What Size Spotting Scope Do I Need

What Size Spotting Scope Do I Need?

If you are ready to upgrade from a pair of binoculars to a spotting scope, then the size is just one of the questions you need answering. The first and foremost point to make is, don’t go in blind and buy the first scope that comes along. You are going to be potentially spending a substantial sum of money, you need to be sure on comfort, lens size, eye-relief, weight, magnification strength, field of view, and durability. At least then you won’t suffer from buyer’s remorse and a gaping hole in your bank balance.

Lens And Magnification

On every spotting scope you will find a set of numbers. For instance 15-45×60 The first number indicates the magnification range (because of zoom potential), which is 15 to 45 times magnification. The next number indicates the objective lens size in millimeters in this case 60 but there are spotting scopes with lenses  larger than 100mm.


Most people think the higher the better when it comes to magnification, but that is incorrect information. If the magnification on your spotting scope is too high,you will notice every shake and slight movement  which could cause you to not be able to use the scope. Most spotting scopes have a range between 15x to 60x magnification. Any higher than 60x and you need to look for a telescope.

The magnification also affects your field of view. The higher the magnification, the lower  your field of view. For more landscape views, you’ll need to cut back on power.

Lens Size

The size of the lens on a spotting scope is crucial, if the lens is too large, you’ll draw in too much light and you’ll be washing out your image. Too small a lens, and you’ll be too dark. Most scopes lenses have a range between 50 to 80 mm and this is an ideal range for absorbing light. It is possible to obtain larger lenses for spotters, but you might just as well consider a telescope.

The more the lenses weigh, the heavier the spotting scope will be. If you intend carrying your scope around in your pack maybe you should look for a lighter model. Another factor to consider is lens coatings. For the most colour and brightness multi-coated lenses are your best bet.

Which Conditions Determine Which Size Lenses?

Spotting Scope

Assuming your scope is fitted with lenses that are somewhere between 50 to 80 mm which will offer most flexibility, you need to remember the following:

You need larger lenses in lower light conditions and the average daylight needs smaller lenses.

Zoom Lens Or Fixed Eyepiece?

Many spotting scopes come with a fixed eyepiece, this means your magnification is constant. Which is great for surveillance purposes or star watching, but if you need to be able to change the magnification fast, you will need to change the eyepiece for either a stronger or weaker piece. 

This is where the versatility of a zoom lens comes into play. It allows the user to change magnification in an instant plus there is no extra weight to carry with various eyepieces. Bird watching and hunting is so much easier using a zoom lens. To start with we recommend a 20 to 60 x zoom which should be sufficient for the average spotting scope user.

Eye Relief And Close Focus

The idea of a spotting scope is to see distant objects clearly, but what close range does it have?

Close focus is basically the closest distance you can see an object clearly. The average close focus range is around 25 feet . Have a play with your scope and find out where your close focus range is. Something else to consider is eye relief. This is basically the space between the eyepiece lens and where your eye naturally rests. It’s worth noting that if you wear glasses you’ll need more eye relief.

Do You Need A Tripod?


Due to the high magnification possible with a spotting scope, an image can appear blurred due to the natural shakiness that’s visible above magnification 12x. So as you’ll probably be using a higher magnification than 12x it’s worth considering a tripod. We recommend a fully adjustable full size tripod if you’re using a straight scope (see below).

For an angled scope, a smaller. Compact tripod will be sufficient as you’ll be bending down to view through the scope anyway.

Angled Scope Or Straight Scope?

Ask a group of spotting scope users whether you should buy a straight or an angled scope, and you’ll be more confused than when you first asked them. There are pros and cons with both types and it all comes down to your personal preference at the end of the day.

The main points to consider are: 

  • A Straight Scope Is Best For Hunting, And Scoping Alone.
  • An Angled Scope Is Better For Bird Watching, And Scoping In A Group.

When scoping in a group, you’re more likely to share what you’re spotting, using an angled scope makes it easier for everyone to view the image. You will also have to consider your neck, straight scopes often lead to neck strain so if you have problems with your neck before you start, it’s probably worth considering an angled scope.

Does The Idea Of Digi-Scoping Appeal To You?

Digi-scoping is a relatively new craze, where digital cameras are attached to the spotting scopes to create video footage or still images. Digi-scoping has become so popular that many spotting scope manufacturers have developed a camera eyepiece. To make attaching the camera to the scope secure. Of course these gadgets come at a price, but if digi-scoping is your thing, it’s worth considering.

How Do You Intend To Use Your Spotting Scope?

The way you intend to use your spotting scope will go a long way in determining which scope you’re more likely to buy. Below are the most common scoping activities to help you to identify the correct scope for you.


There are any number of reasons why you might be on surveillance, and any number of circumstances that you might need a spotting scope, so the scope you choose will need to be a versatile model. If you are watching a certain specific area, a 30x fixed eyepiece should suffice. The bonus of the fixed lens is it will save you from having to make constant adjustments. You’ll probably need a smaller lens too, to keep your images clear and in lots of light. A lens of around 65 mm should be perfect.

Watching Birds, Looking At Wildlife And Hunting

If nature watching is your thing, you’ll be needing a decent magnification for viewing. If you get too close you run the risk of scaring the animal away, if you’re mainly bird watching, a larger lens will be beneficial. As you will be scanning the treetops which can be dark, you’ll need to capture more light so a 80 to 100 mm lens is essential to obtain optimum light.

If you’ll be viewing animals across a large plain, you should probably keep the lens size to about the 80 mm mark. This is where a zoom lens becomes very useful indeed. Preferably a 20 to 60x range zoom will be great.

Stargazing And Astronomy


If astronomy is your hobby, then you’ll be needing a large lens to capture as much light as you can. We recommend a 20 to 60x zoom with a 100mm lens. At those kinds of magnifications you’ll definitely need a tripod. But all that magnification, and zoom will definitely be worth the expense when you see just how much you can see. Astronomy is another great hobby to try out digi-scoping, you’ll be catching some awesome shots. If astronomy is something you are seriously into, you might, in all honesty, be better off looking into a telescope rather than a spotting scope.

What Will A Decent Spotting Scope Cost – How Much Is A Spotting Scope?

The good news is there is hardly any difference between an angled scope or a straight scope. The prices start to mount up once the magnification and lens strength rise. Plus zoom lenses need factoring in as well. But with all that said, a decent spotting scope that will suffice your particular needs (if we’ve mentioned them in this article) will cost between £100.00 to around £450.00 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is angled or straight spotting scope better?

That depends entirely on your situation. Angled scopes can be used with a lower tripod which is great for stability, but straight scopes make finding targets easier.

Can you take pictures with a spotting scope?

You can take pictures with a spotting scope, in fact there is a whole new faction that has developed from using a spotting scope and a digital camera/phone. It is known as Digi-scoping.

How much zoom does a spotting scope need?

This is dependent on the model, but spotting scopes with the ability to zoom usually have either 15 to 45x or 20 to 60x , in general a spotting scope will have a maximum zoom magnification of between 15x  to 60x and once you are getting up into the high teens magnification, you will need a tripod to combat shakiness.