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What Is a Monocular Used For? 8 Common Functions

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Close up Monocular mounted on a tripod

If you’re looking for a powerful telescopic device that fits in your pocket and brings the world closer to you, look no further than the monocular. Although they’re technically modified refracting telescopes, monoculars are modified refracting telescopes that are more compact and easier to take with you. 

Monoculars are perfect for adventurers, hikers, birders, and budding astronomers, thanks to their magnification power and small size. You can use monoculars for a variety of hobbies and activities, also. Read on to discover the seven most common functions of this interesting and useful magnification tool.

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The 8 Uses of a Monocular

Young boy using monocular
Photo Credit: Daniel M. Nagy, Shutterstock

1. Birding & Viewing the Natural World

It might surprise you that birding is one of the most popular hobbies in the United States, with over 51 million enthusiasts. In the field, many birders use a monocular, which is easy to grab quickly and offers a wide range.

Although fewer in number, monocular owners in the U.S. also like viewing nature and wildlife. For them, a monocle might be the only magnification device they bring, as they’re more interested in catching quick glimpses of nature in all its glory. Nature photographers also use monoculars to spot something they wish to shoot quickly since moving a camera on a tripod isn’t the quickest of tasks.

2. Watching Your Favorite Sports

sports team running on field at night photography
Photo Credit: Abigail Keenan, Unsplash

Watching your favorite sport in person can be thrilling, exciting, and… hard to see. Let’s say you’re in the nosebleed seats in a stadium, trying to watch the players on the field, except they’re the size of ants. A monocular is perfect in this situation as it quickly brings the action closer.

From long-distance running to skiing, soccer, or your kid’s track meet, a monocular gives you a better seat and a clear view of what’s happening. Plus, for those who like to travel lightly, a monocular doesn’t weigh you down.

3. Going to the Theatre or a Show

Going to the theatre to watch a play, opera, or Broadway show is undoubtedly easier when you bring a monocular. One problem in many theaters is the position of the seats. The further they are from the stage, the worse your view will be. A monocular can be a godsend if you’re straining to glimpse your favorite star.

4. Seeing the Stars Up Close

Most people trying to get a serious look at the stars, planets, and moons in our galaxy aren’t using monoculars frequently. However, a monocular can be a convenient and fun way to introduce yourself to the heavens if you’re a budding astronomer. If anything, a monocular can supplement your stargazing toolkit and be a handy spotting device. And, since it’s compact and lightweight, taking a monocular along just in case you need it isn’t a challenge, even if you have a lot of other equipment.

5. Enjoying Artworks More Intimately

person looking at the paintings on the gallery wall
Photo Credit: Zalfa Imani, Unsplash

Some art enthusiasts use monoculars to get an even better view of their favorite artworks. Monoculars can expose the minute details of a painting or sculpture and provide a better sense of the textures, strokes, and fine details. Since they’re small, it’s easy to take a monocular in a purse or backpack or hang it from your belt.

6. Hunting & Fishing Trips

Hunting wild game is one of the most popular sports in America. In 2021, for example, there were approximately 39 million hunting licenses, tags, stamps, and permits issued. The compact size makes the monocular similar to a spotting scope but easier to maneuver and move. They are preferred by many hunters over binoculars for their light, compact design and are easier to use when you need to spot something quickly.

hunter in the wild
Image Credit: Kyle Glenn, Unsplash

7. Enjoying the Great Outdoors

Whether you’re out on a hike, searching for a good spot to camp, or want to see a trail before you barrel down it on your mountain bike, using a monocular is perfect. The same can be said when you’re canoeing down an unknown river or careening down the rapids in an eight-person raft. Wherever you’re going and whatever you’re doing, having a device that can quickly give you an appraisal of what’s coming up next is invaluable. 

8. Attending a Massive, Multi-Day Concert

a jampacked concert
Image Credit: Vishnu R Nair, Unsplash

This last use for a monocular is similar to #3 but still worth mentioning. These days, some music festivals last for days and are spread over many acres of property. Having a monocular with you can tell you, for example, if the Foo Fighters have taken the stage yet, or if a certain act has arrived. It can help you locate friends, too, or spot a place where you can set up your tent and living arrangements. Best of all, a monocular won’t add much weight, which is great when you go to a multi-day concert and pack all your camping gear.

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What Are the Benefits of a Monocular Over Binoculars?

If you’ve ever used binoculars, you know they’re an excellent magnification device. Once you’ve used a monocular, though, you’ll realize that binoculars have a few drawbacks as well.


Monoculars are smaller, and sometimes much smaller, than binoculars. That makes them easier to take with you because they’re more compact and lighter.

Situational Awareness

With both eyes looking through a pair of binoculars, you lose most or all of your peripheral vision. With a monocular, one eye is still free to see what’s going on around you. In the wild, that might be a life-saving advantage.

One-Handed Use

Yes, you can hold binoculars with one hand, but it’s not easy and leads to fatigue. You can easily use a monocular with one hand, and since they’re lighter, the fatigue level is significantly lower.

More Affordable

Since they’re basically half a pair of binoculars, monoculars typically cost much less. That’s because it takes less work, time, and materials to make them. This is true from the low-end models to the most expensive monoculars, giving your budget a break but allowing you to still purchase a quality device.

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Final Thoughts

As we’ve seen, monoculars are used in a variety of ways. They’re easy to use and carry and have several advantages over other magnification devices like binoculars and telescopes. Whether hiking, camping, or watching your favorite athlete or performer from afar, a monocular can be a handy, useful device that brings you much closer to the action and allows you to see the finer details. If a convenient magnification device is what you desire, a monocular is the perfect choice.

Featured Image Credit: aappp, Shutterstock

About the Author Greg Iacono

Greg Iacono is a self-taught writer and former chiropractor who, ironically, retired early due to back problems. He now spends his time writing scintillating content on a wide variety of subjects. Greg is also a well-known video script writer known for his ability to take a complex subject and make it accessible for the layperson.