Spotting scopes are interesting optical instruments in that they are in many ways a solution for many situations that binoculars cannot solve, but this comes at a number of drawbacks.
Usually, when you need to look at a faraway object and see it better, the default choice for the job is to take a binocular. However, most binos offer only so much magnification and this may not be suitable for many applications. When using a bino is no longer adequate, your next choice is a spotting scope.
Spotting scopes offer magnification most often starting at 20x and this can go all the way to 60x, 80x or even beyond 100x. Typically, the magnification is variable: either through the use of a zoom eyepiece, or a series of eyepieces with fixed values. So this is where spotting scopes excel.
Now, about the downsides. First, most scopes are much bigger than binoculars. They’re harder to carry with you etc.
Second, you’d almost never use a spotting scope unsupported. You’d at least support it on a branch, a window sill, or your knee or something. And much more commonly, you would use a tripod. The tripod will give you the stability needed to acquire a stable image at great magnifications, but it’s harder to track moving targets, and it’s almost impossible to use the spotter scope for quickly glancing here and there if it’s mounted on a fixed support.
Third, you can only use one eye. This is generally less comfortable than using two eyes and deprives you of depth perception via stereoscopic vision that two eyes give us.
In general, spotting scopes are excellent for prolonged observation of very distant and relatively static objects. They are very popular at shooting ranges, because they let you avoid having to walk to the target after every shot. They’re also great for many types of wildlife observation. If there’s a little bird hopping from branch to branch some 20 yards away, you’ll have a hard time looking at it through a spotter scope. But if there’s a flock of birds nesting on a sandbar several hundred yards away, then it becomes a perfect tool for the task.
In this section of the site, we look at many different types, brands and applications of these wondrous optical gadgets. See below for articles and sub-sections to find the topic you’re most interested in and fun exploring!
- Reviews of the Top Spotting Scopes for Wildlife ViewingSpotting scopes are indispensable tools for observing animals and birds in the wild. We have a look at what you need to know when buying one and list some of the top options on the market right now.
- What are the Top-Rated Spotting Scopes for Hunting Elk? ReviewsWhich spotting scope will give you the best view while elk hunting without punishing your back or draining your pockets? Read our reviews and buying tips to find out!
- A Review of the Top Spotting Scopes for Mountain Hunting + Buying GuideYou can't take just any old spotting scope mountain hunting. We review the top optics for hunters in a range of prices and provide a guide to buying the best one.
- Choosing the Best Spotting Scope for $400 Or LessWe look at and compare some of the best spotting scopes available for less than $400. Read our reviews and quick bullet-point guide to figure out which scope is the best one for you.
- Choosing a Spotting Scope for 200 to 300 Yards DistanceIf you need to spot targets or game at about 200 or 300 yards out, you'll need a decent spotting scope for the job. Let's see the main points to consider and look at some of the best products on the market.
- Buying a Rangefinder Spotting Scope - What Are Your OptionsWe go through the actual options you have when trying to buy a spotting scope with a rangefinder - there are several solutions to the issue. Read this guide before jumping to any conclusions.
- A Review of the Amazing Kowa TSN-880 Series Spotting ScopesBefore spending a huge amount of money on new optics, read our review of the TSN-883 and TSN-884 spotting scopes from Kowa. How good are they? Are they worth the money? Are there alternatives?
- A Review of the Ventana Spotting Scope Series from Leupold How well does the Ventana series of spotting scopes from Leupold perform? Is it worth the money? In this review we have a good look at this mid-tier spotter from the world-renowned optics brand.
- A Full Guide to Picking the Best Hunting Spotting ScopeYour spotting scope can make or break your hunting trip - it's crucial you understand what you're buying. We make it easy to choose the best tool for the job and your budget and review several top models to consider.
- Overview of the Leupold Gold Ring Spotting Scope SeriesWe review one of the most spectacular series of spotting scopes out there - the Gold Ring by Leupold - in detail, including the numerous models available under the series. Read to find out more.
- In-depth Vortex Diamondback Spotting Scope Review as of 2018In this review we take a good look at the Vortex Diamondback series of spotting scopes - a true workhorse with its set of advantages and deficiencies. Read to gain more insight before buying.
- A Review of Kowa TSN-770 Series Spotting Scopes for 2018The Kowa TSN-770 series is one of the most versatile spotting scope series for birders, hunters and range shooters. We look at what makes these scopes so good and what the buyer should be aware of.
- Picking the Best Spotting Scope for Birding, What You Need to Know (2019)Getting the best spotting scope for birding or some random one will make or break your bird viewing experience. Let's see what you should know about birder scopes before spending your cash.
- Review of Kowa TSN-553 and TSN-554 Spotting ScopesIf you're looking for a really mighty spotter scope that is also really small, then these are some serious contenders for your attentions. Read this review article to find out more.
- Leupold Mark 4 Spotting Scope Review for People Who Know What They're Doing, 2020A detailed review of the Mark 4 spotting scope line-up from Leupold. We look at the whole series, plus at the different variations they come in.
- Kowa TSN-501 and TSN-502 Review: Lots of Power in a Small PackageIf you're looking for a very portable yet high quality spotting scope, you may have stumbled upon the TSN-500 series from Kowa. In this article, we review the models in this series and figure out what you can and what you shouldn't expect from them.
- Kowa Spotting Scope Review: A Good Look at the Line-upLet's take a good look at the amazing range of spotting scopes that Kowa has to offer, to see which ones are great for shooting ranges, birding, hunting etc.
- Vortex Optics Viper HD Reviewed - How Good is This Spotting Scope?Vortex makes many great optics products. How good is the Viper HD spotter and what should you be aware of? Read this in-depth review to find out more.
- A Target Shooter's Guide to Buying a Great Spotting ScopeYou've got tough choices to make when looking for a great target shooting scope and we'll help you - read this guide and check out these products before spending your money.
- Review of Vortex Optics Razor HD Spotting Scope We look at the strengths and weaknesses of one of the Vortex Optics' best known spotting scope line-ups: the Razor HD.
- 1000 Yard Spotting Scope: Buyer's Guide and ReviewsNot every scope will give you the ability to spot anything at that distance. This article picks apart what makes a spotting scope suitable for the task and which products on the market can actually achieve that.
- Best Spotting ScopesSpotting scopes are incredibly useful optical instruments as long as they're used for the right purpose. As with anything, there isn't a single best spotting scope, but there are a number of things that one has to consider to determine...