10 Best

Spotting Scopes

of September 2023

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A Guide to Buying a Spotting Scope

Andre Speransky

A spotting scope is a type of a telescope. Its shorter focal length makes it ideal for terrestrial observations, as well as stargazing. If you are an astronomer, a hobbyist, or a game hunter, you know its importance all too well. They come in varying optical and design standards. Therefore, it’s absolutely imperative to know about all the specifications, to know how to select the best spotting scope for your needs within your budget. Here is a thoroughly-researched buying guide after going through thousands of spotting scope reviews on the Internet.


What is a spotting scope?

Spotting scopes are compact high-power telescopes that are designed for observing distant objects in detail. Thess portable optical enhancement devices are used for various outdoor activities as well as any other application where higher magnification is needed.

What is the difference between a spotting scope vs a telescope?

For primarily terrestrial viewing and some astronomical viewing, spotting scopes offer unrivaled versatility and durability. A telescope, however, gives you an excellent view of the universe (heavens and stars), but it is less portable, less durable, and a bit more difficult to use than a spotting scope. Many spotting scopes are waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof. Designed for outdoor use, they are ideal for use during hunting and outdoor activities. In contrast, telescopes, especially larger ones, are precision instruments and are not meant to be moved around or bumped by rain and wind.

Types of Spotting Scopes

What are the types of spotting scopes?

In general, there are two types of spotting scopes: Angled and Straight
1. Angled scopes: With this type, the eyepiece is angled 45o to the barrel axis in order to bend light. It is more convenient to use with multiple people. Because of their higher eyepoint, they are ideal for spotting animals that are hiding or spotting from treetops. 

2. Straight scopes: Straight scopes have a parallel barrel and eyepiece. Beginners find them easier to aim, plus they are easier to spot animals on the ground. Furthermore, they make level viewing less stressful for your neck.

Important Features

What should you consider when selecting a spotting scope?

Before wading through the market for purchasing a spotting scope, consider the factors listed below:

  • Go for higher magnification: Look for one with a higher magnification power. Spotting scopes are used in applications where larger magnifications are required. The objective lens diameter is also vital. A larger objective lens diameter allows more light into the scope, thereby resulting in a brighter image.

  • Decide between straight and angled scopes: Choose a straight scope if your object doesn’t require you to adjust the height of the scope a lot. These have parallel eyepieces and are more suitable for applications where your eyes will stay level with your viewing object. On the other hand, if you need to look up and down frequently to view your object, then the angled one is best for you.

  • Opt for magnesium fluoride coating: Try to buy lenses with this coating, as it reduces the unwanted glare due to reflection. A scope with a magnesium fluoride coating on the surface of the lenses ensures greater prevention of loss of light.

  • Check for a folded light path: If you are looking for a compact spotting scope with a long focal length, this is ideal for you. This is a combination of mirrors and lenses. This setup ensures that the focal length of the scope is longer than the total scope length.

  • Check eye relief: Eye relief is the distance between your eye and the spotting scope's eyepiece. Check for the proper eye relief that suits you best, especially if you wear glasses.

How should you properly maintain your spotting scope?

Below are some of the common tips to ensure your scope is clean and working properly:

  • Cleaning: Be sure to blow off all dust particles with a squeeze blower and soft brush before you start washing your lenses. Then rub the lens gently with your binocular's lens cloth or a similar soft, lintless cloth. Use a cotton swab with your lens-safe cleaning solution to wipe the lens surface until the entire surface is covered. Then, dry the lens with a soft microfiber cloth and store it in its plastic container/case to keep it dust-free.
  • Storage: When not in use, keep your spotting scope in the protective carry case in a moisture-free environment and with the lens cover on. Make sure that each component is placed appropriately before storing it. 
  • When to seek professional help: Binoculars should not be disassembled or cleaned internally on your own. It is highly recommended that you bring your gear to a professional if you aren't sure how to do this.
  • Choose the right cleaning solution: Glass cleaners and household products should not be used when cleaning your scope. Using abrasive solutions can ruin the lenses.
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