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Looking for a compact budget monocular (1 Viewer)

Bob_McBob

Well-known member
I currently own the Viper HD 8x42 and Maven B.3 8x30, both purchased based on member feedback and extensive research on the forum. I've been very happy with both, and appreciate having full size and compact binoculars, but I'd like to add an inexpensive monocular I can just toss in a pocket for casual walks. One of the primary uses would be silly stuff like spotting other people down the trail, though I'd certainly use it for bird watching if the opportunity presented itself. I'm fine with spending $100-200 but I don't really want to go overboard on this.

Something in the 8x25 to 8x32 range would be the sweet spot as far as portability. Basically I want it to slip into a cargo pants or coat pocket and not be obtrusive. I thought the Opticron T4 8x25 might be ideal, but reviews complain about the focus lever being very stiff. Opticron makes fancier models in my price range, and Vortex makes various equivalent models, plus there are budget brands, but I'm finding it a lot harder to compare everything than with binoculars and would definitely appreciate some input.
 

[email protected]

Well-known member
Supporter
I would recommend the Pentax VM 6x21 WP monocular because it can be used one handed and it can be converted into a microscope as well. A monocular works better at lower magnifications like 6x instead of 8x because they are hard to hold steady at higher magnifications. $139.00 @ B&H.



 

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Bob_McBob

Well-known member
I appreciate the recommendations! The Pentax is an interesting proposition with that focusing method and extra features. I think I might just go with the Opticron T4 8x25 I was looking at initially. I'll probably kick myself some time down the line when it's dark, but I really need whatever I get to be something I won't think twice about tossing into a pocket, otherwise I may as well just be carrying the Mavens. Apparently they no longer include an eyepiece cover which is a little annoying.
 

Bob_McBob

Well-known member
I ended up ordering the Opticron 8x25, but I'm not sure it's going to work out. The size and shape are exactly what I wanted, and it easily slips into any pocket and is very unobtrusive. Optically it's... acceptable for the price, I guess? The view is a little claustrophobic compared to both my binoculars, and it's noticeably less sharp and contrasty. I could live with that since it will see limited usage, but the focus mechanism is pretty much as bad as Amazon reviews claim. The monocular is essentially half of the equivalent Opticron binocular, and rather than re-design the focus system, they just put a little lever where the gearing would connect. It's quite stiff and has a short throw and uneven friction, which makes nailing exact focus rather difficult. It also produced somewhat unsettling cracking noises and caused the body rubber to bulge up as I moved it when it first arrived, and there's a little tear in one corner of the cutout, which is disappointing.

I'm not entirely sure how to proceed. I didn't mention it before, but in addition to casual spotting, one of the primary uses I had in mind is simply looking down the trail to check for off-leash dogs, which has become quite an issue for me on hikes. I do a lot of walking with my dog on long straight rail trails, so magnification is important since I could be looking 500+ metres away. That might be an issue with the Pentax monocular, and I also don't like the fact the case it comes with doesn't protect the optics at all. For now I've just been carrying my Maven 8x30s in a coat pocket, but they're a little bulky and awkward since they catch on the fabric and the caps come off. There is the Vortex Solo 8x25, or moving up to something like the 8x36 or the new Maven 8x32, but that's starting to get quite large. Alternatively, maybe I should just suck it up and consider something like the Zeiss Terra 8x25, which would give me a nicer view. Or well, I could just order a replacement Opticron and accept its limitations for the price. Any thoughts?
 

AlanFrench

Well-known member
I long thought a monocular would be a handy thing to carry, but I was disappointed. A lot less agreeable and less comfortable than binoculars and, in spite of a similar AFOV, the one-eyed view seemed more constricted.

Clear skies, Alan
 

Bob_McBob

Well-known member
I definitely understand the general dislike for monoculars after trying the Opticron. A monocular with better optics would be much more enjoyable to use, but it will never replace a decent set of binoculars in terms of viewing comfort and experience.

I've been all over the place in my research related to this thread. I looked as high as the Swarovski CL-P 8x25 or that new Nikon compact 8x25 IS denco discovered, but I eventually came to the conclusion there was no way I could justify that kind of expense. The Zeiss Terra 8x25 is a bit more palatable, but do I really want to be constantly folding and unfolding it? One neat option I considered is the Nikon 6x15 Mikron, a really cute little reverse porro still available new in Canada for ~$234 USD. I don't know how practical that would be though.

Really, I keep coming back to a monocular of some sort for this kind of limited use, where I just want to slip it out of my pocket for a brief moment to check down the trail and so on. I suspect the Opticron would have worked out ok for all its shortcomings, but I didn't get a chance to test it in the field since I knew it would be returned due to the tear in the rubber armour. It's too bad the famous Docter 8x21 is essentially unavailable now or that would be an obvious choice. I guess it comes down to whether I just re-order the Opticron 8x25 or go for one of the higher-end (and larger and heavier) models from Opticron, Vortex, even that new Maven, etc.

Sorry for the train of thoughts 😅
 

Bob_McBob

Well-known member
In conclusion, I ended up just re-ordering the Opticron WP 8x25 from Amazon when they finally got it back in stock. I wasn't able to field test the first one because I knew it had to be returned, and after trying the new one a couple times I think it will work ok for my purposes. Optically it's pretty poor compared to both my binoculars, with a narrow FOV and a lot of field curvature and glare, but I think I can ignore that since I didn't buy it for serious viewing. Above all I wanted something that would just slip into any pocket, and this fits the bill very well even compared to competing products from manufacturers like Vortex. The focus mechanism is still just as annoying, but at least on the second one it's a little smoother and doesn't make those cracking noises. I will be modifying the eyepiece cap to be captive and not quite as loose.

I actually wouldn't mind having a nicer monocular as well, for when I have a bit more pocket space, but I think the money might be better spent on upgrading my binoculars in the future. This little Opticron will work out just fine for now.

Here's what it looks like beside a very compact pair of 8x30s:

eXKviqe.jpg
 

PeterPS

MEMBER
I tried quite a few monocs several years ago and like some previous posters I found that even the big 42mm monocs cannot come close to binos when it comes to comfort of view and quickly locating a target. But I agree that for your specialized use (checking for off-leash dogs while walking your own dog) a monoc should be enough. Opticron monocs are not bad (in fact their DBA VHD 42mm is one of the best monocs I owned, but it is rather big) but just in case you would like to consider other options the Vixen 6x16 is a small monoc that gets pretty good reviews:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/385548-USA/Vixen_Optics_1121_6x16_Multi_Monocular.html
 
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PeterPS

MEMBER
In conclusion, I ended up just re-ordering the Opticron WP 8x25 from Amazon when they finally got it back in stock. I wasn't able to field test the first one because I knew it had to be returned, and after trying the new one a couple times I think it will work ok for my purposes. Optically it's pretty poor compared to both my binoculars, with a narrow FOV and a lot of field curvature and glare, but I think I can ignore that since I didn't buy it for serious viewing. Above all I wanted something that would just slip into any pocket, and this fits the bill very well even compared to competing products from manufacturers like Vortex. The focus mechanism is still just as annoying, but at least on the second one it's a little smoother and doesn't make those cracking noises. I will be modifying the eyepiece cap to be captive and not quite as loose.

I actually wouldn't mind having a nicer monocular as well, for when I have a bit more pocket space, but I think the money might be better spent on upgrading my binoculars in the future. This little Opticron will work out just fine for now.

Here's what it looks like beside a very compact pair of 8x30s:

eXKviqe.jpg
This is a monoc that I would not recommend:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Hawke-Endu...124941&hash=item3b078aef36:g:xsAAAOSwQgxfHWur
Despite the rather steep price (12500$!) they have sold 54 units....
 

Bob_McBob

Well-known member
I thought I would post a little update now I've been using the Opticron monocular for a couple months. All my previous comments about the optical quality still stand, and both my binoculars absolutely blow it out of the water, but this little monocular is almost annoyingly adequate for my intended use. That is to say, it's compact enough to carry on any walk, easy to quickly pull from my pocket to spot down a trail or look at a sign, and cheap enough I don't care what happens to it. I've also found the excellent close focus distance useful for things like looking into closed shop windows while I'm walking around town at night. The unusual focus mechanism is still terrible, but I don't tend to adjust it very much since I'm looking at roughly the same distance most of the time.

The biggest negative is that it suffers from awful glare in many lighting situations. It's bad enough I've come up with a system for basically wrapping most of my hand around the objective end to shield it as much as possible. The loss of contrast can sometimes make it difficult to identify people. It generally gets the job done, but it can be quite annoying, and it's probably the only thing that would convince me to try something else for this purpose.

I know a pocket binocular I have to unfold is never going to replace the ease of use for just whipping this thing out of a pocket whenever I need to take a quick look, but I do still owe it to myself to try some alternatives. I thought I might order one of those RYO harnesses and see how my 8x30s are to carry this way. I don't even mind ordering something like the Terra ED 8x25 to use that way, but we'll see how it goes.
 

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