Top 10 Best Spotting Scopes Reviews & Buyers Guides
One thing that cannot be disputed whatsoever is that different people have got different hobbies. As much as there are quite a number of spotting scopes in the market today, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be getting exactly what you want.
Besides just knowing why you need a spotting scope, it is also important that you get to know the different types and designs of scopes and that is where we come in.
What if we told you that you’ll be getting exactly what you are looking for?
Though it sounds like much of a cliché, it's really why we are here for you. In this section, we'll not only be having a look at the key things you should take into account before you can make your purchase but in addition to this, you'll also get to have a look at 10 of our best spotting scope.
Well, that being said, let’s delve into the main event, here’s how you can get the best…
- 1 Why would I need a spotting scope?
- 2 HOW TO SELECT THE BEST SPOTTING SCOPE
- 3 Editor Choice: Top 10 Best Spotting Scopes Reviews
- 3.1 #1. Gosky 20-60X 80 Porro Prism Spotting Scope
- 3.2 #2. VORTEX OPTICS DIAMONDBACK SPOTTING SCOPE
- 3.3 #3. BUSHNELL TROPHY XTREME SPOTTING SCOPE
- 3.4 #4. EMARTH 20-60X60AE WATERPROOF ANGLED SPOTTING SCOPE WITH TRIPOD
- 3.5 #5. BARSKA BENCHMARK 25-125X88 WATERPROOF STRAIGHT SPOTTING SCOPE
- 3.6 #6. BARSKA 20-60X60 WATERPROOF STRAIGHT SPOTTING SCOPE WITH TRIPOD
- 3.7 #7. Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope
- 4 #8. BARSKA 15-40X50 COLORADO SPOTTING SCOPE
- 5 Features to consider when buying a spotting scope
Why would I need a spotting scope?
Think of a spotting scope as a telescope that you’d conveniently use when it comes to making terrestrial observations. Though there is an alternative to using a spotting scope (a pair of binoculars). The best thing about a spotting scope is that the images are brighter and have got a high contrast with reduced eye strain altogether.
Most spotting scopes even the ones with the simplest construction are coated with a thin film of magnesium fluoride which in turn results in better light transmission.
With the best spotting scopes, you’ll be getting an outstanding color correction and sharp images. Such is the best choice to go for if you love nature and bird watching. When it comes to planetary lunar viewing the chromatic aberration is virtually eliminated so as to give you the best views.
HOW TO SELECT THE BEST SPOTTING SCOPE
What is the best magnification on a spotting scope?
As far as getting the best views and observations are concerned most spotting scope reviews will insist on the idea that better images are obtained if the magnification is strong which we also do agree on
Here’s what you should have in mind…
If you are just starting off as a hunter or are taking part in birdwatching for the first time, binoculars might work. If you advance, however, you will need a spotting scope. The cone with a variable zoom, for example, 15-45x or 20-60x. The zoom here just works in a similar way to that of a camera. The higher the magnification is, the more detail you are bound to get.
If you need to zoom out, this is also possible.
Getting the ideal lens size
In this case, you will be needed to choose whether you prefer a better image quality or if you need a lighter, smaller and obviously more portable spotting scope.
The scopes with a smaller lens are considered to have a size of about 50mm. When it comes to the larger ones, the lens size is 50 to 100mm. as it is expected, the larger the lens size, the better the spotting scope performs when it comes to light gathering hence the images will be larger, brighter and clearer.
The downside of having a large spotting scope is that you will have to cope with the weight that comes with it. The same also goes for the price tag- they are quite expensive. Taking this into account, you need to consider where you will be using your spotting scope at. If you won’t be moving around quite often and will spend most of your time observing while you're in a fixed spot, then go for a tripod. If you'll be traveling around more often, on the other hand, you should go for the 50mm-60mm scope
Which is better between an angled and a straight spotting scope?
When it comes to design variation, most scopes offer 2 options which are the straight eyepiece or the angular one. With the angled one, you'll be peering down the eyepiece of the scope whereas, for the straight one, it will simply be looking ahead.
- When it comes to birdwatching or observing the moon, the angled scopes are preferred by many since:
- You will be able to use them for an extended span of time
- The angled scope offers better convenience when you want to have a better vertical view- it allows you to aim upwards towards a bird in a tree, the mountain or the moon.
When it comes to the straight facing scope, they turn out to be preferred by many since just the way you are used to looking ahead of you, the straight scope is pointed where you simply look. This is good for hunting as it permits straight point and shoots alignment and at the same time, you get to lay low.
Tips: Here's our in-depth guide on Angled VS Straight Spotting Scopes. You may check this.
Getting the best spotting scope tripod
The good news is that you may be lucky to get a spotting scope+tripod kit in which case, you'll be at an advantage since the tripod, in this case, is completely meant for the spotting scope that it comes with. Besides only eliminating the chances of you getting fatigued if you are using in on one position for long, they also do allow you to get a steady visual.
If you choose a large spotting scope, you’ll definitely need a tripod stand. If you can’t get any, you may improvise and use your camera stand as well in which case not all will fit perfectly. The specific spotting scope tripods are more expensive than the camera tripods and are better quality and heavy duty.
If you’ll be going heavy, we really do recommend that you consider going for the tripod.
Editor Choice: Top 10 Best Spotting Scopes Reviews
Having had a look at why you should need a spotting scope as well as what you should have in mind so as to select the best spotting scope, let’s now move on to the 10 best picks of 2018
Starting us off on our list is the Gosky 20-60X 80. As far as getting the best spotting scope is concerned, this one might just be what you’ll be settling on.
When it comes to quality, it surely will give the best images. With the 80mm as the diameter of the objective lens, the image quality on the spotting scope is as best as it can be since plenty of light is allowed into the scope and directed to the eyepiece lens. Besides the objective lens alone, the quality BAK-4 prism within it and the outstanding eyepiece contribute to the delivery of brighter, clearer and crisp images.
As for moisture proofing, the seal on the lenses not only protect it from damage by water but also guard it against damage against fog and other wet conditions.
To make it more convenient for you to use, it comes with a tripod stand out of the box. Considering it weighs 1230g, this will come in handy a lot
So as to give you an even better experience, the scope comes with a digiscoping cell phone adapter that will allow you to take videos and images in the distant world
- For added durability, it is nitrogen filled so as to guard it against moisture damage.
- Fully multi-coated hence you get to have better images.
- With the 80mm objective lens, more light is let into the scope for clearer and brighter images.
- The chromatic aberration is noticeable especially at higher magnifications
If you’re willing to spend as much as you can so as to get the best, then you should definitely consider having a look at the Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting. Well, let’s see whether this is the best spotting scope for you or not then.
Starting with durability and convenience, it is both waterproof and fog proof which makes it stand out of the crowd from the rest. In addition to being moisture proof, you get an added bonus of the inside of the scope being protected from corrosion hence it can be used conveniently close to the ocean.
As far as design is concerned, the angled-body design on this scope will come in handy especially if you’ll be doing more of vertical observations such as bird watching and observing the sky.
When it comes to the coating, the lens boasts the XR Anti-Reflective Lens coatings so that you get to have a better view of your images.
Even though it’s not that heavy weighing 2 pounds, you can be able to use even a regular tripod stand on it if you need better stability or will be in one spot for long.
- Waterproof and fog proof for added durability.
- The angled body design makes it more convenient for viewing vertical objects.
- Considering you can be able to use it with a regular tripod camera stand, it won’t be much of a hassle to use it on one spot
- The eye relief may not be that satisfying.
Need to take your spotting scope experience to a whole new level, then this might just be what you’re looking for.
First of all, right after unboxing it, you’ll get not only the compact spotting scope but you also get to have a tripod, a car window mount and in addition to this, there is a soft carrying case, a premium hard case as well as a scope glove. This is pretty much everything you need to use it while on the go.
For an increased light transmission, the spotting scope comes with fully multi-coated lenses hence the best performance.
To ensure that you get to use it for as long as possible, the spotting scope is 100% waterproof and fog proof as well. if you’ve got clumsy hands, the fact that it comes with a shock absorbing armor means that it will still function flawlessly if accidentally dropped.
Comes in a 12-36x adjustable magnification and in addition to this, the objective lens is 50mm in size. This is just enough to give you the clear images you deserve.
- Completely moisture proof hence zero corrosion and utmost durability.
- The shockproof construction makes it more convenient and easy to use.
- Comes with a tripod stand out of the box to make it easier to use.
- The eye relief is not satisfying; you have to be really close to it.
With a lot of options in the market to choose from presently, getting the best spotting scope isn’t easy at all. In addition to this, it is also quite hard to get a spotting scope that will be offering you all or at least most of what you desire to find on a spotting scope. Taking this into account the Emarth 20-60x60AE has been constructed to give you a little bit of something so that you’ll be pleased by what you get.
Starting with the quality, the spotting scope features all coated glass optical components which in turn all function to give you a clean and crisp view in all of your observations. Also, the fact that it is made of high-quality materials guarantees ultimate stability as well as durability. Simply put, what you get from it is a lifetime of utmost pleasure and minimal maintenance.
Even though at 640 grams it is not that heavy, there is a tripod stand anyways which will definitely come in handy if you’ll be using it on one spot or just in case you need more stable images.
Something else that you get out of the box is a lens cap for protection purposes as well as a carry bag and a manual which comes in handy if you'll be using it for the first time. All the extra gear you get with the spotting scope also make it ideal for easy traveling and storage.
Also, the fact that it is an angled spotting scope makes it the ideal choice if you’ll be viewing vertical objects most of the time.
- Comes with a shock absorbing rubber armor for ultimate protection and better handling.
- Moisture proof for a better experience and also to keep the internal components functioning at their best.
- With the extra gear you get out of the box, it surely will be convenient to have while on the go.
- The tripod may not hold up well if the weather is too windy.
If you think that you've seen it all, then you should definitely have a look at this bad boy. well, let's have a look at what it packs under the hood then, shall we?
Starting off with what makes it stand out of the crowd, the spotting scope is 25-125x88. For anyone who knows even the tiniest bit of the magnification power of spotting scopes, they can definitely agree on the fact that this one's definitely worth each cent you spend on it.
With the extra-large 88mm lens, plenty of light is let in through the scope which, in the long run, ends up giving you clear, bright and crisp images. So as to back up the objective lens, the spotting scope’s magnification power is one of the strongest which makes the BARSKA Benchmark the best spotting scope for shooters and nature explorers.
Both waterproof and fog proof for utmost durability.
Considering the fact that it is a straight view spotting scope, it will be much easier to use on fairly even terrain so as to give the most comfortable observations. Speaking of comfort, it comes with an Accu grip that can be attached to the thread of the tripod’s scope so that you can use it as a hand-held spotting scope or alternatively, it can be utilized as both a grip and extension of the combined scope and tripod.
- Comes with a table tripod for a more stable use
- Waterproof and fog proof hence you get to use it for long with no replacements.
- The large objective lens and an outstanding magnification
- Though it is convenient to use and offers crisp, bright and accurate images, it’s quite large.
As far as convenience is concerned, you have nothing to worry about if you consider using this spotting scope while on the go.
Starting with the magnification, it has a 20-60x magnification range which will definitely give you clear images and in addition to this, it is also the best choice when it comes to hunting and bird watching. To make it more comfortable for use, the spotting scope is the straight-view type thence there’ll be no strains while using it in observing something that’s straight ahead
Another thing that is worth mentioning about the spotting scope is that it comes with a 60mm diameter. Though it’s not large, it is large enough to allow an ample amount of light through the objective lens so that you get to end up with nothing but clear and crisp images.
For anyone who’ll be using it on one spot for long, there is a pan head tripod stand included for you which besides eliminating any potential fatigue you may experience will also give you completely stable images.
Durability is also not left out on this spotting scope. Coming in a completely waterproof and fog proof design, the scope’s internal components are protected from corrosion hence you’ll use it near the ocean comfortably and at the same time with zero maintenance.
There is also a flip down lens cover for the sake of protecting the lens when the scope is not in use.
- Grooved zoom dial for smooth and accurate images.
- The straight body design makes it ideal for terrestrial observations.
- With the tripod included, you’ll get more stable images.
- The eye relief is quite wanting.
What say you we have a look at something that will definitely be worth all of the time and money you spend shopping? Well, if you are looking for a spotting scope that is going to take your observations to a whole new level, then consider paying close attention to this one.
First of all, as compared to the 60mm entry level spitting scopes, this one’s nothing like those and as far as getting quality images is concerned, the 80mm objective lens will be just enough to allow an ample amount of light through it which in the long run will result in you getting clear, crisp and bright images. Just to be specific, the images, in this case, will be 77% brighter than your usual 60mm spotting scopes.
As far as durability is concerned, the Celestron 52250is not only good in the sleek design it comes in but it also boasts a completely waterproof design. In addition to this, it includes a padded soft case with zippers on both ends so that the scope will be protected even while it is mounted on the tripod.
As for the zoom capability, the spotting scope allows you to adjust the images from 20x and you can crank the magnification up all the way to an outstanding 60x
Something else that is worth mentioning is that it is an angled spotting scope. As far as convenience and comfort while using it is concerned. This one just so happens to be one of the best for lunar observations as well as bird watching.
- Comes with a soft carrying case for utmost durability.
- Owing to the fact that it is waterproof, you won’t have to worry about damage by using it in humid conditions.
- The 80mm objective lens gives you bright, clear and crisp images.
- For a mile or a mile and a half, it has the best quality but beyond this, the quality diminishes
Well, we’re almost done with our top 10 list now and so far, we’re doing great. Coming up eighth on our list is the BARSKA 15-40x50. If you are looking for a budget spotting scope and would like utmost performance at the same time, then this should definitely be at the top of your shopping list.
Let’s start with the durability…
Besides having fully coated optics for the best light transmission, color correction and the sharpest images, the BARSKA 15-40x50 spotting scope boasts the Porro prism gives you a better depth perception and you also get to have a wider field of view.
All around the spotting scope is a rubber armor which makes this spotting scope one of the best in its class when it comes to shock absorption. Having this in mind, you’ll be able to use the scope for long and as often as you wish with minimal worry about maintenance.
For anyone who likes to use it frequently, there is a table tripod on which it can be mounted for more steady images and in addition to this, you get to have a soft carrying case that conveniently allows you to take the scope wherever you want to.
Being a 50mm spotting scope with a straight view, it turns out to be the best for terrestrial observations. Also, with the BK-7 puro prism, the images will be bright and rich in contrast as well.
- Lightweight yet does the job as expected- get to have clear, bright and crisp images.
- Comes with a table tripod stand for added convenience.
- Has got a rubber armor that acts as a shock absorber
- Though up to the task, the tripod is not as durable.
Coming up second last on our list is the Gskyer Spotting scope. Well, if you are looking for something that will give you one of the best experiences when it comes to bird watching, camping, shooting, hiking or traveling, then this one's definitely it.
First of all, it comes with the BK-7 prism. In addition to this, the optics are fully multi-coated which means that you’ll be getting nothing but a clear view at all times.
As for the performance, it is a 25-75x75 spotting scope. The magnification level you get from this is quite pleasing since you will be able to capture a lot of detail using the scope. Speaking of detail, something else that is worth mentioning is that it has got a 60mm diameter. This lets in enough light to give you crisp and bright images.
Being an angled spotting scope, you’ll be looking down on it and at the same time get the best view straight ahead. When it comes to bird watching and lunar observations, it’ll still perform just as good.
Considering that it comes with a carry bag, a handle tripod, and a cleaning cloth, it surely is one of the best you can have on the go without much of a fuss. Something else that is worth pointing out is that considering its size, the tripod will come in handy especially if you want to capture stable images or if you'll be staying in one spot for long.
- Fully multi-coated optics for a clear view.
- Comes with a carry bag, handle tripod and a cleaning cloth for added convenience.
- For long-term use with minimal maintenance, it has got quite a durable construction
- The eye relief is not the best.
Coming up last onour list, we’ll be looking at the Authentic ROXANT Blackbird which just so happens to be one of the best spotting scopes that you could use for almost any outdoor activity.
It comes in rugged non-slip armor and in addition to this, there is a large, smooth glide textured focus ring on the main barrel. The no-slip construction makes it just the best since it will comfortably stay in your hand. Also, the fact that it comes with a retractable eyepiece for use with or without glasses is an added advantage. The sunshade on the main barrel is also extended so as to reduce glare.
Considering that it comes with the BAK-4 prism design, you get to have the brightest and sharpest images you could get from a spotting scope. Something else that is worth pointing out is that all the lenses are fully multi-coated for the best quality images.
The addition of a tripod stand to the package also does give you an added advantage since you won't be experiencing any fatigue If you're in one spot for so long and you also get to have more stable views.
- 45-degree angled eyepiece for comfortable viewing.
- Fully multi-coated lenses for clearer images.
- An extended sunshade to reduce glare.
- Though its performance is not flawed, the sound made when turning the eyepiece is irritating.
Features to consider when buying a spotting scope
When you really need it that bad and it all narrows down to you setting your mind to going out there and getting the best spotting scope, there are quite a number of things to take into consideration.
Let’s note them down…
What type of coating does the spotting scope have?
As far as quality is concerned, the size of the objective lens, the optics used and the coating process of the lenses should be paid close attention to. That being said, let’s have a look at the types of coating you will get on a spotting scope.
Single coating- just as the name suggests, this is where the lens has only a single layer on it.
The fully coated lenses- unlike on the single coated lenses, this type of coating has got a single layer of coating on all air to glass surfaces. Simply put, the side of the eyepiece lens facing you and the outer side outermost lensare coated.
Multi-Coated- for the multi-coated lenses, there are multiple layers on at least one lens and in addition to this, all of the surfaces are coated at least only once
Fully multi-coated- for these, there are multiple layers on all of the air-to-glass surfaces.
The size of the objective lens
When it comes to the size of the objective lens, this is where you need to have complete knowledge of what the numbers mean. Take for instance 20-60x80. The first set of numbers here refers to the zoom offered by the lens. In this case, for instance, the zoom is 20-60x which means that it is a 20x to 60x variable zoom. The second number, on the other hand, refers to the diameter of the objective lens.
The larger the diameter of the objective lens, the more light enters the spotting scope hence the brighter the image.
How is the exit pupil?
Also known as the usable light, the exit pupil is simply the size of the light column exiting the spotting scope. The size of the exit pupil is directly proportional to the brightness you get from the image.
So as to know how big the exit pupil is, you should go ahead and divide the objective lens diameter by the power. Take for instance a 15x45 model; this has got an exit pupil or a usable light of 3mm
The eye relief offered by the spotting scope
As for the eye relief, it is simply how far you can hold the spotting scope away from the eye and still be able to get a full field of view. An extended or a long eye relief minimizes eye strain.
Depending on the quality of the spotting scope, the closest you can be to an object so as to maintain visual clarity varies. Based on what you are observing, the closeness may be something to worry about. If for instance, if you'll be hunting, then it is probably best that you be as far away as possible from the prey you'll be stalking.
The light path.
As the name suggests, this is simply the path via which the light travels before it reaches your eye. What tend to raise some concern or questions especially to those shopping for the spotting scopes for the first time is the folded light path.
A folded light path is whereby there is a combination of optics with the use of mirrors and lenses so as to end up with a total scope length that is way shorter as compared to the total focal length of the system. The end result of having this is that not only will you end up with a compact design, but you will also have a long focal length performance.
Truth be told, spotting scopes are normally used in the extreme weather conditions hence it is recommended that you have a fog-proof or rather a waterproof scope.
Even though most vendors will claim to have the waterproof scope, they turn out to be protected against water alone but are sadly vulnerable to other types of moisture other than water alone and more so, they won’t fog up. The benefit of this is that being moisture-proof on the outside, the inside of your spotting scope will be protected from any form of corrosion hence you’ll get to use it even closer to the ocean as a bonus.
The prism system & prism glass
Most optical systems are made from either barium crown or borosilicate; BAK-4 and BK-7 respectively. Between the two barium crown is preferred by many as it gives you brighter images as well as ultimate sharpness.
The prism system is simply what turns the images that would otherwise be upside down to be the right side up
- Porro-prism system- in this case, the objective lens or rather the front lens as some refer to it is offset from the eyepiece. The Porro prisms give a greater depth perception and in addition to this, you get a much wider field of view.
- The roof prism system- for the roof prism system, the prisms are closely overlapped which in turn allows the objective lenses to line up directly with the eyepiece lens. The end result of this is that you’ll end up with a streamlined and slim shape in which the images are corrected in a straight line with the lenses and prisms that are doing the magnification.
Ending up with an optimal spotting scope
As far as getting the best spotting scope goes, it all narrows down to having to choose between the image quality you’ll be getting and how much you will be spending on the spotting scope.
Having decided whether you want an angled or straight or whether you prefer to lean more towards the physical size of the spotting scope, the next obvious thing to look into would be the image quality. As we already know, the image quality depends on the nature of the objective lens, the optics used and the coating process involved.
If a spotting scope features a multi-coated lens, it lies in the high-end class as it allows for a better light gathering capacity. When it comes to the optics, you get exactly what you pay for just as is the case for the nature of the objective lens.
Coming to a conclusion, one thing that we can definitely agree upon is that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the selection of the best spotting scope. As far as we’re concerned, it’s not always about how expensive the spotting scope is but rather how much it will offer you regarding why you need to have it.
Nonetheless, one thing that’s for sure is that while you use your spotting scope, you need to be comfortable while doing so. Consider getting a tripod if you won’t be using it for hunting for instance. If you’re not taking part in bird watching or observing the sky, a straight spotting scope has got an advantage over the angled one.
With 10 of our best picks in 2018, you should absolutely get what suits you best. You surely do deserve the best of the best.
Last Updated on 12/02/2018