Imagine being able to own one of the best monoculars (opens in new tab) and one of the best microscopes (opens in new tab), without having to shell out for two separate devices.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had a pocket-sized device shorter in length than a tube of sweets that would not only act like a monocular in bringing faraway subjects up close but also function as a magnifying glass for those subjects that were already at hand, allowing us to examine fine detail at an almost forensic level from as close as 30cm / 12-inches away – i.e the length of an old school ruler?
Enter the Opticron 8x20 Gallery Scope. While its name hints that this is a specialist device for art aficionados or museum curators, we harbor the suspicion it might function best as a general-purpose, jack-of-all-trades device; in other words an ultra-portable monocular.
As the old adage says, the best tool for the job is the one you have with you, and, once purchased, we’re more likely to tuck the Opticron 8x20 Gallery Scope into our pocket when heading out than either a larger spotting scope or pair of binoculars. Well, that’s the theory anyway; so how does it hold up in practice?
Opticron 8x20 Gallery Scope Specifications
Objective lens diameter: 20mm
Field of view at 1000m: 122 metres
Closest focusing distance: 0.3 metres
Eye relief: 11mm
Opticron 8x20 Gallery Scope Key Features
We can quickly pick out the core features of the metallic black Opticron 8x20 Gallery Scope; a useful 8x magnification wedded to a 20mm diameter objective lens. The American company has looked to Japan for its expertise in the roof prism optical system provided for this one, and indeed ‘Japan’ is printed on the outer barrel where we won’t fail to miss it alongside the brand name.
While the fact that it can focus on anything from as near as 30cm to the furthest reaches of the horizon suggests that it will not only be good at enhancing fine detail up close but also make a decent fist of it out in the field, the Opticron 8x20 Gallery Scope is not, however, waterproof. We’re told the optics here are fully multi-coated however and BK-7 prisms have been used in its construction, not generally thought to be as desirable as the alternative BaK-4 prisms used in most monoculars/binoculars. However, in combination, these are designed to maximize the transmission of light through the device.
A small protective zippered carry case is provided in the box with the scope, as is a lanyard-type strap, its key-ring style attachment capable of being hooked onto a lug just forward of the eyepiece.
We’ll either be considering this option if we need it for a specific task or niche use or, by contrast, first and foremost want something that is ultra-compact yet can in fact handle a wider range of magnifying tasks than it first appears capable of. While neither overly expensive nor ultra cheap, pricing also feels about right here.(opens in new tab)
Opticron 8x20 Gallery Scope Build & Handling
Keeping things compact, the whole roughened surface of the lens barrel of the Opticron 8x20 Gallery Scope essentially acts as a focusing wheel. Turn this clockwise and the eyepiece of this periscopic device elongates, our focus adjusting with it and the image becoming sharper. With the scope fully extended we arrive at the minimum 30cm focus distance, while at its most compact we’re set at infinity. There is sufficient resistance and give to the metal elements of scope when in operation to enable us to precisely arrive at a critical focus point.
Though we’re most likely doing this with our eye pressed against the eyecup, were we to glance down we’d see distance markings now visible on the surface of the device as general guidance. When it’s time to put the scope back in our pocket, we simply give it an anti-clockwise twist, whereupon it returns to its most compact length for storage or transportation. Operation and handling are as simple as that.
Instead of a twist-up eyecup, the device features a flexible fold-down rubber eyecup for our viewing comfort. We also get slip-on protective plastic caps at each end of the scope to avoid any dirt or dust, though neither of these is tethered to prevent them from becoming detached in our pocket, unfortunately. Overall build quality feels good, however, thanks to the aluminum alloy construction.(opens in new tab)
Opticron 8x20 Gallery Scope Performance
Operation of the Opticron 8x20 Gallery Scope is simplicity itself; we just put our eye against the eyecup and give the device a clockwise twist to begin finding our ideal focus. While the product’s weight of just 72g means it’s very transportable indeed, at no point did we feel we’d break anything if we applied a bit more pressure to our distance and focus adjustments.
As the device itself is so diminutive when viewing subjects further away at the almost closed infinity setting it can be tricky to maintain a steady, judder-free view. However we managed to get acceptable results if using both hands – one to hold the eyepiece level, and the other to adjust focus. Fortunately, we didn’t notice any image aberrations, such as purple fringing, when viewing the likes of high-contrast subjects, and though we weren’t expecting miracles given its ultra-compact size, we were pleased with the overall level of sharpness nonetheless.
When examining subjects up close from its 30cm minimum focus distance, we were able to pick up the likes of specks of dust on a painting and pick out the grain in printed paper – details the human eye wouldn’t readily notice without this device. Interestingly, for those who want to get even closer still, a LED-illuminated micro stand is available as an optional extra, multiplying the existing magnification here by a factor of 3x and essentially converting this product into a mini microscope.(opens in new tab)
Opticron 8x20 Gallery Scope Verdict
The Opticron 8x20 Gallery Scope may seem like a very niche, specialized product upon an initial glance at its manufacturer’s blurb; but in fact, we reckon it’s best viewed as one ultra-compact magnifying device that does it all – and who wouldn’t want such all-encompassing convenience, especially if traveling about?
While the build quality is commendably firm and robust for its diminutive size, one thing omitted here however is waterproofing, so those who spend more time in the great outdoors marveling at great peaks rather than in an art gallery examining brushstrokes, may want to look elsewhere for an alternative magnifying tool, such as a waterproofed, fog-proofed monocular with a comparable, say, 8x25 spec. A good example can be bought at a similar price to this one. Still, the 30-year guarantee the Opticron 8x20 Gallery Scope comes with will provide additional peace of mind to anyone in the market for a viewer of miniatures that is truly miniature in itself.
If you are interested in finding out more about monoculars, you can read more in our guide about the best monoculars (opens in new tab) to suit your needs. If you like the style of monoculars but want something more powerful, you might be interested in the best spotting scopes (opens in new tab). Or if you prefer to engage both eyes, check out our guide to the best binoculars (opens in new tab).