How to Pick the Right Spotting Scope

Picking the right spotting scope is easier than picking the right binocular. There are fewer decisions to make and fewer models to choose from. It’s almost a matter of letting your budget decide which spotting scope is best for you.

If serious photography is planned, keep in mind that catadioptric scopes (and the few high-end prismatic exceptions noted in our catalog, particularly those with ED glass or fluorite optics) generally make better telephoto lenses than a small prismatic scope.

If low light performance is important, look for the highest twilight factor.

If you spend a lot of time in the field, look for a reasonably light weight.

If you expect rough treatment or regular soakings, consider a rubber-armored and/or waterproof scope.

If getting the sharpest, highest contrast image possible is more important than convenience or price, consider single power eyepieces rather than a zoom. Also consider ED glass or fluorite lens systems for ultimate sharpness.

From $200 to $2000, each time you double the retail price of a spotting scope you can expect about a 10-15% improvement in optical performance. Don’t be afraid to buy a spotting scope at the lower end of the price spectrum, however, as they are all quite good. We’ve weeded out the poor performers for you, choosing to carry only those which meet our standards, which tend to be high.

But don’t think you have to strain your budget to buy the most expensive scope simply because it has the best optics. It may not fit your birding style or your requirements for durability, field of view, low light capability, etc. Pick the spotting scope with the features and performance you and your budget will be comfortable with – but don’t underbuy, either. Buy the best optics you can afford. As we’ve said before, good optics are a lifetime investment – and investing in quality always pays visible dividends.


. . . our 34th year