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night vision monocular reviews

Best Gen 1 Night Vision Monocular: Top Picks, Reviews & Buying Guide

Shopping for a Generation 1 NV Monocular?

You've come to the right place.

Night vision helps you see objects and nature at night and in low light conditions.

Because generation 1 night vision monoculars have been on the market for many years, they are an excellent low-cost choice for those who don't need the latest features or technology.

That said, Gen 1 monoculars do come with limitations that you need to be aware of before you buy.

Who Needs a Generation 1 Night Vision Monocular?

A generation 1 night vision monocular is an inexpensive device best suited for short-range viewing of up to 75 yards.

The illuminator in a Gen 1 monocular works well, but images become blurry at a farther distance. 

Gen 1 night vision monoculars are still quite useful for short-range hunting and sightseeing at night. But for tactical & security operations, we no longer recommend them.

What's In This Buying Guide

In this buying guide we recommend, compare and review the best Gen 1 monoculars sold today. 

First, we start with a brief description of Gen 1 technology and who should or should not consider buying a Gen 1 monocular.

We follow this with our top pics and reviews of each for a number of needs.

Following our reviews, we discuss the features to consider when buying a Gen 1 night vision monocular.

Finally, we answer a few frequently asked questions.

So let's dive in!

Best Gen 1 NV Monoculars

  1. 1
    Best for Clear Shots: NightStar 2x42 Gen-1
  2. 2
    Best for Long-Range: Bering Optics 4.3x60 HiPo
  3. 3
    Most Durable: NightStar 2x50mm
  4. 4
    Most Ergonomic: Bering Optics Polaris 2.5x40
  5. 5
    Most Portable: Bering Optics ELF
  6. 6
    Best High-Power Illumination: NightStar 4x50mm Gen-1
  7. 7
    Best for Precise Observation: Bering Optics eXact Precision 2.6x44

NightStar 2x42 Gen-1 Wide-View Compact Night Vision Monocular
  • NightStar 2x42 Gen-1

  • Best for Clear Shots
  • Objective lens diameter

  • Magnification

  • Magnification type

  • Eye relief

Bering Optics 4.3x60 HiPo Gen I Night Vision Monocular
  • Bering Optics 4.3x60 HiPo

  • Best for Long-Range Observation
  • Objective lens diameter

  • Magnification

  • Magnification type

  • Eye relief

NightStar 2x50mm Gen-1 Night Vision Monocular
  • NightStar 2x50mm

  • Most Durable
  • Objective lens diameter

  • Magnification

  • Magnification type

  • Eye relief

Bering Optics Polaris 2.5x40 Gen I Night Vision Monocular
  • Bering Optics Polaris 2.5x40

  • Most Ergonomic Construction
  • Objective lens diameter

  • Magnification

  • Magnification type

  • Eye relief

Bering Optics ELF2 Gen I 2.0X28 Compact Night Vision Monocular
  • Bering Optics ELF

  • Most Portable
  • Objective lens diameter

  • Magnification

  • Magnification type

  • Eye relief

gen 1 night vision monocular
  • NightStar 4x50mm Gen-1

  • Best High-Power Illumination Monocular
  • Objective lens diameter

  • Magnification

  • Magnification type

  • Eye relief

Bering Optics eXact Precision 2.6x44 Gen I Night Vision Monocular
  • Bering Optics eXact Precision 2.6x44

  • Best for Precise Observation
  • Objective lens diameter

  • Magnification

  • Magnification type

  • Eye relief

1. Best for Clear Shots: NightStar 2x42 Gen-1

best gen 1 night vision monocular

NightStar's 2x42 Gen-1 has a resolution of 30 lp/mm, which helps you distinguish objects from the background easily.

Its 10mm eye relief makes sure you do not feel any eye fatigue while using this monocular.

Moreover, the monocular’s superior IR illuminator lets you view objects in near-complete darkness. The 42mm objective lens also helps you view objects clearly.

The Nightstar 2x42 has a detection range of 150 yards and a 13-degree angle of view. This is particularly more suitable for boating and hiking at night.

The monocular is pretty affordable, as well. The high-quality construction and 2x magnification make this monocular well worth the money.

Some other notable features are:

  • Compact and portable.
  • 10mm eye relief.
  • 42mm diameter objective lens.

All in all, the Nightstar 2x42 is an excellent NV monocular that stands out for its angle of view and compact design.


  • The 13-degree angle of view.
  • Has 30 lp/mm resolution power.
  • Clear image production.
  • Detection range of 150 yards.


  • The battery needs frequent charging.

2. Best for Long-Range Observation: Bering Optics 4.3x60 HiPo

night vision monoculars review

The Bering Optics 4.3x60 HiPo is an exceptional monocular for security and surveillance staff.

It has a long viewing range at 385 yards, which helps surveillance personnel monitor their surroundings better.

Another impressive feature is its battery life of 70 hours, which ensures uninterrupted observation. The battery is also quick to charge.

The monocular has a magnification power of 4.3x, which lets you focus on the details of your surroundings. The diopter adjustment of 4 DPT further improves your viewing experience at night.

Moreover, it has a Weaver rail for mounting, and you can even mount it to your helmet pretty easily. Meanwhile, the lightweight frame ensures you don’t experience hand fatigue or discomfort if you prefer to carry it around.

Also, it comes with a limited lifetime warranty, so it is sure to have high-quality construction.

Here are some other distinguishing features:

  • 4.3x magnification.
  • 4 DPT diopter adjustment.
  • Battery life of 70 hours.

To sum up, the Bering Optics 4.3x60 HiPo does what it promises and is ideal for security personnel.


  • Dimensions of 10.5 x 3.9 x 2.8 inches.
  • The focus range of 1 yard to infinity.
  • 20% more energy-efficient than rival models.
  • Comes with a limited lifetime warranty.


  • Hard to configure its focus.

3. Most Durable: NightStar 2x50mm

night vision monocular reviews

The NightStar 2x50mm NV monocular is characterized by its reliable construction. It has a damage-resistant frame that uses a durable polymer.

With its powerful built-in IR illuminator, it will work in near-total darkness. The resolution of 32-36 lp/mm makes it easy to tell objects apart.

To add to this, the monocular has an auto shut-off feature for external bright light to protect the intensifier tube.

Furthermore, the 50mm objective lens provides a reliable focal length. Meanwhile, the limited lifetime warranty ensures peace of mind for buyers.

Considering its features, the NightStar 2x50mm is a great NV monocular for hiking and hunting trips.


  • Durable polymer construction.
  • 32-36 lp/mm resolution.
  • Has a limited lifetime warranty.
  • 50 mm diameter objective lens.
  • The 15-degree angle of view.


  • It does not support head mounting.

4. Most Ergonomic Construction: Bering Optics Polaris 2.5x40

best gen 1 night vision monocular

Bering Optics is known for constructing superior-quality night vision equipment. This monocular also holds true to the brand’s quality standards with its durable build.

The Polaris offers a detailed view of the surroundings up to 250 yards at night, while the 2.5x magnification helps you focus on objects easily to improve your viewing experience.

Since this monocular has an operating temperature of -22 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit, it is suitable for use in multiple weather conditions.

The Bering Optics Polaris 2.5x40 has an auto shut-off feature for intense light to protect the monocular and your eyes. This way, you can continue viewing through it without any blinding effect.

Its battery life is also quite remarkable as it can serve for 60 hours. Hence, you can rely on it even when you have to stay away from home for many days.

Along with all this, it also features LED indicators that let you know if the infrared illuminator is activated or not. 

Here are some other notable features:

  • High weather resistance.
  • Offers 2.5x magnification.
  • Has a 12mm eye relief.

Overall, the Bering Optics Polaris is a well-constructed NV monocular with high weather resistance and powerful magnification.


  • LED indicators for IR activation.
  • Viewing range of 250 yards.
  • Has an auto shut-off feature.
  • Water resistance rating of IPX-4.
  • Operating temperature of -22 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit.


  • Has a slightly bulky frame.

5. Most Portable: Bering Optics ELF

best generation 1 night vision monocular

The Bering Optics ELF has a durable, satin-textured construction that provides a firm grip on the monocular. The ergonomic design allows you to use it for hours without feeling any kind of discomfort.

We really like that it has a focusing ring since it makes it easier for you to refocus the monocular when you need to quickly.

Moreover, it has an incredible field of view range that helps you view up to 50 yards at the range of 200 yards. This is especially helpful for viewing moving objects like birds.

To add to this, the Bering Optics ELF has many useful accessories. These include a user manual, a lens cleaning tissue, and a soft carrying pouch.

Other notable features include:

  • Battery life of up to 60 hours.
  • Focusing ring for easy refocusing.
  • Great for moving objects.

All in all, the Bering Optics ELF is a thoughtfully constructed monocular that you can easily carry anywhere.


  • Highly portable at 6 inches only.
  • An objective lens with 28mm diameter.
  • Instructions manual for easier configuration.
  • Soft carrying pouch for the monocular.
  • Satin-textured frame for better grip.


  • The headband feels a bit restricting.

6. Best High Power Illumination : NightStar 4x50mm Gen-1 

night vision monoculars review

The NightStar 4x50mm Gen-1 is a powerful monocular with an efficient infrared illuminator. It works optimally in very low ambient light, making it ideal for different outdoor conditions.

It has a compact and sleek frame, so you can fit it in your shirt pocket. This makes traveling with this monocular even easier when you have to carry lesser equipment.

Moreover, this monocular has a 32-36 lp/mm resolution that enables users to distinguish objects from each other more easily.

This NightStar monocular has an automatic shut-off feature as well that shuts down the IR illuminator on exposure to intense light sources. This way, it protects your eyes from blinding light exposure.

Some other features include:

  • Reliable polymer construction
  • Offers 4x magnification
  • Sleek and modern build

All in all, the NightStar 4x50mm Gen-1 is a great night vision monocular characterized by durable construction and remarkable resolution.


  • 12mm eye relief
  • 15 degrees angle of field of view
  • 32-36 lp/mm resolution power
  • Limited lifetime warranty.


  • Not for long-range viewing

7. Best for Precise Observation: Bering Optics eXact Precision 2.6x44

best generation 1 night vision monocular

The Bering Optics eXact Precision 2.6x44 is one of the best night vision monoculars out there. It has multiple coatings on the lenses that ensure you get clear and sharp images. These protective coats make the lenses resistant to most forms of damage, including scratches.

Moreover, two built-in tripod sockets help you fix the monocular on a tripod stand. This ensures greater ease of use as your hands do not get tired of constantly holding the monocular.

In addition, the scope has an integrated infrared illuminator that allows you to see objects more clearly.

The Bering Optics eXact Precision 2.6x44 has a battery life of 70 hours. This provides you uninterrupted viewing ability at night. It also has a sleek design with a lightweight frame that you can easily keep in your shirt pocket.

Other noteworthy features are:

  • 2 built-in tripod sockets.
  • Viewing range of up to 275 yards.
  • Powerful IR illuminator

To sum up, the Bering Optics eXact Precision is ideal for watching birds, hunting, nature viewing, and boating. Its diversity of use makes it great for all kinds of users.


  • 81 feet at 100 yards field of view
  • Battery life of 70 hours
  • Water resistance rating of IPX-4
  • The fully multi-coated lens assembly
  • Compact and lightweight at 14.9 oz


  • Pricier than other similar models

Generation 1 Night Vision Monoculars Buying Guide

gen 1 night vision monocular

There are many competitive Gen 1 night vision monocular models on the market, making it hard to settle on one.

So, to make choosing easier for you, we have put together this brief buying guide.

Automatic Gaging

Automatic gaging is one of the most useful features for newbies and naïve hunters. It helps in making quick adjustments to your device based on your viewing needs.

Even if you are a pro night vision monocular user, an auto-gaging unit can help you save time.


The price of a Gen 1 night vision monocular is also an important consideration.

You do not have to buy an overly expensive monocular to be able to get sharp images. Instead, you can easily find a moderately-priced night vision monocular that meets your needs.

Damage Resistance

Another feature that you have to be careful about is damage resistance.

If you are going to use your Gen 1 night vision monocular regularly, you can expect it to incur some damage. Normal wear and tear is inevitable, but a relatively high-quality monocular can fight off damage.


night vision monocular reviews

Some night vision monocular models have Infrared (IR) illuminators in them.

IR light is undetectable for humans and animals, so you can go unnoticed if you use it at night. This is important also because there is no ambient light at night, and IR light can help you see objects clearly.

However, there can be some restrictions on the magnification power due to IR illumination. So, you should keep that in mind before getting a monocular with a built-in illuminator.

Field of View

The field of view is essential because it has a significant impact on your viewing angles and capability.

The field of view should be at least 100 yards for you to be able to have a great viewing experience.


If you want a Gen 1 night vision monocular for security or surveillance, then it’s better to go for one that has an eyecup.

Consistently viewing through the monocular can cause eye fatigue. You can avoid this by using an eyecup designed to provide you with eye relief.

Eyecups are generally present in larger monocular frames, but most small ones cannot accommodate one.


Small and compact monocular designs are usually preferred as they cause less eye fatigue. They are also easier to carry around as they fit into your shirt pocket too.

However, large models have their own benefits, like an easy head mount and eyecup.

Thus, you should choose the size of a monocular based on the use you have in mind. 

Life Expectancy

Gen 1 night vision monocular options can be quite expensive, so they have to be worth the money you invest in them.

A great way of determining life expectancy is to look at the warranty that a product offers.

Waterproof Construction

Water damage is an ever-present danger in the outdoors, particularly in humid conditions. So, to avoid it, you should buy a Gen 1 night vision monocular with waterproof construction.

How Does a Generation 1 Night Vision Monocular Work?

night vision monoculars review

Gen 1 night vision monocular uses the basic principle of night vision technology.

There is an optoelectronic image enhancement in these monoculars that use multiple lenses. A modified vacuum tube captures all the light nearby and amplifies the infra-red portion.

This infrared light is reflected on the objects nearby, enabling you to view clear images of objects in the vicinity.

Why Buy Gen1 NV Monoculars over Others?

This is a very valid (and common) question, especially because the market now has Gen 4 and digital variants available.

The latest generations of night vision technology indeed offer better features. But, it comes down to your budget and the use you have in mind.

Generation 1 night vision came about in the 1950s and still works according to the needs of modern users.

You can easily land a decent Gen 1 night vision monocular for around $200. But, you have to spend much more for later night vision generations even though the basic function is the same.

Also, Gen 1 night vision monoculars are ideal for short-range viewing. Whereas later generations like Gen 3 and Gen 4 are more suitable for long-range viewing.

So, if you want something that allows you to see up to 100 years, then a Gen 1 monocular will work just fine.

What to look for in Generation 1 NV Monoculars

gen 1 night vision monocular

To make the most out of a Generation 1 NV Monocular, you have to make sure to invest in the right one. And to do that, you need to look for:

Battery Life

One of the first things that you have to look for in a Gen 1 NV monocular is its battery life.

Since you are going to use the monocular in the outdoors, you will most likely not have easy access to a charging point. So, make sure you buy a Gen 1 night vision monocular that can work for more than 20 hours on a single charge.    

A long battery life is also necessary if you plan to take your monocular along on a hunting or hiking trip.


Resolution is a significant factor when it comes to buying a Gen 1 night vision monocular. It refers to the level of sharpness that a night vision device brings in the viewed images.

Usually, a resolution of 30 lp/mm works fine, but if you have high-tech gear, then you might have to consider 50 lp/mm.

If you want to view significant details in objects at night, you should be careful about the resolution.


The detection range is critical because there is no ambient light at night, making it difficult to see objects far away. So, in order to make up for the lack of ambient light, you need a monocular with a range of at least 300 yards or more. 

Magnification Power

Magnification power and field of vision are quite contradictory to each other.

If you want to look at distant objects by zooming in, then you might have to sacrifice the field of view.

However, for low light vision, it is better to go for a greater field of vision while having lower magnification power.


The recording is compulsory if you’re going to be using your monocular for security and surveillance purposes. It can be helpful for other people too who want to document their adventures.

So, you should prefer a monocular with a recording or video feed option if you want to record the video or images.


Mounting also affects your overall experience.

While you need to carry some monoculars in your hand, others come with a head mount.

Head mounting helps keep your hands free so that you may carry other stuff. So, if you plan on carrying additional equipment with you, like hunting gear, look for a monocular you can mount on your head. 


Look for damage-resistant monoculars that can handle the wear and tear that comes with rugged use.

A durable monocular will ensure you get your money’s worth. Plus, a durable model can last for years, so you won’t have to worry about replacing it after a few months. 

Pros and Cons of Gene 1 Night Vision Monoculars

best generation 1 night vision monocular


  • Improved vision with infrared lightIt helps view fine details of objects.
  • Great for hunting and nighttime shooting.
  • Higher optical clarity with internal illumination.
  • Ideal for nature watching, hiking, and campingCan work both in the day and at night.
  • The expected life of 1500 hoursBest for head mounting.
  • You can mount them on both rifle and spotting scopes.
  • Small enough to fit in a shirt pocket.
  • Easy to switch between both eyes to avoid fatigue.
  • Image viewing seems quite natural.
  • Less expensive than other night vision devices.
  • It offers a wide field of view


  • You need to keep both eyes open for a better experience.
  • It takes time to get used to the surroundings

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a Night Vision Monocular Work as a Rifle Scope?

Yes, some night vision monoculars can work as a rifle scope. In fact, there are two ways of using a night vision monocular with a scope. You can place it either behind the scope or in front of it, depending on your rifle. However, most people prefer to place the night vision monocular behind the scope for optimal clarity.

Can I Use a Night Vision Monocular to See through the Fog?

No, most night vision sensors cannot detect objects behind a visible barrier like fog or heavy blowing snow.

Final Verdict: What is the best Generation 1 NV Monocular?

For us, the Bering Optics Polaris 2.5x40 is the best Generation 1 NV monocular t buy for most people. Its 250-yard range helps you view distant objects, while its weather-resistant construction ensures durability. It also comes with a bunch of other neat features like auto-shutoff. 

About the Author Rob Carson

I work in commercial construction, in Dallas, TX.

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