Welcome to the ultimate Spotting Scope Buying Guide. This has been put together for hunters, shooters, and those who just want to enjoy nature and the wilderness that is often right in your backyard.
When it comes to spotting scopes, there is a wide range of quality and features to choose from, with some more suited to certain applications than others.
Often, the demands a hunter has for their spotting scope will differ from that of a shooter who will only use their spotting scope out at the shooting range, while the nature enthusiast or birder may require a different set of features in order to get the most use out of their spotting scope.
Table of Contents
- 1 Top 10 Spotting Scopes
- 1.1 Bushnell Elite Spotting Scope Model 784580
- 1.2 Kowa Model TSN-663-P
- 1.3 Nikon Prostaff 5 Model 6981
- 1.4 Minox Model 62225 Spotting Scope
- 1.5 ULTIMATE ARMS GEAR SPOTTING SCOPE
- 1.6 Barska Blackhawk Model AD10348
- 1.7 Levenhuk Blaze Model 50913
- 1.8 Firefield Model FF11011K Mini Spotting Scope
- 1.9 VisionKing Compact Spotting Scope
- 2 How Spotting Scopes Differ from Other Types of Optics?
- 3 Key Features to Look for in a Spotting Scope Based Upon your Needs:
- 4 Other Gear that Benefits your Spotting Scope, Features to Keep in Mind
- 5 Top 5 Tripods
- 6 Top 3 Carrying Cases for your Spotting Scope
This spotting scope buyers guide keeps all of that in mind, presenting the top 10 spotting scopes available on the market, looking at how spotting scopes differ from other types of scopes and what features to keep in mind for how you'll be using your scope.
We'll also go over some of the gear that will help you get the most out of your spotting scope, with detailed reviews of the best spotting scope tripods and cases on the market today.
Top 10 Spotting Scopes
This is a high-end spotting scope that delivers the high performance and crystal clear images that you would expect. It features an enormous 80mm objective lens, letting in even the smallest amount of light to provide you a detailed image of whatever you point it at. It also has quality ED glass to provide high color resolution, sharp contrast, clear outlines, and edge to edge detail. There is no magnification as this scope does not come with an eyepiece, you must purchase that separately.
While this raises the final price of this spotting scope in order for it to be operational, it means that you can choose just how much magnification you require. And with the high-quality features it does sport, you can be sure that whatever the magnification, this spotting scope will continue to outperform scopes you've previously owned. At 15.6 inches long and 3.1 pounds, this scope also comes with a carrying case and is fully waterproof.
Bushnell Elite Spotting Scope Model 784580
This a powerful spotting scope meant to be taken out into the bush and used for hunting. With 20-60x magnification, ED (extra low dispersion) fluoride glass, and an 80mm objective lens, this scope will produce crisp, clear images with high-resolution detail and color fidelity regardless of the weather conditions.
The fully multi-coated optics also feature Bushnell's patented RainGuard HD lens coating which reduces water props to near microscopic particles, allowing you a clear image whether you're in the snow or rain. This rubber armored spotting scope is fully waterproof and fogproof and features a 45 degree angled eyepiece. At 17 inches long and weighing only 4 pounds, this is a full-size spotting scope that won't weigh you down out in the field.
Kowa Model TSN-663-P
This is a really rugged lightweight scope, made of polycarbonate materials that provide a rigid structure that allow it to survive rolling down a mountain. It weighs a barely noticeable 2.3 pounds and comes in at just over a foot long. This scope has a 66mm objective lens and features Prominar ED glass to let in a lot of light and produce high-quality images with clear outlines and edge to edge detailed imagery at dawn, dusk, and even in overcast conditions. It is also waterproof to JIS class 7 protection standards and filled with dry nitrogen gas, rendering it waterproof and fogproof. This spotting scope comes with the option of several different eyepieces which give it a wide magnification range. However, these eyepieces are sold separately, so that does add to the overall cost of this high-performance scope.
Nikon Prostaff 5 Model 6981
This ergonomically designed scope features 16-48x zoom magnification, a 60mm objective lens, and multi-coated optics to produce high-quality images with crisp outlines, high color contrast, and true color rendition. This lightweight scope of 8.2 pounds also features a unique internal surface texturing that minimizes reflective light loss within the scope, helping you to see clearly in even low light conditions. While not quite a compact scope, this spotting scope strikes a nice balance between the high-quality performance of a full sized scope with the light weight and easy portability of a compact or mini spotting scope.
Minox Model 62225 Spotting Scope
This may be one of the most compact scopes on this spotting scope buying guide, but it has the durability and ruggedness to handle those long hunting trips into the most remote parts of nature. With a 16-30x magnification range, large 50mm objective lens, and rubber armor, this spotting scope is dustproof, fogproof, and waterproof to a depth of 5 meters. As you can see, this scope can really deliver which makes its size of only 1.5 pounds and 8.4 inches in length truly remarkable. It can easily be handheld, but can easily be used with a tripod, of course. This spotting scope also features an angled eyepiece and comes with a soft nylon carrying bag.
ULTIMATE ARMS GEAR SPOTTING SCOPE
This military sniper style spotting scope is packed with features that set this scope apart from others of even much higher price ranges. Featuring fully adjustable 20-60x magnification, multi-coated lenses, and a large 60 mm objective lens this scope will let in even the smallest amount of light to produce clean images.
It also comes with a red dot laser sight to make sure it's on target, a 9" tripod, extendable sunshade, lens caps, lens cleaning kit, soft nylon carrying case, and batteries for the laser sight.
At 20.25 inches long and weighing 58 ounces, this scope also green rubber armor, nitrogen purged housing, and O-ring seals that provide waterproof, fogproof, and shock resistant protection. This is a great starter or backup spotting scope with a lot of features and value.
Barska Blackhawk Model AD10348
This is a great lightweight spotting scope that gets the job done. With 18-36x magnification and a 50mm objective lens, this mighty little scope has plenty of power. And with multi-coated optics and a glare-reducing sunshade, this scope will let you see clearly while providing sharp contrast and image quality. This scope has a very simple, elegant design with angled eyepiece, rubber shock-absorbing armor, and is completely waterproof and fogproof, allowing it to handle whatever Mother Nature throws at you. Weighing 3.3 pounds and only 12.5 inches long, this scope also comes with a tripod and soft carrying case, letting you cross a few more items off your list of gear to get for that next big hunting trip.
Levenhuk Blaze Model 50913
This spotting scope features 20-60x magnification and a large 80mm objective lens (that's just over 3 inches) allowing you to study objects as close as 26.2 feet. It's FOV (field of view) at 20x and 1000 yards is 87 feet, at 60x and 1000 yards it is 42 feet, providing just enough power to spot your quarry out in the bush as you hike through the forest.
Made of durable polycarbonate materials, this scope is rugged and can take a beating while still delivering high quality fully waterproof and fogproof performance. This spotting scope also comes with a table top tripod, perfect for when you're in your stand or out in the field and need to stay low, and a hard carrying case that holds both the scope and tripod. Weighing just 2.2 pounds and only 19.3 inches long, this scope is perfect to toss in your pack as you head out into the wilderness.
Firefield Model FF11011K Mini Spotting Scope
This is a great lightweight, compact spotting scope that still offers the durability and high performance you'd expect from a larger scope. With 20-50x magnification as well as quick focus and zoom knobs, the fully multi-coated optics will provide you with crystal-clear images and high color contrast resolution.
With a compact tripod and soft nylon carrying case with a shoulder strap, this mighty and durable 1 pound scope is great for taking to the range or as a light addition to your gear when planning that day long hunt into the bush. At only 14 inches long, this spotting scope is nitrogen purged, making it fogproof and able to withstand the variable temperatures you encounter on your day hunts.
VisionKing Compact Spotting Scope
This compact spotting scope features a wide magnification range of 20-75x and a large 70mm objective lens with fully multi-coated optics to produce high quality, crystal clear images on your next hunt. Its FOV at 1000 meters is 37 meters at 20x and 19 meters at 75x, ensuring you have a clear enough image to count the tines on that trophy buck you've got your eye on. This lightweight spotting scope of 1100 grams comes with a carrying case, matching tripod, and dual focus knobs for easy focus adjustments when you need to focus quickly. With durable rubber armor, nitrogen purged housing, and O-ring seals, this scope can handle the rough and tumble outdoors as it is waterproof and fogproof.
How Spotting Scopes Differ from Other Types of Optics?
The primary difference between spotting scopes and other types of optics is that it is a free-standing scope that is not attached to your gun nor is it a large astronomy style telescope. They are designed to be used to spot wildlife or objects, primarily for land-based objects, although, many can be used to look at celestial bodies. They are also used by hunters to scout wildlife prior to season start, to know what is in the area and where to hunt, as well as to visually track their quarry. Shooters also find them invaluable at the shooting range, as they are used to help sight a gun as well as identifying hits on the target. With distance shooting, a spotting scope saves you from having to walk 1000 yards just to see if you hit the target or not. But spotting scopes have also a lot to offer to the naturalist, birder, photographer, or amateur astronomer. They're useful for spotting birds or animals in their natural habitat and many spotting scopes come with an adapter allowing you to take pictures through the scope, affording you great close up and highly detailed shots of animals you would have a difficult time seeing up close. These long-range scopes will allow you as well to clearly make out the moon, inner planets, and near-Earth objects with great clarity and detail.
Some spotting scopes require a tripod for proper use and stability of view, while some others can be used by hand or with a neck strap for ease of access.
Key Features to Look for in a Spotting Scope Based Upon your Needs:
- Sun Protection
When you go out as a hunter or shooter, you'll likely need something that can withstand adverse weather conditions, so a rubberized housing to help protect your scope from bangs and provide added waterproofing is essential for wet conditions. Toughness and rugged construction are also needed as they will ensure that your equipment can withstand the heavy use that goes hand in hand with hunting. So, looking for a spotting scope that offers durable construction with rubber armor is helpful as it will absorb shock from your gun as well as withstand damage from those "how did that just happen" moments.
Many spotting scopes are also either nitrogen filled or nitrogen purged which, while not exactly the same thing, ensures that the scope won't, or won't as easily, fog over due to fluctuating temperature changes, as often occurs in early mornings when the sun finally crests the treetops. This is a useful feature regardless of use.
The optics are the most important part of a spotting scope and this is where the most variation is to be seen. Lens coating can be fully multi-coated, multi-coated, or any variety of proprietary coating. This coating protects against scratching and provides dust resistance, with some proprietary coating also providing extra wetness protection for use on a rainy day.
While it may seem trivial, a sun shade can greatly increase the comfort and usability of your spotting scope, and many scopes come with additional features to help reduce glare.
There are numerous other features available in a spotting scope, but all those bells and whistles are nothing without the basics that actually provide you a usable piece of equipment that will get the job done. Keep reading this spotting scope buying guide as we'll take a look at some gear that you will need for a full experience.
For an easy way to compare features and scope types, check out our Spotting Scope Comparison Chart.
Other Gear that Benefits your Spotting Scope, Features to Keep in Mind
As you likely noticed in the above spotting scope reviews, some spotting scopes come with additional features, like a carrying case or tripod, that greatly enhance their usability. Most spotting scopes are specifically designed for use with a tripod and will not work effectively without one. Not all tripods are created equally, however, and while it is a simple piece of equipment there are many tripods that just can't handle spotting scopes and will fail out in the field.
Below, we've taken a look at the 5 best tripods for use with a spotting scope. Directly beneath that, you'll find the top 3 carrying cases to safely transport and store your spotting scope in. Even high-quality manufacturers don't always focus as much attention on that included carrying case as they could, so when you need something better either out in the field or for when taking that cross country flight for that once-in-a-lifetime hunt, you're sure to find the perfect carrying case for your needs.
Top 5 Tripods
Bushnell Advanced 784030 Tripod
This full sized tripod extends from 18.3 inches to 61 inches and is perfect for out at the shooting range or those situations where ease of portability isn't a deal breaker.
With durable aluminum legs that can be individually adjusted, allowing it to be used on uneven surfaces, this powerful tripod can support up to 11 pounds -meaning it can handle that beast of a spotting scope you love showing off at the range.
This tripod folds up to 26 inches and weighs 5.5 pounds. It features padded foam leg cushions to provide comfort when adjusting the legs in hot or cold temperatures. It also has a 3-way pan/tilt universal head that fits a wide variety of spotting scopes and even cameras and binoculars. It has a sliding center column with a tension control, wing nut leg locks and has a rugged corrosion-resistant finish to provide years of use.
RetiCAM MT-01 Table-Top Tripod
This durable and compact spotting scope tripod differs from other table top tripods in that it is adjustable, extending from 10.75 inches to a height of 19 inches. It comes with a 3-way pan head with smooth and effortless pan and tilt motion.
Weighing just under 2 pounds, this rugged aluminum scope also features a quick release plate, and 3 section legs with quick snap flip locks. The geared center post is 20mm in diameter, making it sturdy and allowing for quick and easy height adjustments.
Supporting up to 6 pounds, this is a great highly portable scope that can withstand the demands of the field and is perfect for those hunters who expect their equipment to be able to withstand being used without falling apart.
Konus 3-Pod 6 1955 Tripod
This is a brand new spotting scope that shows a lot of promise. With a compact height of 15.3 inches and an extra light weight of 1.4 pounds, this heavy-duty all metal construction table top tripod is perfect for use at the range and fits easily into your shooting bag. It adjusts easily, allowing you to set your spotting scope at just the right height atop the shooting bench.
This scope is rugged and durable, making it great for use out on the field and able to withstand being left in your vehicle to bounce around as you traverse those back country roads en route to your secret hunting spot.
Its light weight and compact size won't weigh you down when hiking across the mountains after elk or wading through the marshes after that legendary swamp buck.
Barska Deluxe AF10374 Tripod
This full-size spotting scope tripod extends from 26.6 inches to an impressive 63.4 inches. It features a 2-way fluid head with a quick release function, allowing you to more easily attach your scope to the head and then press the lever for quick connection to the tripod.
This tripod folds down nicely and weighs only 3.9 pounds. With rubber non-slip feet and sturdy individually extendable legs, this tripod features an attached plastic carrying handle for ease of use. It is also strong enough to handle heavy spotting scopes, even those cumbersome front heavy scopes that usually slip and won't hold steady in other tripods. It comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
Vortex Ridgeview RDGVW Tripod
This full size spotting scope tripod folds down to a convenient 23 inches, while extending between 35.5 inches and 60.9 inches, allowing a lot of room for adjustment so you can get just the right height for your needs. It also has a ball head, allowing you to position your spotting scope at any angle you choose.
The quick release plate allows for simpler mounting of your spotting scope and quick disconnection in case you need to move quickly. This is a sturdy tripod suitable for those backpacking trips out to the forest to check on the local elk or mule deer herds as it weighs a light 3.6 pounds.
Top 3 Carrying Cases for your Spotting Scope
Snug-Fit Snug Rug Carrying Case for Spotting Scopes
This case comes in two different sizes, suitable for mid-size spotting scopes, and features 360 degree molded foam protection for your precision optics. All around zippers allow you to quickly and easily remove your spotting scope for those moments when you need to see now.
This high quality and rugged case also feature an external accessory pocket to hold a lens cleaning kit or just a handy place to store those pesky wandering lens caps when using your scope. This case also has unique foam gear grippers on the bottom of the bag to conveniently hang on to even heavy spotting scope tripods.
Pelican 1510-000-110 Carry On Case with Foam
If you're in need of a heavy duty hard carrying case that you can throw in the back of the truck or place into the overhead compartment on your next flight, then this is exactly what you're looking for. This case is 13.81x9x22" externally and features an open cell core with solid wall design. This makes it strong while still a relatively lightweight 14.55 pounds.
It features a retractable extension handle for easy portability and is watertight, crushproof, and dust proof thanks to an O-ring seal and automatic pressure equalization valve that still allows for easy opening along with the easy open double throw latches. It also features rubber over-molded handles, stainless steel hardware, and has a customizable nameplate available.
Interior measurements are 19.75x11x7.6" and comes with a four-piece customizable foam set to allow for perfect protection of your equipment. Pelican also offers special organizers customized for these cases, so you can better protect your personal items (watch video below).
Hazard Jelly Roll Spotting Scope Case with MOLLE
This spotting scope case was made to be taken out into the wilderness. It can be added onto or into MOLLE webbing vests or bags and is covered with MOLLE arrays to greatly increase your capacity for attaching additional gear or pouches. You can also attach a shoulder strap onto this for easy carrying, too.
With four point D-ring attachments, this case also has a wide loop-fastener area for ID, patches, or badges. With the included moveable divider, you can also carry two compact lenses safely inside should you also want to use this case for photography. Internal measurements are 9 by 4.5 inches.
Spotting Scope Buying Guide Conclusion
Whether you are headed out to the shooting range to punch some paper, finally going on that big hunt that you've been planning all year, or just going down to your local park to find that rare bird that is supposedly in the area, a quality spotting scope with the features that you need can make all the difference in your experience.
Make sure you keep in mind how you plan on using your new spotting scope when comparing brands, models, and prices, as some spotting optics are more versatile than others and some are just overkill for basic uses. Hopefully, this spotting scope buying guide has given you an idea of what to look for in a spotting scope for your applications, as well as giving you a few spotting scopes to choose from as you finalize your choices.