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In several scenes of season 2 of The Mandalorian, the titular character uses a tiny telescope (possibly a rifle scope?) to look at certain objects, such as a gigantic dragon which is so close there's no conceivable reason to need magnification.

Mandalorian does not know how to zoom

This scope looks like it's about an inch in diameter, so small that you would not actually be able to see through it unless it was pressed against your eyeball. Furthermore, later in the season he uses the zoom feature that's already built into his helmet several times. So what's going on here?

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    I think I've seen this referred to as a "scouting scope", which seems to me that it's including some additional worth such as distance measuring, etc, although I do agree that such functionality is likely to be available in a helmet as well.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Mar 16, 2021 at 23:56
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    It's Star Wars... and not just Star Wars: Disney Star Wars. Mar 17, 2021 at 7:34
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    This question would be like asking "Why are the guys in Star Trek using a pocket calculator?" (The tricorders.)
    – Fattie
    Mar 17, 2021 at 19:49
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    Its just a product of the rule of cool. Mar 17, 2021 at 22:51
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    @Fattie Not at all. The tricorder is a handheld scanner that the crew members need because they aren't wearing helmets with the tricorder functionality already built-in.
    – user45623
    Mar 18, 2021 at 0:27

4 Answers 4

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Cut out noise

The small telescope may act as a pinhole aperture to help focus on an object. When the Mandalorian uses the scope to look at the dragon, he is in a desert during the day. The scope may simply help cut out the light that reflects off the sand and rocks all around.

Optical vs Digital Zoom

Another explanation is the same reason different cameras will have different price tags with the same amount of magnification. Optical magnification will use different lenses and focal ranges to change the focus of objects in the distance. Digital magnification is simply zooming in on the object of focus within the image. Optical delivers better quality magnification. The helmet zoom feature is probably adequate for some situations but the scope is better. The helmet has some lenses but more likely is advanced digital magnification. The scope, while small, has plenty of room for multiple lenses for precise optical magnification.

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In S1E1 he uses the same scope to scout out the compound that the Child is found at, just before he sees IG-11 enter the same compound. I watched that scene a ton trying to figure out why he would be using a separate scope because I had the same question. It appears to me that it is the scope from the Amban rifle - this is also backed up by the Jawa attack where it has the same graphics when it cuts to the sniper view as during the "scope" view when he is scouting out the compound in S1E1. (I am also very sure I saw him detach it from the rifle at some point and look through it, but I can't find that scene)

Mando Sniper Shot Separated scope

In addition to the points made in the other answer about optical vs. digital zoom, I would also presume the dedicated scope has a better zoom than the helmet. (For instance maybe the helmet has a 4x zoom and the scope is a 10x zoom.) It seems possible that using the scope from the Amban might also give him a clearer view of setting up the shot as well. Range indicators, shot lead and so forth, so it might give him a better indication of what the sight picture will be for sniper shots he might soon take without having to deal with the bulky rifle.

With the bucket on, he also has a terrible cheek weld on the Amban rifle. (This is reinforced with personal experience trying to look through similarly arranged scopes with a Mando bucket on.) That makes me think the visor is getting a remote video feed from the scope. So he may not be looking through it directly, but more using it in front of his eyes to control and steady his view, and be able to look through the visor at the same, unmagnified view.

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  • Doesn't explain why he needs magnification to look at the dragon when he's only 100 meters away from it, but I know the real reason for that is sloppy production/scene composition, not some in-universe explanation. Otherwise very thorough and references things from S1 that I'd forgotten. Thanks!
    – user45623
    Mar 18, 2021 at 0:33
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    @user45623 100m is still quite a distance if you want to see fine details. For something that big, the possibility of it having some existing (albeit likely superficial) injury that could be exploited to help take it down is definitely non-zero, and my impression from the scene in question was that Din was looking for exactly such an opening he could exploit, and that would definitely be made easier with some visual magnification. Mar 18, 2021 at 13:08
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    @AustinHemmelgarn "fine details, looking for a small vulnerability" was *exactly my first thought when reading the question, and I've never seen *The Mandalorian.
    – RonJohn
    Mar 18, 2021 at 17:22
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    "However, while examining the dragon [presumably through his Amban scope], Bilbo noticed a single bare patch on the monster's left breast, nearest his heart." The monster being, of course, the dragon Smaug.
    – Lee Mosher
    Mar 18, 2021 at 19:27
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The possibility exists that like a smart watch and smart phone that the scope and helmet are linked.

The scope has specific functions and info compared to the helmet and the optics on the helmet as advised earlier make using the rifle a pain on the 4t point of contact.

The helmet may be recording what the scope is viewing and recording a "friend/foe" profile different types of imaging etc. Maybe the helmet was dealing with other issues and power conservation

It's sci fi and the willing suspension of disbelief is required because like some other shows there are questions that will never truly be answered so sit back relax eat the pop corn and enjoy the show.

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Clearly it isn't directly optically useful, because of the distance between the eyeball and the scope and the small size of the scope.

So it must interface with the helmet somehow. Either he is connecting it to some sensor on the helmet, giving the helmet's sensor a boost, or it acts like a Skylanders toys, where the scope unlocks some DRM feature (digital rights management) in the helmet. Possibly later in the season he disassembled the scope's DRM chip and taped it inside the helmet, allowing direct zoom without the hassle.

My headcannon is DRM.

Or rather, you mount that on a gun. When you lift the gun to your face, the helmet changes to target/aiming mode and zooms where it points.

If you half understand the tech, stripping one off a gun and using it to activate aiming mode in your helmet would look like that. After a bit of debugging or reading the instructions, you could change the trigger.

But that is just speculation.

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