What is a spotting scope? The answer is simple it’s a scope that helps you spot your target better. Often spotting scope has a huge range and wide field of view.
Then how is spotting scope different from binoculars? The answer is a bit tricky, binocular is two spotting scope side by side.
Why choose a spotting scope then? If you are a long-range hunter/shooter then you need a spotting scope. The reason is simple your riflescope just can’t compete with a spotting scope. A spotting scope sometimes has a 60x zoom. No riflescope does that.
If you were to add that much zoom the prism would take quite a large space inside. If you have a clear view of your target you can then easily shoot the target with the help of your rifle scope.
What makes a spotting scope the best? Interesting question. It depends on many factors. First thing budget, if someone’s budget is 300$ and I suggest a 3000$ spotting scope will that be fair? No, just because the 3000$ spotting scope is “the best” that doesn’t mean it’s the best for you.
My priority was to provide the best spotting scope for a specific budget. And I believe I did that. Well, you will be the judge of that. Let me know if you liked the review or not in the comments.
Things To Consider When Buying a Spotting Scope
There are some major things you should know before you opt for a spotting scope. Like a rifle scope! Spotting Scope also has some major key components that need to be good. Some things that must make sure that the scope you are opting for has.
Good Brand Value
In short, you are bound to get something good from a company with a good reputation.
Now, I know a lot of you guys will disagree with me but trust me on this if the brand has a good reputation for making good outdoor optics then, they will most likely have a good warranty system, no quality control issue, good body/glass/prism quality.
Good Build Quality
One of the major things of the scope is its housing. If the housing is bad and fragile it will break the whole scope. The ideal material to keep in mind while choosing a spotting scope is whether the material is any kind of metal, alloy or magnesium alloy.
Magnesium alloy is mainly used in the top end scopes in the market because it’s costly. But any kind of alloy is good enough with coatings and air to surface glass coating to seal the inside.
The housing must be waterproof so that no rust related issue can happen. It should be weatherproof also to perform well under bright sun or snowfall.
This is the major thing in my opinion. I know prism is the main important thing inside a spotting scope but hear me out. You will be looking through the scope for hours and hours.
You will be looking through the eyepiece and see your object in the objective lens. In that sense, if the lens quality is wacky your whole experience will be wacky and the money you put behind the scope will be wasted. You should always look for fully multi-coated scopes. But they come with a price.
Many of the top-end scope uses many advanced prism technologies to enhance your experience with the scope. Most of the top-end scope also tends to use BaK-4 glass in their prism to provide the sweetest experience.
Over the years BaK-4 uses has been raising and many budget scopes also uses them. You can prefer any prism that might meet your needs.
Magnification & Eyepiece
Most of the modern eyepiece generally comes with 20-60x magnification which provides more range than a normal spotter, birder necessarily needs. You can also buy third-party eyepieces from different vendors of your choice.
But for that, you need to make sure your scope supports removable eyepieces. You should choose the eyepiece that full fills your needs.
Most of the spotting scope does not come with a reticle. But for target shooters reticle is a must to calculate windage, elevation and bullet drop.
We mentioned the warranty part in brand value and different kinds of resistance like water, fog, etc in the build quality sector.
We think these are the major stuff that you should always check twice before purchasing a brand-new spotting scope.
1. Kowa TSN 883 Angled Series Spotting Scope
|Magnification||20 – 60x|
|Lens Type||Fluorite Crystal|
Originated in Japan in 1894 Kowa company LTD also has an American corporation. Kowa makes numerous products in a number of industries. They make solid scopes with excellent prism and build quality with the highest quality possible coating. No compromises except maybe not for target shooters cause no reticle.
It has no competitor whatsoever it sweeps the floor. Anyone who wants the best spotting scope without any compromises is the scope for you guys.
Magnesium Alloy: The housing is made out of magnesium alloy and it is super light. The build quality feels well-built and robust. Kowa doesn’t use any kind of rubber coating over the scope body. That worked as an advantage of keeping the weight down. the green color coating mashes well in the environment helping you camouflage better.
Mounting Plate: The mounting plate is considerably smaller (but not losing out on quality) than a lot of other spotting scope. It has one screw location which is made of brass where you insert your tripods head. You can use both 1/4- and 3/8-inch tripods. It’s attached to the scope by a collar. The collar goes right down the barrel. You can move the collar to your wish.
Sunshade Light: The scope also has an extendable sunshade right at the end of the barrel. Which will help to negate the shadows from direct sunlight and can help you line up objects better due to the shade having a raised sightline.
JIS Class 7: The Kowa TSN-883 is 100% waterproof. The scope is also rated JIS Class 7. It is pretty impressive because it will prevent any kind of sudden immersion of water getting inside the scope. 100% waterproofing means 100% dustproof. No dust is getting inside the scope.
Nitrogen Purged: Kowa TSN-883 is also nitrogen purged means that no internal fogging will occur. There is no moisture inside the scope which means that no corrosion is happening inside the scope.
Dual-Speed Focusing Mechanism: Kowa TSN-883 comes with a Dual-Speed Focusing Mechanism. Where you immediately close in on object using the large wheel then fine tune the focus using the small wheel. You can pinpoint at whatever you are focusing on.
Prominar Pure Fluorite Crystal Lenses: Kowa TSN series uses Kowa’s very special Prominar Pure Fluorite Crystal Lenses. & The lenses use an achromatic lens which is designed to limit the effects of chromatic and spherical aberrations. It has 2 individual lenses; one concave lens with higher dispersion and the other with convex with lower dispersion, they are combined.
Schmidt-Pechan Prism: Kowa uses the Schmidt-Pechan Prism design. The same design is used to make BaK-4 prism and SK-15 prism. Both of which use excellent quality glass for superior optical performance.
C3 Anti-Reflecting Coating: They used the anti-reflecting coating called C3. Kowa claims they provide 99% reflectance in the entire visible spectrum. The prism glass also has a phase correction coating applied to it.
TE-10Z Eyepiece: The eyepiece is highly impressive. This eyepiece has 10 lens elements in 6 groups. The TE-10Z eyepiece features an aspherical lens to improve and increase the field of view. The eyepiece has 20-60x zoom. You’ll get 38.5m of field of view (17 mm eye relief) in 20x at 1000m and you get 19.3m of field of view in 60x at 1000m.
So, if you are looking for a no-compromise spotting scope that is excellent for birding, target shooting, or wildlife stuff this is the scope you should eye for. Yes, it will set you back quite a bit but it is worth it.
2. Leupold Mark 4 20-60×80 Spotting Scope
|Linear FOV @1000 yds||121 – 42 ft|
Leupold is an American based sporting optics and telescoping sight makers. They hold a great reputation providing some of the best rifle scopes in the market. In the spotting scope genre, it’s no different.
They do provide some of the best built and great lens in spotting scope. Especially in the high-end budget, Leupold shines. The Mark 4 20-60x80mm is an excellent example.
Aluminum Alloy: It is made out of aluminum no plastic and the entirely covered in durable rubber armor for positive and non-slip grip. The scope is made for military-grade use so rest assured you are getting a top-notch scope.
Xtended Twilight & Diamondcoat 2: Xtended twilight lens system with diamondcoat 2, This system optimizes transmission of low-light wavelengths, which means you see better in low-light conditions. DiamondCoat 2; ion-assist lens coating which is used to transmit more light and prevent chromatic aberration.
BAK-4 Prism: This is one of the best prism that modern-day spotting scope uses. The prism has air-to-surface glass coating which provides more light transmission resulting in better images.
The Eyepiece: The included eyepiece is 20-60x magnification. The scope has a MIL-dot based reticle. The scope feels like the sweet spot for spotters who wants a reticle-based spotting scope for target shooting.
Digiscoping: You can digiscope with the Leupold Mark 4 but unfortunately, they don’t provide a mount in the box. You have to buy it separately. Although the reticle might play as an issue in digiscoping.
Waterproof: The scope is 100% waterproof and also fog proof. Due to the coating of the prism and lens, you can use the scope in any weather without issues.
Crystal Clear Images: The coating does exactly what it says. Due to having more light transmission, it produces far brighter, sharper and clear images.
The Leupold Mark 4 20-60x80mm Tactical spotting scope is an excellent scope without any doubt. If you want a reticle base spotting scope in our honest opinion this one is the best for you. The scope is extremely accurate when you sync it with your MIL-dot based riflescope.
3. Vortex Razor HD 27-60×85 Spotting Scope
|Magnification||27 – 60x|
|Eye Relief||16.7 – 17mm|
|FOV @100 yds||117′ – 68′|
Vortex is a well-known manufacturer of optical material such as binoculars, spotting scopes and rifle scopes. They are known to provide some of the best mid-range optics. They have many scopes under 500$ that comes in both straight and angled version.
ArmorTek Technology: The build quality is as expected top-notch. The razor HD use ArmorTek technology to coat the exterior and making it ultra-hard, unscratchable, oil and dirt proof. We were pretty impressed with the build quality.
Mounting Plate: The mounting plate is also strong and is a collar system so you can move it around. The collar is located right below the focus ring.
Multi-Coated: The optics are multi-coated to provide the best service possible. The scope is coated multiple times with anti-reflective coating on all air to glass surface. This ensures you get the best light transmission to get more clear and vivid images it also improves low light vision.
27-60x Zoom: The Razor HD series uses a new eyepiece for their scopes. I will argue they are way better than the previous generation. Instead of the classic 20-60X zoom, the new eyepiece offers a more improved 27-60X zoom. Of course, the eyepiece is changeable.
Focus Wheel: The focus wheel is built into the body directly. You can access it and use it using any of your hands. It is located right below the eyepiece and before the mounting bracket collar.
Focus Ring: The focus ring was really easy to operate and have to admit it focused well.
Close Focus: This might come to surprise to some people but yes Vortex implemented close focus in the Razor HD series. You can take close shots of smaller animals or bugs for example.
To sum up, we will like to say there are 4 versions of the scope, unfortunately, we didn’t have the luck of testing all of them. But if you ask our opinion and based on other reviews even the cheapest Razor HD is built well and offers a lot for its price. We can assure you that your investment won’t go to waste if you buy the Vortex Razor HD 27-60X85.
4. Pentax PF-80ED-A 80mm ED Spotting Scope
|Dimensions||4.72″ x 15.55″ x 3.86″|
A Japanese based company that specializes in outdoor sport optics. They provide imaging and electronics to Ricoh for cameras. It’s kind of a true stereotype that the Japanese make some of the best electronics. Pentax also makes one of the best optics in the market. While they don’t necessarily make high-end scopes they mainly compete in the mid-range.
Magnesium Alloy: Pentax PF-80ED-A is made of magnesium alloy and weights at 56.4oz. The scope body also has rubber armor (Still, pretty lightweight compared to lots of other scopes) all over it which ensures extra durability and scratch resistance.
Optics: If the scope does not have any good optic what’s the point of buying it? With minimal digging, you can find that Pentax builds world-class eyepieces. The optic lenses are fully multi-coated you won’t be seeing any glaring or CA (chromatic aberration) anytime soon.
Extra-Low Dispersion: Pentax PF-80ED-A uses extra-low dispersion to provide sharp and clear images. The scope also has a pretty large objective lens. The 80mm objective lens gives a huge amount of viewable area.
Eyepiece: Pentax is known for their eyepieces which is true. But the thing is that you need to buy the eyepiece separately. You can buy other eyepieces if you want. We went with the Pentax 20-60x eyepiece for Pentax PF-80ED-A.
Digiscoping? Yes, you can do digiscoping with this if you want.
Focus Knob: The scope only has a single focus knob right below where eyepieces are locked. The knob didn’t feel like it will come off with just a little bit of force. It felt like it was held in the place quite strongly.
Pentax PF-80ED-A has quite a bit of reputation in the spotting scope industry for providing good eyepieces for low price. The Pentax PF-80ED-A also has a straight version if you don’t like the angled version feel free to opt for that. If you have no issue buying an eyepiece separately you can buy the Pantex PF-80ED-A without having a concern about anything.
5. Celestron Regal M2 100ED Spotting Scope
|Magnification||22 – 67x|
|Field Of View||100-47 feet @1000yds|
|Lens Coating||Fully Multi-Coated|
Celestron is an American based company that manufactures telescopes and distributes telescopes, binoculars, spotting scopes, microscopes, and accessories. We especially liked their prism work. That’s why NASA used Celestron C5 in the past in their space shuttle. That’s quite an achievement if you ask me.
Magnesium Alloy: The Regal M2 100ED is made of magnesium alloy which is light but durable at the same time. It’s nice to see Celestron didn’t cheap out on the body considering the price point.
Mounting Plate: The mounting plate is a rotatable collar system. You can mount the scope on your tripod at any angle you wish to.
Optics: The optic on Regal M2 100ED is impressive. Fully multi-coated lenses help to transmit more light resulting in sharp and color-accurate images. The lenses are XLT coated.
Objective Lens: The objective lens has an extra-low dispersion coating to it. Thanks to this you don’t need to worry about chromatic aberration. It also helps to produce better quality images.
Dual Focus Control: Celestron Regal M2 100ED has dual focus control. With THAT, You can exactly pinpoint the part you want to focus on.
Eyepiece: The eyepiece has 22-67x zoom and the objective lens of Regal M2 100ED is 100mm. That’s huge a lot more than you usually need. But a larger objective lens means more viewable area. You get 100-47 feet of viewable area at 1000yards.
Close Focus: The Celestron Regal M2 100ED also has a close focus. You can take close-range pictures as well with it without issue.
Prism: The prism inside the Regal M2 100ED is BaK-4 type. It is the same type of architecture that the high-end scopes tend to use. The prism is fully multi-coated from surface to glass. According to Celestron, it is coated with anti-reflective coating which allows a lot of light to transmit through thus providing great quality pictures even in low light.
The Celestron Regal M2 100ED is a well-rounded scope. If you are on this budget range, we recommend this scope.
6. Bushnell Legend 20-60×80 Spotting Scope
|Magnification||20 – 60x|
|Field Of View||110′ – 51′|
Bushnell an American based sporting scopes and outdoor product manufacturing company. Bushnell holds a record of providing good products for low prices. Due to there reliable performance and excellent value, you just can’t overlook them while looking for a new scope.
Aluminum Alloy: The body quality is nothing impressive it is what you expect from a sub 500$ spotter. Made out of aluminum, not magnesium alloy. The body also has a rubber armor coating. That explains why the scope is so heavy.
Extra-Low Dispersion: This is where Bushnell legend ultra HD 20-60×80 shines. Extra-low dispersion glass, fully multi-coated lens. Extra-low dispersion technology makes sure that you get the clearest, brightest and sharpest image.
Porro Prism: Bushnell legend ultra HD 20-60×80 uses a prism called PORRO and the glass is BaK-4. The same BaK-4 glass is also used in the high-end spotting scope.
Lenses: The lenses are fully multi-coated. The whole optics of the scope is coated multiple times with anti-reflecting coating. All air to glass surface coating. The lenses felt so good to look through them. While testing we didn’t think for a second it was a 500$ scope. Anyone might think at first glance that the scope costs over 1000$.
RainGuard HD: Bushnell uses a technology called RainGuard HD. Which prevents the lenses from water damage and stops water from getting inside of the scope.
Dual Focus Controller: The focus is impressive as well. It has a dual focus controller. So, you can quickly cast and focus on an object then fine tune the focus.
Humble Thought Of Zoom: The thing that impressed us during the test most is the fact that how smooth the zoom transition was and how low distortion the images had after focusing and zooming to max 60x.
If you are a birder and don’t mind the extra weight of the spotting scope then this can be the scope for you. It’s cheap has excellent image quality comes with a protective bag and Bushnell has an excellent warranty service.
7. Celestron 52252 100mm Spotting Scope
|Magnification||22 – 66x|
|Field Of View||1.8°-1.0°|
Let’s be real we all were impressed by the Celestron Regal so why not another one from Celestron. For a sub 300$ the Celestron 52252 100mm ultima can be considered as a beast and can be recommended to new spotters or spotters in budget.
Body: The Celestron 52252 has quite a nice build for the price. It is not lightweight. Build is quite balanced with no edge whatsoever. The aluminum tube is waterproof. While the build quality has no cutting-edge technology but the scope does come in both straight and angled lens.
Optics: Fully multi-coated optics. FMC prism coating and BaK-4 glass.
100 mm Objective Lens: The Celestron 52252 ultima 100 has a 100mm objective lens which gives you 94 ft (28.6 m) field of view at 22x and 52 ft (15.8 m) at 66x. That’s a lot higher than any 80mm spotting scope near this budget.
Close Focus: The Celestron 52252 has close focus; which is (33 ft (10 m). That can be a deal-breaker for a lot of people who do digiscoping. While it’s not meant for a macro shot, we won’t say you can take the macro shot either.
Don’t let the color coating fool you the build quality is pretty solid for the price. If you order from the link, we provided you will receive a universal smartphone adapter. Also, the scope has a straight version too. So, if you prefer straight version over angled you can opt for that.
8. Bushnell Trophy 20-60×65 Spotting Scope
|Magnification||20 – 60x|
|Field Of View||110′ – 55′|
Bushnell is a well-respected outdoor sports optics making company. This is the 2nd product from Bushnell on our list.
Rugged Rubbered Armor: The rugged rubbered armor housing is 100% waterproof. While the quality of the material might concern some. To us, the rubber armor didn’t feel like it’s bad. On the contrary, I would argue that it has one of the best-rugged body under 300$.
Coatings: The Bushnell Trophy XLT 20-60×65 mm has a Porro prism and fully multi-coated optics. Іt hаѕ bеttеr орtісаl соаtіngѕ thаn thе Вuѕhnеll Ѕеntrу wіth fullу multі-соаtеd lеnѕ. The coating has been done to air to the glass surface. Which means that you will get the maximum amount of light transmission. It’ѕ has lаrgеѕt ехіt рuріl ѕіzе іѕ 3.25 mm.
Prism: Тhе Роrrо рrіѕm dеѕіgn specializes in providing maximum light reflection internally. Тhе орtісаl раth usually takes larger room and size to build compared to roof prism assembly. That is because the optical path is a Z-like pattern.
For the price, the Bushnell Trophy XLT spotting scope provides a lot of value. The scope is pretty well-balanced. It’s lightweight, a good amount of magnification, decent focus, and good prism.
9. Gosky 20-60×80 Porro Prism Spotting Scope
|Magnification||20 – 60x|
|Eye Relief||17 – 13.5 mm|
|Field of View||39-19m/1000m|
Gosky is an American based outdoor sports optics manufacturing company. In recent years they got into the limelight plenty of time. Most of the praises heard from reviewers is because they make relatively cheap scopes.
In recent years, Gosky got quite a bit of attention. The US-based company deserves all the positive vibe and feedback it receiving. Because they are not looking down on the budget birders/hunters.
Magnesium Alloy: Made out of magnesium the whole scope is pretty light compared to lots of other spotting scope. In case you are wondering magnalium is 5% magnesium and 95% alloy. The scope also has a rubber armor all over the tube.
Multi Coated Optics: Fully multi-coated optics to provide better light transmission. The objective lens is 80mm and its fully multi-coated green film lens. The scope is waterproof that means no water is going through any of the lenses.
Eyepiece Diameter: The eyepiece diameter is 20mm and the exit pupil at 60x is 1.3mm. Gosky is the best for 1000 yards with 115.2.-57.6ft field of view.
Porro Prism is a cheap prism that provides excellent picture quality. Due to the mechanics, it follows internal light loss is minimal and the making cost is also cheap. Thus a lot of cheap scope tends to feature this prism.
Center Focused Scope: The Gosky 20-60×80 is a center focused scope. The scope also features a close focus whose range is 18/6ft. While maxing out the zoom going to diminish the image quality, which will happen to any sub 1000$ scope. This is no reason to hate on the scope.
Digiscoping: The scope comes with a tripod and digiscope adapter. This is the best spotting scope for birding; who is looking for an affordable scope to digiscope for make his/her experience better. The image quality was pretty respectable unless you crank it up to 60x.
Gosky 20-60×80 has a lot to offer for the budget birders out there. But we highly recommend unless you are on a strict budget, ditch the tripod. The included tripod is just horrible.
10. Barska 20-60×60 Straight Spotting Scope
|Magnification||20 – 60x|
|Eye Relief||18 – 15mm|
How can we finish a best post without mentioning at least one Barska product? Well, Barska is like Bushnell but for the entry-level people or who just wants something to get by.
They often provide many scopes for less than 100$. Yeah, I know 50$ for a scope might be unheard of. But it turns out they are not trash or toys that kids play with.
Rugged Rubbered Armor: Shockproof and waterproof rugged rubber armor body. It doesn’t sound bad at all. Just to be clear I wasn’t expecting a magnesium alloy body for sub 100$ scope. To sum it up nothing fabulous but not trash either.
Objective Lens: The objective lens is fully coated multiple times. The images were respectably bright and sharp in day time. But as expected it wasn’t meant for night time usage. I am not disappointed about that. I wasn’t hoping it would perform like Celestron C5 at night time.
Prism: The BK-7 is used for common crown glass, borosilicate. You might prefer BaK-4 we get it BaK-4 is like goat tier. But for budget BK-7 is just fine. While they come with quite a bit of a disadvantage. The common one is they tend to lose light more often and bubble count is high.
Close Focus: The scope does feature a close focus of 18mm at 20x and 15mm at 60x. While the 60x focus and zoom might not feel that good which is expected.
Other Features: The eyepiece of the scope is straight and does not come in angled. The magnification of the scope is 20x to 60x. The objective lens is 60mm with field of view [email protected] and [email protected]. Which is respectable.
Final thoughts on the scope is, it’s not a terrible scope. In fact, it provides a good value for the price and comes with lots of accessories. If you strictly can’t cross the 100$ budget this is the scope to get.
Ladies and gentlemen that was a wild ride. I know it is a long read but trust me, folks, it’s worth it. We hope you appreciate our effort in providing such large content for you guys.
And we also hope we were able to help you decide the best spotting scope. We tried our best to give each of the spotting scope reviews of their own.
In the meantime, if you think that our reviews was helpful (!) then please hit the share button and stay with us.
Hi, I’m Brent Hansford. A writer turned hunter & now sharing my love for the sport through writing. As I practically breathe weapons, I firmly believe I’m capable of providing you with new knowledge about firearms and hunting. My mission is to help more people get better at hunting & master the weapons. Let me help with unleashing the beast within you!