Shopping for an entry-level night vision monocular?
Look no further - this guide will help.
With a night vision monocular, you can enjoy parts of nature previously cloaked in darkness.
If you’re just just getting into night vision tech, a monocular is an excellent starting point.
It’s ideal for camping, wildlife observation, hunting - and surveillance and security, of course.
For hunters, a quality entry-level night vision monocular will help you clearly spot your target so you don’t get too close to a large predator - or waste your shot.
The best entry-level models offer clear views, boast a decent battery life, and work during in night and day time conditions.
What’s in This Buying Guide
Choosing your first night vision monocular can be difficult. There are so many different types and price ranges - and a ton of unfamiliar specs to digest.
To help you find a unit that best suits your needs, in this guide we review some of the best entry-level night vision monoculars available today for a handful of common uses and situations.
We also include a comprehensive buying guide that explains the features to look for - so you don’t end up wasting your money.
In case you’re familiar with night vision optics and are looking for something more specific, please check out our reviews of the best mountable monoculars and thermal monoculars.
Best Entry-Level Night Vision Monoculars
Bushnell Equinox Z Monocular
Objective Lens Diameter
Firefield Nightfall II Monocular
Objective Lens Diameter
Sightmark Ghost Hunter 4x50 Monocular
Objective Lens Diameter
Solomark Night Vision Monocular
Objective Lens Diameter
Xgen 2.1x Digital Night Vision Viewer
Objective Lens Diameter
Bushnell has firmly established its place in the sporting optics industry by developing quality optical devices and accessories.
The Equinox Z Monocular is an excellent entry-level unit that boasts all the essential features you need.
Its 30mm objective lens and 3x magnification power ensure full focus and clear view, while its included IR illumination offers you a viewing distance of 750 feet.
If you want to view far-away objects at night; this model is the perfect choice!
One of the best features of this monocular is its ability to focus and zoom in on distant objects and still deliver crisp and clear images.
It features a multi-coated glass that prevents the lens from fogging, even in a humid weather.
The optic comes with a 32 GB micro-SD card, allowing you to store as many videos and images as you want for future reference.
It boasts water-resistant housing, so you can easily use it in harsh weather conditions as well.
Moreover, the model will not burn a hole in your pocket, making it an excellent product for the money.
Its 3x magnification enables you to make out details of distant landscapes or animals.
Since the Equinox Z works during both the day and the night, you won’t have to worry about any bright lights damaging and burning out the internal optics.
The unit also boasts great video recording features, so you can share your exciting nighttime encounters with your friends and family.
It features a super-fast shutter speed as well that helps prevent blurry and unclear pictures.
However, the device is a bit heavy so you might have to get used to lugging around some extra weight on your trip.
The power button is also positioned close to the other buttons, so you might accidentally press it and miss your shot.
- Multi-coated glass for outstanding optical clarity
- Rugged and water-resistant housing
- Built-in IR illuminator
With a built-in IR illuminator for comfortable viewing of long-range objects and a video capture feature that allows you to record your trip, the Equinox Z monocular is certainly something worth considering.
Although it’s a little heavier than other alternatives, it’s our favorite all-weather choice for beginners.
- Includes a tripod mount
- Video recording and image capturing
- Good magnification for a wide range of applications
- Daytime coloring option
- Adjustable IR brightness
- Large objective lens for greater clarity
- Handling could be a bit more comfortable
- Uses AA batteries
If you’re new to the night vision world, you should definitely consider the Firefield Nightfall II monocular.
Its excellent 5x magnification gives you a clear and bright view at night, while its high-power IR illumination boosts the focus on far-away objects.
Its image quality is particularly impressive as it displays all the details you might need.
The optic powers up quickly and boasts a long-lasting battery, so you can easily use it for a night camping or hiking trip.
It also features a large objective lens for a bigger field of view.
With this model, you can clearly identify distant objects and even spot hidden details that most Gen 1 monoculars cannot offer.
Its large lens further gathers as much ambient light as possible and produces a clear image without the help of any other piece of technology.
It also processes images better in the dark, making it a great entry-level night vision monocular for surveillance.
This handheld unit also features weather-resistant construction and a rubber armor casing that ensures durability without increasing the monocular’s weight.
However, like all other entry-level models, the Firefield Nightfall II has a few significant shortfalls as well.
It cannot capture magnified or precise images if the power of the nightlight is too low.
Some animals might also be able to detect the infrared light and may stay away, making the unit a bit unsuitable for night hunting.
It also has a short viewing range and that makes it difficult to view distant areas at night.
- Large objective lens and 5x magnification
- Powerful built-in IR illumination
- Quick power-up and ergonomic design
Providing enhanced viewing in most low light conditions, the Firefield Nightfall II is an affordable monocular that offers great resolution and image quality.
All in all, it is an excellent choice for beginners.
- Better nighttime zooming
- IPX4 water-resistant body
- 12mm eye relief for greater comfort
- Large diameter objective lens ensures crisp and clear images
- 650feet viewing distance
- Compact, lightweight, and incredibly easy to use
- Wide operating temperature range
- Images don’t have bright spots
- Close focus range is a bit short
- Battery runs out of juice quickly
The Sightmark Ghost Hunter is designed with 2 operating modes: An active mode with infrared illumination and a passive mode without any IR illumination.
This handheld monocular comes with a ¼-inch tripod socket, and you can mount it on other accessories as well, including firearms.
It further boasts 4x magnification, an integrated IR illuminator, and multi-coated optics for clearer views.
This unit turns off automatically when its lens is exposed to bright lights. It works for 72 hours without IR illumination and 20 hours with IR illumination.
The optic turns on quickly and offers high-quality images, while its durable and lightweight design ensures it lasts a long time.
Furthermore, it only needs 2 AA batteries to work and is compact enough to hold and operate easily.
The device also comes with a lens cloth and a nylon carrying case.
Although it’s an excellent monocular for the price, it’s very easy to knock out of focus as its eyepiece-focusing barrels have very little resistance.
Its picture quality is also a bit grainy, but that’s the standard of every Gen 1 device.
- 4x magnification for increased range
- Multi-coated optics for enhanced durability and clearer views
- 72 hour battery life without IR illumination
- 50mm objective lens gathers a lot of ambient light
The Sightmark Ghost Hunter 4x50 Monocular is one of the best entry-level units for prolonged surveillance in the dark.
Boasting a powerful infrared illuminator and a compact body, it allows for easy portability and gives users a clear and bright image in all low-light conditions.
- Durable and lightweight polymer construction enhances longevity
- Automatic shut-off feature ensures years of operation
- Quick power-up and ergonomic design
- Includes a quality nylon carrying case
- Close observational range of focus
The Solomark NV monocular is a great choice for those who don’t want to spend a lot of money on a high-quality night vision experience.
It boasts a futuristic design and works as a trail camera as well, allowing you to capture photos and videos of nocturnal wildlife.
The device also features an IR LED illuminator and an integrated LCD screen that enable you to change and adjust the brightness for a clearer view.
With a maximum viewing distance of 328 feet, this optic is powered by AA batteries, so you don’t need to worry about charging it or purchasing larger, costlier batteries.
It features 4 different levels of zoom control and offers 7 IR intensity levels.
You can also set up a stable base and mount it on a tripod to prevent blurry images and videos.
However, some users have complained about how grainy the pictures can be.
Although the result isn’t terrible, it looks more dated than those produced by premium monoculars. The viewfinder is a bit small as well.
- Integrated color LCD-screen and a high sensitivity sensor
- Image and video function
- Illumination flexibility
- IR LED illuminator and multi-coated glass objectives
The Solomark night vision monocular is incredibly compact, which gives it an edge over other bulkier models and makes it ideal for situations where you have size or weight limitations.
It’s available at a great price and delivers a performance that definitely justifies its cost.
- Rubber covering provides more friction and prevents it from slipping out
- Allows you to display videos and images on a TV or transfer them to a computer
- Zoom control enables you to change the size of the image
- Provides a usable image in extremely dim conditions as well
- Can be attached to a binocular harness, put in a cloth bag, and mounted on a tripod
- Viewing range is a bit short
This Xgen model is the perfect option for those looking for a basic night vision monocular at an incredibly low price.
The unit is small and compact, and extremely easy-to-use; making it ideal for both kid and adult use.
You won’t have to waste time tinkering around with its various features unless you want to, and you can perform most functions with the touch of a single button.
The optic has a short focus range that starts from just 3.3 feet, making it suitable for close-up tasks that would be incredibly difficult to compete with more expensive models.
While the price of this unit is one of its best features, it does have its downsides.
The camera’s sensor detects infrared light in a 640x480 grid, but the display has a 320x240-pixel grid, which means that the image quality downgrades as it moves from the sensor to the screen.
This is the opposite of how most IR cameras work and means that the image quality will be lower than other models.
With the Xgen 2.1x Digital Night Vision Viewer, you can easily spot and identify your target when you scan your surroundings during your night hunting trip.
A strong infrared signal lights up the areas hidden by darkness, giving you a clearer picture of what’s in front of you.
This makes the device ideal for nighttime varmint hunting and for use as a navigational aid for your night hiking, camping, or boating trips.
It might take you some time to get used to the dual-lens system when you try focusing, but the 5 preprogrammed settings of this unit somewhat make up for that learning curve.
This excellent little addition enables you to adjust and choose a setting that best suits your current lighting conditions.
Overall, the Xgen 2.1x viewer is a great entry-level night vision monocular.
- Infrared illuminator and 2.1x magnification
- 5 different settings to choose from
- 640x480 sensor resolution and 320x240 micro-display resolution
- Single-button operation
The Xgen 2.1x Digital Night Vision Viewer is so affordable and easy-to-use that almost anyone can successfully use in order to scan their surroundings at night and find game to hunt without burning a hole in their pocket.
It is excellent at spotting feral dogs; coyotes, feral pigs, and other destructive nighttime predators, making it a product that will allow entry to almost everyone into nighttime hunting.
- Extremely easy to use
- Lightweight and compact design
- Comes with a carrying case
- Works in low-light conditions and even in complete darkness
- Allows you to identify targets at a distance of 70 yards
What to Look for When Buying An Entry-Level Night Vision Monocular
Due to the many different technologies and models available, choosing the right NV monocular can be a difficult task.
To help you make your decision, let's discuss and explain the key features you should keep in mind when making your purchase:
NV Generation (Gen 1, 2, 3, 4)
There are currently 4 generations of night vision technology available, with each serving a different purpose:
Designed in the early 1960s, Gen 1 night vision monoculars are the most popular and least expensive optics in the market.
They feature a low lens resolution index and a small magnification range.
They’re sometimes available for less than $200 and are ideal for low-light viewing, including nature watching and night hunting.
Most Gen 1 NV models have an average service life of 1,500 hours and offer a maximum viewing range of 75 yards, making them perfect entry-level units.
Gen 2 night vision monoculars use MCP plates, which provide much-improved image quality along the edges of the lens.
Other distinct features of these units include improved resolution, enhanced durability, and better optics.
Most Gen 2 models are more expensive because of the upgraded resolution and lens magnification.
They offer a useful viewing distance of 200 yards and boast an average life of 5,000 hours.
Gen 3 night vision monoculars offer even better resolution at range than Gen 2 models.
They’re designed with a photocathode made with gallium arsenide that ensures improved resolution and magnification at distance.
With these optics, you’ll be able to view objects and targets 300 yards away. They also have a working life of 10,000 hours.
However, Gen 3 devices use a lot of power compared to older generations and are more costly.
Gen 4 night vision monoculars are the latest and most expensive models available today.
Military personnel prefer Gen 4 optics over other types because of their exceptional features.
However, their high price means Gen 4 tech is not commonly found in entry-level scouting and hunting monoculars.
Measured in terms of line pairs per millimeter, night vision resolution tells you how clear and crisp an image the optic can produce.
Technically, resolution measures the sharpness of an image that a night vision device can produce in complete darkness.
30 lp/mm is ideal for most applications, but a resolution of over 54 lp/mm is more suitable for high-profile uses such as tactical and military applications.
A night vision monocular’s useful detection range is an important factor to consider
Range is technically the viewing distance the device can detect an object in normal ambient light / low-light conditions - with an emphasis on 'detect', not 'identify'.
At the range limit, you will be able to see an object, but you may not be able to clearly identify what it is.
Most entry-level NV monoculars provide a useful range of 50 to 200 yards.
Anything more than 300 yards will require a far more expensive device.
High-end night vision monoculars have a magnification power ranging from 10x to 12x, while cheaper, entry-level models have lower magnification power of 5x to 8x.
It’s important to note that a monocular with a lower magnification power will almost always have a wider field of view, making it a better choice for wildlife spotting and scanning of an area.
While recording capability/outputs is important for anyone wanting to document their work, it is indispensable for surveillance and law enforcement.
If you want to capture images or video from your monocular, make sure you choose a unit with a video output feature.
This will allow you to connect the optic to a phone or laptop and access the feed after you’ve set the device somewhere out in the field.
If you need to work with your hands while scanning your environment in the dark, then you may prefer a model with a head mount.
Head mounts are especially handy for surveillance and hiking trips.
Night vision monoculars have a limited life. After their intensifier tubes fail, you'll have to buy another unit.
Gen 1 have the shortest service life, while Gen 4 models last the longest.
It’s advisable to look for a unit with a waterproof casing and multi-coated optics so the lens doesn’t fog easily during cold weather.
Limitations of Entry-Level Night Vision Monoculars
The lower resolution and reduced field of view are the biggest limitations of an entry-level night vision monocular.
Gen 1 units typically have a 40o circular field of view, which is smaller than the normal 120o human binocular field of view.
Most people describe the experience of looking at the outside world through an older generation night vision monocular as “looking through a soda straw”.
In order to make up for this reduced field of view, you'll need to scan up and down and from side to side continuously. This can be fatiguing and lead to neck strain.
Other drawbacks of entry-level night vision monoculars include loss of color information, reduced depth perception, and image noise.
All these limitations obscure the finer details, resulting in a grainy and unclear image.
Furthermore, some objects viewed through a night vision monocular appear farther away than they actually are.
This is because our brain tends to associate distance with the loss of clarity and sharpness of detail.
Similarly, a light source that’s not part of the terrain can seem closer than it actually is.
Entry-level units also have lower optical clarity.
They don’t feature an edge-to-edge resolution display, unlike higher-end models, so you won’t be able to get the fine details of any object you view through a monocular.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Entry-Level Night Vision Monoculars Be Used During the Daytime?
The answer depends on the model, but the majority of monoculars available today produce clear day and night images.
The viewing distance during the day is almost infinite but is reduced during the night.
Are Sharp and Clear Images Possible with Entry-Level Night Vision Monoculars?
Most entry-level night vision monoculars using Gen 2 and better technology offer clear, bright, and sharp images.
However, it ultimately depends on the model.
Can Entry-Level Night Vision Monoculars Resist Fog?
You cannot see through heavy fog using an entry-level night vision monocular, but higher-end models with the latest generation technology and extra strong illuminators can produce clear images in light rain, light snow, and light fog conditions.
Final Verdict: What is the Best Entry-Level Night Vision Monocular?
With its built-in IR illuminator, multi-coated glass optics, and rugged water-resistant housing, we think the Bushnell Equinox Z monocular is the best entry-level night vision monocular.
That said, if you’re looking for a unit that’s exceptionally easy to use, consider the Sightmark Ghost Hunter.