The Tango Tactics Comprehensive Guide On Finding The Best Spotting Scope!
What are Spotting Scopes?
Spotting scopes are savvy looking portable telescopes. The best spotting scope must be in perfect balance between price and performance, it must be light but also sturdy, and it needs to have very high quality crystal clear optics.
Ever since their inception, they have found their way into every scope of outdoor life imaginable….. Pun intended.
The best hunters and top notch shooters have a spotting scope as a secret weapon. 'Severely disadvantaged' is any one who walks into a 200 Yard shooting range with a pair of binoculars.
Even my star-gazing friends are ditching their telescopes in favour of using spotting scopes!
For enhanced vision you can depend on, spotting scopes are a must have piece of equipment.
What Should You consider, BEFORE, You buy One?
All scopes bear some very important numbers. Before purchase, you need to understand what each number means in order to choose the best spotting scope for your needs.
The formatting is usually in the form of ’20-60×80 mm’
The ’20-60×’ denotes the range of magnification. This is an important aspect to consider before purchase. In our example, this scope can be manually adjusted for magnifications of between 20× to 60×.
Very few scopes out there give clear images at maximum magnification, so, be warned.
The ’80 mm’ represents the size of the objective lens. If you are big on size, this is an important part to consider.
Before you purchase the best spotting scope, it is important you understand what you want to do with it.
Most scopes are tailor made for different market niches. These niches range from nature watching and hunting, to the shooting range to even wildlife photography by attaching your DSLR.
First check out the numbers and see how they fit your needs.
Some scopes are light enough to be part of your hiking gear and can be used without a tripod.
Others are heavier and need to be firmly fixed on a tripod before anything else can happen.
Different environments also demand for different capabilities from scopes. For use in canyons, caves or wherever light penetration is low. If that is your intention then the best spotting scope for you will be one with high relative brightness.
Good optical coatings also allow for maximum light penetration into the scope.
A high twilight factor also helps in poorly lit environments. It allows you to get very good detail on dimly lit objects.
These specifications would also work for well-lit surroundings.
Purchasing such a scope is, however, expensive. To be cost-effective, choose one without the poor light vision’ capabilities. This would save you from extra expenses on features you just do not need.
Such should be the mindset when setting out to purchase the best spotting scope for you.
This is because the best spotting scope is a very relative concept.
A scope is considered better than the competition if it offers all, or most, of the customer required specifications for the lowest price.
Based on what you want, here is what you should take into consideration.
The overall weight and bulk determines a scopes portability.
How portable the equipment is, determines how effective it is for use in different environments. If you are a wildlife enthusiast planning to follow the winter migration of your favorite bird, this is high on the list of things to consider.
Excessively light weight scopes are, at times, a result of compromising on the integrity of the scope’s protective frame. In such a case, yes, the scope would be easy to transport from location to location. The reduction in fortification would, however, make it too delicate for repeated transport.
The weight of all the items that complement the scope should also be considered. The tripod is at times as much a piece of a scope as the objective lens. Some of the scopes reviewed in our best spotting scope guide do come with tripods, however, some are bulkier and heavier than the lightweight carbon fiber tripods that can be purchased on the market today.
Zoom distances afforded vary from scope to scope. This is an important thing to consider.
Depending on what you intend to do, some zoom distances are more practical than others.
If you are a gun enthusiast seeking to pop some targets in a shooting range. Your intended firing range should be considered. It is impractical to purchase a 1000 yard zoom capable scope for a 200 yard gun range.
This is because increased zoom distances weigh heavy on a scope’s price tag.
So as much as a 1000 yard zoom capable scope would also work for a 200 yard gun range, it would be an extravagant expense.
For hunters and nature enthusiasts, you will want to consider what animal you are going to hunt / look at.
For very good reasons, a short zoom distance is not advisable, if you ever get to hunt the majestic tiger.
Shy animals also call for longer zoom distances.
Getting too close to them would spook them into hiding.
This is an estimation of how bright an image will be when observed through the scope. Brightness increases the detail of any image. As a reality, brightness reduces as the size of the objective lens and magnification becomes smaller.
This means that it decreases with price.
Larger objective lenses, associated with greater brightness, also translate to larger more bulky scopes.
If you plan to work under low light intensities, you need a spotter with a large objective lens. You will need to cough up some serious cash for this.
Brightness is however not an issue if you are planning to observe birds during the summer. On such bright days, the high light intensity cancels out the need for high scope brightness.
Light intensities are however not a constant thing anywhere. It is therefore advisable to purchase the high brightness scope and do away with the need to buy it later when the sun doesn’t seem to have your back.
This is an estimation of how much detail the scope accords an image in a low light setting.
A high twilight factor is quite hard on the pocket. It is however not as important as it was some years back.
This is because of rapid technological advancements on the field of optical coatings.
Brightness is a determinant on how much twilight factor a scope has to offer. Modern optical coatings increase the amount of light that enters into a spotting scope. This improves both the scope’s brightness and twilight factor.
Good coatings can more than double the amount of light entering the scope. Double this with a good twilight factor and you will have amazing viewing in poorly lit conditions. This is a must have condition for a scope to be classified as the best spotting scope.
If dimly light is a reality of what you set out to observe, high end scopes are the way to go. It is like they say, “You cannot put a price on quality!”
Scopes with batteries
Batteries are used to support added functionality in some scopes. These functionalities can range from powering processors for a smart interface to voice recording.
With the growing demand for smart devices, batteries have become a necessary part of scopes.
Spotting scopes can now be linked to your digital devices. The power economy and battery use varies from scope to scope.
Battery life should therefore be a consideration depending on what you intend to do with the scope. If you intend to stay outdoors for a long time, consider how much time a battery powers up the scope before a recharge.
Battery life also varies from scope to scope.
It will generally range from a number of months to a couple of years.
This depends on the quality of the battery and the amount of work the scope puts it to.
Scopes without batteries
Some scopes however do not come with batteries. This translates to fewer functions and a much lower price tag. They are excellent for people who are looking for the raw outdoor experience.
Nature doesn't feel so natural when observed through a smart phone!
If you can do without the technology that drives this generation crazy, the battery-less scopes are the way to go. They are also excellent for the camper who will not get an everyday access to electricity.
Different environments demand varying specifications. This is what has informed the spotting scope market to engineer different scopes to suit different tasks. This is another factor to consider as the best spotting scope for my needs might not suit yours.
If you are to secure a perfect scope for the perfect experience, you need to understand your needs.
This is easier said than done.
A scope is only as good as its specifications. Specifications are, on the other hand, as good as the demand for them is.
What you need is more important as a selection criteria than the price.
Sometimes, cheap is just that…… CHEAP!!!!!
If your specifications can only be met by a $ 1000 piece of equipment, by all means get a $1000 piece of glass! Anything less than this will see the scope under-perform.
Most people then end up giving spotting scopes a bad name. They forget just how big a role their cheap tendencies brought about their predicaments.
The only time you are allowed to buy cheap is if, and only if, a cheaper model can support your individual needs.
Based on the intended market, spotting scopes can be tailored to suit the following niches,
- Hunting scopes.
- Scopes for the shooting range.
- Scopes for watching wildlife.
Hunting scopes are engineered to give you the advantage of surprise over your prey. They are also made to be quite portable and reduce the amount of time taken to track your prey.
They are to be easy to setup and use. Because of the silence required for a successful hunt, these scopes have allow for very quiet adjustments. Hunting scopes are usually light with straight eyepieces.
This is so as to defeat the need for a tripod.
A tripod would require that a hunter stand on his feet as he uses the telescope. This would make him easy to spot. The vision of most animals is extremely good. They can see you from very far-off, and this without a scope of their own.
A good hunting scope should also match your gun’s range.
You do not want a 200 yard zoom scope if you are going to be shooting from a 300 yard distance.
The animal to be hunted also determines the type of scope to be employed.
You want a scope with good twilight factor if you are hunting a beast with nocturnal tendencies.
For the average jacket-wearing duck hunter, you do not have to go high end for a scope to suit your needs.That is unless of course you want a 'smart-scope'!
It is to your advantage that you should aim at prey that does not even know it is being hunted.
Due to the amount of extra time to perfect your aim, a scope may just be what separates a hit from a miss.
Spotting scopes for the shooting range
For the range enthusiast, what you need is a good zoom distance. Some scopes are able to see .223 shots from 600 yards!
Clarity and image sharpness should also be considered. This is especially helpful if you are shooting at different colored targets. You want a scope that can clearly distinguish between the different targets.
This is a plus if the different colors are for different points.
Depending on the range, different options are available. For ranges of over 200 yards, a spotter with above average optical quality is needed.
This is because with every increase in distance, greater magnification is required. Clarity under higher magnifications is an issue and requires improved optical quality.
The best spotting scope is therefore determined by your needs.
Scopes for watching wildlife
Not every one watching a duck through a scope wants to shoot it down! There is the occasional gentle soul who just wants to gaze at the beast.
Wildlife enthusiasts and bird lovers know about shy creatures. These animals are not big on being watched. Scopes for watching wildlife therefore come with amazing zoom distances and picture clarity.
This enables you to observe an animal keenly from a good distance off. This is important if you are to observe it without affecting its natural behavior.
How do YOU choose?
First thing that you need to understand is that the 'best spotting scope’ is a very abstract idea.
What works for your best friend may not always work for you. Avoid basing your choice on the suggestions of people.
If you must, be sure to see that you rely of the reviews of users in an environment similar to yours.
What sucked for the shooting range enthusiast may just rock the bird watcher’s day.
A good number of outlets allow you to return the scopes within two weeks. This is if it did not match your requirements. Such a place should be where you purchase your scope.
The two-week period should be used to try out the scope on every possible mountain and hole.
Compare the performances of the different scopes and stick with the one that works for you.
You are the best opinion on what works in a scope and not reviews……Especially not reviews from spotting scope companies!
What Is In The Best Spotting Scope?
The best spotting scope is one that satisfies a number of customers across different market niches.
This usually makes them quite cost effective. A scope that works as well on the range as on the game watching trail is excellent. This is because it comes with the functionality of two scopes for the price of one.
Portability should also not come at the expense of quality.
Even within a common market niche, scopes can be grouped into four broad categories.
- Short distance spotting scopes.
- Long distance spotting scopes.
- Straight spotting scopes.
- Curved/ Angled spotting scopes.
Short distance vs Long distance spotting scopes
1) Short Distance Scopes.
Short distance scopes are amazing for short range sights. They are also cheaper than their long distance counterparts. Their picture clarity becomes distorted as you zoom to accommodate further objects.
They are, however, excellent for purposes of enhanced vision within 200 Yards.
Their biggest seller is the fact that they are very pocket friendly.
If you are not going to use the scope for say, a 500 Yard gun range. Save on some bucks by going for short distance scopes. They are as good as any other scope for short range viewing.
2) Long Distance Scopes
Long distance scopes are what you need to view further objects.
Good long range scopes are usually high end. They come bearing a hefty price tag!
This considered, make sure that you absolutely need one before purchase.
They come with amazing optics. Objects as far as 800 Yards will feel as though they are a few meters away.
If you decide to go long distance, be prepared for a serious talk-down on cash from your wife! If you can handle that, then you have in your hands a very beautiful piece of long term investment.
If you wear glasses or contacts, try out a few scopes first. The extra glass has been known to make long distance objects practically invisible to people with contacts/ glasses.
Curved vs Straight Spotting Scopes
The Curved / Angled Scopes
Scopes come in two major varieties. The curved or angled eyepiece, and, the straight eye piece.
For the angled eye piece, you look down into the eyepiece.
Angled scopes have that 'techy’ feel to them.
You will need some adjusting though if you are a first timer. Our brains are not used to looking straight ahead by looking down!
These scopes are best suited for long period stationary viewing.
Anything that requires a constant change in position (read hunting) would not go well with these scopes. Positioning images into focus is very tricky for new users. Once you get the hang of it, however, the wait is well worth it.
The curved eye piece also does away with the need for awkward neck positioning. This saves you from some serious neck pains, especially, when observing images on an elevated plane.
This variety sells well among the shooting range enthusiasts. Especially those who love the long distance ranges.
It's major selling points are:
1) They are less tiring when used for extended periods of time:
Anything that requires extended use of a scope, go with the angled versions. They are less fatiguing and will make the spotting session a whole lot favorable for kids.
If you want your kid to pick-on your shooting habits, it will help if he does not sleep feeling worn-out on the first night out.
2) They are easier to aim skyward or at elevated targets:
If you have ever tried staring upwards for extended periods of time, you know why I am discouraging it.
The placing of our eyes is made for forward vision.
Gazing at elevated objects forces us to do a task outside our engineering. The punishment, SOME SERIOUS NECK CRAMPS!!!!
An angled scope will save you the pain…… literally!
3) They are more convenient in the case of multiple users.
Once firmly fixed onto a tripod, these scopes are very easy to share without much adjusting.
On a day out with your kids, the difference in height would demand for different scope positioning on a straight scope.
The angled scope raises no such problems!
This makes it ideal for a multi-user platform.
Straight Spotting Scopes
With the straight eye piece scopes, you stare directly into the eye piece.
This makes them best for quick focus.
For objects below or in front of the observer, this is your scope.
The straight spotting scopes also have quite a fan base. Their biggest selling points are,
1) They are excellent for objects that are straight ahead of or below the observer:
If you want to look down a mountain, the angled variety would demand for some pretty awkward body positioning.
Not so with the straight variety.
They are built for this type of view.
2) They are the most applicable for crouched hunters.
The only reason a hunter crouches is, to make his presence hidden. Straight scopes allow a hunter to maintain his view even in this position.
An angled scope would necessitate raising the head above the body.
This makes the hunters head quite visible and ….. “Why was he crouching in the first place?”
A Review of The 8 Best Selling Spotting Scopes
What is The Best Spotting Scope Available?
As you now know. A good scope is one that meets all your pressing needs at the cheapest price.
There is no shortage of options when it comes to spotting scopes. It may be quite the hassle wading through millions of reviews hunting for the best one.
Let me intervene and save you the time!
All of the 8 scopes featured here are some of the best spotting scopes available, however, only one of them can be crowned The Best Spotting Scope!
This spotting scope is available in two sizes,
It is a well put together piece of technology. It is completely water and fog proof making it an ideal outdoor partner. The Vanguard Endeavor XF is, for its size, surprisingly light. This makes it relatively portable.
You will however need a strong stand for this one.
The anti-reflective layer is of the green kind. This is not as good as the dark purple coating found on some scopes. It is however much better than the shiny orange coatings which barely do anything.
Vanguard had hunters and wildlife enthusiasts in mind when they came up with this design.
Be as it may, you will fumble a lot before you can get long distance objects into focus. The eye piece needs some work to improve this.
This scope is available in two sizes,
These spotters have very good optics.
The 20-60×60 mm version is very good for up to 40×. It is however impossible to get any clear picture at the maximum 60× magnification. This version also has a rather cheap feel to it. Brightness is also greatly affected by its 60 mm lens.
The 20-60×80 mm versions are quite the improvement. The knob has a more sophisticated feel. It also features improved brightness which makes it worth the few extra bucks. Both of the Vortex Optics Diamondback's are great for their price range. The optics are excellent and clarity is awesome for magnification under 40×.
This spotter is available in two sizes,
Barska has a good reputation for great scopes and the Blackhawk Spotter is no different. It will easily spot .223 bullet holes at 100 yards. The Blackhawk Spotter is truly amazing for it's price range. The clarity is amazing and it includes a hard case which gives extra protection on your travels.
The eye relief is however wanting.
It is an almost eyeball on lens distance for magnifications of over 30× for the 20-60×60 mm version.
The 100mm lens of the 25-75×100 mm version does however offer excellent brightness. Making it a very good piece for those days the sun just won’t light out. Overall a strong contender for the best spotting scope.
Nikon has become a household name over the years and rightly so, they make some very great optics! The Nikon Prostaff 5 is valued at $600 at around the time this review was written and at this price I would say it is easily worth every penny.
The glass on the Prostaff 5 is of an amazing quality. The case has that slim-fit appeal to it. The Prostaff 5 is also incredibly light, much lighter than its predecessors and it has a very smooth lens operation. Its 82 mm objective lens provides for an amazing level of brightness.
One of its main downfalls are the chromatic aberrations when you use the full 60× zoom. I also found that brightness also suffers at full zoom.
It does however, have incredible optics and clarity when used below 75% power.
For shooting ranges between 200 Yards and 300 Yards, The Prostaff 5 will awe you. It is also amazingly easy to focus.
For the hunter who wants to hunt before the sun is at its full, or, just after sunset, the Prostaff 5 is the scope for you. The brightness is such that even at such low light intensity, you can easily spot ducks well over 100 yards away.
This scope is available in three sizes and as a straight, or curved version.
- The Celestron 52252 100mm Ultima Zoom Curved Spotting Scope
- The Celestron 52257 Ultima 100 Straight Spotting Scope
- Celestron 52248 65mm Ultima Zoom Curved Spotting Scope
- Celestron Ultima 65 18 to 55x65 Straight Spotting Scope
- Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom Curved Spotting Scope
- Celestron Ultima 80 20 to 60x80 Straight Spotting Scope
At only $320 for the Celestron 52257, I was very surprised at the clear images it offers and I would say that the quality of the optics are way above its price range!
This glass on the Celestron 52257 is excellent for the shooting range and would be amazingly clear for ranges of up to 200 yards.
You can also easily set any of the Celestron 522XX's up with a camera and it is amazing for the big game hunter or a wildlife photographer.
The main issue i found with the Celestron 52257 is the weight, which is on the excessive side and you would definitely need a tripod for it. It also does not come with one like some of the other spotting scopes i have reviewed in this best spotting scope guide, so consider this as a necessary extra cost.
However, for $400, the Celestron 52257 outdoes itself! If weight is not an issue for you and you are looking for a great spotting scope at an affordable price, then this is a strong contender for being the best spotting scope for you.
The optics on the Bushnell Trophy XLT are good for upwards of 250 yards. At $200, the price is also a big win for this one.
The fact that the Trophy XLT comes with its own tripod would be a plus, but NO!
This tripod has no room for vertical adjustments. It is basically a clumsy piece of metal. You would be safer purchasing another tripod for the Bushnell Trophy XLT.
For the long range shooter on a budget, I would easily recommend the Bushnell Trophy XLT. It is still amazingly clear at 300 Yards. The 65 mm objective lens accords very good brightness. On a cloudy day, this scope will serve you quite well.
The eye relief however still has a long way to go. If you wear glasses, consider switching to contacts, if you are ever going to use this scope.
This spotter is also quite bulky and you might be tempted to leave it behind on your travels.
This spotter is available in four different sizes
These spotters have excellent lens protectors, wonderful optics. Their weights are also manageable. This makes them very good option if you are looking for one to hike with.
The different sizes make for a whole lot of choice with the Celestron 52306.
The (16-48×65 mm) version is very easy to set up and use.
I have to say that they are not the best for long distance ranges. For hunting however, they are really good. The optics are great and you will love the clarity when hunting under a full moon. The price tag also makes this one worth your while.
The (20-60×80 mm) version is also excellent for hunting.
It's not as heavy as the 100mm version and if you are looking for something light but with great optics this will probably be your best bet.
The (22-67×100mm) version is actually quite good for the shooting range. It can easily distinguish different colored targets for distances of up to 300 yards.
They all have an excellent field of view and are amazingly easy to focus.
The (27-80) version is easily the best range spotter under $1000. It is good for practically everything you can use a spotter for. For the outdoor enthusiasts’ on a budget, here is a reason to smile and this might turn out to be the best spotting scope for you.
Valued at $300, the Konus 7122 is a mighty good spotter, if, you can overlook the size. At 8 pounds and packing a 100mm lens, it is quite big.
It offers amazing eye relief and clarity with minimal loss of illumination at maximum power.
The optics on the Konus 7122 are magnificent but a slight rainbow like coloration may be observed at the edge of images. This is due to varying light quality occasioned more by the time of the year and not the equipment’s engineering.
Its carrying pad supplied in the box is however not padded. This can easily be made up for by fitting your own padding and it does offers a sizeable amount of space for doing so. Another strong contender for the best spotting scope.
So Which Is The Best Spotting Scope?
For anyone seeking to purchase a spotting scope, I strongly recommend the Celestron 52257 Ultima 100 Straight Spotting Scope.
Celestron has a history of making very good spotters and this one is no different.
The Celestron 52257 is just the right balance between performance and price. The spotter can be used, effectively, for practically everything spotters can do. It is as effective for the range shooting enthusiast as it is for the wild, game-hunting, macho-man.
The easy interface with video equipment is an added bonus. You can keep video mementos of your hunt to accompany the dining table tales.
All the above scopes are pretty decent, but, the Celestron 52257 Ultima 100 is the best value for money spotter on the market.