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What is a Digital Monocular?

By Gregory Hanson
Updated May 16, 2024
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A digital monocular is a type of image enhancement and magnification device that uses digital image processing to improve and modify an image for a single eye. Digital monoculars have a variety of different functions, and are most frequently used as night vision aids or as rangefinders. Many are also designed to be used as rifle sights, allowing night-time hunting, particularly of small game.

A digital monocular captures images from the world, manipulates them, and then displays them on a small digital display. This display is usually integral to the monocular unit. Some monoculars also feature standard look-through eyepieces as well, and many include the capability to output video from the digital monocular to a digital storage device, so that images can be archived.

One key feature of many digital monoculars is their ability to serve as rangefinders. Typically these devices will use built-in laser rangefinders to determine the range to the object being viewed through the lens of the monocular. Small game hunters certainly benefit from the range information that a digital monocular can provide, but these devices have other uses as well. They can be used by hikers and climbers to ascertain elevation and distance and by people doing surveying work.

Night vision capability is another popular feature on a digital monocular. A night vision monocular offers almost all the capabilities of a vision system for both eyes, but has fewer expensive optical components, as it needs to provide vision enhancement only for a single eye. Night vision monocular models are available using light intensification, passive infrared, and active infrared. In the latter case, a small infrared spotlight is built into the digital monocular, making for a small but complete night vision package.

Monoculars with night vision capabilities are most often used as aids in hunting because they allow game to be spotted easily after dark. In some cases, they can be mounted to serve as rifle scopes. A digital scope is, after all, a type of digital monocular. These monoculars have other uses as well. With their video recording capability, they can be used in security or in wildlife monitoring and control. They can also be a great help to anyone who needs to move in low-light or dark conditions. Cavers, for example, can use digital monoculars with active infrared to move through caves that are completely dark.

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