Reviews of the Best Field Spotting Scopes
I first became interested in optics whilst working as a safari guide in South Africa, where I would use binoculars every single day just as part of my job and so in my quest to get a closer and better view of birds and wildlife, spotting scopes were a natural progression. The idea for the Best Spotting Scope Reviews website came whilst I was looking for a new field scope for myself and I became frustrated at not only the lack of information on scopes on the web, but also the lack of unbiased reviews.
Thus the aim of this site is to help by providing unbiased and useful information on spotting scopes, unbiased reviews on selected scopes and brands as well as guides to buying scopes for different uses.
This article is in response to a question that I received from a BSSR reader who is looking to get a spotting scope to mainly use for wildlife observation as well as for digiscoping.
They have narrowed their shortlist down to two, the Vanguard Endeavour HD 82A or the Celestron Regal M2 80ED Spotting Scope, but can't choose between them.
In this article I discuss the considerations to take into account if you wish to get and use a spotting scope for astronomy. I also remind you to keep in mind that whilst a spotting scope is essentially a refractor telescope they are specifically designed for terrestrial uses and as such they may not be the right choice should most of your observations be towards the heavens at night.
I also take a look and offer my recommendations for some of the best wildlife and astro spotting scopes with a maximum budget of $550 / £500.
With a large 82mm objective lens that utilizes ED glass elements that help to almost completely eliminate color fringing, as well as fully multi-coated optics and high quality phase corrected BaK-4 glass prisms the Vanguard Endeavor HD has the capability to produce as goo an image as some of the best.
Combine these and other high end optical features with their completely waterproof and fogproof magnesium alloy body and detachable 20-60x zoom eyepiece, for a wide field of view, with loads of eye-relief and you have a very high spotting scope that will perform very well in a wide range of uses and scenarios.
The very budget friendly 80mm 20-60x Vanguard High Plains 580 Spotting Scope features a lightweight magnesium body that is both water and fogproof. Good quality optical components and coatings are also used including Bak-4 glass prisms and Fully multi-coated lenses.
This scope kit also includes a pre-cut, foam-packed hard case for the ultimate scope protection and transport, a soft carry case and you also get a good quality, compact table top tripod with an adjustable pan head.
I was lucky enough to get the chance to enjoy Celestron's top of the range Regal 100 F-ED Spotting Scope, that as the name suggests features the highest quality air-spaced doublet achromatic lens, one element of which uses fluorite extra low dispersion glass (ED) to produce incredible quality razor sharp images with virtually no chromatic aberration (color fringing).
This angled Celestron spotting scope also has a rubber armored tough and waterproof body and comes with a dual speed focussing mechanism. The scope also comes with an excellent quality 22x-67x (8-24mm) Zoom Eyepiece, but because it attaches to the body using the standard 1.25" push-fit socket, you have the greatest flexibility in choosing further eyepieces to suit your needs.
This combined with the very large 100mm objective lens makes this scope ideal for a variety of uses including birding, wildlife observation and general astronomy. It also makes a great scope for digiscoping as it comes with a T-Mount adapter for your SLR camera.
Unlike digiscoping where you are converting a spotting scope for the use of photography, the Kowa telephoto lens for super telephoto shooting (350mm, 500mm or 850mm), that can also be used as a spotting scope. This means that you can use this high-performance telephoto camera lens as a spotting scope as well. This is achieved by simply connecting it to the optional prism unit and eyepiece using a bayonet mounting system, making the switch between photography and observation a fairly quick simple operation.
What is more, the Kowa Lens/Scope is smaller, weighs less and is cheaper than the equivalent "standard" SLR telephoto lenses on the market. For more details:
Take advantage of this exclusive purchase and save on a Zeiss premium scope kit while supplies last. These lightly-used Zeiss 20-75x85 Angled Spotting Scope display units are in new condition with full original packaging and paperwork, including Zeiss' transferable limited lifetime warranty. This is the perfect opportunity to save a huge amount of money on a top-shelf spotting scope without making any compromise.
What is more is this Zeiss Kit comes with a Zeiss ex-demo 20-75x eyepiece included.
I recently got the chance to try out the top of the range angled TSN-883 spotting scope from Kowa.
Part of the TSN-880 series of large 88mm diameter scopes, the 883, comes with a host of the highest quality features including a very lightweight magnesium housing that is as light and compact as many 60mm scopes.
The quality does not end with the body, as Kowa use the highest quality pure fluorite crystal lenses as part of their achromatic lens design to limit the effects of chromatic and spherical aberrations. On top of this they have a whole host of lens and prism coatings to ensure that the scope produces the best quality image possible.
Swarovski Optik have just announced their new modular ATX/STX spotting scopes, available through specialist Swarovski Optik dealers from September 2012.
Swarovski use an interchangeable modular ocular and objective system. With two eyepiece modules, angled (ATX) or straight (STX) and three objective modules that come with objective lens diameters of 65, 85 and 95 mm, it effectively means that in total there are six different spotting scopes to suit most peoples digiscoping and spotting scope requirements.
Whilst looking for a new camera and spotting scope tripod to take travelling with me as well as on long hikes, I recently got the chance to test out the new Benro A1682TB0 Travel Angel 2 Tripod Kit.
The new Benro Travel Angel 2 tripods are light as well as compact and come in six different variations made from both aluminium and eight-layer carbon fibre. All have legs which can be independently locked in two positions, one of which can be converted into a monopod. Once transformed, an additional attachment is also supplied to turn the monopod into a walking stick - complete with integral compass.
The innovative Lowepro Scope Porter 200 AW backpack gives both bird and general wildlife watchers a protective and supportive way to carry a spotting scope and tripod in the field and keeps your hands free at the same time.
I take a full and detailed look at this backpack from Lowepro that has been specifically designed to carry and protect your spotting scope:
Many people wonder as to what the difference is between fieldscopes and spotting scopes. Nikon are partly to blame for this confusion as the seem to name their cheaper ranges of scope "spotting scopes" and the more expensive ones "field scopes" but essentially they are the same thing: A small portable telescope specifically designed to look at objects on earth as apposed to the solar system. What ever you want to call them, Nikon using much of their camera technology make some of the best available and are an especially good choice if you plan on getting into digiscoping. >> View all Nikon Spotting Scopes.
Whilst you can enjoy birds without a scope or you may even use a pair of binoculars, but if you have never looked at a bird through a pair of spotting scopes, you are in for a treat as the level of detail is simply incredible! But which pair is right for you, I review some of the best, cheapest, lightest, smallest, strongest birding scopes on the market and what features to look out for when choosing your equipment >> Choosing Birding & Birdwatching Scopes.
It would be impossible for me to review every scope on the market and sometimes I feel that you can be baffled with too many options. Best Spotting Scope Reviews aims to focus on reviews of the best scopes not the most reviews.
When choosing which spotting scope to review I usually try and select a quality pair of optics, so most of the scopes on this site are some of the best in their field. If I do review a scope and I think it is rubbish, I will say so, or more likely if certain features fall short of the mark they will highlighted, which will hopefully help you to make more of an informed choice.
Combining your digital camera with a spotting scope (digiscoping) can offer you a cheaper way of getting a super telephoto lens, but because of the vast choice of digital cameras and scopes the decision on what equipment to get can seem daunting. I take a look at some of the best digiscoping setups.
>> Best Digiscoping Scopes
Essentially they are the same thing: a small portable telescope optimized for the observation of terrestrial objects as apposed to astronomy telescopes.
The term "spotting scope" probably comes from the sport of shooting on the target range as a spotter uses a scope to avoid walking to the target to verify the placement of hits. Nikon have added to the confusion in that they call their top-end scopes "Fieldscopes" and their cheaper scopes "Spotting Scopes".
I have found that especially with optics, it can really pay to shop around a little and so whether you are in the US, or the UK I take a look at some of the best places on the web that I have found that sell spotting scopes. This section will also make it much easier for you to quickly compare prices and deals making sure that you get the best price possible.
Refractor spotting scopes come in two basic types of body design: angled and straight. Straight-through scopes have the eyepiece and barrel in the same horizontal plane. Whilst with an angled scope, the eyepiece is at at an angle, usually 45 or 90 degrees from the barrel. I take a look at why the are differences and at the advantages and disadvantages between each design.
A lot of people ask what the difference is between a spotting scope and if they can use their scope for astronomy. In this article I take a look at the differences, the strengths and weaknesses of each and if you can effectively use a spotting scope to look at the stars and planets in the night sky.
Spotting scopes designed for all weather conditions and environments must not only be tough, but waterproof as well. One of the most asked for features of a spotting scope is waterproofing which is often called ‘weather proofing’. Here’s my guide to: Waterproof Spotting Scopes