Spotting scopes are rather remarkable pieces of technology. While the market is littered with tons of excellent options, prices are dropping and there’s never been a better time to get into optics. Here are some of the best spotting scopes on the market and how to choose the best one for you.
If you’re in a hurry and don't have time for the details, here are our best picks for the best rated spotting scopes:
Best Value Spotting Scopes for the Money
Best High-End Spotting Scopes
Spotting Scopes Under $1000
Spotting Scopes under $500
Spotting Scopes under $300
Spotting Scopes under $200
Best Budget Spotting Scope for Under $100
Spotting Scopes for Hunting
Spotting Scopes for Target Shooting
Spotting Scopes for Birding
Best Compact Spotting Scope
Table of Contents
- What is a Spotting Scope, and How is it Used?
- What Are Spotting Scopes Used For?
- How to Choose a Spotting Scope?
- What to Look for in a Spotting Scope?
- Best Spotting Scopes on the Market Review
- Best Value Spotting Scopes for the Money
- Best High-End Spotting Scopes
- Spotting Scopes Under $1000
- Spotting Scopes under $500
- Spotting Scopes under $300
- Spotting Scopes under $200
- Best Budget Spotting Scope for Under $100
- Spotting Scopes for Hunting
- Spotting Scopes for Target Shooting
- Spotting Scopes for Birding
- Best Compact Spotting Scope
- Vortex Diamondback VS Razor VS Viper
- Angled vs Straight Spotting Scope
- Spotting Scope VS Binoculars
- Spotting Scope VS a Telescope
- Spotting Scope VS Monocular
- Spotting Scope VS Rangefinder
- How Magnification do You Need?
- Spotting Scope Q&A
- Digiscoping & Getting Good Images
- Budgeting & Accessories- You’ll Want a Decent Tripod
What is a Spotting Scope, and How is it Used?
The most basic definition of a spotting scope is that it is a telescope that has been modified for use during daylight hours. There are a few ways that the telescope has been modified; the image in a spotting scope is always upright, the device is shrunken down to a manageable and portable size, and the level of magnification in a spotting scope is significantly less than what you will find on a traditional telescope. Spotting scopes are most often used from a simple tripod, while telescopes require much more complicated and precise instruments to mount properly.
Most spotting scopes are not perfectly straight tubes, they often have an angle near the ocular lens to create and easier angle for the user to view from. In order to both properly transmit the image from the objective lens to the ocular lens and correct the image so that is shown in the correct orientation, a series of prisms are used inside the main tube. Due to multiple pieces of glass and/or crystal being used to create an easily useable image for the user, the quality of these components are vital to the usefulness of the spotting scope.
What Are Spotting Scopes Used For?
Spotting scopes can be used for several sporting purposes. Birding and wildlife viewing are popular uses for spotting scopes. Many of us will immediately think of shooting sports and tactical uses for spotting scopes. You will often find spotting scopes used for surveillance, finding targets, determining shot placement, and counting hits during competition. Of course, spotting scopes can be found during long-range shooting for to aid the shooter in a number of ways when every possible factor must be accounted for to achieve accuracy.
How to Choose a Spotting Scope?
Spotting scopes can be used for brining images closer to your eye. It can be used for literally anything and what your spotting scope is going to be used for is going to be the deciding factor, along with budget, in which model you buy.
Finding a good spotting scope can be difficult. Many models look the same and it can be difficult to figure out why one costs four times as much as another. At the end of the day, all you really need is a way to view your target from a long distance.
Whether that’s a musician at an outdoor concert, a bird on the edge of a nature preserve, or a target at a shooting competition you’ll need the best spotting scope you can get your hands on.
Optics get very expensive very fast and the best thing you can do for yourself is to decide what you need before you go shopping and don’t fall prey to a salesman attempting to sell you more features than you need. Even the most basic of spotting scopes will let you know if there is an elk at the edge of the forest.
When watching birds in the backyard, a pair of simple binoculars might do the trick. If you are spotting birds from across a lake or a mud flat, you are going to want a true spotting scope. One of the most important features of a birding spotting scope is going to be the field of view. This will be most affected by the diameter of the objective lens. The larger the size of this lens, the wider the field of view. This is going to be important because birds are often on the move and a small field of view might cause you to lose the bird you are looking for, or possible miss birds that you otherwise might have been able to catch with a wide field of view.
Don’t be afraid to be conservative with your maximum magnification either. 20x to 30x are often plenty powerful enough to catch a view of your birds. Increasing the magnification too much can often cause the image to be skewed by heat shimmer, or mirage, and small vibrations can be greatly amplified when at extreme magnification.
Glass quality, including coating that correct colors, will also be important to users interested in birding. Poorly ground lenses without a coating will obscure fine details and show incorrect colors, making correct identification nearly impossible. HD, XD, and ED are some common identifiers for the type of glass used in a spotting scope lens. ED lenses, or extra dispersion, will focus the colors into a single point which creates a clearer image.
Spotting scopes come with either fixed or variable focal lengths. Variable focal lengths allow the spotter to use a short focal length for a wide field of view to scan for game, and then transition to a longer focal length with increased magnification to pick up finer details. The ability to transition between these two modes will enable the spotter because most hunting will involve a great deal of scanning, but when a target is found it can be important to get a very clear image of the game to ensure it is legally and ethically the right target for the hunter.
Hunting often involves long distances traveled on foot and setting up for a shot in less than ideal conditions. For this reason, it is important to make sure your spotting scope has a sturdy and lightweight tripod.
Spotting scopes can be had in both full-sized and compact sizes. Full-sized models will be heavier and take up more space in the pack, but compact spotting scopes will usually have less total magnification. You will have to determine how much weight you are willing to add to your system when choosing between the two.
Many spotting scopes are designed to accept a camera directly attached to the ocular lens. This makes it very easy to get fantastic shots from a distance. There are some considerations that should be considered for these spotting scopes as well.
The tripod is one of the most important features of a photography spotting scope. The added weight of a camera can make a scope on an inferior tripod unstable. Any vibrations from the ground will be amplified by a cheap tripod, ruining any photo you might have spent hours trying to get.
No matter how great your camera might be, the image will only be as fantastic as the lenses of your spotting scope allow. Use ED glass with an extremely fine grind to ensure that your photo quality is not hindered by the scope. Great lenses could allow you to take professional grade photographs with even some modern smartphones.
Depending on the type of shooting you are doing, you will need to choose between fixed or variable focal lengths. For competitions where there are multiple targets during a single engagement it will be important to use a wide field of view to spot targets and then lengthen the focal length for precise shot spotting. For extreme long-range precision shooting, scanning might not be important.
Colors are often not extremely important in in these applications as the targets are usually purposely made in contrasting colors to make them easy to identify. However, extreme clarity will greatly assist in picking up bullet trace for spotting hits. Especially when spotting for smaller calibers, such as .224 Valkyrie or 22-250, picking up bullet trace with poorly designed lenses can be overly difficult.
Angled spotting scopes will also assist the spotter as they allow for a more comfortable position. Long range precision can often require a lot of time under the scope to achieve extreme accuracy. Due to the increased complexity and requirements for precision manufacturing, angled spotting scopes can often demand a high price, but there are few positions that using a straight spotting scope is comfortable.
For tactical use, whether military or law enforcement, a spotter will want all boxes checked for their spotting scope. The ability to adjust the focal length will be important for scanning and then transitioning to spotting. The colors must appear correct when determining clothing details.
Military use could involve spotting potential targets from extreme distances, so high levels of magnification with high quality lenses will be a priority. Law enforcement engagements are generally at shorter distances, rarely over 200 yards, so maximum magnification might not be the priority.
What to Look for in a Spotting Scope?
Many times you will find budget spotting scope that have a short and precise eye relief. This can be acceptable for some spotters, but most fill find short eye relief to be a hinderance. Keeping your head close to the scope and in a precise point for long periods of time can cause undue fatigue and make your time under the scope shorter and less enjoyable.
Maximum magnification is not always the answer for any given situation. High magnification in cheap scopes can amplify the shortcomings in that come with those devices. Before choosing the most powerful scope in your budget, determine how much magnification you really need before you start shopping. If you are using your spotting scope for hunting in heavily forested areas, you will likely be more satisfied with a 20x spotting scope that has excellent lens coatings in a compact size than a budget 50x scope.
An excellent scope with quality components can be rendered useless if the tripod is not up to the job. Ensure that your tripod is sturdy, does not amplify vibrations, and is tall enough for your application. How smooth a tripod rotates can be very important too; a cheap tripod might have a rubber band effect which can make it frustrating when you are trying to zero in on a small target at maximum magnification.
Best Spotting Scopes on the Market Review
Best Value Spotting Scopes for the Money
1 Bushnell Trophy Xtreme Spotting Scope
Bushnell Optics is a giant in the outdoor industry. They make everything from laser rangefinders to high-quality binoculars. This is one of the most popular spotting scopes on the market because it is a hard to beat round up of excellent features inside an excellent design.
It features a Porro-prism design and premium fully multicoated optics. This model incorporates a rubberized 45° eyepiece that is comfortable to use with the compact tripod and window mount that is included.
Also included in this ready to go kit is a waterproof hard sided case and a compact soft sided case for carrying through the field. This is a purpose driven hunting spotting scope that is simple to use and comfortable for hours on end.
While it doesn’t feature many of the proprietary coatings or scientific advancements of high dollar models, it is very difficult to beat the level of value and refinement that this spotting scope provides for the price.
It is certainly a great spotting scope for the money on the market and a great entry-level model for anyone looking to get into optics for hunting or wildlife viewing.
2 Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope
Celestron makes many budget friendly spotting scopes, many of which are great. This model, however, stands out as a great example of a spotting scope well worth the money, especially for people who are going to use it for multiple different activities.
The magnification range and objective lens size of this spotting scope is the sweet spot for general use. Any larger or more powerful magnification would lead to less mobility because of increased size and weight.
The objective bell includes fully multicoated optics providing a 45° viewing angle. The eyepiece is removable and Celestron makes aftermarket camera adapters for Digi scoping. This model is beloved online because it is a real steal for the quality and features that you get for such a low price.
For anyone looking for an affordable general use spotting scope, this one is very hard to beat for the money. It is waterproof and while not completely ruggedized, it is plenty durable for general field use and is covered by a limited lifetime warranty.
Best High-End Spotting Scopes
3 NightForce TS-82
NightForce is a company best known for making military grade optics, and this spotting scope is no different. The product is rock-solid and designed to take whatever abuse you can throw at it. The aluminum body is both shock resistant and weatherproof.
The quick release Bayonet Mounting System allows for fast changing of accessories, and the scope is capable of receiving some smart phones for easier viewing of photography opportunities.
The lenses are European manufactured, which is a common theme among many of the best optics in the world. Incredible lens quality paired with the high-tech coatings allow for crystal clear, color correct images from edge to edge of the scope with no distortions or fisheye effect.
For those who demand world-class equipment, this is definitely a spotting scope to check out.
4 Zeiss Victory Harpia
Zeiss makes many of the best optics available in the world by sourcing the best European glass available for their lenses and using proprietary coatings that they have developed over decades of scope manufacturing experience.
The Harpia uses a 3x wide zoom to create the widest field of view available with up to 70x magnification. This scope has several innovations that help to make this possibly the best spotting scope on the market.
Dual-Speed focusing allows for the user to quickly change magnification while maintaining a sharp focus on the subject at hand. Changes to the location of the magnification ring also allows for intuitive and simple one-handed operation by the user.
For the best spotting scope that money can buy, you can’t go wrong with the Ziess Victory Harpia.
Spotting Scopes Under $1000
5 Vortex Optics Viper HD Spotting Scopes
When it comes to purpose driven spotting scopes, the under $1000 range is going to buy a lot of optic. This is a perfect example; Vortex Optics makes some of the best scopes and very high quality binoculars on the market. They are known for consistent innovation and are striving to always make their products better, and this is a perfect example.
This model; the Viper HD is a 20-60x85mm angled spotting scope. It shares many of the same features as other models in Vortex’s catalog but does so with lighter weight with less bulk than many of them.
This is an awesome spotting scope for under $1000 because it does virtually everything well but adds in a level of portability, that isn’t seen on very many optics with this level of quality and feature set.
Everything about the spotting scope is adjustable, from the eyepiece to the objective lens. It is devoid of knobs because it is much easier to use the revolving turrets built into the body of the scope.
The scientific research put into the prism and glass that drive the 60X magnification settings is largely proprietary to Vortex Optics and is by far the best on the market. This is all backed up by the best customer service in the industry and possibly the best warranty of any company in existence.
6 Vortex Optics Razor HD Spotting Scopes
This spotting scope is by far one of the highest-quality money can buy. To get any more performance you must stretch the balance of current science and spend four times what this spotting scope will set you back.
Everything about this spotting scope has been optimized for the highest optical quality that is scientifically possible. An innovative prism design offers maximum image quality and performance, the proprietary fully multicoated lenses deliver Vortex’s best and highest level of light transmission, with multiple anti-reflective coatings on the objective lens and eyepiece.
The premium HD extra-low dispersion glass delivers the best resolution and color fidelity that money can buy. In fact, the spotting scope is so optimized for optical quality, it lacks in overall shape and portability.
This is a very large, and heavy spotting scope. It doesn’t compromise in any area, instead favoring optical quality that is perfect for anyone conducting surveillance, competing or engaging in high-level tactical shooting, and certainly for long distance birdwatching or wildlife viewing.
Spotting Scopes under $500
7 Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scopes
There’s no doubting the reputation of Vortex Optics. They made that reputation on products like this; their diamondback series of spotting scopes. For under $500, their 20-60x80mm spotting scope is one of the best.
Vortex Optics is great because they have many exclusive technologies that they have innovated over the years and never find each and every one of their products to perform exceedingly well.
Everything from materials to design has been field-tested before it appears on a product and all their optics are backed by the best customer service and warranty in the business.
Proprietary coatings work to increase light transmission and feature multiple anti-reflective coatings on all air to glass services. Small features like these, only found on Vortex Optics, add value and make your time behind the scope much more enjoyable.
Several different models are available for mil dot reticles, and removable eyepieces to allow for some of the best digi-scoping for under $1000. This spotting scope is one of the best midrange priced model’s for its reliable performance in nearly all environments.
8 Vanguard Endeavor HD 82A Angled Eyepiece Spotting Scope
This is a fully featured spotting scope that really is one of the most advanced spotting scopes on the market for all around use. It is a 20-60x82mm spotting scope that weighs in at just 66.7 ounces, thanks to its rubber armored magnesium body.
Small refinements of the dual focus wheel for both fine and coarse adjustment allow you to dial in perfect magnification levels for people who wear glasses and will be sitting behind this scope for a long period of time. Detachable angled eyepiece vision with soft, comfortable rubber eyecup & long eye relief.
While the same model is available with a smaller objective lens, for less money, part of what makes this spotting scope so unique and excellent value is the exceptional brightness gained by the 82 mm objective lens. Go with this spotting scope for an all around excellent optic that will serve you well for just about any outdoor activity.
Spotting Scopes under $300
9 Redfield Rampage Spotting Scope
Redfield is one of the premier companies providing cost-effective optics for hunting and shooting. This spotting scope is a great example of why Redfield is such a beloved company. Manufactured entirely in the United States this 20-60x60mm spotting scope outperforms nearly every other spotting scope in this price range, making it one of the greatest values for under $300.
For starters, this spotting scope provides the most usable magnification range for people looking to go hunting or to judge shooting. Very high-powered spotting scopes can be difficult to use in the field, and this model doesn’t sacrifice field-of-view or optical quality to chase magnification.
The fully multicoated lenses and intelligently designed straight eyepiece make for very comfortable viewing, even after many hours looking through the glass. The exterior rubberized armor and large adjustment knob are easy to grasp with gloves on and protect the scope from the elements.
For under $300, there simply isn’t a more usable spotting scope on the market providing a similar level of quality for the price. Especially considering that this model also includes a tripod and see through case with carrying strap and lens covers.
Spotting Scopes under $200
10 BARSKA Benchmark Waterproof Straight Spotting Scope
The under $200 spotting scope category is hotly contested. This is the area where you can get a spotting scope that has superb quality, but not a lot of features. That is exactly what you want if you’re on the small budget. Barska does exactly that with this 25-125x88mm spotting scope.
The best thing about this spotting scope is that you can view targets very far away for not a lot of money, you get 125x magnification and a 24-foot field-of-view at a thousand yards. This is all thanks to the massive 88 mm objective bell that houses fully multicoated optics throughout.
This is one of the larger spotting scopes on the market at a tad over 13 inches, but it is well worth the money if you are looking for very small targets, like songbirds or you’ll be using your scope to look very far away.
This spotting scope of advertises 100% waterproof and fog proof and comes with a table top tripod and handheld mount for use in the field. It comes to you with both a hard and soft carrying case and won’t leave you wanting for any magnification and brightness.
Best Budget Spotting Scope for Under $100
11 Emarth Waterproof Angled Spotting Scope with Tripod
If you want a decent spotting scope but are on a shoestring budget look around for diamonds in the rough that have excellent online reviews and combine great materials with decent workmanship.
When it comes optics, lenses and magnification come first, and other refinements like armor or accessories come second. Emarth remembered that when they put together this excellent spotting scope, that is beloved online and is one of the best budget spotting scopes on the market.
The fully multicoated lenses and large 60 mm objective bell combined to make for comfortable long-range viewing even in low light conditions. This model is waterproof and fog proof and is sealed with O-rings to prevent moisture dust in the breeze from getting inside the scope. It is dry purging argon gas eliminating internal fogging.
This scope is fully backed with friendly customer service and a lifetime warranty. For the best budget, you are not going to find very many spotting scopes on the market that provide the capability that this model does.
This is a great affordable spotting scope for anyone looking for a very basic model for an outdoor event like a concert or sporting event and doesn’t want to spend a ton of money on a high dollar unit.
12 Authentic ROXANT Blackbird High Definition Spotting Scope
If you’re looking for a cheap spotting scope, your options are going to be limited both in terms of number and quality. However, there are a few diamonds in the rough on the market that provide exceptional optics given their price point.
This model from ROXANT is one of the best examples of an excellent budget spotting scope. With this spotting scope, you get all the essentials needed for viewing wildlife, outdoor events, or even stargazing. This includes fully multicoated optics, a BAK4 prism, comfortable adjustment knobs, dry nitrogen purging, and extended sunshade built into the body of the objective bell.
The 45° angled eyepiece is comfortable with the included tripod meant for mounting onto a table, but the unit will work with most commercially available tripods for camera equipment or other optics. While this spotting scope is not going to win any design or quality competitions, it certainly gets the job done well given its price point.
It’s powerful enough to be useful and more than powerful enough to be convenient and given the ample rubberized armor on the outside of the unit, you don’t have to worry about dropping or bumping the spotting scope.
Spotting Scopes for Hunting
13 Redfield 114651 Rampage Angled Spotting Scope
Redfield is a highly respected optical manufacturer that is partnered with several large firearm companies to provide high-value optics for the masses. Primarily focused on the hunting market, this is one of their best models because it combines simple features and high-quality optics for outstanding value.
This is part of their rampage line-up of products and is an angled spotting scope with a 20-60x80mm magnification set up. The highly durable polycarbonate housing protects the fully multicoated lenses and prisms inside the body, while not weighing down the model with heavy rubber armor or excessive metal.
The great thing about this spotting scope is the performance that you get for the price. You don’t always want to drag a multi-thousand-dollar piece of equipment into the backcountry and risk damage or loss. This is the perfect spotting scope for anyone looking for a hard use model that they won’t feel guilty about dropping or scratching up.
For a third of the price of many other models you get similar performance and an excellent form factor that is perfect for backcountry elk hunting where you will be glassing for a long period of time.
Redfield manufactures this product in the United States and provides a limited lifetime warranty. If you’re looking for one of the best deals in spotting scopes, including one of the most effective spotting scopes for hunting, look no further than this rampage model from Redfield.
14 Vortex Optics Razor HD Spotting Scopes
The ideal hunting spotting scope is going to have every feature you need, and nothing you don’t. That is exactly what Vortex Optics put in this razor HD spotting scope. Perfect for hunting, this straight eyepiece spotting scope is lightweight and extraordinarily compact for the power that you get from it.
The 65mm objective lens gathers more light and provides much more optical quality than many other competitors, even at the same price range. The high-quality construction of this spotting scope makes the dry nitrogen purging, and double O-ring ceiling much more durable and rugged.
The fully multicoated lenses utilize proprietary technology for revolutionary light transmission, and the armor tech protective lens coating protects this spotting scope better than all the competitors.
Small features like a built-in sunshade, helical focus knob, and adjustable eye cups are added to the spotting scope to make it easy to use despite hours looking through it glassing for a trophy bull or buck.
This spotting scope includes an eyepiece, objective lens cover and carrying case. While there are a ton of different features on this spotting scope, including a higher magnification model as well as an angled model, the simplicity and rugged nature of this spotting scope is really what makes it one of the best designed spotting scopes for hunting on the market.
Spotting Scopes for Target Shooting
15 BARSKA Waterproof Straight Spotting Scope with Tripod
When many people go to the range to zero their rifles or shoot at long range they want a simple and effective compact spotting scope that they can use to call corrections without having to drag out an overly large or expensive model. This is where Barska targeted this model of spotting scope.
No, this spotting scope is not going to win any competitions in durability, design, or even quality. However, for the money, this is one of the highest quality spotting scopes in its category for target shooting because of its lightweight and easy to set up and take down.
If you are a hard-core shooter and want a very nice spotting scope that you will use every time you go to the range, this is not the model for you. This is a great model for anyone who simply wants to sight in their rifle and have fun at the range.
While this spotting scope is 100% waterproof and fog proof and features fully multicoated optics, long stretches of time looking through the scope are going to lead to slight headaches because of aberrations in the glass.
This isn’t recommended for anyone looking for a high-grade optic, but is a great starter model for anyone who wants an extremely lightweight and compact spotting scope to set up for birding, target shooting, or even sporting events. This is by far one of the most useful and the best value spotting scope in its price range.
16 Vortex Optics Viper HD Spotting Scopes
When it comes to innovative tactical optics, few companies have the name recognition of Vortex Optics. No other company push the envelope further each and every year than Vortex and this model of their Viper HD spotting scope is no different.
This is one of the premier spotting scopes on the planet. Exceptionally high-quality optics combined with proprietary fully multicoated lens technology, makes for some of the best light transmission and optical clarity money can buy.
The magnification range on this model, in particular, is 20-60x, plenty for just about anything you are going to be doing in the field. At a thousand yards, you have 50 feet of field-of-view. The massive 85mm objective lens gathers light exceptionally well.
However, the large proportions of this scope don’t translate to massive weight as the aircraft grade aluminum and reinforced magnesium housings keep this spotting scope lightweight and slim.
In keeping with all other Vortex Optics products, this is a nearly bombproof model. If it ever fails your, Vortex offers by far the best warranty and customer service in the firearms and outdoor industries.
The only downside to the spotting scope is the price. In optics, you certainly get what you pay for and this is one of the highest quality spotting scopes on the market, especially for target shooting, and you’ll have to pay for that.
Spotting Scopes for Birding
17 Gosky 20-60X80 Porro Prism Spotting Scope
Many spotting scopes on the market are hard to tell part, common magnification ranges and similar -looking objective bells can make telling one product from another difficult.
These days, fully multicoated optics and good quality prisms are the norm. This model from Gosky meets all the standard requirements for a decent spotting scope but goes above and beyond with extra ruggedized armor added to the outside of the unit, as well as beefed-up controls that are easy to use with gloves.
The optical quality of this spotting scope is on par with some of the best models in his price range, but the tightfitting rubber armor on this spotting scope is going to be more durable and provide better protection than any other model designed for birdwatching or wildlife viewing.
The great thing about this spotting scope, especially for birding, is the robust adapter design for both Digi scoping and mounting the unit to a tripod. Small vibrations can cause excessive eye fatigue if you are going to be using your spotting scope for a long period of time. Goski has helped remedy that problem by reinforcing all the critical areas to help dampen vibrations, allowing you less fatigue and better-quality pictures.
This is the best birding spotting scope on the market for someone looking for an entry-level scope that is weather tight and ready to go right out of the box, especially if you’re looking for a great way to get into high quality Digi scoping without spending a ton of money.
18 Landove 20-60X 80 Prism Spotting Scope
For birding, you’re going to want a very crisp optical quality combined with as big a magnification range and objective lens as you can get. This model from Landove does exactly that.
This model features a 20-60 magnification and includes a lightweight tripod and cell phone adapter for digi-scoping. This model is 100% waterproof and fog proof and is designed around fully multicoated 80 mm lenses with exceptional quality eyepieces and high-quality prisms.
The angled eyepieces are compatible with the included tripod but this model is designed to work with any number of photography or optic tripods on the market.
The adjustment knob on this model is conveniently located it’s that you can zoom in and out of the magnification range without shaking the system too much allowing for clean photography and video.
As a general or birding spotting scope, this is a great option as it provides a purpose driven design with exceptional quality and a great price. Especially when considering it already includes a tripod and adapter for a cell phone for digi-scoping, you’re ready to go and take pictures and use your spotting scope right out of the box.
Best Compact Spotting Scope
19 Visionking 25-75x70 Maksutov Spotting Scope
Many times, when you take a compact spotting scope in the field it’s for hard use. For times when you don’t want to drag out an expensive high dollar optic, Vision King has you covered with this massively powerful but compact size 25-75x70mm spotting scope.
This model is 100% waterproof, dry nitrogen purged and sealed with double O-rings. The Bak-4 prisms maximize light transmission and the fully multicoated optics make for superior brightness and comfortable viewing with near perfect optical quality.
The ruggedized outer body of the spotting scope is designed to be as slimline as possible with an angled eyepiece, and integrated adjustment knob built into the body of the scope.
The striking thing about this model and one of the reasons it is one of the best compact models on the market, is its value. It is beloved online for being an extremely compact model that provides great power and quality for an outstanding price.
It isn’t going to be the be all and end all of technology on the market, but it is going to be an excellent compromise if you are going on a back-country elk hunt or just need a general use spotting scope for birding in remote areas.
20 Bushnell 12-36x50mm Waterproof Ultra Compact Spotting Scope
When it comes to having a spotting scope on you all the time, size and weight are going to be the two greatest obstacles. This is one of the best compact spotting scopes on the market from Bushnell, because it combines ample magnification with superb quality and materials, wrapped in one of the smallest form factors on the market.
Absolutely perfect for hunting, shooting, or any activity where you will need to judge the quality or location of an animal or shot at a long distance. You may give up a little bit and quality when you step down to a model this small in size, but the portability and the fact that you always have it on you will make up for any loss in optical quality.
This spotting scope even includes small refinements like a compact lightweight tripod, car window mount and two carrying cases. It includes a soft carrying case for taking this to sporting events or the range, and a premium hard case for transportation in a vehicle or long-term storage.
This model is 100% waterproof and fog proof and is wrapped completely and is shock absorbing rubber armor. It Includes a limited lifetime warranty backed up by some the best customer service in the industry from Bushnell.
Vortex Diamondback VS Razor VS Viper
It’s no secret that Vortex is one of the most popular consumer friendly scope manufactures available. With that said, they do offer products for consumers through a full range of budget options. Vortex breaks their scopes into three primary product lines to break down their price points.
Angled vs Straight Spotting Scope
goHUNT - Straight spotting scope VS. Angled spotting scope
Spotting Scope VS Binoculars
Binoculars are fine for locating targets, or identification at close ranges. If you are looking to spot targets or animals at ranges over 100 yards you really need to look for a spotting scope to get acceptable results.
Spotting Scope VS a Telescope
Telescopes are similar in concept to a spotting scope, but their size, weight, and possible image flipping make them unsuitable for sporting purposes.
Spotting Scope VS Monocular
Monoculars are great for portable magnification, but they do not serve the same purpose as spotting scopes. The lack of magnification and a tripod will not allow for the same level of precision that spotting scopes do.
Spotting Scope VS Rangefinder
If you can only choose between one, the spotting scope will prove to be the more valuable tool. Many scope use reticles that have range-finding capabilities built into them. This allows the shooter to assist in the spotting process. While a stand-alone rangefinder is an excellent addition to a long-range shooting team, the spotting scope is the more valuable tool.
How Magnification do You Need?
Over 1,000 yards
This is the range where 50x spotting scopes become almost vital for finding bullet trace in the spotting scope.
At this range, 30x or more magnification will be valuable. Hitting a target at this range with an 4x scope is very viable but picking out small details and spotting bullet trace will be extremely challenging at lower magnification.
Look for spotting scopes with 20x magnification. You won’t need more magnification than this, but it could be helpful.
Anything over 10x will be completely viable as a spotting scope at this range.
While many applications won’t require a spotting scope at this range, birding or photography enthusiasts will benefit from 10x or greater magnification at 100 yards.
Spotting Scope Q&A
How do I attach a camera to a spotting scope?
Some spotting scopes come with the photographer in mind and have attachments with the scope. Others will require an attachment that replaces the optical lens; these are often camera brand specific.
How do I attach a spotting scope to a tripod?
Spotting scopes are meant to be attached to a tripod. They will have a nut built into the bottom of the scope that will marry up with a screw built into the top of the tripod. Some can attach to a fluid head that will assist the spotter in making smooth movement to the scope on the tripod.
How can I attach my tablet to my spotting scope?
Like cameras, tablets can be married to the spotting system with adapters. These adapters will either attach to the tripod head or the scope itself.
What spotting scope does the military use?
There are many spotting scopes used by the military as many sniper and special operations units are authorized to purchase items that are not in the military catalog. The military issued spotting scope is the M151 that features coating capable of diffusing laser light that could damage the spotter’s eyes and the ability to attach night vision devices such as thermal scope or night vision scopes.
Digiscoping & Getting Good Images
The hot new trends on the optics market is using spotting scopes to get high quality images of faraway targets. Some of the coolest hunting stories involve pictures of a trophy deer or elk through spotting scope from 1000 yards away, and then an epic stalk until the animal is harvested.
Even for other sports, especially birding, digi-scoping ads a level of refinement and fun to just about any activity involved with a spotting scope. However, it is both an art and a science getting great images through a spotting scope.
While most spotting scopes have some sort of adapter for your cell phone to take decent pictures through a spotting scope, purpose made spotting scopes will provide a means of replacing the eyepiece of your spotting scope with an adapter that mounts to professional quality cameras.
While there are volumes to be written about how to get the best quality pictures, just make sure that if you are seriousley looking into digi-scoping you do a bit of research on the model of spotting scope you buy beforehand and see if you can mount a professional quality camera to the spotting scope. You don’t want to buy a model that will only work with one of the cell phone adapters and be disappointed.
Budgeting & Accessories- You’ll Want a Decent Tripod
When looking at the cost of a spotting scope, consider other accessories you are going to need to make the best use out of it. Many budget models include tripods and carrying cases to make sure that you can use them in the field.
However, many hybrid models do not include tripods but will include a means for protecting the objective lens and may or may not include a carrying case. While the case is not necessary in the field you are going to want at least a decent tripod.
Many people forget this and as a result, find it nearly impossible to use their spotting scope in the field. Minute shifts in where the spotting scope is pointed can cause drastic differences in the field of view at a thousand yards.
Moreover, small vibrations that are going to be transmitted through the scope by your hand are going to cause splitting headaches after just a few minutes looking through a spotting scope.
That’s no good if you are going to be in the field for a week glassing for trophies! Look around on the market for a lightweight and cost-effective fluid head tripod, like what someone would use for videography or professional photography and consider using that.
Even if your model came with a tripod, look to see if you can get an upgraded model. It really does make a huge difference once you’re in the field.
Above all else, get your hands on the equipment that you need and get outdoors and use them! The best spotting scope in the world doesn’t do you any good in its carrying case at the bottom of your closet.