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Overview

A spotting scope is a portable telescope designed for land or sea viewing. It is a remarkable instrument loved by many nature observers, bird watchers and hunters. With a spotting scope, you can view across great distances and notice details that are nearly impossible to see with binoculars.

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FAQ

Should I Buy a Binocular, Spotting Scope or Telescope?

If you were just getting started with birding or hunting, then binoculars would probably work best. Binoculars are more compact, portable and intuitive to use. They are also good for travel and a variety of other uses. As you become more serious about your outdoor activity, you will, sooner or later, want a spotting scope and tripod. For bird watching, the high magnification and better stability will allow you to see details on birds that cannot be seen with binoculars. Hunters use them to effectively spot, follow and identify wildlife while target shooters use them for scoring.

Telescopes are purely designed for astronomy and viewing the night sky. Spotting scopes, on the other hand, are also designed for viewing subjects on land or at sea. A spotting scope would work great if you want to see boats in the bay, ships in the horizon, scenery as far as 50 miles away or simply observe subjects from a very long distance. 

What Do the Numbers Mean?

A spotting scope is always represented by two sets of numbers. For example 20-60×80. The first set of numbers refers to its magnification (or zoom). For example 20-60x means 20x to 60x variable zoom. The second number refers to the diameter of its objective lens. A spotting scope will usually have a 50mm to 80mm lens.

What is the Best Magnification?

Most spotting scopes will have a variable zoom, for example, 15-45x or 20-60x. This suggests that you can manually adjust their magnification when viewing – just like a camera. Generally, a spotting scope will have a maximum magnification of 15x to 60x. The higher the magnification is, the more detail you will be able to see. Remember that you will always be able to zoom out when needed. 

What is the Ideal Lens Size?

You simply need to choose if you prefer a better image quality or a smaller and lighter spotting scope. A spotting scope with a larger lens (60mm to 100mm) will have better light-gathering capability than a smaller 50mm lens spotting scope. This means that the image you see will be brighter and clearer. You will also enjoy a wider field of view. On the other hand the bigger the lens is, the larger and heavier your spotting scope will be. Larger spotting scopes are also more expensive.

Think about where you will be using the spotting scope the most. If you normally stay at a fixed location for a long period or don’t need to worry about extra weight then opt for an 80mm to 100mm scope (if you can afford it of course). If you like to travel light or move around more than a 50mm to 60mm scope will suit you better. Some 50mm scopes can even be used without a tripod when needed.

Should I Choose an Angled or a Straight Spotting Scope?

Most scopes offer two basic design options: a straight eyepiece or an angular one. With an angled spotting scope you will be peering down the eyepiece while with a straight scope simply looking straight ahead. Both have advantages and disadvantages. For bird watching or looking at the moon the angled spotting scopes are more popular than the straight ones because of the following reasons:

  • They are easier to use for extended periods of time.
  • They are more convenient to share with other viewers. If you set your angled spotting scope to a certain height most people will still be able to view through the eyepiece without needing to adjust the scope’s position.
  • An angled scope allows you to aim skyward at a bird in a tree, soaring hawks, the mountains or the moon.

In other cases, a straight scope will be preferable. It is more trivial to use because where you point is where you look. A straight scope is also good for a hunter who is spotting game while lying on the ground. It allows for a straight “point and shoot” alignment as well as keeping your head down low when stalking wildlife. A straight spotting scopes works well when looking either straight ahead or downwards from an elevated location. For example looking down at the beach, checking the surf or viewing the landscape from your elevated porch.

What Other Features Should I Consider?

Spotting scopes are frequently used in extreme weather conditions, so features like waterproof and fog-proof are desirable. A lot of vendors say that they have waterproof scopes, but they are only protected against water. Proper waterproofing will make sure that your spotting scope is protected from all types of water and moisture and will not fog up. This also means that the inside of your scope will have protection from corrosion, which will be an added benefit if you like to use it near the ocean. Our spotting scopes by Barska, Celestron, Bushnell and Bresser are all highly durable and 100% waterproofed and water sealed.

Another feature to look for is long eye relief. In plain English, this means that you will be able to position your eye further away from your eyepiece and still see a clear image. This is important if you’ll be wearing your glasses or sunglasses while using the spotting scope. Most mid to high-end scopes have a long enough eye relief for all users.

Do I Need a Tripod for My Spotting Scope?

In short, yes. Spotting scopes use high magnifications so must be stabilised to eliminate image shakiness. Although some smaller models can be used without a tripod, they are still better used with one. You can also mount your spotting scope on a table, stand or any other platform. But a tripod will definitely allow you to enjoy your scope’s full potential truly. All of our spotting scopes come with a standard tripod mount, which can be used, with nearly any tripod on the market.

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Digiscoping – Using a Spotting Scope or Binoculars for Photography

What is Digiscoping?

Digiscoping is the practice of connecting your digital camera or mobile phone to a spotting scope to help you get better pictures in a variety of situations. This practice makes it much easier for many photographers to capture better images of birds, nature, and much more. Traditionally, this practice has been used the most by birdwatchers, however, there are plenty of other potential uses for this technology. Anytime you are looking to get breathtaking pictures of wildlife, nature, sports, and more with your camera, and just a bit more equipment, you can turn to digiscoping for some great results. 

What Equipment Do I Need?

Spotting scopes that have an angled eyepiece are the easiest to use this approach with. You may purchase a commercial adapter, which helps you to more easily align the scope and your camera more quickly. Refer to the end of this guide for our specific equipment recommendations. 

How Do I Connect My Camera to the Spotting Scope?

Depending upon what method and equipment you choose, you may need to take more care and time to connect your camera correctly. For the most part, connecting your camera is surprisingly simple. All you need is a spotting scope and a digital camera or mobile phone of your choice. Line up the eyepiece of you spotting scope with the lens of the camera. Check your angle, and be sure that the two are very close. If you have trouble, you may want to consider purchasing a special adapter. Take a few snaps, then adjust any desired camera settings in order to get a great picture.

Why Might You Want to Use Digiscoping?

Digiscoping is useful in a variety of ways. You can use it to take nature shots of faraway things. It is perfect for photographing things from far away that you simply cannot get close to. Examples include whales, ships, animals, birds or even things happening overhead in the sky. For birding, digiscoping can help you to easily share gorgeous photos of your finds with others. 

What are The Best Practices for Digiscoping?

  • Don’t worry too much about taking the perfect photo: you can crop it later using software. (Photoshop or other)
  • Remember other important equipment, like memory cards and batteries when taking lots of pictures. This is especially important when out in the field.
  • Study the habit of the birds you are photographing. This can help you to decide if something like a built-in timer might be right for you. 
  • Get a stable tripod. If the tripod, spotting scope or camera still seem unbalanced after setting them up, you may want to experiment with adding weights.
  • Let more light in my switching your aperture priority mode.
  • Take time to focus, even if what you are capturing seems to be moving quickly. 
  • Do everything you would do for a regular photograph: consider colour, light, and even air quality, which can effect images.
  • Choose your ISO carefully. A higher one can help you to take more pictures, faster, even if it does sacrifice quality a bit. 
  • Take LOTS of pictures. You can delete any bad ones later.

Video

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