Small Optical Instruments That Go a Long Way

Last Updated: 14.10.19


The optics field is quite wide, and it has many applications in the real world. Any instrument that uses optics practically deals with the way the light is reflected to offer some sort of benefit, be it that it brings images located at far distances closer, or record pictures or videos.

This field is quite complex, but we will focus, in this article, on those instruments that offer a lot, without being overly sophisticated. So, here are some of the small optical instruments we can use today.


We are not talking here about the models used by state-of-the-art medical facilities. The units we want to offer more information about are those that can be used at home, by kids for their school projects, or by adults who want to learn a little more about the world around them.

While portable models available for decent prices don’t come equipped with the latest features and cannot offer the highest performance possible, they are still quite helpful and can teach you a great deal.

This optical instrument is mainly used for magnifying small objects for which we want to achieve a clearer image. On the inside, a microscope is made from a convex lens with a short focal length that reflects light in such a manner that what is delivered is a magnification effect.

There are many home uses for microscopes. Besides science projects, which we already mentioned, microscopes are great for seeing small mechanisms, like those inside a watch.


Magnifying glasses

Optical instruments don’t have to be extremely complex. Since we are focusing here on small optical instruments that can go a long way, we want to include in our selection the unassuming magnifying glass.

This kind of optical instrument is a convex lens that is mounted into a frame. For ease of use, the frame also comes with a handle so that the user can manipulate it as he or she sees fit. The main role of a magnifying glass is to provide you with a larger picture of the object you are examining with its help.

There are a few things you must know about magnifying glasses, such as the fact that it matters how far you place the instrument from the object. By varying the distance between your magnifying glass and the object under inspection, you will notice that you are obtaining a different effect. To make a magnifying glass more effective, you need to keep the lens close to the eye and then move them together until you obtain a clear focus.


Again, just like microscopes, telescopes also come in small, portable sizes, and they can be used at home. By making use of the reflective light in the environment, telescopes can help you see objects that are far away from you, such as celestial objects in the night sky.

Telescopes come in three different versions: refractive, reflective, and catadioptric. The first telescopes ever invented and used were refractive since silver-backed mirrors were not produced at the time, stemmed from the innovations brought forward by Galileo.

The main advantage of such telescopes was that they could provide a brighter image than the one obtained by simply looking at things with the naked eye. Today, the telescopes we use are reflective or catadioptric. The first category uses a system of curved mirrors that have as the main task to reflect light. This is how the image we see is generated.

You can also hook up a telescope with a computer, to see the image on a large screen, should the device have such connectivity available. Catadioptric models are more complex, and they are mostly used by professionals.


Binoculars and monoculars

Some models of binoculars and monoculars are small enough to fit in a pocket, and they can offer you a lot of satisfaction. You can use them to watch sports games, to observe birds in their natural environment when hunting or hiking in the woods.

These handheld devices provide you with a magnified view of objects that are located at far distances from you. They are not that much different from telescopes, in the way they are built and their advantages consist of being convenient and easy to use. They usually come equipped with a variety of features, such as image stabilization, a focus wheel, and many others.

Using a prism system and lenses, binoculars and monoculars offer you the ability to bring the world around you a little closer. Just like telescopes can bring the moon and the stars within the more visible range, these do the same thing for terrestrial viewing.

Borescopes, videoscopes, and endoscopes

Other small optical instruments that must make it to our list are borescopes. They are very similar to medical endoscopes, which is why their names are often used as synonyms. For instance, if an item is advertised as a smartphone endoscope, that could be a borescope that can be connected to a smartphone or other mobile devices.

Another name often used for borescopes is videoscopes. The latter is a type of borescope, actually, with the difference that they use cameras for the imaging they provide, and not lenses and fiber optics, like other models. Their advantages are plenty, and they can be used for various inspection tasks.

For instance, the aviation industry often uses borescopes to determine small defects and other mishaps in the airframes and engines of the aircraft they build or operate maintenance for. Car repairs can also be performed better if a diagnostic is run first by the use of a borescope.

Because it can go through narrow openings, borescopes can be used for home repairs, with maximum efficiency. You only need to stick the insertion probe through a small hole in the wall and inspect the status of water pipes, or electrical wires, without having to engage in any destructive operations.

Such advantages can’t be equaled easily. No matter what your task at hand is, you will discover that such a device can be extremely convenient.



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