REVIEW – There are so many things to see when you’re out and about in nature. Birds, animals, flowers, and such. Unfortunately, many of those things wind up being some distance away from where you happen to be at the time. Good binoculars are heavy and tough to easily carry. Telescopes are even worse. If only there was an easy-to-carry solution that you could carry in your pocket so can let you see distant objects. Enter the monocular. Nocs Provisions has an entry into this space that is worth a look.
What is it?
The Nocs Provisions Zoom Tube is a monocular. What is a monocular, you ask? Think of half of a pair of binoculars. Think of a miniature telescope. It is essentially that – a device that you hold up to one eye to let you see distant objects up close. To me, its name, Zoom Tube, is a little confusing as there is no zoom on the monocular. I guess, it means that it zooms in on whatever you’re looking at.
What’s in the box?
Let’s start with the box itself. Everything comes packaged in recyclable cardboard. Rather than include a printed instruction manual for what is a simple-to-use, device, they print the basic instructions right on the box. Normally, I’d ding them for this, but with a simple device like this, it is the perfect delivery method. They include suggested uses:
- Wave finding
- Creature spotting
- Bird watching
- Don’t be a creeper
- Nocs Provisions Zoom Tube monocular
- Carry pouch
- Microfiber cleaning cloth
- Wrist strap
- Dimensions:126mm l x 47mm w x 69mm h / 4.96″ l x 1.85″ w x 2.72″ h
- Weight: 241g / 8.5oz
- Power: 8x
- Objective lens ø (the front side): 32mm (the combination of the power and objective lens size is how optics are “sized” – 8×32)
- Ocular lens ø (the eye side): 16mm
- Field of view (7.3º): 384ft @ 1000yds
- Lens coating type: Fully multi-coated
- Prism type: Roof / Bak4
- Waterproof rating: IPX4 – ok in a drizzle
- Eyecup type: Twist up
- Eye relief: 13.6mm
- Number of lenses: 4 pieces / 2 groups, central focus system
- Close focus: 3m/ 10ft
- Exit pupil diameter: 4mm / 4/25″
- Tripod compatible: Yes
Design and features
The rubber-coated Nocs Provisions Zoom Tube fits cleanly in the hand with an index finger falling naturally on the focus knob.
Here’s a look at the end that you look through. You can see the knurled focus knob. Turning it changes the focus from its ten-foot close focus limit to infinity.
The business end (objective) features a large optic that does a great job letting in the light.
The bottom of the Nocs Provisions Zoom Tube is flat and the monocular stands easily.
That flat bottom has a standard tripod mount so if you want to secure it to a tripod, you can. Nocs also sells a clip that screws into the tripod socket that allows you to clip the monocular onto a backpack strap.
There is a slot right above the tripod socket that is designed to hold the included wrist strap.
The eyecup is a twist-out design. Twisting the eye cup out lets eyeglass wearers use the Zoom Tube more easily.
Nocs also sent along an optional $35 cell phone photography rig. It came in a similar box printed with instructions.
Here is a look at both sides of the rig. The screw-down clamp at the bottom is designed to attach to the eyecup on the monocular. The rotating and spring-loaded clamp at the top is designed to cradle your cell phone. The knob on the back (right) locks your cell phone in position.
The phone mount slides up and down as well as rotates so you should be able to line up the camera no matter where it is on your phone.
There is no setup needed to use the Nocs Provisions Zoom Tube monocular. Optionally, you can install the wrist strap. This proved to be a bit of a challenge as the strap isn’t stiff enough to fit through the tight slot. A little patience and some shoving with a small screwdriver blade got the job done.
To set up the photography rig, you clamp it onto the Nocs Zoom Tube monocular, snap in your phone, and then maneuver your cell phone so that the camera lens lines up with the eyecup. Once locked in place, it lets your cell phone take photos through the monocular.
When this arrived for me to test, we were getting ready to head out for a road trip from Florida to Maine. When we arrived in Maine, our daughter took us on a drive around the Mt. Blue state park area near Wilton, Maine. We were afforded spectacular views. That gave me the perfect opportunity to use the Nocs Provisions Zoom Tube to check out the distant hills. One nice thing about the Zoom Tube is its size. Rather than lug a big old pair of binoculars, I was able to slip the Zoom Tube into my pocket. One issue I have with binoculars, especially ones with a long reach, is that it isn’t easy to hold them steady. You can always spring for heavy and expensive image-stabilized binoculars, or, use a monocular. The one-handed design is inherently more stable and I found it easy to hold it steady. The colors were vivid and the image was crisp. It was simple to focus with the knurled focus knob. In my not-so-humble opinion, I thought that the Zoom Tube was a terrific performer.
Before we left for the trip, I played with the photography rig. To use the rig, I twisted out the eyecup and screwed on the rig. Then, I attached my cell phone and moved it around, trying to line up the camera lens. It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of fiddling and nudging.
Here’s what it looked like with I finally got it lined up.
The issue was then how to screw down the lock without moving the phone. This took more dexterity gymnastics but I eventually got it locked in place.
Here’s a look out the back of our house. Please excuse the reflection of a local television commercial on the phone. 🙂
Here’s a screenshot of it as well.
One issue with my Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is that it has multiple cameras. This means that if you choose to zoom, the camera will change and you will have to reposition the rig.
Here is a comparison of a photo from the Nocs Provisions Zoom Tube with the Photo Rig and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and a photo zoomed in directly on my Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra.
The top photo was taken with the rig and the bottom with the phone alone. As you can see, the phone image is more clear and the colors are richer. This is not a surprise as any time you introduce more lenses for the light to flow through, you will lose quality. For me, I don’t like the rig. It is difficult to use and gives modest results. But, if you don’t have a cell phone with a great built-in optical zoom lens, this is a terrific solution.
What I like
- Small, light, easy to carry, and fits well in the hand
- Great image quality
- Focuses easily
- Environmentally smart packaging
What I’d change
- Nothing about the Zoom Tube
- I’d make the photography rig easier to line up and lock in place
I like the Nocs Provisions Zoom Tube 8×32 monocular. It has become a permanent fixture in my travel kit and will be coming with us as we head to Antarctica later this fall. I am looking forward to great looks at distant birds without schlepping anything big and bulky. As for the photography rig, if you use an older cell phone with little to no zoom, it will help you get photos of distant objects. If you’re using a more modern cell phone with a long optical zoom, you’re better off just using your cell phone’s zoom.