How to Choose a Spotting Scope

Planning to add a spotting scope in your optics collection but wondering where to start in your selection process? No need to worry as we are here to help. We have put together this guide on how to choose a spotting scope to help you find the best equipment for your outdoor adventure needs.

A spotting scope is an invaluable piece of equipment to have if you are keen on spending most of your time outdoors. From birding to hunting, wildlife viewing and astronomy, spotting scopes provide better views of the object you are viewing. Besides, the higher zoom power makes them more functional for long range glassing where other optics like binoculars and monoculars would be impractical to use.

Like the other optical devices, the spotting scope market is diverse to meet the varying needs of users across the globe. It is therefore important to consider the activity you will be using one for when making your selection.

In this post, we’ll look at spotting scopes in detail and walk you through the different types of spotting scopes available today. In addition to that, we will expound on the important factors one should take into account when shopping for a spotting scope. Let’s get started.

What is a Spotting Scope?

A spotting scope is a type of telescope that is compact in size and optimized for long range observation. This type of sighting tool has a high and broad zoom power and an objective lens diameter that is larger than that of binoculars and riflescopes. This configuration makes spotting scopes ideal for a wide range of applications that involve long range observation.

Majority of the spotting scopes that are available on the market today are optimized for multifunctionality. As such, one is able to use them for activities such as target shooting, hunting and bird watching in addition to wildlife viewing, astronomy and ocean viewing among others.

Furthermore, spotting scopes come tripod ready for easy mounting on a tripod. When mounted on a tripod, these optics make a handy tool for Digiscoping. For this kind of activity  photographer is able to capture images of targets that are richer in quality and detail than most cameras.

Parts of a Spotting Scope

A spotting scope is made up of four main components: the eyepiece, body tube, objective lens and focusing wheel.

The eyepiece is the part that you look through the scope during use and it can either be at an angled or straight design.

The objective lens is the last part of the spotting scope from the eyepiece. Its diameter is measured in millimeter and varies in size from one device to the other. The primary role of the objective lens is to draw in light and transfer it inside the internal prism of the scope.

The other part is the body tube which connects the eyepiece and the objective lens to form a spotting scope.

Lastly, is the focusing adjustment which is a wheel or a knob that one uses to adjust the spotting scope’s focus during use.

Types of Spotting Scopes

Spotting scopes are classified into two categories, straight and angled. Both serve the same purpose but each design has its own set of pros and cons.

Angled Spotting Scopes

The most popular spotting scopes are those with an angled body design. What this means is that the spotting scope has its eyepiece at an angle with the objective lens. Typically, angled spotting scopes are more versatile than their straight counterparts and easier to use during long glassing sessions. The angled design also makes the spotting scopes great for group sharing and for viewing objects that are either in an elevated or downhill position.

Straight Spotting Scopes

Straight spotting scopes look more like a telescope. They are longer than the angled counterparts and have the eyepiece in line with the objective lens. Spotting scopes with a straight body design are mostly used for hunting. The straight design makes it easier for the hunter to scout for game in different positions. They are also more popular for the activities that require one to use binoculars and a spotting scope interchangeably.

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Factors to Consider when Choosing a Spotting Scope

After you have decided on which spotting scope type you will go with, the next step is to look at the features the scopes provide and see if they align with your needs. Here is how to choose a spotting scope from the plethora of models available out there.

Magnification Power

The first factor to take into account is magnification power. Magnification is represented by the first set of numbers in the scope’s configuration and indicates how many times you can zoom in the image you see through the eyepiece.

In spotting scopes, magnification power varies widely from one product to the other. The broader the magnification a spotting scope has, the more versatile it becomes. For most outdoor adventure activities, a scope with a variable zoom power between 15x and 60x is sufficient.

Objective Lens

After magnification, the next thing to consider is the diameter of the objective lens. The diameter of the objective lens is represented by the second number after “x” in the scopes’ configuration.

The larger the objective lens a spotting scope has, the more light is collects and the brighter the images it produces. Large objective lenses also have an added benefit of provides a wider field of view. However, the larger the objective lens a spotting scope has, the bulkier and cumbersome it becomes.

Field of View

In spotting scopes, field of view is an indication of the area you will see at once when you look through the eyepiece. It is represented as a range and measured in feet at 1000 yards. A wide field of view is important in spotting scopes especially for activities such as hunting and birding. It makes target finding a breeze and also allows for easy monitoring of the moving game.

Focus Adjustment

The next important thing to consider is focus adjustment. There are three types of focus adjustments in spotting scopes: single focus, double focus and helical focus. While each adjustment works in a different way from the other, all serve the same function for adjusting the image for optimal clarity.

Helical focusers feature a ring around the body of the spotting scope. It is this ring that you use to focus the image through clockwise and anticlockwise rotation. Scopes with a helical focus knob are the best in terms of quick adjustments.

Double focus knobs have a coarse focus knob and a fine focus knob. This style of image adjustment provides the most precise focus adjustment of the three.

Single focus knobs feature just one dial for adjusting the focus. Most spotting scopes have this type of focus. It  is very easy to use and ideal for beginners. However, single focus scopes take a longer period of time to dial in compared to the other two styles.

Eye Relief

Eye relief is the other thing to consider if you are wondering how to choose a spotting scope. Eye relief a measure of how far away your eye has to be from the spotting scopes’ eyepiece to ensure optimal viewing during use.

It is measured in millimeters and varies from one scope to the other.  The longer the eye relief a spotting scope has, the more comfortable it will be to glass with. Whether you wear eyeglasses or not, ensure that the spotting scope you choose to buy comes with a long eye relief of 15mm and above.

Build Quality

Last but not least, consider build quality. Spotting scopes are made from different materials depending on the brand. The best models are usually crafted from premium quality materials such as aircraft grade aluminum or magnesium alloy.

A good spotting scope should also have a rubber armored body. The rubber armoring shields the fragile optics from shock and impacts in case the scope is dropped on the ground accidentally.

Another important facet that the spotting scope should have is all-weather construction. It should be O-ring sealed against moisture, dust, dirt and any other debris. In addition to that, the optical tube should be charged/filled with a dry inert gas. This prevents internal fog build up when you move the scope to an area that has a larger temperature and humidity gradient.

Final Thoughts

If you have been wanting to get a spotting scope but wondering where to start, it is our hope that this post on how to choose a spotting scope has cleared up any doubts you had. When you invest in the right spotting scope, you will enjoy the best views outdoors and make all your expeditions worthwhile.

When making your selection, be more specific about the activity you plan to use the spotting scope for. After that, look at the specs and features that different models have to offer and then choose the unit that best for your needs.