Best Spotting Scope - Guide and Reviews
If you plan on being prone or more mobile, you may choose a traditional style of scope!
They say that there’s a right tool for every job. In the case of spotting scope, their job is to provide close-up visual access to anything on land while staying a safe distance away. Something of a cross between binoculars and a telescope, spotting scopes have
While a telescope is usually used at night to observe the stars, a spotting scope is meant only to be used during the day. When comparing a spotting scope to a telescope or a set of binoculars, there are some important distinctions, such as the size and the level of magnification.
Today I’ll be discussing the best spotting scope as well as how to choose the right one for your needs. Whether you need a scope for spotting a rare bird or your next target for the hunt, these are the best spotting scopes available on the market.
How to Choose the Best Spotting Scope
Since spotting scopes are used to observe terrain and animals during the day, there are some things you have to consider when choosing the right spotting scope for you. One of the most important aspects is to determine for what exactly you will be using the scope.Whether you use it hunting or for photography will tell you a lot about what features and options to choose.
One of the first things you will notice about spotting scopes is that some models are similar to a telescope in that they are cylindrical and flat, meaning that they don’t bend at all. Other models, however, have a viewing scope that is tilted at an angle. The reason for this angle is to allow you to see everything from a much more comfortable position, such as while sitting.
The angled eyepiece means that you can adjust your focus and field of vision without having to tilt your head that much. If you plan on being in a sitting or squatting position, an angled scope may be your best option. However, if you plan on being prone or more mobile, you may choose a traditional style of scope.
Field of View
Depending on what exactly you plan to use your scope for, you want to choose a model with a sufficient Field of View (FOV). The FOV refers to the amount of visual range your scope has with regards to the horizontal and vertical boundaries of the image. What determines the size of your FOV is the amount of magnification.
Simply put, the more magnified an object or area is, the smaller the FOV. Choose a spotting scope with a sufficient range of vision to accommodate your needs. Most scopes have the ability to zoom in and out, allowing you to adjust your FOV as you see fit.
Like telescopes, spotting scopes can get pretty expensive for the higher end models. When deciding on the right spotting scope for your needs, keep in mind what kind of budget you will have.
In addition to the scope itself, you may want different lens covers and different tripods, so keep in mind any accessories (including bags and transportation equipment) you want in addition to the scope. Some models can cost well over two thousand dollars, so make sure that it is worth the investment before splurging on something you may only use a few times.
When looking at spotting scopes, the most important component is the lens. While it may be tempting to opt for a cheaper model with a low-cost lens, this choice will result in a much lower quality image. For spotting scopes, there are three types of lens coatings. Each one will help reduce the amount of glare and provide a sharper, higher-quality image. These coatings are (in order of quality):
- Fully Coated
- Fully Multi-Coated
Ultimately the amount of coating you need will depend on how you use your scope. If you plan on using it for photography, for example, you may want a Multi-Coated or Fully Multi-Coated lens to provide the most exceptional high-definition image possible.
The aperture of a spotting scope refers to the size of the front of the scope, which is where the lens sits. Simply put, the larger the aperture, the more light comes in. If you want a beautiful, clear, bright image, choose a scope with a sufficiently large aperture. Since spotting scopes are meant to be used during the daytime, a large aperture will help you capture the best image possible, even if the sky is overcast or darker than usual.
If you are using the scope for hunting, a bright image will help you identify your prey much easier, making you more efficient in your process.
Because spotting scopes are meant to be used outdoors, many times this means that they are brought into rough terrain. If you plan on carrying your scope into the wilderness, you have to be prepared for any eventuality, including severe weather. Make sure that your spotting scope is as weather-proof as possible, and hopefully, it can withstand drops or bumps without damaging the internal components.
In addition to the scope itself, make sure the tripod you use is just as rugged and dependable. You don’t want to have your scope fall over because of a weak tripod, so make sure the unit and all accessories are hardened against the weather as much as possible.
Eye relief : the distance from which you can see everything clearly through the eyepiece. The larger the eye relief, the longer the distance you can have between your eye and the eyepiece. High eye relief is especially necessary if you wear glasses.
Close focus: If you plan on being relatively close to your subject, then you may want a scope that has a narrow focus, which allows you to be nearer to your target than with other scopes. This option will be determined by your use of the scope.
Fixed vs. Zoom Scope: Some scopes use fixed lenses to provide the correct amount of magnification. However, this system requires you to change lenses manually. While usually a cheaper option, it is not as convenient as a zoom style scope, which allows you to modify the magnification by increasing or decreasing the amount of zoom, similar to a set of binoculars.
Recommended Spotting Scopes
I have spent countless hours
1. BARSKA Benchmark 25-125x88 Waterproof Straight Spotting Scope
First on our list is the BARSKA Benchmark 25-125x88 Waterproof Straight Spotting Scope. The first thing to know about spotting scopes is the meaning of the numbers that accompany each model name.
The first two numbers, in this case 25-125, refers to the optical zoom the scope has. This means the BARSKA can magnify from 25 to 125 times.
The third number, in this instance 88, refers to the size of the aperture, and the measurement is always in millimeters. Thus, the Benchmark scope has an aperture of 88mm, which is more than sufficient for most scoping needs.Now that we understand what the numbers mean let’s dive into the features of this scope.
As the name suggests, this scope is straight, meaning that the viewing eyepiece is not bent up or down. However, the eyepiece is offset a little bit to make it more comfortable to use.
When talking about durability, the Benchmark is built to withstand a lot of punishment. The case is waterproof, which is a huge plus, and includes an interior rubber casing to keep all of the internal components intact in the event of bumps and spills. The tripod is the only thing that isn’t necessarily rugged since it is a small, tabletop rig. However, if you prefer something longer or more durable, you should be able to purchase any tripod and have it fit with this scope.
Also, this model comes with a hard and soft carrying case, so you can transport the scope without worrying about anything getting damaged on the way.The lens is fully-coated, providing you with high-definition images. The lens is also fog proof, which comes in handy on days with ever-changing weather.This unit comes with a limited lifetime warranty, so you know it’s built to last.
Feature At a Glance
- 100-percent waterproof and fogproof
- Easy to zoom in on target
- Weight: 6.8 pounds
- Soft carrying case
2. Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope
Next on our list is the Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Spotting Scope. While the BARSKA is a heavyweight champion, the Celestron Ultima is a bit of a lightweight regarding its durability and magnification levels.
That being said, though, this model is still more than sufficient for your scoping needs, and does have a lot of handy features that make it worth your investment.
The Ultima eyepiece is at a 45-degree angle, allowing you to see everything from a seated or standing position much easier. The optical zoom scope can magnify from 20 to 60 times with a twist of the knob.The lens on this model is multi-coated, and it is designed to minimize glare while maintaining the full brightness at all magnifications.
The unit is fully waterproof and comes with a soft carrying case for easy transportation. This model does not include a tripod, though. The lightweight design only weighs just under five pounds, making it very easy to take with you.The Ultima comes with a limited lifetime warranty, so you know that it is made of high-quality materials.
Feature At a Glance
- Multi-Coated Optics
- Sight tube
- Soft Carrying Case
- Zoom Eyepiece
- Weight: 4.94 pounds
3. Redfield Rampage 20-60x60mm Spotting Scope Kit
Although the name Redfield Rampage doesn’t exactly elicit images of a spotting scope, here we are nonetheless with a spotting scope called the Rampage.
This scope is designed to help with hunting, which is presumably why the tough name. When compared to the other scopes we’ve looked at so far, the Rampage is most similar to the Celestron Ultima with regards to features but looks more like the BARSKA as it is a straight scope.
The Redfield Rampage has a wide enough field of vision, with a magnification level between 20 and 60 times. The 60mm aperture lets in more than enough light, although the image is not quite as bright as an 80 or 88mm model. However, for hunting purposes, a 60mm scope is just fine.
Also, this scope comes with a retractable lens shade to help reduce glare.When it comes to durability, the Rampage has a fully waterproof polycarbonate body. The lens is also fog proof, which can be an essential asset out in the field. The lens is fully multi-coated, which is the best kind of coating possible.
The coating delivers sharp, high-definition images every time.This unit does not come with a tripod. However, it can be adapted to fit almost any tripod you have or decide to purchase. The Rampage also comes with a soft carrying case for extra protection while carrying it.
The lightweight polycarbonate shell also makes this scope weigh just over five pounds, making it very portable. Finally, the Redfield Rampage comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
Feature At a Glance
- Hunter- friendly price
- Waterproof and fogproof technology
4. Tasco World Class 20-60x80 Zoom Waterproof/Fogproof Spotting Scope
Next on our list is the Tasco World Class 20-60x80 Zoom Spotting Scope. Although the name says this scope is world class, I would not take that to heart too much.
That doesn't mean that this isn’t a high-quality device, but just that it does not offer as many features or as sturdy construction as some of the other scopes on this list.
Let’s break down the Tasco Scope’s features.This scope is a straight style model with a lens that can magnify from 20 to 60 times with a simple twist.
The aperture of this scope is 80mm, which provides ample light and brightness to your images. The lens is fully-coated, which helps to reduce glare and make the images sharper.The Tasco Spotting Scope is fully waterproof and fog proof, so it is built to withstand most weather.
Additionally, while this scope is made of durable material, major bumps or drops may damage the internal workings, so be careful.This model comes with a small, handheld tripod, and will fit with most other types of tripod if you want something longer. The piece that comes with the scope can attach to your car, allowing you to use it without having to exit your vehicle, should the need ever arise.
This unit does come with a hard and soft carrying case for easy transportation. The only major downside is that this scope does not have a limited lifetime warranty. That and the tripod that comes with it is kind of flimsy, due mostly to the small size.
Feature At a Glance
- 100% quality materials
- Quality optics
- Durability built to last
- Fully waterproof and fogproof
5. Bushnell Sentry 18-36x 50mm Spotting Scope
If you’re familiar with hunting gear, you know the name Bushnell. For all your hunting needs, the Bushnell Sentry Spotting Scope provides excellent images at a very affordable price, at least relative to other scopes in its class.
Bushnell has always made high-quality gear, and the Sentry is no exception.This scope has a straight style design with the ability to magnify between 18 and 36 times.
While these levels are not quite as high as other models on this list, because the scope is more designed for hunting, it doesn’t need to have as much magnification.
Also, the aperture is only 50mm, which does provide enough light, although it is not quite as vivid as the image produced by a 60 or 80mm lens.
The lens itself is multi-coated, which is perfect for spotting your next prey. The unit is also waterproof and fog proof, which can be a vital asset while out in the field. This model comes with rubber armor to help protect everything from damage by falls or bumps.
This scope comes with a small tripod, as well as a soft and hard carrying case for easy transportation. The cases are water-resistant, which helps keep everything dry in case of inclement weather. Although a tripod is included, I would recommend purchasing a more durable, taller piece for use in the field.
Feature At a Glance
- 100% quality materials
- Stunning HD clarity
- 18 to 36x magnification
- 100 percent waterproof and fogproof
- Premium prism glass
6. Alpen 20-60x80mm Spotting Scope Kit
Halfway through our list, we now come to the Alpen Spotting Scope Kit. Alpen is a high-quality brand known for it’s rugged and dependable outdoor gear.
This spotting scope showcases Alpen’s commitment to quality, especially since this model comes with the company’s award-winning customer service and warranty. Here are the main specs of this top-rated scope.
The Alpen Spotting Scope is an angled scope with an eyepiece turned upwards by 45 degrees. The design of the scope makes it much easier to reposition your lens while in a seated or standing position.
This scope has a magnification level between 20 and 60 times, with an aperture of 80mm. The size of the aperture lets in much more light than most other models, making this scope perfect for capturing wildlife images with a camera.The lens is multi-coated, which provides excellent clarity and high-definition detail.
The entire unit is also fully waterproof, fog proof, and shock resistant. The internal components are protected by a rubber casing to keep everything intact in case of bumps and spills. This model is perfectly suited to withstand most weather.This model comes with a compact tripod and can fit most other sizes of tripod if you need something more durable or taller.
The scope also comes with a durable hard case, which is also water resistant to keep everything dry. Some kits also come with a car mount, so you can capture the action without leaving your vehicle. Finally, the Alpen Spotting Scope comes with a lifetime manufacturer’s warranty, which is one of the best in the industry.
Feature At a Glance
- 80mm objective lens
- BaK-4 fully multicoated optics
- weighs 56 ounces
- Lifetime manufacturer's warranty
7. Vanguard Endeavor HD Angled Eyepiece Spotting Scope
Next on our list is the Vanguard Endeavor HD Spotting Scope. One important thing to note is that the Endeavor model comes in two different sizes, the 65mm, and the 82mm.
There is no real difference between the models regarding any features, but the 82mm size does let in more light. That being said, however, today I’ll be focusing on the 65mm version.
As I said, the features are almost identical between models, so if you want to opt for the larger aperture, you will still have the same benefits listed below.The Endeavor HD is an angled spotting scope with an eyepiece directed up at a 45-degree angle. This eyepiece is also detachable, allowing you to swap the piece if necessary, and for better storage.
The eyepiece has a long eye relief and a soft rubber cup, meaning you can easily see everything even if you are wearing glasses. This scope can magnify from 20 to 60 times, with an aperture of 65mm to let in ample light. The 82mm version has the same magnification but lets in significantly more light.
The lens itself is multi-coated and is rated for extra-low dispersion. This rating means that the image produced has more accurate color rendition and minimal fringing. At maximum zoom, these are usually an issue, but not so with the Endeavor. The lens also comes with a dual wheel adjustment, so you can get the exact precision and clarity you need.
The scope is fully waterproof, fog proof, and comes with a rubber armored magnesium body to absorb shock in case of bumps and falls. The case is also made with a sun shield to prevent fading and sun damage. The entire unit comes with a soft carrying case for easy transportation.Finally, the Endeavor HD comes with a limited lifetime warranty, so you know it’s made to last.
Feature At a Glance
- 100% waterproof and fog proof
- Extra-low Dispersion glass (ED)
- Included to eliminate glare in direct sunlight
- 20-60x zoom magnification
8. Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scope
Coming to the end of our list, we now have the Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scope. If simplicity and quality are all you’re looking for, then look no further than the Diamondback.
While it may not have quite as many features or come with as many accessories as other scopes on this list, the Diamondback is still a high-quality piece of equipment that provides crystal clear images at all magnifications.
The Diamondback comes in both a straight and angled version for your convenience. The scope has a magnification scale between 20 and 60 times, with an aperture size of 60mm. This piece is very sturdy yet lightweight, coming in at only two pounds, making it one of the lightest scopes on the market.
The lens is multi-coated and comes with an XR Anti-reflective coating to help reduce glare while projecting high-definition images. The body of this unit is fully waterproof, fog proof, and comes with an ArmorTek exterior to protect the internal components in the event of a fall or accidental bumps.The Diamondback does not come with a tripod or carrying case, which is the only significant downside.
Feature At a Glance
- Waterproof and Fogproof
- ArmorTek exterior
- Straight Body
- Dielectric Prism Coatings
9. Leupold Kenai HD Angled Spotting Scope
Finally, we come to the Leupold Kenai HD Angled Spotting Scope. When it comes to scopes, Leupold is a high-end brand, with this model costing relatively high. That being said, the Kenai is well worth the investment if you are looking for a top of the line spotting scope.
Here are the main features of this unit.The Kenai is an angled spotting scope with a viewing eyepiece directed upwards at a 45-degree angle. The soft cup and long eye relief of this piece make the Kenai ideal for long viewing sessions, even if you are wearing glasses.
This unit has a magnification range between 25 and 60 times, with an aperture measuring 80mm. The large aperture lets in ample light to provide ultra clear, high-definition images in almost all lighting conditions. Also, this scope has both a fixed wide-angle lens as well as the zoom lens, providing you with the broadest field of vision possible.
The lens itself is multi-coated, which helps to reduce glare and deliver crisp, clean images. The lens is also fog proof and waterproof, making the Kenai durable enough to withstand a variety of environments and weather. The lens also has a retractable shade, further reducing glare in extra-bright conditions.
Finally, the Kenai is a bit heavier than other models on this list, weighing a total of eight pounds. However, this unit is well built and can withstand slight bumping and little spills without damaging the internal components. The only major drawback to this model is that it does not come with a tripod or carrying case.
Feature At a Glance
- 100% waterproof and fogproof
- Long eye relief
- Quick adjustment focus wheel
When choosing the best shooting scope, it will ultimately come down to personal preference, price range, and what you will be doing with the scope. If you are a hunter, then I would recommend the Redfield Rampage or the Bushnell Sentry since these are both suited for hunting purposes.
However, if you want something that is good for both hunting and wildlife watching, the Vortex is a perfect, compact scope that can be used in both situations with ease.Subsequently, if you are looking for something rugged, dependable, and that provides the best quality images, I would highly recommend either the BARSKA or the Endeavor HD as these models have the best features for shooting pictures and come with a rugged, durable design.
Also, to that end, I do like the Alpen scope, mostly because of the company’s legendary lifetime warranty.No matter which scope you choose, all of the models on this list are high-quality units that will last for years to come.
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