Similar to binoculars, before buying a spotting scope (which has a considerably larger magnification power than the binoculars) the first thing that should come into your mind is what you want it for. Whether you are a nature lover or a birdwatcher, you are into astronomy or hunting, either way, a good spotting scope may prove to be a valuable asset for you.
Also important to note is that the spotting scope usually needs to be fitted on a tripod (required to prevent unsteady images at such high magnification levels), so you will have to pay some extra cash for it. If you are into photography and want to take your experience to the next level, you might be looking around for a spotting scope that supports digiscoping – a technique that helps you take a picture using your spotting scope and the camera combined.
When representing the specifications of a spotting scope, the first two numbers would indicate its magnification range and the third is the size of its objective lens. For example, a spotting scope with a spec of 20-60×60 would describe the zoom (magnification) ranging from 20x to 60x and the lens size of 60mm.
A larger magnification will take you close to the subjects, as a result, narrowing the field of view (FoV) while a large-sized lens would deliver an image with a great amount of detail.
Straight vs Angled Spotting Scope?
While you are out looking for the best spotting scope for your needs, you will know about two words that describe their physical shape – straight or angled.
- Straight scopes: look very much like the monoculars. They have the eyepiece in line with the lens and the barrel.
- Angled scopes: have an eyepiece that makes a 45 to 90-degree angle with the body of the scope. They are easier to use compared to the straight scopes as they allow comfortable viewing positions.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the best spotting scopes that suit a variety of budgets and needs.
1. Celestron Regal M2 65ED (Overall Winner)
The Celestron Regal M2 65ED is a premium spotting scope that can be used for a variety of tasks. Whether you are a birdwatcher, a nature lover or even a stargazer, this scope is suitable for you.
The scope’s body is constructed with magnesium alloy and weighs 1327g. It features a decent magnification range of 16-48x and an objective diameter of 65mm. The Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) glass is a premium feature of the Celestron Regal M2 which is used in top quality lenses.
The Celestron Regal M2 65ED is equipped with a dual focus mechanism, which allows you to focus on the target subject two times faster. It supports digiscoping as it comes packed with a T-adapter ring, which can be used to attach a DSLR with the scope to capture the image.
2. Roxant Blackbird HD (Best Budget Choice)
The Roxant Blackbird HD is the best spotting scope being offered at a very reasonable price. Although it doesn’t match the performance of the more expensive high-end spotting scopes, it does quite well considering its price.
It offers a magnification range of 12 – 36x, which may not seem enough, however, it gives the scope a good exit pupil size, meaning you get improved performance in low light situations.
Compared to the at least 60mm objective lens that other competitors offer, the Roxant Blackbird features a 50mm lens, which is multi-coated and adds very little weight to the scope. Hence with a weight of only 490g, it’s one of the lightest and portable spotting scopes you will find on the market.
Another impressive thing about the Roxant Blackbird is that it makes use of the advanced Bak4 glass in its prisms. This glass is used in more advanced spotting scopes and delivers razor-sharp images with accurate and vivid colors. It’s a massive step up over the BK7 glass that you will find in other spotting scopes in a similar price range. The scope’s adjustable eyecup gives enough eye relief which enables you to use it while wearing glasses.
If you are just starting your journey with spotting scopes or have a tight budget, the Roxant Blackbird is an ideal choice for you.
3. Kowa TSN-883 (Best for Birdwatchers)
The Kowa TSN-883 is a premium-grade spotting scope which costs a lot. Usually, the performance of a scope can be determined by the quality of the glass used in it and the Kowa 880 series features a pure fluorite glass known for its top quality. It delivers outstanding sharpness and detail like no other.
The TSN-883 has a big 88mm objective lens which adds significant weight to the scope while it helps gather more light for image clarity. Not only do you get brighter images, but you also get top-notch low light performance where other scopes struggle to keep fine details.
You can use two external eyepieces with the scope – a fixed option with 25x magnification and a variable option with 25x – 60x magnification. These eyepieces are separately purchased and give the scope an additional weight of 370g.
The scope offers water resistance to some degree. You can’t keep it submerged in water for long periods, but it will work in rainstorms without a problem. The chamber of the scope contains dry nitrogen to prevent fog and mist from accumulating.
For quick and accurate focusing, the TSN-883 utilizes a dual focus system. With only two rotations you can quickly bring the focus from maximum range to just five meters. Hence you get an ultimate focus accuracy and it also makes the scope suitable for digiscoping.
People with a passion for birdwatching would love to have the Kowa TSN-883. The scope can be purchased in both straight and angled options.
4. Vortex Optics Razor HD (Best for Hunters)
The Vortex Optics Razor HD is an excellent quality spotting scope that is aimed at hunters. It’s durable and comes in both straight or angled options. There are a variety of lens and magnification options available as well. One of them is a 27-60×85 version, which is more suitable for hunters.
Images are sharp and clear with great colors, thanks to its apochromatic glass that the scope uses along with the HD glass. Although the Vortex Optics Razor doesn’t feature the fluorite glass, it uses the next best material. Multiple coatings are applied to the lenses which help improve light transmission and reduce color distortions.
The scope offers an outstanding exit pupil size due to its huge 85mm objective lens. Therefore, you get an extraordinary low light performance. It comes with water and fog resistance and an ArmorTek coating which not only is scratch resistant but also protects the exterior of the lens.
The Razor HD is loaded with tons of features that help it stand out as one of the premium spotting scopes for hunting on the market.
5. Redfield Rampage (Best Scope Under $200)
This spotting scope offers a great value for the money. With a variable magnification of 20-60x and a large 60mm lens size, it is aimed at spotting wildlife. Other suitable features to aid in this are its water-resistant body and retractable lens hood.
This scope offers a minimum focus distance of six meters and a good FoV of 125 meters at 1000 meters, which seems great for tracking moving subjects. However, the size of its exit pupil isn’t enough for low light performance. This shouldn’t be a problem if you plan to use the scope in bright sunny conditions.
Images are sharp and clear as the Redfield Rampage uses the Bak4 prisms. Multiple coatings applied to the lenses also help improve image clarity and resolution.
Its polycarbonate-built body indicates that the scope should be lightweight but that isn’t exactly the case here. It’s heavy, but if weight is not an issue for you, the Rampage delivers decent performance with its larger objective lens and powerful magnification at a very reasonable price.
Picking the Best Spotting Scope
Spotting scopes are incredible tools for enhanced vision. There are a significant amount of options being introduced each year which makes it difficult for a user to pick the most suitable one for their purposes.
We have compiled a list of some of the best spotting scopes that can be used for a variety of needs, such as birdwatching, hunting, stargazing, and more. These include options for both beginners and experts and, some of them are being offered at a considerably lower price. Happy spotting!