Monoculars are like a pair of binoculars that someone cut down the middle. You’d think that would lead to a significant reduction in price, but if you’ve looked around you’ve probably discovered that good monoculars can cost hundreds of dollars.
Of course, you don’t have to pay that much money, but then you worry about getting inferior models that don’t work well or break right after the return window expires. That’s a pain, but it’s also why we’ve assembled this list of reviews of some of the best budget monoculars under $100. We’ve done the hard work for you, separating the good models out from the bad, and pointing out the features that you absolutely can’t ignore.
|Vortex Optics S836 8×36|
|SVBONY SV36 4331892931||4.8/5|
|Orion 10×42 8431 Waterproof|
|Celestron Outland 6×30 71211||2 Years||4.3/5|
|U.S. Army US-MC842 8×42||4.0/5|
The Vortex Optics S836 8×36 is our top choice for monoculars under $100. It comes with 8x magnification which is good for a monocular at this price point, and decent overall. It also comes with a rubberized case that makes this model easy to hold in damp, humid, or outright wet situations, where holding plastic cases can become a difficult task.
This model is also waterproof and fogproof, which makes it great for taking outside even when the conditions aren’t great. One complaint about this model is that it comes with a subpar carrying case. The soft material feels cheap and has a habit of capturing water, which is not something that you want to have your monocular sitting in for extended periods of time. Overall, this monocular works great and has the rugged exterior you need for wilderness expeditions.
The SVBONY SV36 4331892931 is a great model for people who want a metal-exterior monocular at a budget price. It comes with 8x magnification, which as we discussed before, is good for this price point but just average overall. It’s also very compact, and just over an inch wide, which makes it easy to slip into a pocket between uses. The lens comes with ED, or Extra-low Dispersion, glass, which greatly reduces the amount of chromatic dispersion that you see in the final image.
However, despite the adjustable eyepiece, this model comes with poor eye relief. If you wear glasses, you might have a hard time seeing anything through this monocular without taking them off, which presents its own set of problems. However, if you’re sure-sighted, you shouldn’t have any trouble with this model, and can get it for a great price, too.
The Orion 10×42 has the best magnification and the largest lens of any of the models on our list. That means that you’ll get some of the brightest clearest views you can hope for out of this model. The 10 magnification is great for any long-distance needs you may have, while the massive 42-millimeter lens lets in a ton of light for a satisfying image. It also keeps the field of view wide, despite the large magnification.
Even better, this model has a surprisingly-close minimum focus distance of just 20 inches, which lets you get phenomenal detail when you look at objects that are just a few feet away. This monocular’s shell is waterproof and has a rubberized exterior that helps you grip it in wet conditions. However, the eyecap does screw completely off, which means it isn’t fogproof and that humidity could get in and fog up your view. However, for the money, you’re getting a great lens, a good magnification, and a great deal.
Celestron is a great brand known for its high-quality optical devices. However, the Celestron Outland 6×30 71211 doesn’t live up to the hopes you would have when buying this brand. It is a waterproof and fog proof model, which is an upside that you can’t ever ignore. And, because it has only 6x magnification, you get a wide field of view that is good for scanning, with only mild edge distortion. However, with only 6x magnification, you’re not getting that good of a deal for the price.
6x magnification isn’t going to give you anywhere near the same level of detail that you’d get out of an 8x, and it’s unfair to compare it to the level of detail on a 10x. This model also comes with a stiff focusing ring, which makes it hard to focus the monocular accurately. This line also has quality control problems, so you sometimes end up with a model that is broken right out of the box. While Celestron is generally a good brand, this model is one that you should avoid.
The U.S. Army US-MC842 8×42 isn’t military quality, so don’t let the name confuse you. It comes with 8x magnification, which is good, and it also has a large 42-millimeter lens, which lets in a lot of light. The combination of the two should, in theory, produce high-quality views. In reality, it’s a bit fuzzier than we’d like to see. The fuzziness results from the fact that this model has exceedingly cheap parts, and it probably won’t last that long.
It’s also not waterproof, which means that dropping it in water or using it in the rain or on an especially humid day could result in the inner optics fogging up, making the device impossible to use until it dries out. Unfortunately, this model isn’t military-grade, and you shouldn’t look at the brand as a mark of quality in this instance.
The Vortex Optics S836 8×36 climbs to the top of our list due to its waterproof and fogproof shell and its clear optics. The SVBONY SV36 4331892931 has a great metal shell and ED glass, which is enough to boost it to second place, despite it not being fogproof. The Orion 10×42 has the best magnification and the best value on this list, making it a good all-around buy for anyone. Celestron Outland 6×30 71211 doesn’t live up to the Celestron name and falls to fourth on our list because of its lackluster magnification. The U.S. Army US-MC842 8×42 isn’t military quality and doesn’t deliver a good experience despite having a large lens for a monocular at this price point.
Hopefully, these reviews have helped you figure out what kinds of features you can expect in monoculars under $100. Armed with that knowledge, you should be able to find a model that will give you a long, stress-free life.
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