How To Choose A Spotting Scope? (Hunting, Bird watching)


A spotting scope is one of the most critical optical instruments for hunting, bird watching, and scientific compliance. It is a high-power telescope that is available in compact form for explicit observations of distant objects. 

When your binoculars start failing you, that is when spotting scope comes into action. You can use a spotting scope anytime whenever you are in need of extra magnification. Currently, you can easily find both, ultralight portability and professional optical quality in the same spotting scope. 

How To Choose A Spotting Scope

Do you want to invest in a spotting scope to enjoy the delight of hunting and bird-watching experience? Do not worry. This article will provide you with a beginner’s how to choose a spotting scope.

When you dive into the world of spotting scope there are chances of you getting overwhelmed with all the different options available in different ranges. Do whatever you want to do but do not slap down your money to buy a spotting scope that does not work for you.

Here Are The Tips to Choose A Right Spotting Scope

1. Magnification Power of Spotting Scope

Spotting scopes are usually telescopes that are medium-range having magnification power between 15x and 60x. In simple words, the magnification power of the spotting scope gives an idea about the lens zoom potential. You might be thinking that the higher the magnification, the better it is. But in reality, that’s not the case because at higher magnification everything is not clear due to the restricted field view. So what I am trying to explain here is that:

  • Low magnification power, provides you with a wider area to look at.
  • At higher magnification power, your area or field view gets restricted which provides you with a more focused view.

Magnification could be changed on the spotting scope. You could either use a zoom lens or an interchangeable fixed-length eyepiece. Always start with a low magnification power to scan the area and once you have located the animal or birds increase the magnification power.

How Zoom Lens Helps in Magnification

Zoom lens helps you to get a close look at a particular area. They could come out of great help when you are hunting or bird watching outside. You just have to turn the dial in to zoom in but it has one disadvantage.

Magnification Power of Spotting Scope

These zoom lenses do not allow much light and they get heat shimmer, narrow field of view, and more vibration at a higher magnification.

In contrast, changing less each time to zoom in and out sounds like more work. Both the normal lens and zoom lens have their advantages and disadvantages.

2. Prism Glass

Maximum spotting scopes that come now are refractors and two prism glass types are used in such spotting scopes i.e., Porro prism and roof prism. A prism is wielded to whirl the image right side up and fix it right to left. Most optic prisms are made of borosilicate, barium crown glass.

Spotting Scope Prism Glass
  • Porro prisms are made of Bak-4 glass and are the most yielding in words of optics. The objective lens is counteracted by the eyepiece. They are the most common and affordable prisms.
  • Roof prisms are comparatively thin and more portable than Porro prisms because of the overlapping of the objective lens directly with the eyepiece.  But it lacks some of the aspects of Porro prisms like a camera adapter, and convertible eyepiece. If you need to find something that works for you in a roof prism, go for a PC (phase-coated) roof prism.

3. Glass Coating

Glass coatings are reinforced in lenses to enhance light dispatch and reduce light loss via reflection. The windfalls of Glass coating are a precise, more comprehensive image, independent of blurriness and decolorized colors. More is always promising when it comes to glass coating.

Given below are some common lens coating requisitions, each provides a different level of light dispatch and you can choose one according to your needs.

  • Coated:- Each lens has a thin and anti-reflective coating on one surface only.Spotting Scope Single Layer Coating
  • Fully Coated:- Each lens has a minimum of one thing anti-reflective coating on both sides of the surface.Spotting Scope With Fully Coated Layer
  • Multi-Coated:- Each lens has multiple layers of coating on one side of the surface only.Spotting Scope With Multi Coated Layer
  • Fully Multi-Coated:- Each lens has multiple layers of coating on both sides of the surface.

Light Gathering Capacity

The light-gathering capacity of a lens is the amount of light that can enter the glass. It is measured in the millimeter size of the outer/objective lens. Generally, the outer lenses of most spotting scopes are between 50mm to 100mm.

If the outer lens is large, it will let more light in than the small outer lens but it makes the scope heavy. The light lens doesn’t allow much light to pass and form a distorted image. You have to consider your needs before choosing the right lens as per your needs.

4. Straight & Angle Eyepiece Placement

Straight and Angle Eyepiece Spotting Scope

Many people find the straight spotting scope eyepiece convenient. You just simply set it on a tripod and adjust all settings as per your needs.

A straight scope is best for hunting because it makes it easier to track games quickly and effectively with a straight line of sight. But an angled eyepiece spotting scope is popular among bird watchers, more importantly, if you are looking at treetops. It is also kept on a tripod, the only difference is that its eyepiece is at a 45-degree angle which makes it advantageous as it will allow you to keep your tripod at a lower height. 

You would find it very easy to watch a bird flying overhead with the help of an angled eyepiece. It is very convenient because you don’t have to worry about continuously changing the tripod’s height. 

Importance of Focusing

When you try to get the minute details of an animal or a bird, it becomes very important to have a proper focus. Every spotting scope has some kind of settings for adjusting the focus. You will find different kinds of knobs in some spotting scopes while in others just the barrel is used to increase the focus.

When you are out there to buy a spotting scope, you should try both types so that you get to know what works best for you. Go for a scope that focuses down to 20 feet or even close.

5. Eye relief

SPotting Scope Eye relief Distance

Eye relief is an important factor to take into consideration if you wear glasses. Eye relief is the space between the place where your eyes rest and the eyepiece lens. Spotting scopes that have longer eye relief will be able to direct the focal point further, this means a complete view of a wider area.  People having glasses should consider selecting a spotting scope that has an eye relief of around 12 to 15 mm.

People who don’t wear glasses should go for the spotting scopes which have rubber eyecups that can be removed or folded. It will give a comfortable view.

6. Tripod Mount

Spotting Scope With Tripod Mount

Now you know all the important considerations for choosing a spotting scope but trust me you have to have a sturdy tripod to mount your spotting scope. If you don’t have a good tripod then purchase a new one. Go for the tripod which has flip locks on the legs so that you can easily lock them into one place.

Try finding one that has legs that can be adjusted separately as per the individual needs, so that when you are hunting, birding, or making any scientific observations on uneven ground your tripod doesn’t come between your thrill and enthusiasm.

7. Digiscoping

What if I tell you that you can easily attach your digital camera to the spotting scope to capture magnificent photos? Sounds marvelous? 

Yes, it is true.

SPotting Scope With Digiscoping

All you have to do is to hold your digital camera at the length of the spotting scope eyepiece, try to make everything aligned with each other by looking at your camera, and then click your photos.

What if you don’t have a digital camera? Don’t worry because you can even use your smartphone for this process. For nature photographers, there are options to choose from in spotting scope with a digital camera eyepiece. Yeah, it will be more expensive but will surely be worth it.

8. Durability

Your spotting scope will tolerate everything from beautiful sunlight days to rainy and windy days and who knows what else. You have to be certain that you choose the most durable spotting scope available within your fund. 

Choose a spotting scope that is waterproof, fog-proof emphasizes a jagged external case, and is competent in resisting a few distress and many leagues like driving through your hunting backpack. This will add to the lifespan of the spotting scope. Moreover, choose something that has a solid warranty that will back it up.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Which one is better, a straight or angled spotting scope?

You can set the straight scope as per your needs, but you would be able to set the height low for the tripod while using an angled scope. Find what works best for you and then you can easily choose between the two. 

2. I want some optical instruments for hunting. What should I use, binoculars or spotting scope?

Spotting scopes are more powerful than binoculars because they allow greater magnification. If you want to step up your hunting game, go for a spotting scope.

3. Would I be able to click pictures with a spotting scope?

The simple answer is yes. You just have to place the camera of your smartphone to the length of the eyepiece. This is what we call digiscoping.



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