What are Spotting Scopes?
Spotting scopes are high-powered magnification devices used to aid in the observation of distant objects.
They are commonly used for wildlife surveillance, hunting, viewing scenic landscapes and locating other hard-to-spot things of interest. Spotting scopes are also used for scoring targets on rifle, pistol and archery ranges and can be used for astronomical pursuits like stargazing.
Top-dollar spotting scopes range around $1500, but plenty of quality, durable spotting scopes are available for significantly less. All spotting scopes are marketed and labelled with 3 numbers that are found on either the device or the packaging. For example, 10-45×50 would be a spotting scope that magnifies objects from 10x to 45x, and the front lens diameter is 50mm.
After the numbers, you may see either “SE” or “AE”. These stand for ‘straight eyepiece’ and ‘angled eyepiece’. The difference is whether you prefer to sit and look straight forward into the spotting scope, or if you’re standing above the scope and want to look ‘down’ into the eyepiece.
Angled eyepieces are better with shorter tripods and can also accommodate looking upwards or ‘glassing’ a hill. Straight eyepieces will probably give you quicker target acquisition and are better for viewing landscapes and wildlife. Generally, straight eyepieces are preferred by beginners.
Spotting Scopes Vs Other Magnification Devices
Spotting scopes are unique compared to other magnification devices. Spotting scopes generally provide much higher magnification than binoculars, monoculars and riflescopes. Spotting scopes tend to be heavier than other magnification devices, usually 1.5 – 3.5lbs.
Because of their extremely powerful magnification, any slight vibration or disturbance to a spotting scope can greatly distort the image. For this reason, most spotting scopes are mounted on bipods or tripods to ensure stability.
Naturally, large-scale telescopes are the most powerful magnification devices known to man, and their pricing and usage is generally specialized for professional astronomers.
Spotting scopes play an important role in scientific pursuits. Fire-watchers in the western United States and Canada use spotting scopes to monitor wildfires. Antarctic researchers use spotting scopes to monitor unstable ice shelves.
Biologists in little-explored regions like the Amazon Rainforest, Papua New Guinea and the Siberian Sakha Republic use spotting scopes to monitor landscapes and wildlife without getting too close and disturbing the nature.
Five Best Spotting Scopes Under $100
1. Firefield Spotting Scope 20-60x60SE $89.00
This Firefield scope is a real steal for its price. It has a simple, practical design and features fully multi-coated optics, guaranteeing you a nice, clear image. Like most Firefield optics, this spotting scope is waterproof and fog proof (so you can use it in adverse weather!).
Included with the Firefield 20-60x60SE Spotting Scope are a hard storage case, soft storage case and adjustable micro-precision tripod.
2. Barska Black Hawk Spotting Scope 18-36x50AE $94.08
This Barska spotting scope has pretty impressive stats for its low price. Multi-coated optics? Check. Fog proof? Check. Waterproof? Check.
With its extendable sunshade to reduce overhead glare, this nifty spotting scope is excellent for landscape viewing from any elevation. Included with the spotting scope are a tripod, hard carrying case and soft carrying case.
3. Amcrest Spotting Scope 20-60x60AE $79.99
This Amcrest spotting scope is beyond a good bargain – it’s great! It has fully multi-coated optics and comes with a metal tripod—with adjustable feet—to provide you with stability while in use. With a universal smartphone adapter, this spotting scope is excellent for taking high-quality photos and videos.
It also comes with an included carrying case so you can lug this product all over creation without any fuss.
4. Sightmark Solitude 11-33x50SE $97.00
Sightmark is known for its red dots and powerful riflescopes, but did you know they sell spotting scopes? Like everything else Sightmark, this 11-33×50 scope is top-quality and STILL under $100. With fully multi-coated optics and a straight eyepiece design, this scope has all the bells and whistles: compact design, tripod adapter and endless durability.
Included with this spotting scope are a tripod and carrying case. So what are you waiting for? This spotting scope’s quality and affordable price-point are truly extraordinary in the outdoor lifestyles industry.
5. Celestron Landscout 12-36x60AE $73.95
Celestron is a little-known company from California who specializes in scopes of all varieties. Their binoculars, monoculars, spotting scopes and telescopes are elite, and the Landscout 12-36×60 is clear proof.
Fully multi-coated optics, rotating tripod mount, lightweight and portable, this spotting scope has it all. With a massive 60mm front lens, this scope pulls in copious amounts of light to give users clear, sharp images.
For $73.95, it’s a wonder this product doesn’t sell out on a daily basis.
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