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Spotting scopes are popular optical units that provide enlarged images of distant objects, ideal for large distance viewing and different activities, such as hunting, birding, camping, surveillance, and stargazing. Spotting scopes can also be defined as portable telescopes that present erected images in order to facilitate the observation of terrestrial objects.
Here we should note that it was spectacle-maker Hans Lippershey, who was credited as the inventor of the first refractor telescope in the 17th century and Galileo Galilei, who pointed the telescope towards the skies. Over the years, advancements in lens technology led to the creation of the reflecting and catadioptric telescopes. Interestingly, one of the main advancements that enhanced the creation of spotting scopes was the employment of prism-erecting systems to correct image orientation, launched in 1854 by Ignazio Porro and Jean Georges Hofmann.
Today, there are many telescopic units available on the market. While large-scale telescopes are the main optical instruments scientists utilize to study the universe, both seasoned users and enthusiasts can choose from a wide range of telescopes, spotting scopes, binoculars, and monoculars. Note that telescopes are the most powerful units that can be used for both terrestrial use and amateur astronomy. While there are numerous portable telescopes, spotting scopes and monoculars are also defined as portable telescopes that are ideal for terrestrial view and outdoor adventures. Spotting scopes often require the use of a tripod, just like telescopes, whereas monoculars are held in one’s hand like binoculars. Binoculars, on the other hand, require the use of both eyes and are defined as two telescopes mounted on a single frame. An interesting question is where a monocular ends and a telescope starts. Usually, telescopes and spotting scopes have high magnification rates of over 20X and an aperture between 50 mm and 90 mm, while popular parameters for monoculars and binoculars are 7×25, 8×30, 8×42, and 10×42, with monoculars being the smallest units on the market.With a variety of optical units for sale, however, choosing a spotting scope can be a daunting task. Prospective buyers should consider three major factors: requirements, specifications, and total costs.
Requirements: Before purchasing a spotting scope, users should refine their goals. Buyers should decide what they’ll use the scope for (e.g., birding, hunting) and where they’ll be using it (e.g., low-light environments). Note that low-light performance can be improved by the use of bigger objective lenses. The size of the unit and its durability should also be considered, especially when choosing a hunting scope. Note that to improve usability outdoors, some spotting scopes can be quite small (8-35X) and held like monoculars. Waterproof units with durable armor, on the other hand, are required when hunting, camping, and hiking to resist harsh weather.
Specifications: Two of the main specifications to consider are magnification and lens diameter. Note that a high magnification level requires a large objective lens. To provide an example, a 60×80 unit (with 60X being the magnification level and 80 mm the aperture) is a highly-sufficient scope. The type of erecting system (roof or Porro prism) is also essential. Last but not least, the field of view and eye relief should be considered, especially by glasses wearers. Note that a large field of view is ideal for fast-moving targets (e.g., birds). That being said, the field of view decreases with magnification; thus, spotting scopes often have interchangeable eyepieces or a zoom system to provide different magnifications.
Total costs: Given the variety of units and competitors on the market, prices can vary significantly, with high-quality products being more costly. The materials used can also affect prices. Note that when it comes to prisms, BAK-4 glass prisms are considered as high-quality products. Additionally, coatings can affect costs; optics can be coated, fully coated, multi-coated, and fully multi-coated to prevent reflection and improve usability. Last but not least, from tripods to carrying bags, buying accessories is also essential.Although there’s a wide range of units for sale, we should mention there are two main types of spotting scopes. Depending on the angle, the unit’s eyepiece forms with the scope’s body, there are straight-through (on the same axis as the scope) and angled (at an angle of 45 degrees to the scope) models. Based on different parameters and user reviews, here are the best spotting scopes on the market.
- Gosky HD 15-45×60 Porro Prism Spotting Scope
Gosky HD 15-45×60 Porro Prism Spotting Scope is a powerful spotting scope with a fully multi-coated 60 mm lens and a high-quality prism system. Note that the unit provides 15-45X magnification and a dynamic lens focusing system. This scope has a durable and waterproof design, which makes it ideal for outdoor activities and harsh weather. Furthermore, the unit comes with a digiscoping adapter, a carrying bag, a tripod, protection covers, and a manual.
- Celestron 52249 65mm Ultima Spotting Scope – Straight
Celestron 52249 65mm Ultima Spotting Scope – Straight is a compact spotting scope with a 65 mm lens and 18-55X zoom magnification. Note that the unit features a straight-through viewing angle, multi-coated optics, and a sight tube for fast targeting. Furthermore, this scope is waterproof and comes with a soft carrying case, which makes it ideal for hiking and other outdoor adventures.
- Vanguard Endeavor XF Angled Eyepiece Spotting Scope
Vanguard Endeavor XF Angled Eyepiece Spotting Scope is another powerful scope ideal for hunting, birding, and wildlife watching. The unit has fully multi-coated optics, BAK-4 roof prism, and a rubber-armored magnesium body. Note that it features 20-60X zoom magnification and an 80 mm aperture. With a long eye relief and an angled eyepiece, this water and fog-proof unit is simply an excellent gift choice, especially for glasses wearers.
- BARSKA Colorado Waterproof Spotting Scope
BARSKA Colorado Waterproof Spotting Scope is a great unit with a 60 mm objective lens and 20-60X adjustable zoom magnification to deliver crisp images. Note that the set includes a pan-head tripod, a carry case, and a strap. With its high-quality rubber armoring and nitrogen purged construction, this spotting scope is ideal for hiking, targeting, hunting, astronomy, and marine observation.
- Eyeskey Spotting Scope – Waterproof
Eyeskey Spotting Scope – Waterproof is a powerful spotting scope that offers excellent quality and crisp images. With 20-60X magnification and 80 mm aperture, as well as fully multi-coated optics and BK-7 prism, the unit is ideal for various settings, such as hunting, birding, and general observation. Note that this scope has a twist-up eyecup to improve user comfort.
- Celestron 52257 Ultima 100 Straight Spotting Scope
Celestron 52257 Ultima 100 Straight Spotting Scope is a powerful and popular unit. This straight scope is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts as it features 100 mm aperture and 20-60X magnification. Note that the set includes numerous accessories, such as an extended tripod mounting plate, a zoom eyepiece, an integrated T-adapter for digiscoping, a carrying case, protection caps, a lens cloth, and an instruction manual.
- Bushnell Trophy Xtreme Spotting Scope
Bushnell Trophy Xtreme Spotting Scope is a compact spotting scope with 12-36X magnification and 50 mm aperture. Its multi-coated optics and waterproof design make it ideal for dusk conditions and harsh weather. Additionally, the scope comes with a compact tripod, a car window mount, a soft carrying case, as well as a premium hard-sided case.
- Visionking 25-75×70 Maksutov Spotting Scope – 100% Waterproof Bak-4 with Tripod (Green)
Visionking 25-75×70 Maksutov Spotting Scope – 100% Waterproof Bak-4 with Tripod (Green) is a great 25-70×70 unit with a sturdy armor. Note that the unit is equipped with BAK-4 prism for better light transmission. This spotting scope is light and easy to operate, which makes it suitable for hunting, birding, and hiking.
- Vortex Optics Viper HS-T 4-16×44 Second Focal Plane Riflescopes
Vortex Optics Viper HS-T 4-16×44 Second Focal Plane Riflescopes is a powerful rifle scope. With 4-16X zoom magnification and 44 mm aperture, this scope provides crisp images and high resolution. Furthermore, its VMR-1 reticle (MOA) is perfect for accurate holds and extended ranges, with a fast-focus eyepiece that allows users to adjust the reticle properly. With solid aircraft-grade aluminum construction, this unit is ideal for shooting and harsh conditions.
- ROXANT High-Definition Ultra-Light Mini Monocular, Pocket Scope
ROXANT High-Definition Ultra-Light Mini Monocular, Pocket Scope is a wonderful pocket scope. With its compact design, this 7×18 unit is perfect for climbing, traveling, boating, and people with impaired vision. Note that the unit features high-definition optical glass and multi-coated optics. Last but not least, this monocular scope comes with a carry pouch, a cleaning cloth, and a neck strap.Spotting scopes are complex systems, so adequate maintenance is a must. Proper cleaning, transportation, and storage are essential. Note that cleaning should be done carefully, with a special cloth/brush, compressed air, or solution.
- Always wipe the lenses from the center outward and avoid touching them!
Storing units is also crucial to reduce possible adverse effects. Thus, always use protective lens and dust caps and keep units in a moisture-free environment.
- Last but not least, never look at the sun directly to avoid eye damage!!!
Spotting scopes are popular optical units that provide enlarged images of distant objects. While users can choose from a wide range of telescopes, monoculars, scopes, and binoculars, we should note that spotting scopes are among the most powerful units ideal for large distance viewing and different applications. To be more precise, scopes can be used for hunting, birding, camping, surveillance, shooting, and stargazing.
Before buying a spotting scope, however, users should consider three major factors: requirements, specifications, and costs. Note that aperture, magnification, eye relief, materials used, digital features, and accessories are all factors to consider. Usually, telescopes and spotting scopes have high magnification rates of over 20X and an aperture of 50-90 mm. Users should also remember that taking proper care of telescopic equipment is essential to guarantee long and accurate use.