How To Choose A Spotting Scope –
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How To Choose A Spotting Scope –

August 13, 2019

Hi, I’m Trevor from OpticsPlanet. If you’re looking for a spotting scope and you’re not quite sure which one to choose, here’s some helpful hints that can help you in your decision. As you can see, there’s a lot of different spotting scopes on the market: different sizes, different numbers go along with those, starting with what you’re going to be using the spotting scope for. Are you going to be birding, hunting, target shooting, general sightseeing? There’s a lot of different categories that are going to use different spotting scopes and they usually require different criteria for each of those applications. We’re going to start with a hunting spotting scope. If you’re looking for a hunting spotting scope, you’re going to want to narrow your criteria to a couple certain things. One of the things I look for in a hunting scope: you want it to be compact. If you’re going to be hunting, chances are you’re going to be lugging this along with you whether you’re traveling in and out of a truck, you’re going to want something more compact and lightweight. That’s what I usually look for in a hunting spotting scope. Something like this scope right here, extremely compact, can almost fit in a Caribou pocket, easily fit in a pack. Now, magnification wise, how much that spotting scope is going to zoom in, you usually don’t need too much and you’re kind of limited to the fact that it is more of a compact spotting scope. So a 15-45 magnification is the most you usually need for most of your hunting applications. The objective lens can also be a little bit smaller. Once again, you’re trying to keep that compact feel to it. So, a 50mm objective lens is usually the most you need and it’s going to be perfect for hunting applications. Now, if you’re on a guided hunt, you’re going to be in and out of a truck. Often enough, size isn’t as important and neither is the weight, so you can use a larger spotting scope, even something this size, if it’s going to be inside the truck. So, that’s something to look for as well. If you’re looking for a spotting scope for target shooting, the options are pretty much endless and there’s a lot of different options out there and you’re not going to know where to start. What I like to start with in target shooting is looking at the numbers and I mean the magnification , specifically, and then the objective size. With target shooting, you’re usually going to be stationary , sometimes you’re moving around a little bit, so weight isn’t an issue. Chances are that you’re just going to be mounting it on a tripod and you’re going to want it close to your proximity so you can easily glance at it, look at the target, and then get back to your shooting. So, when it comes to a target shooting spotting scope, I want more magnification. I like to err on the side of over magnification. If I’m shooting at 500 yards, 800 yards, 1000 yards, 1200 yards, you can still effectively use a spotting scope depending on what your target is and your shooting situations. What I look for in a target spotting scope, anything from 25 yards out to, at least, 600 yards. I want 20-60 magnification. That’s my perfect magnification range. You know, like, when you go back to a riflescope, 3-9×40, the ideal classic range with a target spotting scope, 20-60 magnification is perfect for you for most applications. I use it out to at least 600 yards, sometimes further. Objective size: bigger is better on this one. I want at least an 80mm. That’s going to allow more light to enter the scope, so on a cloudy day, you still get enough light in there and on a sunny day, you can usually extend the sunshade that’s on most spotting scopes to block some of that glare out. Now, if I’m an extreme long range shooter, if I’m going to be shooting 800 , 900, 1000 yards and the really extreme ranges of 1200, 1500plus, it really depends on what you’re shooting. If you’re shooting a steel plate, where you have a large impact mark on the plate, you can still use a 20-60. If you’re not shooting a steel plate, if you’re shooting paper, chances are you’re going to need some video equipment in addition to the spotting scope. So, that’s really another criteria you need to jump into. Now, if you’re, say, a pistol shooter, you target shoot with a pistol and you’re a long range pistol shooter: some guys shoot a pistol 50, 100, 150 yards, you don’t need a 20-60 per se. You can go back and use something like a 15-45, like a smaller range spotter. Now, if you’re going to get into birding or you already are a birder, you probably know quality optics is the name of the game and you really need to spend a little bit more money to get that crystal clear optics you’re going to really want for birding. So, that’s why I recommend to look at a quality optic. If you’ve saved up a little bit of money, stretch it out, save a little bit more, jump into that next level. It’s really going to be worth it. So, I really recommend going for a quality optic. Magnification wise, it depends on the distances you’re going to be birding. If you’re using close range, you’re going to be in your backyard or park, 20-60 yards, you’ll be fine with a 15-45. They also make fixed eyepiece scopes that you can choose to have a fixed scope eyepiece, like this scope right here, has a variable, and a fixed eyepiece that you can switch out. That’s ideal for a birding situation, where, if you have your favorite spotting spot, you sit there and you look at a certain area and you want a certain magnification. You can go with the fixed or you still have the variable option on a lot of different spotting scopes. If you’re just a general sight seer, you’re camping, you know, kind of the last bit of customers that’s looking for a great spotting scope, a lot of different options out there for you. If you’re camping, per se, you’re going to be limited with size and weight as well. So, one of the things I always have on a camping trip is just a pocket magnifier. It’s still considered a spotter but it’s small, lightweight, 6x, 8x, 10x, some are variable. They can go from 8x-25x but a pocket magnifier is an ideal choice for being able to get that extra magnification, looking at the target at a distance, and still be incredibly lightweight and small. Going along with a small size, a 10-30 or 15-45, these spotting scopes are ideal for a camping situation where you want to throw them in a backpack. Now, this comes with a tripod in this specific model but just the scope by itself is extremely lightweight and small but still have a quality image. It’s going to be everything you need for camping. Now, some of the terminology with a spotting scope, in general, mentioned before, we have a straight body spotting scope here. This is an example of a angled body spotting scope. Now, people really like straight body spotting scopes, especially for digiscoping, work really, really well for that because they’re balancing the camera weight. I really like the angled body spotting scope because it’s easier to have it set at a certain height, myself being 6’4″, I can look down and someone else at 5′ 5″ can easily come up and look down because it’s set at a lower height, eyepiece is angled up, so it’s very easy for people of different heights to look through the spotting scope. One of the nice features of angled spotting scopes that most do have a collar that can rotate. So, if I’m in a seated position, especially when target shooting, with angled body I can rotate the eyepiece to me so instead of having to get up and come over and look down on a spotting scope, I simply turn my eye and then can come back to the rifle. Now, one of the biggest crimes in spotting scopes are tripods. A wobbly tripod will ruin whatever you’re looking through. There’s a lot of different tripods out there: everything from a tabletop tripod, that’s great on a shooting bench, to a free standing tripod that’s variable anywhere from 2.5′ up to 7′ in height depending on the model but invest in a decent tripod. Almost all spotting scopes today, all the spotting scopes that we carry have a 1/4×20 threadplate on them and that means that that plate that connects to the tripod, these plates come with the tripod, will screw into the bottom of all these spotting scopes. They all have a screw in there and that’s a 1/4×20 threading and they’ll fit on almost all tripods that have that standard plate. Alright guys, hopefully you learned something. Hopefully this can direct you to the spotting scope that’s going to meet your needs and fit your criteria. If you have any questions on how to choose a spotting scope, how to use it, feel free to leave a comment on this page, definitely give us a call, send an email. You can direct that at tech sales. We’re going to find you a spotting scope that’s going to fit your needs. I’m Trevor from OpticsPlanet, thanks for watching, guys.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. All things being equal, an 80 mm objective lens will give a sharper image than a 60 mm lens at the same magnification. Magnification beyond about 25X per inch of objective lens diameter gives a blurry image, so bigger is better. Using a phone adapter to take pictures may allow magnification to increase beyond what is useful.

  2. Looking for a Hunting one and I like the 20x60x60 but most seem pretty big but have also a budget of around 400-500 or less what would you recommend to check out? want the best clarity I can get for that? Thanks for your help.

  3. Oh that's awesome I didn't know angled spotting scopes let you turn it sideways like that. Wanted an angled eyepiece but was worried about when you're looking down with it.

  4. Hey there, I am looking for a straight spotting scope that's less than 1kg and at £300 max. I'll be using it for 200 yards rifle shooting and 90 yards for archery. I've looked at the Hawke and Nikon pro staff 5, just unsure.

  5. I am looking for something in the 400 to 1200 yard range. I have never bought a spotting scope and seems to be a million of them out there. Any ideas on a good scope?

  6. sorry which one is the best for me beginner birder for birding like kingfisher nikon ed 50,regal f ed,regal m2 ed 65 or celestron c5 sir? now i just still my tele nikon like 70-200/80-200/300 someyimes mix tc too n dx body,but sometimes it is not enough if i want to take photo small bird very far,could u please to give me some info because i want to try something new experience with digiscoping technic thank u very much sir

  7. sir I need your honest opinion. if you had to choose between the Vortex razor 22-48×65; and the Viper 20-60×80 which one is better glass? for general viewing, birding, eagle watching or some planetary view from time to time without getting into telescopes.

  8. I would recommend a "Basics in Spotting Scopes" video and an "Advanced Spotting Scopes" video.

    I thumbed up, but after watching multiple videos on this topic is seems that this would be a good distinction while keeping peoples interest.

    List all of the topics that you believe are relevant to spotting scopes classify which should be in which.
    An example could be:
    Magnification – basic
    Aperture – advanced
    Just an idea from someone researching and may not have a clue what they're talking about.

  9. what is the 1st hunting spotting scope that he was holding? The small green one with the red ring around the eye piece?

  10. Are the scopes you look down into easier to use longer that the ones you look straight into? Wondering if it's just personal preference or there are fatigue issues one way or the other. Thanks

  11. {
    out zoom most of them}

  12. Great video. I'm looking for a compact spotting scope for the range. I'll be shooting from 25-100 yards. Must be angled.
    What is your recommendation?

  13. I do target archery and I just use a nice 20-60x60mm simmon blazer, but it is a bit bulky so I can’t use it for field tournaments because it’s hard to lug around with my bow equipment.

  14. I came here after I purchased a Huicocy 20-60x60mm Zoom 39-19m/1000m on Amazon. I only need it to take pictures of my kid on the football field, but hope to use it take pictures in the forest.

  15. Great video. I'm interested in the Athlon Ares 20-60 x85 ED scope. Would like to see paper target holes at 200~600 yds or better. Have you had a chance to use this product yet?

  16. If I wanted one of these for my spotter when I fly my drone so the drone is always in the line of sight! My range for my drone can go up to 12,000 meters / 3.8 miles. What would be the best fit?

  17. Disgusting. You want to look at a bird and then kill it. What is wrong with you people? Animals care about their kids too. Stop shooting to get your thrills. Live and let live.

  18. Nice way to choose the spotting scope, here is the list of an amazing spotting scope for hunting.

  19. stupid question, what do the numbers represent i.e. 20-60×60? I have that spotting scope a friend gave it to me as I do a lot of target shooting but I have no idea what the numbers mean etc. Thanks in advance!

  20. This was pretty good but he could have mentioned reticles. An important feature for some, but not all.

  21. Thanks for the information! I've bought two rifle optics, a drop in trigger assembly and even a pair of boots from Optics Planet. Great company with fair prices and knowledgeable staff. I certainly will be purchasing my spotting scope from you guys….once I figure out exactly what I want.

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