Spotting Scopes

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!

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