Best monocular 2024: Spy top models on the market

The best monocular may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of devices that will help you view wildlife, birds or the night sky, but depending on your viewing habits, they can have several benefits over binoculars or telescopes.

A monocular essentially forms one half of a pair of binoculars, which makes them innately small and lightweight for slipping in a pocket or hanging off your belt or backpack when out hiking. They're also very straightforward and easy-to-use, requiring none of the technical knowledge needed to properly set up a telescope. This makes them a great choice for someone who's often on the move and wants to be able to whip out an observation device at a moment's notice when they spot something exciting in the distance.

Our reviewers have tried and tested a range of different monocular options to bring you a list of the very best, so have a read through if this is something that appeals to you. If you think you'd rather go for a more traditional option, we also have guides to the best binoculars and the best compact binoculars, along with lists of the best telescopes and best beginner telescopes.

Jamie Carter
Jamie Carter

Jamie is a Contributing Writer for Space.com and put together this guide. He is an experienced science, technology and travel journalist and stargazer who writes about exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, moon-gazing, astro-travel, astronomy and space exploration. 

Jamie is the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com and author of A Stargazing Program For Beginnersand is a senior contributor at Forbes. 

Quick list

Best monocular we recommend in 2024

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Best super lightweight model

The Opticron Explorer WA ED-R 8x42 monocular set against a white seamless backdrop

An easily pocketable monocular for stargazing on the move. (Image credit: Opticron)

Opticron Explorer WA ED-R 8x42

Best super lightweight model for wide angles: boasting great specifications for basic astronomy

Specifications

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm / 1.73-inch
Field of view: 7.8 degrees
Eye relief: 18mm / 0.71-inch
Closest focusing distance: 6.6ft / 2.01m
Waterproof: Yes
Fog-proof: Yes
Weight: 9.2 oz / 261g
Dimensions: 4.72 x 1.57 x 1.69-inch / 120 x 40 x 43mm

Reasons to buy

+
Top quality optics 
+
Waterproof and fog-proof 
+
Pocketable 

Reasons to avoid

-
Ergonomically nicer than the binocular counterpart
-
Low stock
Buy it if

✅ You want a great all-rounder: It's affordable, lets plenty of light through, is compact and lightweight, good for beginners and stargazers, can withstand tough conditions and has excellent ED optics.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want high magnification: For zooming in on fine details, you'd likely want an instrument that has a higher magnification. A 10x variant of this model is available.

The bottom line

🔎 Opticron Explorer WA ED-R 8x42 A great all-rounder that boasts fantastic quality optics in a compact package at an affordable price. Perfect for wide-field observations and comfortable and easy to use. ★★★★

The Opticron Explorer WA ED-2 8x42 is a great monocular for beginners looking to engage in a bit of stargazing. The 42mm objective lens allows it to soak in a lot of light from distant stars and the 8x magnification is ideal for reducing wobbles and making it easier to focus in on objects.

Despite the affordable price, the optics on this monocular really are excellent. It features extra-low dispersion (ED) glass to reduce chromatic aberration and ensure accurate color rendition. The optics are also multi-coated, which helps them to produce an image with good contrast and clarity. All this makes it feel like a more premium product than the price would suggest.

This monocular would be excellent for outdoor activities of all kinds since it's highly portable, waterproof for up to three meters and nitrogen filled to prevent fogging when transitioning between warm and cold environments. It also comes with a soft neoprene carry case which features rain guard, a padded strap and rubber lens covers to keep the glass free from scratches.

Glasses-wearers will benefit from the generous 17mm eye relief, and it even comes with a limited lifetime warranty, too. Overall, this is a reasonably-priced monocular with a wide-field view that is ideal for newcomers to astronomy who are wanting to get their first look at the night sky.

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Opticron Explorer WA ED-R 8x42
AttributesNotes
DesignCompact, lightweight and easily pocketable.
PerformanceTop quality optics, durable
Functionality17mm eye relief.

Best for ruggedness

Hawke Endurance ED 10x42 monocular on a white background

The Hawke Endurance lives up to its name with its armored body, waterproof chassis, lens covers and protective case. (Image credit: Amazon)

Hawke Endurance ED 10x42 monocular

Best for ruggedness: this lightweight and waterproof monocular is ideal for observing in the wilderness

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm / 1.65-inch
Field of view: 5.8 degrees
Eye relief: 13mm / 0.51-inch
Closest focusing distance: 6.6ft / 2.01m
Waterproof: Yes
Fog-proof: Yes
Weight: 11.5oz / 326g
Dimensions: 5.6 x 3.1-inch / 143 x 80mm

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent optics 
+
Astro-centric specifications 
+
Waterproof and fog-proof 

Reasons to avoid

-
Large for a pocket 
-
Eye relief isn't great
Buy it if

✅ You want to travel with it: It's lightweight and portable (although not small enough to fit into a pocket), making it a great option for observing wildlife or the night sky when out and about.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You wear glasses: The eye relief is only 13mm, so if you wear eyeglasses you'd be wise to choose a different option.

The bottom line

🔎 Hawke Endurance ED 10x42 monocular Fantastic quality glass in a small and lightweight package, making it perfect for on-the-go observations. It's designed to withstand various weather conditions and comes with great quality accessories. ★★★★

With a rugged body, the Hawke Endurance ED 10x42 is the ideal monocular for traveling: This is a device made to withstand tough conditions without compromising on quality.

With its waterproof optics, you can use this monocular worry-free even in rough weather. Plus, it's nitrogen-purged to prevent fogging. And with its rubber casing, lens covers and lanyard, you're less likely to accidentally drop or misplace it.

This monocular has special phase-corrected BaK-4 roof prisms, fully multi-coated lenses, and extra-low dispersion glass (ED). These features work together to let in as much light as possible and stop color fringing, giving you a super clear image with accurate colors. Overall, we think it makes for a really great viewing experience.

The main drawback is that the eye relief is only 13mm, so it wouldn't be a good choice if you wear glasses. But anyone else is likely to enjoy the convenient twist-up eyecup.

  • Need a tripod? Have a look at our roundup of the Best tripods
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Hawke Endurance ED 10x42
AttributesNotes
DesignLightweight, but too large for a pocket.
PerformanceExcellent optics.
FunctionalityAstro-centric specifications.

Best premium monocular

Bushnell Legend Ultra 10x42 monocular on a white background

The build quality of this monocular is exceptional, it will be protected in all weather. (Image credit: B&H Photo)

Bushnell Legend Ultra 10x42 monocular

Best premium monocular: For those after only the highest image quality

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm / 1.65-inch
Field of view: 6.3 degrees
Eye relief: 15.2mm / 0.6-inch
Closest focusing distance: 6.6ft / 2.01m
Waterproof: Yes
Fog-proof: Yes
Weight: 13.2oz / 374.2g
Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.7 x 1.8-inch / 136 x 43mm

Reasons to buy

+
Superb optics 
+
Excellent quality accessories 
+
Good for glasses wearers

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks a tripod thread 
Buy it if

✅ You wear glasses: This model features twist-up eyecups which provide excellent eye relief if you wear glasses.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're on a budget: This is one of the more expensive products on our list, but you're getting excellent quality for that price.

The bottom line

🔎 Bushnell Legend Ultra 10x42 monocular Known for its impressive build quality, outstanding optics and valuable extras, it sets itself apart from the competition. ★★★★

A highly reputable brand, Bushnell have produced a monocular with exceptional build quality in the Bushnell Legend Ultra 10x42. The entire thing is housed in a black magnesium chassis with tactile, grippy sides and a strong in-built belt clip so you can keep it easily accessible when you're out and about. The design is well thought-out, with a smooth focus knob that sits exactly where your index finger would naturally rest when operating the device one-handed. It's also fully waterproof with a Rainguard HD Hydrophobic Coating on the lenses to enable water to ball up and slip off quickly should you find yourself caught outside with it in the rain.

This monocular is lightweight, coming in at only 13.2 oz (374g), but it still offers a 1/4-20 tripod adapter for if you need to mount it for longer viewing sessions. Bushnell have provided a flip-style lens cap for the front and rear lenses that attaches to a lanyard to stop it getting lost, along with a high-quality padded case with its own belt clip for storing it safely away when not in use.

The optics on offer here are similarly impressive. It uses ED Prime fluorite glass and BaK-4 roof prisms to deliver clear and detailed views, and the optics are fully multi-coated and anti-reflective to ensure accurate color rendition and eliminate chromatic aberration. With a close focus of 6.6 ft (2.01m), you'll be able to zoom in on wildlife even in your backyard. While this is one of the priciest options on our list, we think the quality is worth every penny.

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Bushnell Legend Ultra 10x42
AttributesNotes
DesignSuperb build quality.
PerformanceExcellent optics.
FunctionalityGood eye relief, remarkably lightweight given the optics.

Best for wildlife

Product photo of the Vortex Recon R/T 15x50 monocular

The Moon looks excellent, but this monocular is best for wildlife observation. (Image credit: Amazon)

Vortex Recon R/T 15x50 monocular

Best for wildlife: the Vortex Recon R/T has massive magnification on this wildlife-centric monocular

Specifications

Magnification: 15x
Objective lens diameter: 50mm / 1.97-inch
Field of view: 4.1 degrees
Eye relief: 16mm / 0.63-inch
Closest focusing distance: 12ft / 3.66m
Waterproof: Yes
Fog-proof: Yes
Weight: 15.2oz / 431g
Dimensions: 7 x 2-inch / 178 x 51 mm

Reasons to buy

+
Carry clip 
+
15x magnification 
+
Tripod thread 

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive 
-
Small exit pupil 
-
Not good in darkness 
Buy it if

✅ You're a keen wildlife-watcher: If you have an invested interest in wildlife spotting and have the budget to put into a good monocular, this would be a fantastic option.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want something inexpensive: This model is definitely on the more expensive side, so if you're only a casual user then you'll want to look at another more budget-friendly monocular.

The bottom line

🔎 Vortex Recon R/T 15x50 monocular Though quite expensive, it provides an impressive 15x magnification, allowing you to see objects much closer than regular astronomy binoculars or monoculars. With its multi-coated extra-low dispersion glass, you can expect detailed and high-resolution images at long distances. ★★★★

While the Vortex Recon R/T 15x50 monocular wasn't primarily designed for wildlife-watching, it's still a great choice. It was built with field surveillance and range estimation in mind — but it's because of that, and its high 15x magnification, which makes it such a great choice for nature and skywatchers.

The Vortex Recon R/T 15x50 is built tough, perfect for wildlife observation, especially outdoors with its waterproof design. It's got rubber armor on the outside for a good grip and comes with a rain/dust hood to protect the lens.

The standout feature of this monocular is its optics. With a 15x magnification, it lets you see objects up close, even more than regular binoculars. Plus, the multi-coated lenses and extra-low dispersion glass ensure really clear images, which is perfect for getting those detailed views of the moon.

However, this increased level of magnification comes with some drawbacks. Despite the substantial 50mm objective lens, this monocular may not provide as bright an image at night compared to, for example, an 8x magnification. Additionally, maintaining a steady hand is crucial to avoid a shaky image, but Vortex has thoughtfully included a screw thread for convenient tripod mounting, ensuring stable views.

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Vortex Recon R/T 15x50
AttributesNotes
DesignSmall exit pupil.
PerformanceNot good in darkness.
Functionality15x magnification.

Best for spectacles wearers

Opticron Oregon 4 PC 8x42 monocular on a white background

The now discontinued Opticron Oregon 4 PC 8x42 monocular is the best option for spectacle wearers thanks to its long 22mm eye relief. (Image credit: B&H Photo)

Opticron Oregon 4 PC 8x42 monocular

Best for spectacles wearers: this grab-and-go monocular is suited to wide-field observing

Specifications

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm / 1.65 inch
Field of view: 7 degrees
Eye relief: 22mm / 0.87-inch
Closest focusing distance: 5.9ft / 1.8m
Waterproof: Yes
Fog-proof: Yes
Weight: 12.1oz / 343g
Dimensions: 5.8 x 2.9 x 2-inch / 147 x 74 x 52mm

Reasons to buy

+
 Wide view 
+
 Generous eye relief 
+
 External focuser 

Reasons to avoid

-
 No tripod adaptor 
-
 Lacks magnification 
Buy it if

✅ You want something weatherproof: It's waterproof and nitrogen-filled to eliminate fog, so it's a great, hardy option to use in any and all weather. 

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want to see fine details: Due to its wide field of view, we wouldn't recommend it for viewing close-ups of the Moon's craters.

The bottom line

🔎 Opticron Oregon 4 PC 8x42 monocular Good for general astronomy for sweeping across the sky, and produces sharp views during the day and in low light conditions. It was discontinued in 2022, so you may need to search the second-hand market to find one. ★★★½

The Opticron Oregon 4 PC 8x42 was officially discontinued in March 2022, but it's still easily accessible, which is why we are still happy to recommend it, especially for those who wear glasses. However, if you are considering getting one, it's advisable not to wait too long. Despite its discontinuation, a new purchase still comes with a five-year guarantee, so there's no need to be deterred by that.

This monocular is top-notch, designed with a roof prism for quality. Its multi-coated optics ensure clear and sharp views, perfect for stargazing at night or watching wildlife during the day. 

The 8x magnification strikes a good balance between zoom and stability, and the 42mm objective lens lets in plenty of light for bright images.

We also love that the Opticron Oregon 4 PC 8x42 is usable in almost all weather thanks to being waterproof and fog-proof (nitrogen-filled). Its body offers just enough texture to be gripped well in the hand, and it's small enough to put in your pocket as you travel.

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Opticron Oregon 4 PC 8x42
AttributesNotes
DesignGenerous eye relief.
PerformanceLacks magnification.
FunctionalityWide FOV.

Best for magnification

Apexel 36x super zoom monocular/smartphone lens on a white background

A tiny portable monocular you can attach to your phone's lens to get closer to the action and take photos. (Image credit: Amazon)

Apexel 36x super zoom monocular/smartphone lens

Best for magnification: the Apexel 36x is a fixed optical zoom lens for taking photos and videos of the Moon

Specifications

Magnification: 36x
Objective lens diameter: 36mm / 1.42-inch
Field of view: 5.3 degrees
Eye relief: 20mm / 0.79-inch
Closest focusing distance: 16.4ft / 5m
Waterproof: No
Fog-proof: No
Weight: 8.8oz / 249.5g
Dimensions: 8.5 x 5 x 2.4-inch / 216 x 127 x 102mm

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to use 
+
Clips on to a smartphone 
+
Can be bundled with tripod 

Reasons to avoid

-
Fixed zoom 
-
Lacks tripod thread 
-
Small field of view 
Buy it if

✅ You're a content creator: This monocular is designed to attach to a smartphone, so would be best suited to those who create content with their smartphone.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want flexibility: This monocular has a fixed zoom, so it wouldn't be ideal for viewing moving objects where you may need to zoom in or out.

The bottom line

🔎 Apexel 36x super zoom monocular/smartphone lens: Think of it as a small telescope with a fixed zoom of 36x. When it comes to zooming in, using a clip-on lens with superior optics, such as this monocular made of BaK-4 glass with roof prisms, is a far superior option compared to digital zoom. ★★★½

The Apexel 36x super zoom is a multi-purpose lens that can be used as both a monocular and a telephoto lens for your smartphone camera. It's also one of the most affordable options on our list.

Apexel offers a solution to the limitations of smartphone cameras that often suffer from degraded image quality with digital zoom. Their compact telescope attachment easily clips onto your smartphone lens, enabling you to capture high-quality photos and videos of distant objects. This proves endlessly useful for content creators, wildlife enthusiasts and anyone interested in shooting sports, concerts or celestial bodies like the moon.

We were impressed by the optics of the Apexel 36x super zoom. It comes with BaK-4 glass and roof prisms, along with multi-coated lenses that reduce ghosting, reflections and lens flare. However, it's important to mention that while the fixed 36x magnification can capture decent images of the Moon, it won't completely fill the field of view, giving about 5.3 degrees of coverage.

You have the option to purchase it with a tripod in a bundle, but we found that the tripod isn't very sturdy, so, you might prefer to use your own instead. It doesn't have a built-in thread for the tripod, but it does have a metal adapter ring for one, and it also includes a small rubber eyepiece that can be used as a monocular. If you enjoy taking photos with your smartphone, this is a useful and adaptable piece of equipment.

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Apexel 36x super zoom
AttributesNotes
DesignClips onto a smartphone.
PerformanceEasy to use.
FunctionalityFixed zoom.

Best for use with a smartphone

Outland X 10x50 monocular on a white background

The Celestron Outland X 10x50 monocular acts as an excellent digiscope in any weather. (Image credit: B&H Photo)

Celestron Outland X 10x50 monocular