Wildlife observing has become a hobby for many people; some people love to watch birds and some others like keeping memories of their safari trips. For this purpose, spotting scopes have become quite a necessity for these nature lovers; therefore, companies are doing their best to provide users with the best quality and the most affordable price.
Nobody can deny that Nikon has a great reputation in the field of optics and photography; I mean who doesn’t want to have their own Nikon DSLR and make the best photographs with its features. Nikon is now manufacturing a wide range of spotting scopes to satisfy its clients and give them the opportunity to witness the best experience in their life.
In this article, I will be explaining for you the features of a spotting scope and I will help you choose one of the best Nikon products.
Why should you buy a spotting scope?
Whether you are one of those who like spending their time in full nature and enjoy discovering animal habits, or a professional photographer who wants a stunning photograph of a tiny bird in the woods for the cover of a magazine, or a hunter who would like to get a good view of his game, or even if you are fond of astronomy and like to chase stars through a telescope… The spotting scope is always suitable for you and there are many useful types to fit your needs. Keep reading until the bottom so you can make a better idea about spotting scopes.
Through the evolution of technology, spotting scopes have changed from old pieces of wood and low quality glass to new pieces of pure magic: ergonomic material containing high density glass and available in different shapes, but the most obvious difference is the direction of the eyepiece: Straight or Angled.
Straight Vs Angled
A spotting scope can be manufactured under two versions: the first one is straight version, which means the eyepiece on that spotting scope is perfectly straight and directly parallel to the objective lens. A great example of this is the straight version of the Nikon Prostaff 5. The second one is the angled version, which means the eyepiece makes an angle (generally 30° or 45°) with the objective lens. See the angled version of the Nikon Prostaff 5 for an example of this.
Both angled and straight versions have pros and cons, for example straight spotting scopes can be easily held by hand if you are observing a moving target or you are in a moving car, while the angled one is easier to use when fixed on a tripod.
What features to look for
Before buying a spotting scope, you must carefully check its features and see if they fit the particular needs of yours or not, because a small detail can make a difference between two spotting scopes.
The main features to look for are magnification, lens size, general size, so let’s look at those.
Magnification means how much your spotting scope can zoom in. I mean having a binocular which can zoom in 20 times is awesome but when it comes to spotting scopes, the magnification is generally adjustable and goes from 15 up to 90 times. This is insane, 90 times? Yes, 90 and you can see an animal 2 miles away from you. However, keep in mind that most scopes will produce fuzzy images near the top of their magnification range. To have any hope of seeing anything at that magnification, you’ll need to go for a really high-end product, such as the Nikon Fieldscope 82mm.
Magnification power is indicated somewhere on the spotting scope you are buying: you will find 3 double digit numbers which the first two of them are separated with a ‘-‘: magnification power varies between these two numbers. In other terms, if you see 20-60×82 on your spotting scope, it means it has a magnification power which goes from 20 to 60 times.
In general, 60x magnification power spotting scopes are the best in the market since they can provide you with the best optical performance with a simple tripod adjustment while bigger magnification power is limited to a professional use and needs additional support to stay stable and give a clear image.
Another important parameter is lens size, which is the diameter of the front lens where all the light comes into the spotting scope. This parameter is considered very important because it is the one which is responsible for the clarity and brightness of the image. How is that? The light comes into the spotting scope through this lens, when it is wide enough, it will allow more light to come in, therefore it will make the image clearer and brighter.
This feature is the third number of the numbers I talked about in the magnification power section. More precisely, if the description says 20-60×82, then your spotting scope’s lens has an 82mm diameter.
What else to take into consideration?
Size and weight – to make sure you are comfortable with the size of your spotting scope, try to buy a light product which has a short shape, but the same qualities as the recommended ones. You may pay a bit more for this feature but don’t ignore it, holding a two-kilogram spotting scope on a long hike is not easy. Anything between 700 and 1500 grams is recommended. Have a look at the Nikon Prostaff 5 with a 60mm lens if you want a light package.
Necessity of tripod – most of these products are sold without a tripod included, you have to buy a suitable tripod for them, because without a tripod, a spotting scope is nearly useless.
Having all of the above in mind, you can move down to the most important section, the review section, where you will find a variety of Nikon spotting scopes with a detailed review of each one of them.
Nikon engineered this top-notch spotting scope to amaze us with its innovative and creative work; this product is made of top quality material and provides breath-taking results: wide field of view and great close-range focusing.
It has a 20 to 60 times variable magnification power, an 82 mm wide objective lens and an angled eyepiece.
- Very wide objective lens (82mm) which means brighter image even in critical moments of the day such as sunrise and sunset
- Built-in Sliding Sunshade for images free of extreme brightness and also protects the lens from rain.
- Multicoated optics to reduce the reflection of light inside the spotting scope and enhance the contrast of the image.
- Very light material and compact size which means it can be easily portable with additional gear.
- Water and fog proof
- The eyepiece is in fixed position so it does not rotate to suit different conditions.
- Users have said it’s fragile and sensitive to shocks.
Other than the straight eyepiece, this product is very similar to the angled version. 20 to 60 times magnification power and 82 mm wide objective lens.
This spotting scope is best recommended for beginners as it is very simple to use and provides satisfying results.
The pros and cons of both Nikon Prostaff 5 angled and straight spotting scopes are the same except that the straight one is more portable than the angled one because of its simple shape.
This one here is also similar to the Prostaff 5 spotting scopes above in its basic parameters: the Fieldscope 82mm ED is a straight body spotting scope and comes with an 82 mm wide objective lens and 20 to 60 times magnification power.
However, the similarities end there. The optics used in this spotting scope are very high-end and make its price obvious since it is clearly more expensive than the two mentioned above. It comes equipped with many features that make it amazing for professional use.
- Amazing optics.
- Wide objective lens for better clarity and brightness
- Built-in Sliding Sunshade for the protection of the objective lens and elimination of unnecessary sunlight.
- Multicoated layers of glass to enhance image quality and block reflective light
- Smooth integrated focus ring which is useful for quick focus.
- Water and fog proof
- Its size is not comfortable for long walks (weighs 1500 grams and is 325 mm long)
- The price.
With the same size specs, the Nikon Monarch 20-60X82 ED angled wins a place among the best Nikon products for field scoping.
With a 20 to 60 magnification power and an 82 mm wide objective lens, this angled spotting scope provides the most satisfying optical performance and allows users to have a great wildlife observing experience.
Clarity and brightness always maintained with the amazing 82mm objective lens, this product also comes with important features.
The pros and cons of this one are the same as the previous but it is cheaper and has a more compact size.
Arriving to a different range of Nikon spotting scopes, the 13-30X50mm ED 50 is among the best in its league. With only 13 to 30 times magnification power, this spotting scope is limited to particular activities but allows the user to get the best quality for objects at a moderate distance.
Its 50mm objective lens is smaller than the other ones but is enough for close observing. I mean at 30X, the 50mm delivers good brightness and great contrast.
- Equipped with ED extra-low dispersion glass for best quality and resolution
- Can be used with different Fieldscope eyepieces
- Equipped with built-in sunshade to protect against excessive sunlight
- Super light (only 450 grams) which makes it among the most portable products in Nikon spotting scopes range
- Water and fog proof.
- Not suitable for long range observing
Another product of the close range observing spotting scopes is the Prostaff 3 which comes with a 16 to 48 times magnification power and 60mm wide objective lens.
The 60 mm objective lens is pretty good at 48X in terms of performance. This straight spotting scope is considered is one-of-a-kind since it delivers decent results in a very light package and allows users to observe wildlife during different moments of the day even sunrise or sunset when the light is fading. It’s not very powerful or high-end though, so its applications are limited.
- Fully rubber armored for protection.
- Tripod included
- Case included
- Very light for packing (450 grams and 300mm)
- Water and fog proof
- Focus is not very sharp
- Focus ring is not well integrated (hard to turn)
- Significant quality decrease above 25X magnification
- The included tripod is all plastic and very sensitive to shocks
- Eye relief not comfortable
Finally, I would like to say that all Nikon products are well-made and carefully manufactured, including Nikon spotting scopes that make a significant mark in the evolution of spotting scopes. It is true that Nikon spotting scopes are not the best on the market but their quality versus price ratio is very good, since you will receive top quality glass and nice features for a relatively low cost.