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Spotting scope buying guide

Choose the best spotting scope for you with our basic guide

Spotting scope buying guide

What is a spotting scope do I need one?

Spotting scopes are telescopes for viewing terrestrial objects. If you are trying to view something at a distance on land and binoculars don't cut it, then you may want to consider a spotting scope.

If you do any bird watching, target shooting, general viewing from a deck or hunting at long range, you are going to want a spotting scope. Even if you want to isolate a object at close range, a spotting scope is still going to be the best product for your needs.

Why should I buy a spotting scope over a telescope?

A spotting scope is a special type of telescope that is designed specifically for viewing objects on land. If you're after a telescope for terrestrial use, we strongly recommend using a spotting scope instead - its optics corrects the orientation of the image. Some spotting scopes can be used for astronomical viewing, however this is usually limited to simply seeing the craters of the Moon and getting a closer look at constellations.

The optics for spotting scopes are oriented the right way up and have a built-in zoom lens, which makes it easier to find and track objects than with a telescope. Compared to a pair of binoculars, they have a larger objective lens for low-light conditions and a greater magnification.

Features of a spotting scope include

Sun shade to stop stray light. Standard tripod fitting Significantly more portable than a telescope Zoom eyepiece @ the correct range for land Smaller and easier to move Often weatherproof Fast focus Wider angle of viewing for tracking objects compared to a basic telescope

Do I want straight or angled?

Nearly everyone uses an angled eyepiece. This is a comfort thing as it's easier to view in this position. It makes changing heights easy as most good spotting scopes have a marksman screw that allows the scope to rotate on it's mount. (the collar in the middle of the scope)

Straight scopes are great if you don't move the scope or are using it inside of a car, straight scopes are also used by hunters in the bush as they can use a tree as a prop.

Do I need waterproof?

If it's within your price range, it's 100% worth it. Waterproof scopes are also more resistance if not entirely proofed against dust and fogging.


Most of the time, a scope will be setup in one place for long periods of time however you must consider the weight in order to get it there in the first place. If you plan to going to go hiking with a scope, you generally don't want to be carrying a 100mm monster up a mountain. Lower sizes of scopes are lighter. For example a 60mm scope is lighter than a 80mm however the 60mm is much dimmer. It's a balancing act.


How much do I want to spend?

The performance of a scope - like most other optical products - is heavily tied to the cost. Know how much you're willing to spend as spotting scopes range from $350 to $6000 without a tripod. There is a noticeable quality difference every time you step up a level. For example a $1000 scope will offer a significantly clearer, sharper image than a $300 scope. More expensive scopes will often have wider viewing angling and come with other features like a dual speed focuser and weatherproofing.

Objective lens size

This determines brightness of the image and size of the scope. For viewing distance objects from your deck, a 80mm or 100mm is going to be what you want. For hunting or bird watching, you may want to consider something in the 60mm range for better portability.


Many of the better spotting scopes allow the mounting of external cameras via an adapter: this is known as digiscoping (a portmanteau of digital camera and spotting scope). Digiscoping will give your camera magnification beyond that of a telephoto lens without the burden of carrying one in the field.

Digiscoping is an extremely large subject and if you need further advice please don't hesitate to contact us.