Best Monoculars for Stargazing & Astrophotography [2021]

Primarily for wildlife viewing, hunting and daytime observing, monoculars and small handheld telescopes can also be great for astronomy and even astrophotography.

They are ultra-compact and light as well as being easy to use, and so have many advantages over telescopes and binoculars, particularly when traveling.

Here we recommend the best monoculars for stargazing for different budgets and explain what to look for when buying. We also cover the pros and cons of monoculars vs binoculars, telescopes, and spotting scopes.

*This website makes money through affiliate commissions. This means we may be compensated if you click links on this page at no extra cost to you.

Preview
Best overall
Celestron 10x50mm Outland X Monocular with Smartphone Adapter
Best for travel
Orion 10-25x42 Zoom Waterproof Monocular (Black)
Best photography
Celestron 20x50mm Outland X Monocular with Tripod, Smartphone Adapter
Best Budget
K&F Concept HD 12X50 Monocular Telescope for Smartphone, High Power Monoculars for Adults, BAK4 Prism IP68 Waterproof Compact Monocular Scope for Bird Watching Hunting with Phone Holder & Hand Strap
Best Night Vision
SIONYX Aurora I Full-Color Digital Night Vision Camera with Hard Case I Infrared Night Vision Monocular with Ultra Low-Light IR Sensor I Weapon Rated, Water Resistant, WiFi, Compass & GPS Capable.
Make & Model
Celestron 10x50mm Outland
Orion 10-25x42
Celestron 20x50mm Outland
K&F Concept 12x50
Sionyx Aurora
Magnification
10x
10x-25x
20x
12x
n/a
Lens diameter
50mm
42mm
50mm
50mm
n/a
Amazon price
$84.95
$79.99
$104.95
$49.99
$639.00
Check prices at different retailers
Best overall
Preview
Celestron 10x50mm Outland X Monocular with Smartphone Adapter
Make & Model
Celestron 10x50mm Outland
Magnification
10x
Lens diameter
50mm
Amazon price
$84.95
Check prices at different retailers
Best for travel
Preview
Orion 10-25x42 Zoom Waterproof Monocular (Black)
Make & Model
Orion 10-25x42
Magnification
10x-25x
Lens diameter
42mm
Amazon price
$79.99
Check prices at different retailers
Best photography
Preview
Celestron 20x50mm Outland X Monocular with Tripod, Smartphone Adapter
Make & Model
Celestron 20x50mm Outland
Magnification
20x
Lens diameter
50mm
Amazon price
$104.95
Check prices at different retailers
Best Budget
Preview
K&F Concept HD 12X50 Monocular Telescope for Smartphone, High Power Monoculars for Adults, BAK4 Prism IP68 Waterproof Compact Monocular Scope for Bird Watching Hunting with Phone Holder & Hand Strap
Make & Model
K&F Concept 12x50
Magnification
12x
Lens diameter
50mm
Amazon price
$49.99
Check prices at different retailers
Best Night Vision
Preview
SIONYX Aurora I Full-Color Digital Night Vision Camera with Hard Case I Infrared Night Vision Monocular with Ultra Low-Light IR Sensor I Weapon Rated, Water Resistant, WiFi, Compass & GPS Capable.
Make & Model
Sionyx Aurora
Magnification
n/a
Lens diameter
n/a
Amazon price
$639.00
Check prices at different retailers

Last update on 2021-12-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Best Monoculars & Handheld Telescopes for Astronomy

We have chosen five of the best monoculars that can be used for stargazing according to different priorities. This is:

  1. Best overall
  2. Best budget
  3. Best for viewing & photographing the moon
  4. Smallest for travel
  5. Best night vision

Read on to see our recommendations and see further below the buying guide to understand what the specifications mean and what you should look out for.

Celestron 10x50mm Outland Monocular

Best Monocular for Stargazing

Celestron 10x50mm Outland Monocular

The Celestron Outland 10×50 Monocular is a light, compact, but powerful bit of gear that you can use to observe the night sky. We recommend it overall as the best monocular for stargazing.

The 10×50 in the name refers to:

  • 10 times magnification – this is good for being able to scan the sky with a suitably wide field of view. Higher magnfication means you zoom in more but also it narrows the expanse of the sky you can see, so you don’t want this too high with stargazing (unless you only want to observe the moon – see more on this below).
  • 50mm lens diameter – this is a good width of lens to enable clear views. To put it in context, you can get good budget telescopes and binoculars with 60-70mm lenses.

If you want to understand these specifications some more, see the monocular buying guide below.

This model comes with a carry bag for easy packing and storage, as well as a smartphone adapter so that you can use it to take pictures or videos.

Pros

  • Celeston is one of the most reliable brands for astronomy gear
  • Good 10 times magnifcation for a wide of field of view
  • 50mm lenses can provide bright clear views
  • Quality Bak-4 prisms and multi-coated optics for clear contrast and views
  • Eye relief (the distance you need to have your eye from the eyepiece) is good to be suitable for people wearing glasses
  • Includes bag for easy travel and storage
  • Can be used for photography with a smartphone and includes an adapter

Cons

  • Not the cheapest and there are lower budget options available
  • You may prefer higher magnification for closer views of the moon

You can also get the Celestron Outland in 15x or 20x magnification – we cover the 20x version below.

These will give you closer views of the moon and the planets, but will actually make general stargazing harder. This is because the higher magnification gives you a narrower view of the sky exaggerates the unsteadiness that comes with using them by hand when looking closely at specific objects.

These higher magnification versions are great specifically for viewing and photographing the moon though.

Overall, this 10×50 model is a great all round monocular for stargazing and our best overall recommendation.

Key specifications

  • Lens diameter: 50mm
  • Magnification: 10x
  • Weight: 1.15lb
  • Eye relief: 16.8mm
  • Accessories: Carry case, smartphone adapter

Orion 10-25×42 Zoom Monocular

Smallest astronomy monocular for travel

Orion 10-25x42 Zoom Monocular

The Orion 10-25×42 is a small, lightweight monocular that has the added bonus of zoom magnification.

The zoom magnification means you get the best of both worlds with a wider field of view at 10x or you can zoom in to see the moon close up at 25x.

Like Celestron, Orion is one of the best brands for astronomy equipment in the world.

This model is just 7 inches long, weighs just 0.75 lbs (0.3 kg), and is waterproof, so is perfect for taking out on trips.

This video from Orion gives a quick overview of the functionality of these monoculars:

Pros

  • Ultra small and lightweight – perfect for camping and travel
  • Orion are a reliable manufacturer of quality gear
  • Zoom magnification gives you adaptability of wider field of view or narrorwer close-up viewing
  • Waterproofing means you don’t have to worry about the conditions
  • Can attach to a regular tripod for photography without the need of an adapter

Cons

  • 42mm lens diameter is smaller than other options and will not have as good views
  • No tripod or smartphone adapter included

You can also get the non-zoom version with just 10×42 – see here.

This is a great stargazing monocular option if you want something super small that you can slip in your pocket and take out with you on trips.

Key specifications

  • Lens Diameter: 42mm
  • Magnification: 10x to 25x (zoom)
  • Weight: 0.75lb
  • Eye relief: 14mm
  • Accessories: Carry case

Celestron Outland 20×50 Monocular

Best handheld telescope for moon photography with iPhone

Celestron Outland 20x50 Monocular

The Celestron Outland 20×50 Monocular gives you high magnification and includes a tripod to give you all you need for viewing and photographing the moon.

Whereas the 10×50 model above will give you a wider view of the sky and may be better for scanning for shooting stars or meteor showers, this model enables you to get closer in on the moon.

The tripod bypasses the issue of unsteadiness of high magnification when using by hand and means that these are perfect for iPhone and smartphone photography.

Pros

  • Celeston is one of the most reliable brands for astronomy gear
  • 20 times magnifcation for close up views of the moon
  • 50mm lenses can provide bright clear views
  • Tripod and smartphone photography adapter enable it for astrophotography and capturing images of the moon
  • Quality Bak-4 prisms and multi-coated optics for clear contrast and views
  • Includes bag for easy travel and storage

Cons

  • Eye relief lower than with the 10×50 model and so less suitable for glasses wearers
  • More expensive than budget options
  • Higher magnifcation less suitable for scanning wider expanses for the sky for meteor showers etc

These are high-quality monoculars that will work brilliantly for observing and photographing the moon. If planets like Mars are visible you may also be able to capture them in images (although don’t expect too much).

Key specifications

  • Lens Diameter: 50mm
  • Magnification: 20x
  • Weight: 1.15lb
  • Eye relief: 11mm
  • Accessories: Tripod, carry case, smartphone photography adapter.

K&F Concept 12×50 Monocular

Best budget monocular for astronomy

K&F Concept 12x50 Monocular

The K&F Concept 12×50 Monocular is a great budget option that has all you need in one – good spec monoculars, plus smartphone adapter and tripod for photography.

Pros

  • Cheap and a great deal with all you need in one
  • Good spec magnification and aperture for good viewing
  • Smartphone adapter and tripod for photography all included
  • Waterproof body for all environments

Cons

  • Not as high quality build as the Celeston or Orion models recommended on this page

These are a great budget option for an all round monocular.

For astronomy, they will not compete with the optics of Celestron or Orion models but if you are looking for something you will just use occasionally then these are a good inexpensive option.

Key specifications

  • Lens Diameter: 50mm
  • Magnification: 12x
  • Weight: 1lb
  • Accessories: Tripod, smartphone adapter, bag

Sionyx Aurora

Best Night Vision Monocular for Astronomy

sionyx aurora

The Sionyx Aurora is a more advanced option than the models above as it is a night vision camera that can be used as a monocular.

The in-built infrared camera inside lights up the night sky when you look at it through the device, enabling you to have a different level of dark sky viewing than you would through a regular monocular.

The primary purpose for these has mostly been hunting, but astronomers have been taking advantage of them for stargazing in recent years and make a great option for dark sky viewing.

It can also be attached to a telescope for advanced astronomy and astrophotography and you can live stream the images to your tablet or smartphone by using the app that comes with it.

In fact, night vision astronomy is a fast-growing hobby. Here’s a very short video clip that you can see here of the Sionyx Aurora being used for stargazing to give you a feel of what you might be able to expect:

Here also is an image gallery from an astrophotographer displaying some of the images they have been able to capture with a Sionyx Aurora and a telescope:

Moon 9-14-2018 Color EP 30mm

See also this album here of images taken with the Aurora.

Pros

  • Night vision monocular to light up the sky as you view it
  • In-built camera can be used for astrophotography and can be connected to telescopes
  • Live stream the image feed on to your smartphone with the app
  • It is compact, light and portable

Cons

  • Quite a bit more expensive than a regular monocular
  • Requires batteries as a power source

These are great night vision monoculars for stargazing and a good alternative to regular monoculars if you have the budget.

Key specifications

  • Weight: 0.6lb
  • Accessories: Hardshell case, batteries

Other Sionyx Aurora Monoculars – Pro vs Black vs Sport

There are four different monoculars in the Sionyx Aurora range: the original which we have covered above, plus the Sport, Black, and Pro. The key differences are:

  • SiOnyx Aurora Black: The Black is the same as the regular Aurora above minus the built-in compass and GPS.
  • SiOnyx Aurora Pro: The Pro the premium model and has the most sensitive IR camera, however it is the most expensive.
  • SiOnyx Aurora Sport: Designed primarily for marine use but is being phased out and is harder to find.

You can compare the different models on Sionyx’s website.


Astronomy Monocular Buying Guide

A monocular is essentially a small refractor telescope or half a set of binoculars, however you want to think about it.

The purpose is to give you a similar degree of optical power but in a small device that can be held in one hand.

The key specifications are the ‘number x number’ that is usually in the name. For example, 10×50 or 8×42. This refers to the magnification and the lens diameter:

  • The first number is the magnification, i.e. 10x will bring what you are seeing 10 times closer. As explained below, higher is not always better for stargazing.
  • The second number is the objective lens diameter in milmeters, i.e. 50mm. The higher this number, the brighter and clearer views you can expect to see.

Magnification and monoculars for stargazing

The first point to consider with buying monoculars for stargazing is that higher magnification is not necessarily better.

Higher magnification means you zoom in more but this means two potential negatives:

  1. Firstly, it narrows the field of view so that you are seeing a smaller expanse of the sky through the eyepiece/viewfinder. If you are planning on scanning the skies to spot meteor showers or satelites etc, then this won’t be what you want.
  2. Secondly, it also means that your view will be more unsteady when using by hand as this becomes more exaggerated the higher the magnification is.

Higher magnification with monoculars for astronomy can be better though if you really want to zoom in on the moon, or maybe some of the visible planets of the solar system.

Since the moon is a relatively close night sky object, high magnification means you will be better able to view (and photograph) its features.

Objective lens diameter and monoculars for stargazing

What you do want that is higher is the lens diameter as that is the best indicator of how bright and clear the viewing through it will be.

The monoculars recommended in this article range from 42mm to 50mm. This is good for relatively inexpensive gear for stargazing and to compare you can get good telescopes or astronomy binoculars with 60-70mm lenses (aperture).

Other factors to consider in astronomy monoculars

You will see other specifications listed on sale pages of monoculars that it is worth knowing about:

  • Lens Coating: Multi-coated lenses and BaK-4 prisms maximize the light transmission for brighter and more detailed images.
  • Durability: Better manufacturers (like those listed on this page) will be more likely to provide durable gear. There are some very cheap monoculars on Amazon that might be fun for a short while, but will provide poor optics and be short-lived if used regularly.
  • Eye Relief: This is how far away your eye needs to be from the eyepiece when looking through it. This is particularly important for glasses wearers as if you wear glasses you will want higher eye relief or else your glasses will get in the way.
  • Accessories: The most common is a bag or carry case. Smartphone adapter and tripod is a great bonus for using for photography or astrophotography.

Quick questions: Handheld Telescopes & Monoculars for Stargazing

Are binoculars or monoculars better for stargazing?

A monocular is essentially half a binocular, so they are pretty similar. However, there are a number of dedicated astronomy binoculars on the market with much bigger lenses and so perform better.

The downside of larger astronomy binoculars is that they need to be used with a tripod to get the best out of them, whereas a monocular is designed to be handheld and so can be great for casual use and travel.

Are spotting scopes or monoculars better for stargazing?

Spotting scopes generally have higher magnification and larger lenses. The larger lenses will give you clearer views but, as discussed above, the higher magnification is not necessarily best for stargazing as it results in a narrower field of view and you are looking at a smaller expanse of the sky.

Low magnification but large lens diameter monoculars should then generally be better than spotting scopes for stargazing.

Can you use night vision monoculars for astronomy?

Yes, night vision astronomy and astrophotography is a growing trend. We recommend the Sionyx Aurora as a good night vision monocular for stargazing.

Can you use monoculars for astrophotography?

Yes, with a tripod and smartphone adapter you can use monoculars for astrophotography. We recommend the Celestron Outland 20×50 Monocular as the best option for this.

Realistically, your best shots will be of the moon and not galaxies of other deep space objects.

What’s the best monocular telescope for iphone?

The Celestron Outland 20×50 Monocular is the best handheld telescope for iPhone photography. A good budget option is the K&F Concept 12×50 Monocular.

What’s the best handheld telescope for viewing the moon?

The Celestron Outland 20×50 Monocular is the best monocular for viewing the moon as it has high (20x) magnification and large (50mm) lenses.

What are the best stargazing monoculars for kids?

The Celestron Outland 10×50, the Orion 10-25×42, or the K&F Concept 12×50 would make great stargazing monoculars for kids since they are small, easy to use, durable and relatively inexpensive.

What is the most powerful monocular?

The Celestron Outland 20×50 is the most powerful stargazing monocular that we recommend. Power is best gauged by the magnification (20x) and the lens diameter (50mm).

Can you see planets with a monocular?

Yes, but they’ll just look like different color stars and it’s hard to hold steady by hand when looking at things like this. Using a tripod would get better results but don’t expect crystal clear views of the rings of Saturn.


Overall – What’s the Best Monocular for Stargazing?

In summary, we recommend:

  1. The Celestron Outland 10×50 is the best all round stargazing monocular,
  2. The Orion 10-25×42 is best for travel and if you value the smaller size and weight over lens size,
  3. The Celestron Outland 20×50 is best if you want to take great images of the moon with your smartphone,
  4. The K&F Concept 12×50 is a good all round budget option that can also be used for smartphone astrophotography,
  5. The Sionyx Aurora is the best night vision monocular.

There is also a mid-range option available in the shape of the Celestron Outland 15×50 Monocular and you could also consider the Vortex Optics 8×36 Solo for a small, but high-quality monocular with a wide field of view.

We hope you found this guide useful to you in research monoculars and handheld telescopes for astronomy. You can see more like it in our Astronomy hub.

If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments below.

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