Hunting For the Best Night Vision Monocular Under $500

It is possible to buy a good low cost night vision monocular. In fact, there are many available for under $500. Hunters may find themselves in low light situations where they require the ability to enhance their sight after dark. They shouldn't have to pay a fortune for this piece of equipment and so we have put together a comparison list with reviews of some of the best night vision monoculars under $500. 

Night vision monoculars are easy to carry devices that make it possible to amplify light. They have become very popular devices with hunters because they are easy to use, don’t take up a lot of room in your pocket or pack and can be operated one-handed.

The selection of night vision monoculars is extensive from the less expensive Gen 1 models to the high end mil-spec Gen 3 versions. For hunters who are operating on a tight budget, the cost of an expensive monocular possibly cannot be justified when there is so many other pieces of equipment to also buy.

Fortunately there are many good quality night vision monoculars under $500 on the market that will serve the needs of the majority of hunters. These monoculars still come from highly respected manufacturers and will enhance the vision to the point where a high level of detail will be able to be made out in dark conditions.

Browse through the selection of night vision monoculars under $500 that have been listed and compared below. Further down the page you will find more detailed reviews of each monocular to highlight their features and capabilities. We have provided a price within the table which is the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price which is usually higher than the price you can usually buy each item for.

Make / Model

Mag.

Obj.
Lens

Length

Weight

MSRP

Night Owl Xgen 2.1x Digital

2.1x

20mm

3.1"

7 oz

$140.00

Pulsar Digiforce 860VS

6.5x

50mm

3.4"

14 oz

$299.97

Sightmark Ghost Hunter Gen 1

2x

24mm

5.5"

8.8 oz

$239.99

Firefield Nightfall 2

5x

50mm

6"

15.2 oz

$159.99

Bushnell Equinox Z

6x

50mm

3.9"

27 oz

$255.00

Armasight Spark CORE

1x

35mm

5.8"

13 oz

$499.00

Night Owl 5 Power

5x

50mm

7.75"

16 oz

$273.99

Night Optics Guardian Gen 1+

3.6x

80mm

7.5"

17 oz

$399.99

Detailed Descriptions of Night Vision Monoculars Under $500

 Now that we have had a chance to take a brief side-by-side look at the night vision monoculars that are among the most affordable of those that are commonly available on the market today we will get a more detailed look at each model. Below is a short review of each monocular along with product specifications and listed features. Read through the details of each to get a better understanding of what it is that differentiates each product.​

Night Owl XGen 2.1x Digital Night Vision Monocular

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This monocular can be considered a great entry level night vision monocular. It features first generation technology that uses infrared technology that provides a clear enough picture that will enable spotting and identifying game at night.

The monocular has magnification of 2.1x strength and this is adequate in that it will double the size of objects to that of what the normal size is. The images are displayed on the night vision viewer that has QVGA micro-display resolution of 320 x 240 pixels.

It has pre-programmed illumination settings and it can view out to a distance of 70 yards thanks to the assistance of the built-in infrared illuminator. It is a compact and lightweight device that can be operated one handed without any problems. It is powered by 3 AA batteries.

Any hunter who quickly needs to acquire a target at night and doesn’t want to spend a huge sum of money to do it, this monocular is the perfect device. It will give you the ability to pick up coyotes, feral pigs and other night time varmints over shorter distances.

Pulsar Digiforce 860VS Digital Night Vision Monocular

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This monocular is equipped with an extremely sensitive CMOS sensor and has an adjustable power IR illuminator and the zoom magnification capabilities means it is possible to view objects at both close and long range. It offers crisp night vision imaging on a 640 x 480 viewer and there are 3 range finding reticle options that enable distance measuring to objects with known heights.

The monocular is powered by 4xAA batteries but it also features an external power supply which will significantly increase the operation time.

The unit comes with a carrying case, a wrist strap, a video cable, a lens cloth as well as the user manual and warranty card.

This is an outstanding choice that will offer the hunter a great deal of versatility and reliable use no matter whether it is used for hunting, surveillance or security.

​Sightmark Ghost Hunter Gen 1 2x24 Night Vision Monocular

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This is another low-priced monocular that boasts plenty of power and provides ample night vision capability. It has a high-power 805nm infrared illuminator that provides vivid imaging in low-ambient light conditions as well as total darkness.

The Ghost Hunter is constructed from a lightweight but durable polymer. It has magnification strength of 2x power which makes it ideal for observing objects from close range.

To prevent damage to the unit it boasts an automatic shut-off feature that turns it off when exposed to bright light sources. This will ensure the night vision tube is preserved and will continue operation over many years.

The unit is powered by 2xAA batteries and the battery life when using the infrared capabilities is around 20 hours.

Firefield 5x50 Nightfall 2 Night Vision Monocular

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This is a great option for a hunter on a budget. The Firefield Nightfall 2 monocular is a nicely compact unit that is extremely powerful and provides a wide field of vision as well as bringing a great deal of magnification power to the party.

This is a well-designed night vision monocular that is easy to use single-handed and provides the night vision capabilities with a PULSE infrared illuminator with an 805nm wavelength. The durable rubber armor housing protects the unit from incidental bumps and makes it easier to grip when in use.

It has a range of around 75 feet and the 5x magnification brings objects into clear view through the large 50mm objective lens with a field of view of around 15 degrees providing to be sufficient for most hunters’ needs.

The unit is powered by 2xAA batteries and this will provide up to 20 hours of use when the infrared illumination is in operation.

​Bushnell 6x50 Equinox Z Digital Night Vision Monocular

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The Equinox Z is another product from the ever-reliable Bushnell company that provides a versatile and powerful night vision monocular. It is equipped with 6x magnification and provides 1-3x zoom to make it possible to view out to a distance of 1000 feet with the infrared illuminator.

The wide 50mm objective lens means that the image display will be with a field of vision that will extend to 20 feet wide at 100 yards. The entire unit has a rubber housing that not only offers it protection from being bumped but also makes it easier to grip and use in the one hand.

The unit provides you with the capability of image capture as well as video and sound recording and this is possible both in day time or night time. The digital technology means that day time viewing will be in color.

The unit is powered by 4xAA batteries.

​Armasight Spark CORE Multi-Purpose Night Vision Monocular

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This monocular just scrapes under our $500 limit. It is equipped with Generation 1 night vision technology but it features CORE (Ceramic Optical Ruggedized Engine) technology image intensifier tubes. The CORE tubes use a specially formulated ceramic compound fused with metal alloys instead of glass making it more durable as well as improving the image resolution.

The unit has a built-in IR Illuminator and has a compact design measuring 5.8 x 1.9 x 3.2 inches. It is easy to operate, is weapon mountable and can also be mounted on the head or a helmet to give you hands-free capability.

It comes with the standard of 1x magnification but it is possible to optionally increase that to 3x or 5x magnification.

The monocular is powered by either a CR123 Lithium 3V battery or CR123 type rechargeable batteries with voltage 3.2V.

​Night Owl 5-Power NOXM50 Monocular

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Although this monocular is a Gen 1 night vision device it is equipped with a high quality image intensifier that does not sacrifice light amplification for magnification. It is a nice size and features high quality all-glass objective and ocular lenses.

The monocular is built from impact-resistant molded thermoplastic exterior that comprises the lens housing. This is then covered in a soft-touch rubberized finish so that it feels comfortable in the hand. The full dimensions of the unit are 7.75”L x 3.79”W x 2.48” H.

The 5 Power provides 5x magnification through a 50mm lens diameter. It has a minimum focal distance of 5.7” and provides a 39 foot wide Field of View at 200 feet distance. It has a built-in Infrared illuminator and is powered by a 3-volt Type 123 lithium battery which must be bought separately.

You can expect to get around 45 to 100 hours of battery life from the unit, depending on the amount of time the infrared is being used.

​Night Optics Guardian Gen 1+ Monocular

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This is a monocular with multi-coated optics that is also equipped with a sensor that makes it capable of providing bright light protection. It is a Gen 1 night vision monocular that comes with an integrated IR illuminator.

​This is the model that offers 3.6x magnification and will gather as much ambient light as possible through the 80mm Objective Lens. When combined with the IR Illuminator and multi-coated lens this monocular will return a high-performance unit.

​It is powered by a 3V CR123 battery and you can expect that to have a life of around 30 hours. This particular unit also has an optional camera/camcorder adaptor. When you buy it, it comes with the monocular, a soft case, the battery, a lens cloth and the operator manual.

​Not all night vision technology is equal. As technology has gone through improvements we have seen significant changes in the quality of the thermal imaging that has made night vision products vastly superior today than they once were. These jumps in technological advancement have resulted in distinct generations that are commonly referred to when discussing the various products.

​We have been almost exclusively been examining Generation 1 night vision monoculars, the technology of which we will discuss in a little more detail.

​Generation 1 Technology

​This is the earliest version of night vision technology and was first developed in the 1960s. A Gen 1 device is one which contains a photocathode plate and an image intensifier tube.

​In order for a Gen 1 monocular to work, there either must be some source of ambient light available or it must have an IR illuminator built in that will provide some light. Because the light source that is used to provide a viewable image is not particularly powerful, the result is usually an image that is not particularly bright and the resolution is low.

​When using a Gen 1 monocular it is possible to make out a human-sized object at a distance of around 100 yards away. That is, you can probably make out the shape as one which is recognisable as human but would be unlikely to make out clear features.

​This is usually quite okay if you are using the night vision monocular to be able to pick up the existence and position of an animal such as a hog or smaller varmint.

​Things that will affect the performance of a Gen 1 monocular include the size of the objective, the magnification level, the intensifier tube and, if used, the IR illuminator.

​The Gen 1 technology is perfect for those who are more hobbyists rather than professionals. They will perform the job required of them and you won’t have to shell out large sums of money to buy them.

The examples of night vision monoculars that have been discussed on this page indicate that it is not necessary to spend thousands of dollars. These units are Generation 1 versions and the quality is not the military spec standard of the finest pieces of equipment, but they are more than adequate for a hunter who merely needs to identify objects in the dark.

Important factors such as the size and weight of each monocular are pretty similar and won’t weigh down the pack. They are all capable of being used one-handed, a factor that is necessary when loaded down with equipment and you need to get a fast bead on an object.

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