Hello and welcome to another episode of Optics Trade Debates. Today, we are going to be two categories of products that look similar at first fight, namely spotting scopes and monoculars. Even though people are not usually deciding between the two, some still have questions about the differences. If you wish to know the differences between spotting scopes and binoculars, we have a post on that as well.
Let us begin with the similarities. The first one is that they both have one optical path, one objective, and one ocular. Moving on to differences, the first one is size. Spotting scopes are much bigger in size. Usually, we can put monoculars in our pockets (with some exceptions).
Monoculars usually have fixed magnification and spotting scopes a variable one. With monoculars, the magnification usually begins at lower power – 8x and 10x – except for Yukon, which has a 30x magnification. With spotting scopes, however, the magnification usually starts at 30x, and it can go up to 100x.
Spotting scope manufacturers usually sell eyepieces separately, and the magnification depends on the eyepiece. This is the same with some spotting scopes – usually the more expensive ones – you have to buy the eyepieces separately. The body of the scope or the monocular does not have anything to do with the magnification; the eyepiece does.
Let us move on to the types. With monoculars, there are always straight types. There are again some exceptions like Noblex but with spotting scopes, there are straight and angled types, and both are popular. We also have a debate on the differences between straight and angled spotting scopes.
As for the tripods: you almost always mount spotting scopes on a tripod due to the bigger magnification. With the monoculars, this is not the case. You usually carry them in your backpack or pocket. Tripods are used for your observation to be more stable. Also, most spotting scopes come with a tripod adapter on the bottom, so you can mount it easily.
With monoculars, there are two types of focusing: a rotating knob somewhere on the body, or a pull-out version, where you focus the optics by pulling it in or out. With spotting scopes, there is almost always a focusing ring or a knob, which has a micro and the macro setting to correct the focus.
What about the field of view? Monoculars have a bigger field of view due to the lower magnification. Of course, if you are using a monocular with a bigger magnification, the field of view will be narrower. Spotting scopes have a narrower field of view because, with it, you can observe at longer distances, and the magnification is higher by the standard.
It is the same with close focus – there is a better close focus on monoculars because, again, of the smaller magnification. This means you can observe objects at a closer distance and see more detail. Leica Monovid even has a special lens that is specifically created so you can observe at extremely close distances. So, if you want to observe insects, for example, go for the monoculars.
As for the comfort, all spotting scopes have pull-out eyepieces to adjust the eye relief and make the viewing more comfortable. Monoculars are not as comfortable, but they are also not used for longer observations.
When do we use spotting scopes and when monoculars? We suggest that monoculars are used by nature and optics enthusiasts who simply enjoy walks and hikes, as a monocular can be kept in your pocket and you can always have it with you. If you would like to observe for 2-3 hours or more, then a spotting scope is a better choice, as they also usually offer better optics. But this is also connected to price.
Most monoculars are priced really low, that is under 100 €. We have some exceptions, for example, Zeiss and Leica, who have higher-priced monoculars which are better optically. With spotting scopes, it is different. There are spotting scopes under 100 € and expensive ones for 3000 € – it is a bigger price difference.
Products mentioned in the Monoculars Vs. Spotting Scopes debate:
Spotting Scopes: https://www.optics-trade.eu/en/spotting-scopes.html
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