Spotting scopes are designed for a few specific purposes, with options ranging from inexpensive to extremely expensive. Perhaps the most important factor to consider when choosing the best spotting scope is what you will use it for.
What are your plans and goals for using this tool? As you make this decision you should pay close attention to a few key features and the benefits these features deliver. You’ll have the opportunity to look at these more closely later on in this detailed review article, but for now, it will suffice to list a few of those important elements.
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- 1 Top 5 Best Spotting Scope (Summary)
- 2 17 Best Spotting Scope Reviews 2020
- 2.1 1. Bushnell Trophy XLT 20-60x 65mm Scope – Best Budget Scope
- 2.2 2. Vortex Optics Viper HD 20X – 60X 80mm Spotting Scope – Best for Hunting
- 2.3 3. Celestron 52252 100mm Ultima Spotting Scope – Best for Warranty
- 2.4 4. Vanguard Endeavor XF Spotting Scope – Best for Warranty
- 2.5 5. Redfield 114651 Rampage 20X – 60X 80mm Spotting Scope – Best for Angled Eyepiece
- 2.6 6. Emarth
- 2.7 7. Roxant
- 2.8 8. Gosky
- 2.9 9. BARSKA
- 2.10 10. Visionking
- 2.11 11. Landove
- 2.12 12. Nikon
- 2.13 13. Zeiss
- 2.14 14. Pentax
- 2.15 15. Meopta
- 2.16 16. Leupold
- 2.17 17. NightForce
- 3 What is a Spotting Scope
- 4 Benefits of Using Spotting Scopes
- 5 Pros and Cons of Using a Spotting Scope
- 6 How Does a Spotting Scope Work
- 7 Types of Spotting Scopes
- 8 What Makes a Great Spotting Scope
- 9 How to Choose a Spotting Scope for Different Activities
- 10 Spotting Scope vs Similar Tools
- 11 How to Use a Spotting Scope
- 12 What is Digiscoping
- 13 Does More Spending Mean More Quality
- 14 Do’s and Don’ts with a Spotting Scope
- 15 Quick Spotting Scope Tips
- 16 Frequently Asked Questions About Spotting Scopes
- 16.1 Can I use a spotting scope for astronomy as a telescope?
- 16.2 Can I use a spotting scope without a tripod?
- 16.3 What is the best 1000-yard spotting scope?
- 16.4 What spotting scope does the military use?
- 16.5 What is the best Swarovski spotting scope?
- 16.6 How do I attach a camera to a spotting scope?
- 16.7 How do I attach a spotting scope to a tripod?
- 16.8 How can I attach my tablet to my spotting scope?
- 16.9 What do the numbers on spotting scope mean?
Top 5 Best Spotting Scope (Summary)
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For more detailed and complete product reviews on benefits and features, keep reading.
One of the primary technical features you should concentrate on will be magnification and range of the lenses. You’ll see numbers like 6X, 100X, 80mm, 65mm and so on. The first two numbers mentioned here – 6X and 100X – indicate the range in magnification.
Each product will have this feature prominently listed. The second number is the objective lens size, usually starting at 40 mm and ranging up to 100mm. Scopes will vary in overall length as well, usually from about 7 inches to as long as 20+ inches.
You’ll also find the cost of a suitable scope can range from about $200 to as much as $1,000 or more. For the purposes of this review, six scopes have been selected that qualify as medium-priced or perhaps a bit lower, though all will be more than adequate for spotting purposes.
It’s very important to compare prices from various suppliers as well. This may help you keep a bit of money in your pocket while getting you an outstanding scope.
Are you still a beginner in the field of using a spotting scope? If you are still trying to figure out how to pick the best spotting scope then you will surely find this handy and informative buying guide useful. Just like when selecting a premium compact binocular, wherein the spotting scope is known to have the advantage of having higher magnification, one of the first factors to consider is the intended purpose.
Where will you be using it? Is it for wildlife and bird watching, observing the night sky, or any other purpose? Determine how much you are willing to spend, too, and the benefits of a good spotting scope, so you can decide whether it’s truly a great investment.
17 Best Spotting Scope Reviews 2020
1. Bushnell Trophy XLT 20-60x 65mm Scope – Best Budget Scope
The first scope carries a recognized name in the world of outdoor optics – Bushnell. For this review we’ll look at the Trophy XLT 20X – 60X, 65mm spotting scope. It has found favor with many users because it’s compact, durable, and waterproof.
Key features from which you’ll benefit include the use of the highest quality materials in the manufacturing process, with extensive testing by the manufacturer to ensure reliability. The optics are excellent, providing great, high-definition clarity, which is what you’d expect from this company. The design is very pleasing to the eye, nice touch with a spotting scope built this tough.
The scope is just a bit more than 13 inches long and weighs about 42 ounces. The rubber housing makes this scope waterproof and rugged, and the multi-coated optics deliver outstanding images. When you buy the Trophy XLT you get a compact tripod and a hard-side case.
2. Vortex Optics Viper HD 20X – 60X 80mm Spotting Scope – Best for Hunting
Your next option among quality scopes is the Viper HD from Vortex Optics. While you may have to shell out a bit more for this scope than with a few others, you do get an unconditional lifetime warranty from the company. The multi-layer coatings (Prism) give you some of the brightest, most-accurate images you’ll find in a spotting scope.
You also benefit from the low-profile mounting which gives you additional stability and great comfort when you’re looking for a longer period of time. This also makes the use of a smaller tripod possible. Lenses are finished with a scratch-resistant coating for better protection.
3. Celestron 52252 100mm Ultima Spotting Scope – Best for Warranty
This medium-priced scope is highly regarded for overall performance, plus you get a lifetime warranty (limited). Optics are multi-coated, as is the case with most quality scopes, and you get the added performance of a zoom eyepiece. The sight tube helps you find targets quickly as well. Easy to transport with the soft carrying case.
4. Vanguard Endeavor XF Spotting Scope – Best for Warranty
This quality scope is marketed as “angled eyepiece” which can be very important to the serious scope user. It’s also a medium-priced product (15X – 45X, 60mm) featuring prism, multi-coated lenses and excellent light levels even in low-light settings.
The Endeavor XF is waterproof and fogproof and has a rubber-armored body of magnesium, making it tough but light at 45 ounces. Vanguard also delivers a quick-adjustment wheel for focus and gives this scope a lifetime warranty.
5. Redfield 114651 Rampage 20X – 60X 80mm Spotting Scope – Best for Angled Eyepiece
The Redfield Rampage has an angled eyepiece for long-term comfort and delivers a lot of great features for a price in the medium range. It has an armor-tough rubber housing to give it outstanding durability. The Redfield scope fits well in this class with the 20X – 60X magnification and 80mm objective lens.
Emarth Spotting Scope is a high magnification scope. You can adjust it in a range from 20x to 60x magnification. This makes it a versatile choice for a variety of viewers.
The lens of the scope is fully coated multiple times and uses a BAK4 roof prism. This provides a bright and high-contrast image thanks to an increase in light transmission.
It also uses a dual focus wheel system that’s convenient for long-distance viewing. You can adjust it to lock onto visuals and zoom for a fine-tuned result.
The item is also weatherproof and made with a sturdy core design. So, if you take it on a hike, hunt or camping trip, you won’t have to worry about it being fragile.
- Allows 20x to 60x magnification
- Adjustable with a dual focus wheel system
- Weatherproof and durable
- Somewhat weak eye relief
The 45-degree design of Roxant Scope allows for relaxed, comfortable viewing. The eyepiece is retractable, which allows for use with or without wearing glasses.
It also comes as a full set, including a foldable tripod with a handle, carrying case and lens cap. This makes it easy to carry the product with you as you transport it.
The multi-coated, BAK4 lens on this model also help with light transmission. That design gives visuals seen through the scope a brighter and clearer appearance.
In case the durable design isn’t enough, though, the seller offers a lifetime replacement guarantee. This way, buyers don’t have to worry about any unforeseen issues with the product after they buy it.
- Retractable eyepiece works both whether you’re wearing glasses or not
- Comes with carrying case and foldable tripod
- Lifetime replacement guarantee offered
- Can be difficult to adjust the focus when mounted on the included tripod
A variable magnification ranging from 20x to 60x is what you’ll get with Gosky. You can control its dynamic lens focusing system to zoom in on your target as much as you need.
The strength and durability of this item are important for such an adventurous product. The device uses a magnalium framework that won’t break down easily with additional rubber armor for shock support.
This rubber armor helps with the waterproof capabilities as well as the general durability. It isn’t going to break down in the face of poor weather, as well.
You can transport the model around with the included carrying case and straps. It also comes with eyepiece and lens covers to protect it from any damage, whether you’re on-the-go or not.
- Allows 20x to 60x magnification
- Durable, weatherproof design
- Multi-coated objective lens provides clear and crisp images
- Cell phone mount doesn’t hold large models well
The first thing to recognize about BARSKA Scope is its powerful zoom range of 25x to 125x. This will allow you to see subjects from afar in great detail.
To take full advantage of the range of this product, you have to rely on the precision focus system. With a simple twist, you can adjust the objective lens to increase or decrease the zoom.
The scope also comes with a tabletop tripod. This will help you stabilize the product while you use it. However, it’s also possible to use your own favorite tripod with this model.
This model also comes with both hard and soft cases. This makes transport and storage easy, especially since the cases are large enough to accommodate accessories like the included tripod.
- Large zoom ranges from 25x to 125x
- Tripod included
- Soft and hard carrying cases perfect for transport and storage
- Hard to wear glasses during use, especially when the zoom is high
The waterproof Visionking Scope is going to stand up to any environmental condition you put it through. It’s also 100% fog-proof, which protects the scope from fogging up internally.
The item also uses Bak-4 prisms. This helps to ensure that the image you see through the lens has full light transmission.
One of the best things about this device is the eye relief it offers. Even if you’re using it while wearing glasses, you won’t have to worry about discomfort.
This model is also made to be lightweight and compact. So, it’ll be easy to carry it with you when you’re ready for your next outdoor adventure.
- Waterproof and fog-proof
- Bak-4 Prisms offer full light transmission
- Lightweight and compact design is easy to transport
- No lens hood to shade from direct sunlight
Landove is nitrogen-filled and designed to be fog-proof and waterproof. This durability will help you in harsh environments.
The model also uses both BAK-4 prism optics and a green film objective lens. Together, they aim to offer you a clearer and brighter image.
The lens can be adjusted to give you a detailed view as well. By adjusting the focus system, you can zoom in on a 20x to 60x range.
It also has a digiscoping cell phone adapter. This allows you to mount your phone on the device and take detailed, high-quality photos.
- Fog-proof and waterproof
- Superior light transmission gives you a clear image
- Features a digiscoping cell phone adapter
Included tripod stand is fragile
The image quality that Nikon offers is a top-quality one. It features an 82 mm objective lens and multi-coated optics to offer you high-quality visuals.
Your view is also protected by a built-in sliding sunshade. This will help you protect the lens from glare. It can also help in rainy or dusty conditions.
You can rely on this device to minimize reflective light loss within it. This is thanks to the internal surface.
The product is also protected with an O-ring seal and is nitrogen-purged. This makes it both safe from the weather and foggy conditions as well.
Objective lens design and optic coating increase light transmission
Internal surface texturing reduces reflective light loss
Waterproof and fog-proof
Higher levels of zoom don’t focus well
Zeiss Scope uses a compact monobloc design. This makes it easy to carry with you or quickly take out when you need it. Tripod compatibility also makes setting up the scope on a fixed point simple.
It also has an alloy housing that’s both sealed and filled with nitrogen. This will prevent the interior from clouding up and blocking your view in tough conditions.
The durability doesn’t stop at a clear view, either. The body of the device is also made with rubber armor. This not only better protects it from being dropped or jostled, but it also gives you a better grip to hold onto.
It’s also made to offer high image resolution. You aren’t going to have to worry about the image distorting or blurring the more you zoom in.
Monobloc design is easy to carry, store and quickly set up
Dust-proof, waterproof and fog-proof
Rubber body adds durability and improves grip
No digiscope mount
Pentax has a lightweight but also durable design made of a magnesium alloy. This way, it’s easy to carry with you when you’re hunting, hiking or traveling and it’s not cumbersome to use.
The scope is built with an O-ring assembly. This gives the manufacturer a chance to fill the interior with nitrogen, which makes the scope fog-proof as well as JIS Class 6 waterproof.
It also features extra-low light dispersion glass and 80 mm objective lenses. These work together to give you a clear, crisp image.
To make transport and storage easier, this model comes with a lens cap and a carrying case. The device also offers a warranty to protect your purchase in case of any problems.
Lightweight design is durable and easy to carry
Fog-proof and waterproof
Offers a clear, crisp image
Sometimes loses focus
Meopta uses a multi-coated lens to offer superior light transmission. In addition, the model uses a fluoride lens to prevent chromatic aberrations and color fringing.
It also offers edge-to-edge sharpness and intense details at all zoom levels. This product comes at a comfortable range of 20x to 60x.
The body of the scope is meant to handle any general wear and tear that it might undergo. It’s also designed for use with gloved hands as well as bare ones, so you can be comfortable in any condition.
You can also mount it to a tripod for extra stability. The model is compatible with the majority of tripods, which makes it a fairly versatile choice.
Multi-coated lens offers excellent light transmission
Fluoride objective lens decreases color fringing and chromatic aberrations
Compatible to most tripods
- Focus ring can be difficult to turn
Durability is a key facet when it comes to Leupold Scope. It’s not only waterproof but fog-proof and shockproof too.
The ion-assist and diamond lens coating also offers a high level of abrasion resistance. This design also offers a higher level of light transmission to provide you with a bright image.
This clarity is further improved by the Twilight Max Light Management System, which gives you an additional full 10 minutes of light.
The Bak-4 prisms improve the visual performance of the scope. They particularly help to offer an exceptionally clear image thanks to a lack of edge distortion.
Waterproof, fog-proof and shock-proof
High level of light transmission
Twilight Max Light Management System offers an extra 10 minutes of light
- Fragile eyepiece extension
NightForce is made to be powerful. It offers a strong range of zoom focus from 20x to 70x.
The eyepiece is also angled. This makes it comfortable to use from any angle.
With such a high-end option, durability isn’t only necessary but expected. This is another point that this model performs strongly on.
The sleek design of the scope is also both attractive and practical. It isn’t too bulky that it will be difficult to carry or store when it isn’t in use.
Zoom focus available from 20x to 70x
Angled eyepiece makes for comfortable viewing
Sleek, convenient design
- Storage sleeve has to be bought separately
What is a Spotting Scope
The name says it all, really. When you purchase a quality spotting scope you’re getting a small telescope that is best used in daylight (or adequate light). When you look through a spotting scope you get a magnified image, with size determined by the lenses installed by the manufacturer.
These scopes are smaller than telescopes used for astronomy, for example, primarily because a spotting scope is meant to be carried into the field, sometimes in less-than-ideal conditions.
They will have lower magnification than telescopes used to view stars, simply because the range at which they’re used is more limited. But it’s possible to get an excellent view of your object hundreds of yards in the distance. Even with their smaller size, these scopes can be used on a tripod, with the correct mounting hardware, of course. This gives you more comfort during long-term spotting.
Almost every scope you purchase today will have excellent waterproofing and fog-proofing, so you don’t have to be concerned about taking your equipment out in inclement weather. You also benefit from the higher magnification of a spotting scope, compared to binoculars.
People use these scopes for hunting, for viewing landscapes, for bird-watching, as well as for surveillance. You might even want to talk to your supplier about using a spotting scope with a camera attachment to get long-range photos!
Benefits of Using Spotting Scopes
Spotting scopes usually have more power compared to binoculars, although their uses are often the same. With a good spotting scope around, you will get the chance to use a telescope featuring special features and modifications that make it functional at daylight. Here are some incredible advantages provided by a good spotting scope:
One positive thing about a spotting scope is that it is highly versatile. It perfectly suits a wide range of activities – among which are nature study, hunting, long-distance microscopy, surveillance, long-distance bird hunting, scenic observation, and telephotography.
Based on its design and type, you can also expect its magnification range to be around 10x to 250x. With that, you can use it whether identifying a game at long distances or observing migrating cranes during the winter season. It will surely bring your pleasure when being outdoors to an even higher level.
Another positive quality of a spotting scope is that it is genuinely durable. Most spotting scopes are even fog-proof and waterproof. They can tolerate and withstand impact and shock.
With that, expect the spotting scope to handle heavy use and abuse when brought on the field by wildlife watchers, hunters, and birders. Unlike telescopes, especially those that have bigger scopes, the spotting scope can handle excessive movements as well as the heavy rains and the possibility of getting bumped on.
Most users also love the portability of the spotting scope. It is lightweight and built in a way that users can safely maneuver and carry it in the field. Some even feature cases capable of protecting the body of the scope from scratches and wear while on the field.
Easy to Use
A spotting scope also has the advantage of being easy to use. It features a few zoom eyepieces, making it possible for you to zoom in an object, which is far away upon sighting the target. It comes in a single-piece kit, unlike telescopes that require you to carry several items so you can use them on the field. It is also easy to use that it does not require a specialized tripod. A camera tripod works compatibly with it.
Pros and Cons of Using a Spotting Scope
Interested to learn about what other positive things the spotting scope can offer? Do you want to know whether it also has some downsides and faults? Then here are some of the identified pros and cons of the spotting scope.
- Guarantees close focus – A spotting scope is built for terrestrial use, making it possible to focus closely. It’s even possible to use it to gain a close look at butterflies on flowers and hummingbirds on feeders even if they are several feet away.
- Compact – The fact that the spotting scope is compact makes it suitable for all applications on the field and for hunters who are constantly on the go. This also promotes speedy and easy scanning for target acquisition.
- Comes with large objective lenses – With this, you can collect or gather your desired amount of light during the times when you need it the most.
- Promotes ease in sighting in – You will also love spotting scopes as they allow you to easily and quickly sight in your rifle. Zeroing in is also easy and safe.
Apart from the mentioned pros, a good spotting scope can also help in determining the perfect setup and conditions for long-distance shots. Furthermore, it provides a clear view of bullet holes even if the target is at a long distance and lets you observe wildlife and prey from an undetected and safe distance.
- More expensive than typical binoculars – Expect to spend more for a high-quality spotting scope than a standard binocular. You might also need to spend on mandatory additional accessories.
- The somewhat time-consuming and tedious set-up process.
How Does a Spotting Scope Work
A spotting scope functions as a telescope modified in such a way that you can use it during daylight. One difference that you can see in the spotting scope if you compare it with the telescope is that its image is upright all the time. It also comes at a portable and manageable size plus its magnification level is less than what a traditional telescope has.
For it to function efficiently, you need to use it together with a simple tripod. Also, note that the majority of spotting scopes do not have perfectly straight tubes. What they have, instead, is an angle close to the ocular lens, which helps in creating a better angle where you can easily view your target.
The primary tube of the scope also features a set of prisms inside used in showing the right orientation by properly relaying images from objective to the ocular lens then correcting it. It also comes with several crystal and glass pieces. With such features, expect the image it creates to be useful for the user.
A spotting scope works for various applications. It functions well for those who intend to use it for wildlife viewing and birding. It also has tactical and shooting sports uses. Furthermore, expect it to work well when used for target detection, hit counting at competitions, shot placement identification, and target spotting.
Types of Spotting Scopes
Spotting scopes come in two types depending on their basic designs – the straight and the angled. Here are some pros and cons of each type.
Straight Spotting Scope
This scope is designed in such a way that the eyepiece and barrel are parallel to each other. For beginners, the straight scope is a lot easier to aim. It is also easier to use than the angled type when spotting animals on target on the ground.
- Promotes ease of aiming for beginners
- Minimal neck strain when level viewing
- Guarantees ease when looking at animals on the ground
- Not prone to collecting water and snow when unused
- Easy to store in a backpack
- Guarantees quick target acquisition
- Causes discomfort when used at uphill angles and when crouching
- Requires a taller tripod, which might cause problems during windy conditions
Angled Spotting Scope
The angled spotting scope is designed in a way that its eyepiece is around 45 degrees from the barrel axis. This is essential in bending the light path. This specific design promotes ease and less discomfort when looking upwards.
- Can be easily shared with a group
- Works even better when hiding animals or spotting treetops
- Comes with a higher eye point, which makes shorter tripods suitable for it
- Offers adequate support when digiscoping or making use of your phone for filming and photography
- Slightly difficult to store because of its shape
- Prone to collecting moisture and snow when unused
What Makes a Great Spotting Scope
You’ve read about the three important numbers on a spotting scope, so you have some of the necessary information for buying your scope. You’ve also read about such details as eye relief, lens coating, prism, and close focus.
Here are a few questions you can ask, of yourself as well as of someone you’re discussing spotting scopes with: How much do I want to pay? Will I be spotting for short-range shooting or long-range shooting? How much does size and weight matter, in relation to how I’ll be using the scope? Will I be in bad weather conditions?
Your answers to these basic questions will be a great help in your shopping and in your final purchase decision. If you have a budget limit, such as $300, you’ll be able to find excellent scopes with all of the necessary features. But you should make sure you’re buying the scope that will work for your spotting activity, so money shouldn’t be the only factor you use in making your choice.
If you’ll be in one location for any length of time, waiting for targets to capture in your scope, you might consider a slightly heavier scope that will be mounted on a tripod. If your field activity involves moving about quite often, you might be better served with a lighter scope you can carry. Of course, it’s always best to get a rugged, waterproof scope, just in case you’re caught in difficult conditions.
Don’t be caught up in the belief that bigger is better when it comes to magnification. Remember the advice mentioned earlier about finding a balance between magnification and clarity.
The essential features you should look for in a quality spotting scope are relatively few: magnification, body material, straight or angle (or both), weight, and of course, quality of optics. Magnification in a spotting scope can be thought of as a next level, beyond your normal binocular range You’ll need the higher magnification for wildlife and hunting.
Look for three important numbers. For example: 20X – 60X and 60mm. Keep in mind that increases in magnification will usually have a negative effect on clarity, so it’s important to find a scope that balances magnification and clarity.
If you purchase what many consider the “premium” scope, you’ll be able to have great clarity even at a 60X magnification. Generally, you’ll be well-served with magnifications in the 30X or 40X range, so you don’t have to empty your bank account to get good performance.
The third number refers to the objective lens. Basically, when this lens is larger you will see more detail. But you should always find a balance with this number as well – the quality of image and size. Just because you see a large number for the objective lens doesn’t mean you’ll have the best image quality. Always look for a scope with multi-coated lenses.
Here are a few additional details you should consider when shopping for the right spotting scope.
This detail makes sure you see the image with the correct side up and also correct in reference to right and left. While this seems obvious, think about how the older cameras used to display the image in the viewing-box area.
This can be a great feature. If you find a scope you truly like, and it has a close-focus rating under 20 feet, you’re on the right path. Some of the top-shelf scopes let you view as close as six feet.
Manufacturers now coat lenses to improve the delivery of light to your eye. You’ll see references to multi-coated, fully coated, and so on. The better scopes will have fully, multi-coated lenses.
Pay attention to this detail as you shop. This refers to how close you can place your eye to the eyepiece and still be able to see the full field of view. If you wear corrective glasses or you can’t get close to the eyepiece for any reason, look for eye relief of about 16mm or a bit farther.
As you shop, pay special attention to comments about waterproofing and make sure you’re comfortable with the size and weight of the scope. Weight of spotting scopes varies a lot, with the heavier scopes giving outstanding performance when used on a tripod. There are, however, scopes of great quality that you can carry with little effort.
A spotting scope’s magnification is created in such a way that it can view those distances no longer viewable with the help of conventional binoculars. In most cases, spotting scopes with around 30x to 40x magnification can already produce reasonable images. Still, remember that the main goal of buying this type of scope is to let you see those objects that your naked eye can’t see.
The scope is also more powerful compared to binoculars. As much as possible, go for one with a variable zoom of around 15x to 45x or 20x to 60x. It is unnecessary to go for one with over 60x magnification as atmospheric conditions might limit what you can see.
If you go for great magnifications then expect the scope to work more efficiently in environments with dry climates and at high altitudes. However, this might also cause challenges when used in humid climates and low-altitude areas.
You have to determine where and what you will be using the spotting scope for. This can give you an idea of which type you should buy and what magnification or other features your scope should have. Shop around and ensure that the one you buy fits the specific application and environment where you are planning to use it frequently.
Aperture/Objective Lens Size
It is also crucial to check the objective lens size of a spotting scope because this has a say on its viewing capability. Note that larger objective lenses often have more power. Also, these bigger lenses are often around 60 to 100 mm. They are capable of collecting more light, which results in brighter and clearer images. They might also come with a wide field of view.
Keep in mind, though, that spotting scopes with the larger objective lens are also often heavier than the others. With that in mind, you have to find out what is more important to you – portability or power. You can also look for a spotting scope, which has a combination of the two.
You may already be aware of how important the magnification power is in terms of reach. However, do you know that the glass quality of this scope also contributes to the reach it can provide? A high-quality optic or glass is crucial for a high-powered spotting scope to fulfill its basic functions.
It helps provide a magnified and clear image all the time. This is the reason why you have to spend time checking and scrutinizing the glass elements and coating of the scope before buying.
One thing to keep in mind when shopping for a spotting scope is that there are times when the price does not include the eyepiece. In case it is luckily included then expect it to be non-removable. If possible, go for a high-end spotting scope, one that features removable eyepieces. While you often need to pay for it separately, it is still beneficial because it lets you pick from various choices.
You may also want to enjoy the optical advantages offered by a single-powered eyepiece. However, it is also preferable to pick a zoom eyepiece as it lets you change magnification easily during those situations wherein there is an unstable atmospheric condition. Expect a high-quality zoom eyepiece to provide excellent eye relief, too. Furthermore, it is capable of producing excellent image quality.
In terms of body style, you have two options that were already discussed briefly in one section of this article. These are the straight body and the angled body spotting scopes. You can expect the two to work effectively in the majority of situations. However, you may want to favor one of them based on specific viewing circumstances.
You can go for the angled body if you want to look across the flat ground or up at your target and when planning to view your target from a vehicle’s window. The straight body scope, on the other hand, is an ideal choice if you want to view from a high position, such as from an elevated spot so you can have a glimpse of what’s below.
Check the materials used in constructing the spotting scope, too. You can find entry-level versions of this scope that feature tubes constructed out of hard plastic or polymer. If possible, avoid such materials because they are known for being brittle. They are prone to get cracked easily when it drops accidentally.
Go for a spotting scope made of magnesium alloy, instead. Note that if you combine magnesium with other metals, like alloy, zinc, manganese, aluminum, and copper, then it can instantly transform the scope and make it completely indestructible. Despite its strength, the scope is still lightweight. It does not also expand even if you are in hot environments.
The lens of spotting scopes makes use of any of the three kinds of coating – the multicoated, the fully coated, and the fully multicoated. It is advisable to examine the type of coating used in a specific spotting scope’s lens. It is because the coating contributes to the clarity of viewing images when the scope is set at high magnifications.
Also, each coating contributes to the light transmission to the lens. It can also deflect excess light, thereby helping in glare prevention. You can choose to invest in a premium spotting scope, which usually has a fully multi-coated lens. Alternatively, you can choose first-rate versions that are often multi-coated.
Tripod and Window Mount
A good-quality spotting scope usually features threads that you can use to attach it to a window mount and tripod. However, it is still crucial to determine the scope’s weight as it relates to that of the tripod.
It is because this will give you an idea about the kind of tripod and window mount you will be needing. If your chosen spotting scope is heavy then it requires a more stable rest. In such a case, you need a more stable and solid window mount and tripod for it.
Do you want to own a spotting scope that you can use for digiscoping? Then make sure it is compatible with your DSLR or any other camera you own that can connect to some viewing gears. You may also directly ask the seller if your chosen spotting scope is compatible with the DSLR or camera you own.
In some cases, you may be required to buy special adaptors for the two units so you can connect them and obtain the image quality you prefer.
The scope also needs to be weatherproof. While fog-proofing and waterproofing are not extreme necessities, it is still advisable to have these features as they can protect your scope from several atmospheric conditions. Being waterproof does not only mean the scope should be protected from snow, rain, and any other elements that might harm the optic.
It is also advisable to go for one, which seals the scope not only against moisture but also from debris and dust. With that, the scope will surely be able to retain its good condition for a long time.
How to Choose a Spotting Scope for Different Activities
With the many uses of a spotting scope, you may have a hard time figuring out which one fits a specific activity. To avoid wasting your money over something that does not work on the purpose and activity you have in mind, you have to learn a thing or two about how to make the most suitable choice.
If you plan to use the spotting scope for birding then go for the angled type as this one is ideal for viewing a specific area where most birds flock. Go for a high-quality scope known for providing clear and better images of the plumage of the bird whether the distance is short or far.
As much as possible, pick one with a high magnification lens. It is because this lens can show even the finest details of the birds’ feathers. With that, you can identify the species even if the target is at a far distance.
For hunting purposes, make sure that you go for a scope that you can easily use in identifying your target. Note that this capability plays a major role in determining whether you will have a prized catch, allowing you to carry your prey in a hunting backpack and come home happy, or feeling frustrated knowing that your target escaped. Investing in a spotting scope, which lets you have a clear look even at elusive prey (ex. a deer), before shooting.
It should be able to give you the opportunity of choosing an animal from a group using adequate magnification. While spotting scopes designed for hunting have slight differences, take note that each one can help tremendously if you plan to use a rifle or a rifle scope with night vision feature. It also helps you use your bow and arrow effectively. Just make sure that it has a durable bow sight.
To make the most out of your spotting scope, do not forget to bring your shoulder holster when hunting. Furthermore, wear the right footwear so you can move with ease. Hunting boots offer great support so you might want to invest in a pair of high-quality ones.
Most spotting scopes are created in a way that they can accept cameras attached or connected directly into the ocular lens. With that, even if your target is from a distance, they can still let you enjoy excellent shots.
If you want to own a photography spotting scope, though, note that one vital feature is the tripod. Go for a superior tripod as a low-quality one might cause the extra weight of your camera to make the scope unstable.
A cheap and low-quality tripod might also amplify ground vibrations, causing ruined and unclear images. This is the reason why you have to check the quality of the tripod before buying a spotting scope. Also, ensure that the scope utilizes ED glass that has extremely fine grinds. This will prevent the scope from hindering the quality of the images.
When it comes to choosing a spotting scope for target shooting, remember that the magnification distance may differ. Certain atmospheric conditions, like rain, dust, air turbulence, and humidity might also impair the scope’s overall performance. This is why your chosen scope should be able to handle the mentioned elements and scenarios.
Also, depending on the kind of shooting you plan to do, it might be necessary for you to pick between a variable and fixed focal lengths. If you are into competitions that require you to have multiple targets in just one engagement then it would be essential to use a scope with a wide field of view.
This is crucial in spotting targets and lengthening focal length, thereby resulting in a more accurate shot spotting. If you want to use the scope for extreme precision shooting in a long-range then scanning is not that essential.
If you intend to use the scope for tactical applications, whether it is for law enforcement of the military then go for one with a focal length that you can adjust. This is essential in scanning easily and making the necessary transition to spotting. It is also crucial for the scope to ensure that the colors look accurate if identifying the actual details of clothing.
In terms of military applications then high magnification levels and superior lenses should be prioritized. It is because both of these features can help spot prospective targets regardless of how far the distance is. For law enforcement applications, the engagement is usually at a shorter distance. It is rare for it to go beyond 200 yards. That said, there is no need to prioritize getting a scope with maximum gratification.
Spotting Scope vs Similar Tools
In comparison to similar tools, spotting scopes seem to have a lot more to offer. If you are still wondering if it is indeed a better choice than other tools then the following comparisons might help you:
Spotting Scope vs Binoculars
When it comes to magnification range, the one for a spotting scope is usually greater compared to binoculars. Binoculars usually have around 8x to 16x magnification while the spotting scope has at least 15x. Some models can even go as high as 100x.
For simple bird watching, you may find binoculars more comfortable but if your goal is to spot birds, like falcon and eagles at high distances then the spotting scope is more favorable to use.
Spotting Scope vs Camera
A spotting scope is also better than a camera when viewing objects at great distances. It is because long-distance viewing with a camera can be tricky. It requires a tripod to ensure that the camera stays pointed and still at the specific object you intend to view. It might also be necessary to invest in a lens adapter and prism to increase its chance of producing accurate images.
If you use it to take photos then the resulting images might also be grainy with some light being lost. With all these requirements, it is safe to assume that the use of a camera for hunting and spotting purposes is a bit tricky.
In that case, it would be much better to invest in a scope. You can even use the spotting scope for up to a thousand yards without worrying about the issues associated with the use of the camera.
Spotting Scope vs Telescope
While a telescope has the same concept as a spotting scope, take note that its weight, size, and tendency to flip images may still cause it to be inappropriate for sporting applications. You may also have a hard time using it as a spotting scope. It is because it has much greater magnification.
When used for hunting or object viewing, this might cause the images to be out of focus and blurry. It is also not possible to view objects at a short-range using a telescope. This makes a spotting scope better than it.
Spotting Scope vs Monocular
A monocular works great, especially if you are after getting portable magnification. However, it does not seem to carry similar purposes as the ones carried by the spotting scope. Also, a monocular seems to be lacking in magnification. It does not also use a tripod. The absence of these two is one reason why the monocular can’t provide a similar level of precision offered by a spotting scope.
Spotting Scope vs Range Finder
If you need to select one between a range finder and a spotting scope, then it would be better to go for the latter. It is more valuable than the range finder. The good news is that a lot of spotting scopes feature reticle that already has a built-in range-finding capacity. With that, you will surely gain help during the spotting process.
How to Use a Spotting Scope
Step 1 – Look for a comfortable position
Each time you decide to go shooting or hunting, you will spend a lot of time focusing on your target. This is the main reason why you have to position yourself comfortably. This should prevent you from getting tired immediately. You may choose to sit or lie down, whatever is comfortable for you. With a comfortable position, properly and correctly using your spotting scope is possible.
Step 2 – Connect the spotting scope into a compatible tripod
The tripod plays a major role in the stability of the spotting scope. It ensures that slight movements will not distract your target. With the kind of stability provided by a high-quality tripod, you can have a clear and accurate view of your target each time you hunt. This also lets you obtain the required accuracy during target focusing. This results in you preventing possible misses.
Step 3 – Start viewing the target
Start viewing and scrutinizing your target spot before making adjustments on the scope. By doing that, you can prevent issues from occurring. Note that some shooters and hunters face challenges because they tend to set the magnification and lens first, causing them to fail in obtaining a correct view of the target in the end.
To avoid that, do things in reverse. View the target then examine the area first. Once done, you can appropriately adjust the scope’s magnification.
Step 3 – Make adjustments on the level of magnification
When it comes to adjusting the level of magnification, you have to remember that every scope is different. This is why you have to read and check the instructions indicated in the scope’s packaging, especially the specific part that talks about adjusting the lens’ layout and the magnification range.
You can find some scopes having zoom out and zoom in options while others are lacking in such features. Familiarize yourself with your own scope so you will know exactly how to adjust its magnification to give you a clear look at the target object.
Step 4 – Reset the focus
Note that using a magnifying glass to view your target for an extended period might hurt your eyes and make you feel uneasy. To avoid that, reset the magnification and focus. This can prevent it from negatively affecting your eyes while also helping you get back your concentration. It also helps ensure that you will not miss your target.
What is Digiscoping
Digiscoping refers to the process of using a spotting scope to shoot digital photos. Birders who intend to practice digiscoping usually use a spotting scope with a magnification range of around 20x to 60x. This process is more beneficial compared to conventional photography. One of its proven advantages is that it lets you use much lighter scopes than huge lenses. The scope, due to its lightness, is also a lot easier to carry around.
Does More Spending Mean More Quality
While it is highly recommended to invest in a high-quality scope, it does not instantly mean that you have to spend a lot of money on it. Yes, it’s true that most expensive spotting scopes have several nice and functional features built-in.
However, you can also spot reasonably priced scopes with similar functionality and capacity as the more expensive ones. All it takes to find such scope is to be resourceful and know exactly the most reliable place to buy one.
Do’s and Don’ts with a Spotting Scope
- Begin at low magnification – You should then focus the image for a wide field of view and sharpness. Focus by turning and moving the focus controls until you get clear and sharp images.
- Twist or fold down eyecups if you are wearing glasses – Do this until you obtain sufficient eye relief.
- Make adjustments on the leg extenders – They should be at the correct height for both legs. This is important if you are on uneven or rocky terrains and if the tripod you are using has that capability.
- Do not let the caps stay on the scope – If you notice that there are still caps on your scope then make sure to remove them.
- Do not move and tilt the spotting scope by maneuvering the scope itself – It is advisable to make use of the panhandle as a means of navigating the scope.
Quick Spotting Scope Tips
Be Mindful of the Weather
You need to observe the weather before using a spotting scope. Note that the clarity of your vision and the images your scope supplies will depend on the weather. Fortunately, the scope is adjustable, giving you the chance to adjust it to various resolutions so you can get a much better view based on the weather.
For instance, you can set the scope to 60x during the usual days. It is not also advisable to set or adjust it to 30x during those days when there is glare, high heat waves, and humidity.
Watch the Sun
Note that once you set the magnification, the sun also seems to have strange effects on the view. In most cases, the sun washes out the view. It might also cause severe damage to your vision in case it is strongly reflected on surfaces, like water. It helps to set up the scope away from the sun’s line or set yourself up at an angle. This is especially important if you are planning to hunt at dawn and dusk.
Keep Your Gear Clean
Do not forget to clean up your spotting scope. As much as possible bring some cleaning cloths or microfiber towels that you can use to clean the lens. Avoid storing your gear inside the case, though, when the case absorbed some moisture. It helps to use a lens cover to keep your scope protected.
Get a Tripod
Make sure to choose a good and high-quality one, though. Note that no matter how powerful, bright, and crisp your spotting scope is, it still can’t give you an incredible image if the tripod where you mount it to is flimsy. Choose a sturdy and rigid tripod – one with the least leg adjustments as much as possible.
If possible, the legs should also feature flip locks. It is because these features make it possible to retract and extend the tripod and make adjustments to it when you are on uneven grounds.
Take a Break
Do not forget to take a break, too. There is a high chance for you to experience headaches if you spend a lot of time on a spotting scope without giving yourself the chance to enjoy even a short break. Allow your eyes to rest regularly. Look up every now and then. Also, take extended breaks, especially if you have already been on the scope for a prolonged period.
Frequently Asked Questions About Spotting Scopes
Can I use a spotting scope for astronomy as a telescope?
Yes, you can. It is even possible for you to use it for casual stargazing at night and to learn some basic astronomy. The design of both the telescope and the spotting scope is also almost the same, so you can use the latter in viewing astronomical objects like the moon and planets.
You can further maximize the scope for that specific purpose especially if you plan to use it for viewing when the condition in the night sky is more than ideal.
Can I use a spotting scope without a tripod?
Yes, you can. However, most expert and intermediate users do not recommend using this type of scope without a tripod. It is because of the major roles that the tripod plays on your whole experience. Among the things it can provide when used are a better sighting, high level of stability, and decent eye relief.
If you are worried about the weight then you can rest assured that there are tripods out there known to be lightweight, especially those constructed from carbon fiber material. With their lightness, carrying them around is easy.
What is the best 1000-yard spotting scope?
The best 1000-yard spotting scope is that which has the highest level of optical performance considering the extreme demands of long-range shooting. It should have all the features necessary for enhancing contrast, resolution, and clarity.
Among the features, you have to look for are high magnification power (around 20 to 60x and 20 to 80x), at least 80 mm range for the objective lens, fully multicoated lens, and external lens coating, including hardness and water-repellent treatments.
It also needs to have fast-focus or dual-focus systems so you can obtain fine adjustments to improve clarity and sharpness.
What spotting scope does the military use?
Because special operations units and snipers gained approval to buy items not included in the catalog of the military, you can see several versions and models of the spotting scope being used by military officials. M151 is one of the spotting scopes issued for use by the military. It comes with a coating that can diffuse laser light.
Some of these military spotting scopes can be attached with night vision devices, like the best thermal scope. Night vision goggles have awesome imaging that you can also attach to the scope, making it a nice night vision scope for the military.
What is the best Swarovski spotting scope?
The best Swarovski spotting scope is known for its incredible optics and stunning design. The optic is so good that you will never have problems using it for nautical observation and nature viewing, among many other purposes.
The best scope from the Swarovski brand also showcases a unique style, which means that there is a difference in objective modules and eyepieces. This is a good thing if you want the scope to perfectly fit every user.
How do I attach a camera to a spotting scope?
To attach a camera to your spotting scope, you can use the built-in attachments specifically designed for that purpose. You can find these attachments in scopes created while prioritizing the needs of users and photographers.
However, for those that do not have such attachments built-in, you can use that attachment, which works as the optical lens replacement. In most cases, this attachment is specific to the brand.
How do I attach a spotting scope to a tripod?
One thing you have to know about spotting scopes, especially the scope made for 308 rifle, is that it is created in a way that you can naturally attach it to the tripod. This is the main reason why you can see a built-in nut at the bottom part of the spotting scope. You should connect it to the screw on the topmost part of the tripod.
How can I attach my tablet to my spotting scope?
You can use adapters if you want to attach your tablet to your scope. What you should do is to attach such adapters into the scope of the head of the tripod.
What do the numbers on spotting scope mean?
It means the actual specs of the spotting scope, which is often indicated by a couple of numbers. The first one refers to the magnification power while the second one refers to the scope’s diameter. The two elements can have a major impact on the overall performance of the spotting scope as well as its size.
You could become very confused by trying to look at and inspect the dozens of spotting scopes available. But, you should be able to choose from among the shortlist presented here, or at least select from one of the six manufacturers presented. Prices range from $200 to $1,000, so this makes it even more difficult to decide. But, you can get a very good scope without breaking the bank, so to speak.
If you have to have the lightest scope, choose the Leupold. For a solid, rugged scope to be used on a tripod, Bushnell or Vanguard could be a great choice. But, in truth, you won’t go wrong with Redfield, Vortex, or Celestron either.
Make sure you’re comfortable with the price you pay for the features and benefits you receive. The buying process for a spotting scope is no different from making any other significant purchase.
The best spotting scope is indeed important if you want to gather all relevant details regarding your target object using positive identification. However, when used for outdoor activities, you should not forget to combine it with other items that can further enhance your overall experience.
For instance, you may want to start checking out any legitimate review of the most accurate compasses today, so you can find one which can also help during your outdoor adventures. If needed, make it a point to choose a crossbow scope with good illumination, too, as this can support your aim of obtaining clear images and view of your target.