How to Choose a Spotting Scope: Our 6 Easy Tips!

how to choose a spotting scope

If you are into bird watching, you surely know that optical aid makes this activity much better. This is why everyone that starts this activity soon realizes that binoculars are essential and chooses a pair real quickly.

However good binoculars might be for close-up bird watching, there is something even better when it comes to watching birds from a distance. All the details that you will be able to see with a good spotting scope will just give you chills!

Of course, that is all if you happen to choose a good spotting scope.

The same as with the binoculars, there are numbers of different characteristics that you should consider when buying a spotting scope. Here, some of the main characteristics will be explained and you will get some advice on how to choose the best one for yourself.

How to Choose a Spotting Scope

Choosing the right tool for a new hobby is never easy. You do need some help, but what you also need is to understand what is important and why is it important so that you can choose your next best one for yourself later on.

We have already done an in-depth article on the top 5 spotting scopes for birding, but today we will teach you how to choose one and what to look for when buying a scope yourself.

Now that we have it clear, let’s start with the things you should pay attention to when choosing a spotting scope.

Telescope, spotting scope or binoculars?

As mentioned previously, if you are completely new to this sport, a simple pair of binoculars would do the work just fine. They are small, lighter, easier to use and their portability is higher, so if you are traveling, you can easily take these with you.

Besides, you can use your binoculars for so much more than just a mere bird watching.

But, as you become more serious in this sport and you wish to see all the nice details on birds’ feathers, and you wish to easily tell them apart from great distances, you would start needing a spotting scope. Better stability and higher magnification powers will allow you to see all those little details that you can’t even imagine before you actually try and see for yourself.

However, telescopes are designed for something completely else and never try using an astronomy telescope for bird watching!

Although it may sound like a good idea, these have too powerful magnification and you won’t be able to see a thing.

Besides, they are almost never waterproof, and they are made a bit differently, so it would be really hard for you to watch birds for too long with it.

What are all of these numbers?

You will always find two sets of numbers on a spotting scope. For example, 40×80. Now, it might sound like who knows what, but it is rather simple.

The first set of numbers is the zoom or magnification. So, in this case, 40 would mean that you can make a picture 40 times bigger than it is in nature.

The second number is the diameter of the lens, and it is usually 50 to 80 millimeters.

Should I get a tripod?

The simplest and shortest answer would be: yes.

Spotting scopes can be very heavy and, besides, they use high magnification, which makes shaking more noticeable. This is why you need to make your scope very stable.

If you worry about the type of tripod, you really shouldn’t. All of the scopes on the market nowadays come with a standard tripod mount, so you can choose almost any tripod on the market and be sure that it will fit perfectly.

Moreover, some spotting scopes already come with a tripod.

Quality vs Price – how do you know?

Of course, there are models that are much better than the others, some provide a brighter and clearer image, and the quality of the image depends on the size of the lens, quality of the optics and the coating on the lens.

So, when it comes to optics, be sure that you really get what you paid for, so choose according to that. If you are new at the hobby and do not know if it will stick yet, it is better to get a low priced one. But if you really love bird watching and you can afford a good one – go for it!

6 Essential’s to Look Out For

1. Magnification power

Spotting scopes are somewhere in between binoculars and telescopes. They have medium range and their magnification power is somewhat between 15x and 60x.

You can easily change and set the magnification with the eye piece that can be either interchangeable fixed-length eyepieces or a single zoom eyepiece.

When you are searching a field, it is always the best to start with low settings so that you have a better view of the field, and once you find your target, just switch to higher magnification settings.

2. Placement of eye pieces

There are two main types and these are 45-degree angled eyepiece and straight-through viewing.

Although this second one might sound and seem like a more natural idea, most of the experienced bird watchers prefer this 45-degree angled one. It makes watching above the horizon much easier, they can work with shorter tripods, and all in all make your scope much more stable.

3. Eye relief

If you are one of the people who wear glasses, this is a very important thing to keep an eye on.

This is a feature that is given in millimeters and 12 to 15 millimeters of eye relief would be just what you need.

The longer the relief, the further back the focal point is directed. This is how you can see the complete field and have a full nice picture.

4. Zoom Lenses

These are responsible for changing magnification power with a few simple adjustments. They let you scan the whole field and quickly shift to the mode with high magnification and let you see all those details I’m constantly talking about.

But those zoom lenses do not gather the light as well as those fixed ones, that’s the fact. Another thing that is tricky is that these can give off some shimmer when the magnification is high when you are watching for something over water.

5. Quality of glass

The best spotting scopes are made with glass that has features like high density and extra low dispersion.

The difference between those high- quality ones and those of a bit less good quality is in the clarity of the picture you see through them and in the brightness.

6. Capacity for light gathering

This is something that is indicated by the size of the lens. It is normally somewhat between 50 and 100 millimeters.

Larger lenses, of course, provide brighter and clearer images, but this has a disadvantage and that is the weight of your scope.

Try It Out Before Buying

If it is possible, I would always recommend trying before you buy a scope.

No matter how much of research you do, nothing can beat trying the thing yourself. It is always good to try a few of the scopes and compare them so that you know what to look for.

Also, remember that you will not see how good it is if you try it just for a few seconds. Do not be shy! Take your time and give a look at everything that you want to check. Same stands for asking – if there is something you would like to know, simply ask the seller.

Of course, trying a scope is not always possible, especially when you are buying online, but you can always go to a store and try it for a bit, and then order it online. Much more convenient, if you ask me.

A good spotting scope is a big investment, so be sure to know what you are getting.

Final Word

Bird watching is a magnificent sport, but it requires the right equipment. Of course, choosing the right equipment is a big challenge, especially if you are new at a certain sport, but do not worry – there is always someone that can help.

As for the spotting scopes, now you know what to look for when making a purchase. I hope we could help and that you will enjoy your new helper in this amazing sport.

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