What a Spotting Scope Is & Where to Buy Them

Perhaps you’re not sure what a spotting scope is, and how they differ from regular binoculars or a telescope. This article will give you a quick introduction on how they work and their uses.

The first main difference between a spotting scope and a telescope is that one always gives you an image that’s the correct way around. Telescopes often flip or invert images when you look through them. This isn’t an issue when you’re looking at stars or a planet, but spotting scopes are generally used by bird-watchers and hunters who need to see the image as the naked eye would see it. Spotting scopes are also far smaller than telescopes, and are generally used when on the move. On the other hand, telescopes are stood on a stand and used to look at a particular place, often much farther away than what a spotting scope would allow. Following from this, the magnification offered by a spotting scope isn’t as strong as even a small telescope. This is because their uses are quite different. Finally, the main difference between a spotting scope and a telescope is the type of stand they use. A telescope will often need a dedicated stand that’s made for the size of the instrument. Spotting scopes, on the other hand, can be mounted to most generic tripods, making them far more versatile.

Compared to binoculars, spotting scopes sit in between them and telescopes. Spotting scopes offer more magnification than what binoculars can, and are generally used for looking at the horizon or looking for animals, and are commonly used by hunters, bird-watchers, and other hobbyists like archers and those on ships. Additionally, spotting scopes can be paired with a camera to take high-quality long-range pictures.

 A few things to take into account when looking for a spotting scope are the magnification, the lens, and the image quality. Spotting scopes can generally magnify from about 20x, all the way up to 60x what the eye can see. This is quite considerable, but take care that you factor in the atmosphere which isn’t as much of an issue in astronomy. Things like heat waves can reduce image quality at a device’s maximum zoom, for example. In addition, take note of the limitations of the scope itself. If you need anything over a 40x zoom for shooting spotting scopes, for example, then look at the more expensive models as they will be necessary to maintain good picture quality.

Generally, the larger the lens, the better the image quality will be over longer distances. This isn’t everything though, and the quality of the lens can’t be disregarded. Generally, if you aren’t sure, quality will beat the size.

Finally, make sure to look at a scope eye relief and lens coating. Eye relief is the amount of distance from the eyepiece you can be before you can no longer see out of the device. This should be considered by those wearing glasses, for example. The lens coating will help preserve the longevity of the scope, and a good multi-coated case will last the longest.

Image Credits: Spotting Scope from ESOlex/Shutterstock

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