Handheld telescopes, often known as monoculars, allow a permanently portable and unique viewing experience.
Often misconstrued as the classic pirate telescopes (unless you want one of those, we’re not here to judge), handheld telescopes are a great addition to any bag or pocket in any situation.
On a lovely walk and see a bird of prey in the distance? In the back row of a sports game or concert? Traveling with your family and see something intriguing in the distance?
The handheld telescope can be used literally anywhere. Gone are the days of squinting and straining your eyes, or having to carry large telescopes on hikes.
These practical and portable telescopes offer a new visual experience, with all of the advantages of larger telescopes. We have found the 5 best handheld telescopes, along with a handy buyers’ guide and FAQ section to answer any questions.
In a rush?
Our top pick is the Pankoo 40x60 Monocular Telescope. This handheld telescope features a high definition monocular scope reaching up to 1000 yards, making it an ideal piece of equipment for hiking, beautiful walks, traveling, bird watching, and any form of sightseeing.
This telescope also features a smartphone holder to help capture an image or video through the monocular zoom. This can help pick up pictures of landmarks, something intriguing in the distance, or wildlife.
It is also waterproof - a key feature for outdoor enthusiasts who want to explore in light rain. This package also comes with a tripod, bag, dust cover, manual, straps, and a cleaning cloth to maintain the quality of the telescope.
OUR TOP PICK
If you are looking for a handheld telescope, this Pankoo model is an ideal little accessory for enhancing any situation.
Made with resilience in mind, this waterproof telescope has a high definition scope of up to 419 feet, a 10x magnification, and a 40mm large objective lens, allowing you to see far into the distance without any blurring or distortion.
The 20mm eyepiece allows for the highest quality color and brightness. This is ideal for sightseeing, bird watching, and looking at targets at a shooting range.
Due to its compact size, it can be used by adults and kids alike anywhere. This kit comes with a smartphone holder that allows any design of phone to capture an image through the lens, along with a tripod for extra stability.
To keep up the maintenance of cleaning, this package also comes with a cloth, dust cover, bag for portability, and an eye cup to prevent any damage to the telescope. This monocular telescope also comes in a binocular design.
- High definition and a good distance
- Smartphone holder and tripod for capturing images or videos through the lens
- Package includes useful accessories such as a tripod
- Good value for money
- Whilst waterproof, it cannot withstand heavy or running water
- Does not include night vision
This high quality monocular telescope features an impressive 12x magnification and a 50mm objective lens, allowing for a great definition magnification for anything outdoors.
The VIVREAL handheld telescope is waterproof and dust resistant with its built-in lens dust cover, making it ideal for a range of weather conditions.
For the more humid days, this telescope has a fog-resistant layer to prevent any steaming.
It also comes with a smartphone holder fit for a variety of smartphones, as well as a tripod and remote control - great for capturing images and videos without having to worry about a shaky hand. The remote control works through Bluetooth or an app for complete control.
If you already have a large tripod, this monocular telescope can fit appropriately for extra height, which is ideal for birdwatchers.
For extra stability, this telescope has a non-slip grip material and is designed for balance and focus without having to use both hands.
- Designed with ideal ergonomics with a non-slip grip and well-balanced telescope for stability
- High definition images at a long distance
- Smartphone holder and tripod for images and videos
- Remote control allows extra control and balance for taking photos and videos
- Waterproof and fog resistant
- Does not include night vision
With a 25mm objective lens, this is the most compact little monocular telescope on our list.
The Vortex Optics telescope has a sturdy and waterproof design, made of rubber and a textured non-slip grip that allows for resilience and durability in the outdoors.
As well as a nitrogen purged waterproof design, it is also fog resistant for the colder or warmer temperatures. It has a 10x magnification and has a 1000 yards field of view.
This telescope has a lightweight and balanced design, making it ideal for putting it in any pocket or bag for outdoors (or indoors) activities.
Much more convenient than lugging around a large telescope on a hike! Don’t judge this small telescope by its size and weight, as the quality is still good.
- Lightweight and durable
- Waterproof, fog resistant, and shockproof
- Sturdy rubber grip
- Might be a bit fiddly to adjust the focus rings and eye piece
- Does not seem to come with smartphone holder for images and videos
- 25mm is the smallest objective lens on our list
The Allkeys handheld telescope offers an impressive 16x magnification with a 55mm objective lens, and a large 1000 yards field of view.
This telescope is high quality, with its high definition BAK-4 prism that allows for an excellent level of detail, brightness, and color.
It also features a low-light-level night vision, allowing complete sight in lower lights that makes evening outdoor adventures even more exciting.
Weighing only 10 ounces, this little telescope is balanced and lightweight for portability, balance in one hand, and preventing any dead arms from holding for long periods of time.
It has a sturdy rubber design that makes it durable for water and fog resistance, ideal for a range of weather conditions.
This telescope comes with a smartphone holder and tripods for capturing images and videos through the lens.
This package comes with a phone adapter, tripod, lens covers, a carry bag, and straps for the safety and protection of the telescope.
- Durable waterproof, shock proof and fog resistant design
- Lightweight and balanced ergonomic design
- Low-level night vision
- Smartphone adaptor and tripod included
- Very affordable
- Low-level night vision does not mean complete night vision
The Emarth handheld telescope offers the most impressive zoom magnification on our list, featuring an adjustable range between 10x and 30x magnification.
This range allows for more clarity in detail for longer distance targets, birds, figures, or wildlife.
The lens itself is made of BAK-4 crystal prism and is full multi-coated, allowing for a clear and detailed image that captures 99.8% of brightness and color - as if the object is right in front of you.
This telescope is waterproof and fog resistant for a variety of weather conditions.
The package comes with a bag, cleaning cloth, and cover for the protection of the telescope.
Whilst it is advertised for men, this telescope can be easily used by anyone of any age due to its compact size and weight.
It also comes with a strap and clip for those who would rather a clip-on feature than keeping the telescope in a pocket or bag, which is convenient for hiking and outdoors activities.
- Impressive zoom and high definition
- Smartphone adaptor
- Good value for money
- Waterproof and fog resistant
- Sleek design means it may not have non-slip grip material
- Does not come with tripod, so a steady hand is needed for capturing images and videos
- Slightly heavier than our other recommendations, weighing 15.7 ounces
Best Handheld Telescope Buying Guide
The Benefits of a Handheld Telescope
Handheld telescopes are an ideal addition to any outdoors enthusiast, or to anyone who wants a better view of life without having to purchase a large telescope.
Handheld telescopes, otherwise called monoculars, are essentially half of a binocular with the predominant features of a normal telescope. Whilst they are less effective than normal telescopes from astronomy and night use, these convenient telescopes offer an enhanced view of our own planet.
They are designed to be lightweight for portability and practicality, which is suitable for pretty much every household. They can be used for hiking, climbing, and shooting - as well as less intense activities such as sightseeing or walking.
Handheld telescopes are also beneficial for sports games or concerts to help focus on individuals or key moments, enhancing the quality of an experience through high definition magnification.
These telescopes, though small in size, offer an impressive high quality visual. The best handheld telescopes, such as the ones on our list, feature a BAK-4 prism multi-coated lens that allows for an array of colors and light to be magnified without distortion.
This means you have the opportunity to see the details of a bird that is actually 1000 feet away. This also offers a great quality for images and videos taken through the eye of the lens, if the telescope has the smartphone holder feature.
Due to their size, handheld telescopes are often more affordable than larger telescopes. Whilst they do not have the capacity a large telescope has to offer in terms of distance magnification and other technical features, they have their own qualities that cannot be underestimated.
What to Look for in a Handheld Telescope
Fortunately, handheld telescopes are incredibly versatile pieces of equipment, so it doesn’t really matter which model you choose to go for.
It doesn’t matter if you want a handheld telescope only for hiking or one specifically for birdwatching, because all of the features are transferable for any activity. The best qualities to look for are ergonomics, comfortability, magnification, and extra features such as weather resistance.
Most handheld telescopes are incredibly lightweight due to their compact size, which is beneficial for portability, long usage, and convenience. For maximum comfort, it is best to look for a rubber telescope with a non-slip grip texture that allows the hand to stay comfortably around the telescope.
The non-slip and shockproof material is most beneficial for those who want maximum visual control and focus. This does come down to personal preference, however, as some may prefer the feel of a smoother rubber or plastic.
Most handheld telescopes also come with a retractable eyecup that is really suitable for glasses wearers, so they don’t have to worry about pushing their glasses against an uneven surface. This makes them an ideal piece of equipment for visual impairment.
Magnification on handheld telescopes usually ranges between 10x and 20x, but some offer a higher magnification. A 10x magnification is highly effective, but sometimes the option of a larger magnification can offer more distance to the telescope. This comes down to personal preference and what you intend to use the telescope for.
We highly recommend looking into telescopes that are waterproof and fog resistant to work in any weather condition for the ultimate versatility. Remember, handheld telescopes are not designed for heavy water or underwater usage, so some may only withstand light rain and water.
Some handheld telescopes come with necessary additional equipment already. If your purchase does not come with some accessories, here is what to look out for.
The most beneficial accessories for the safety and protection of the telescope are fitted bags, lens covers, and cleaning cloths for removing dust or debris. This is to help with the longevity of the product.
Fitted bags protect the structure of the telescope without letting it bounce around in another bag, and the lens covers go over the lens to prevent scratches and cracks when not in use.
Cleaning cloths wipe away dust to keep the lens clear. Straps and clips are really useful for keeping the telescope attached to a bag or clothing for extra convenience.
This is great for hiking, so you don’t have to repeatedly reach into your bag. The size of handheld telescopes means they can go anywhere, just keep in mind that any damage can affect the quality of the whole telescope.
For enhancing the versatility of a handheld telescope, most offer a smartphone holder feature. These are here to hold any smartphone camera in line with the telescope, to capture magnified images and videos that the lens can see. This is a great feature for photographers and wildlife enthusiasts, or anyone who wants to experiment with capturing something that is magnified.
Tripods are a useful accessory for this feature to maintain balance in case the smartphone holder isn’t strong enough. Tripods are also useful for keeping the focus on a controlled area, which is beneficial for watching targets at a shooting range or birdwatching.
Some telescopes with this feature also provide remote controls, which are great for holding the phone and telescope in place without potentially disrupting the image by touching the screen. Whilst these aren’t necessities, they are great for enhancing the quality of the product.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a handheld telescope called?
These products are either called handheld telescopes, or monoculars.
This is because they are effectively half of a binocular with one eye piece, and with the features of a smaller telescope.
What does 10x50 magnification mean?
There will be several different versions of these figures depending on the model of handheld telescope. The first number is the magnification, and the second number is from the view of the lens. In this case, it is a 10x magnification through a 50mm lens.
These figures are helpful for understanding how much the telescope can see and magnify. Generally speaking, if both figures are large, the telescope will offer better viewing.
Can I see planets with a handheld telescope?
Handheld telescopes are generally made for Earth-based magnification. This is due to their size and capacity. Also, most handheld telescopes work best in daylight and do not have night vision functions.
However, some models may offer a low-light night vision function that may allow for stargazing at a closer level. There are telescopes designed specifically for astronomy and planet-viewing.
What is the best entry level telescope?
If you are interested in getting a telescope to enhance your vision of what is around you, a handheld telescope is ideal!
They are not complicated and are adjustable to different distances, so beginners can benefit from the clarity from their crisp pictures without having to worry about technical issues that large telescopes may have.
They are also incredibly versatile, offering a unique portability and usability in any setting.
Are monoculars better than binoculars?
This does come down to personal preference. A monocular is half of a binocular, and is another name for a handheld telescope.
Binoculars, as according to the design, require two hands to hold and can often take up more space.
Monoculars are lighter, smaller, easier to travel with, and can come with features such as smartphone holders than binoculars may not offer.
What is the best magnification for a handheld telescope?
From research, the standard magnification setting is 10x50. Remember, handheld telescopes are smaller than large telescopes, which means they won’t be as effective in distance and magnification.
The bigger the lens (the second figure measured in millimeters), the better the clarity of the image. That being said, handheld telescopes can go up to 40x magnification, allowing for a unique and practical piece of equipment to change your (literal) view of the world around you.