Selecting the Right Spotting Scope

Kowa Spotting Scope in use

The time has come to add a spotting scope to your optical tools, but shopping around 20 pages of web pages of spotting scopes with over 130 different sizes and models can lead to confusion in no time flat. Everyday, Eagle Optics helps customers manage the maze of options encountered when selecting the right scope. By applying the same criteria the Eagle Optics Staff uses, you can narrow the overwhelming choices and find the best scope for you.

Budget: Penny-pinching or Unlimited?
Cost and quality go hand in hand, and the first thing to ask is, "How much can I spend?" Before you can honestly answer that question, it is helpful to evaluate exactly what benefits come from the differently priced scopes.

Quality of Optics
Obviously, optical quality is the first difference one would expect. Lower-priced scopes offer good images at lower magnifications (15-30x), and that may be all you require. Zooming to the higher range of magnification results in a loss of image quality. In contrast, the image of a top-notch scope remains sharp and bright at 60x or higher. Do you need the reach of a high magnification or is a lower power suitable?

As technology advances, the higher-priced scopes incorporate new lens coatings and glass formulas for the highest light transmission, sharpest details, and color clarity. Do you crave the finest details or do you just need a serviceable image?

Strength of Build and Warranty Matters
After you decide how much optical performance you can afford, you have to consider the durability of the scope. Waterproofing and fogproofing are always a plus, regardless of your activity, and are standard features on many scopes. More rigorous activities require a well-built scope. Just like optical quality, the higher your budget can go, the tougher the scope will be. Consider the manufacturer's warranty—the stronger the warranty, the longer the life of your investment.

Objective lens size and body style-
Identical optics in different shapes and sizes means your next question is, "Angled or straight body? 80mm or 65 mm lens?" The larger objective lens gathers more light and is beneficial when glassing at long distances, in low-light situations, or for digiscoping. The 60-65mm lens sizes are smaller, lighter, and easier to carry.

Practical benefits of an angled body scope include the ability to set the tripod lower to allow people of different heights easy viewing. Angled bodies usually rotate so the eyepiece is lower and youngsters can view without lowering the tripod. This also allows for a comfortable position when using a car window mount. Straight body scopes are easier to use when the majority of viewing is downward from a higher position.

Don't Stop With The View!
Digiscoping is extremely popular and if you even think you might be interested in photographing through your scope, take a look at the different digiscoping adapters available for the scope you want. Higher-priced scopes typically have more advanced digital camera adapters. Universal digiscoping adapters make digiscoping possible on most scopes. With the constantly changing, large variety of cameras, it is best to call Eagle Optics directly for advice. Also visit our comprehensive digiscoping site.

The Foundation—The Tripod
OK-you've figured out which scope is perfect. Quality, budget, size, and style are all decided. Don't jeopardize your decision or the scope's performance by selecting a cheap plastic tripod. At the minimum, you will need a durable aluminum tripod. While giving you good stability at an affordable price, the aluminum tripods can be heavy.

If you are carrying your equipment for long distances or periods of time, you will want to consider the carbon fiber tripods. Lighter in weight, the carbon fiber tripods also provide better vibration-dampening qualities. This is especially important when viewing at higher magnifications or digiscoping.

Getting Started
To help you start your search, the scopes listed below are the spotting scopes we have found our customers to be very happy with. Take a look and give us a call with questions.

Over $2000
Kowa TSN 88mm Prominar The extra-large 88mm objective lens delivers extra light for better details.
Swarovski ATX 25-60x85 Ingenious perfectly describes the cutting-edge innovations of Swarovski's modular-designed spotting scope.
Leica Televid APO 82mm Leica's top-of-the-line scope offers a superb wide angle field of view in a zoom eyepiece.
Zeiss DiaScope 85 T* FL This scope from the renowned German manufacturer, now features a unique dual speed focus system.
Under $2000
Vortex Razor HD 20-60x85 The best view you can buy for less than $2000. An outstanding value in a high-end spotter!
Under $1000
Vortex Viper HD 80mm It is hard to beat the optical performance and price of the Vortex Viper HD 80mm spotting scope.
Pentax PF 20-60x65 EDII Sized to travel with you here on earth, Pentax scopes take 1.25 inch astronomical eyepieces for exploring other planets.
Nikon Fieldscope 50mm ED When small size and light weight matter most this compact scope is the right choice to deliver great optics.
Budget scopes with eyepieces included
Vortex Viper 65mm Spend under $500 and get great optics in a compact package.
Leupold Ventana 80mm An affordable scope that delivers good light gathering and resolution.
Vortex Nomad 20-60x60 A great value in a compact spotter backed by an outstanding warranty.