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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 best practise 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.
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.
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.
So, how does the scope fare out in the wild?
By all accounts, this is an excellent entry-level spotting scope. The scope is small and lightweight, making it a great portable device. The tripod is metal and very sturdy, with non-slip feet; it makes a welcome change from many other devices in this category, which come with invariably flimsy tripods. If anything, some may find this tripod a bit small. For the price of this scope, you really are getting excellent value for money. The image is clear and retains its crispness even at full magnification. There doesn’t appear to be any distortion to speak of. Focusing is smooth and quick, thanks to the textured wheel on the barrel.
Is military-grade glass overkill in this small device? Well, no. In fact, the high quality components used in this scope are probably what pushes it across the line and gives you that bang for your (relatively few) bucks. You could use this spotting scope for all your outdoors activities, but it’s also small enough to take along to the theatre or sports games. It really is an all-rounder.
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.
So how does it perform? By most accounts, quite well. The field of vision is problematic as the magnification goes up; the result is that you’ll have to get your eye as close as possible to the eyepiece in order to get the full viewing field, which is otherwise very small and distorted. Overall, it seems the focus becomes poorer as the magnification goes up. That’s definitely something to keep in mind if you’re looking for a spotting scope to use when hunting, for example. The included tripod is lightweight and rather unstable, so it’s not necessarily suitable for heavy-duty use. This spotting scope is probably best suited to use on the range or for casual bird watching. It certainly performs at its best in clear, sunny weather conditions, and fares well overall in clear lowlight. Avoid this one if you specifically need a scope for long range.
The verdict? The Ermarth spotting scope fares well. It’s good value for money; it may not be the best spotting scope available but you definitely get what you pay for. It probably won’t exceed your expectations, but you won’t be left feeling like you’ve wasted your money, especially not at this price point.
Let’s start with the specs. The Gosky 20-60X80 Porro Prism Spotting Scope features full multi-coated green film lens, eye piece 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 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.
The biggest drawcard on this spotting scope is probably the cell phone adapter. No matter what you use your scope for, in the age of social media the addition of the (easy) ability to capture your unique perspective is pretty hard to pass up. There are some mixed feelings about exactly how easy the adapter is to use, that it’s clumsy and awkward to set up. But once that’s figured out, it works well and gets a thumbs up. This spotting scope is in a slightly higher price bracket than the others we’ve looked at so far, and it seems, as always, you get what you pay for. All round, the Gosky 20-60X80 Porro Prism is good value for money. Devices designed to be used for photography can be very pricey, so if you want those features without breaking the bank, this spotting scope is great.
This scope is waterproof, but does not claim to be fog proof, which is good because it isn’t. So keep your lens cloths with you to ensure that your images come out clearly.
Should you buy it? If you’re a keen photographer or an amateur outdoorsman on a budget, this is probably the best spotting scope for you. It really is a package deal: you get a decent scope, and there’s no need to buy photography adapters and accessories. The quality is good, and you’re saving some money along the way.
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.
So those were the basics. Here’s the low-down on this scope’s performance. At 15X magnification the image is clear, the focus ring isn’t too loose or too stiff, and the zoom wheel is easy to operate. Once you’ve passed the 30X magnification mark, though, you may struggle with focus and achieving a sharp image. You wouldn’t necessarily want to use this particular scope for any heavy-duty spotting, not least because the accompanying mini tripod isn’t very sturdy. And you’ll have to dismount the scope from the tripod to get it to fit in the case. You can easily get around the issue of the wobbly tripod by ensuring it’s supported by something sturdy, that you get set up in a spot that it won’t be moved from, or, preferably, that you set it up on a completely different tripod altogether. If we’re really splitting hairs, it would be better if the lens was multi-coated, but was it is it gathers light very well. And if eye-relief is a deal-breaker for you, the shallow 10-13mm allowed on this scope is going to let you down.
Given the (few) low points about this scope, if you’re new to using a spotting scope, this particular one is not a bad place to start. For more experienced users, if you know exactly what you’d be using this for — zeroing, for instance, or using it as a spare scope in a pinch — then this will not be the best spotting scope for you. The BARSKA Colorado scope comes in at the lower end of the price scale, so you really are getting what you pay for. By no means low quality, but certainly not the absolute top of the range. If your expectations are reasonable, this spotting scope won’t disappoint. If you don’t need a scope for long ranges, you’ll be satisfied with this one. It does the job, and it does it well.
The eye relief is adjustable, which is convenient. However, it can become annoying having to adjust it. It’s also a short relief, which is the same problem that came up in our previous BARSKA scope review. The tripod is a let-down. It’s great that it’s included, because you’d often have to buy a tripod separately. However, the tripod isn’t very sturdy; as you move up to full power magnification you’ll feel that you need something more stable. This seems to be an unpleasant trend with BARSKA.
This spotting scope is significantly more expensive than its counterpart – which, fair enough, is priced at a steal so this scope is still relatively cheap. For the extra money you’re getting a slightly more durable and better spotting scope. BARSKA clearly has some persistent issues, but at this price point you really are getting a bargain that works well. This spotting scope won’t disappoint you if you’re looking for a step-above-entry-level piece of equipment.
The scope’s design is pretty streamlined, it’s waterproof, and it comes with a soft, padded, zippered case that can keep it under cover even when the scope is mounted on a tripod. You are going to want a good, sturdy tripod for this scope, as it is on the bulkier side. It’s a ruggedly built, sturdy spotting scope; it may be a bit hefty for those looking for something lighter and more portable. With that said, this spotting scope might be better suited to those of you who are avid bird watchers, or who enjoy shooting on a range.
If you are someone who wears glasses, you’ll probably want to remove them when using this scope; the eye relief could be quite shallow for some users and that could impact your experience. If you are a more experienced spotter, the blue fringing may be a bit of a distraction as you zoom up to 60X magnification. But for the most part this shouldn’t really bother you. There is also a loss of clarity and resolution as you increase magnification.
All in all, this spotting scope is good value for money. At this price point you’re getting your money’s worth — and, some would argue, more. If you’re looking to use this scope to stargaze, then it’s probably not the best spotting scope for you as the fringing and clarity on the magnification let this scope down. But for bird watchers and range shooters, this spotting scope ticks all the boxes.
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 know 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.
This is certainly an excellent spotting scope, certainly one of the best we’ve looked at. Across the board, it’s done really well with user reviews, and honestly it’s not difficult to see why. One of the talking-points around this iteration of the C90 (the first one was introduced in the ‘70s) is that the image quality is great, really sharp and clear with vivid colours, thanks to the multi-coated optics. Even at full power, it would be difficult to detect much, if any blue fringing (chromatic aberration). This in itself is impressive, as many other scopes in this class would suffer.
The C90 is very sturdy and well-built. The body of this scope features a lot of metal in its construction, making it durable and strong for use in many settings. And that’s the other thing: this spotting scope performs well when used terrestrial or celestial viewing. So whether you need a device for birding, wildlife observation, hunting or star- and moon gazing, you won’t be disappointed. The C90 is also adaptable for photography.
The drawback to this scope is that it is not waterproof, which may be a deal breaker for those of you who use your scopes in areas that tend to have less-than-favourable or unpredictable weather conditions. So keep that in mind when considering buying the C90. You would also want to invest in a good, sturdy tripod to get the most out of your C90 spotting scope.
As far as entry-level goes, this scope is towards the higher end of the price range than its counterpart we reviewed earlier, and the value for money is remarkable. The quality of the spotting scope is great, not only in its construction, but also in the experience it offers you. We’re calling this one a frontrunner.
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 colours. The scope is completely water- and fogproof, 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.
This is the second Emarth spotting scope we’re looking at, so let’s see how it measures up. They’re essentially in a similar price range, so the playing field is pretty even. Their zoom magnification and aperture are the same. The main difference here is that this spotting scope is straight. That means one of two things: first, that the uses for this scope may be different; second, that it really will come down to personal preference.
The focus and image are clear and crisp, and the tripod is a pleasant (and handy) added extra. As the magnification is increased, you may experience a bit of distortion. There have also been reports of distortion on the lens.
All in, you’re getting good value for you money with this spotting scope. It is a light, compact and portable piece of equipment, suitable for a number of uses. Its limits are reasonable, especially at this price point. You won’t be disappointed in your purchase, keeping in mind that (as always) you get what you pay for.
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, crips 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.
Now, a look at how it fares. This scope is definitely aimed at the outdoorsman.It’s made to withstand the elements, and can handle a fair bit of wear and tear. It’s a good spotting scope for the average user. And it performs very well as an entry-level piece of equipment. It is well-constructed, and offers more-than-satisfactory value for money. It’s at a slightly lower price point than its 20-60X80 counterpart, but its quality doesn’t really suffer by any means.
If you’re wanting to buy a scope to use for hunting or long-range viewing, or if you’re a seasoned scope user, this might leave you wanting a bit more oomph.
Is it worth buying? Absolutely. The Gosky 15-45X 60 Porro Prism Spotting Scope is good value for money. It’s a smart buy if you’re a regular on the gun range or want to up your photography game, and have realistic expectations.
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 endeavour to make some of the best spotting scopes available today.
The Vortex Diamondback Spotting Scope features porro prisms to ensure excellent image quality, XR fully multi-coated optics as well as dielectric prism coatings. It has 20X-60X zoom magnification, it’s water- and fogproof, and includes a built-in sunshade for further protection from the elements. The body of the scope is angled for comfortable viewing, and the ArmorTek exterior is hardy and durable. The eyecups are adjustable, and the scope features a rotating tripod ring. One major highlight with this scope is that it comes with a lifetime, unlimited, unconditional warranty.
On the job, the Diamondback performs, and does it well. This spotting scope really is an excellent quality piece of equipment. The scope is very well built. What lets this spotting scope down is the fact that as the magnification is increased above 40X, the image loses clarity and sharpness. The eye relief is too small for some, especially glasses-wearers. It bears repeating that this is the entry-level scope in the Vortex range, so these kinds of cons can probably be expected. It helps to keep that in context.
When you buy this spotting scope, you’re buying into Vortex’s three Ps: People, Products and Promises. And they won’t let you down. If you have the extra money, you won’t be disappointed if you spend it on this spotting scope. Touted as entry-level, yes, but what are you getting? Superb quality build, as well as outstanding after-sale service. Let’s face it, that warranty is a big drawcard. The durability of this spotting scope, thanks to the excellent craftsmanship, justifies the price.
If you have that little bit extra to send, this isn’t a bad place to spend it.
So those were our picks of some of the best spotting scopes that offer real value for money, an easy user experience, and a good quality product.
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 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 using 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.
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.
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 In Class
The Celestron 52268 C90 Mak Spotting Scope has come out as our pick 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.