How to Buy a Spotting Scope

A spotting scope is similar to a small telescope. It is an instrument used by hobbyists and scientists to get a closer look at distant objects. Spotting scopes are primarily used for bird watching, astronomy and target shooting. Buy a spotting scope that has a magnification level and other features that are appropriate for what you need.


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    Decide between an angled spotting scope and a straight spotting scope. Many users prefer a straight scope, where the eyepieces are parallel. In an angled scope, the eyepiece is offset at 45 degrees or 90 degrees from the scope barrel.
    • Buy a straight scope if you will be watching birds from cars, or you plan to keep the scope setting at your height. With a straight scope, your eyes will stay level with the object you are looking at through the lens.
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    • Buy an angled scope if you want to use different heights. You can use an angled scope to look down or up at things without adjusting the height of the scope.
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    Choose a waterproof scope if you are outdoors a lot. Waterproof or weatherproof scopes are necessary if you use the spotting scope outdoors in different types of weather. Some come with rubber armor for protection. Keeping the lens protected from rain is necessary to prevent condensation damaging your visibility.
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    Consider the weight of the scope. If you will be traveling with the spotting scope or carrying it around in the field, choose something lightweight.
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    Set a budget. Spotting scopes can cost from $200 to $2,000. The more expensive scopes often provide a higher optical performance.
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    Look for a folded light path. This is an optical setup that combines mirrors and lenses to form a total scope length that is shorter than the actual focal length of the scope. The light performance will provide a long focal length and keep the design compact.
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    Look for magnesium fluoride coating on the lens surface. This will prevent light loss and reduce glare from reflection. The more coating on the lens, the brighter the image will appear. You will also have less eyestrain.
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    Buy a scope with a larger exit pupil for a brighter image. The column of light that comes out of the spotting scope is defined as an exit pupil. The exit pupil gets smaller when the magnification is higher, giving you a dimmer image.
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    Find a scope with extended eye relief, especially if you wear glasses. Eye relief is the distance you can hold a spotting scope away from your eye while still getting a full view.
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    Make sure you buy a scope with a large field of view if you are using it to watch birds and wildlife. The field of view refers to the width of the circular viewing field in the spotting scope. A wider field of view will give you an advantage if you are watching animals or sights that move quickly.
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    Look for a spotting scope with appropriate magnification and lens size. Measurements are read by looking at the 2 numbers, which have an "x" separating them. As an example, a measurement might read 45 x 60.
    • Find the magnification, or power, of the spotting scope, by looking at the first number of the measurement. With a 45 x 60 spotting scope, the object you are viewing looks 45 times closer than it would without the scope.
    • Find the lens size by looking at the second number in the measurement. In the 45 x 60 measurement, the 60 represents the diameter available on the front lens. This is a larger than average measurement, which will allow additional light into the spotting scope, resulting in an image that is brighter.
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    Buy your spotting scope at any outdoor retailer that carries scopes, binoculars and other outfitting items for bird watchers, hunters and wildlife enthusiasts. They can also be found at sporting goods stores.
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    Shop online for a larger selection of spotting scopes, and more competitive prices. Spotting Scopes can be found at major online retailers like Amazon.
    • Read customer reviews of models you are considering. They will often point out the advantages and challenges of different scopes.
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    Ask about the return policy and warranty. Make sure you are protected if your scope does not work properly, or you want to exchange it for a different one.


  • Remember to use a tripod with your spotting scope for balance and accuracy. The tripod with keep in stable during use.
  • Used scopes in good condition are worth considering. You can find them online, using sites such as eBay, Amazon and Craigslist.

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Categories: Astronomy