Best Spotting Scopes For The Money – Reviews and Guide (2018)
When it comes to long-range target shooting (for hunters) and bird watching (for wildlife/nature enthusiasts), nothing gives you a more enhanced vision like the best spotting scope.
Why? You might wonder…
Well, the spotting scope has a much higher magnification, letting you explore far distances from the comfort of your stand and making them more popular than telescopes and binoculars.
The trickiest part comes when buying the right spotting scope for your needs. For sure, it’s a daunting task.
Don’t worry though:
I’ve paraded the ten best performing spotting scope reviews of all times below (plus other details you need to know about this fantastic device).
Let’s get into the details right away…
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What's A Spotting Scope?
Just the other day as I was doing some research on spotting scopes, I was surprised by how many people were asking what a spotting scope is all about on various forums and boards.
There are chances that you also don’t know much about this fantastic equipment.
But all that will change today:
A spotting scope is basically a highly portable (more like a portable telescope) that comes with magical light gathering and magnification powers to give you exceptional image quality of your target.
Because of this, hunters from all walks of life have heavily invested in this equipment to help them enhance their hunting process and shooting prowess.
Not only hunters, nature enthusiasts, and photographers heavily rely on the spotting scope to get a better view of terrestrial objects/life-, especially bird watching.
This explains why spotting scopes popularity have surpassed that of binoculars in the recent years.
In a nutshell, expect the best spotting scope to give you the following key benefits:
- Pull your target object/game from a large crowd- say a bird from a flock or deer from a herd
- Locate a deer in its hiding- this can be highly effective for distances ranging from 200 to 300 yards
- Achieve high contrast images both, whether you’re working on an overcast day or in darkness
- The scopes are also quite helpful in telephotography!
So much in a simple scope, right?
Now let me take you straight to the spotting scope reviews that you can buy now and start enjoying all these benefits…
10 Best Spotting Scopes Reviews:
1. Emarth 20-60x60AE Waterproof Angled Spotting Scope with Tripod:
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Sitting at the top of our best budget spotting scope picks is the Emarth 20-60x60AE Waterproof Angled Spotting Scope. It’s an angled scope that offers you variable magnification capabilities of 26-60x.
And trust me, this scope will give you the best in terms of image quality (clear focus) at its low magnification levels- at its low price!
Because it comes with a tripod, you’ll have an easy time stabilizing it so that it gives you higher-quality images of your object as you’ll need to shoot precisely. Don’t forget that it comes with a fully waterproof/fog-proof design such that you can use it all weather conditions without any issues.
The included lens cap and soft carry adds to the user convenience. You might argue that this is a budget scope, so you won’t need to worry much when using it. But the manufacturers don’t believe so.
Thus, they offer you a 12months warranty to give you a piece of mind as you deploy the scope in various situations.
I like its lightweight design (weighs 3lbs only) which makes it a highly portable scope for all hunters!
- Variable magnification of 26 to 60x with a 60mm objective lens
- Dynamic lens focusing system
- Angled spotting scope
- 100%waterproof and fog-proof
- Ergonomic design
- 30-day money back guarantee/12-month warranty/lifetime support guarantee
2. BARSKA Benchmark 25-125x88 Waterproof Straight Spotting Scope:
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Next, we take a look at the BARSKA Benchmark 25-125x88 Straight Spotting Scope. Specially designed for shooters and naturalists, this high power spotting scope can let you see a raindrop sitting on the eyelash of a 10-point buck yards away from the comfort of your stand…
I mean it’s the ultimate choice for giving you the most impressive results, even under the most difficult situations.
It features an extremely large diameter objective lens of 88mm that provides you with a variable magnification power ranging between 25x and 125x. The fact that the lens is engineered with the innovative, dynamic focus lens system enables this scope to give you a comprehensive spotting of your object.
Besides, it comes fully multi-coated for optimal light transmission while keeping off scratches and scuffs.
As you’d expect from this impressive spotting scope, it comes filled with charged nitrogen gas to protect it against moisture and fogging damage. Not only that, it features O-rings seals at the edges to keep off elements- dirt, dust, water, etc.- from accessing and damaging the interior structure.
To meet your lightweight and portability needs, the scope features a compact, aluminum housing.
For added user convenience, the package also comes with both the handled and tabletop tripods alongside the hard and soft carrying cases. Aside from all this, you’ll enjoy a limited lifetime warranty to ensure you have some peace of mind when hunting in the toughest of the situations.
- Straight spotting scope
- 25 to 125x magnification capabilities
- Dynamic lens focusing system
- Fully coated optics
- 100% water/fog proof design
- Comes with hard and soft carrying cases
3. Gosky 20-60X 80 Porro Prism Spotting Scope:
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I couldn’t help picking the Gosky 20-60X 80 Porro Prism Spotting Scope as the best spotting scope for hunting for you. Not really because of its fair price, but because of how it makes distance viewing feel simple and fun!
This couldn’t get any truer when you think of its fully multicoated lens 80mm objective lens that works in close cooperation with the quality inbuilt prism and eyepiece to deliver brighter, clearer, high-resolution images.
Not many spotting scopes will give you a variable magnification as big as this one…I mean 20-60x is crazy and great at the same time for all hunters. And when you add this to the dynamic focusing lens system, you can already guess how easy it gets to zoom in on their targets without losing the quality.
This Gosky isn’t only about high-performance; it also comes constructed in such a way that it can perform even under the toughest hunting conditions. Just look at its durable magnalium housing and rubber armor.
The two offer maximum protection to your scope under the most stringent conditions, assuring you of longer service life. What’s more, it comes with a waterproof design so that you can use in rainy conditions without fear or worries.
You’ll definitely smile when you open the box and get to see the bonus accessories this package comes with; from the digiscoping smartphone adapter to the tripod, carrying case, two lens caps, and a complete user guide!
- Fully multi-coated objective lens
- Variable 20-60x magnification power
- Dynamic lens focusing system
- Durable magnalium housing plus rubber armor
- Waterproof design
- Digiscoping smartphone adapter included
4. BARSKA 15-40x50 Colorado Spotting Scope Review:
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If you’re between a rock and a hard place right now (regarding your financial stop), the best deal I can offer you right now is a budget spotting scope- the BARSKA 15-40x50 Colorado Spotting Scope- whose overall quality and performance score surpasses its wallet-friendly price.
This particular spotting scope comes with a variable magnification of 15 40x, making it a zoom spotting scope for easy spotting at target range as well as bird watching.
Thanks to its multi-coated 50mm objective lens and a premium BK-7 puro Prism, this scope is among the few models that are capable of transmitting bright, high contrast images throughout the full zoom range.
The angled scope also comes with durable rubber armor that protects it from potential damages when being used in rough situations. Plus it also comes with a carrying case and table tripod for convenience. The fact that the tripod is convenient and the entire scope is lightweight makes this product ideal for on-the-go hunters.
- Fully coated optics plus Porro prism system
- Large 50mm objective lens
- Variable magnification of 15 to 40x
- Shockproof rubber armor
- Table tripod plus soft carrying cases included in the box
- Highest clarity range: 150 yards
5. Authentic ROXANT Blackbird - High Definition Spotting Scope:
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Midway our spotting scopes review list, we’ve got the Authentic ROXANT Blackbird - High Definition Spotting Scope. This is a compact, 45 degrees angled scope that offers you an extremely comfortable and clear view of your target. In other words, it’s a highly convenient, versatile, and highly usable scope that truly delivers.
One feature unique to this scope is the use of military grade optical glass in the objective lens design. Moreover, the lens comes fully multi-coated. They join hands with the BAK4 Prism to guarantee you superior light transmission and brightness.
These enable the scope to give you optimal crystal-clear viewing of your target game- placing it in a class of its own. Remember you’ll be making your observation under a large objective lens of 50mm, under a variable magnification of 12 x 36!
Another unique feature I love in this scope is its overall construction. That is, it features a rugged non-slip rubber armor housing for protecting the scope as well as making it feel ergonomic in your hands.
Besides, the large textured focus ring located on the main barrel has a No-slip comfort molded grip for easy, quick adjustments.
Other unique features you’ll love in this scope include a retractable/extendable eyepiece, extendable sunshade integrated onto the main barrel to reduce the suns glare, and a bright, WIDER field of view.
The scope packs light and comes with a lifetime support!
- Compact, precision spotting scope
- Magnification capabilities of 12-36x
- 45% angled eyepiece for more comfortable viewing
- Rugged, non-slip rubber construction
- HD, military-grade optical glass for optimal light transmission and image clarity
- Handled tripod, lens cap, and carrying case included
6. Gosky 15-45X 60 Porro Prism Spotting Scope:
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Wait! Another Gosky? You’re right. The Gosky 15-45X 60 Porro Prism Spotting Scope has similar top-quality properties like its cousin (which we discussed earlier). It’s a compact but powerful scope that combines fully multi-coated objective lens, quality prism and eyepiece to deliver brighter, clearer, and crisp images of your target game at a low cost.
Like all the other scopes that made it to this list of the ten best spotting scope for the money, it comes with a variable magnification (15-45x, to be exact) and a dynamic lens focusing system. Needless to mention, these make it a highly versatile spotting scope that lets you zoom in on that deer without losing the finer details.
Gosky understands that sometimes you might have to use this scope in tough and extreme weather conditions. For that reason, it comes fully formatted to withstand any punishments you might think of throwing at it.
It features a durable magnalium housing (for the toughest applications) plus rubber armor framework (for shockproof performance). Furthermore, its edges are sealed with O-rings for 100% waterproof performance.
Additional items that come alongside this amazing scope include digiscoping smartphone adapter, carrying case, lens protection cover, eyepiece, handy straps, metal tablet tripod, and a cleaning cloth.
- Fully multi-coated objective lens
- Variable magnification: 15 to 45x
- A dynamic lens focusing system
- Durable magnalium framework and shockproof rubber armor
- Waterproof design
- Digiscoping smartphone adapter included
7. Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope:
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Celestron is famous for its high-end telescopes which mean that their spotting scopes also come with the same premium quality. This is evident from the highly dependable and reliable Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope.
First, it comes with an incredible magnification capabilities that you can vary from 20x to 60x, and an 80mm objective lens. All you have to do to enjoy this magnification is zoom via the eyepiece so that you can quickly focus and bring your target object into a closer view.
The clarity and resolution of the images you get from this scope will help you shoot your target accurately.
Because it comes with multi-coated optics, this Celestron has excellent light gathering properties. This is further enhanced by the fact that it features a large diameter objective lens (80mm) which optimizes its transmission of the available light for high-resolution images- even in low-lit conditions.
With an eye relief of around 18mm, this scope allows you to spot view your object with or without the eyeglasses. It has such a sufficient field of view- 105 feet at 1,000 yards at around 20x magnification- which comes handy when tracking a moving object.
The barrel comes filled with nitrogen gas for a fog-proof performance. Additionally, it comes with an armored rubber housing that prevents possible damages from falls and drops. Above all this, it comes with a lifetime warranty which means the manufacturer has total confidence in their product (and you should too).
- Multi-coated optics
- Sight tube enhances quick targeting
- Soft carrying case
- Zoom eyepiece
- Limited lifetime warranty
8. BARSKA 20-60x60 Waterproof Straight Spotting Scope with Tripod:
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BARSKA too have not been left behind in the race to come up with the best spotting scope for target shooting. Their 20-60x60 Waterproof Straight Spotting Scope is living proof that their efforts have given rise to a fantastic spotting scope that delivers an outstanding amount of brightness (and clarity too) for optimal viewing!
It comes with a wide zoom range- 20-60x- that makes it one of the best optical devices for hunting at the rifle range. It houses a 60mm multi-coated lens that ensures maximum light transmission for comfortable, clear viewing of your target under all light conditions.
The Barska also boasts of 100% waterproof and fog-proof performance. Moreover, it comes with an armored rubber housing to protect it from all imaginable harsh weather elements…Plus it comes with a lens cover to protect your lens when not in use. Accessories you’ll get in the box include a soft carrying case and pan-head tripod.
Backed by a lifetime warranty, you just need to put your worries aside and enjoy the scope to the fullest!
- 20-60x magnification power
- 100% waterproof/fog-proof
- Smooth focusing knob
- Fully-coated optics
- Pan-head tripod and soft carrying case
9. Gskyer 25-75x75 Bird Watching, Target Shooting Spotting Scope:
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If you’re looking for the best spotting scope under 200, you can never go wrong with the Gskyer 25-75x75 Bird Watching, Target Shooting Spotting Scope. It represents the perfect example of an angled spotting scope that gives you super-clear images of your targets in all lighting conditions that you’d want to use it all day long!
One of the scopes top aspects that put it on the map is its incredibly high magnification capabilities. That is, you can vary it magnification from as low as 25x to as high as 75x. And yes, you guessed it right: it gives you a clear image with a smooth focus in either low or high level of magnification.
The scopes ability to give you breathtaking images if further enhances by its large diameter objective lens (of up to 75mm) for total light transmission. Add this to the fact that the lens comes fully multi-coated and you’ll be sure to get clear images of your target so that you can accurately shoot it.
Hunters who wear glasses would also be pleased to note that the scope has an extend eye relief of 16.5 - 13mm to ensure you can clearly view your images without necessarily removing your glasses.
Even when selling at such a reasonable price, the manufacturers offer you more goodies in the box. These include a carrying bag, handled tripod, comprehensive user manual, and cleaning cloth. These add to your overall convenience when using the scope. Apart from hunting, feel free to use this scope for traveling, bird watching, hiking, etc. as well.
- Angled spotting scope
- Variable magnification of 25 to 75x
- A dynamic lens focusing system
- Portable tripod included
- Package includes carrying bag, cleaning cloth, handled tripod and user manual
- Ideal for hunting, hiking, traveling, bird watching, etc.
10. Vanguard Endeavor HD 65A Angled Eyepiece Spotting Scope:
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Last but not least, we've got the Vanguard Endeavor HD 65A Angled Eyepiece Spotting Scope. This particular scope is widely known for its remarkable field of view and long range visibility that all serious hunters look for in a scope.
Vanguard employs the premium ED glass and the BAK4 roof prism in the lens construction. This significantly reduces the notorious chromatic aberrations, allowing you to view ultra-clear, sharp images with high contrast.
Furthermore, the lens boast of Vanguard’s advanced fully multi-coating which enhances maximum light transmission (and an outstanding field of view!). And thanks to the fine and coarse adjustment knobs, you’ll always have a chance to fine tune your images to make them even clearer.
The O-ring sealing the edges of the scope prevent moisture, dust, and debris from interfering with its performance, while the nitrogen purging qualifies to work in extreme weather conditions without fogging.
When you buy this product, you’re entitled to VANGUARD’s Premium Lifetime Warranty, which includes preparing your scope for FREE in case it gets broken or damaged.
What a deal!
- Extra-low dispersion (ED) glass for a more precise color rendition
- Fully multi-coated lens and Bak4 phase-coated prism
- 100% fog-proof/waterproof
- Dual focus wheel for coarse and fine adjustments
- Detachable angled eyepiece
- Longer eye relief: 19 ~ 20 mm
- Premium lifetime warranty
Spotting Scopes Buying Guide: How To Choose?
Buying the best spotting scope would be a tremendous achievement in your life (I’m not kidding). You’d expect an easier, more fun-filled life with this multi-purpose device…especially when you think of how it brings that monster buck close to your eyes for easy shooting!
BUT…the path to getting the very best product that perfectly matches all your needs isn’t easy.
That being said, the following guide will bring you closer to the most suitable spotting scopes for your needs:
Start with the body style
Here’s another surprising fact about spotting scopes you didn’t know:
They come in two primary designs- straight body and angled body spotting scopes.
So, which one should you buy? This is a matter of personal preference, given that both models work extremely well in nearly all situations. However, there are specific situations where one model would give a better performance over the other.
For instance, the straight model works great if you’re viewing from an elevated position like a mountain, tree stand, etc. On the contrary, the angled design is ideal for looking up at a target or across flat ground.
Pay special attention to the magnification
There’s a reason why spotting scopes enjoy more popularity than the conventional binoculars…i.e. they have a higher magnification capabilities.
Don’t be a surprised to come across a scope with magnification capabilities of up to 60x- that’s the maximum power in most cases. And magnification range of 15-20x is usually the minimum you’ll get.
Needless to say: the greater the magnification, the longer the distances you’ll be able to access with your scope.
But I’m assuming that you’ll be using your scope for hunting, and maybe birdwatching activities, so I’d advise you to look for models with a magnification of 30-40x.
Objective lens also matters
Always, always favor the quality of the objective lens (quality lens are made from high-performance glass materials) over the size if you’ve to select between the two.
That’s for the obvious reason.
And while you give the quality factor a priority, keep this rule of thumb in mind as well:
The larger objective lens made of premium materials will give you superior images at the highest magnification power as opposed to the smaller lens with the same quality. And the larger the lens, the more money you’ll have to spend for that scope.
High magnification isn’t complete without the lens coating aspect. This explains why this particular factor is quite critical. It enhances the overall efficiency under which a high magnification setting takes place by improving the light transmission for the optimal viewing experience.
Ensure the spotting scope you intend to buy features either a multi-coating, fully multi-coating or full coating.
Fog/Water/proofing is important too
If you’re an avid hunter, then you know that sometimes you’ve to work in extreme weather conditions- like in the rains and fog.
In such a case, you’d want to protect your spotting scope from potential damage by the harmful weather aspects. And that’s where the fog/waterproofing aspects come into play.
Most scopes today come with O-ring seals to keep off moisture, dust, debris, etc. from getting into your scope. They also come gas-filled to make them perform in fog conditions.
These will help keep your scope going for more years.
NOTE: Don’t expect every scope that claims to be waterproof or fog-proof to be so. It’s always important to do some extra research to save yourself the disappointments.
Did you know that different spotting scopes come with various prism types?
Nearly all the best spotting scopes on the market today rely on the prism to flip images, with the tow mostly used prisms being the Porro prism and roof prism.
“Which prism type should I go with?”
I expected you to ask this…
If you’re always on the go (or just want something more portable), you’d want to look into the narrow and compact roof prism. However, it has some few drawbacks- e.g. lack of interchangeable eyepieces.
The Porro prism is cheaper to make and works more efficiently, making it a preferred choice for many.
Don’t forget the eye relief aspect
As it’s the case with most of your riflescopes, it’s always factor in the eye relief aspect (the distance between your eye and the scope eyepiece without losing the field of view).
More so, if you wear glasses (or always use sunglasses), the last thing you’d want to do is ignore this feature.
The longer the eye relief distance, the easier it becomes to view your target, even for folks who wear glasses with thick lenses.
Typically, an eye relief of 14mm would do justice to hunters who put on spectacles.
Have you checked the exit pupil?
What the hell is an exit pupil? Beginners might not understand this term, so let me explain in the simplest way possible…
Exit pupil works alongside the objective lens to promote the brightness of your images. It’s the diameter of light (in mm) that’s visible through the eyepiece.
As a rule of thumb, always go for spotting scopes with an exit pupil of 1.33mm and above. This is because, in other situations apart from the optimal (bright, calm), the exit pupil below this value will be inadequate, more so when using your scope at higher magnifications.
TIP: To get the value of exit pupil of any scope, divide the size of the objective lens (mm) by the magnification.
Consider close focus as well
Close focus refers to the closest distances your spotting scope can see.
Most of the models out there have a close focus less than 20 ft. Thus, you should ensure that the targets you wish to view appear some sufficient distance away.
If you would like to see more intricate details of your target, pay special attention to this feature!
How about the Eyepiece?
While some spotting scopes come with fixed eyepieces, the higher-end models come with removable eyepieces.
If I were you, I’d go with the latter, because it gives me the freedom of choosing from the different options out there. With that in mind, some of the top options include single powered and zoom eyepieces.
Field of View
The wider the field of view of your scope, the better.
Because you’ll have an easy time following a fast moving target or scanning the wildlife.
Lastly, you’d want to check the Pricetag
When you’ve scanned the spotting scope you intend to buy for all the above features, the last thing you’d consider before removing that card is the price tag.
Like any other products, the price of these scopes vary...you can expect to find them lying between $100 and $1000 or more.
How much you spend on a spotting scope boils down to your budget and specific scope needs.
If you decide to go for the top-dollar models, be sure to check if they come with a warranty; this will give you some peace of mind.
How To Use Spotting Scope?
So far so good! Now you know what a spotting scope is, what it does and its key features.
Next, you’d want to know how to use it, right? Using the equipment is as easy as pie. You don’t need any special skills as you’ll see in my brief guide below.
How to use a spotting scope correctly:
Step 1: Identify a comfortable position.
The most important step in using a spotting scope involves placing yourself in the most comfortable state. This is because using this equipment means staying held in a position for a long time and lying down or sitting in the most comfortable position is highly recommend for you.
Hunters who complain about body pains after using this device probably do not positioning themselves comfortably before they start using the scope.
And oh! Don’t forget your area of the specification at this step because your selected area ought to be to the point of your target area (this ensures you get an unobstructed view).
Step 2: Next, attach your scope to the tripod.
After steadying yourself, you should consider steadying your scope so that you can enjoy a more clear and accurate view of your target object- a critical step when hunting.
For this reason, it's important to sure that your scope remains sufficiently stable by attaching it to a tripod.
Hunters who don’t attach their spotting scopes to the tripods always have a high tendency in missing their targets due to lack of better view (and hence, accuracy).
Step 3: Set your scope magnification to your preferred level.
You’re in the most comfortable position. You’ve your scope mounted on a tripod, making it 100% stable. What’s next? Adjusting the magnification level to suit your needs…
Setting your scope’s magnification level isn’t hard. You simply need to read the magnification and resolution adjusting instructions given that the process varies from one model to another.
When you’re done, move on to the next step…
Step 4: View your target object and adjust the magnification.
Yes, view your target area FIRST, and then adjust the magnification. Many hunters tend to adjust the magnification first and then work on the viewing the target object. When you do this, you’ll not be able to find your target.
This is what you should do:
Right after setting your magnification in step 3 above, try viewing your target area. This allows you to know how to adjust the magnification level accordingly so that you Cleary see the target.
I’d also suggest that you go about the focusing process as per your magnification setting…but do it slowly. This is important because your scope is showing you a smaller object in a large version (and a mere centimeter could be 10 inches!)
Step 5: Be sure to reset your focus for new areas.
You probably wouldn’t want to hear this:
A sudden highly magnified glass can easily harm your eyes. Most hunters feel uneasy when watching off their shooting scopes for an extended period.
Luckily, you can combat this issue by hitting the reset button when spying a new area to reduce the magnifying glass’ effect on your eye.
How Spotting Scopes Work?
The last thing you want to know before we close our list of the ten top-rated spotting scope reviews is how this fantastic equipment works to give you those stunning images of objects far away from you.
Let’s take a closer look at the working mechanism of a spotting scope:
The first step to understanding how your spotting scope works is by interpreting the three numbers it comes labeled with.
Let’s say your scope comes with a labeling of 14-45x60, it means that its lowest magnification power is 14, its highest magnification power spans to 60, and you’ll view all your magnified images on an objective lens of diameter 60mm.
Now, spotting scopes employ different mechanisms to accomplish their intended job, so we can divide them into two:
- Prismatic spotting scopes: comprises of a basic refractor with the lens at one end and the eyepiece at the other end.
- Catadioptric: a combination of mirrors and lenses.
Prismatic models are the most popular ones, so we’ll base our explanation on them.
To start generating images of your target, the objective lens must collect the light around it. That being said, an objective lens with greater diameter tend to deliver much more light to your eyes, giving you clear, more detailed images in all lighting conditions.
When the objective lens captures an image, it is in inverted matter. For that reason, it must pass through the Porro prism (remember this?) so that it can be erected in an upright manner for viewing.
Afterward, the image is transferred to the eyepiece, where you view it in an upright manner. It’s important to keep in mind that eyepieces come in different designs.
Most scopes come with a zoom eyepiece that lets you enjoy a broad range of magnifications. Some even allow you to replace the zoom eyepiece with a fixed one to suit your needs.
NOTE: Both the angled and straight-body spotting scopes employ the same working mechanism to produce images, only that they work best in varied situations (as we discussed earlier in this post).
I hope that my ultimate list of the ten top-quality, best spotting scope for the money reviews have made it completely easy for you to pick which model you’d want to use for your hunting needs.
As you’ve witnessed from our reviews, all the modern scopes have evolved to include more advanced features to enhance their performance. Not only that, they come with various prices to suit your budget (no matter how small your budget looks).
And if you want to go for shopping all by yourself, remember to carry our buying guide with you. It’ll give you the key factors you need to get that best perming spotting scope that top rated spotting scope that meets your budget and hunting needs.