Spotting scopes are portable telescopes that are enhanced with higher optics for a clearer and more erect image or target. They are used mostly by hunters, marksmen, naturalists, and anyone who requires more magnification than what binoculars provide.
They are widely used for surveillance, hunting, and viewing distant objects. Spotting scopes are also useful for viewing birds, wildlife, distant ships, and landscapes. The best spotting scopes are usually very compact and feature high-end optics for clearer and more erect images over long distances.
Spotting scopes can be used to assist marksmen to get a clear picture of their hits. It is used to verify the placement of the hits without having to walk to the target. This way a sniper can rehearse with the help of a spotter (using a spotting scope) and can confirm the exact placement of his/her hits without having to walk all the way to the target. This product is also a must-have for spotters and naturalist. It is widely used for bird and game (wildlife) viewing. Read about spotting scope for target shooting.
The best spotting scope will provide for clear and erect images of distant birds and other animals. This way, close observation is natural and naturalists can monitor the growth and behavior of particular species they may be interested in. Spotting scopes can also assist hunters to make their kill and confirm the target. If you’re going on a wilderness trip, cruise, or any activity that would require long-distance sightings, a spotting scope would be very helpful to you. Especially if you need something stronger than the regular binoculars. Tripod is needed for perfect spotting, read about spotting scope tripod.
How to Choose the Best Spotting Scope
Spotting scopes are usually labeled with three numbers. The first two numbers represent the magnification range while the last number represents the size of the front lens. For example, a 10-50×50 spotting scope has a magnification range of 10-50x and a 50mm front lens diameter. In getting the best spotting scope, you need to consider the following features as they will appropriately guide your choice.
The Alpen Waterproof and the fogproof spotting scope is a good performance spotting scope for your long-distance viewing. It is available in straight or 45 degrees models. It features fully multicoated optics and it also comes with a tabletop tripod stand and a field carrying case for your convenience. It has a compact mini spotting scope, measuring about 7.5 inches long and 10 ounces in weight. This way you can easily carry a quality product around and not get worried about the size or weight.
The magnification of spotting scopes distinctly gives it an edge over the conventional binoculars. The higher the magnification, the more you would be able to view birds and sceneries over very long distances usually beyond the range of binoculars. However, they are limits to the magnification of the spotting scope. The magnification on your spotting scope is dependent on two factors; the atmosphere and the optical system. The atmosphere during the day greatly influences the magnification and quality of the image. Dust, humidity, heat, and airwaves during the day reduce the quality of images.
Dull Image For More Magnification
Ironically, in such conditions, the greater the magnification, the more the reduction in image quality. In order words, sometimes a 30x magnification may give a very dull image, and there will also be some days when the atmosphere is clear and calm, and you can use the 50x magnification to your advantage. This means that high altitude and dry climate are ideal for high magnification and vice versa.
Most people always make the mistake of buying spotting scopes with hundreds of magnification only to find out that the atmosphere still limits them to about 60x or even less. However very high magnification is very useful in a few locations, this is why most spotting scopes stop at 60x.
The second limitation of magnification is the optical system of the spotting scope. This is because of the two work hand in hand for good image quality. No matter the model, there will always be a reduction in image quality as the magnification goes up. This is due to the size of the scope or the design, but most importantly it depends on the quality of the optical system of the spotting scope. This is why most inexpensive spotting scopes decrease in image quality as magnification goes up. But quality spotting scopes can maintain good quality images even with increasing magnification.
The larger the objective lens, the better the picture quality you will get. The best spotting scopes will have high objective lenses that will produce more details, especially in high magnifications. However, the quality of the lens also matters.
This means that a large lens of low quality will not provide results as good as a smaller quality lens. On this note, you should go for quality and not size. If you require complete high performance in your spotting scope, you should not settle for anything less than a large quality objective lens, which is made with high-performance glass.
This is the distance between your eye and the eyepiece while you can still see the entire FOV. This is a crucial feature to look out for especially if you wear glasses. The best spotting scopes should have at least 14mm of eye relief.
This is appropriate for you to see the entire field of view. However, if you use thick glass lenses, you may require a little bit more eye relief. You should ensure that you get the ideal scope to suit your individual eye needs.
Lens coating improves the light transmission which is imperative in the high magnification of a spotting scope. There are various lens coatings available in spotting scopes today. In order of increasing quality and performance, lens coating may be; fully coated, multi-coated, or fully multi-coated.
All premium grade models are usually fully multi-coated, often with unique chemical formulas that vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. However, if you want to get the best spotting scope with high performance, you shouldn’t settle for less than a multi-coated lens.
Below is a selected list of good quality spotting scopes with numerous satisfactory customer reviews for an excellent performance.
Top 10 Best Spotting Scopes
1. Emarth 20-60x60AE Waterproof angled spotting scope
The Emarth waterproof angled spotting scope is a lightweight, inexpensive, yet high-quality spotting scope that can last a long time and is highly recommended by naturalists and outdoor shooting enthusiasts. It is about 13 inches long and has a cap on either end to protect the lenses. It also comes with a nylon carrying bag that keeps it free from dust and water, especially when not in use
This spotting scope comes with a small but very stable tripod. It is suitable for use when on the ground or a table top. Also, you can also mount this scope on a photography tripod as the mounting shoe is the same for both.
So, with the exception of not having a viewfinder, this spotting scope can be used as a telescope. Also, the focus adjust is a knob on the barrel, and it is easy to fine-tune the focus and get it perfect especially for objects that are not too close.
With this scope, you can be able to read the license plate number of a car or inscription on a tee shirt up over 300 yards away. This is because the optics are clear enough for viewing over 200 yards, the focal adjustment, and the zoom rotate easily, and the rubberized finish seems durable enough.
Large Front Lens
Also, the large front lens lets in plenty of light for viewing even in low light conditions. It is a perfect scope for days at the gun range or when you’re just simply watching nature. This durable spotting scope is absolutely worth the price and can give you a good level of satisfaction.
However, this spotting scope may require you to remove your glasses to get a good view because the eye relief is lacking. At 100 yards you can see crystal clear images including bullet holes in the paper target from .223 rounds. The tripod that comes with this product isn’t great, so you may have to purchase a 50 inches tripod for great results.
2. Bushnell Trophy XLT 20-60x 65mm Waterproof Compact Tripod Spotting Scope
This is a great spotting scope for sighting rifles and has good optics that allows for very clear and erect images up to 300 yards. The light gathering ability of the 65mm objective lens is ideal especially for cloudy days. You can rest assured that your images will come out crystal clear. It is a great spotting scope especially for its price, and it gives satisfactory results. It is very easy to see .22 cal. Holes at 100 yards with this spotting scope.
It has numerous great customer reviews for its performance in varying light conditions and different ranges. Although they are a lot of reviews about the tripod of the scope being flimsy and inappropriate, some reviews have shown that it could be as a result of the wrong installation. Since the scope is front heavy, one leg of the tripod has to be facing in the direction of the scope else the scope will trip over.
Table Top Tripod
The tripod is also built for table tops. I hope you find this information useful, in the end, it depends on your individual preference or needs. This Bushnell spotting scope comes with two casings; one hard and one soft. The hard casing has too much room and no padding. It’s just a box with a liner.
However, the locks on this case will keep your toddlers and pets out. The soft case is a lot better. I would recommend that you put the scope in the soft case and then in the hard case. This will work just fine. This spotting scope is highly recommended for anyone looking for a scope that can give you years of carefree pleasure. Whether you want to take it to the range or for birds and game viewing.
Optic & Magnification
The good quality optics and magnification will give you satisfying results. It is sturdy; we’ll build and very easy to operate. The eye relief is very short, so you need to rest your brow on the eye cup to see the full field of view. This might be problematic for eyeglass users.
The zoom is smooth from 20x to 60x but requires focus adjustment with each zoom change. Some customers, however, have complained about the poor quality control of this item. This spotting scope is also denser and cannot be likened to compact spotting scopes. Also, it may not be great in the very bright sun. It is a good scope for its price, and the pros greatly make up for its cons.
3. Redfield Rampage 20-60x60mm Spotting Scope
conditions. You can comfortably resolve images at 200 yards at the shooting range with a .17hmr bullet with this spotting scope. The eye relief Cup is not a rubber fold back design; it can turn in and out for different eye relief settings. This is a great feature because it makes it versatile for viewing with or without prescription glasses.
Comfortable Carry Bag
This spotting scope also comes with a comfortable carry bag, a nice sleeve to keep it in during use and both lenses have protective caps. The tripod seems pretty sturdy also. Although most customer reviews reveal it is cheap, it can be fairly stable and usable.
Good Quality But Cheap Price
The Redfield Rampage spotting scope is a great choice, especially for its price. The clarity, sharpness, and light gathering ability of this product are excellent. For naturalists out in the field, you will not have any problem identifying birds or game animals.
BAK4 Prism System
This is a well-made polycarbonate spotting scope with BAK4 prism system which provides greater clarity and resolution edge to edge. It is also 100 percent waterproof and fog proof. This means you do not need to worry about using it in the rain or cloudy conditions. Also, looking at the moon with this spotting scope is so amazing.
Easy To Use
You would find out that you can view the moon with great details. The focus and zoom adjustment knobs of this spotting scope are very easy to use, quick, very smooth and sturdy. However, the image quality may get a little bit fuzzy at maximum zoom (60x).
The best image quality is achieved backed off slightly from maximum zoom, usually 40x to 50x. This spotting scope also lacks eyepiece camera adaptors. However, it provides good eye relief for anyone wearing glasses. It is a great instrument when compared to other scopes in the same price range.
It’s performance and quality can be fairly likened to high-end spotting scopes. It’s is a nice instrument, and it offers great value for your money. I would recommend this scope for those who want quality and performance over just having something expensive in their bag of goodies.
If you’re going to use this product for very long distance sightings, it may be a little cloudy. However, it is perfect for the range because it comes with very clear optics that is perfect for viewing even tiny bullets.
4. Firefield 20-60 x 60 SE Spotting Scope Kit
The Firefield 20-60×60 spotting scope comes with a nylon and hard cases for packaging. It is also nitrogen purged, features a bak-4 prism glass, and it is largely durable. This spotting scope is very affordable, and it provides good results too. For the price, you can’t beat the quality of this product. It is a little shaky, could probably use a better tripod, but again, for the price, you really can’t say much.
This spotting scope provides very clear image up to 150 yards at the range with target shots. The Firefield spotting scope is one of the best spotting scope you can get at its price. This instrument gets the job done. The tripod is weak, the case is minimal, but the unit itself gets the job done and is clear for most people needs. You will have no issues seeing your shots on paper at 100 yards using .223 rounds.
The magnification works great once the focus is set correctly for the range. This product also comes with a nice sturdy case which can be carried about comfortably. Although the packaging and arrangements of this product are top notch, the image quality may be poor at minimum and maximum magnification.
You may just have to adjust the focus to get an intermediate ‘sweet spot’ to achieve maximum clarity. It’s a nice spotting scope for its price range, and you will be getting more than your money’s worth with this product. It is also compact and lightweight, so carrying it about with ease is not a problem.
5. Barska Blackhawk Spotter with Hard Case
This is a great spotting scope equipped with multi-coated optics and a large objective lens. At this point, you should be well aware what these features mean. It provides for crystal clear and erect images for spotters at the shooting range or naturalists in the field.
Lightweight and Sturdy
This scope has a lightweight and sturdy fiber composite body with a back housing that is enclosed in a layer of rubber for shock protection. It also features a durable plastic cap which can be screwed to protect the eyepiece and a plastic dust cover friction that fits perfectly into the front to protect the objective lens
This instrument also comes with an extendable sunshade. The magnification is perfect for shooting competition targets at ten meters; this makes it an excellent scope for sighting short ranges.
Quality Image At Minimum Magnification
You should note, however, that not all scopes will give you good quality images at minimum magnification, so this is, by all means, a plus for this product. It can be used at the 18x magnification power setting and can view the full target sheet and also view the pellet holes clearly at the range.
Inexpensive Spotting Scopes
However, like most inexpensive spotting scopes, the higher power settings becomes less useful as the picture may darken considerably, and distortion around the edges may become apparent.
It may completely lose clarity at 55x power. The eye relief is good. With this spotting scope, you do not have to tickle the lens with your eyelashes in order the see the entire field of view, unlike other spotting scopes within its price range.
But, the case doesn’t offer much protection, and the tripod may be too small and lightweight. If you’re looking to get a scope that you can see your shots on paper from 20 to about 200 yards, then is spotting scope will be ideal for you. It is also a perfect scope for hunting. You will have no issues counting points on a buck 500 yards away even in a hilly environment.
Not A Best Spotting Scope For Target Shooting
However, if you plan on just target shooting with this scope, you should purchase the straight one and not the angled one. It is clearly not a super high-end spotting scope, but it provides satisfactory results for most people who use it.
It is especially ideal for your shooting range when you need to see your shots on paper about 100 to 200 yards away. Although it may become blurry at the highest magnification, it can be clear enough to get the job done if you back it off slightly.
6. Celestron 52268 C90 spotting scope
This compact and portable spotting scope are designed with in built T-adapter threads for ease of adapting SLR cameras. It has multi-coated optics and up to 32mm eye relief. This is great especially if you use very thick eye glasses.
Celestron is marketing this as a spotting scope which gives you a limited lifetime warranty. It comes with a nylon backpack carrying case, a 32mm Plossl eyepiece (which is great for an included eyepiece and gives you a 39x view), a 45 degrees erecting diagonal, and finally an 8×21 finderscope.
The C90 comes with threads that will fit a standard T-ring, so you do not need to order a T-adapter to use this scope at prime focus. However, when purchasing a ring, make sure you don’t order an M42 ring as the thread size is the same, but one is a finer thread.
Narrow Depth Of Field
This means that they will connect up together but will only go on for one or two threads, and if you force it, you will be cross threading and ruining one or both of your devices. However, this spotting scope also has a narrow depth of field. This means that if you aim at a tree a few miles away, you may see the middle of the tree in focus while the further and closer parts may be blurry.
1/7th Wave High Order Spherical Aberration
This spotting scope can show about 1/7th wave high order spherical aberration, which is common in Maks and does not affect it’s performance. It can also take over 300 power without image breakdown. At 312x magnification, the moon is crisp and shows generous details.
This is an amazing spotting scope to have irrespective of your needs. Both the sun and the moon exactly fill the view with a 24mm, and you can use additional eyepieces or a zoom eyepiece to get smaller details like craters or sun spots. You can easily see Saturn’s rings and the striations of Jupiter’s atmosphere, as well as the Galilean moons with just this spotting scope.
The Perfect One
This instrument has got the right combination of portability, usability, and quality fabrication. At the shooting range, you can get super bright images beyond 200 yards. The quality of the picture will remain beautiful and clear even over long distances. It’s an ideal spotting scope for naturalists and anyone interested in sighting the sun, moon and other planets. From the tons of customer reviews, it has yielded excellent results and high performance in this regard. It is a quality product for its price.
7. Tasco World Class 20-60×60 Zoom Spotting Scope
Proof and it is tripod can comfortably mount on your car. The Tasco world class spotting scope will save you from always walking down the range when you’re shooting at long distances. It provides clear images of the paper target in this regard. It is not a top of the line scope and should not be used or expected to be used for super long targets or anything you need a lot of detail. However, it works great in the range for viewing between 25 and 100 yards
The image quality is excellent, and so it is recommended especially for those looking to get their first spotting scope. With this spotting scope, you can still see 5.56 rounds on the targets very clearly even in a dark atmosphere. You can also use this scope to view larger objects, and it will work correctly.
For Hunting & Game Viewing
It is a great tool for hunting and game viewing. The tripod can be adjusted at various heights, and it feels sturdy too. It also features a fine adjustment knob which is very smooth and easy to use. If you’re looking for a good spotting scope to buy, you can get this one with confidence.
It is made of excellent quality materials and provides crisp and clear images for your satisfaction. However, to get it adjusted to 60x magnification, the focal eyepiece reference gets smaller and smaller as you ramp up the magnification.
This means that the magnification does not happen in the main body of the scope, rather, it occurs in the eye-piece. This makes the viewable image smaller and smaller as the magnification goes up. Also, you may not be able to see a .22 caliber hole with this spotting scope (on a black and tan paper target) at distances beyond 70 yards.
Moon & Bird Watching
Nonetheless, you can also see the moon and Jupiter clearly. It is perfect for bird viewing as it lets you identify the correct bird’s species. Because there is no eyepiece protection and glasses may cause the eye focal point to be far away, you will need to take off your prescription glasses to get a good view with this spotting scope.
If this will pose to be a problem, however, you may decide to go for another scope with maximum eye relief. It will come down to individual preference and needs. However, to use this scope with glasses, you will require the kind of eyepiece that is used with binoculars. You can purchase this separately if you do not have it already. It is perfect for those without glasses. It is a good quality spotting scope and is worth every penny it costs.
8. Celestron 52252 100mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope
The Celestron 52252 spotting scope features multi-coated optics, a zoom eyepiece and a Sight tube for quick and easy targeting. It also comes with a soft carrying case which is comfortable and also protects the scope. It is waterproof and very lightweight and easy to carry around.
It provides bright, crystal-clear images, only shows some blueish aura around the object with high magnification. It is a good thing that this scope only tries to give you 18-55x zoom because frankly, most scopes in this price range at max zoom do not give great results
The Celestron is an exception however as it is completely usable at its maximum zoom and this can be attributed to its larger objective lens (65mm), better quality glass, and a more reasonable maximum rating.
This spotting scope will work correctly on a 200 yards rifle range with very clear images. It also comes with a T-mount adapter that will allow you to use the scope for photography and at modest magnifications, with modest expectations, it will work well.
Lightweight & Well-built
In general, this spotting scope is small, very light, and seems well made. The optics look to be well coated. It comes with a handy carrying case that you can zip over the scope while it is mounted on a tripod. However, it does not come with any tripod and others in this price range do.
This is a good thing in my view because I suspect that it means that more money went into the glass and construction. Making it an excellent quality spotting scope. If you want good quality for your money and not just a regular piece of junk, I suggest you get this spotting scope. It is also perfect for bird and game viewing. You can zoom in on your favorite birds and count it is feathers with this spotting scope.
9. ALPEN Waterproof Fogproof Spotting Scopes
The Alpen waterproof and fogproof spotting scope is a good performance spotting scope for your long distance viewing. It is available in straight or 45 degrees models. It features a fully multicoated optics and it also comes with a table top tripod stand and a field carrying case for your convenience. It has a compact mini spotting scope, measuring about 7.5 inches long and 10 ounces in weight. This way you can easily carry a quality product around and not get worried about the size or weight.
It is a good lightweight alternative scope for very large high performance spotting scopes. This scope weighs less than two pounds, is quite compact, comes with a nice retractable sun shade and delivers very good optical performance. Light transmission and color rendition is quite satisfactory below 30x magnification. With this spotting scope, you can get very good and sharp image and you can focus to less than 25 feet.
The 18mm eye relief at 15x magnification is very sufficient for those who wear glasses, and even at 45x (with 15mm eye relief) it’s still very usable. It also features a 45-degree eyepiece that helps facilitate shared viewing, and also allows the use of a shorter tripod. This product is a rare combination of bargain price and good quality. It focuses easily and is as clear as any bulky scope available today. It is a straight view spotting scope unlike other scopes with eye pieces that angle upward toward the eye.
This spotting scope also comes with a nylon carrying case that can fit nicely into your bag and you can move it around effortlessly. It is an ideal spotting scope for anyone interested in acceptable quality for checking out details at intermediate and long distances, without the frills of pricey high end, large and powerful scopes.
It’s especially perfect for the outdoor person who is seeking a lightweight and compact spotting scope for viewing in a game, animals as well as bullet groupings while sighting in at the shooting range.
You should keep in mind however, that you would see distortions and heat waves no matter what brand of scope you use. This alpen spotting scope is a great instrument for hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts who are interested in a product that can improve their ability to find and observe their target objectives in the field.
This spotting scope uses a BAK-4 glass and fully multi-coated optics, and is rated as high as some scopes costing twice as much. The Alpen 20×50 Waterproof fogproof mini-spotting Scope is a very good compact and very affordable monocular that offers satisfactory sighting results. The 50mm objective lens makes it even ideal in low light conditions. However, the tripod that comes with it may be weak so you may need to get something a bit more stable. Also, some customer reviews revealed that the nylon carrying case is a bit bulky. However, it all depends on your individual taste and preferences.
10. Gosky 20-60X 80 Porro Prism Spotting Scope
Wrong with the sky Porro prism spotting scope. It is beautifully designed for birds and game viewing, scenery, and spotting at the rifle range. It comes with a digital cell phone adapter which allows you to take photos and videos in the distant world. The image quality is crystal clear at 20x magnification and also quite clear at 60x when using the digit – adapter with your cell phone, and it can take pictures using voice commands (depending on your phone).
Tripod & Case
This spotting scope also comes with a table top tripod and a soft case. The tripod isn’t exactly high end but is pretty much functional. If you get this spotting scope, you will find out that the quality is unbelievable for its price. The cell phone attachment will have to be its most remarkable feature as lots of customers have expressed satisfaction in this regard.
This spotting scope works great at the shooting range, and you will be able to see clear images at 100 yards. It is also a great hunting scope as it provides for crystal clear images even over long distances. However, the phone attachment may be a bit tricky and is not compatible with all phones.
Also, the light gathering may be weak, and so you shouldn’t expect optimal performance in a bad light conditions. Apart from these, the scope works great and is ideal for its price.
When you’re shopping for a spotting scope, you shouldn’t get too obsessed about image quality at extreme range and maximum magnification. This is because distortions as a result of heat waves and other factors will increase drastically with magnification. Hence, these distortions will be your limiting factor long before your optics will.
Some of the best spotting scopes offer excellent image quality and resolution at 20x magnification. The quality of your images relies heavily on the magnification and optics too. However, you should also consider the atmospheric conditions.
Hing End Spotting Scope
If you’re looking to get high-end spotting scopes that would give you top notch clarity and good light gathering qualities with maximum magnification, you may need to spend a few thousand bucks to get one.
However, you can also get the Best Spotting Scopes that almost matches the high-end products without having to pay quarter the price. Like I said earlier, it all depends on your individual preference and needs. If you use prescription glasses, remember to go for spotting scopes with enough eye relief to allow for your usage. One more thing, you can read more about spotting scope reviews