A great spotting scope takes the place of other binoculars or gear with many added benefits and improved quality, but you should know what to look for before shopping. Let’s take a look at what makes a great spotting scope, as well as the best options available today.
Comparison of the Best Spotting Scopes
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What Should I Look For in a Spotting Scope?
Before buying a spotting scope, you should familiarize yourself with certain qualities that you will want, such as:
The magnification range and power of your scope directly ties to how far you can see, so it’s important to have one powerful enough to see as far away as you hope to see. The highest powers can go up to or beyond 400 yards.
A tripod will help keep your scope stable, which is useful for hunters and especially for competitive shooters. Some scopes include them and others do not. As with scopes themselves, there are great values out there and needlessly expensive tripods, so getting a great deal is an important factor.
Weight and Bulk
How do you like to travel when hunting? Probably not over-encumbered, so bear in mind that a large and heavy scope will have to go the distance with you, and this is even more important if you’re bringing a tripod and other gear. Look for lighter scopes that are still made from high-quality materials like aircraft-grade aluminum.
Review of the Best Spotting Scopes
Now that you have a better idea of what to look for when choosing your spotting scope, let’s take a look at the best options on the market today. Bear in mind that what you’ll be using it for will greatly influence whether it’s a useful scope for you or not, so be sure to get one that matches your needs.
You’re surely already familiar with Bushnell’s excellent accessories for guns, and their scopes are cut from the same high-quality cloth. With a zoom range from 12x up to 60x, you’ll be able to see very, very far, while a 50mm objective lens keeps the image bright even in darker conditions.
In short, the wider the objective lens, the more light passes through the tube, enhancing the picture that meets your eye—so if you do shooting in darker conditions, look for a wide objective lens.
From a technical perspective, it offers a close focus of 12 feet, and at 12x magnification, the field of view is 140 feet at 1000 yards; at 36x it is 65 feet at 1000 yards. It offers a generous and comfortable eye relief of 14 millimeters.
Additionally, it is very portable, weighing in at just under 1.5 pounds and only 8.7 inches in length. Thus, you can easily place it in many sporting backpacks or shooting bags. No matter where you’re taking it, you can trust that it will go the distance with you, as it is housed in shock-absorbing rubber and is totally waterproof and fog-proof.
We also like that it comes with lots of great extras, and so, it is a complete package. You get a tripod, a car window mount, a carrying case, a hard-sided case, and a scope glove. This is a very complete package—many only come with a tripod and sometimes a carrying case.
Perhaps best of all, it comes with a lifetime warranty from Bushnell, and considering all these features, it’s a real steal of a price! For all these reasons, we consider it to be the best overall. There are more premium scopes on our list, but for the money, versatility, and just general value of what you’re getting, this is a real winner.
If you’re looking for a solid scope that does everything you need and is built to last and comes with all the extra gear you could ask for, Bushnell has you covered. With an amazing price and a lifetime guarantee, it’s easily the best overall scope on our list.
Best for the Money:
BARSKA 20-60x60 With Tripod
We get it—there’s a lot of stuff to spend your money on, and not just on your hunting gear. So, dollar for dollar, what gives you the absolute best value? Well, while it may not be the most premium option or anyone’s first choice, we think Barska has a downright crazy deal on their scope—and it even comes with a tripod!
First, let’s get one thing straight: you can easily spend this amount of money on a tripod alone. So when we say this is the best spotting scope for the money, you’d better believe it. That said, the scope itself is pretty decent, too.
It offers 20x-60x magnification and fully-coated optics on a 60mm objective lens. This very wide lens allows for a very spacious field of view, as well as a very enhanced level of brightness in low-light conditions.
Additionally, Barska has also taken care to fully waterproof and fog-proof the unit. It is also housed in rubber armor, although Barska does not specify that it is technically shockproof, and simply says it is “for protection.” Given the low price of the unit, that’s fair—it may protect it very well, but don’t test it out and be gentle with it.
Thankfully, they do also include a lens cover and a soft carrying case. You may want to get a hard case on your own, but a soft case is better than nothing and will at least keep dirt and grime out of it.
What really surprises us is the lifetime warranty. Should you determine that the unit is not in fact completely shockproof, there is that—but at this price, you might be ready for an upgrade by then, anyway.
If you’re on a tight budget, there’s no need to sacrifice for a cheap, flimsy unit with poor optics. Instead, invest in a very affordable, durable, weatherproofed unit backed by a lifetime guarantee from Barska.
Best for Target Shooting:
Emarth 20-60x60AE With Tripod
Target shooters have unique needs from casual shooters or even hunters. Not only will you value precision very highly, but also efficiency, with the ability to fine-tune your picture on the fly. If you’re shooting competitively, you want the ability to shoot even faster than if you were hunting a roving animal, so this matters a great deal.
Target shooters (and anyone else who values these features, too) will love the Emarth scope. It offers 20x-60x magnification with a field of view of 39-19m/1000m. Additionally, the lenses are given a premium multi-coat for premium light transmission and clarity with no image distortion.
You’ll enjoy a dual focus wheel that allows you to quickly fine-tune your focus. If you’re new to spotting scopes, you might remember how this works from science class. One knob changes the focus a lot, another focuses it a little. The end result is not only that you’ll get into focus faster, but the fine focus knob allows you to really get a crisp picture.
The unit is also highly durable with rubber armor and slip-proof grip. It has a tripod built in, so you never have to worry about setting up. Additionally, you can easily move the 45-degree angled eyepiece 90 degrees to either side, allowing you to view from a variety of angles when using the tripod.
It is built to be shockproof, fog-proof, and completely waterproof. It is further backed by a lifetime, full, money back guarantee. Plus, it’s yet another entrant on our list that offers an exceptional value.
If you’re looking for a great value on a precise and efficient spotting scope, this durable and affordable option should be at the top of the list thanks to its dual-focus system.
Best for Birding:
Gosky 20-60 X 80 Porro Prism Spotting Scope
Hey, sometimes you just want to watch birds. That’s not all you can do with this great scope, but if you’re reading our list as someone more interested in observing wildlife, this is certainly the spotting scope for you. Put away your binoculars and step into comfortable and precise viewing!
You’ll get 20x to 60x magnification with a dynamic focus system which allows you to easily and accurately focus on your target. This system is specifically designed for watching wildlife, and it works very well for that purpose.
The picture you’ll get is excellent, coming to you from a multi-coated 80mm green film objective lens and a quality internal prism. This picture quality, with its vivid colors, is well beyond what you’ll get from many scopes that are more geared for hunting.
As such, you may wish to use a digiscope. It comes with a digiscoping adapter and Gosky-brand universal cell phone adapter mount that stretches to fit any size phone and clamps securely while also blocking unwanted sunlight (you can also tilt the adapter to an ideal angle).
You can certainly observe wildlife from your property, but why not dive deeper? With full weatherproofing and shock-proofing, it will resist water, fog, and drops.
It also comes with lots of extras. You get a sunshade, tripod mount, tripod, carrying bag, two lens caps, and a thorough manual on how to use your scope for a variety of activities. Just be aware that the tripod is short and designed more for window mounting or tables. Plus, it’s backed by a lifetime warranty.
Whether you want to use it for target shooting, bird watching, or even other fun activities like observing the moon, this is a great scope.
A versatile scope that anyone can use, not just birdwatchers, it comes with a lot of extras, a durable build, and the ability to record your viewing.
Best Spotting Scope Under $500:
Vortex Optics Diamondback
Before you take out a loan to get your hands on the dream scope above, you should know there are options for those halfway there in terms of finances. That’s right, we’ve got a scope that should satisfy you if you’ve got a half-grand to lay down.
Another brilliant scope from our friends at Vortex Optics, the Diamondback might sound familiar. That’s because it utilizes the same excellent optics in the Diamondback scopes for guns, here applied to a unique dedicated spotting scope.
It offers some very interesting features to the spotting scope design. First, you get a twist-and-lock collar so you can move your scope to various glassing positions. An adjustable eyecup can twist up or down until you’re perfectly comfortable. A super-smooth adjustable focus wheel is easy to hold in a natural grip, allowing you to dynamically focus while holding the unit. It also includes a retractable sunshade.
As much as we love these quality-of-life features, optics are what matters most, and Vortex always delivers. With 20x-60x magnification and a lovely 80mm objective lens, as well as their proprietary multi-coats, you’ll enjoy the absolute best picture possible in this price range. Of course, it is also fully weatherproof and shockproof and is backed by a lifetime warranty.
Another nice touch? It’s super-slim. While about 15 inches in length, it’s 3.2 by 3.2, so it’s very easy to slip your bag into the included carrying case. Plus, for having an 80mm objective lens, it’s quite light at only 2.9 pounds.
If you have a fair budget, Vortex Optics has a unique scope designed not only to bring you the best picture possible but also provide for surprisingly easy and comfortable scoping in any situation.
If you’re looking to stay under $200, we’ve got you covered—or more accurately, Celestron does, with this fine scope.
You won’t be sacrificing your objective lens, as it offers a wide 80mm for ultimate brightness in any conditions. Additionally, it features a magnification range of 20x-60x so you can zero in on whatever you need to.
It features a 45-degree viewing angle, an extended plate, an integrated T-adapter, and plenty of extras. You also get a carrying case, eyepiece lens cap, an eyepiece port cover, an eyepiece carrying case, an eyepiece pouch, a lens cloth for cleaning your unit, and a comprehensive manual on how to use your product.
It is also fully waterproofed and is backed by a lifetime warranty. However, the manufacturer does not specify that it is fog-proofed or shock-proofed, so do be careful when using your unit. That said, the lifetime warranty does mitigate these concerns.
Celestron also does offer many similar models with different viewing angles and one with a smartphone adapter, so it’s worth checking out some of their other offerings if some of these details don’t appeal to you. All are reasonably priced and backed by the same lifetime warranty and waterproof construction.
Those looking for a premium scope in the budget price range will want to check out what Celestron offers. This model, and other variants found on the same page, all offer great optics, durable construction, and a lifetime warranty.
Best Spotting Scope Under $300:
Celestron 52332 TrailSeeker 80-45 Degree Spotting Scope
Another model of Celestron’s scope is available for those looking for a bit more, and willing to spend a tad more, too. This model features a proprietary XLT fully multi-coated optical path, giving you high-contrast images so that you can really see the fine details when you’re zoomed in to the max.
With a magnification range of 20x-60x and an 80mm objective lens, you’ll enjoy plenty of bright viewing in all light conditions. Of note, with this model, you get a dual-focus system so that you can quickly find your focus and fine tune it precisely.
Additionally, an included rotating tripod mount allows you to rotate the unit a full 360-degrees with the eyepiece set in any viewing position you wish. However, you should note that a tripod is not included, and to take advantage of 360-degree rotation, you will need a tripod that is sufficiently high enough from the ground when using more extreme positions.
It includes all the other extras outlined in the previous Celestron product, as well as the full waterproofing. This model also includes a retractable sunshade and an interchangeable eyepiece.
A more premium option to our Celestron offering under $200, this improved model adds a few extras, but most notably, has superior optics and 360-degree rotation.
Best Spotting Scope Under $100:
Roxant Authentic Blackbird
If the price of the scopes on our list has you worried, fear not, for we did indeed search for the lowest-price scope that could still be worthy of following you on a hunt or bird-watching expedition. Priced well under $100 and still robust, this unit should satisfy even the most budget-restrained.
You’ll enjoy a magnification range of 12x to 36x. Yes, that’s a bit more restrictive, but for this price, it’s quite impressive, especially since the optics are still great. Made from high-quality glass with a multi-coat, you’ll enjoy the best possible view you can get in this price range. Meanwhile, the eyepiece extends and rotates 45-degrees for optimal comfort.
You also get a lot of generous features, including a quality tripod, lens caps, and a carrying case. Often, companies will include cheaply made junk as extras to sell their bundle deals, but here, the tripod is made from solid metal and features a metal mounting screw. Many others in this price range use plastics, making the inclusion next to worthless.
Additionally, you get a rubber frame and an extendable sunshade, so that your unit will be protected and comfortable to use. As for weatherproofing, the company does not make any claims. We would suspect that due to the build quality, it at least does a great job of resisting water and shock—but please do remember this is a budget scope and take care not to neglect it just in case!
If you’re on a strict budget, having a good scope is better than no scope, so pick up this shockingly great value. It’s not the best scope, but it does offer high-quality optics, durable construction, and all the extras you need to start scoping properly.
Do you already have a great spotting scope and just need a premium tripod, or want to upgrade from one of the tripods included with the scopes on our list? No worries, we’ve found you an excellent tripod that is rugged, dependable, and is very affordable, too!
Amazon Basics produces a lot of great products comparable to major manufacturers, just like a regular brick-and-mortar store has a “store brand.” This tripod can hold up to 6.6 pounds, sufficient for even the most heavy-duty scopes. The unit itself is three pounds, including its carrying case, making it a manageable load.
It extends a generous 25 inches to 60 inches when you extend the center post fully. It can tilt and swivel on two built-in bubble view levels, allowing for portrait or landscape ranges. It also offers a quick-release mounting plate.
Since it is compatible with more than just scopes, you can use it for a variety of other tasks around the house. Use it with video cameras, digital camas, GoPros, still cameras, smartphone adapters, projectors, and more. This makes it ideal for those who love birdwatching or other casual activities and want a unit that can easily be stored around the home for other activities, but its small size makes it perfect for keeping in the truck or anywhere else you store your gear.
If you’re looking for a solid tripod that isn’t made from cheap plastics and has a generous range of motion, don’t settle for less. Cheaper units can break or produce a lot of wobble—a huge problem when you’re using magnification, as it will also magnify the wobble and make it look like an earthquake going on at the other end. This unit is a cheap way to support a quality scope.
Whether you need a tripod or just want to upgrade the one you have, this is an excellent option. It is priced very low, as all Amazon Basic products are, but performs just as well as major brands that cost significantly more.
Looking for the best scope for your money, but your budget doesn’t quite hit a full grand? No problem, as we’ve found the best option that keeps your spending to three digits.
The Vortex Razor HD Spotting Scope offers incredible picture from its premium, high-density, extra-low dispersion glass. Additionally, they are ultra-hard-coated with Armor Tek to shed oil, water droplets, or dirt and resist scratches.
A further dielectric coating on the prism allows for true-to-life color accuracy. Not stopping there, an XR anti-reflective coating has been added for improved light transmission and a triplet apochromatic lens allows for zero distortion.
You don’t need to understand all the technical jargon to get the idea—it’s basically as good as being able to zoom in with your own eyes. With an 85mm objective lens, you’ll enjoy a field of view that nearly rivals your own natural eyes, too.
You’d better believe that it’s been built with quality in mind. With an aircraft-grade aluminum build, an O-ring seal, and an argon purge, it’s completely proofed against water, shock, and fog. It’s even got a subtle camouflage pattern, although if you’re not a fan of camo patterns, it is certainly not distinct—just enough for you to be stealthy, whether you’re hunting or observing.
Of course, you get a lifetime guarantee on this beautiful unit. While it doesn’t come with any extras, it’s about the best picture you can get on our list. It’s so good, you can see a bullet impact up to 400 yards away.
Whether you’re ready for it now or it’s a dream scope to add to your list, the completely faithful viewing picture and all-around solid optics of this durable unit make it the best scope you could buy if you have the funds.
What Are Spotting Scopes Used For?
Spotting scopes are used by a wide number of people for many different tasks. Indeed, a single person can use a spotting scope in many ways. Some popular uses include:
When hunting, a spotting scope may be used alone or in conjunction with your gun’s own scope. This is ideal for those who prefer this method or have other devices on their build that make having a scope with sufficient magnification impossible. The high magnification levels are also great for ranging and often the wider lenses and eye relief make doing so more comfortable.
Whether it’s birds, deer, or any other animal, those who simply love to witness animals in nature enjoy using spotting scopes instead of binoculars because they’re much more comfortable and offer better precision.
There are tons of other things a sight scope can do—in short, if you can point your scope at it, you can get a great view of it, and that includes even the moon and other night-sky wonders.
Benefits of Investing in a Great Spotting Scope
Before springing for a spotting scope, be sure that you’re purchasing one that is high quality. As our list demonstrates, you don’t need to spend a fortune, but there are a lot of cheap duds out there. Be aware of the following potential problems:
Especially if you’re not familiar with scopes, the ranges provided by some scopes might seem impressive. Most on our list, however, go all the way up to 60x magnification, so there’s no reason for you to settle for less unless you want to.
If you can zoom in 60x but can’t tell what the heck you’re looking at because the picture is awful, that’s simply no good. High-quality lenses are critical, so be sure you only purchase reputable brands that don’t use cheap glass.
Even if you’re getting a budget scope, you deserve to have one that won’t break as soon as it’s exposed to a little rainfall. The scopes on our list are almost all completely weatherproof.
Focusing shouldn’t be difficult. The scopes on our list offer a range of precise controls to fine-tune your focus quickly and easily.
Lastly, if you’re viewing in dim conditions, a cheap scope can be too dark to be practical. With a wide objective diameter, the scopes on our list ensure plenty of light floods the tube to brighten the picture in the dimmest of settings.
Whether for hunting, competitive shooting, or bird watching, having a great scope can be a total game-changer. Before you buy a piece of junk, be sure to consult our guide and review our list—we’ve found great options for any budget that are reliable, easy to use, top quality, and hold up against rough weather.
People Also Ask
First time looking for a scope? No worries! We’ve got answers to your most commonly asked questions:
What is the Best Magnification for a Spotting Scope?
While there’s no right or wrong answer to this, as it’s whatever you prefer, you should at least have a scope that goes up to 30x. The scopes on our list mostly allow for 20x-60x magnification, allowing you to see details for up to 400 yards or farther.
What is the Difference Between a Spotting Scope and Telescope?
While this is a great question, they actually couldn’t be more different. A telescope is specifically designed for monitoring the sky, and as such, they are not designed to be portable or comfortable. They’re usually much larger, heavier, and don’t allow you to truly get comfortable. They also tend not to have features that allow you to move around quickly to acquire a target—after all, things in the sky don’t tend to move much. Additionally, it’s rare for a telescope to have any real weatherproofing or shock resistance.
What Do Numbers Mean on Spotting Scope?
Spotting scopes usually feature two sets of numbers and will look something like this: “20-60x30”. The first set of numbers is the magnification range—i.e., the picture is 20-60 times enlarged. The second number, 30 in our example, refers to the objective width of the lens. This is important because a wider lens allows more light into the tube, brightening the picture.
Do Spotting Scopes Tell Range?
Yes and no. Depending on the model you choose, you may be able to tell how zoomed in you are, allowing you to roughly calculate effective range. If not, you may attach a laser rangefinder to your spotting scope or simply use a dedicated rangefinder.