The Best Night Vision Monoculars

Ask any self-respecting gearhead and they would be hard pressed to deny it: Night Vision technology just might be one of the coolest things ever.

We watched on the silver screen as super-spies used NV to infiltrate the boss’ lair. We saw images of soldiers with hi-tech NV headsets navigating smoky battlefields. We’ve traced the movement of wild game through a digitally illuminated night vision scope. Whatever the purpose, night vision technology has provided human beings with a way to defeat one of our most ancient antagonists: darkness.

The best night vision monoculars take the best of this technology and put it in a compact, high-performance package that is just as useful for military operations as it is for big game hunting.

We’re counting down the 7 Best Night Vision Monoculars, then we’re going to take a look at what exactly it takes for a product to make the list.

Price
Product details
+ Positives
—  Negatives
 
Best under $500
Equinox Z Digital
Bushnell
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$

  • Viewing Distance 500 – 1000 feet
  • Image Capture Yes
  • Zoom 1-3x
  • Power 4x AA batteries
  • Dimensions 7.9 x 3.9 x 2.5 inches
  • Capable of mini-USB power
  • Good all-around image performance
  • Somewhat bulky
  • Button programming could use some work
 
Best under $300
FF24066 Monocular
Firefield
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$

  • Viewing Distance 500 – 1000 feet
  • Image Capture No
  • Zoom 1-3x
  • Power 2x AA batteries
  • Dimensions 8.5 x 4.5 x 3 inches
  • Compact, lightweight, & comfortable
  • Runs on only two AA batteries with up to 4 hours of operation time
  • Image processing power feels somewhat reduced
  • IR is distinctly visible on target end of monocular
 
Best Monocular for Rangefinding
LRNV009 Monocular
LaserWorks
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$

  • Viewing Distance 650 feet
  • Image Capture Yes
  • Zoom 4x digital
  • Power 4x AA batteries
  • Dimensions 6.2 x 3.7 x 1.9 inches
  • Lots of Features
  • Laser Rangefinder is a premium addition that comes standard
  • Issues with interior fog & condensation
  • A bit expensive considering its mid-range image performance
 
Best Night Vision of 2019
Night Watch Built
Bushnell
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$

  • Viewing Distance 400 feet
  • Image Capture No
  • Zoom 2x
  • Power 2x AA batteries
  • Dimensions 7.9 x 3.7 x 2.3 inches
  • Lightweight & easy to carry
  • Great exterior casing / armor
  • Mid to High-Mid Image Quality
  • Requires absolute darkness to perform at its best
 
Great Value Night Vision Monocular
Optics 5-Power NOXM50
Night Owl
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$

  • Viewing Distance 200 feet
  • Image Capture Yes
  • Zoom 5x
  • Power 3-Volt Lithium Battery
  • Dimensions 8.9 x 2.9 x 4.8 inches
  • Classic technology that has always been reliable
  • Good performance in a sturdy frame
  • Needs an eye shroud
  • Battery life isn’t that long (<4 hours)
 
Best Monocular Under $200
Blue-Infrared Illuminator
Solomark
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$

  • Viewing Distance 328 feet
  • Image Capture Yes
  • Zoom 1-3x
  • Power 4x AA batteries
  • Dimensions 6 x 5 x 5 inches
  • Captures both photo & video
  • A solid 200m illuminator distance
  • Included SD card needs to be upgraded before use
  • Sensor cap is poorly fitted and prone to falling off / getting lost
 
Best Monocular for Beginners
2×24 Night Vision
Sightmark
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$

  • Viewing Distance 500 – 1000 feet
  • Image Capture No
  • Zoom 2x
  • Power 2AA batteries
  • Dimensions 4 x 3 x 9 inches
  • Very Affordable; a great deal
  • Flatter & clearer field of view than previous models
  • Objective & Eyepiece focus knobs could be tightened
  • Image quality is what you would expect from a budget pick

Best Night Vision Monocular under $500

Bushnell EQUINOX Z Digital Night Vision Monocular

Viewing Distance: 500 feet – 1000 feet depending on model

Image Capture:  Yes on 4x and 6x models            

Zoom:  1-3x           

Power:    4x AA batteries or mini-USB port       

The first thing we noticed about Bushnell’s EQUINOX Z night vision monocular was how big it felt in our hands. This is not necessarily a bad thing as offers the simultaneous feeling of sturdiness and reliability. It is certainly not too bulky for hunting or distance travel, but there are more compact models available if size is what you are concerned about.

Great night time color from this monocular, thought the viewing distance on this, as well as many of the other products on this list, is going to be significantly less than what was advertised. The image quality is only crisp and clear to about 50 feet and anything beyond that is hard to make out. This is par for the course for a monocular at this price range, so we are not counting it as a fault.

It was a nice surprise when we discovered that the EQUINOX Z is actually capable of being powered via the mini-USB port on the side, allowing you to bypass the AA batteries if a power source is available or if you want to utilize a portable battery pack with more power than just a pair of AAs.

If we have one recommendation for Bushnell it is that they take the time to rethink their button layout and programming, as it is hardly intuitive on this model and it is absolutely necessary to sit down and read the entire manual to figure out how to work the basic functions. And you know how we feel about people that make us read!

Excellent daytime performance from this model. Aside from a somewhat slow focus knob that makes the EQUINOX Z less ideal for fast paced activities like paintball, it’s a great all-around monocular with reliable performance.

Pros
  • Capable of mini-USB power
  • Good all-around image performance
Cons
  • Somewhat bulky
  • Button programming could use some work

Best Night Vision Monocular under $300

Firefield FF24066 NIGHTFALL Night Vision Monocular

Viewing Distance: 500 feet – 1000 feet depending on model

Image Capture:  no

Zoom:  1-3x           

Power:    2x AA batteries or mini-USB port       

The best thing about the NIGHTFALL monocular by the engineers at Firefield is that they somehow figured out a way to get their monocular to run on only two AA batteries, which is one of the smallest battery sources of all the products on our guide. This is certainly handy for excursions when you don’t want to be hauling a bunch of batteries out onto the trail.

However the overall image performance might be the thing that the manufacturers chose to sacrifice in favor of the reduced battery pull. While the image quality is quite good at the recommended range and there is an impressive lack of grain, the edges of the image seem faded and somewhat “cut off”, making us wonder if we are seeing the entire image or if the processor is having a hard time rendering it.

Overall though these work pretty well, and the small size and compact nature compared to the competitors make this an excellent choice for on-the-go adventurers and hunters who have a few more miles to cover before nightfall.

The NIGHTFALL also seems to have some problems processing even distant light sources. A porch light some distance away will likely be blinding through these. The IR light stands out quite obviously on the target end, making these a risk for some hunting purposes.

Pros
  • Compact, lightweight, & comfortable
  • Runs on only two AA batteries with up to 4 hours of operation time
Cons
  • Image processing power feels somewhat reduced
  • IR is distinctly visible on target end of monocular

Best Multifunction Night Vision Monocular for Rangefinding

LaserWorks LRNV009 DAY AND NIGHT Multifunction Laser Ranging Night Vision Monocular

Viewing Distance: 200m

Image Capture:  Yes on 4x and 6x models            

Zoom:  4x digital           

Power:    4x AA batteries        

Here is a night vision monocular for the real tech nerd. With over a dozen unique features that you simply cannot find on any other unit, the DAY AND NIGHT monocular from LaserWorks is the king of the high-tech night vision world. Thing like a thermometer, barometer, and compass are only a selection of the kind of things that this monocular has to offer.

But we are not so easily fooled. We wanted to find out whether or not there was a well-functioning night vision monocular beneath all those fancy bells and whistles. That’s because it is not uncommon for manufacturers to hide poorly made products beneath distracting features and add-ons.

Fortunately, that is not the case with LaserWorks’ monocular. What you are getting here is super clear vision at an impressive distance, day or night. The integrated laser rangefinder works like a charm, and the combination of these elements means that the final product is one of the most well-made devices that has showed up on our team’s desk. One problem we noticed with this monocular was the tendency of some of the elements to fog up and disrupt the image quality. It seems that there is a problem with moisture condensation inside the unit, but we hope this was an isolated incident and not indicative of the product line as a whole.

Pros
  • Lots of Features
  • Laser Rangefinder is a premium addition that comes standard
Cons
  • Issues with interior fog & condensation
  • A bit expensive considering its mid-range image performance

Best Night Vision Monocular of 2019

Bushnell NIGHT WATCH with Built-In Infrared Monocular

Viewing Distance: 400 feet

Image Capture:  No            

Zoom:  2x           

Power:    2x AA batteries

There is a reason that Bushnell has been an industry leader in optic technology for the outdoors for so many years. It’s because they’ve made it their quest to bring the best quality lens technology to the market in the most affordable way possible, meaning that even the casual outdoor enthusiast can enjoy the stunning capabilities of this technology.

The way it works is pretty straightforward. By projecting its infrared spotlight out into the night, it is able to produce an image that we just wouldn’t be able to see otherwise.

One thing that Bushnell tends to do very well is house their optic technology in stylish protective casing, and that is certainly what they did with the NIGHT WATCH. The armor is a durable rubber, both comfortable and non-slip capable. Overall, it feels like this little unit can take some damage before showing any wear or tear.

The image quality on this model is somewhat more blurry than even on other Bushnell products, leading us to wonder what it could possibly be that would account for the difference.

This is a unit that certainly works better in absolute darkness. Otherwise the image quality is just not up to snuff for a unit in this price range. For flat ranges and moonless nights, you’ve got yourself a pretty good generation one starter model here.

Pros
  • Lightweight & easy to carry
  • Great exterior casing / armor
Cons
  • Mid to High-Mid Image Quality
  • Requires absolute darkness to perform at its best

Great Value Night Vision Monocular

Night Owl Optics 5-Power NOXM50 Night Vision Monocular

Viewing Distance: 200 feet

Image Capture:  Yes on 4x and 6x models            

Zoom:  5x

Power:  3-volt Type-123 lithium battery

The fact that optical manufacturer NIGHT OWL makes more than just monoculars is no surprise. Their optical technology has been put to use in security cameras and binoculars because of the advanced image processing they are able to facilitate.

The NOMXM50 represents the peak performance of a technology that was once the absolute cutting edge of night vision technology, but now has become a better option for entry level night vision products because of how affordable the components have become.

The infrared spotlight has an effective range of about 60 feet, which isn’t bad for a monocular in this price range.

One of the strange curiosities that came with this model was that we could not figure out how to charge the battery, and the information was not listed anywhere with the product package. Eventually we figured it out (aren’t you proud?) and realized that you have to unscrew the IR light that is right behind the lens. The battery compartment is located behind that.

The biggest thing missing from this product is an eye shroud. Without it, a significant amount of light is escaping from around the view screen, which not only would appear extra bright for other NV users, but could possibly alert animals to your presence if you are hunting.

Pros
  • Classic technology that has always been reliable
  • Good performance in a sturdy frame
Cons
  • Needs an eye shroud
  • Battery life isn’t that long (<4 hours)

Best Night Vision Monocular Under $200

Solomark Night Vision Monocular

Viewing Distance: 328 ft.  

Image Capture:  Yes

Zoom:  1-3x           

Power:    4x AA batteries

Infrared technology has its number of drawbacks, but when implemented properly it can provide quality night time vision at a fraction of the price of the more advanced light amplification technologies that are out there these days. Such is the case with Solomark’s Night Vision monocular, which is not only the most affordable binocular on our list, but it also happens to be one of the coolest without question.

To back up that last statement: this is the only monocular on our list that allows the capture of video files. While the video mode is perhaps not as advanced as it could be, for the price it is a unique feature that you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else.

One immediate issue with the video technology is that the included 1GB Micro DS card is too small to perform at the levels required of this technology, so if you are considering going with the Solomarks, we highly recommend that you consider purchasing an upgraded SD card, something closer to a 32GB microSDHC UHS-I Card.

If we can be nitpicky about one thing, it would be the sensor cap, which seems way too loose for a product like this. Knowing us, we are going to lose it the first chance that we get! Overall this monocular offers great image resolution out to about 100 meters, which is close to the limit for what we have observed in this price range of night vision technology.

Pros
  • Captures both photo & video
  • A solid 200m illuminator distance
Cons
  • Included SD card needs to be upgraded before use
  • Sensor cap is poorly fitted and prone to falling off / getting lost

Best Night Vision Monocular for Beginners

Sightmark Ghost Hunter 2×24 Night Vision Monocular

Viewing Distance: 500 feet – 1000 feet depending on model

Image Capture:  No            

Zoom:  2x           

Power:    2xAA       

Because we were already familiar with Sightmark’s Proton 4.5x digital scope which we have used with air rifles, we were more than a little excited to see how the optics manufacturer’s GHOST HUNTER monocular would perform, especially considering its remarkably low price point.

First things first, this is Gen 1 NV technology, which means basic IR beaming and illumination. While the images produced are certainly brighter that they would be in the dark, you are not going to be getting anything like what NV looks like in the movies.

That isn’t to say that the GHOST HUNTER monocular isn’t a great product. It performs about as well as we would expect it to. Now doubt it was the reduced price target that kept Sightmark from offering this model in anything greater than 2x magnification.

Personally I could have gone with “tighter” objective and eyepiece focusing knobs. As it stands they are both a little loose, which causes annoyance as this makes it very easy to overshoot the intended focus position. If you are among the large population that is looking for an affordable entry into night vision technology, then this is the monocular for you. However if you are a high-level tactician looking for unmatched performance, you might have to dig into your pockets and see what else you can come up with.

Pros
  • Very Affordable; a great deal
  • Flatter & clearer field of view than previous models
Cons
  • Objective & Eyepiece focus knobs could be tightened
  • Image quality is what you would expect from a budget pick

Conclusion

Can you imagine how much fun we had turning out all the lights to play with all these night vision monoculars? It was hard to not pretend that I was a member of special-forces, storming the palace of a faraway bad guy.

But NV technology is helpful for the real life as well, not just fantasy. That’s why we have to recommend the BUSHNELL NIGHT WATCH as our favorite night vision monocular of 2019. After all, how is it possible to beat that kind of portability and versatility for under $300?

Of course we are stunned with how affordable some of the NV technology has become. That’s why we can’t stop talking about the Sightmark GHOST HUNTER monocular, as it is dollars to doughnuts the best value of any night vision product on the market.

How Does Night Vision Technology Work, Anyway?

Don’t be ashamed if you are among the many people who are not totally sure how night vision technology manages to do the cool stuff that it does. We had to look it up ourselves. But it’s actually pretty interesting.

The answer, to put it simply, is image amplification. Basically this works by collecting very small particles of light and amplifying them to the point where they can be seen by the human eye. While different products may utilize different variations on this technology, they all function of the same basic premise of capturing and amplifying light sources.

LEARN MORE: How Night Vision Works from Howstuffworks.com

view through night vision goggles

A Guide to Night Vision Generations

When you are shopping for night vision technology, you will likely come across the term “Generation.” When you see this in regards to NV, it refers to the different generations of night vision technology that are available to the consumer. Each generation (Gen 1, Gen 2, Gen 3, Gen 4) features a different kind image intensifier tube.

LEARN: MORE INFO ON NIGHT VISION GENERATIONS

The image intensifier tube is the most important part of night vision technology, and it has been developing by leaps and bounds over the years. However instead of older technology becoming obsolete as it often happens in other industries, early generation NV  tech is still in production because of its relative affordability.

Generation One NV Tech

This is currently the most popular kind of NV technology on the market. It works to amplify the existing light by several thousand to produce a visible image. Gen 1 technology is usually the most affordable.

Generation Two NV Tech

Generation 2 is primarily used by police and military professionals because it is significantly more expensive than Gen 1. The principal difference between Gen 1 and Gen 2 is that Gen 2 features the addition of a micro-channel plate (MCP) which is a somewhat expensive piece of electron amplification technology that creates an even brighter image.

Generation Three NV Tech

Generation  three takes advantage of specially formulated chemical compounds that are added to the photocathode to increase sensitivity. These are not commonly seen in everyday life.

Generation Four NV Tech

This is one of the biggest revolutions in NV technology since its inception, and many manufacturers and consumers alike are still catching up to exactly how this new technology works to create an image that is far brighter than anything we have been able to create before. It utilizes a process called “Gating” and is very effective for extremely low light situations.

night vision generation

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Could I pick up a deer in 200 yards?

A: I reckon that you could. Most Night Vision (NV) technology is adequate to reach distances of up to 200 yards, especially if you are using a boosted infrared spot technology that would increase the imaging even further. All you need to turn one of these monoculars into a great hunting scope is an adapter kit.

Q: Can I Upgrade my Rifle with It?

A: Absolutely. All night vision monoculars come with tripod mounts, which are often the very same mounts that are used for rifle adaption kits. Once you have the kit, then attaching the scope to your rifle is a piece of cake that should take no longer than a couple of minutes.

Q: How Long can it Record Without Shutting Off?

A: This depends on two things: battery life and card memory.

Most NV technology on the market today features a battery life of no more than 3 or 4  hours. If you are able to connect your NV monocular to a power source, then the only limitation on recording time would be the amount of available space on the memory card.

•Q: Can it Take Pictures?

A: Not all night vision monoculars feature image capture technology, so it is important to check the product specifications before you buy anything. While image capture can make a monocular more expensive, there are some entry level products that have this ability and they work just fine.

Q: What Kind of Batteries do they need?A: There is some variation in what type of battery is required for the operation of a night vision monocular. By and large the most common variety is the AA, and it is a good bet that your own monocular runs off of this very type. However some models, like the Night Owl Monocular, feature a more specialized 3V battery that does not come included.

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