification devices. The rest of the info is given below.

What Is a Monocular?

We’ll start with the concept of a monocular.

You may have heard about binoculars before, but maybe you haven’t heard about monoculars yet. Well, they are simple single-lens magnification devices. Not less and not more than that – yet they are a little more complicated than you think.

As a magnification device, it is also an optical instrument. If you need to watch something at a distance, a monocular can be your best choice. Usually, monoculars are small and light. They are easy to handle and often fit inside a pocket without problems.

But even though most of them look the same, they have a wide variety of features that you may or may not know about. Among them, you’ll find their size, power, lens, magnification, and more. And every model differs from the rest.

Typically, they are used for hunting, birding, landscape photography, and similar endeavors.

Overall, they will just help you watch things at a distance – from one of your eyes. As an example, a telescope is a monocular device.

Pros

  • Excellent amplification
  • Top-notch portability
  • Quality night-vision
  • Usually affordable

Cons

  • Limited field of view
  • Slightly uncomfortable to use

What Is a Binocular?

So, are you aware of what a monocular is? Then let’s get over binoculars.

As you may have guessed, binoculars come with two lenses instead of one - thus, the prefix BI instead of MONO in the name.

They can be big and sturdy, difficult to use – sometimes needing a tripod to get the most out of them. But most of the time, they are small and easy to handle. Some small binoculars can actually be smaller than the palm of your hand.

Of course, it is the most common device for watching at a distance. Almost everyone knows what a binocular is, and probably have also used one.

Similarly to monoculars, they also come in a wide array of designs, magnifications, field of views, and many other varied features.  Apart from that, they’re used in a wide array of situations, going from bird-watching to hiking, military operations, and even simple scientific works.

In short, binoculars are the most popular 2-lens magnification device out there. And they help you watch things from far away with both eyes.

Pros

  • Superb field of view
  • Great magnification
  • Hugely comfortable
  • Exceptional long-distance vision

Cons

  • Little convenience & discretion
  • Usually expensive

Monocular vs Binocular: Factors to Consider

So you went through a brief yet comprehensive explanation of both monoculars and binoculars. But you don’t have any idea yet about which one is better for you.

Well, that’s precisely what the next section is about. Here, you’ll learn about the different factors that separate them, and which one offers the best experience. Take a look!

Portability

The first thing to think about when deciding between binoculars and monoculars is the portability.

Both devices are usually small and can fit practically anywhere with ease. But sometimes, they can be big and bulky, difficult to use, and somewhat uncomfortable.

Sure enough, monoculars are still the smaller of the two. This happens because they have only one lens instead of two like binoculars. So they’re obviously the easiest to travel with and move around when needed.

But it is important to note that binoculars are not necessarily bad either. They’re just typically harder to store and bring around due to their size. Yet, some models can be almost as small as a monocular and still offer a full field of view.

Another interesting fact to mention is that the smaller the monocular or binocular is, the less quality it probably offers.

For example, large spotting scopes are monoculars. Yet, they can be huge, super heavy, and difficult to handle. A fixed set of binoculars can also be inconvenient in size and weight. And they’re often tricky to bring around too.

So, we can say that portability is often better with monoculars. But it truly depends on the quality and/or expected results. A high-end monocular can be as inconvenient on the go as a set of binocular – or even more.

Comfort

Once you have an idea of how easy they are to travel with, let’s now go into comfort. This is similar to portability, yet it relates more to how they feel on your hands when using them. And how they feel when you’re not.

Here, you’ll have to consider that binoculars usually come with neck-straps. These straps allow the user to feel comfier when bringing the device around, and also while using.

Monoculars may also have the same advantage, but they’re often so portable that it is not a neck strap they come with – but a wrist strap.

Still, you may find both types of devices with interchangeable straps that you can use however you prefer. But often, binoculars go better with neck straps and monoculars with wrist straps. So you may end up finding neck-strapped binoculars comfier.

Let’s not forget about comfort when using, either. Here, it is also important to mention how you use these – monoculars demand you to grab the device, put it in front of one eye, and then close the other.

Binoculars, in contrast, only require you to put the device in front of your eyes, and that’s it.

So, while they’re not necessarily uncomfortable, monoculars are slightly less convenient. That’s why we can safely yet counterintuitively say that binoculars are more comfortable.

Ease of Use

How easy is a monocular to use? And how difficult is a binocular?

Well, we can say that both have their own level of difficulty. Like we mentioned when comparing comfort levels, monoculars will demand you to open one eye and close the other. This could be seen as a slightly harder thing to do than opening both eyes as binoculars make you.

But it is also vital to consider that binoculars usually have two lenses. And two lenses usually mean configuring both to achieve the best image possible.

In contrast, a monocular is just one lens – so you usually only need to tweak one with little effort.

Apart from that, monoculars are lighter than binoculars, and smaller as well. So handling them around, putting them in front, and using them is often easier. Binoculars tend to be a little sturdier and trickier to handle.

Finally, you can say that monoculars only need one lens lid or cover. Binoculars usually need two – and they’re often separate.

So it is safe to say that monoculars are easier to use than binoculars, even for minuscule things like their covers and tweaking system.

Discretion

This is especially important if you’re going on a hunting trip or you’re doing surveillance. Even just watching birds or other animals around may demand some type of discretion.

For that, it is vital to have a small design, not to be too obvious, and still provide the chance to store fast when needed. And for that, monoculars get the heads-start.

You won’t have to look so obvious when looking at something, thanks to their small design. And sure enough, you can store them rapidly when necessary – just a quick movement of hands will be enough.

With binoculars, you won’t have the same advantage. While small binoculars can be pretty handy and easy to store, they still don’t match the discretion of a monocular. And even less so if we’re talking about high-end models that tend to be super heavy and bulky.

So, when it comes to discretion, monoculars are obviously the best choice.

Magnification

Discretion is essential, but it is not a match to the significance of magnification. With the right magnifying capacity, you won’t need any other device to look far away.

In this aspect, you need to consider that magnification depends heavily on the size or diameter of the lens. So, the thicker the lens, the more magnification it will have.

By build, monoculars tend to have a thicker lens. Because it is only one optic instead of two, their construction usually offers a lot of magnification due to the thickness.

But that doesn’t mean monoculars have better magnification than binoculars. In fact, binoculars usually have excellent magnification as well. And this time, it is not because they have thick lenses, but because they use two.

Due to the two lenses working together, the magnifying capacity is usually pretty reliable. And what’s even better, they offer a better field of view, which ensures higher image quality.

So, when it comes to magnification, both binoculars and monoculars are excellent. But it comes down to use most of the time. The single-lens of a monocular is ideal for watching small things and surveillance. Meanwhile, the broader field of view of a binocular makes its magnification better for everything else.

Objective Lens

Another similarly essential part of both monoculars and binoculars would be the objective lens.

This part is usually measured in millimeters, and it refers to the overall diameter of the lenses. And with this diameter, you can tell how well everything will look through – the more objective lens, the better the clarity and quality of the image.

That’s why it is essential to go for a device with an excellent objective lens. And here, monoculars usually have a broader objective lens, mainly because they only have one lens it is generally big. But it comes with a disadvantage – even with such diameter, the clarity and quality don’t reach too far.

With binoculars, the objective lens works differently. Despite usually having smaller objectives, the two lenses work together to offer better long-distance views. And that’s why they’re usually better for looking at a distance, providing higher quality overall. Yet, they look weirdly at short distances.

It is safe to say that binoculars offer a better objective lens for looking at a distance. However, in short lengths, monoculars provide higher image quality.

Field of View

Something utterly important to consider once you have magnification and objective lens figured out is the FOV or field of view.

Here is where you’ll find the clearest differences between both monoculars and binoculars. And it happens mainly because, again, a monocular only has one lens while binoculars have two.

The FOV, to make it easier to understand, refers to the overall width and height you can see through the device. So, the more you can see through a monocular or binocular, the more field of view the device usually has.

You will find that monoculars usually have a large field of view because the lens is larger and bigger. But binoculars typically have the most field of view, obviously because two lenses have more capacity than only one – even when this one is larger.

It is still important to mention that the field of view and magnification contrast each other. The more magnification a device has, the less field of view it will offer. And sure enough, the objective lens has a considerable say here as well.

In other words, binoculars offer a higher field of view, even though they may provide higher magnification. Yet, monoculars can have a decent field of view and don’t get affected by magnification too much.

Eye Relief

Now that you’re done with the quality and overall image capacity of monoculars and binoculars, you need to understand eye relief.

This has more to do with the comfort of the piece than anything else. Yet, it also affects performance and overall ease of use.

Eye relief refers to the distance you need to open your eye to see through the lenses of the device. So, the farther you need to place your eyes from the lenses, the higher the eye relief.

Here, you will find that monoculars usually require people to get pretty close to the lens. This happens because the single-lens construction makes it easier to focus and achieve quality images with only one eye.

In contrast, the two lenses in binoculars can be difficult to focus on, so they often demand a little more eye relief. Still, you may find some binoculars that can be used from pretty close without problems.

It is still necessary to remember that glasses may affect eye relief. So, if you have glasses, a monocular, despite its closer eye relief will be a better choice for the quality. Otherwise, you may feel more comfortable with the longer eye relief of a binocular.

Night Vision

Night vision on these devices is not the rule, yet you may find some models are offering it. So we recommend considering it as well.

The quality in this matter, however, differs enormously from one device to the other. And this happens mainly because other factors such as objective lens, field of view, and magnification also have a say.

As you may have guessed, monoculars usually offer excellent night vision because of their single-lens build. This allows monoculars to focus well and typically provide a magnificent view. And in some cases, the magnification is unbeatable.

Binoculars, on the other hand, offer a higher field of view and an objective lens. So you’re likely to find them pretty useful for night vision as well.

But there’s a huge difference here, and it happens because of the objective lens. Because binoculars have two lenses, they tend to capture light deficiently, even with two lenses. But binoculars offer a more stable and less flashy night-vision experience.

It is safe to say that monoculars are slightly better, especially when it comes to surveillance and watching things with more detail, monoculars win the night-vision race.

Outdoor Use

Now we need to explain overall outdoor use and how they differ.

For the best experience outdoors, the device needs to offer a decent field of view and excellent durability. The more durable the equipment is and the higher the image quality it provides, the better it will be for outdoor use.

A monocular may slack behind, for example — for hunting because it has a limited field of view and usually less objective lens. It may capture some of the images, but not well enough as a set of binoculars will. That’s why hunting is often better done with binoculars than monoculars.

The same happens for other types of natural surveillance endeavors like bird-watching. Binoculars have the upper hand because they can provide more images for their better field of view, which also ensures higher quality overall. Yet, at a close distance, monoculars perform better due to the higher focus.

And last but not least, you need to consider their durability and convenience outdoors. Here, they both perform similarly well. While the more comfortable monocular is convenient, they don’t offer the same quality build as most binoculars do.

In the end, it all comes down to your needs. While binoculars are usually better overall, the extra comfort and practicality of a monocular may be more enticing for you.

Indoor Use

While binoculars and monoculars are not often used indoors, you may also want to know their capacities as well.

For example, when trying to decipher what an ancient tome says in minuscule calligraphy, you may want to use a monocular. It will work like a less powerful microscope.

The same thing is not possible with a set of binoculars. Instead, you may use them for watching things for far away because if you get close enough, they usually feel unfocused.

So, of course, monoculars perform better when used indoors – even when it is rare to use them that way.

Costs

Last but not least, we need to get over the pricing and overall costs you’ll experience with each device.

A monocular, for example, tend to be decently affordable and provide excellent results. Binoculars, while not as accessible, usually offer high quality – sometimes better than any monocular.

So it all comes down to your needs and preferences here. But it also comes down to types and overall quality of the devices.

A high-end monocular, for example, may cost way more than a low or medium range set of binoculars. But a high-end binocular system may cost over thrice as much as any monocular.

You’ll need to consider all other factors here, then. We usually recommend monoculars if you have a low budget but still want to see far away. And if you prefer better focus at close distances and more comfort and convenience – then a monocular should be your best bet for the price.

On the other hand, binoculars are often expensive, even in the lowest-quality range. But their quality exceeds monoculars, so you will be paying more – but you will be getting more as well.

In the end, it all depends on what you want.

Binocular vs Monocular: What Should You Go for?

What should you pick, then? Between monocular vs binocular, you’ll find so many differences and similarities that comparing them can be utterly confusing. But it’s possible.

We can say that if you want a more practical, comfortable, and affordable piece – then go for a monocular. The decent field of view, objective lens, and magnification will not disappoint when looking. And sure enough, you can bring one almost anywhere with ease with higher portability.

But if you prefer something with higher magnification, field of view, objective lens, and probably better image quality at long distances – then go for binoculars. They may end up being more expensive and harder to bring around – but they’re totally worth it.

Overall, you should pick the device that best meets your requirements.

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