Choosing a spotting scope that fits both your budget and your preferences is absolutely hard. Usually, you will get what you pay for, $200 will get you a normal scope, $500 will get you a fairly good one, while $2000 will get you the best on the market.
When you are low in budget and want to find a decent spotting scope, you will need to dig deep and check the descriptions of hundreds of products before making a decision. For this reason, I made this article to make the choosing process easier for you and to tell you what are the most important features you should focus on when purchasing a product.
First, limit your preferences
The first thing you need to start with when buying a spotting scope under $500 is setting a very tight limit to your preferences. Start asking yourself what you will need this spotting scope for? What range you will be shooting at? What are the weather conditions under which you will be using your scope?
The answers to these questions will help you set priorities and limit your requirements. For example, if you need a spotting scope for birding at close ranges under a clear sky and great weather, a 15-45X 60mm is more than enough for you. Same thing apply to Golf range finding, wildlife observing and even telescoping. Yet, a better quality will be needed for other activities such as shooting and target finding, this requires a great magnification power which reaches 60X and amazing optics to meet the magnification and provide clear images as well as specific material used to make it durable because such a costly investment must last for decades.
Once you finished with knowing exactly what you want, you can move to step two which will help you explore some great products and eliminate the high-end scopes from the list.
Second, check the best affordable spotting scopes that fit your budget
It is true that you won’t get a Swarovski for $500 but why not something that somehow reaches the quality of the high-end Swarovskis? Well, some brands have very good products at $500 such as Vortex, Bushnell, Celestron, Leupold… All of these manufacturers give you the opportunity to buy a suitable scope for the little amount of money you have.
Anyway, you still have another step to go through before making your final decision. It is the most important step everyone has to do to ensure that the material he paid for is worth it.
Third, check the description of the product and its features
Magnification power, objective lens size, field of view, tripod adaptability… all these features need to be checked to make sure that the product you are buying will do the job in the field.
For $500 you can get 15-45X magnification which is largely sufficient for many activities. Besides, given the fact that you won’t get great optics for this amount of money, you should stick to 15-45X to get clear images and good resolution.
60mm wide objective lens is the best for mid-range scopes, 80mm is good but you will struggle with sunlight glare as the optics used won’t have an antireflective sun shade.
The field of view is usually a matter of magnification, the bigger the magnification, the narrower the FOV. However, try to choose an eyepiece that conserves and provides a wide enough FOV to your eyes especially if you have a moving target.
Weight and size are also important since you will need to pack your spotting scope with other gears and take it with every day you need it. Therefore, try the compact size and the straight shape particularly if you are a beginner with such gear. Otherwise go for an angled body but don’t forget to purchase a tripod to guarantee stability.
Finally, as I mentioned in the beginning, you will get what you pay for but there is still a difference between some brands. So, if the aspects mentioned above meet your preferences, go for the scope. Otherwise, spend some more cash to get a better quality and additional tools that will make your experience stunning. Do never forget to test the product if you are able to do so, if you are buying online, check the reviews and work with our advice. Good luck!