Top Things to Consider When Choosing a Spotting Scope

A spotting scope is a portable optical aid designed for various activities like birdwatching, hunting, stargazing, and much more.

Spotting scopes come in handy for the applications that require more magnification power than a pair of typical binoculars can deliver.

If you are planning to purchase a spotting scope, you are likely to invest a decent amount in it, consequently making it extremely important for you to select the right unit. For this, you can go through the reviews and suggestions provided by

When it comes to picking the perfect scope, you must consider certain aspects before making any decision, and try to gather as much information as you can about the device.

Here are the top factors that should be kept in mind while choosing a spotting scope.


Most units come with a magnification ranging from 20x to 60x. Anything higher than this is more of a telescope than a spotting scope.

Remember that the larger the magnification of the scope, the narrower will be the image.

Lens Size and Quality

Most lens size of spotting scopes ranges between 50mm and 80mm, which are ideal for most applications. If you are likely to use it for low-light activities, you might want a bigger lens. However, a larger lens will make the scope heavier to carry.

For clear images with optimal brightness and color, spotting scopes with fully-multicoated lenses are the best.

Fixed or Variable Eyepiece

A spotting scope with a fixed eyepiece comes with a single power. This scope is perfect for steady observations such as astronomy and surveillance.

A scope with variable magnification is a more versatile option as you can switch the magnification depending on your requirements. This scope is ideal for recreations like birdwatching, target shooting, wildlife viewing, and hunting.

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It’s the most crucial factor to consider while determining the best spotting scope for you. The brand you choose must be compatible with your application, as the necessary features may vary depending on the purpose.

Here are some of the most common activities that need a spotting scope.

  • Hunting, Wildlife or Birdwatching

If you are a nature enthusiast, you may want to consider buying a unit with higher magnification, especially if you need the scope for hunting, as getting too close could scare away the game.

A larger lens ranging between 80mm and 100mm can be beneficial for birdwatching across dark treetops. However, a scope with around 80mm lens size works great for wildlife viewing or hunting in a plain region. A spotting scope with a 20-60x variable magnification is ideal for this purpose.

  • Stargazing

Stargazing needs maximum light. For this, you can go for a device with a magnification of 60x and a 100mm diameter lens.  These specs may cost you a fortune, but the visuals are worthwhile.

  • Surveillance

A spotting scope also makes an excellent surveillance tool. If you are likely to watch across a specific region, get a fixed spotting scope with 30x power and a smaller lens of around 65mm diameter.

It depends on the availability of light in that area. However, if you need a scope for tactical purposes, then high magnification and superior lens must be your priority.


The sole purpose of a spotting scope is to allow you to view the distant objects.

Yet, you should as well know the close-up focus range offered by your unit, as it’s quite necessary while birdwatching and hunting. 20ft to 25ft is a decent close-up focus range. For convenience, choose a device with a simple adjustment knob.

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Eye Relief

If you wear glasses, you may want to pay more attention to this feature. Eye relief is the distance between your eyes and the eyepiece to be able to observe the entire field of view.  If you use corrective glasses, make sure the equipment you select has an eye relief of 1.6mm or more.

Angled or Straight

Spotting scopes are available in two designs: Angled and Straight.

  • Straight Spotting Scope

In a straight spotting scope, the eyepiece is parallel to the barrel of the device. This design is easier to use while hunting on the ground. It ensures minimal strain on your neck in low-level viewing.

  • Angled Spotting Scope

In this scope, the eyepiece is mounted nearly 45° from the barrel axis. This design offers more comfort and ease when observing upwards, such as birdwatching and stargazing. It’s also ideal for group observation.


Digiscoping is one of the most exclusive features of the spotting scopes. Digiscoping refers to the mounting of a digital camera lens to the eyepiece to capture digital pictures of the view.

Many people even use the camera lens of their smartphones for digiscoping. Some high-end spotting scopes include adapters for mounting a smartphone and DSLR camera to the eyepiece. You may want to consider this feature if you are a digiscoping enthusiast.


As spotting scopes are quite heavy, mounting your equipment to a tripod is a good idea. Remember to include the cost of the tripod in your budget.

Choose a tripod that is firm enough to provide stability to your equipment, even in breezy conditions. For a straight scope, a full-size adjustable tripod is the best option, while a compact tripod will work great for an angled spotting scope.

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Cost and Warranty

Fix a budget before going for the buy. With a specific price tag in your mind, it becomes easier to choose, as you can look for the best one within your budget instead of wasting time on examining the models beyond your limit.

As you are investing a decent amount on the scope, go for a brand that comes with a reasonable warranty policy.


Never buy a spotting scope blindly. As it’s a lot of investment, you must do enough research to make sure the unit you buy is a good value for money.

Along with the aspects mentioned above, you may also want to consider other details such as durability, waterproofing, and ease of use.

Trying the equipment before buying is also a good idea. However, as it’s barely possible to try each brand individually, so comparing the reviews of different brands is another option.

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