A spotting scope is a small device that is majorly used for magnification of terrestrial objects. It is a small and portable telescope that is designed with added optics that present an optimized, erect image when an object is observed through it. The product is used to score targets at varying distances to give a shooter a precise deadly shot.
This accessory is used anytime that one needs more magnification than the magnification provided by binoculars. They are widely used for surveillance, landscape viewing, hunting, birding, ships, and wildlife among other distant objects. The scopes are also used for pistol & archery ranges, scoring targets on rifles as well as well as in astronomy and in taking of long distance pictures.
How the Spotting Scope Works
A great deal of spotting scopes have labels bearing three numbers with the first two representing the magnification range, whereas the last number representing the front lens’ size. For instance, for the 14-45x60 model, the spotting scope has a magnification ranging between 15x and 45x and a front lens measuring 60mm in diameter.
The main features of the spotting scope are the magnification lenses. The main features revolve around the quality and magnification strength of the objective lenses and the eyepiece, and their arrangement to ensure image quality upon observation.
With higher magnification that starts where binoculars reach, there are two things that will determine the amount of magnification to be used. The first is the atmosphere where more magnification will be required when there is much dust, glare, humidity, waves, air currents and wind. The second focus limiting factor is the inherent optical system of the product. The higher the magnification value is, the lower the quality of the image. You can’t help this.
Benefits of a Spotting Scope
Though the advantages are many, its strongest point is the fact that it allows one to observe bird species with their absolute precision from friendly distances. As a result, studies are able to be done without having to interfere with the birds in their ecosystem. The main benefits of the spotting scope therefore are:
- Finding a specific bird in a large flock of birds: You are now able to spot that elusive bird you have been studying even from a flock of thousands
- Locating a bird in the hiding: From as far as about 200 or 300 yards, you will be able to spot that bird species that rarely gets to where people are, whether it’s on the ground or in the air
- Distinguishing between similar species: This may be almost impossible if you use your naked eyes or even binoculars. Even in darkness or during an overcast day, be sure of getting the distinction
- Identification of lookalike birds: Thanks to the magnification power of the scopes
In a nutshell, the spotting scopes can help you distinguish between similar species, spot distant birds and trace where a bird is hiding in nature or in a flock. All this is done with clarity and precision.
- The scopes are also great in telephotography
- They are great aids in digiscoping (mounting digital camera on a spotting scope)
How to Choose a Spotting Scope
Acquiring a spotting scope will be an achievement and a great decision it is to go for one. There are numerous benefits that are associated with using these products. It is important to understand that getting a spotting scope is one thing whereas getting the scope that suits your needs is another. Before buying this product, there are some factors that you need to put into consideration. These are discussed below.
1. Identify and consider your priorities/ Spotting Scope Features
What are the exact precise features that you need in the scope you want to acquire? The rule of the thumb when buying this product is that you only need it if the magnification you want is more than what binoculars can offer. Generally, these scopes are used for birding, wildlife spotting, archery and hunting. They are rarely used for other spotting activities. Clearly, there are tons of activities that can be done with these scopes. Each activity may auger well with a specific scope hence the need to know exactly what you need. Some of the things that will help you determine the best product for your activity include the body style among others. The two main body types are the angled and the straight bodied, with the former being recommended for those who are shorter than the average size and the latter for those viewing objects from a high position. Other features include:
- Objective Lens
The quality of the objective lens is the absolute factor that determines the quality of the spotting scope. The objective lens needs to consist of high performance glass. Consider the quality of lens rather than size if you are to choose between the two. The rule of the thumb is a larger high quality lens produces superior images at the highest magnification as compared to smaller lenses of same quality. The larger the objective lens, the higher the price of the scope.
Most of the views done with these products require a magnification strength ranging between 30x and 40x with high end products providing up to about 60x. The higher the magnification value is, the wider the scope under which you can use your Scope.
- Lens Coating
This is an important aspect that must not be overlooked. Multi-coating, full coating or fully multi-coating can be done on the lenses. Coating improves the efficiency under which the high magnification setting works as it improves light transmission thus producing optimal viewing experience.
- Eye Relief
This is the distance between the scopes’ eyepiece and where the viewer’s eyes can be without lose of any part of the field of view. Bespectacled people really need this feature, with such people being able to use the scopes even while wearing glasses, if the eye relief is big enough.
- Prism Type
A good number of the scopes use prisms to flip the image. The two main prism types in these scopes are the Porro prism and the roof prism with the former being efficient, cheaper and most common whereas the latter is lightweight.
Beware that there are times that eyepieces aren’t included in the scope’s price. If included in the price, chances are high that the eyepiece isn’t removable. High end scopes come with removable eyepieces thus allowing the buyer the chance of choosing an eyepiece of choice from an array of available options. In such a case, you have the option of a zoom eyepiece or the single powered eyepiece to choose from.
- Close Focus
This is the nearest distant the scope can view. A good number of them have a close focus not less than 20 feet. It is a feature that’s very important when it comes to viewing minuscule details such as on bird feathers.
- Camera Adapters
The majority of the spotting scopes are capable of adapting to a camera so as to make taking long distance pictures easy in a process known as digiscoping. If you want to digiscope, ensure that the scope you are going for is compatible with your camera so as to produce vibrant and razor sharp exceptionally high quality images.
Also consider the objective lens, which is the core of the accessory, the eye relief, the magnification, lens coating, tripods, and waterproof/fog proof features,.
2. Set Your Budget
Ideally, setting the budget should come last; if at all money isn’t a problem to you. However, if you can’t, allocate the highest amount of money possible. This is because the more expensive the scope, the better and more efficient it is. Even if you are on budget, try not to go any lower than $300.
3. Choosing the Brand
It is safer to buy a scope from the popular brands than from those brands that haven’t yet made a name for themselves. Recognized brands always guarantee credibility, quality and durability. Some of the recommended brands include Celestron, Vortex, Vanguard, Bushnell, Konus and Leupold.
4. Reviews, Testimonials and Recommendations
You can always go online and check for reviews from credible sites such as Amazon to get a jest of what people are saying about the scope you are about to buy. Each scope is reviewed by everyday user and they are at a better position to tell you exactly what their experience with the product was. You will definitely not get it wrong if you buy a product that rate at 4 or even 4.5 stars out of five after several dozens of reviews. Listening to your friend who has used the products before will also guide you a great deal.
If the warranty is short, it means even the producing company doesn’t trust its product. A long warranty is an assurance that you have a formidable scope. In addition, you are cushioned from any great losses as it will either be repaired or replaced for you in case of any malfunctions.
Reviews of Top Most Spotting Scopes in Different Categories
Best Spotting Scopes for Hunting
The Vortex 20-60x85 Razor HD Spotting Scope
This is undoubtedly among the finest, if not the very finest and most reliable scope you can depend on. The spotting scope competes at the highest levels of performance that you will not expect from any other model. Its sophisticated triplet apochromatic lens technology is its signature feature. The feature delivers exceptionally high view definition across the entire field of view without having to dilute the color fidelity, degradation of resolution or color fringing. It is not by chance but by design that the product ends at the top of the best spotting scope reviews.
- Triplet apochromatic lens for a reduced chromatic aberration. It features a Porro Prism that provides maximum quality and performance of images.
- Dielectric prism coatings that provide the brightest and clearest images with the most accurate color.
- High Density or rather Premium extra-low disoersion glass for maximum possible resolution
- O-ring sealed optics for prevention of debris, dust and moisture hence resulting in waterproof and weather proof performance. Internal fogging is inhibited by the argon gas purging.
- Ultra-hard-coated Armor Tek for protection of the lenses from dirt, oil and scratches.
- Propriety XR anti-reflective layer of coat to increase transmission of light hence maximum brightness.
- Coarse & fine focus adjustments
- Excellent optics designed for fantastic transmission of light
- Large range of compatible separate accessories such as camera adapters etc
- 67 ounces is rather quite heavy
- Doesn’t come with a hard carrying case
The Vortex 20-60x85 Razor HD Spotting Scope is an easy scope to use. It is a foolproof which can easily be adjustable and should be acquired by any person who is keen on getting the finest details.
Best Spotting Scopes for Target Shooting
Minox 16-30X50mm Spotting Scope
As far as target shooting is concerned, there is probably no other spotting scope that comes any where closer to the Minox 16-30X50mm Spotting Scope. The scope features a compact and lightweight construction thus making it a must-have for all those who travel a lot with their scopes to view different types of features and wildlife in various areas. With a fully multi-coated lens and a porro type of prism, the resultant image is with great color and clarity, more than you probably had anticipated.
If you are a target shooter or marksman, maybe the features and reviews of this product can make you consider getting a piece of your own.
- Nitrogen filling or purging on the inside to prevent corrosion and fogging
- Sturdy construction for durability and easy carriage due to size
- Lightweight body construction
- Precision mechanics on the optics for maximum efficiency and protection against damage when in normal use.
- 16x to 30x eyepiece
- A wide enough Field of View
- Outstanding image quality
- Total coverage warranty
- Excellent transmission of light
- A relatively short eye relief
- Waterproof only up to 16 feet
Though it features a close focus that’s quite larger than most people in the photography industry would have wanted, its exceptionality in the production of considerable detail when used in taking those long range shots makes it a worthy investment. In addition to the functionality, the sturdy exteriors are fitted with rubber armoring thus ensuring the surface is secure and non-slip thus making it perfect for mountaineering.
Best Spotting Scopes for Birding
Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope
Taking great pride as the bearer of the biggest aperture scope from the Ultima line, the Celestron 52252 100mm Ultima Zoom provides over 50% brighter images compared to the 80mm that allow better performance even under low light conditions.
Taking great pride for being one of the most popular Celestron product, the Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope, is a great product, thanks to the great performance that it is associated with. The Scope’s resultant images are noticeably sharper and brighter than most of its counterparts in the market. It is a refractor style scope that has an achromatic objective lens in its design. With excellent light transmission that is made possible by the anti-reflective multi-layered objective lens, the BAK-4 prisms and the zoom eyepiece, what else can you ask for from a spotting scope as far as magnification is concerned? This multicoated objective lens delivers an incredible 77%$ brighter views than a good number of the competing scopes.
- Soft carrying case
- Sight tube, designed for quicker targeting
- Limited lifetime Spotting Scope warranty
- Multi-coated optics
- Zoom Eyepiece
- Rubber eye cup
- BAK-4 prisms
- Multi layer coated Achromatic objective lens
- Between 30x and 60x magnification
- Used in a wide scope of activities
- Quality construction thus stability even in rugged conditions
- Multi-layered optics for efficient anti-reflection and maximum light transmission
- Works perfectly even under low light conditions
- Smooth zooming easy to use functions
- Compatible with an array of tripods
- Chromatic aberrations can be detected under magnifications beyond 20x. However, image sharpness and quality isn’t compromised by this
It is guaranteed that you will love carrying it along anytime you are going on the long distances to observe nature firsthand. With the Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope, you are now certain that you will have a subtle observation regardless of the environmental or nature conditions. The scope is credited not just for promising its users a great performance. It draws most of its credits from the fact that it delivers exactly what it promised.
Reviews of Best Spotting Scopes for The Money
Best Spotting Scopes Under $100
These are entry level spotting scopes for those who are just being introduced to using scopes. If you can, you would rather buy the more expensive scopes than these.
The Emarth 20-60x60AE Spotting Scope
The Emarth 20-60x60AE spotting scope comes with a carriage bag and a tripod in the package. It is the perfect solution for hunters, birders, travelers and naturalists within such a price range. It features a dynamic lens system that ensures images are revealed in vivid color, optimum contrast and a very sharp resolution. It is very convenient as it can easily be carried to wherever you are going to. The product has been designed for great performance in all viewing situations even at its price.
- Ergonomic construction with a rubber shock absorbing armor for enhanced protection and maximum overall comfort in handling
- 45 degree Angled spotting scope
- Magnification range between 20x and 60x together with a 60mm objective lens
- Complete fog and waterproof protection hence perfect for all weather conditions
- Fully multi coated optics and BK-7 prism for clear views
- Lightweight and rugged construction
- Fully multi-coated optics
- All weather i.e. waterproof and fog proof
- Included tripod is of very poor quality
- Focus & zoom adjustment knobs turn too easily
- Image quality is poor at high magnifications
Supported with a lifetime support guarantee, a thirty day money back guarantee together with a warranty of twelve months, be sure of getting one of the best, easy=to=reach and friendly customer care support from Emarth. With the Emarth 20-60x60AE, they guarantee you an all-round spotting optical instrument that’s perfect for outdoor sports among other viewing activities. It is the absolute spotting scope for $100
Best Spotting Scopes under $200
They are amateur level scopes that are slightly more superior to the entry level spotting scopes but most are still short of the very important features for image precision.
The Redfield Rampage 20-60x60mm Spotting Scope
A spotting scope with much desired features, if you are on budget and want an entry level product that will serve you better than any other of its price range, the Redfield Rampage 20-60x60mm is the product to beat. Together with its magnification range of 20x to 60x, the scope comes with numerous other features that can only be found in scopes twice its cost. It is a lightweight product that has been designed with optic features that increases transmission of light thus allowing the viewer a sharper image.
- Magnification range of between 20x and 60x
- Straight eyepiece
- Fully multi-coated lens
- Bright & crisp images
- Hard sturdy body for any rugged terrain
- Excellent scope’s field of view
- When zooming is being done to maximum magnification, slight image shift amounts are noticed
The lenses, which are fully multi-coated, are responsible for the increase in image clarity, thus an enhanced sharper image view. The scope is not only formidable in performance but also features an all weather, all terrain design. With a rugged design, it can be used by the mountaineers in any weather conditions and terrain without the fear of destroying the scope.
Best Spotting Scopes under $500
These are mid range spotting scopes that have almost all the performance features of the high end scopes but may lack the luxuries associated with the high ended scopes.
Vortex Diamondback 20-60×80 Straight Spotting Scope
Though not within the highest end, this product can be classified under the high end products, characterized with maximum performance but lacks just some little aspects of luxury. In other words, as far as performance is concerned, this is a product you can trust. The scope’s value is not in the price tag but the great performance which is at par with those scopes that cost which cost $1,000 and even beyond.
The 20-60×80 Vortex Diamondback is an excellent spotting scope within the mid-range, which comes with a fully multi-coated lens and a dielectric prism coating thus an optimum light transmission is realized. This gives the marksman an image which remains true to nature’s bright colors. The straight body is classic and the system is weather proof, featuring water and fog resistance for maximum performance in all terrains and environmental conditions.
- Straight body
- ArmorTek exterior
- Dielectric Prism coatings
- Fog and water proof
- XR lens coatings for anti reflection
- Good price for such features
- Great image quality
- Ease of use
- At maximum magnification, there is slight hazing of images
This Vortex Diamondback brand is an angled spotting scope that is 100% waterproof and comes with incredible image performance not forgetting that it stands up to heavy performance in the field. All these with its lightweight compact construction are difficult to find elsewhere.
Best Spotting Scopes under $1000
They are high end spotting scopes that not only gives you the fine image definitions but are also classy for comfort. It is the product that is bought by all serious marksmen and researchers who are keen to detail.
The Vortex Optics Razor HD 16-48x65
The Vortex Optics Razor HD is a featured fantastic high end angles spotting scope that without any doubt exceeds the expectations of a great deal of its users. Its performance has enabled it to earn ravaging reviews amongst those using the spotting scopes. The remarkable apochromatic lens technology applied, that features ground HD optical glass is one of the major factors that has made the product to be appreciated all over. This optical glass provides for maximum image resolution, eliminating a great deal of chromatic aberrations.
- Porro prism that is credited for the maximum image performance and quality of the scope
- In the case is the spotting scope, objective lens cover, eyepiece cap together with a see-through carry case
- HD Lens Elements i.e. a High Density (Premium HD) extra-low dispersion glass with delivery of ultimate resolution together with color fidelity
- Resultant High Definition Images
- APO system comprising of Triplet Apochromatic lens that is combined with Premium glass for unmatched color sharpness
- XRPlus Fully Multi-Coated objective lens for delivery of the highest light transmission levels
- Best quality images courtesy of best scope features
- Diverse use such as hunting or bird watching etc
- Chromatic aberrations eliminated by triplet apochromatic lens
- Rapid fine focus
- The roll down rubber eye-cups are a little old fashioned
- Tripod mount is quite tricky to rotate for a different angle
The spotting scope features an extremely lightweight construction, in spite the fact that its magnesium alloy made body is tough in deed. In combination with the great magnification and optics, it is weatherproof and comes with a lifetime warranty, making it one of the greatest buddies as far as spotting scoping is concerned.