Best monocular 2023: Discover the best devices on the market

A woman uses one of the best monocular devices to look over a vast landscape
(Image credit: Apexel)

The best monocular devices are fantastic options for observing a wide range of things, from wildlife in your backyard to exploring constellations and nebulas in the night sky. While binoculars or telescopes might be the first things that come to mind for better views, the best monoculars are often more compact, lighter, and easier to use. They offer a convenient and effective way to enhance your viewing experience without the need for bulkier equipment.

A monocular is essentially just one-half of a pair of binoculars, so they are much easier to transport due to their smaller size. They don't rely on a hinge either, so there are fewer parts to break and monoculars can be easier to share between users thanks to their simple setup and easy-to-use design. 

If stargazing is your thing, there's no harm in looking at the best telescopes and telescope deals. In fact, we'd encourage it. The best binoculars and binocular deals are other options to consider as they can offer great night sky views as well as a good terrestrial viewing experience. However, a monocular is the most portable option and will likely even slip neatly into your pocket — check out our top picks this summer.

Quick list

Best monocular we recommend in 2023

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Best super lightweight model

The 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.

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. ★★★★

Opticron's compact and lightweight Explorer WA ED-R 8x42 is a great choice for a stargazing monocular. It lets in plenty of light through its 42mm objective lens, and is easily pocketable, keeping the unit small for hiking and backpacking. The 8x magnification (a 10x variant is also available) provides an excellent view of different parts of the night sky and is comparable to what you'd see on many binoculars. It also makes it easier for beginners to seek out their objects without experiencing too much wobble.

The Opticron BGA WP 8x42 binoculars are designed to withstand tough conditions. They are waterproof up to three meters and nitrogen-filled, ensuring they remain fog and condensation-proof even when moving between hot and cold environments. The binoculars come with a soft neoprene carry case, which includes a rain guard, padded strap and rubber objective lens covers for added protection. With 17mm of eye relief, they are comfortable to use for people wearing glasses. These features make them a reliable and user-friendly choice for various outdoor activities.

Despite its low price, the wide-field ED optics use the most recent multi-coating technology, which results in plenty of contrast, clarity, and a premium feel.

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignCompact, lightweight and easily pocketable
PerformanceTop quality optics
Functionality17mm eye relief

Best for ruggedness

Hawke Endurance ED 10x42 monocular on a white background

The Hawke Endurance lives up to it's 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 
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 glasses you'd be better off going for 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. ★★★★

This lightweight 10x42 11.5oz/32kg monocular is ideal for travelers who want to enjoy the night sky while out and about. Since the minimum focusing distance is just short of seven feet, it would also be an ideal monocular for nature-watching in a small backyard.

Despite its portability, Hawke hasn't scrimped on the quality of the glass. It is fitted with Hawke's System H5 optics, which include BaK-4 glass, multi-coated lenses and extra-low dispersion (ED) glass to reduce undesirable color fringing.

Designed to withstand various weather conditions, this monocular features a waterproof chassis, durable grip armoring, a protective lens case, a lanyard, lens covers and even a built-in 1/4-inch tripod thread for added stability. The included no-fault lifetime warranty is quite generous, providing assurance of the longevity of the product. However, it's worth noting that the eye relief is only 13mm, which may not be ideal for those who wear glasses. In that case, we would recommend considering an alternative monocular with better eye relief suited for spectacle wearers.

  • Need a tripod? Have a look at our roundup of the Best tripods
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Test results
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: 8x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm / 1.65-inch
Field of view: 6.3 degrees
Eye relief: 19mm / 0.75-inch
Closest focusing distance: 6.6ft / 2.01m
Waterproof: Yes
Fog-proof: Yes
Weight: 10.1oz / 286.3g
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 want to mount it to a tripod: One of the drawbacks of this model is that it doesn't have a tripod thread, so for periods of prolonged viewing you'd want to look elsewhere.

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. ★★★★

The Bushnell Legend Ultra 10x42 monocular is known for its impressive build quality, outstanding optics and valuable extras. With a 42mm objective lens and 10x magnification, the monocular features Bushnell's ED Prime HD glass, along with multi-coated and anti-reflective optics, ensuring clear and detailed views. And despite all these features, it remains lightweight, weighing just 13.2 oz.

For those who wear glasses, its twist-up eyecups provide excellent eye relief, and for added comfort, there's even a comfortable ridge on top of the smooth exterior focuser where your thumb naturally wants to rest.

The Bushnell Legend Ultra 10x42 sets itself apart from the competition by including a premium padded large case with a belt clip, a flip-style lens cap for the front and a rear lens cap that fastens via a lanyard to prevent it from getting lost or misplaced.

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignSuperb build quality
PerformanceExcellent optics
FunctionalityGood eye relief

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. ★★★★

It's always tempting to go for the highest magnification possible when looking at a new optical instrument, but that's not always the best choice. Higher magnification means more weight and the need for larger objective lenses to maintain a bright view and the ability to use them at night. The high magnification also magnifies any movement or wobbles, so it's a lot more challenging to get a steady image. Moderate magnification factors of around 8x are preferred as they're more of a happy medium.

The Vortex Recon R/T 15x50 monocular, though quite expensive, provides an impressive 15x magnification, allowing you to see objects much closer than regular astronomy binoculars or monoculars. However, because of the higher magnification at night, the image's brightness is reduced due to a smaller exit pupil despite having a large 50mm objective lens.

So what is the Vortex Recon R/T 15x50 for in terms of night-sky viewing? The Moon. With its multi-coated extra-low dispersion glass, you can expect detailed and high-resolution images at long distances. It comes with a hand strap and a carry clip that you can use to attach the monocular to a belt or bag.

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Test results
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 has a wide field of view and performs well in all weathers due to its weather sealing. It got discontinued in 2022, so you'll need to search the second-hand market to find one. ★★★½

The Opticron Oregon 4 PC 8x42 is the perfect option for those who need a hardy all-weather monocular as it's waterproof and nitrogen-filled to eliminate fog. For general astronomical use, it boasts a 42mm objective lens that lets in just enough light, and the 8x magnification ensures you get a clear, stable image when sweeping across the night sky.

The roof prism design of this monocular prioritizes wide-field viewing and high-quality optics. It features phase-corrected prism coatings and multi-coated optics, ensuring clear and sharp views during the day and even in low-light conditions. The monocular also includes an external focuser, allowing for easy one-handed operation. However, it does not come with a built-in 1/4-inch tripod adaptor. Additionally, if you wear glasses, you will find its eye relief of 22mm to be very accommodating and comfortable.

The Opticron Oregon 4 PC 8x42 was discontinued in March 2022 so if you're thinking of getting one, don't wait too much longer. The product is still guaranteed for five years though, so don't let that put you off.

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Test results
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

With a smartphone, the only accurate way to capture a close-up image of anything, including objects in the night sky, is to utilize a digital zoom (at least until periscope-style zoom lenses become common on cellphones). Using a digital zoom means the image is cropped, then rebuilt to its original size using algorithms or machine learning. Even though the cameras on some of the best camera phones are constantly improving, digital zoom almost always results in a pretty poor-quality image.

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. Think of it as a small telescope with a fixed zoom of 36x. The Apexel 36x superzoom lens can be held by hand, but it is recommended to use a small tripod to reduce any shaking. To use it, you attach a clip around your smartphone's existing lens and align it with the Apexel 36x super zoom lens. This setup allows you to capture highly magnified images and videos with your smartphone.

It's not perfect; there is no built-in tripod thread, and you need to first take off the case from your smartphone. Instead of a built-in tripod thread, a metal tripod ring adaptor is supplied. In any case, the tripod it's bundled with is quite flimsy, so supply your own tripod, and the Apexel 36x superzoom can be a good setup for taking basic images of the Moon (though don't expect it to fill the field of view). You can use it as a monocular by attaching a small rubber eyepiece, but remember; this does restrict the field of view.

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Test results
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

Best for using with a smartphone, the Celestron Outland X is astronomy-centric making this a digiscoping option

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 50mm / 1.97-inch
Field of view: 5.6 degrees
Eye relief: 16.8mm / 0.66-inch
Closest focusing distance: 8.2ft / 2.5m
Waterproof: Yes
Fog-proof: Yes
Weight: 14.6oz / 414g
Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.7 x 1.8-inch / 136 x 43mm

Reasons to buy

+
Includes smartphone adapter 
+
Large objective lens 
+
Twist-up eyecups 

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively heavy 
-
Smartphone adapter is fiddly 
Buy it if

✅ You shoot with your smartphone: This monocular includes a smartphone attachment, so anyone wanting to do a bit of casual smartphone photography would do well with this model. 

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want lightweight and portable: It's not the heaviest monocular in the world, but it is fairly heavy weighing 14.6oz / 414g — so if you're wanting one for portability, there are better options.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron Outland X 10x50 monocular: With the inclusion of a smartphone mount, this could be considered an ideal digiscoping companion with its astronomy-centric optics. For discovering and studying open star clusters, the Moon and the Milky Way, the 50mm objective lenses with 10x magnification are ideal. ★★★½

Digiscoping is the process of using a camera to take pictures through an optical device such as aligning a cell phone to a telescope's eyepiece. The phone's camera peers down the barrel and can then photograph a magnified view. The camera can produce excellent images of distant ducks during the daytime and the sky at night.

The Celestron Outland X 10x50 has a smartphone mount and could be considered an ideal digiscoping companion with its astronomy-centric optics. For discovering and studying open star clusters, the Moon and the Milky Way, the 50mm objective lenses with 10x magnification are ideal.

The Celestron Outland X monocular has a strong and durable casing to protect its optics. It uses BAK-4 glass prisms and multi-coated optics, which reduce reflections for clearer views. It offers plenty of eye relief, making it comfortable for people who wear glasses.

Additionally, it's waterproof and nitrogen-purged to prevent internal fogging when transitioning between different temperatures, such as moving from the warmth inside to chilly nights outside. The monocular also comes with a smartphone adapter, a protective case, a cleaning cloth and eyepiece covers to provide extra protection and convenience.

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignRelatively heavy
PerformanceIdeal for digiscoping
FunctionalityFog and waterproof

Best for moon observations

Orion 10-25x42 Zoom Waterproof Monocular on a white background

The Orion monocular has an adjustable magnification zoom from 10-25x. (Image credit: Amazon)

Orion 10-25x42 monocular

Best for observations of the Moon, this zoom monocular can be used with a tripod

Specifications

Magnification: 10 - 25x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm / 1.65-inch
Field of view: 3.3 degrees (10x), /2.4 degrees (25x)
Eye relief: 14mm / 0.55-inch
Closest focusing distance: 3.3 ft / 1m
Waterproof: Yes
Fog-proof: Yes
Weight: 10.5oz / 197g
Dimensions: 6.9 x 12.6-inch / 175 x 320mm

Reasons to buy

+
Very short near focus 
+
Lots of magnification 
+
Tripod adapter socket 

Reasons to avoid

-
Narrow field of view 
-
Tripod needed at high magnifications 
-
Some chromatic distortion 
Buy it if

✅ You want something affordable: If you want to view the moon on a budget, this monocular would be ideal.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You don't want to use a tripod: While they're certainly light enough to handhold, higher magnifications will require a tripod to prevent shaky views.

The bottom line

🔎 Orion 10-25x42 monocular You'll have no trouble getting a closer and clearer look at the details of the Moon's craters with this monocular. The 42mm objective aperture lens makes it versatile, allowing you to use it during the day, in low-light conditions or at nighttime. ★★★½

The Orion 10-25x42 — a variable zoom monocular that offers 10x through 25x magnification and a slightly larger objective lens of 42mm to let more light in.

This monocular is another excellent choice for observing the Moon, offering slightly more magnification than its lighter competitor. With a 25x magnification and a slightly narrower field of view, it can focus on objects as close as 20-inches/50 cm away. The 42mm objective aperture lens makes it versatile, allowing you to use it during the day, in low-light conditions or at nighttime. You'll have no trouble getting a closer and clearer look at the details of the Moon's craters with this monocular.

The Orion 10-25x42 is rugged and waterproof and features a rubberized design and multi-coated optics. It has a wrist strap and a soft nylon case with a belt loop, making it ideal for taking on adventures while leaving the regular binoculars at home.

  • Need something small and stable for your monocular? Check out our guide to the Best travel tripods
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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignWaterproof with a rubberized design
PerformanceExcellent for lunar viewing
FunctionalityNarrow FOV

Best monocular Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best monocular for stargazing?

The Vortex Recon R/T 15x50 and Celestron Outland X 10x50 monocular are good options for stargazing because of their larger objective lenses of 50mm. This allows more light to pass through to the eyepiece which aids low light observations.

Which monocular features are important?

Since you're going to be using them outside it's sensible to choose a monocular that has waterproofing and fog-proofing, too, especially as you'll likely be pulling it out of a warm bag or pocket to use in colder air. 

Some monoculars have built-in image capture while others offer smartphone mounts for super-easy 'digiscoping' and a built-in tripod mount.

What is the best monocular for birdwatching?

The Vortex Recon R/T 15x50 monocular is the best monocular for birdwatching in our guide because of its high magnification of 15x and a wide objective lens of 50mm to both zoom into far-away subjects and allow viewers to see in twilight, respectively. However, for flexibility the ability to adjust the zoom amount on the Orion 10-25x42 and Olivon 8-24x40 zoom monocular are equally helpful.

How we test the best monocular

To guarantee you're getting honest, up-to-date recommendations on the best monocular to buy here at Space.com, we make sure to put every monocular through a rigorous review to test each instrument thoroughly. Each monocular is reviewed based on many aspects, from its construction and design, to how well it functions as an optical instrument and performs in the field.

Each monocular is carefully tested by our expert staff or knowledgeable freelance contributors who know their subject areas in depth. This ensures fair reviewing is backed by personal, hands-on experience with each monocular and is judged based on its price point, class and destined use.

We look at how easy it is to set up, and whether it comes with appropriate accessories. We suggest if a particular monocular would benefit from any additional equipment to give you the best viewing experience possible.

With complete editorial independence, Space.com are here to ensure you get the best buying advice on monoculars, whether you should purchase an instrument or not, making our buying guides and reviews reliable and transparent.

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Jamie Carter
Contributing Writer

Jamie 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. He is the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com and author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners, and is a senior contributor at Forbes. His special skill is turning tech-babble into plain English.

With contributions from