Shopping for a Night Vision Monocular?
Look no further.
Let’s first admit; night vision gear doesn’t come cheap. So, if you really do want to enjoy the nocturnal life and are ready to spend on it, it only makes sense to invest in just the right thing.
What's In This Buying Guide
In this quick buying guide, we bring together all that you need to know to buy the right night vision monocular for your needs. From detailed reviews of the best of these night vision optics to a thorough explanation of their working, this short read will lead you to the right product.
What Is A Night Vision Monocular?
Night vision can be exceptionally advantageous for those involved in after-dark activities like hunting, observation of wildlife, night driving, or rescue and search missions for the likes of law enforcement agencies. Night vision technology was, in fact, originally developed by the Germans at the beginning of WWII to secretly observe the enemy.
Since then, technology has come a long way. The range and clarity of night vision optics have impressively advanced, although older models continue to be made as pocket-friendly equipment for hobbyists.
To put it simply, these optics improve your night vision by using Infrared light to magnify images and making them appear closer to you, thereby offering a clearer view.
We have tried to briefly explain the science behind night vision for the purpose of this buying guide, but there’s so much more to it that you can explore.
Although known as night vision monoculars, you can use them just as well during the day to view distant objects better.
What makes these devices even more versatile is the fact that you can use them for multiple activities, like driving, scouting, nature watching, security, hunting, and camping, to name a few.
Best Night Vision Monoculars
Bushnell Night Vision Equinox Z2 Monocular
- Best for Long Distance Tracking
Yes (+ streaming)
Yes (+ streaming)
Firefield Nightfall Night Vision Monocular
- Best Value
Yes (+ streaming)
Yes (+ streaming)
Carson MiniAura Digital Night Vision Monocular
- Best Digital Monocular
Night Owl Lightweight Night Vision Monocular
- Best for Water-Activities
Yes (+ streaming)
Yes (+ streaming)
Night Owl iGEN 20/20 Day/Night Vision Monocular
- Best Overall
Yes (+ streaming)
Yes (+ streaming)
Best for Long-Distance Tracking: Bushnell Night Vision Equinox Z2 Monocular
An offering by acclaimed optical specialists Bushnell, this powerful monocular is a great choice for those who want to track big games from afar.
Known better for traditional optics, Bushnell ventured into the technological side of optics through the Equinox Z, and holding true to their reputation, they managed to make the tool both powerful and affordable.
With a magnification factor of 6x, this monocular is mightier in terms of magnification than most of its competitors available in the market today. The 50 mm lens also makes for an effective light-collecting tool, and the range of up to 900 feet is more than most users would really ever need.
Despite its excellent specifications, the Equinox Z2 is still your average magnifying monocular to observe long-distance sights during the day. It is during the night that the real magic happens!
This monocular uses IR light to provide color night vision and paints clear pictures with even the finest of details showing. A built-in IR illuminator permits viewers to observe long-distance targets in all their essence, and the images can be video-recorded in full HD 1080 pixels. This is impressive for the class and price of this monocular.
Not only this, but the Equinox Z2 also has Wi-Fi connectivity; you can easily connect your device to a smartphone or television and stream the video. Alongside streaming, you can even control, pause, and zoom the video, take photos remotely, and also manage IR brightness.
All in all, this device makes for a comprehensive purchase, promising years of complaint-free service.
Issues and Limitations
The biggest limitation of this monocular is its weight. Weighing almost twice as much as monoculars of the same standard, this one can be hefty to carry on the head or even pack in a backpack.
However, for this very reason, the device comes with its very own tripod mount and can be very conveniently set up for longer observations.
Also, owing to its large-diameter objective lens, this may not be the ideal monocular for short-distance observations.
The Bushnell Equinox makes up for this by offering exceptional long-distance clarity and magnification and is, therefore, perhaps best suited for that use.
The Bushnell Night Vision Equinox Z2 Monocular is a promising purchase packing all the features and functionalities of a superior range of optics, albeit a little heavier than its lower-specified contemporaries.
Best Value: Firefield Nightfall Night Vision Monocular
Beginners and first-time buyers need not look any further than this. The Firefield Nightfall makes for just the perfect monocular for its price and comes equipped with all the features a good monocular should have.
We couldn’t help but notice how swiftly the FireField Nightfall optic powers up to begin your nocturnal observations. The powerful objective lens of 50 mm follows up the kickstart: with a great field of view, you can view even objects as far as 900 ft.
The large lens also helps give a decent field of view by collecting large amounts of light from its surroundings, which also provides a clear and crisp image all on its own. The range, magnification, and clarity are so good that this monocular is also successfully used for beginner-level surveillance purposes.
The FireField Nightfall also comes with an in-built high-power Infrared illuminator. The technology employed, PULSE is one of the most powerful of its kind and makes this optic rank among the most popular night vision devices on the market.
Adding to the best IR illuminator is its weather-resistant construction. The rubber body of this monocular can withstand 400 meters of water. It is also scratch-resistant and, overall, extremely durable.
The battery life is excellent, so you can put away your worries and confidently take this to hunting and camping expeditions. What makes it all the more ideal for your trips is its ergonomic design.
It is so comfortable to hold that you don’t even notice that you are carrying it up until a couple of hours. You have to thank the rubber body for this. It ensures that the monocular remains lightweight yet convenient to hold.
Issues and Limitations
Like any other monocular on the market, the Firefield Nightfall also has its own set of shortcomings. If the intensity of the light is low during the night, this particular piece of equipment fails to produce the most precise and magnified images.
Moreover, if you are planning on using this for hunting, you should know that the infrared light on this monocular can sometimes act as a warning signal to targets and make them retreat further.
Those interested in hunting, general observation of nature, or rudimentary surveillance at night can end their search for a monocular thanks to the Firefield Nightfall. It is a powerful yet compact device at a reasonable price and will make for a promising investment.
Best Digital Monocular: Carson MiniAura Digital Night Vision Monocular (NV-200)
If you thought Generation 1 digital monoculars were outdated, the Carson MiniAura is here to prove you wrong. One of the most popular modern-day monoculars, this is a small powerhouse.
One of the best of Generation 1 monoculars, the Carson MiniAura is also one of the handiest monoculars available today. It comes complete with its wrist band and fabric pouch, and all you need to add is 3 AA batteries before you begin your expedition.
The digital optic has a 10mm objective lens with 1x magnification. Thus, it is designed to be an entry-level monocular, best suited for casual, small-scale observations. The diopter can be adjusted from -4 to 2 DPT, depending on the light intensity and distance you are looking at.
An Infrared on/off button further enhances the programmability of the Carson MiniAura. This feature is particularly useful if you are observing during the darker hours and don’t want your object to notice the infrared light and retreat. In such a situation, you can simply turn the light off. Alternatively, if you are hiking in the dark and have younger company, you can use the infrared light as a guiding torch for others to follow.
Talking of hiking, we must also mention how fuss-free the battery replacement is. As discussed, the MiniAura runs on three standard AAA batteries that you can just keep a backup of and easily replace when required.
A feature of this monocular we really appreciate is its ability to produce sharp images even during the day. This is because it is equipped to put together sharp images in a black and white form, so the results are the same regardless of the time of the day. You can further adjust and improve your views in the monocular by playing around with its four IR modes as needed.
Issues and Limitations
Given its Generation 1 technology, the Carson MiniAura is limited in terms of range and magnification. You cannot use it to track far-off targets or get a view of the finer details of an object. Another problem, albeit negligible, is the uncomfortable wrist band.
The band does not sit on the wrist as well as it should, especially considering how well-made the rest of the package is.
Carson MiniAura is just as good for daytime viewing as it is for the night and can be a great companion on your next excursion. It is affordable, lightweight, conveniently programmable, and can easily be crowned the best digital night vision monocular in the market.
Best for Water Activities: Night Owl Lightweight Night Vision Monocular (4x)
If you have ever wanted to enjoy far-off views from nature while you float in water, this night vision optic is the answer to your call. It will float with you while it gives you sharp views from long distances, and rest assured, the battery lasts longer than your swim will ever need it to.
The Night Owl Night Vision Monocular has a sleek, ergonomic design that instantly caught our eye. With its outdoorsy colors standing out on a rubber body, this optic is designed to be used in the outdoors for adventures of all kinds.
Its waterproof and lightweight body allows it to float on water, and the use of rubber makes it resilient enough to withstand rough usage in rough conditions.
This model is especially great for search and rescue missions, thanks to its strong 40mm objective lens and 4.5x magnification. Moreover, this device promises a battery life of as long as 100 hours.
Despite the numerous competitor products out there, we doubt any other monocular can beat this battery life at a similar price point. Coming down to technology, this monocular comes with the signature Night Owl steel stringer system, which produces some of the most precise images.
Like other good monoculars, this one also has an in-built high-power IR illuminator. This allows you to make use of Infrared light without attracting any attention towards yourself.
This advantage comes in handy when you are out observing or tracking wildlife or marine life; the target can see a visible IR signal and move away from you.
Along with the IR illuminator, the device also makes use of light amplification to produce green-colored images, which we found to be just as sharp even in pitch-black scenarios.
Issues and Limitations
The main issue with this marine night vision monocular is its requirement of a specialized battery. The CR123 is typically accessible with ease, but the incompatibility of the optic with other standard batteries can be a nuisance in certain circumstances.
You will not be disappointed with the Night Owl Night Vision Monocular, especially if you are looking to use it in water. It works well in diverse weather conditions and is an extremely powerful device that you will fail to a fault.
Best Overall: Night Owl iGEN 20/20 Day/Night Vision Monocular
A high-tech night vision monocular, the Night Owl iGEN 20/20 optic beats even the best of the best with its overall portfolio. Thus, it will make a great tool for any enthusiast.
With its signature iGEN technology, this monocular is different from most other monoculars of the same kind. The iGEN technology beats even Generation 3+ night vision optics when it comes to image clarity – except the former comes at less than half the price.
What makes it even better is the unique light amplification module. The ability to amplify light all the way from 18 times to 1345 times guarantees bright and clear images like little else can.
The Night Owl iGEN monocular also comes with an adjustable three-mode IR intelligence that manages the camera according to the light conditions and provides better vision.
The device also has updated and improved infrared sensors to aid its smart infrared mode, enabling the monocular to operate at its best in higher intensity situations.
You can conveniently program the controls on the monocular since all the settings are displayed on the screen. The best part of this programmability is that it allows you to adjust the color of the view.
You can decide whether you wish to see hues of green, red and amber, or black and white, and do as you please! Finally, like in any good monocular, you can video record and stream all the crisp and colorful images you see through the lens as real-time videos.
Issues and Limitations
One problem we wish this otherwise perfect tool would not have is the slightly unusual construction. The design is not that of your standard monocular, and neither is it ergonomic.
That said, it is important to note that once you get accustomed to the particular feel of the product, you will not even register the unusuality of the build.
Another limitation that you might want to be wary of is battery life. Although the monocular has a high life expectancy and comes with batteries, just watch out for the battery life considering where, when, and how you plan to use the device.
This monocular works wonders where performance is concerned. Highly programmable and impressively clear, this has the functioning of Generation 3+ monocular, but at a fraction of the price.
Buying Guide: How to select the Best Night Vision Monoculars
Magnification & Zoom
If your application of the night vision monoculars requires you to focus more on far-off objects, you need to pick a device with higher magnification. However, with higher magnification, do note that you may have to compromise on the field of view. A magnification of 30x or more is generally sufficient for most small-scale or casual activities.
The range refers to the detection range of a monocular. It is a feature of utmost importance because the entire concept of night vision is based on the amplification of light to produce brighter images.
The better a monocular is at detecting light, the more capable it will be of amplifying that light. In essence, this means that the higher the detection range of a night vision monocular, the better it will perform in darker conditions.
This is one of the key specifications to look out for depending on your needs from your monocular. If you have a lot of long-distance viewing to do, make sure your monocular has a high detection range because ambient light is unavailable at longer distances. Anything higher than 275 meters will be good for long-distance observation.
Optics & Resolution
Represented by ip/mm, a monocular's resolution determines how precise and sharp an image that device can produce. When it comes to night vision, this unit, in particular, tells you the level of clarity in an image that a night vision camera can turn out in a pitch-black setting.
For the majority of night vision activities, a resolution of 30 ip/mm or the likes works fine. However, for more detailed and large-scale applications, a resolution of more than 54 ip/mm is the better choice.
Construction & Durability
Night vision optics are not cheap, so durability is a key factor to consider before you invest in one. The most durable monoculars are made out of good-quality, weather-resistant, and lightweight yet sturdy materials. Your best bets are rubber and stainless steel.
Similarly, since you will likely be using your optic for hours on end, the construction should also be accessible and comfortable. Look for water-resistant, scratch-resistant, thick rubber armors.
These have the highest probability to withstand rough wear and tear, diverse weather conditions, and occasional accidents. The design of the device should also be comfortable so you can hold them for long periods.
Newer monoculars have ergonomic designs that take into account the comfort and health of the user, and you should definitely consider them.
Most night vision optics come with good battery life and operate on standard AAA batteries. Therefore, the battery life should not be too much of a concern.
However, if the nature of your work leaves you little time to recharge your device, or does not allow you to risk having your monocular dead, then this should be a point of consideration for you.
Good night vision monoculars come with as high as 100 hours of battery life. If you are working day and night, anything over 20 hours should work well for you.
Types of Night Vision Monoculars
Night vision monoculars come in four different 'generations' of the technology employed by the internal intensifier, each designed to serve a different purpose. Here's a quick description of all the four generations of night vision monoculars available today:
Generation 1 monoculars, also typically known as digital monoculars, are the earliest and most affordable of the monocular family. They offer low clarity, a low effective range of 75 yards maximum, short battery life, and a short life expectancy.
Coupled with their low price, that makes them suitable for beginners and hobbyists who plan on using them primarily for casual observation.
Generation 2 monoculars are a major upgrade to their generation 1 counterparts. Gen 2 optics amplify ambient light up to 30,000 times, while Gen 1 can only do so up to 900 times.
However, for this massive increase in power, we see only a negligible increase in price. This makes Generation 2 monoculars a great choice for hobbyists and professionals alike.
Coming to professional use, these devices are good for Digi-scoping, basic law enforcement work, and hunting. Overall, a Generation 2 and 2+ monocular gives a longer range as well as a clearer image with finer details.
These are the devices used by the military. Naturally, Generation 3 optics are superior to Generation 2 optics in terms of detection range and magnification, allowing you to see both further and better. These devices also perform far better in situations with less light compared to Generation 2+ optics.
Having said that, these are priced above $2500. Owing to the staggeringly high price, a Generation 3 monocular is likely to be – and is – bought only by agencies for serious, professional use.
As you would expect, Generation 4 beats Generation 3 at vision, clarity, range, and magnification at a length. However, these optics are fairly uncommon and extremely costly. Prices start at $4000 and only go up from here.
Limitations of Night Vision Monoculars
To start off with, night vision monoculars have the same key limitation as any other night vision device. Their operation depends on amplification and intensification, so there has to be some light, to begin with.
In utter darkness, these optics cannot work. It is in situations like these that night vision monoculars are paired with torches or headlights.
Alternatively, the use of night vision monoculars, when viewing ultra-bright targets in poorly lit conditions, also poses the risk of blooming and damaging the device.
This is when the device is exposed to bright light, for instance, that from a car’s headlights, resulting in a reduction of voltage to the photocathode. This malfunction commonly occurs in Generation 1 optics.
Finally, monoculars are limited in their field of vision compared to binoculars simply because one lens cannot beat what a pair of lenses can do for you. While binoculars offer you a more wide-angle view, monoculars give what is called the ‘true field of view.’
However, that cannot really be called a disadvantage; monoculars are primarily designed for precise targeting, so the field of view is not a major concern. At best, it can be considered a limitation when compared to thermal imaging binoculars that are more versatile in this department.
Can a night vision monocular be paired with a rifle scope?
Definitely! Night vision monoculars are quite frequently used with rifle scopes. This combination is the choice of hunters and shooters who work during the night. Putting the two together allows these users to see and follow distant moving bodies even during the darkest of nights.
How is a night vision monocular attached to a scope?
There are two ways a night vision monocular can be attached to scopes: it can go either behind the scope or in front of it.
A regular night vision monocular belongs behind the scope as it offers greater range in that position. The scope permits more amount of light to fall onto the monocular, enabling the viewer to capture a much longer distance. Do note that for this pairing to work, the riflescope must have an illuminated reticle fitted.
A clip-on night vision monocular, on the other hand, performs best when attached in front of the scope. When a night vision device is placed in front of the scope, there is no displacement of position. Just make sure that the scope has a minimum of 2-times magnification; otherwise, the target will appear way too small to be identified.
Final Verdict: The Best Night Vision monocular
The Night Owl iGEN ranks first on our list of night vision monoculars, and for a good reason. The precision and clarity of its images surpass even that of Generation 3+ monoculars, and it is one of the few good monoculars that do not break the bank and can also be remotely controlled.