Spotting Scopes Reviews By Expert Hunters – 2015
For many archers, shooters, and wildlife observers, one of the most important pieces of kit can be the spotting scope. When you’ve come to the point of getting ready to invest in a spotting scope, it is important that you look carefully at all of your options and know what features are most and least important.
Each of our reviews carefully examines the spotting scope, looking deep into what features are most important and how well the spotting scope meets or exceeds expectations for those features. If you want to get an idea of what to look for in a spotting scope, as well as examples of scopes that either shine or fall short of the mark, read on.
What Comes in the Box?
The first thing we evaluate is what you get for your money. The bare minimums that should always be included are eyepiece and objective caps, but it is definitely nice when manufacturers include other well-made accessories. For example, the Celestron Regal M2 LER 27×80 ED spotting scope inclues a stay-on case that provides excellent protection for your spotting scope even while you’re using it, and the included T-adapter ring allows you to attach your camera to the spotting scope. Some spotting scopes also come with tripods, but those tripods aren’t typically worth the extra weight in the packaging. In this part of the review, we let you know everything that should come in the box, as well as the quality of the included accessories.
What’s the Magnification?
Next, we take a look at the magnification of the spotting scope. For some, like the Celestron Regal M2 LER 27×80 ED spotting scope, this will be a fixed power – 27X in the case of the Celestron Regal M2. Others, and in fact the vast majority of spotting scopes, have variable zoom factors. The Vortex 20–60×85 Razor HD, for example, zooms from 20X to 60X. Our review will uncover the magnification of the spotting scope, as well as the clarity and crispness of the images across all magnifications.
How Easy is the Spotting Scope to Use?
Some spotting scopes are easy to use, while others aren’t so easy to use. What makes a spotting scope easy to use is the placement of the controls and how freely the controls move (or don’t move.) Our reviews look deep into this, and let you know of potential problems. For example, BARSKA’s Benchmark 25–125×88 straight spotting scope tends to be difficult to use because of its long design and the placement of the focus ring on the far end of the objective lens. Other spotting scopes, like the Vanguard Endeavor HD 82mm angled eyepiece spotting scope, keep the focus knob central to the spotting scope, which makes for a much easier time reaching the control to adjust the crispness and clarity of your image.
What is the Light Gathering Capability of the Spotting Scope?
If you are using your spotting scope during low light conditions, you will want to know how well the spotting scope gathers light. In this part of our review, we look at what the manufacturer has done to improve light transmission, and discuss how useful the spotting scope is at night or during low light conditions. Fully multi-coated optics are the best for light transmission, but we have found a spotting scope here and there with just multi-coated optics but still excellent light transmission, like the Konus Konuspot 20–60x100mm spotting scope. This particular spotting scope is one that we’ve even used to observe the surface of the moon during late-night hours, and the Konuspot has never let us down.
How Are the Optics and Focus?
The quality of the optics is vital to providing a crisp, clear image with good color and contrast. When we evaluate the optics, we look at what type of prism design the manufacturer uses as well as the type of prism glass in use. The Konuspot, for example, suffers from not getting the most possible brightness and image clarity out of the glass because of the lack of fully multi-coated optics.
Focus is equally important, and you want to make sure the focus controls are easy to access and turn. Our review looks at whether the focus wheel or knob turns smoothly and easily, but still has enough resistance to keep you from bumping an image out of focus. BARSKA’s Benchmark 25–125×88 straight spotting scope, in addition to having the focus wheel placed too far away, suffers from having too much play.
What’s the Housing Like?
Next, you’ll want to know what the housing is like on the spotting scope. We look at whether the spotting scope’s housing has enough texture and ridges to allow a firm grip, as well as whether the scope includes a good tripod mount. Redfield’s Rampage 20–60x60mm spotting scope, for example, is built with such lightweight materials and such excellent texture that you could easily use the scope handheld. The best way to use a spotting scope, of course, is mounted to a tripod or pistol grip, which the Rampage is fully compatible with. What’s really nice, though, is when the tripod mount is included on a rotating ring, such as on the Vortex 20–60×85 Razor HD spotting scope. A rotating tripod ring allows you to change the scope to a sideways position and allows for multiple viewing angles.
How Durable is the Spotting Scope?
Finally, we examine how durable the spotting scope is. Accidents happen, and you don’t want your investment getting completely destroyed because of a minor bump or fall. We’re tough on our gear, so we can make an honest, real-life assessment on how durable a spotting scope is. The Vortex 20–60×85 Razor HD spotting scope, by way of example, even survived a crash to the driveway when the kit was thrown off-balance by my attached camera.
Our reviews will also look at water resistance and the ability of the scope to remain fog-free even in cold or damp conditions. We will let you know if the lenses are O-ring sealed to keep water out, and whether the optics chamber is filled with an inert gas to prevent fogging.
At the end of the review, you’ll find our last words: the summary. If you only read one part of the review, read the pros and cons. If you read two parts of the review, go with the pros and cons and then the summary. Here, we wrap up with what are the best and worst features of the spotting scope and let you know who the scope is good for and who it isn’t.