Top Picks for Spotting Scopes that Cost $500 Or Less

When it comes to buying a spotting scope that is suited to your needs, the cost plays a major role in deciding which to buy. Keeping in mind that different people have different budgets, we will focus on some of the best spotting scopes under 500 dollars (usually). Our goal is to help you choose the best scope within a specific price range without compromising on major features that are usually found on higher-priced spotting scopes. Whether you are looking for a spotting scope to go bird-watching or to use at a shooting range, this review should come in handy.

Vortex Optics Diamondback

We will first look at the Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scope. The Vortex is available in both a straight and angled versions. With the ArmoTek exterior with dust- and waterproof quality build, it is very good for the price range to cater for various needs by different people. This spotter delivers high and good quality results in a lighter and more compact size. It is also ergonomically designed for rough conditions in the field for whatever purpose one may need it for.

It is an affordable spotter for the average user. The spotter comes in the 60mm and the 80mm variants depending on one’s preferences and range of use. For recreational purposes, the spotter is really good with very clear and good magnification; but to a certain point.

It is quite difficult for one to focus and get clear results when at full magnification. Anything under 40x is crystal clear but for higher magnifications, it starts to lose image quality rapidly. The entire device feels cheap with flimsy knobs that feel cheap. Some of the rings don’t click into place as they should, for example, the magnification rings that slightly move out of place even after setting the desired magnification. It does not give the best results for images that are really far off, and this can be a problem, especially in shooting ranges as one may not be able to determine clearly some items at distances of over 200 yards.

Why Do You Need a Spotting Scope?

One would need a spotting scope for various reasons. For some, it’s used while hunting, and others at shooting ranges. They are also extensively used for bird-watching. One, therefore, has to look at various aspects of the spotting scopes in order to identify the one that is suited to a specific need. Also, there are two main types of scopes; the straight and angled ones. Each type has its own advantage and a corresponding disadvantage.

Straight Spotting Scopes

With straight spotting scopes, the object is on the same eye-level as the scope, hence making it easier for target acquisition as compared to angled scopes. They can also be mounted higher off the ground to reduce mirage effects when viewing. They are also easier when observing downhill areas. They are better when using in extreme weather as they do not collect the elements (rain and snow). They are easier to pack in bag packs with other gear inside. However, they are quite difficult to use when observing uphill areas as they may cause a bit of strain.  They also require one to set up the tripod up to eye-level, which can affect the sturdiness of a tripod as it will be more vulnerable to the wind.

Angled Spotting Scopes

These have quite a number of pros going for them. They can be used by more people without having to adjust the tripod’s height. They can also use shorter and lighter tripods, and they could also be mounted lower to reduce the effects of the wind on the stability of the tripod. They are also convenient when observing higher objects.

Angled Spotting Scopes, however, takes longer to focus on a target as compared to straight scopes. They require more spotting experience for one to use them efficiently. They are much more cumbersome to use when glancing downhill and they may be more difficult to pack inside one’s back-pack. They are also messy to use in extreme weather conditions.

Magnification and lens sizes are key aspects when one is looking for a scope to use. Spotting scopes with larger lens sizes or objectives tend to let in more light, making them useful even in low-light conditions. The magnification of the scope is also key as one would wish to see the subject as close as they can and as clearly as the scope would let them. These mainly depend on one’s personal need for the spotting scopes.

Portability of a scope is a key factor. If you need to move around a lot, then a lighter and more portable scope would be recommended. This also goes hand-in-hand with a need for a tripod to help you move around. Tripods are essential in getting steady views of the subject.

Vanguard Endeavor XF

For its price range, the Endeavor XF is an excellently-built spotting scope. The angled version has a good eye relief that greatly aids those wearing glasses. It is completely dust- and water-proof. It has good light transmission, even in low light. It has fully multi-coated lenses that shield one from solar flares while using it. The scope, however, has the advantage of being able to be mounted on a wide array of vanguard tripods. Like most scopes, it can go to the full 45x magnification; but at this point, the exit pupil is smaller and the image dims, making it lose some of its clarity. The spotting scope has an optimum magnification at between 30x and 35x that results in crisp, clear and bright images.

Celestron 52257 Ultima 100 Straight

At 100mm, the Celestron boasts a really large objective for spotting scopes at its current price range. It lets in a lot more light into the scope, making the images brighter. It also contains various multi-coated optics for better viewing. However, one of the major downsides to this spotting scope is the very poor eye relief, especially for people who wear glasses. This is something that one would really have to consider if they have glasses. The quality of image also drastically deteriorates at a higher magnification. It’s much more useful at the lowest magnification but from then onwards it starts to deteriorate.

Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 20-60 x80 (45 degrees)

The Bushnell Legend Ultra HD is a very good scope for the very reasonable price tag that it carries. It produces good quality images even in high magnifications of 60x. It produces good results at all magnifications and even at long distances. It also has very little chromatic aberration even at 60x magnification, which is quite remarkable for the spotting scope. Not many scopes within this price range provide results that are this good. A good tripod to go along with this scope would crown it all and make the experience of this spotting scope even more memorable.

Bushnell Trophy Xtreme with 45 Degree Eyepiece, 20-60x65mm

At its current price, this spotting scope, built with armour-constructed rubber that is completely waterproof, is a real deal. It produces really bright images. It also has a window mount, a compact tripod mount, and a magnification of between 20x and 60x. Images are very clear except on high magnifications, which results in an image that is distorted by a white haze. It is good value for money, though, considering its price range.

Konus 7122 20x-60x100mm

The Konus is a heavily-built scope with a wide aperture at 100mm, which ensures that the spotting scope allows more light into the images. The Konus also has a camera adapter that makes it easier to connect with a camera of one’s choice. It is heavily-built and not as portable as other scopes within this price range. It also has a minimum focusing distance of 30ft, which may be of keen interest to bird-watchers as they would have to be quite a long distance away from the subject. The image quality of photos taken using the scope, even via (D) SLRs, is however not good since a lot of chromatic aberration can be seen in the photos. Due to its large, the scope may feel a little bit imbalanced when one is using it. It is, however, a good spotting scope when used strictly as a scope.

It is clear that even semi-professionals can get spotting scopes priced at less than $500 and still be able to do what they would wish to do with them. In as much as some brands are very expensive, an in-depth comparison reveals that some of the best spotting scopes under 500, such as the ones mentioned above, can yield pretty decent results when used appropriately.

Once know what you want to use a scope for, it will not be difficult to choose one among the options given above. In most cases, it’s how you use a scope and not necessarily the price range that will determine whether you get the best from it, or not.

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