When we were on the lookout for a lightweight monocular to carry with us for waterway scanning and wildlife spotting, we checked with Orion, the company that made the telescope we enjoy using at home for stargazing, and discovered the Orion 10×42 Waterproof Monocular. It has turned out to be useful, durable, and reasonably priced.

Photographs by the authors

Orion’s 10 x 40 monocular is compact and has an exceptional ability to focus on objects as close as 20″.

There are many thoughtful features packed into this small, well-made package. The monocular weighs only 11 oz, is a comfortable size to hold, and has a good ergonomic feel to it, thanks to the body’s slim, straight design—made possible by its roof prism, which takes the inverted image coming from the 42mm lens and flips it vertically and horizontally without requiring the zig-zag shape a monocular equipped with Porro prisms has to have. The straight body of the Orion makes it much easier to aim—you just sight down the tube, then look in the eyepiece. The molded rubber armor provides a secure grip on the 6.1″-long monocular, and the focus-ring ridges are long and raised just enough to make them easy to turn, even if wearing thick gloves. The objective and eyepiece lenses are recessed in protective rubber rings, so the monocular can be set face down without concern of scratching the large objective lens. The monocular is listed by Orion as “waterproof,” but it isn’t given a standard IPX rating. Instead, the website says that it has “waterproof rubber-armored construction for viewing in virtually any weather—but submersion or scuba diving is not recommended!” A neck strap and a neoprene carrying case with belt loop are included, and the body has a standard 1⁄4-20 threaded mounting socket for a monopod or tripod.

The monocular comes with a case and a strap that attaches to a ¼-20 fitting that will fit most tripods.

A rubber eye guard provides cushioning for comfortable viewing. The guard can twist down so one can keep glasses on while using the monocular. There is a fine-focus ring on the eyepiece that has a more sensitive adjustment than that of the barrel ring, but we mostly use the large focus barrel.

The optics provide a clear, sharp view and the coated 42mm objective lens gathers plenty of light for a bright image even in fading dawn or dusk lighting. The field of view (309′/1,000 yards linear, 5.9° angular) provides enough of a viewing area to get the monocular quickly aimed at navigational markers and landmarks as well as to track other boaters. The 10× magnification provides a closer look with more detail than does the 7× magnification more commonly used aboard boats, which are usually in motion, so the more powerful monocular is better suited for use on calm water or on shore. On our beach we enjoy using the monocular to view flotsam. We can study the intricacies of migratory waterfowl without disturbing them and look for tiny treasures like small shells or sea life we might not otherwise spot hidden among common objects.

Orion offers an adapter that can connect the monocular with a smartphone for taking photographs and videos.

The monocular can focus on objects as close as 20″, which is great for our nature walks. In grocery store “field tests” we could read the fine print of ingredient labels of products on the shelves.

We also appreciate Orion’s adapter for the monocular, which holds a smartphone steady and in the correct position for taking photos through the eyepiece. It’s great fun to share photos of all the things that you can see, near and far, while using the 10 × 42 Waterproof Monocular.

Audrey (Skipper) and Kent Lewis mess about in the Tidewater Region of Virginia when not restoring or building boats. Their adventures are logged at Small Boat Restoration.

The Orion 10×42 Waterproof Monocular can be purchased directly from Orion with a 30-day money-back guarantee along with a one-year warranty. The monocular is also available from many retailers.

Is there a product that might be useful for boatbuilding, cruising, or shore-side camping that you’d like us to review? Please email your suggestions.