What is a spotting scope?
Spotting scopes are types of telescopes that are used for birding, astronomy, target shooting, and ocean viewing. If you are trying to get a view of something at a distance on land and binoculars don’t fit, then you must consider a spotting scope. This guide on “how to choose a spotting scope” will make everything easy for you.
If you’re willing to buy a spotting scope, it’s probably better to learn about them in detail first, so you can make a great decision while buying a spotting scope. Some of the top features which one should keep in mind while buying spotting scopes are Lenses, magnification, angle, digital needs, and type. So we are here to guide you to choose the best spotting scopes.
Features to consider while buying spotting scopes
1. Type : Straight or Angled
Almost everyone prefers Angled spotting scope over Straight one because of the comfort they get when viewing through eyepiece. It helps in changing heights easily as most good spotting scopes come with a marksman screw that allows the scope to rotate on its mount.
If you don’t like to move your scope you can prefer the Straight one. It is preferred if you want to use it in a car or even for hunting purposes.
This is totally up to you, if you can afford then it’s a great feature as it will make it more resistant to dust, water, fog etc. Waterproof scopes are a bit costly.
Although Most of the time your scope will be set up at a fixed place only, but still it’s a good practice to consider the weight of the spotting scope while buying. Consider a situation where you are hiking, So you don’t want to carry a heavy 100 mm scope up a mountain. One should go for the lighter scopes like 60 mm or 80 mm but also you should know that as you move down on size you also lose some quality. So one should prefer a balance act.
It’s an important factor but at the same time tricky too. There is a myth that higher the magnification better is your scope, which is totally wrong. Spotting scopes are a type of medium-range telescope, and come with a magnification power ranging between 15x and 60x. One can change the magnification power, they can use either interchangeable fixed-length eyepieces or a single zoom eyepiece. If you will increase the magnification even more than 60x it will start falling in telescope type.
One thing you should remember is that higher the magnification narrower will be your view area. So when you are scanning an area, it’s a good practice to cut on magnification, once you have spotted something and want to get a good closer look, change the magnification to high power.
The decision to choose a correct lens is also hard to make. As if you choose a too big lens, too much light will enter which will wash your image at the same time if you choose a too small lens, you will face the opposite problem. Generally, spotting scope lenses range between 50-80mm, as this provides an ideal range for light absorption. Larger lenses are also available but you should keep in mind that they will increase the weight of spotting scope too.
If looking for optimal brightness and color, fully multi-coated lenses are best. In today’s time there are a variety of options available for lenses at good price. So if going for a lens then try to get the highest quality scope which you can afford as it will play an important role later.
6. Eye Relief
It is the space between the eyepiece lens and where your eye rests. It is an important factor for those who wear eyeglass. As they will need longer eye relief for comfortable use of the scope. Spotting scopes with longer eye relief provide the focal point farther back behind the eyepiece so the eyeglass wearer can see a broad view of the landscape. Eye relief is measured in millimeters and can be found in the model’s technical specifications. Normally, 12–15 mm of eye relief is adequate for most eyeglass wearers.
7. Glass Quality
This feature determines the performance of your scope in low light. Top spotting scope lenses are built with fluorite-coated, high density, or extra-low dispersion glass. When using in low light you will notice the difference in image quality. According to your needs, you can determine which one suits you. We prefer you to go with high quality, high priced glass.
8. Light-Gathering Capacity
The light-gathering capacity of a spotting scope is dependent on the size of the objective lens. It ranges between 50 mm and 100 mm depending upon the model. It has both pros and cons as larger the objective lens high will be light gathering ability and better will be the quality of image, but at the same time it will make your scope more heavier.
One of the most amazing features of spotting scopes is DigiScoping, it is the mechanism of attaching a digital camera with your spotting scope so you can capture beautiful high definition images of the objects.
If just for fun, then you may use your smartphone camera by putting it at the eyepiece. But if you are serious about photography you can buy the special digital eyepieces especially made for cameras. But that is an expensive option. That’s Why I used the word serious.
So these were some of the features one should keep in mind while buying a Spotting scope. Now we will be discussing some of the best spotting scopes in different categories.
How to choose a spotting scope for birding
If you love to watch birds and at the same time capture some high definition beautiful images then Spotting scopes are the perfect fit for you. So we are here with a list of Best Spotting scopes for Birding. Amazon buy links are also provided, so you can check easily.
Best Spotting Scopes for Birding
1. Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scope
Vortex Optics Diamondback is one of the most favourite and in demand spotting scope for birding, as it provides you with great features in a light and compact set. It delivers sharp, colorful images in a small, compact frame. It makes you feel like you’re close to the birds you’re tracking.
The optics are of high quality and maintain every possible small details that are important for a good birding scope. A great advantage is that it’s both water- and fogproof, so you need not to worry about moisture getting into your scope and ruining your beautiful images if it gets wet while you’re out in the forest.
If you are birding during sunny, cloudless days, this scope has a built-in sunshade. If we talk about the downside then focusing can be sometimes difficult. But the real pain is the price. Due to great features like waterproof lenses etc makes it really expensive. So we totally left it up to you. If you can afford it then it’s a must buy.
- Built-in sunshade
- Focusing is a bit difficult
- Price is quite high
2. Celestron Regal M2 80ED Birding Scope
Although it is second in our list but still it is no less than number one. This prism comes with low-dispersion glass and coated optics which help in maintaining sharp images. Features like a large objective lens help scope to gather as much light as possible especially in bad conditions or lowlight. This scope is also waterproof and fog proof, So moisture wouldn’t ruin your images.
This scope is also lightweight, making it easy to carry around with you. If we talk about disadvantages then it has a pretty narrow eye-relief, which could be an issue for eyeglass wearers.
- Great value
- Angled Body
- Coated optics
- Poor eye relief
- Cost is high
3. Celestron 80mm Ultima Zoom Bird Spotting Scope
This is one of the best options for a great price, as it is quite affordable. It’s not like that for a low price they are giving trash. Actually you get great features like a waterproof frame. It has got great optics features, the images are pretty sharp and clear. It comes with a large objective lens, so you can get a good view even in low light.
If we talk about cons, eye relief is an issue, as it is quite narrow.
- Great optics
- Eye relief
How to choose a spotting scope for astronomy
Although when it comes to astronomy, people prefer telescopes of high power but if you don’t want a heavy setup and at the same time enjoy some beautiful sceneries of space then we are here with a list of best spotting scopes for Astronomy.
Best Spotting Scopes for Astronomy
1. CELESTRON ULTIMA 100 ANGLED SPOTTING SCOPE
The reason it has topped our list is it’s unmatchable features and great quality. Also it has great customer ratings. This scope offers sharp images and long distance viewing efficiency. This scope comes with one of the most powerful zoom eyepieces. All of this packed in compact makes it a beast in a small package. Making it easy to carry around.
It is also waterproof, thus no matter how harsh weather conditions are, you can use it without any difficulty. Features like Anti-reflective multi-coated optics, A 45-degree viewing angle on the 100mm objective lens make it more appealing. Only con is it’s price, it is a bit costly. But keeping in mind it’s features, it is totally worth it.
- Great optics
- Light weight
- Bit costly
2. GOSKY 2019 20-60×80 SPOTTING SCOPE
This scope delivers superior optical performance, better focus, and more powerful magnification power. It is built with a strong framework and rubber armor, thus making it a perfect fit for harsh conditions and rough terrains, it can easily survive rough environments.
It comes with features like Non-slippery, shock-proof grip, A dynamic lens focusing mechanism, making it super easy to zoom in on the target, high power magnification, Fog-proof and waterproof material. One of the best features is it’s accessories like a smartphone digiscoping adapter so that you can click HD pictures. A tripod, carry case, eyepiece, cleaning cloth and lens protection covers come along this spotting scope.
- Optical performance
- Great built
- A bit costly
3. CREATIVE XP HD SPOTTING SCOPE
This scope comes with great features at an affordable price. Features like a 20-60×80 mm zoom eyepiece which delivers clear, bright images even in low light. Built with great material to make it durable, this scope is water, fog and even shock proof. Thus what more can one demand. Not only can you get a great view of planets and stars, but you can use this scope for different activities too.
Some more features include Full multi-coating to prevent reflections and keep the lens safe from scratches, this scope mount a 2-Fine Focus Knob to allow quick and easy focusing. The adjustable large Eye Relief is a lifesaver for people who wear eyeglasses. They also provide extendable sunshades, and accessories like a tripod, case, cell phone adapter and photo clicker.
- Great opticals
- Good accessories
- Limited amount of supply
How to choose a spotting scope for target shooting
Choosing the Best Target Spotting Scope can be a very difficult task especially when there is a wide range of products available out there. So we are here to cut your efforts short and provide you with the Best Spotting Scopes for Target Shooting.
Best Spotting Scopes for Target Shooting
1. Celestron – Ultima 80 Angled Spotting Scope
This scope is one of our best choices as it has got great features and is available for a good price. It comes with a large 80-mm objective lens which allows maximum light to enter. The provided lens coating prevents glare and flare, and it features a 20-60x high zoom capability. You will get a beautiful HD image from this scope even at night, not only shooting but it also worked well to see the planets and stars. You can easily dismantle the objective lens for cleaning, storing, or swapping. Also, it comes with a lot of accessories. The con is that no connection is provided for smartphones.
- Big objective lens
- Bright HD image
- High zoom power
- No smartphone connection
2. Huicocy Spotting Scope
It is also a great scope for value. It comes with a 60-mm objective lens and delivers a bright image and a wide field of view. Anti-glare multi-coating material helps keep the image sharp and clear. A 20-60x zoomable eyepiece and plenty of eye relief are its advantages. This spotting scope can also connect to your smartphone so that you can take pictures and record videos. Rubber armor protection makes it more durable.
If we talk about the downside of this scope, it’s objective lens is a bit low as compared to others on the list. Also the eyelid could be better. Rest this is one of the best scope for such price.
- Low cost
- High zoom
- Smartphone connecter
- Difficult to use while wearing glasses
3. Gosky 3216579075 Spotting Scope
This is an amazing scope with some great features.It features a wide 80-mm objective lens which lets plenty of light enter and provides a large field of view. The multi-coated glass prevents any glare and shadows. Also the high definition image comes with more contrast as compared to other models. If that’s not enough then you also get a retractable sunshade which further reduces glare on the lens. The 20-60x powerful zoom lens allows you to get a close view of any object. This spotting scope also provides you connections for smartphones and cameras so that you can easily capture the moments.
The only problem one may notice is that it is unsteady when connected to a tripod. Rest assured this is one of the best scopes available out there.
- High Zoom
- Objective lens
- Smartphone and Camera connector
- Shakiness when connected to a tripod
Best Spotting Scopes for Ocean Viewing
If you are looking for a spotting scope just to have a great view of the ocean, aquatic animals etc then we have the best scope for you. Although most of the scopes mentioned above are enough for this task, still we are here with a recommendation especially for ocean viewing.
1. Celestron – Ultima 100 Angled Spotting Scope
This scope will fulfill all your needs and is available for a great price at amazon. If we talk about its features then this scope comes with a great 100mm objective lens and a 45° viewing angle. Which makes it perfect for long-distance viewing. It comes with an extended tripod mounting plate for getting a better view, zoom eyepiece along with an adapter for connecting smartphone or camera. So you can capture the images. A carrying case, eyepiece lens cap, pouch, lens cloth, etc are also provided in accessories. You get a 2-year warranty too.
- Great objective lens
- Smartphone and camera connector
- Enough accessories
- 2-year warranty
While you look for answers to how to choose a spotting scope, you can go for specific to your requirement like how to choose a spotting scope for birding, how to choose a spotting scope for target shooting, how to choose a spotting scope for astronomy, how to choose a spotting scope for ocean viewing etc. I have also written in-depth guides specific to each of the above queries.