Jacobs Digital

09 480 5903


9 Mokoia Road

Birkenhead, Auckland 0626

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Monday to Saturday

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?

Spotting scopes are more compact, more robust and easier to use than a telescope, and they have a wider field of view and the eyepieces can zoom (most telescope eyepieces have a fixed magnification). Weatherproofing is a standard feature on most mid range and high-end spotting scopes, even if you don't intend to use it outside weatherproofing increases the scope's longevity. All spotting scopes are designed to fit onto any standard tripod fitting.

Differences between a spotting scope and a telescope

Differences between a spotting scope and a telescope

While it's possible to get refractor telescopes that can view land subjects, this approach has many downsides over a spotting scope. These include:

  • No internal corrective elements. Refractor telescopes are hollow to maximise light transmissions. This is great for celestial objects but here on earth, where light is not sparse, a better-corrected image is preferred.
  • A 45-degree diagonal may need to be purchased right away to make it easy to use for land viewing.
  • Most models come with a mount that does not allow for below 90-degree movement. Telescopes are designed to look up, not down.
  • Much larger without any quality gain
  • No sealing, prone to fogging
  • Slow to focus
  • Fragile

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 waterproofing?

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.

What sort of tripod should I get?

Any tripod with a video-head is suitable, you can also have a look at our tripods for spotting scopes collection.

Still need more help?

Shop our great range of Spotting scopes

Our staff are experienced experts and would be more than happy to talk about options for you. Please call or email us today.

Zoom in on our great Spotting scope range . With the largest offering of optics in New Zealand we are sure to have the right fit for you.

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