Binoculars vs. Spotting Scopes: Which is Right for You?

| Last Updated:
August 17, 2023

Hunters are often torn about whether they should pack binoculars or a spotting scope. Both have their uses, depending on your needs. But one is often better-suited for certain uses than the other. Here, we’ll walk you through the difference between spotting scopes and binoculars.

Binoculars and Their Uses

Binoculars are one of the most popular tools for getting a glimpse of something in the distance. They’ve been around for a long time and for good reason. They are a fairly cheap way of getting a magnified view of a wide area. Here are some of the main features of binoculars:

Field of View

Binoculars are excellent for those that want a wide field of view. If you are in open areas, they allow you to scan widely and take in the whole landscape. 


Depending on the type you choose, binoculars are an easy to transport optic that can be packed in a small bag. Some binoculars may even fit in your pocket. 


Because they are so compact, binoculars are a versatile optic that can be used for a wide range of purposes in just about any environment. 

Spotting Scopes And Their Uses

Spotting scopes are a bit more specialized than binoculars. Essentially mini telescopes, they typically have a higher magnification level than what you’ll find in most binoculars. Here are some of the core features of spotting scopes:


Spotting scopes are great for those that need a high level of magnification to sight objects that are far away. 

Bushnell Trophy Xtreme Spotting Scope


Like a telescope, you’ll only use one eye when looking through a spotting scope.

Larger Size

Spotting scopes are compact enough that they are easy to take out into the field. However, you probably won’t be slipping a spotting scope into your pocket. 

Binoculars vs. Spotting Scopes - Similarities and Differences

Here, we’ll compare binoculars and spotting scopes. They are optics designed for different purposes, so you’ll have to choose the one that’s right for your needs. Compare them to find which optic you need for your specific purposes.


Below are the main differences:


Spotting scopes are designed to offer a high level of magnification, allowing you to see a target from far away. Binoculars, by contrast, usually offer less magnification power. If you need to spot a specific target from far away, you are better off with a spotting scope.

Field of View

Binoculars will give you a wide field of view, allowing you to easily survey a whole area. Spotting scopes are meant to focus on a single target. 

Image Stability

Spotting scopes are usually mounted on a tripod, so they won’t move around as you focus an image. Binoculars are handheld, so they tend to shake and blur more as you increase the magnification.


Binoculars are often much lighter than spotting scopes, and their shape makes them easier to transport.


Now let's cover the similarities:


Although both have specific strengths, they can be used in a wide range of terrain and shooting conditions, making them excellent optics to have for just about any hunt.


The right spotting scope or pair of binoculars will have excellent optics and give you a clear, bright image. Both feature models with excellent lenses and clear, bright images. 


Binoculars and spotting scopes are both important optics for any shooter.However, they aren’t the same and should be used to their strengths. With our guide and reviews, you’ll be able to find the right optics for you, and make the most of them once you do. 

Michael Lutes

Michael Lutes is the managing editor and owner at Gun Mann. He is a veteran, gun enthusiast, 3 gun competitor, and 2a advocate. Mike has a passion for innovation and education across the industry to create great content, training, and insights from the best and brightest.

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