This article will teach you about spotting scopes, tips to consider before purchasing one as hunters and birders who love superhuman vision. A good spotting scope comes with magnifications up to 60, 70, perhaps even 80 power, which is massive.
Most spotting scope comes with zoom lenses; however, we will explain everything you need to know about spotting scope. Also, let you know how to avoid a dark spotting scope, soft focus, and a piece of junk.
Well, let's look and consider a spotting scope as one half of a binocular because that's essentially what it is. Read on to learn more about spotting scopes as we extensively explain nine tips.
Best Spotting Scopes
- Swarovski Optik ATS-65 HD Spotting Scope
- Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scope
- Meopta S2 80mm Spotting Scope Straight Body
- Nikon Monarch FIELDSCOPE 82ED-A W/MEP-20-60
- Celestron Regal M2 65ED Spotting Scope
9 Things to Consider
The first thing to check is the frontend, which contains the objective lens. This is critical because the bigger the lens, the more light it allows into the instrument.
Look out for a big objective lens, but it shouldn't be too big as you are mindful of carrying too much bulk and weight around.
ED/HD Fluoride Glass
The second tip to consider is the ED or HD glass, which means fluorite glass with a high refractive index.
Its role is to eliminate color fringing, which occurs at high magnifications because as the light goes through a glass in a prism, it bends and comes out at a different angle. This light shifts into all the rainbow colors, and you've probably seen this light passing through a prism glass, and you see the rainbow.
The resulting rainbow won't help produce a very sharp image in the eyepiece; rather, you will have a deer or an elk that looks like a red, purple, blue, and yellow edge, which is not sharp; this is called color fringing. To eliminate color fringing, you need to reduce the white light wavelength shifting into that entire color spectrum, which is what EDD or HD glass does.
The EDD or HD glass has a refractive index that minimizes the bending of light and the rainbow effect. This is important after about 20 power because the more the magnification, the more light is bent. The more the wavelengths get separated into those color bands, the fluorite glass helps bring all that back to a sharp, crisp focus.
I highly recommend that on any high magnification instrument, especially a spotting scope, you should have an ED and HD fluorite lens.
For a prism, it could be a roof prism, and that could be a Schmidt, Perrini, or a Konig; it could also have a mirror on it.
The mirror is either silver or dielectric, which are all contributors to brightness. You may need to confirm directly from the company if the prism comes with a mirror or not; otherwise, you will need to have to look through it and ascertain if the image is bright enough. You could also compare several spotting scopes but be sure it has a prism to bend the light, extending light travel length, thereby increasing magnification.
The most important role a prism plays is that it prevents images from appearing upside down and backward. For instance, if you look through the astronomical telescope, it projects images upside down and backward because of a prism.
This is another important factor to consider. The eyepiece is what gives you your magnification. The barrel length has a lot to do with magnification, but if you can go from 20 power to 60 power just by turning this little dial on the eyepiece, that means the magnification is happening right in there. It's just like a magnifying glass, and you're getting it closer and closer to that subject.
So you can buy eyepieces that interchange if you get a good one like this that's 20 to 60 unlike the old days when I used to buy spotting scopes of 20x, 45x, and a 60x individual eyepiece. Nowadays, you can get a beautiful zoom eyepiece with a magnification of 20x to 60x. I recommend you get one of these now.
This represents the little circle of light you see right there in the eyepiece, which has to match up or be larger than your pupil. The reason is that the light's diameter is like you looking through a keyhole, and if it is smaller than your pupil, it's dilated; you're not getting all the light in that you could use. Now it's tough to get a spotting scope that will give you an exit pupil matching yours as the human pupil will shrink down to about two and a half millimeters in bright sunlight. Then as it starts to get dim at dusk, your pupil enlarges to let more light in, but this doesn't happen unless you reduce the power.
So when you set the power to 25, 30, 40, and power 50, you will notice how it gets a little bit smaller as you increase the power goes up, but there's not much variation. You can mathematically determine exit pupil diameter by dividing the objective lens diameter in millimeters by the power, so if this is a 60 millimeter and this is a 20 power 20 goes into 60 three times, you would have a three-millimeter exit pupil who is great for bright daylight but once dusk hits you can't get any lower than 20 power on an eyepiece.
In this scenario, you could buy one with 15 power, and you'd pick up a little bit. However, even if you went to a big 85, 90, or 95-millimeter objective lens, you still crank that power up to 60, and you divide that into 90, you're looking at about a 1.3 to 1.5 diameter in your exit pupil, which is not a lot.
So, get ready to look at some fairly dim images, but you might be surprised; even though they're fairly dim because of that tiny exit pupil, they are sharp enough to detect a lot of detail even at dusk, and that is because a good spotting scope will have anti-reflection coatings on all air-to-glass lens surfaces. This brings us to the next tip.
Multi-coated optics is essential because it increases all the light that gets through rather than bouncing off. For instance, when you walk past the window in a store, you look, and you can see your reflection, which is a light that's bouncing off the glass and doesn't get into the room. This is the room you want the light to get into it out through the eyepiece.
To achieve this, you can put on the surface of each one of those glasses anti-reflection coatings at a microscopic level, and they do some voodoo magic with phase shift whereby instead of reflecting light, they let it pass through one coating of this anti-reflection material, which reduces about half the amount of light that's being lost.
Usually, the glass will lose about four percent of the light you put a coating on and then knock it in half; you put another coating on it and knock it in half again, and different types of coatings address different light waves like blues and reds. These are some of the reasons why you should look out for a multi-coated optics.
That's why you want your spotting scope fluorite lens to get rid of the color fringing. Get a fully multi-colored optics to ask the company what kind of a prism is in there to see if it's got a top-quality mirror, and after that, you probably have all the optical quality you could use.
Check and compare different spotting scope features online. When the light goes down in the evening or early in the morning before it gets bright, that's when you want to check things out to see which one looks the sharpest to you; now other features are for convenience essentially, and that is where your focus ring comes into the discussion.
Some rings are on the barrel; some spotting scopes will have their focus on a little extra barrel sticking out on top; the eyepiece usually has the zoom feature that's pretty easy to use. All you need do is to turn.
Let's consider the size of this little spotting scope, a 50-millimeter objective lens, and it's always brighter when I take the lens cap off. This spotting scope is surprisingly good, and because this is tiny doesn't mean that you have to have a small power ring on it. Though it makes sense to have a fairly small one because of that exit pupil relationship, this one is a Hummingbird spotting scope ranging from 7 power up to 22 power with a 56 millimeter out in the front.
When I first saw this small spotting scope, I thought to myself, what a gimmick! What a toy! But, when I looked through it, I was amazed at how bright, crisp, and sharp it is. It is a viable option.
Why would you stop at 27 power or 25 power when you can go up to 60 well? It's that exit pupil problem. It's also a weight issue if you're out backpack hunting, you don't want to have a big monster scope with you; this is my compromise kind of an all-around 65 millimeter. Still, if I'm going backpacking up high, I might want to consider something tiny and lightweight.
Unlike some of these big spotting scope, which could weigh four to almost six pounds and this little thing probably not even hitting a pound is something worth considering and the other thing to consider about that power at 27 or 25 power you get much higher than about 35 to 40 and you start to magnify all the problems that are in the atmosphere such as heat shimmer, dust, and smoke.
Eyecups turning up is a convenience feature, so when I'm using my spotting scope with my glasses, I have to turn that cup down so that I can get close enough to get a full field of view right, but if I take my glasses off for extended viewing, I turn the eyecup up.
It's rubber-coated so that I can put my forehead right against it. It's nice and soft, and now it's dark all around because I've cut out the extraneous light, and I can rest my brow there to steady things, which makes it a little easier to watch.
The other thing you want to consider is the angle of the eyepiece; this one is a 45-degree angle eyepiece, which I find extremely comfortable but a lot of people like a straight angle, and this is a straight right here I used to like the straight but here's the problem with it you've got to get your tripod pretty high to see through it comfortably. You know it's a funny thing with these spotting scopes; they're always brighter when you take off the covers. I still haven't figured that one out. But I often have trouble getting down in here, and I got to bring this spotting scope down a little bit. It would be best if you were wary of the wind, too, as it can make it uncomfortable with vibration. Always set your scope at your comfortable view and angle.
There are a lot of little features you want to watch for in this spotting scope, and the other thing is the actual mount. Most of them will come, or all of them I've seen will come with a quarter by 20 that's your standard screw thread for cameras and tripod mounting, and then there's a little plug inside which you can take out.
It's a larger thread that some of them have a 3 to 8 inch, but you can put plates on the quick release. Many cameras have those, and I got a bunch of those, and they will fit on certain quick release bases.
If I turn the thread instead of screwing it off, I slide it to put my camera on there and use it on a different mount. Some companies have a custom-built right in, and Swarovski has a plate that fits on their tripod.
Other factors to consider and the most important ones have been discussed earlier, such as sharpness and brightness and the ED glass fully multi-coated.
Also, try to figure out if they got a face coated prism inside and if it has a silver or dielectric coating on it and then selects your power. Don't worry too much about going too high in magnification if you're hunting out of a boat or a truck something where you're just glassing from close to that truck where you carry a large unit around; you can get an 80 millimeter 85 even a 95 millimeter which could weight about four to six pounds which is ideal if you do not have to carry them up and over the mountains. This will give you a little more brightness.
Something else you should consider is how you protect your spotting scope; these things don't come at a dollar apiece, they're pretty pricey, so you want to protect them. Although they generally have the armor coating on them and that helps a lot with dings and scratches, a lot of hunters like to put a neoprene cover on it, and those work pretty well.
And what I like about them is the front cover on the objective just that easily pops on and off, and once it's there, you don't lose.
Wind flapping covers is a negative
It would help if you did not go for a spotting scope without a wind flapping cover. The eyepiece covers are simple so you can pop this together and keep the rain off as it is waterproof.
It always helps a little bit keep some of that mist and rain off it, so you might want to consider one generally. You can get one as an aftermarket product most of the brands will offer them. Brands like Sig Sauer include it with its spotting scope. The next feature I will recommend is an attached sunshade.
The sunshade is essential as it prevents direct sunshine on the lens. You may get a flare, which most of these high-end pieces with fully multi-coated optics clear up the flare pretty nicely. However, still, even if you don't have a flare issue with the sun shining on there, you're going to have a rain issue if it starts to drip and this little hood sticking out helps keep the rain off that objective lens, so you don't lose it because it's permanently attached.
The sunshade is a nice little feature you should consider when testing binoculars for smooth controls. It does not only tell you something about the quality, but if they're fairly tight when it's brand new, that's good because, over time, things wear out you know it's going to get looser, so start with a fairly tight sunshade and then as you use it it'll get smoother and looser.
The Swarovski has HD which means high definition; that's what tells me they've got the fluorite lens element in there to fix all the color fringing, and it works really well. These are great spotting scopes; all of the different brands out there, such as Meopta and Nikon's got some really good ones I’ve tried over the years.
Zeiss has some excellent products, Celestron too. Check them out, some of them that are marketed at birders; some companies don't want to get involved with hunting because of all the nonsense about anti-hunting stuff, but they make some good products anyway, so you might want to want to consider a brooding spotting scope same thing as a hunting spotting scope just different marketing techniques.
You also know it's possible to use a spotting scope without a tripod; you need something solid to set it on. You can have it resting on the table and then elevate it to look at a hillside; for instance, I just put its cover underneath, press down on it, and it's remarkably steady. A bean bag works well too; if you have a small bag full of beans, rice, or corn or something, you can lay that on a surface and set that spotting scope on it.
Also, placing it over the window of a car works well; you slide it around; it's easier and quicker to work with than a tripod. What else can I tell you that's about it? Some of the new ones are coming up with crazy features like removable eyepieces so you can put a 65-millimeter front end on it or an 80, 85, 95 millimeters. Whatever they offer, you can go with a straight eyepiece or switch to an angle. It's a little more versatile, a lot of stuff to buy, though, and that's about all you need to know for a good spotting scope.
I would urge you to spend as much as you can afford on a high-quality one. I mean, some lower-priced ones work out pretty well, but you'd better investigate before you purchase.
When magnification increase, so do all the aberrations in an instrument, and that's why you want to spend more money on it because getting up there to 40 60 power, you're going to notice any little issues with the optical quality of that instrument and that's the good news and the bad news on spotting scopes I would urge you to try to get yourself some superman vision if you're an outdoor lover. You like to see a whole new world; this will enable you sometimes to look four and five miles and not only find the game, but you can even see if it's a buck or a bull.