Buying Your First Spotting Scope

Whilst a pair of good quality binoculars is a bird/nature watcher’s best friend, a spotting scope is a step up in terms of versatility and ease of use. They usually feature a zoom eyepiece, giving you a range of magnifications, and can have apertures up to 100mm – good enough for a bit of stargazing if the fancy takes you!

There are a few things to consider when buying a spotting scope, the first being what magnification you need. The general rule of thumb is the larger the scope, the higher the magnification. For example, an 80mm scope would normally have a 20-60x zoom range giving you a very high-powered optic in a portable design (even the largest spotting scopes are very easy to transport).

Another consideration is what kind of glass you want. Standard glass is cheaper and suitable for a range of uses; however Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) glass gives a much sharper image and has better light transmission for clarity and brightness. The downside of the latter is that it is more expensive, though we would certainly recommend it for the best viewing experience, especially where being able to see detail is important.

Spotting scopes also come with different kinds of focuser. The simple, one speed focuser is easy to use and can suit most people’s requirements. Dual speed focusers offer the ability to fine-tune the spotters focus to make it as sharp as possible. This can take a little getting used to, but it is worth it for pin-sharp views of your subject.

A final consideration is how you intend you mount your spotting scope. Due to the high magnifications involved, spotting scopes are not usually suited for hand-held use and so a tripod is an essential purchase. Whilst a lot of people may already have tripods at home for cameras and the like, it pays to keep in mind that spotting scopes are heavier than your average camera and so require a more substantial tripod. This is why we always recommend purchasing the spotting scope and tripod at the same time and we can offer advice on what tripod would suit a particular scope. 

One of the popular uses for spotting scopes is to take images using an attached camera – known as “digi-scoping” – and we offer a number of solutions in store and online. Smartphones are becoming more and more popular for this purpose as their cameras are constantly improving and it can be cheaper than purchasing a digital camera. That said, some digital cameras offer far better image resolution and functionality and if you wish to go down that route, we have adapters that we recommend for the purpose. Whichever camera you choose to make use of, the process is the same in that the camera shoots afocally through the spotting scopes eyepiece. If you’re planning to use a camera with your spotting scope, this will influence your choice of tripod as it will need to be able to cope with the extra weight, but we can advise on this as well.

Whatever your requirements, we have an excellent stock in store and on our website.

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