For those backpackers amongst us that like to carry a small optic for nature watching and the like, there are surprisingly few decent options. The Viking 8×25 ED monocular is a well made instrument with features that belie its reasonable price.
A pair of binoculars are always going to be the preferred choice for tracking that Hen Harrier quartering the phragmites in the depths of winter, or picking out the Little Stint amongst the large group of Dunlin chasing the rapidly moving surf. However the weight and bulk of binoculars is seldom an acceptable addition to a gear list. While monoculars are lighter and less bulky than binoculars, they suffer from a much reduced field of view and are more difficult to use. This can make finding an object and staying on it troublesome, especially if it is a moving object such as a bird in flight, a butterfly or that most difficult of subjects, a dragonfly. Whereas a binocular has two lenses and can be intuitively tracked onto an object of interest, this is less easy to perform with a monocular, but this does becomes easier with practice. I have been carrying and using an 8×20 Opticron Gallery Scope for over twenty years on trail, but the Viking 8×25 ED monocular is a step up in optical glass quality.
Viking began trading in 1986 and became the largest independent optical equipment importer in the UK though I am not aware of the country of origin for the Viking monocular looked at here. They have two small lightweight monoculars in their range, an 8×25 and a 10×25. Both high quality optics have twist down eyecups for spectacle/glasses wearers. The smaller of these is likely to be the only one considered suitable for backpacking due to the greater field of view and better light gathering qualities. This is especially noticeable on dull days and at dusk. Weight difference is negligible. The 8×25 weighs 162g and the 10×25 weighs 166g, just 4g heavier. It is the field of view and reduced ‘shake’ that are the most significant difference in their specifications and this makes a difference when actually used.
|8 x 25||10 x 25|
|Minimum focus distance (m)||2*||2|
|Field of view||6.8°||5.6°|
|Eye Relief (mm)||15.3||14.1|
|Dimensions (mm)||111 x 31 x 31||111 x 32 x 30|
The dimensions of the Viking 8×25 ED Monocular fit the hand well and the twist in/out eyecup is smooth and quick to work. As a glasses wearer this is always the feature that I test first with both monoculars and binoculars. The Viking has an Eye Relief of 15.3 which is sufficient both for people who wear glasses and those who do not. The hard rubber surface of the eyecup rests comfortably against my spectacle lens. I find the eyecup almost unnoticeable in use and the hard edging does not smear or scratch against my lenses either. Even with the eyecup twisted out, there should be no loss of field for most people and this monocular is comfortable to use. The ED glass is fully coated, this, together with the phase corrected prism coating, gives a clear image right across the field of view with little visible colour fringing. While there is only an Exit Pupil of 3.125, adequate for good lighting conditions, the low light performance is almost as equally impressive, which must be down to the use of excellent internal glass and complimentary components. There is a discrepancy in the manufacturers specified minimum close-focus* which states two metres, but the 8×25 ED monocular will focus down to 1.6 metres. This is OK but not fantastic and is no improvement over my aged Opticron monocular which is both lighter at 109g and has a remarkable close focus of just 30 centimetres. This makes a real difference when trying to view flowers, insects etc. It has a field of view of 119 metres over 1000m, equivalent to an Angle of View of 6.8°.
The Viking monocular has a lightweight magnesium alloy design with some rubber armour finish improving grip in the wet. They are Nitrogen filled to prevent fogging and waterproof. The focus ring can be easily manipulated and turned even when wearing gloves and at just 111mm in length this monocular will tuck away in the hip belt of a pack though the case can probably be swapped out for a simple ziplock bag. In 2022 this monocular normally cost £125 but with a little searching it can be found at under a £100. A case and strap is supplied with each monocular, along with a five year guarantee. It is a lovely instrument, ideally specced and suited to those prepared to pay a little money for that first venture in to on-trail optics.
Three Points of the Compass has produced three other blogs on the subject of monoculars on trail: