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No matter how serious you are about your outdoor activities, a good spotting scope is invaluable. Gone are the days when a spotting scope was something exclusively used by men in camo, hidden in the brush, stalking deer. Of course, spotting scopes are an essential piece of equipment when hunting, but now they’re so much more, too. Now, with lightweight and compact designs and some handy bits of tech add-ons, the best spotting scope really will pay for itself in terms of value-added to activities. Use it on the target shooting range, hiking, birdwatching, stargazing… And not all scopes are created equal. So how do you know which is the right one for you?
We looked at their specifications (lens and optics specs, weight, armour) and added extras like lens caps and tripods, value for money, and the best practice uses. This spotting scope review should help you find what you’re looking for. For a quick summary, head down to the our Buyer’s Guide at the bottom of the page.
Overall Top Pick
The Authentic ROXANT Blackbird High Definition Spotting Scope with 12-36X zoom. This spotting scope works well for hunting, birding, hiking, target shooting, stargazing or for any other outdoor activities. It features high quality optics and is a banger in the value-for-money department.
Best Birding Scope
The Gosky 20-60X 80 Porro Prism Spotting Scope is a great contender for Best Entry-level scope, and here’s why: It is lightweight and portable, and made for the outdoors with its waterproof design. What pushes this up in the ranks is the digiscope adapter, making this the best spotting scope for photographers and casual outdoorsmen alike. It is at a great price point for what it delivers, and would make a great starter spotting scope.
Best Astronomy Choice
The Celestron 52268 C90 Mak Spotting Scope has come out as one of our top picks for best spotting scope available at the moment. It has performed very well with users across the board. The quality of the build is excellent, and it is easy to use. It is not waterproof, but when you weigh that up with the vivid image quality and its performance in both terrestrial and celestial viewing, it can be forgiven.
Best Hunting Scope
The Emarth 20-60x60AE is a great choice for a hunting scope. It’s waterproof, light weight and relatively compact. It offers up to 60x magnification, which should be ideal for most situations. It is also both affordable and high quality.
Spotting Scopes vs Binoculars
Spotting Scopes are a vital tool in the kit of many outdoorsmen, especially useful for those who are keen birders, stargazers or hunters. They offer excellent range and in many cases the clarity achieved can allow one to identify the target a lot easier than with alternative optic options. For example, while binoculars are much simpler to use and also in many cases more affordable, they don’t offer the same type of range as a spotting scope.
Binoculars typically have a magnification of between 8x and 12x, and the smaller lens diameter means the amount of light getting let through the lens is often not ideal in lower light situations. Because spotting scopes tend to have larger lens diameters, you will find that they typically perform much better in lower light than most binoculars, and when it comes to the magnification spotting scopes blow binoculars completely out the water, as spotting scopes can offer anywhere from 20x to 80x magnification.
The use of a scope differs in nature from that of binoculars in that binoculars are an easy on-the-move optic choice. Spotting scopes require a tripod, which is not only an additional cost, but also takes a bit of time to set up.
Spotting Scopes For Birding
When it comes to birding spotting scopes are an essential tool for those looking to identify bird species in tough situations. While binoculars will do just fine for most types of birding, when one is looking at waders or doing a sea watch from shore binoculars aren’t enough and that’s when you’ll need to reach for your trusty scope. Waders are often found on flats of sand on the incoming or outgoing tide and can often only be observed from a distance, in many cases a spotting scope will be required to accurately identify the species. While most of the scopes on our list will work for birding, the smaller scopes are more practical as it may be tough to set up large scopes in bird hides.
Spotting Scopes For Hunting
It’s not only birders who find use in spotting scopes, hunting is another common sport whereby a spotting scope can make a great addition to your equipment. Spotting scopes will allow a hunter to do some initial recon work in the field in locating the target. While a rifle scope is sometimes used to double as a spotting scope, there is far more comfort for the user if they decide to opt for a dedicated spotting scope. It’s not all positive though, as hunters will often be traversing in environments and conditions where it may prove too cumbersome to carry a dedicated spotting scope with you. However, if you’re planning to do your hunting close to the vehicle, there is definitely value in these scopes.
Spotting Scopes For Astronomy
Spotting scopes can also be used for astronomy purposes, but there are limitations when compared to telescopes. Spotting scopes will be able to give you good views of the moon, and can offer some decent views of stars in the night sky, but remember that while telescopes will almost always offer higher levels of magnification and can be used for deep space viewing. Given the price point, spotting scopes aren’t a bad introduction to observing space and will still give you a greater sense of what exists above us than you can achieve with binoculars. Telescopes will often run at a much higher cost as well. So if you’re looking to dip your toes into astronomy without breaking the bank, a spotting scope is a great way to go.
Our Selection of The 10 Best Spotting Scopes:
We’re here to help, so we’ve put together a review for each one of the 10 most popular spotting scopes below.
1. ROXANT Blackbird High Definition Spotting Scope
The Authentic Roxant Blackbird High Definition Spotting Scope is a compact precision device with 12-36X zoom. In our minds, one of the best spotting scopes available at the moment. The scope comes with a carry case, a portable, foldable tripod with a handle, and lens caps. The 45° angled eyepiece is designed for comfort; it is extendable/retractable (rather than fold-down) to make it comfortable to use with or without glasses. The scope has a rugged non-slip rubber armour and folded grip, making it durable as well as comfortable to handle. The textured focus ring is on the barrel itself, for ease of use. This Roxant Blackbird scope boasts military-grade optical glass and a BAK4 prism and a large, full multi-coated objective lens that allows for excellent light transmission and a wide view. The spotting scope also features a handy sunshade built into the main barrel, which you can extend to reduce glare. You can take this spotting scope hunting, birding, hiking, target shooting, stargazing or vacationing.
Reasons to buy
2. Emarth 20-60x60AE Waterproof Angled Spotting Scope with Tripod
The Emarth 20-60×60 Angled Spotting Scope is touted as being designed with the traveller in mind. It’s a fairly light (640g), compact and portable piece of equipment that’s waterproof and fog proof. This scope comes with a tripod and a nifty carrier bag, with a specific compartment for the tripod (a thoughtful added extra to avoid the scope and tripod banging around in the bag). It features a dynamic lens with sharp resolution, good contrast, and vibrant colour. The optics are multi-coated and offer a clear, crisp image. This scope is made to be used in all weather conditions and is versatile enough to use for target shooting, hunting, birding, hiking or archery.
Reasons to buy
3. Gosky 20-60X 80 Porro Prism Spotting Scope
Let’s start with the specs. The Gosky 20-60X80 Porro Prism Spotting Scope features a full multi-coated green film lens, eyepiece, and prism. It has a variable 20-60X magnification and dynamic focusing system. The magnesium framework and shock-absorbing rubber armour make this spotting scope strong and durable enough to withstand tough weather conditions. The scope comes with a carrier bag and tripod, making this 1230g piece of equipment easily portable. It has a waterproof design, including that the eyepiece shield can extend to protect the eyepiece. For those who love a bit of added tech, the Gosky Porro Prism scope also features a digiscope cellphone adapter, so that you can attach your smartphone and use it to take photos and videos through the scope. One of the best spotting scopes for watching birds, wildlife, and scenery; it also performs well for moon gazing.
Reasons to buy
4. BARSKA 15-40×50 Colorado Spotting Scope
If you’re looking for something simple and uncomplicated, and if you don’t have very serious spotting scope needs, try the BARSKA 15-40X50 Colorado Spotting Scope. This spotting scope is light and compact and comes complete with a mini tripod and case to make it portable and convenient, making it great for spotting on the go. This scope’s lens is fully coated but it does not come with lens covers, so you’ll have to source those separately.
Reasons to buy
5. BARSKA Colorado Waterproof Spotting Scope
Another BARSKA spotting scope review on our list. This one is at a slightly higher price point, and for your money, you’ll get a bit of an improvement on the scope we reviewed earlier. This spotting scope sports fully coated optics, with a 60 mm objective lens, 20-60X adjustable zoom, and quick access focus. The image is crisp and light transmission is increased. This spotting scope is built to withstand tough conditions, and 100% waterproof. It features high-quality rubber armour and is nitrogen purged, making it fog proof. The BARSKA Colorado Waterproof Spotting Scope weighs 1250,06g and comes with a pan-head tripod, a carry case, and a neck-strap, making it light and comfortable enough to be easily portable. You can use this scope for hunting, target shooting, and any other general observation.
Reasons to buy
6. Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope
This is a popular spotting scope that seems to perform relatively well across the board. Celestron are known for their high quality devices, so they know what they’re doing. Some specs: The Ultima 80mm Zoom Spotting Scope’s images are sharper and brighter than its 60mm counterparts. In fact, you can enjoy a 77% improvement in brightness with the 80mm lens. The zoom lens takes you from 20X to 60X magnification. Thanks to multi-layer, anti-reflection coatings on the objective lens and zoom eyepiece and BAK-4 prisms, this scope has great light transmission. The scope comes prepared for photographers: simply remove the rubber eyecup to attach your camera. This spotting scope does not come with a tripod, but it is built to fit any standard tripod.
Reasons to buy
7. Celestron 52268 C90 Mak Spotting Scope
Another compare-and-contrast here, with our second Celestron scope: The Celestron 52268 C90 Mak Spotting Scope. Again, this scope comes in at a significantly higher price point than its counterpart which means, hopefully, that it also comes with some added extras. This is a brand known for their high-quality products, so our hopes are high for this one.
This Celestron spotting scope features a Maksutov optical design with a 90mm diameter aperture with multi-coated optics. It has a 32mm eyepiece, with an erect image diagonal angled at 45° for comfortable viewing, as well as an 8×21 erect image finderscope. This spotting scope is lightweight and portable and comes with a soft backpack-stye carry case.
Reasons to buy
8. Emarth 20-60x60SE Straight Spotting Scope with Tripod
This Emarth spotting scope features a 60mm objective lens, dynamic lens focusing system, and variable 20X-60X zoom magnification. It has a BK-7 prism with fully multi-coated optics, which ensures a sharp, clear view and vivid colors. The scope is completely water- and fog-proof, making it suitable to use in all weather conditions. It is an ergonomically designed spotting scope, with shock-absorbing rubber armour for protection and overall improved handling. It comes with a tripod, and carry bag, and weighs just 640g, making it portable and great for spotting on the go. It is designed to be used in a wide range of viewing activities, from shooting and birding to hunting and enjoying the outdoors.
Reasons to buy
9. Gosky 15-45X 60 Porro Prism Spotting Scope
Let’s see how this scope measures up to the other Gosky we looked at. This Gosky 15-45X60 Porro Prism Spotting Scope is a compact and lightweight (650g) piece of equipment that comes with a 600mm fully multi-coated green film objective lens that promises clear, crisp images. It features a variable 15X-45X magnification and dynamic lens focusing system. With its durable magnalium framework, shock-absorbing rubber armour, and waterproof design, this scope is fit to use under any weather conditions. Like its larger counterpart, this scope also comes with a digiscope adapter, so that you can attach your smartphone to take photos. The Gosky 15-45X 60 Porro Prism is designed with birdwatching, wildlife, and scenery observation in mind. This scope comes with a carry case, eyepiece, lens protection covers, cleaning cloths, and carry straps.
Reasons to buy
10. Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scope
This is definitely one of Vortex’s more popular spotting scopes. And when it’s not that hard to see why. Of the scopes we’ve reviewed here, this one is at the highest end of the price scale. Despite that, it’s still considered relatively entry-level by Vortex standards. That should give you some idea of the type of reputation Vortex has. They endeavor to make some of the best spotting scopes available today.
Reasons to buy
Essential Spotting Scope Accessories
We’ve also put together a short collection of accessories, some things you may want to look at adding to your bag when purchasing a spotting scope.
This handy little monocular features a molded grip, carrying case, neck strap and a cleaning cloth. It is compact and packs a pretty powerful punch as a high definition mini telescope. It offers 7X18 magnification and is constructed using premium optical glass and multi-coated optics for excellent light transmission and brightness. This portable little device is great for use during hunting, sports (like golf or archery), birdwatching, hiking, camping, or boating.
It comes with a carry pouch, cleaning cloth and neck strap.
You won’t be breaking the bank with this one, and it really is a convenient device to have on hand. Users have responded very well to it, with its biggest drawcard being how light and compact it is, and very easy to use.
The magnification is not particularly high, so you would want to be sure that 7X18 is enough power for what you want to use it for.
The verdict? This is a useful tool to add to your kit. It’s not going to do any heavy-duty scoping, but that’s not what it’s made for.
When you’re in the business of spotting scopes, a good tripod is an indispensable piece of equipment to have in your kit. The Bushnell Advanced Tripod is worth considering. This is a sturdy, durable tripod with a three-way pan/tilt head and a large mounting platform with a universal mount. The centre column is adjustable, and the aluminium legs are individually adjustable so that you can find your perfect height and angle. It comes with three padded foam leg cushions for comfort. The anti-corrosion finish and rubber leg tips add to the durability of the tripod.
It is a full-sized tripod, great for mounting spotting scopes, binoculars, SLR cameras or camcorders. It is a sturdy and rather weighty piece of equipment, so one thing to keep in mind is that this isn’t a particularly portable tripod so best practice would be to use this in situations where it’s not essential to be portable. Once it’s set up on a deck or platform, it should stay there. This tripod also doesn’t have quick-release legs, which may be a deal-breaker for some, especially birdwatchers.
The pros definitely outweigh the cons here. With the Bushnell Advanced Tripod you’re getting an excellent quality product. This is a piece of equipment that will serve you well.
Alpen Optics are known for their line of scopes, binoculars and accessories, and their offerings of good value for money. And it seems that’s exactly what you’ll be getting with this car window mounting device.
The mount attaches to the top edge of your car window glass and fits all cameras and scopes with standard mounts. As an added bonus, it comes with a lifetime manufacturer’s warranty against material and workmanship defects. The all-metal construction is sturdy and hardworking.
We reckon the Alpen Car Window Mounting Device is a good buy. By most accounts, it does what it should. Some users have been disappointed by the fact that it struggled to support the weight of their lenses. Another negative one or two users experienced is that in order to pan they had to keep the handle loose; this could potentially result in your camera or scope falling forward if you don’t keep a steady hand on it.
Despite a couple of lows, this window mount really comes to the party, both in terms of delivering a really good user experience and offering great value for money. Having a window mount is really handy, and with a solid product like the Alpen Car Window Mounting Device you’ll be adding a lot of value to your viewing experience.
Here’s a cool gadget if ever there was one. The UltraClamp Assembly Camera Mount Accessory is suitable for cameras, scopes and binoculars. What makes it such a nifty piece of equipment is that it has an adjustable clamp that can attach to round and flat objects like handlebars, car windows, railings and tables. It features a ball and socket head that allows for speedy adjustment and positioning. The body is aluminium and should hold up to 2.7kg. It carries a limited lifetime warranty.
So is this all lip service, or does the device actually work? Well, it’s a mixed bag. While most users are very happy with the UltraClamp, there are some limits to the mount’s functionality. For some, the mount would was only suited to using smaller, lighter cameras and scopes. There were also issues with the knob on the clamp coming loose or stripping completely, resulting in the clamp not being usable at all. Which is disappointing, to say the least. However, many users have been more than satisfied with their purchase.
The verdict is here is rather middle of the road. The idea of this mount accessory is really great. Especially because it attaches to handlebars, it can potentially bring a very interesting and interactive aspect to adventure sports and lifestyle activities. This purchase isn’t going to put you out of pocket by any means, so it may be worth buying and testing out.
It’s all there, in the name. This device is a cellphone adapter mount, making it possible to attach your smartphone onto your spotting scope, rifle scope, bi- or monocular, or other viewing device. The advantage of having a digiscope adapter is that it makes it possible to capture what you’re viewing, and adds value to your scope or viewing instrument by turning it into a piece of photography gear. The adapter is durable, made mostly of aluminium, and is made to fit most smartphones.
Overall, this little accessory fares well. If you’re using your adapter on a rifle scope, you may struggle to focus, as many users have experienced. It may also take a bit of fiddling to get the alignment right, but if you have the patience it will pay off.
This adapter comes in at a steal, especially if you consider the value it could potentially add to your viewing experience. The quality is fair, especially for the price. Verdict: the value added outweighs the negatives on this one.
So you’re in the market for a spotting scope or scope accessory, and you’re not sure where to start? Here’s the quick and dirty on what to look for when you’re scoping for a scope.
Do you need a straight or angled spotting scope?
A straight scope is ideal for viewing from a car or a fixed position. The object that you’ll be viewing will be at eye level.With an angled scope, the eyepiece if offset from the barrel at 45° or 90°. This offers you a comfortable viewing experience and mobility.
Do you need your scope to be weatherproof?
If you’re going to be using your spotting scope outside, invest in one that is waterproof, at the very least. Even better, get one that’s fogproof too. This will ensure that your scope doesn’t get damaged by the elements. It also keeps your image clear, as it prevents the buildup of condensation inside the scope.
How much does it weigh?
If your scope is going to be set up on a tripod on a viewing deck, or you don’t need to carry it around too much, a heavier scope won’t be a problem. But if you’re using it while hiking or need to carry it often, it’s worthwhile looking for something lightweight.
What are the scope’s measurements?
Look at the spotting scope’s magnification and lens size to see if it’s going to suit your needs. Here’s how you know what you’re getting: In a scope with the measurements 60X80, the target in your view will be 60 times closer. The lens is 80mm in diameter, giving you an indication of the amount of light it will transmit. More light means a brighter image.
You should also consider the scope’s eye relief.
That’s the distance the scope can be held away from your eye, with you still being able to see the full field of view. Look for a longer eye relief to reduce eye strain, especially if you need to wear your glasses while scoping.
The field of view is the width of the round viewing field of the scope. A wider FOV is ideal for spotting wildlife; just remember that with a higher magnification, FOV is reduced.
Are the optics coated?
You want a scope that has a coated lens. The coating improves light transmission, meaning your image is clearer and sharper. The more layer, the better. Most scopes have at least a thin layer of magnesium fluoride. Lenses are either coated, fully-coated, multi-coated, or fully multi-coated.
How much are you willing to spend?
This will depend on how serious you are about scoping, and how much experience you may or may not have. A top of the range scope with the newest tech will set you back substantially, although that is understandable. And for the seasoned scope user it’s an investment. However, at the lower end of the price scale there are some really great quality scopes that get the job done.
Hunting, birdwatching, celestial observation, wildlife or scenery viewing… All of these activities have specific scope needs. And the specs do matter.
Roxant Blackbird Spotting Scope
The Roxant Blackbird offers excellent build quality in a compact form, as well as military-grade glass construction.