WE DID THE WORK TO FIND THE BEST AND THESE ARE THE RESULTS:
Best for the Money
Best on a Budget
Finding the best spotting scope for you likely consists of the necessary research, testing, and examining of various brands, models, and accessories available on the market. We, however, have taken the time to conduct in-depth research and have compared three major, most popular and well-trusted brands and spotting scopes to make this process easier. If you’re an experienced hobbyist or outdoor enthusiast and already know, or are interested in learning why blue fringing (or false coloration) and chromatic aberration occur with spotting scopes, how to avoid it, and to what depth these challenges will exist in the spotting scope you choose, then read on!
Below you will find spotting scope reviews that will provide you with the necessary insight to make the best decision based on use for spotting at the range, birding, traveling, and other outdoor activities. We know how specific spotting scopes can be, why mobility is important and have cross-evaluated each of these products to ensure the necessary clarity, quality, mobility, power, waterproofing features, and included accessories.
The Best Spotting Scope
This is considered by us the best spotting scope on the market!
First up is Bushnell’s Trophy XLT 20-60X 66mm Waterproof Compact Spotting Scope and Tripod Stand. We’ve selected the Bushnell Trophy XL 65mm Waterproof Spotting Scope because in comparison to other competing products, as well as the other two listed we’ve found this to be built with the most convenience of mobility, expected performance for this price range with a 65mm objective ranged lens, and the ability to easily take it on the go thanks’ to its lightweight 42oz (or 2.6lb) build.
The fact that this Bushnell spotting scope includes both a soft and hard case demonstrates that Bushnell took customer’s convenience into consideration, and it’s durable build puts it at the best quality for money paid – including the consideration of the carrying bags, tripod, and other accessories justifying it’s rating as our best spotting scope for 2016. In comparison to the Celestron 52250 80mm Spotting Scope, it’s evident that this Bushnell Spotting Scope is the best product for the total price paid as it’s been built and includes accessories for ideal, stationary positions for whichever activity you’re conducting outside. Whereas in comparison, the Celestron 52250 80MM as mentioned below is considerably more powerful with an 80mm objective range lens, and it’s easy to use without necessarily requiring a tripod setup.
Best Spotting Scope for the Money
First, it’s worth pointing out that the Celestron 52250 80mm Spotting Scope is unique and competitive in nature to the other two spotting scopes mentioned here thanks’ to its swift ability and feature to remove the rubber eyepiece cup to screw on a T-Ring mount for connecting a camera. The Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope is considerably competitive to other models and brands thanks to it unusually powerful 80mm maximum zoom, and substantially powerful 100mm objective lens. The Celestron 52250 Spotting Scope should be considered by any hobbyists who frequently bird watches outdoors, needs a reliable long-distance zooming scope to use at the firing range, or for travelers alike that enjoy sightseeing with an advantageous view while out and about.
There’s no doubt then, that the Celestron 52250 Spotting Scope is the best spotting scope for the money and in comparison the premier choice for a spotting scope designed for on-the-go and without requiring a standard tripod in most instances. At an investment of just under $170, this is an excellent choice, is built with premium grade materials, and is an overall high-performance spotting scope that even includes a durable, waterproof soft case. The Celestron 52250 is easily able to compete with $500-$1000+ comparable spotting scopes, and with it’s trusted warranty is undoubtedly a noteworthy investment.
Best Spotting Scope on a budget
Angled spotting scope with variable 20x to 60x magnification and 60mm objective lens, dynamic lens focusing system makes it easy to zoom in on target.
The Emarth 20-60x60AE is built with an ergonomic design, has a comparable 60mm objective range lens when considering the competition, and even the other spotting scopes mentioned here. The Emarth 20-60x60AE is an excellent choice for those seeking to purchase a spotting scope on a budget, as it includes nearly the “full package” and is ready to go right out of the box. Pretty much any accessories you can imagine or need, such as an ocular lens, mount collar (perfect for modifying and using various tripod setups), a sunshade feature (nice for optimizing clarity and avoiding harmful hueing of imagery), and even an angled spotting scope not only makes this an excellent choice but makes it unique as well considering the features included. For less $70 this is not only a great deal but also a spotting scope backed by its manufacturer with a respectable warranty. This is an excellent spotting scope for travelers, and those looking to use a spotting scope on the go.
Why you need a Spotting Scope: Weighing the Facts
Spotting scopes are by no means a new concept, and if anything should be considered an evolved form of telescopes, except for shorter distances of course. Typically involving outdoor use – unless you’re a private investigator!
Considering the high-performance objective lenses ranging from 60mm to an average maximum of 80-85mm consumers that frequent the outdoors for camping trips, hunting, bird-watching, and snapping photos of high resolution is an awesome experience for hobbyists and professionals alike. Hunters and those who frequent gun ranges will find spotting scopes useful and practical, as they can swiftly measure their accuracy, shot (if they have a spotter), and of course, the resulting damage inflicted on their targets.
Spotting scopes, but especially the three we’ve included in this review, are an excellent investment of your money, as each fall far below $300 per unit, and a lot of people may have the automatic assumption or misconception that it’s necessary to shell out nearly thousands of dollars just to benefit from having one – but this is far from the truth! In consideration of the history of both telescopes and spotting scopes, it’s worth appreciating the reality that professional-grade spotting scopes from trusted companies like Bushnell, one that’s especially known for it’s various, trusted, and reputable hunting gear, all the way to big name brands like Celestron, can be purchased for a mere fraction of the price of what these scopes cost in the past. Celestron, for example, is both a well-known and trusted brand for astronomers alike, and finding a premium telescope by this company, and binoculars alikes take little to no effort. The same can be said for Bushnell as well – for example, the Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fogproof Porro Prism Binoculars. And although a name brand like Emarth may be a new one for you, it’s easy to see that they have been and continue to be a well-trusted brand for various personal fitness and camping gear in addition to their spotting scope technology and products.
The Buyers Guide: What Makes a Great Spotting Scope?
So you’re prepared to make the investment to purchase a spotting scope, but looking for a little help along the way in deciding on the best fit for you? No problem! We’ve outlined the most practical spotting scopes based on popularity and efficiency, quality for what you pay, and last but not least the most ideal spotting scope for those on a budget.
When considering a spotting scope first and foremost it’s important to determine what type of activity or purposes you’ll be using for, and to apply this factor in identifying the most profitable and practical spotting scope product, performance, quality, distance, depth, and any extra features or accessories that enhance your overall visual. Of course, there are also a select handful of spotting scopes available on the market – one in which we’ve included in our reviews – which are specifically designed to use with a camera with simple convenience and practicality to snap images on the go.
Understandably, how you use your spotting scope and in what types of conditions will equally play important roles in your final decision. For example, the Emarth 20-60x60AE Spotting Scope is excellent for those that require a swift preview or visual of what they’re attempting to look at, thanks to it’s angled spotting scope feature. While it does include a tripod like many spotting scopes do, the angled spotting scope allows you to preview images and gauge distance while on the go. This type of feature, for example, may be optimal for those using their spotting scope for hunting prey that can move or change locations quickly, and identifying them at long distance when necessary.
Although not the most ‘technical’ per say of features, something else to consider along with mobility is a spotting scopes build and ability to work in quickly changing environments or conditions. For example, the Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope comes with a soft case including zippers on both the front and back of the scope, and since it’s waterproof this means that for those who aren’t afraid to go hunting in rainy conditions, or those down at the range who aren’t hindered by weather changes could greatly benefit from a spotting scope such as this.
Another very noteworthy technical feature and something to look for when considering a spotting scope is not only it’s “objective lens” or the lens designed for (X) distance and depth, but also it’s zoom capacity. Most of the spotting scopes we’ve reviewed here have an average of 20x-60x zoom, a 25-yard zooming capacity with above average clarity, and even a spotting scope that has been built with a dynamic lens focusing system, to enhance zoom on even it’s objective lens measurability. Earlier we mentioned the terms blue fringing (or false coloration) and chromatic aberration. These terms and clarity of zoom effects are typically observed in any spotting scope, regardless of zoom capacity, build, or optic lens features. However, for those looking to purchase a spotting scope for the purpose of long-distance viewing or zooming, hunting, sightseeing, and bird watching it makes the most sense to go with a spotting scope that not only has a reasonable objective lens range that suits your needs, but also one with practical and positively reviewed zoom capacity and consistency of clarity, hue, and depth or range. Now while this may very well be educational and helpful knowledge to possess, it, of course, cannot formulate and calculate the necessary objective lens or zoom capacity that may be required for your spotting scope needs.
Therefore, when considering the right spotting scope for you, ensure you have some level of a bearing – whether from experience or research – in which you have a basic to advanced level of understanding to what distances (per yards) you’ll likely be using your spotting scope for, the weather conditions, climate, depths that may be required, and of course the mobility associated with your outdoor hobby or activities. For example, strongly consider not only the weight but also the dimensions or total length of the spotting scopes you’re considering purchasing, as 4lbs or 5lbs can easily add up and become a hindrance if beyond this average weight, and may not make the most practical sense or be designed for your “on-the-go” spotting or hunting needs.
The Best Spotting Scope – Full Review
The Bushnell Trophy XLT 20-60x 65mm is rated as our top spotting scope because it is built durable, waterproof, and comes with just about any accessory you may need for taking it hunting or out on the firing range. With an up to 60x Zoom feature, it’s no hassle to read 4″ letters up to 800 yards away. With solid optics that will bring to life most targets at an average of 300 yards, the light collecting technology of this spotting scope is premium, to say the least.
The Bushnell packs a powerful punch and also has the capacity to provide close focus distance at approximately 32 feet. It has a wide field of view at 110 feet at 100 yards, and 55 feet view at 1,000 yards. This is an optimal spotting scope for the range, and because the entire scope is built with rugged, waterproof rubber and quality glass having a foggy scope or one that performs poorly in rugged conditions like rain and wind can be a part of the past. With a field of view that remains consistent with a 20X zoom per 100 yards, you are able to aim with a constant measure of about 8×8. On 40X zoom, you can expect a decrease to about 4×4 clear coverage, but in comparison to competing for brands and products, you’ll easily save yourself hundreds if not thousands of dollars on products that compare in specs.
If you’re spotting and frequently viewing down to .223 size holes at around 100 yards this is optimal, and customers are very satisfied with its smooth focus adjustments. Now, on a “semi-downside” the Bushnell Trophy XLT albeit free and included, comes with a tripod that will easily hold up at the firing range on your weapons table-top rest bench, but may be less stable and consistent on rugged terrain or on the go. Also, although included at no extra cost, few customers have complained that the case could have been made with tougher material. Lastly, this spotting scope is a bit long at just around 13”, and is quite light in comparison to the competition at just 2.6 lbs. However, considering you’re able to purchase a quality, premium made spotting scope from a trusted brand like Bushnell for such a reasonable price you’re really getting above and beyond what you pay for.
Comparable models and brands to the Bushnell Trophy XLT would easily cost into the $500+ range, and still likely not come with the same level of quality clarity or durability as this spotting scope, in particular, is sure to withstand most environmental challenges and weather conditions.
While it’s not the most technically advanced Bushnell Spotting Scope, again, you understandably get what you pay for, and even in cloudy weather this Bushnell stands strong. This really is an all-around great spotting scope for both shooting and nature seeing consistently in cloudy or poorly lit conditions.
Best Spotting Scope for the Money – Full Review
The Ultima 80 by Celestron is a very capable spotting scope that is well constructed, focuses flawlessly and clearly up to 500 yards with ease, and is built for the range or taking on your next hunting trip. Thanks to its multi-coated optics it utilizes a high light transmission, and its 80mm zoom feature is of extraordinary quality as well. For less than $200 this is absolutely a great investment for your money, and provides a brighter experience than most premium and competing level brands and models that rely on 60mm or greater in comparison. With up to a 60X magnification and a 45-degree angle this means a shorter tripod can be used making this a perfect spotting scope for taking on the go and remaining mobile. In turn, a smaller tripod and smaller spotting scope meaning a lighter, more travel-friendly hunting, shooting, or adventuring trip for you.
This Celestron Spotting Scope, well known for its premium quality binoculars and telescopes for astronomers, easily picks up 12″ x 12″ targets, which is an excellent advantage for using at the shooting range or for wide angle view when bird watching and traveling. Speaking of astronomy, customers have even reported back that seeing some of Saturn’s moons and even a zoomed in, clear imagery of the moon with this spotting scope, which is an extraordinary feat for such a considerably small, compact, mobile spotting scope for the price paid. Naturally, as with the moon or sun, specific waves of light can of course distort or disrupt view, much like foggy days or torrential rains. Therefore, no matter what type of spotting scope you decide on, it’s worth remembering that the lenses and durability of a spotting scope or any telescope for that manner can only be as effective as the quality of lenses, as well as durability in build and protective accessories may they be included or something that much be purchased separately.
If you’re looking for an occasional or weekend shooter spotting scope or one fit for hunting and adventuring, then overall this is an excellent fit for you, and it seems to perform optimally between 100-300 yards depending on outdoor conditions. While some customers have complained of clarity loss or blurry effects when using the zoom feature, this is expected with any product. However, the Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope still ultimately remains an excellent bang for your buck. For the price to performance this is easily competing with $500+ comparable products, and although without a hash reticle option, the optical quality remains above average, and if this is the range of budget you’re working with, it remains a top pick for hobbyists, astronomy enthusiasts, hunters, and adventurers alike.
Best Spotting Scope on a budget – Full Review
Angled spotting scope with variable 20x to 60x magnification and 60mm objective lens, dynamic lens focusing system makes it easy to zoom in on target.
The Emarth 20-60x60AE Spotting Scope is based on a Central Focus BK7 Prism technology, includes full multi-coated optical coating, and has a magnification range from 20x up to as high as 60x zoom. For those looking for the best spotting scope on a budget, the Emarth 20-60x60AE Spotting Scope is an excellent choice. For less than $100, you’re getting a multi-use spotting scope that’s adequately designed to hold up in tough weather conditions, is ergonomically designed, and provides consistently clear, crisp imagery no matter where you point it. While this Emarth Spotting Scope is built for convenience it still fulfills expectations of strength and is designed with eye relief of 17-13.5mm which is quite impressive considering the price and build type in comparison to competing models and brands.
The optic lens on the Emarth 20-60x60AE Spotting Scope is also built with fog-proof technology, and will prevent not only fogging but because it is waterproof it can still be effectively used outside in less than desirable weather conditions. For those that like to bird watch or go hunting, you’ll find ease and pleasure in knowing this spotting scope is built to easily view and magnify images hundreds of yards away, and for adventurers alike looking up at the sky to stargaze or hunt for “UFO’s” can be a delightful experience. While it is 13″ long, at hardly over 2lbs this is easy to take on the go, it’s simple to assemble and go right out of the box, and considering the magnitude of image quality, durability, and comfort this remains our top best pick for a spotting scope on a budget. Provided you aren’t in a low-lit environment, seeing within 200 yards or less is consistent, yet those seeking a higher performing spotting scope likewise should understandably be willing to purchase a product in a higher price range.
Provided it may not be as durable or as tall as $100-$200+ tripods, the fact the Emarth 20-60x60AE comes with a reasonably durable tripod simplifies the purchasing process for you, adding to its overall convenience and quality for price paid factor. If you need a more prone position, then it’s likely you will have to purchase the necessary tripod separately. While the maximum zoom may be described as ‘subpar, by some, it’s worth keeping in mind it’s strength and consistency between 20-40x, and that like any spotting scope it has its limits. This is by no means a military grade or $500-$1000+ spotting scope, but for those just getting into hunting, going to the firing range, or exploring outdoor wildlife using a spotting scope this is an excellent place to start, familiarize yourself with how spotting scopes work, and further determine the most important variables for your use and purchases.
Common FAQ’s: Spotting Scopes
Q) If I’m going hunting, what types of animals could I expect to hunt successfully with a Spotting Scope such as the Bushnell Trophy XLT 20-60x 65mm?
A) Thank’s to products like the Bushnell Trophy XLT Spotting Scope’s 20x to 60x maximum magnification features and a 65mm objective lens hunting Elk, Caribou, While Tail Deer, or even Mule Deer hunting is made simple, including on the go. For longer distance high-zoom it’s understandable that investing in a higher grade or premium tripod or stand setup may be necessary to accompany your spotting scope.
Q) For less than $200, is it practical to assume a product like the Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope can effectively sight objects or targets at up to 1000 yards?
A) Thanks’ to premium grade optics and an experienced manufacturer or spotting scopes such as Celestron, racking out this spotting scope, in particular, to 66x at up to 1000 yards is, in fact, possible. The vision would likely be a view as if you were standing approximately 50-55ft from your target at this high zoom. Ultimately, regardless of how much you invest in a spotting scope and optics, available light, contrast, and weather conditions will always play a critical role in determining the level of true vision you will have while using a spotting scope.
Q) With a product like the Emarth 20-60x60AE Spotting Scope, how friendly is this and the other products mentioned here with those that wear glasses? Eye relief? Optic flexibility?
A) The Emarth 20-60x60AE Spotting Scope has received very positive feedback, and much like the Bushnell and Celestron Spotting Scope’s mentioned in this article, eye relief is fairly substantial, considering the prices paid for each of these three products. Depending on your depth-perception, the eye relief like most scopes will present the view as if you were standing in front of the target just as much as binoculars per the magnification quality. Also, those with glasses have reported being able to use each of the three mentioned spotting scopes flawlessly, thanks to the feature of adjusting focus (knob) on each of these.
Conclusion: Which Spotting Scope is Right for You?
After reading through our reviews and information on spotting scopes you may still feel uncertain as to which is the best fit for you – especially if this is your first spotting scope.
Of the three products presented here, if this is genuinely your first spotting scope or even binocular experience, then the Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope is an excellent product to go with. While no, this is not the cheapest of the three, it is likely the most “newbie-friendly”, comes with a convenience 45 degree angled scope which makes it easier to preview sights and make adjustments on-the-go, and includes a precision sight-tube to also contribute to ease of use. This spotting scope, in particular, is conveniently designed, durable, and while it does not come with a tripod or stand it’s not necessarily required if you’re hunting or measuring the distance of targets at the range – especially if you’re only the spotter, or taking turns with both the spotting scope and your weapon.
If you’re planning on being stationary often, may it be on the shooting range, hunting, or outdoor exploring then the Emarth 20-60x60AE is an excellent spotting scope to go with, comes with all the accessories and tripod you’ll need to get started, and is honestly ready to use right out of the box. It also comes with a nice case, and thanks to its waterproof design and rubber material can be used in various, challenging weather conditions. At less than $100 you’re getting a quality, comparably optic-ready scope in consideration of the others mentioned, and much like competing spotting scopes has a 20x to 60x maximum magnification feature which is quite useful. The optics rely on a BK-7 prism that is multi-coated which means fog and other weather conditions will not blur your vision or line of sight in most cases. It includes a soft carrying bag and tripod and is an excellent choice for spotting stars and using it for UFO sightseeing at night-time or exploring outer-space. Lastly, true to its reputation the Bushnell Trophy XLT 20-60x 65mm spotting scope is an excellent product designed to hold it’s own, provides undoubtedly HD quality viewing, and handles light transitions, conduction, and other obstacles very well. With a premium hard case this is truly an excellent choice, and easily competes with $500-$1000+ spotting scopes available on the market.
Ultimately, the best spotting scope for you will come down to a variety of variables, and some of the most important to be considered are performance of optics, build or durability, zoom or magnification features, accessibility for those with eyeglasses to use the spotting scope, mobility, and flexibility to be used with various tripod or stand mechanisms, and of course it’s overall weight and functionality based on its objective range lens. What you’re using your spotting scope for of course remains significant, but you can find comfort in knowing that these spotting scopes reviewed are perfect for outdoor use, the firing range, hunting, sightseeing, and even snapping photos may they be at night under the stars, or during the day as you hike through mountains and other new places.