Best Spotting Scopes of 2017 – Top Picks & Buying Guide

using a spotting scope in the nature

Whether you’re keen on bird watching, target shooting or hunting, a spotting scope could prove to be very useful. A small portable telescope, a spotting scope produces a vertical image and offers much higher magnification than a pair of binoculars. This allows you to see across great distances which can be vital in certain situations.

So why should you get a spotting scope? Well, one of the best things about spotting scopes is that they’re far better for viewing objects on land and sea than telescopes. What’s more, they’re very portable which makes them ideal for people who want to travel light when on a long nature walk or a hunt, for example. A spotting scope can make your life easier, particularly if you choose the right product. Luckily we’re here to help you find the best spotting scope for you!

Our Top 5 Spotting Scope Picks

ModelMagnificationLens DiameterUser RatingPrice
Vortex Optics Razor Hd Angled
Vortex-Optics-Razor-Hd-27-60-x-85-Angled-1
27-60x85mm4.9/5
#1 Pick
$$$$$
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Celestron 52306 Regal M2
Celestron 52306 Regal
22-67x100mm4.5/5$$$$
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Konus 7122B
konus-7122B-final
20-60x100mm4.3/5
Bargain
$$$
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Celestron 52252
Celestron-52252-small
22-66x100mm4.1/5$$$
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Emarth 20-60x60AE
Emarth-20-60x60AE-small
20-60x60mm3.9/5
Budget
$
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Now that we know what a spotting scope can do for you, let’s take a look at our list of spotting scope reviews. These products have been specially selected because they’re the best of the best. You can learn all about their various features as well as their pros and cons. But don’t stop there! Following the detailed reviews, you can find our buying guide which provides you with all of the top tips for buying the perfect spotting scope. Let’s get started!

1. Vortex Optics Razor Hd 27-60 x 85 Angled - Our Top Pick

The excellent quality offered by the Vortex Optics Razor Hd is reflected in the lofty price tag. But if your budget can stretch to meet it, you’ll find that it’s undoubtedly the best spotting scope for hunting, birding and target watching. First of all, we should address the excellent image quality offered by this product. A triplet apochromatic lens and high-density glass provide very impressive color sharpness. Combine this color with the sharp resolution and you have some very high definition images indeed.This proves to be of vital importance in activities such as hunting when there is a real need to distinguish between similar colors and tones.

The 27-60 x 85 wide angle design serves up a much greater field of view throughout the zoom range. Anti-light reflective coatings and multi-layer prism coatings ensure that images are not just sharp and full of color, but with plenty of brightness too. That it can make the most of low light is very important. It means that you’re not too limited by the time of day or indeed poor weather. The design of the Vortex Optics Razor is a compromise between being slim and sleek yet sufficiently sturdy so as not to be flimsy. The slim shape makes this spotting scope easy to pack and it weighs just 4 lbs which means it won’t weigh you down. It’s a great all-round product and the only negative is that the price which may put this product out of reach for some.

Pros

  • High definition images help you distinguish between colors and tones
  • Offers excellent brightness for use in low-light conditions
  • Design is a nice compromise between being sleek yet sturdy

Cons

  • While the price-to-performance is excellent, it’s still an expensive product

2. Celestron 52306 Regal M2 - The Runner-up

If the price of the Vortex Optics Razor is a little off-putting, you may be interested to know about the Celestron 52306 Regal M2. This is a popular spotting scope at a more affordable price. With the ED objective lens, the user benefits from accurate reproduction of colors as well as increased resolution and contrast. This makes the Regal M2 a particularly great product for bird watchers and nature enthusiasts who can see nature in all its glory with a top quality image. One of the most impressive features of this product is the optics which make the product ideal for target-shooting enthusiasts. The 22-67 x zoom eyepiece is excellent and adjustments can be made quickly and easily with the smooth controls.

One of the most impressive features of this product is the optics which make the product ideal for target-shooting enthusiasts. The 22-67 x zoom eyepiece is excellent and adjustments can be made quickly and easily with the smooth controls.

Of course, it’s not just about the views presented by the spotting scope. The unit itself needs to be of a good, solid build and thankfully this Celestron spotting scope ticks this box. A magnesium alloy body means it is strong and durable but still nice and light in comparison to those made of aluminum, for example. This is reflected in the products 5 lbs weight. While this product comes with a lifetime warranty, some buyers have stated that the coverage offered isn’t particularly good. It’s always worth investigating and finding out about the warranty in advance of purchase.

Pros

  • The ED glass offers clear and crisp viewing
  • Great quality optics for the price
  • Build quality is solid and durable

Cons

  • The lifetime warranty is not as good as it sounds

3. Konus 7122B - Best for the Money

While the Celestron 52306 is a more affordable spotting scope, the low price doesn’t come close to that of the Konus 7122B. But does this cheap price impede on the quality offered? Well, this product has a 100mm multi-coated objective lens and offers 20-60x zoom. The wide viewing angle is a real selling point for this particular spotting scope and we particularly like that viewing is made even easier with the 45-degree angled eyepiece. The multi-coated optics help to increase brightness which is particularly good for those who are enjoying some early morning or evening hunting or bird watching. It’s also easy to set up and use.

We believe that this is one of the best spotting scopes under $500. In particular, we appreciate the value offered by this product in the form of some great features. The Konus 7122B is waterproof and has a durable metal body which is rubber armored. What’s more, it comes with a range of accessories including a smartphone/camera adapter and a soft nylon carrying case for additional portability. It would, of course, be better if the included case was hard rather than soft but for a more value spotting scope option, it isn’t to be expected. Also, it’s a relatively bulky spotting scope and it is on the heavy side, particularly in comparison to more expensive models.

Pros

  • Very easy to set up and start using
  • Excellent optics for the price
  • Offers a wide field of view

Cons

  • Included carry case is soft rather than hard
  • It’s quite bulky and not very light, reducing portability

4. Celestron 52252 - Worth Considering

Another spotting scope option very much worth considering is the Celestron 52252. One of the most consistent comments from consumers online is the optics which are very impressive for the price. Indeed the multi-coated optics offer excellent contrast and image brightness while the 100mm size is a generous size and allows for brighter images. This makes the Celestron 52252 particularly useful in low light conditions. The 22-66x zoom is solid though the image deteriorates quite a lot at the upper range. This is the case with most spotting scopes but more so with a more budget option such as this.

If you’re likely to rely on significant zoom for bird watching, target shooting or hunting, buying a solid, stable tripod base is certainly something to consider.

While the Celestron 52252 does come with a soft carry case, it doesn’t come with a tripod. This is something that you will likely need with this product particularly if you’re using the spotting scope at the target range. This should allow you to get the best use out of it. Regarding the soft carry case, it doesn’t offer much in the way of protection. For the price, this is a fairly rugged product that is said to be 100% waterproof. However, one issue with this spotting scope is that it’s a little too bulky and at 7 lbs, it’s not the most portable either. Overall it’s a good spotting scope for the money that could benefit from a tripod.

Pros

  • It’s a well-built product that should prove to be durable
  • Offers excellent image quality for the price

Cons

  • The hefty weight reduces its portability
  • Quality deteriorates significantly at high levels of zoom

5. Emarth 20-60x60AE - A Budget Buy

For one of the best spotting scopes under $200, you can’t go too wrong with the Emarth 20-60x60 AE. It features an angled scope with variable 20-60x magnification. The quality provided at lower levels of magnification is very good for the price but anything more than that and the image can become somewhat fuzzy. However, image quality can be improved by using a tripod and thankfully, the Emarth 20-60x60AE comes with a tripod included! However, this is said to be not the best quality which you’d perhaps expect for the price. Other included accessories such as a carrying case and lens cap make this a great value product. Because this is a budget buy, there’s less need to worry when you’re out and about with it. This is especially the case when you find out that it is waterproof and fogproof for all weather conditions. What’s more, it comes with a 12-month warranty.

We like that this is a very portable spotting scope since it weighs just 3 lbs. This makes it a great choice for anybody who is hiking long distances whether on a camping trip or pursuing wildlife when hunting. This product offers clear focus at shorter ranges for a great overall price and is recommended if you want the benefits of a spotting scope without breaking the bank.

Pros

  • Incredibly low price for a spotting scope
  • Has a very lightweight design for carrying around
  • Includes a tripod and carry bag

Cons

  • Budget price means a low-quality image at long range
  • The quality of the included tripod is mediocre

Factors to Consider When Buying a Spotting Scope

So now you know all about the very best spotting scopes of 2017. We’ve looked at their various features and their pros and cons. Now it’s time to look at some of the other factors to consider when buying a spotting scope.

Why a spotting scope as opposed to binoculars or a telescope?

Good question! The way we see it, a spotting scope is a wonderful compromise between binoculars and telescopes. Telescopes are extremely powerful but are really limited to astronomy and looking at the sky at night. Meanwhile, binoculars provide a great way to see, for example, wild birds. But they lack the stability and the high magnification of a spotting scope. A spotting scope can be very portable (much like binoculars) and offer incredible magnification while retaining very impressive image quality. That you can use them with or without a tripod makes them versatile too.

So to summarize, here are the reasons why you should opt for a spotting scope:

spotting-scope-vs-binoculars
  • Many spotting scopes on the market are compact and lightweight. This makes them very portable
  • They offer superior magnification to binoculars and, unlike telescopes, can be used day or night
  • Spotting scopes can be used with or without a tripod which means that they’re a versatile piece of equipment

What are some important things to look for in a spotting scope?

1. Magnification

Most spotting scopes (such as the products we reviewed earlier) have a variable zoom. This means that you can manually adjust the zoom as and when you need, much like with a digital camera, for example. In most cases, the maximum magnification will be 60x with the minimum being 15-20x. For viewing objects at greater distances, greater magnification is required. This may also require the use of a tripod to provide stability. The poorer the product, the worse the imagine when the magnification is increased. If the lens is of particularly good quality, the drop-off will be less noticeable than with a lens that is cheap. For most observation when hunting or bird watching, a 30-40x will usually be enough.

2. Lens Size

As alluded to in the magnification section, the lens is very important. The most important thing to consider with regard to lens size is whether your priority is image quality or overall portability. This is because bigger lenses tend to be heavier. Although heavier, they are able to produce better quality images. But they sacrifice an element of portability since they tend to be bulkier and heavier. What’s more, larger spotting scopes are typically more expensive.

We recommend you strike a balance between the two with a lens that will allow for a great view while also being easy enough to carry around when hunting or bird watching. Target shooters may find that portability is less important since they’re not moving around with the spotting scope as much.A larger lens for a spotting scope will typically be 60-100mm in diameter. Larger lenses tend to be better at gathering light which means that the image is then clearer and brighter. They also offer a wider field of view.

So which lens size is right for you? If you’re typically in a fixed location for a long period of time and weight isn’t an issue (and budget allows it!), opt for a bigger lens of 80 to 100mm. If you’re moving around and need to travel light then go for one of 50 to 60mm.

3. Angled or straight?

While exploring the various spotting scopes online you’ll surely come across the terms ‘angled’ and ‘straight’. These are the two main design options. An angled spotting scope will have you looking down the eyepiece which curves upwards away from the main body of the scope. As you’d expect, a straight scope will have you looking straight ahead. Both types have their own unique advantages and disadvantages.

An angled scope requires fewer adjustments to use. Whether a person is short or tall, it’s easier for them to look down an angled scope than with a straight scope which might be too low or too high. However, a straight scope is perhaps more intuitive to use since it forms a line from you to what you’re viewing. It’s also typically better for looking downwards from elevated positions making it ideal for hunters. In contrast, an angled scope is better for looking upwards such as at birds in trees.

Are there any other features I should look out for?

As we’ve covered, magnification, lens size and the type (angled or straight) of spotting scope are all very important. But if these aren’t enough to help you separate one product from another then there are a few other things for you to consider:

Waterproof/Fogproof

Nowadays, a lot of spotting scopes are waterproof and fogproof. Some claim to be as such but it’s important to do a little bit of research and make sure that they really are what they say they are! Such a feature may not be relevant for everybody. However, spotting scopes are frequently used in poor weather conditions on land or at sea! Such a feature means that your spotting scope is protected against water and moisture and won’t fog up rendering it unusable! It also means that the inside of the scope is protected from corrosion which may well help your spotting scope live a longer life. A good waterproof scope is sealed with an O-ring which stops both moisture and dust from passing. In the case of being fogproof, the barrel of the scope contains a moistureless gas such as nitrogen or argon instead of air.

Eye Relief

Eye relief is a particularly important feature if you wear glasses. It means that you can position your eye away from the eyepiece and still have a nice clear image. If you wear glasses or sunglasses when using your spotting scope then you’ll probably need at least 15mm of eye relief (space between your eye and the eyepiece). If you wear your glasses further along your nose or have particularly thick glasses lenses, you may need as much as 16 to 18mm of eye relief. Thankfully most mid to high-end spotting scopes have enough eye relief for all users.

What about a tripod?

spotting-scope-tripod

If you’re buying a spotting scope then you should definitely buy a tripod as well. Because spotting scopes use such high magnifications, image shakiness can occur. This can be completely eliminated by a good tripod. Some of the smaller spotting scopes can be used without one but it’s still a very good idea to have that option of increased stability that a tripod provides. As you explore the products on the market, you’ll notice that some of them come with tripods included. Be sure to check the consumer reviews to find out about the tripod and if it’s of good quality. Otherwise, you will need to factor into the price the cost of buying a tripod. The larger or heavier your scope, the more important a good quality tripod becomes.

Last but not least…

price

We’ve been through all of the essential features of spotting scopes and now it’s time to look at the price. As our reviewed products demonstrate, there are spotting scopes available for anything from as little as $100 to $1000 or more. How much you invest in your spotting scope is really down to you. It’s important to ask yourself how often you will use it and what you’ll be using it for.

It’s also a good idea to check whether the product you’re interested in comes with a warranty. If possible, investigate whether the warranty is any good by reading comments from other consumers. A warranty can help provide peace of mind, particularly when paying top dollar for a spotting scope.

Conclusion

We hope that our reviews of spotting scopes and buying guide of the best spotting scopes of 2017 help you with your decision. It’s fair to say that there are a variety of great models on the market at price ranges to suit all budgets. In fact, spotting scope technology has advanced a great deal in recent years which is a big reason why there’s so much choice.

Remember, if you’re undecided between different spotting scopes, be sure to check magnification, lens size and whether the product is waterproof and has sufficient eye relief. All of these factors can help you to make a decision quicker and easier but most importantly, make the right decision for you and your needs.