Whether you like to go for hunting, shooting, bird watching, or any other outdoor activity, one of the gadgets which you will need for sure is a spotting scope. With the help of the best spotting scope, you will be able to observe the minute details and beauty of Mother Nature, that too with a sense of unbelievable lividness. Spotting scopes will make you feel as if you are sitting in the lap of nature itself, while in reality, you will be present far away from it.
But before you go out and buy yourself a spotting scope, there are certain things which you should take care of. These things will help you in buying the right spotting scope depending on the purpose you want to use it for.
After discussing about the key factor responsible for buying a spotting scope, we will also review some of the top selling and the best rated spotting scope devices present on the internet currently. With so much of information, you will surely be able to figure out the best spotting scope for yourself.
But before that, I would like to tell you the various applications for which you can use a spotting scope. After all, you wouldn’t want to buy a spotting scope only for one reason!
Uses of Spotting Scopes
One of the reasons for which a spotting scope device is widely used these days is to achieve higher magnification levels, which can practically not be achieved simply using a camera. Some of the common applications for which spotting scopes are used include bird watching, hunting, archery, shooting, wildlife watching, and many more.
In case you wish to do video recording or photography of the wonders of the nature, you can make it possible by attaching your spotting scope device to a camera or a smartphone. While using a spotting scope for hunting, you may even attach a spotting scope to your gun, and hunt down your targets from longer distances. Using spotting scope for birding, you can click marvels through your camera, without even disturbing the flock of birds sitting on trees.
Now that we have understood the applications and different types of spotting scopes available in the market, it is time to go through the factors to remember while buying any spotting scope.
What to look for in a Spotting Scope?
Now that you have understood the different areas where you can use the spotting scope device for, we will now have a look at the different factors to think over while buying the best spotting scope device. So, without causing any delay further, let’s go through them all!
1. Objective Lens
If you wish to buy the best spotting scope for shooting, or any other application, the optics of the spotting scope device is the primary concern for most of the people. Optics of any spotting scope device should be sorted out carefully before buying since it affects the overall performance of the spotting scope device.
Even under optics, there are a lot of factors to consider. These include but not limited to, the field of view, the dispersion factor, optical resolution, support for night vision etc. We will be discussing some of these factors in detail further in this article.
But, according to my experience and understanding, the most important thing to have in a spotting scope device will be to have a good quality objective lens with high performing and good quality glass. Even if you have a good quality lens, the size of objective lens would not matter much.
This is because there are chances that even with large objective diameter, the spotting scope gives you a poor quality view. And there are also possibilities that with a smaller objective lens diameter, you are able to achieve a sharp view of the object.
To understand this point from the scientific scenario, the spotting scope, in case of a larger objective lens will produce a superior view of the object when zoomed to higher levels. This may cause the view through the spotting scope to be a poor one. This thing is not present in case of smaller objective lens, where the image is created a relatively smaller but sharp image at high magnification levels.
Also, the overall price of a spotting scope largely depends upon the price of the objective lens. This is something which cannot be ignored, especially when you are buying the best spotting scope for money savings in parallel to fulfilling your hobbies.
2. Physical Strength
Depending upon the application you want to use the spotting scope for, these devices are further classified as being angled or straight spotting scopes. The best spotting scope for target shooting is the straight spotting scope, which can easily be mounted on your gun for aiming at you targets. With this feature, the straight spotting scope also turns out to be the best hunting spotting scope. They are also suitable to use when you are at an elevation, and want to observe something at a relatively lower elevation than you.
Talking about the angled spotting scope, they are best suited for purposes such as bird watching. This is because in an angled spotting scope device, a person is able to adjust the horizontal and vertical alignment of the spotting scope easily. This allows him to watch birds even at a height easily, without moving his body.
3. Lens Coating
This is another important factor to consider while buying any spotting scope. This is because the lens coating is helpful in achieving sharp and bright images when zoomed at high magnification levels. There are different types in which a lens can be coated. These can be either fully coated, multi-coated or fully multi-coated.
The type of coating decides the brightness and sharpness of the image obtained. Generally, it is believed that the more the number of coatings present in a lens, the more improved will be the light transmission factor in the lens of spotting scope.
Most of the spotting scopes present in the market as well as the internet these days come with multi coated lenses. But good quality and best rated spotting scopes are the ones which have fully multi-coated lenses as part of their optics. This helps in achieving one of the best and admirable views of our nature, that too without actually being present amidst it.
In either a spotting scope or any other optical device, magnification plays a very important role. It decides the limits to which an optical device can function efficiently. In case of a spotting scope, the magnification level is far better than any of the conventional binocular device.
Usually, the bird watchers and hunters require magnification levels up to 30X to 40X, so as to get an extremely close view of the birds they are observing. Such magnification levels are bound to give you an idea about the normal magnification levels at which a spotting scope is used.
With the improvement in the overall quality of lens, the quality of image delivered also improves by a large factor. However, this is a valid and reasonable point to understand that the image quality will get disturbed to some extent in situations when the spotting scope device is magnified up to its maximum possible magnification level. This phenomenon is called as image drop-off factor, and is a very common error to feel using a spotting scope device.
But a good quality spotting scope will promise you to minimize the overall effects of image drop-off factor, improving the overall efficiency and performance of the spotting scope device by a considerable factor.
To talk more about the image drop-off factor, there are a lot of other reasons due to which the magnification affects the performance of a spotting scope device. That factor is none other than the atmosphere itself. Things like moisture, dust, wind, fog, humidity, heat etc. can impose negative effects on the performance of a spotting scope device.
With the presence of any of these things, the overall optics and the magnification of the spotting scope device are to get damaged for sure. This is because there are chances of erroneous effects like dispersion, light scattering, internal reflections, blurring etc. to occur.
Hence, people using spotting scopes prefer to do their observations from either high or low altitudes having a dry climate. This reduces the chances of errors in views to minimal levels. If there is a moist and humid climate present at low altitude areas, then it is best to use the spotting scope at lower magnification levels.
5. Prism Type
Most of the spotting scopes present on the internet today deploy prisms as refracting devices as part of the internal optics of the spotting scope. This is done so as to bring the image to a vertically straight position, and horizontally correct. This helps the user to avoid any sort of problems faced in achieving the correct view.
Even among the prisms used in a spotting scope device, there are two different types of prisms. These prisms, due to their features, are used depending upon the applications they will be used for. The first one is the roof prism. In a roof prism, the spotting scope design and build is generally slimmer and compact.
While the roof prisms form part of an easy to handle spotting scope device, there are some features which cannot be available in such spotting scopes, such as the feature of interchanging the eyepieces with each other.
The porro prism, on the other hand, has relatively higher performance efficiency than roof prism. Also, these prisms are comparatively cheaper in cost, making it part of the most commonly used and best spotting scope.
When it comes to eyepiece of a spotting scope device, particular attention has to be given to the fact whether its price is included along with the spotting scope or not. Further, there are products available in the market which give you an option of attaching and detaching the eyepiece from the spotting scope device.
These are the two things which greatly influences the price of a spotting scope. For example, in case of a high end spotting scope device, which is meant specifically for observing far-off located objects, the eyepiece’s price is usually not included with that of the spotting scope. This is because most of the high end spotting scopes come with detachable eyepieces, and hence, they are priced separately.
Having a detachable eyepiece comes with many benefits. One of them is the wide range of eyepieces one can use with his spotting scope. Also, if somehow, your eyepiece gets damaged due to some reasons, you will have an option to replace the eyepiece with a new one! Having a detachable eyepiece even allows you to use the correct eyepiece as per your comfort levels.
Even under eyepieces, there are single powered and zoom-in eyepieces. But in most of the cases, people prefer to use zoom-in eyepieces with their spotting scopes. This is because they solve the main purpose of buying a spotting scope, which is higher magnification levels.
Hence, with such different types of eyepieces, the user can easily adjust the magnification levels of their spotting scope depending upon the climatic conditions present. This makes the zoom-in eyepiece one of the best eyepieces for the spotting scope devices.
7. Eye Relief
Eye relief implies the distance up to which the user can observe things easily without losing the field of view through the spotting scope. This is something which is of utmost importance for people who have low eyesight, and wear eyeglasses or contact lenses.
In case the spotting scope device does not offer eye relief, then people with weak eyesight won’t be able to see through the spotting scope easily. In that situation, buying a spotting scope will turn out to be a wastage of money for you. Therefore, for people who have eye sight related issues, it is an advice to them to buy spotting scope devices with an eyesight relief of minimum 14 mm.
8. Focal Length
The focal length of the optics of a spotting scope is one of the major factors which tells about the quality of spotting scope device. Defining the term, the focal length of a spotting scope is the minimum distance up to which you can view images clearly through a spotting scope. It can be considered as the opposite of magnification, which was the maximum distance of perfect view.
Before buying a spotting scope, it is a must to check whether the device has a focal length as per the applications you wish to use it for. In most of the spotting scope products present in the market, the focal length is approximately around 20 feet.
So, if you wish to buy the spotting scope for bird watching purposes, a focal length of 20 mm is adequate for you. However, for other purposes, you need to check with your seller or manufacturer before making a purchase.
9. Anti-weather Support
If you are using your spotting scope in a moist, humid or watery environment, there are chances that the inner optics of your spotting scope device develops fogging. This can further lead to various errors in viewing through the spotting scope, and an increase in the dispersion levels.
An increase in the overall dispersion level of the spotting scope can lead to degradation of the performance of spotting scope. Hence, it is very important to protect the inner optics of the spotting scope from such adverse environmental conditions. For this, the manufacturers use different types of solutions.
The first one of them is the use of argon gas in between the different layers of lenses. This helps in avoiding the problem of internal fogging. Other solution is to use highly durable rubber seals to hold the optics. Such type of seals prevents the entry of external particles, keeping the internal optics safe and secure.
If the internal optics of the spotting scope remain safe and protected, then it also leads to increased durability of the product, while maintaining high performance levels of the spotting scope device.
For people who wish to use their spotting scope devices to click photographs or record videos through their cameras, this point is very crucial for them to understand. In most of the spotting scope devices, the scope adapts itself as per the properties of the camera. This thing helps them to click photographs at high magnification levels. This phenomenon is also referred to as digiscoping.
Either you want to take picture of a bird sitting near the top of a mountain, or some wild animal grazing in the fields at a far-away distance, digiscoping allows you to observe them easily. But for this to happen, you need to buy adapters for your camera devices so as to produce sharp, clear and vibrant images. This thing further aids in transforming your spotting scope into one of the best spotting scope for digiscoping purposes.
Now that we have discussed in detail about the different factors to keep in mind while buying a spotting scope device, it is also important to go through some of the best spotting scope product reviews. This will aid you in the sense as to which spotting scope device to buy in the market.
Top 4 Best Spotting Scopes of 2018
1. Swarovski 80 mm STS HD Straight Spotting Scope
Designed to impress its users with its brilliant optical performance, extremely fine resolution power, distinct ergonomics, and a lot more features, the Swarovski STS HD spotting scope device is the first product to be reviewed on our list.
One of the best features of these spotting scopes is that it deploys a complex and high grade optical mechanism. This feature allows the user to get very detailed and minute level observation of the scenery, producing high contrast images up to the periphery of the spotting scope. This spotting scope product by Swarovski even allows for a complete color fidelity, that too even under poor lighting conditions.
Talking about the optics of this product, the Swarovski STS HD spotting scope product offers a wide range of features such as remarkable long distance focus, high levels of light transmission, and high magnification capabilities. All these features provided by one spotting scope device, are bound to give you livid and panoramic views of nature.
The product comprises of a large 80 mm objective lens, which allows you to have an extremely sharp and bright image. This is something which is ensured even at high magnification levels of the spotting scope. Not only this, the product delivers high contrast images with minimal levels of color fringing effects. The internal optics of the spotting scope product comprises of fluoride filled high definition lenses, which in turn produces images with extreme levels of accuracy and precision.
When it comes to the coating of lenses, the outer optics of this spotting scope product by Swarovski comes with a coating of Swaroclean layer, which helps in protection of the outer lenses from particle residues like dust, insect repellants, etc. This feature further helps in improving the overall life of the product.
The aluminum housing of the spotting scope product gives it protection against any sort of mechanical damage like dents and scratches. The rubber sealing and armoring of the complete body of the spotting scope further prevents any sort of damage to the optics because of noise and shock impacts, dust, water and fog. It even protects the product under extremely adverse humid and moist climatic conditions, increasing the overall durability and life of the product to unprecedented levels.
The extreme mechanical protection provided for the optics of the spotting scope allows it to be used even for underwater applications, such as scuba diving, aquatic photography etc. at a depth of up to 13 feet.
Considering the wide range of features provided by this product, and the different applications this product can be used for, the eyepiece for this product comes separately, and its price is not included in the price of the spotting scope. This can be considered to be one of the demerits of the product. But for those who focus on quality and not the quantity, this is the best choice to go with!
2. Vortex Razor HD 20-60x 85 mm Angled Spotting Scope
Unlike the previous product, this product by Vortex Optics comes with an eyepiece device along with the spotting scope device setup. The spotting scope product offers a wide range of benefits to you, making it ideal for use in a variety of fields and applications. We will be discussing about them in detail in this review, starting from the optics of the product.
This spotting scope product brings to you an objective lens diameter of 85 mm, which promises to offer an image of superior quality. Since most of the people use a spotting scope for observing far away objects and animals, this product satisfactorily fulfills the demands of its users. The product offers a minimum magnification level of up to 20x, and goes up to 60x.
With such extreme magnification levels, it becomes very easy for the users to achieve a sharp, bright and clear image of the scenery. After all, by the end of the day, all you want is to achieve a crisp and clear image of your favorite bird or wild animal. This requirement is fulfilled easily by this spotting scope product by Vortex Optics.
The 85 mm large objective lens also allows the users to have a wide field of view. This provides a benefit of edge to edge clarity of the scenery being observed. In case you are watching a moving animal or bird, then this feature eases your efforts to keep track of the moving animal through its wide field of view.
When it comes to the difficulty level of using and operating the spotting scope device, it is not at all that difficult. The spotting scope comes with an adjustment knob on top of it, and a magnification knob for the eyepiece. Therefore, the magnification knob allows easy adjustment of the magnification levels of the spotting scope, while the dual focus knob entitles you for a fingertip adjustable coarse and focus of the spotting scope.
This spotting scope product even utilizes a porro prism, which accounts for the high quality of image and overall performance of the product. One of the demerits of having a porro prism in a spotting scope is that it makes the product relatively large and heavy than other similar products present in the market. This also makes it difficult to handle the product in extreme rugged conditions, negatively affecting the durability of the product.
Talking about the design and mechanical strength of the spotting scope product by Vortex Optics, the product can be found in both the angled as well as the straight body design on the internet. The only major difference between the two will be the price of the product.
Along with this, the product comes with a hard and scratch resistant coating of Armor Trek. This protects the spotting scope from getting damaged by protecting the optical mechanism of the device. The optical lenses used in the spotting scope are protected using O ring seals, which prevents alien particles from entering the optics chamber of the spotting scope. Further, the optics chamber of the device is filled with argon charged gaseous ions. This aids in avoiding the fogging up of the optics in moist and humid climatic conditions.
With so many levels of mechanical protection, the product from Vortex Optics assures increased durability and life of the product. While there are so many benefits offered, a few demerits are also present. The product does not support being mounted on a tripod stand, which limits its uses across a wide range of applications. Also, you will need to buy a tripod stand for the spotting scope separately in order to mount it on to one. However, the price of the spotting scope mount is included in the product package’s price. So, you don’t need to buy the mount as well. For those people who can afford, and are ready to buy the tripod stand separately, this product will certainly provide you a memorable experience when used.
3. Minox MD 16-30x 50 mm Angled Spotting Scope
One of the best thing about this spotting scope product is that it incorporates in itself a variable optical power mechanism. This mechanism in combination with the unusually compact and sleek design of the spotting scope guarantees to deliver you a spotting scope highly versatile in all senses.
The product comprises of internal fine tuning system, which has been manufactured in a manner so as to deliver highly accurate and precise levels of tolerances. Discussing about the optics of the device, it offers a magnification level of 16x as a minimum, and maximum magnification up to 30x.
Such magnification is sufficient enough for a person who wishes to use the spotting scope device for bird watching or hunting purposes. In addition to this, the angled design of the spotting scope allows for extendable observation times without chances of fatigue or strain to the eyes.
When it comes to the mounting of the spotting scope product by Minox, the device is compatible to be mounted on a large variety of spotting scope mounts. They are even suitable for mounting on vehicle’s windows, allowing you to enjoy observing the nature while relaxing in your car or jeep.
The manufacturer boasts about the product being suitable for use for a wide range of applications such as shooting, watching horse races or football matches from the audience, and many more. All this is possible due to the high magnification enabled by this spotting scope product.
But high magnification is not the only factor responsible for such wide range of applications. Other optics related factors such as efficient light transmission tendency, lower dispersion through inner optics, lower chromatic aberration levels, and the formation of a bright, clear and high resolution image are some of the many other factors. The wide field of view offered by the spotting scope device further adds to the over performance and efficiency of the product.
The lenses of this spotting scope device is coated with a premium quality and advanced lens coating. This helps in protecting the outer layer of the lenses from getting damaged due to foreign particles such as dust, minute granules, dirt etc. The coating of the lenses allows the users to experience an ultra-fine, crisp and precise view of the nature, whether it be a bird, animal, plant or insect.
Unlike other spotting scope products present in the market these days, which offer a focal length of no less than 20 feet, this product by Minox brings to you a focal length of 16 feet. This has been possible due to the presence of an exit pupil of 3.3 to 1.67 mm diameter range, along with the twilight numbers of 28.3 to 38.7. Having the twilight numbers facilitates the spotting scope product to be used even under low lighting conditions.
Hence, with so many features available in a single product, all we would like to suggest you is to look no farther than the excellent spotting scope product by Minox, while buying yourself a spotting scope.
4. Leupold SX-1 Ventana 2 20x – 60x 80 mm Spotting Scope
The SX-1 Ventana spotting scope by Leupold assures to bring to you a sleek and disruptive industrial design. The design of this product will compel you to take it along wherever you to, whether it be hunting, shooting, archery practice etc.
There are a lot of reasons why this product is one of the best spotting scopes available in the market today. The first and the most important of them is the optics of the spotting scope. The other is the strength and durability of the product. And the best part is, Leupold offers you these features at a very reasonable price, making it easy for most of the people to purchase.
Discussing in detail about the features of this spotting scope product, the product provides a minimum magnification level of up to 20x, and goes to as high as 60x. This magnification range is sufficient enough for people who wish to use the spotting scope for bird watching, hunting etc.
On the other hand, the spotting scope also provides a close focus distance of 24.9 feet, which is sufficient enough for people who wish to use it for hunting purposes. The fully multi-coated lenses in combination with a twilight number between 69 to 40 further adds to the delivery of sharp, clear and bright image.
The spotting scope brings to you an objective lens of diameter 80 mm. This means that the spotting scope will produce images of superior quality, giving you a livid experience of the nature you want to observe. The product even claims to give you an eye relief of up to 26.4 to 24 mm through an exit pupil diameter in between 4 mm to 1.3 mm. These things guarantee to deliver maximum possible comfort levels while observing the beauties and wonders of the nature through this spotting scope.
Not only this, large objective lens diameter also implies that the field of view provided by this spotting scope will be relatively large. In the case of SX-1 Ventana spotting scope, the field of view is roughly around 89 to 47 feet per 1000 yards. It means you can easily observe moving objects and animals without having to move physically from your observation point.
Another best part about this product is the compatibility of this product with a range of different eyepieces. This allows you to replace the eyepieces as and when they get damaged. Also, you can easily fix the set of eyepieces as per the comfort of your eyes.
Talking about the mechanical strength and the design of the spotting scope product by Leupold, it brings to you a very rugged and waterproof spotting scope. This ensures that you can easily use them even in extreme adverse conditions, be it either water, fog, humidity or high altitudes. There is even a tripod stand mount provided in the price of the spotting scope, so that you can mount it on a tripod stand and carry it along with ease.
Hence, with so many features clubbed together in a single product, this spotting scope by Leupold is a must buy for purposes like hunting, shooting etc.
Which is the best Spotting Scope?
Now that we have gone through all the factors responsible for deciding the quality of spotting scope devices, an obvious question in your minds will be coming about which is the best spotting scope device to buy?
Well, to answer this question honestly, the best spotting scope varies from one person to another. Also, the application for which you wish to use the spotting scope for decides the best spotting scope as well.
As such, it will be difficult to find all the features necessary for a spotting scope embedded in a single product. But for those who love adventuring with their spotting scopes, the perfect device is the one which solves their purpose. So, tie up your backpacks, grab your spotting scope, and go adventuring!