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What has you out at night? Is it hunting, nocturnal wildlife observation, or surveillance and security?
The reasons to be out and equipped with a night vision monocular are plentiful and personal.
It’s a bet you’ll need one from the list below – that is, if you want one that’s any good!
There are night vision monoculars that cost $100 to well over $2000. They have image intensifier tubes that range from Gen 1 to Gen 4. The best monocular for your money is the well-established Night Owl NOXM50 that is Gen 1, 5x, and long-lasting.
But if your budget stretches a little further, you might consider a Gen 2 - or higher - night vision monocular, so I in this article I review a range of those too.
Our 8 Top Night Vision Monoculars
|Night Owl NOXM502||CHECK PRICE|
|T Eagle NV600||CHECK PRICE|
|Bushnell Equinox Z2||CHECK PRICE|
|NightStar 2x42||CHECK PRICE|
|AGM Wolf-14 NL3||CHECK PRICE|
|ATN NVM14-3||CHECK PRICE|
|ATN NVM14-4||CHECK PRICE|
|ATN NVM14-WPT||CHECK PRICE|
What is the single most important feature of a monocular, performance and quality aside? It's the size. Monoculars are made to be small, portable, and easy to use. They're lightweight, compact, and yet, they can still be made with the same dependable ruggedness you would expect from binoculars or a rifle scope.
Why choose a monocular over night vision goggles, binoculars, or a night vision rifle scope? The first reason may have more to do with your finances than what you actually want. They're often more affordable versus other optics.
Monoculars can often be mounted to other gear. Because of their compact size and light weight, they're excellent tools for head mounting to a helmet or to a weapon like a hand gun or rifle for law enforcement or hunting purposes.
You can use monoculars as a recreational tool for camping, night hiking, and wildlife observation. You can also purchase professional models that are good enough for search and rescue operations, hunting, law enforcement and tactical needs, and for security and surveillance.
When you're constantly on the move, are observing time-consuming targets, or you need the versatility of a night vision device that's just as functional alone or mounted, a monocular is the way to go. Consider it the Swiss Army knife, the Leatherman, the ultimate multi-purpose tool of night vision equipment.
Because of how costly night vision gear can get, I like to scour the market for economical options that will fit within your budget. Our top choices include the most affordable monoculars for only a couple hundred bucks (if that!) with a few drool-worthy night vision monoculars that will be sure to break the budget.
Best Night Vision Monocular Reviews & Recommendations for 2022
1. Night Owl NOXM50 Night Vision Monocular - Best Value
What's the catch with cheap night vision monoculars? They're often made with plastic materials, fake optics, and are no better than the dollar store kids toy. If you're going to spend a couple hundred bucks on a night vision monocular, you better make it a worthy buy. The 5-power NOXM50 by Night Owl Optics is a worthy investment without breaking a sweat over your budget.
- Gen 1 technology
- 5x power
- 50 mm objective lens
- Long-lasting battery life
- Close focus distance
- Focus issues
Real glass optics are inside the NOXM50 monocular and that will go a long way when darkness comes and you head outside. Being able to transmit light through to the Generation 1 image intensifier tube is everything when you need a pair of cat's eyes at night. That's why a large 50 mm objective lens, 35 lp/mm resolution, and a built-in IR illuminator are necessary features on this affordable monocular.
Even better, the Night Owl Optics 5-power handheld unit feels like a solid product especially if you're accustomed to handling other sport optics. It has a rubberized, soft-touch finish that I really like and an impact-resistant molded thermoplastic lens housing to protect it.
Kind of a bummer for the price, you don't get a 3V 123 Lithium battery in the purchase. But, when you buy your own, you'll get anywhere between 45 to 100 hours depending on how heavy-handed you are with using your IR illuminator.
Focus issues are a typical downside with economical monoculars regardless of brand, and it's a common drawback here. Be vendor-specific since warranty information on this product is sparse and conditions are extensive. In other words, the NOXM50 is an excellent buy if you get a fully functional one like the majority of buyers. Just be diligent about making sure it's up to par when you get it.
2. T Eagle NV600 – Best Budget
The new T Eagle Optics NV600 Infrared Night Vision Monocular hits new lows for bottom-dollar prices at approximately $100. As an entry-level monocular for night vision on a budget, it’s best suited to recreational use and some airsoft.
- FMC coatings
- Recreational use only
It can be mounted to a Picatinny rail, but the mount has been said to be too flimsy. It could also be helmet mounted. While they’re nifty capabilities, the realities of using it in these mounted positions will have drawbacks such as its 2m minimum near focus distance and the lack of a reticle.
Realistically, the NV600 is best used as a handheld monocular. As a digital device, it’s safe to use during daylight conditions and offers up a color display for casual people-watching and wildlife observation. During nighttime conditions, it has a monochrome display, better known as black-and-white tones.
It has digital magnification up to 8x, and you can adjust focus via the objective lens. Adjusting the diopter is limited to -/+0.5 adjustments. It’s compact in the size/weight department weighing in at 10.6 oz and 7” in length. The housing has been coated with a light texture that is wear resistant. T Eagle didn’t forget about optical quality and layered the lens with FMC broadband coatings.
The NV600 is effective for close-range use inside 200 yards. To id targets, you’ll need to get closer. The CMOS core and large 1.5” display is powered by rechargeable 16340 batteries. You can capture images, record video and audio, and store it all on a TF memory card.
Overall, the T Eagle NV600 is a budget night vision monocular with a digital CMOS sensor. It’s not a hunting or professional monocular but will work for casual wildlife observation and spotting perps stalking the grounds under the cover of darkness.
3. Bushnell Equinox Z2 Night Vision Monocular - Best Digital
It's one the of latest night vision offerings from the well-known optics brand, Bushnell. This Equinox Z2 is the 6x50 model that does everything big and in style - that is, digital style. This monocular is a digital night vision unit that will be your undercover pal day or night.
- Digital technology
- 6x magnification
- 50 mm objective lens
For a digital optic, the Equinox Z might be light on features compared to other digital night vision gear that seem to be equipped with every app and type of meter available. But, this night vision optic still comes in as an affordable product even though it's in the pricier section for monoculars.
The Bushnell monocular is the largest model in its series. This fact is obvious with its high magnification range of 6x that works directly with the huge 50 mm objective lens size to allow as much ambient light in as possible for nighttime work. But, as a digital monocular, the Equinox Z also doubles as a daytime device for those who want dual purpose benefits from their compact optic.
Speaking of compactness, it's surprisingly smaller than I anticipated coming in at 7.5" x 3.9" x 2.5" in size. With high power and a big aperture, we'd thought it would be a whopper, but its weight certainly proves this point weighing in at over 1.5 pounds.
Capture all the proof you need with the 1080p quality video day or night for over 300 yards of clarity when your natural vision would normally fail you.
Buy from a brand you trust. Buy from a brand that knows optics. Buy from a brand that stands behind their products with an Ironclad Warranty!
4. NightStar 2x42 – Best GEN 1
The Gen 1 market is shrinking as digital is taking over the affordable market and Gen 2 becomes cheaper than it once was. Still, brands like NightStar are manufacturing Gen 1 monoculars for the budget-conscious buyer.
- Gen 1
- 2x42 configuration
- 150-yard range
- 30 lp/mm resolution
- Green phosphor
- Gen 1
As a completely analog night vision monocular, the old technology may be an advantage to those who are avoiding the digital market while staying within budget. The NightStar has 2x optical magnification, 42 mm objective lens, 13-degree FOV, and 10mm of eye relief.
It’s a very simple device with a Gen 1 tube with green phosphor and 30 lp/mm resolution. Many will be tempted to compare it to Gen 2 performance, but that would be an unreasonable measurement. The NightStar is an affordable night vision device for up to 150 yards. For close-range work, you can detect targets in the distance but expect identification inside 100 yards.
Because it’s a Gen 1 unit, it does have some budget things about it. The optical performance will have a fish-bowl effect and the IR illuminator will be needed for reaching maximum distance. The IR light has also been said to emit a visible, red light – so, not great for stealth.
Overall, the NightStar performs as a Gen 1 device and doesn’t pretend to be otherwise. For a cost under $150, it’s one of the best night vision monoculars you can find that isn’t digital. Though easy to use and effective for close-range, it’s better suited to recreational and casual use for observation rather than hunting or professional applications.
3. AGM Wolf-14 NL3 – Best GEN 2
The Wolf-14 has features suited to the LEO as well as the hunter. With a Gen 2+ tube that is capable of handling reasonable recoil when weapon mounted, mobile navigation while head mounted, and long-range detection as a handheld, the Wolf-14 NL3 is a flexible monocular for everything under the moon.
- Gen 2+ ‘Level 3’ IIT
- Multiple mounting
- Battery options
- Camera compatible
- Auto features
- Mounting point
The Wolf-14 NL3 attracts a lot of browsers because of its low price point. It is compatible for weapon and head/helmet mounting but there is a catch for the latter option. The mounting point on the Wolf-14 are quick rail attachments, and this makes it harder to find aftermarket mounting options such as a JDAPT plate. AGM has mounts available, but they are expensive.
If you’re weapon mounting it or using the Wolf as a handheld monocular, you’ll have the benefits of extremely sharp and clear images. It has a Gen 2+ “Level 3” IIT in green or white phosphor and 45-51 lp/mm resolution. Auto features include Bright Light Cut-off and Auto Shut-off.
The Wolf is also compatible with magnifier lenses at a separate cost, and it can be used for nighttime photography when placed in front of a camera. You may even want to try mounting the setup to your rifle to capture the hunt.
The AGM monocular can be powered by a CR123A (3V) battery or AA battery rated for 40 hours of runtime. At 6.1 x 2.3 x 2.9” in size, it’s relatively short but girthy and weighs 16oz. Impressively, the Wolf can be used in the harshest climates with a rating of -40 – 122 degrees F.
The warranty is limited to three years to the original owner. You must register the monocular with AGM in order to make claims under the warranty. Priced cheaper than alternatives, the Wolf-14 NL3 is one of the more affordable Gen 2 MNVDs in the market.
6. ATN NVM14-3 Night Vision Monocular - Best GEN 3
Who do you turn to when you want the best from only the best? ATN is your brand when you're serious about spending serious cash. The NVM14-3 is no mediocre or digital monocular. It's a legit Generation 3 device that's probably going to be the best night vision gear you will ever own - unless you have some serious cash to burn for fun.
- Gen 3
- 64 lp/mm resolution
- 40° field of view
- Long lasting battery
- Extremely close focus range
When you're spending this much, you're obligated to demand the best. The NVM14-3 has A-class resolution of 64 lp/mm on a Gen 3 IIT. A wide field of view of 40° with 1x magnification is all it will take to spot any critter trying to pull the wool over your eyes with the cover of darkness.
Battery life is ridiculous with only one 3V (CR123A) battery that should stay juiced enough for 60 hours. It's compact at 4.7" x 1.9" x 2.7" in size, and you know it's made with quality materials and components when it weighs 1.5 pounds.
Other than its technical specs, it has ATN's Automatic Protective System and their Automatic Brightness Adjustment System. Sounds fancy? It is. It delivers excessive illumination protection by automatically shutting down when things get to bright for longer than 10 seconds. You can also depend on maintaining a constant brightness level even when conditions unexpectedly and inconsistently change.
Its range of applications are numerous since you can use it as a handheld or mount it to head gear, helmets, or weapons. The choice is yours, and it's also clear: it's ATN all the way.
7. ATN NVM14-4 Night Vision Monocular - Best GEN 4
Gen 4 tech. Is it a real thing or a misnomer? It can get confusing trying to work your way around the marketing terms, but I can say Gen 4 is distinctive in its own right, so it's a real thing. Not sure what I mean by that? Our explanation will get you caught up. As for right now, the NVM14-4 Gen 4 monocular is the crème de la crème of them all.
- Gen 4 technology
- Total Darkness Technology
- Auto Brightness Adjustment System
- Auto Protective System
- Headgear and weapon mountable
So, what exactly makes this monocular a Gen 4 device? The NVM14-4 monocular is an autogated unit with a filmless photocathode. The filmless technology is what makes this a high-end optic. On top of this, it also has a very high 25-30 signal-to-noise ratio that is the best of what you can get.
This model has everything the NVM line of monoculars offer. Total Darkness Technology lets you see when conditions prevent light amplification. Don't underestimate when you might need this feature. 64-72 lp/mm industry-leading resolution is expected with such a high caliber optic.
When you need to adjust your brightness levels, let the NVM 14 do it for you. With the Automatic Brightness Adjustment System, the monocular will regulate light transmission and at the same time will not let it exceed excessive levels that will damage the system.
It's a complete mountable monocular that can be used in professional scenarios when you need hands-free operation. Headgear, helmets, and weapons are all options to mount your ATN monocular to. What can't ATN do? Apparently, they do it all.
This monocular ain't for amateurs. Hardcore night vision users, law enforcement, and even some hunters will justify putting the cash aside for this optic. What about you?
8. ATN NVM14-WPT - Best White Phosphor Night Vision Monocular
Not a huge fan of the iconic green sight picture that's typical of night vision? Did you know you can have different? WPT (White Phosphor Technology) is night vision in black and white that's more natural to the eyes. Expect better detail, contrast, and depth perception with the NVM14-WPT from ATN.
- WPT tech
- Excellent resolution
For a monocular, it's on the expensive end of the price spectrum, but it's definitely considered affordable when you're looking at night vision equipment in general. The NVM14-WPT is mountable to head gear, helmets, and weapons. But, of course you can use it in its natural form as a discreet handheld unit.
Your sight picture will be well above what's considered standard since it has resolution of 51-64 lp/mm. With 1x magnification, 27 mm objective lens, and a built-in IR illuminator with a flood lens, you'll be spotting targets and prey that will be unaware of your stealthy observance.
To make sure you always have the brightest sight picture, even with minimal stars and moonlight, the NVM is equipped with ATN's Automatic Brightness Adjustment System. What is it? It ensures the IIT (image intensifier tube) is constantly stimulated with as much light as possible.
But, don't worry about going overboard. It's also been outfitted with an Automatic Protective System that will shut the monocular down if illumination levels are above 100-300 lx for more than 10 seconds. Now that's a sure-fire way to protect your investment when conditions unexpectedly change or for those accidental fail moments you might incur on your night vision monoculars.
I believe that this gadget is a must-have if you want to do any type of serious night work. ATN - it's not a brand for amateurs!
What to Look for in a Night Vision Monocular
Don't feel overwhelmed if you feel like the ins and outs of night vision gear is beyond you. I will keep it simple with a list of the most important features to be aware of.
You don't have to get stuck in the huff and puff of inflamed night vison lingo. Here's what you need to know and how to go about understanding it!
Set one. The price range for monoculars with night vision couldn't be more extreme. You can find one for less than $100 and then easily spend $5000 on one. Set a budget, stick with it, and shop your options within it.
Monoculars are still optics whether or not they're equipped with night vision capability. You still want real glass and lenses with quality coatings to enhance light transmission through the optical system. Always avoid plastic optics - it's a kid's toy.
Detection range is always going to be further than identification ranges. 100 yards is easily achievable by higher end optics. Under 100 yards is typical for low-cost monoculars. Consistent ranges will also vary depending on available moonlight, IR use, and technical specs such as magnification, etc.
Adding an artificial light source will significantly improve your detection range. However, there are some downsides that include display effects like washing out the picture and being detected by other night vision monoculars users. Many monoculars will come with built-in IR illuminators while some higher-end ones will allow intensity control and even on/off switches.
Gen 1 is the cheapest type of night vision monoculars available. Generation 3 and 4 are the highest. As you move up in generation class, there will be a significant price jump that also correlates with quality. For a complete explanation on night vision generations, see our guide on it here.
Digital Night Vision:
They're flooding the night vision market because of their low cost, day and night usage, and digital features. Most monoculars under $500 is more than likely going to be a digital unit. While it's not an authentic night vision optic, they have their benefits.
As mentioned, 64-72 lp/mm is the best resolution a night vision optic can have. Cheaper monoculars will have 30 lp/mm or around about. This is often an indicator that will determine cost and quality.
Signal to Noise Ratio:
This value is very important since it indicates how sensitive a photocathode is. The best monoculars have a 25-30 SNR value, while any quality night vision optic will have a value of 21 or over.
You'll want to pay attention to what batteries your monocular will require. Having tob purchase multiple batteries can get expensive, especially if the battery life span is only a few hours. However, the 40+ hours of battery life is usually a quality feature that is seen on higher end monoculars.
Monoculars are meant to be compact and lightweight. When mounted to a helmet or weapon, they should be light enough to comfortably wield and small enough to not inhibit safe and correct use of other gear. Most night vision monoculars are in and around 1 pound in weight, and are an average of 6" x 3" x 3".
Stick with a brand you know and trust. If you're new to optics, look for a brand that has a proven track record. Great customer service, product warranties, and name recognition among the masses are key features to look for.
Get one. Make sure your night vision monoculars come with a warranty. They're either too expensive not to have one to protect your investment, or they're so affordable, you run the risk of unfortunately getting a defective model. Either way, a warranty and return policy guarantee is the way to shop wisely.
Night Owl NOXM50 Night Vision Monocular – Best Value
Firefield Nightfall 2 5x50 Night Vision Monocular – Best Budget
Bushnell Equinox Z2 Night Vision Monocular – Best Digital
Sightmark Ghost Hunter 2x24 Night Vision Monocular – Best GEN 1
PRG Defense MUM-14A NL3 Gen 2+ - Best GEN 2
ATN NVM14-3 Night Vision Monocular – Best GEN 3
ATN NVM14-4 Night Vision Monocular – Best GEN 4
ATN NVM14-WPT – Best White Phosphor Night Vision Monocular
As a general rule, night vision monoculars are designed for handheld use. There are exceptions like the PRG MUM-14A NL3 and the ATN NVM14 that can be weapon-mounted. Recoil resistance must be considered, and it must be used with an aiming sight as monoculars typically lack a reticle.
The best magnification for a monocular is one that fits the need. For night vision, 1x offers versatility as it may be mounted for hands-free operation and improved mobility. High power of 8-12x offers significantly magnified images, especially useful when tripod-mounted, but sacrifices FOV.
On average with basic night vision monoculars, you can see as far as 100 yards. In this case, seeing is synonymous with target identification. Detection range is much further, but both identification and detection ability is dependent on quality, ambient light conditions, and IR illuminator use.
The Monocular: King of Versatility
The night vision monocular reigns over all other night vision devices in the market. They are the most versatile optic to get you seeing at night in an endless range of applications.
Camping, hiking, hunting, observation, scouting, search and rescue, security, survival/prepper tool, surveillance - you name it, the monocular will light up your world.
Don't twist an ankle while leaving your tent to take a break. Nock your bow to eradicate the nocturnal pest problem on the ranch. Up your game for a midnight session of paintball. You get the point.
Do you know what's happening after lights out? It's about time you find out!
- TRYBE PVS-14 Gen 3 WPT Night Vision Monocular Review
- ATN NVM14-4 Night Vision Monocular Review
- ATN PVS14-3 Night Vision Monocular Review
- ATN NVM14-WPT Night Vision Monocular Review (Gun Mountable)
- SiOnyx Aurora Black Color Digital Night Vision Camera Review
Simon is an avid outdoor enthusiast and the owner of Target Tamers. He is passionate about bringing you the most up to date, accurate & understandable information on sports optics of all kinds and for all applications. When not glassing the local wildlife, you can find him in the garden with his German Shepherd.