Spotting Scope Buying Guide

Great for everything from taking pictures to hunting, spotting scopes are a step up from monoculars and binoculars. Smaller versions of telescopes, they are often also used by bird watchers. In the following article, I will introduce you to spotting scopes, their features, and the best brands from which to buy a spotting scope.

Types of Spotting Scopes


Straight spotting scopes keep the eye piece and the barrel in the same plane, parallel to the ground. They make finding and tracking moving targets easier. They also make viewing objects below your level easier. However, prolonged viewing is difficult, as is viewing birds above the horizon and viewing the stars. It can also make the tripod unstable when used with a camera because you have to raise the scope high.


Angled spotting scopes have the eye piece at a forty-five or ninety degree angle from the barrel. This angled eye piece makes the scope more comfortable for prolonged viewing. IT also makes viewing birds above the horizon much easier, as well as making backyard astronomy easier. This type of scope is also better for use with a camera as you do not have to raise the tripod much, if at all. Unfortunately, however, angled spotting scopes make viewing things from a car or tree stand more difficult. In addition, the angle of the eyepiece will make viewing moving targets more difficult at first, though most people get used to the angle and it becomes much easier with time.

Pay Attention to


When reading the numbers of a spotting scope, the first number refers to the magnification. This can be a fixed magnification, such as 25, or a variable magnification like 25-50. The higher the magnification the larger the image will appear in your spotting scope. You should always use a tripod to hold your spotting scope steady, as the higher magnifications blur easier with movement.

Objective lens size

The second number of a spotting scope is the objective lens size. The larger the objective lens the more light can enter your spotting scope. Thus, a sixty inch objective lens will let in almost double the light as a thirty-six inch objective lens. This can be very useful for low light environments, such as at dusk and dawn, making a larger objective lens useful for bird watchers and hunters.

Close focus

Although not necessary, a close focus of at least twenty feet can be very useful, particularly if you are using the scope for taking pictures or viewing birds that have landed close to your scope. Generally, the higher the magnification the further the close focus will be.


You never know when a dark cloud will turn up, so weatherproofing is a necessity. Many spotting scopes are rain- and fog-proof, but rubber armoring is important, too. This feature protects the scope against abrasive materials, corrosion, and falls.

Eye relief

A necessity for eyeglass wearers, eye relief is the distance between you and the eye piece in which you can still see the entire field of view. Spotting scopes with one to fifteen millimeters of eye relief are best for eyeglass wearers. Without this eye relief, you will find yourself unable to see the whole field of view in focus and will be forced to remove your glasses in order to view the image. There are eye pieces that specifically have long eye reliefs. For those who do not wear eye glasses, you may wish to get a folding or roll-back eye cups so you can get your eye in closer.

Top Brands and Product Lines


Dedicated to the making of optic products, Celestron has been around since 1964. The first commercial manufacturer of the Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, and since then has created many lines of telescopes, binoculars, and spotting scopes. One of their spotting scopes is the 80mm Ultima Zoom spotting scope. This angled spotting scope is refractive, , has a case with zippers on both ends so it can be quickly closed even while mounted, It has a roll-back eye cup that can be removed. Once removed, there is a standard T-thread for attaching a camera, making it simple to take beautiful pictures.


A young company only twelve years old, Barska concentrates their efforts on making great telescopes, rifle scopes, and spotting scopes. One of their products is the Blackhawk 20-60x60 Waterproof straight spotting scope. This straight spotting scope is water- and fog-proof, has rubber armor for durability, and multi-coated lens for clarity. This spotting scope is also covered by a limited lifetime warranty.


Vortex Optics is a company that started in the 80's when the Hamilton family began selling supplies to people who loved wildlife and the great outdoors. Now they are a mid-sized company that specifically manufacturers and sells optical products, such as rifle and spotting scopes. The Diamondback 20-60x60 spotting scope can be used with any camera tripod and has weatherproofing and rubber armor for optimal protection.