The Scoop on Spotting Scopes
Spotting scopes are small telescopes intended for terrestrial viewing. Available with either straight or angled bodies, they're fitted with image-erecting prism systems, and offer magnifications between 14X and 60X. This is higher than most binoculars, but lower than refractor telescopes.
Their magnifying power, flexibility, and compact size make spotting scopes popular with hunters, birdwatchers, wildlife buffs, and surveillance experts. Some models can also function as telephoto lenses when you attach them to cameras or mobile devices.
How to Choose a Spotting Scope
Spotting scopes are labeled with three numbers. The first two, usually separated by a dash, represent the zoom range, and the number after the X represents the diameter of the lens. Thus, a scope marked as 20-60x80 would feature a front lens measuring 80mm in diameter, and a magnification, or zoom, ranging from 20 to 60 times.
As a rule, the larger the lens, the brighter and clearer the image quality will be, and the wider the field of view. However, a large lens also makes the scope bulkier and heavier. Ultimately, the standard of the optics determines the quality of the image, with high-end brands such as Nikon spotting scopes offering outstanding clarity even at high magnification.
Best Spotting Scopes for Birding
Ornithologists are well served with compact, lightweight models with waterproof and fog-proof qualities to handle life in the field. You can also find high-definition models such as Leupold spotting scopes that deliver superior image quality. Most beginners prefer straight scopes, while angled models are more flexible and comfortable, and let you use lower tripods. Some scopes allow you to shift between angled and straight modes by changing a module on the back of the unit.
Popular Accessories for Spotting Scopes
With so many people using their smartphones for photography, it's natural that you can find accessories known as digiscoping adapters that can hook them up to spotting scopes to take photographs. These frames have grips to hold the mobile device and adapters to fit the camera lens to the scope's eyepiece.
Tripods are necessary to provide stability and to avoid the fatigue that comes from holding scopes for long periods. The good news is that most scopes fit on ordinary photo tripods, so you can use your existing camera tripod or monopod should you have one. Otherwise, you can choose from a wide range of optics tripods and support equipment to suit your needs. Other popular accessories include padded carrying cases.
Check out the extensive range of spotting scopes for sale, along with solar telescopes and much more, at B&H Photo and Video.