Last updated: 16/10/2022

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Welcome to ReviewBox, where you always find valuable information to make the best purchase of all kinds of items. This time we bring you everything you need to know to buy the right spotting scope for you.

Sometimes it seems that we don’t need to expand our range of vision and that thinking about a spotting scope is of little importance. However, there are situations where having a good spotting scope can greatly enhance our experience in all kinds of expeditions and outdoor adventures.

We know you want to get the best spotting scope for you and that’s why we recommend you read this article from start to finish to get all the tools you need. At the end you will have all the factors you need to consider to make the best buying decision.


  • A spotting scope, or monocular telescope, is a device that allows you to extend your range of vision to see clearly at great distances. They have been used for centuries for navigation, hunting or observing the sky.
  • The two ways to use your spotting scope are with a tripod or without a tripod. Both functions are necessary depending on the type of observation you wish to make. Some models include a tripod with the spotting scope, but some do not allow the use of this accessory.
  • There are some purchasing factors to consider before deciding on a particular spotting scope. Some of these criteria are the size of the spotting scope, the eye relief issue or the zoom capability. We will discuss these issues in more detail later.

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Buying guide: What you need to know about a spotting scope

Buying a spotting scope is not a 5-minute affair. It is worth taking the time to examine in detail all the options on the market and compare them in order to buy the ideal spotting scope. In this section we help you find the right spotting scope for you.

The best way to increase your vision wherever you go is a spotting scope. (Photo: Teddy Kelley /

What is a spotting scope and what are its advantages?

A spotting scope (also called a monocular telescope) is a compact device that allows you to extend your range of vision in any situation. They have been used since ancient times as tools to aid navigation, hunting or exploration, and their designs have become increasingly lightweight and easy to carry.

Some models allow you to interchange the lens to offer an extensive range of magnification and definition. They are ideal for any situation that requires magnification with more reach than the average binocular. Spotting scopes are generally constructed with a refracting lens that uses a prism to focus and magnify the image. Many designs are constructed to be supported by a tripod to hold the object being aimed at steady. Here is a small comparison table.

  • Increased range of view
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Manual focus
  • All weather resistant
  • Some models include an adapter for your phone
  • Accessories may not be of good quality
  • Focusing may not be very accurate
  • Image shakes without a tripod
  • Very fragile
  • Need to close or cover the other eye

Spotting scopes with or without a tripod – what to look out for?

There is a very wide variety of spotting scopes available today, with different scopes and in various sizes. However, the most important feature to consider when choosing a model is whether it can be fitted with a tripod for attachment and increased stability.

Some models are not only compatible with the standard attachment mechanisms of some tripods, but also include one. A tripod is not essential for using your spotting scope, but it does give you some advantages. We recommend that you look for a spotting scope that offers both to increase your possibilities.

Spotting scope without a tripod. Using a spotting scope without a tripod makes it much easier to move quickly to aim at a constantly moving object. In fact, it would be impossible to use your spotting scope with a stand for bird watching, for example.

Spotting scope with tripod. The main advantage of using your spotting scope with tripod is that you can occupy your hands with other things, as well as being able to access your stationary target quickly. It is ideal for landscape observation or for watching live shows (if you have enough space, of course!).

Spotting scope with tripod Spotting scope without tripod
Mobility Slow and limited Fast towards any direction
Time to locate target Instantaneous You have to take your time every time
Image stability Steady and constant Shaky and for short times

Buying criteria

In this section we want to provide you with all the tools you need to decide on the best spotting scope for you. There are many, many models of spotting scopes and they all look pretty much the same, but their particular features are extremely varied.

Angle of the spotting scope

There are two types of spotting scopes on the market depending on the angle at which the eye approaches the spotting scope. One is the angled spotting scope and the other is the straight spotting scope. Both offer the same quality of observation, but your choice will depend on the type of use you want to make of them.

Angled spotting scope. This type of spotting scope offers different heights of adjustment to customise the angle of view you wish to use. The angle of the eyepiece can vary from 45 to 90 degrees and is ideal for spotting scopes that do not reach your height, so you do not have to bend down to see through it.

Straight spotting scope. This is the type of spotting scope where the eyepiece is fixed parallel to the barrel of the scope. If you have a tripod suitable for your height, this type of spotting scope is perfect because you will not have to bend down for long periods of time. On the other hand, it is ideal for wildlife viewing in general.

Eye relief

Eye relief refers to the ability of the spotting scope to maintain a clear and complete image even if your eye is not glued to the eyepiece. This is especially useful for people who wear glasses, as they can use their glasses without having to remove them.

We recommend that you look for this feature in the description of the item you are interested in to check that it is included. If it is not specified, contact the manufacturer directly and make sure they offer a satisfaction guarantee in case they want to see your face.

All spotting scopes on the market must indicate the magnification and size of the lens. These measurements are usually mentioned next to the name of the model. You will find these measurements separated by an “X”, the first one corresponds to the magnification and the second one to the size of the lens.

Magnification. This measurement tells you how much magnification your spotting scope has, and indicates the number of times it is enlarging your field of view. For example, if your scope says 16×52, it means that you are seeing 16 times closer than you are seeing with your naked eye.

Lens size. The way to find out the size of the lens of your spotting scope is with the second number in this measurement system. Going back to the 16×52 example, here we are being told that the diameter of the lens is 52 mm.

Note that the larger the diameter of the lens, the more light will enter your spotting scope. The more light that enters, the brighter and sharper it will be. Be sure to read this feature and compare prices for other sizes to choose the scope you need.

Comfort is very important when using your scope for extended periods of time. (Photo: ArmyAmber /


Some scopes allow you to control the zoom manually, expanding your viewing possibilities and maximizing your sharpness. This feature is usually controlled from the body of the spotting scope, in the same way that you would control it on a camera lens.

However, with zoom, the shaking of your hands becomes even more noticeable if you are not using a tripod. Also, the more zoom available, the more difficult it is to focus on close-up images. Check the minimum focus distance of the zoom to make sure this is what you are looking for. (Featured image source: Cameonaton/