How to Choose a Spotting Scope (Australia) 34

[ Skip the details and just show me the best ones ]

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. The following guide covers the most important features to look for when buying a spotting scope and our Top 2 Spotting Scopes for 2023.

Vortex Angled Spotting Scope

Should I Buy a Binocular, Spotting Scope or Telescope?

If you were just getting started with birding or hunting, then binoculars would probably work well. 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 30 Km away or simply observe subjects from a very long distance. The good news is that a spotting scope works just as well, if not better, than a telescope for moon watching, star gazing and basic astronomy. They are more user friendly, require almost no setup and can be easily be used to share the views between family members and friends.

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 80mm lens will have better light-gathering capability than a smaller 50mm or 60mm 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 scope (if you can afford it of course). If you like to travel light or move around more than a 50-60mm 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?

Some scopes offer two basic design options: an angular eyepiece or a straight one. With an angled spotting scope you will be peering down the eyepiece while with a straight scope looking straight ahead. Both have advantages and disadvantages. For most applications, such as looking at scenery or landscape, ocean, river or beach viewing, bird watching or looking at the moon and stars, the angled spotting scopes are more suitable 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 as well as straight ahead or downwards at the beach or landscape.
  • It is significantly more convenient to attach and use a camera with an angled spotting scope

In other cases, a straight scope will be preferable. For example, a straight scope would be 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.

Straight Spotting Scope

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 Vortex, Avalon, Yukon and Bushnell 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.

Which Tripod Should I Get?

Some spotting scopes already come with a tripod in the box. Others come as a spotting scope+tripod kit. Read carefully through the product description to see if a tripod is included. If not, you can sometimes use your spotting scope with a standard camera tripod. If you choose a larger spotting scope (60mm to 85mm) we also stock selected tripods and mounts. These are a-bit more expensive than your standard camera tripod. They are better quality, heavy-duty tripods specifically designed to carry binoculars and spotting scopes. If you are buying a large or heavy spotting scope, we highly recommend getting a good tripod for it. Our suggested full-size tripod for each of our spotting scopes is mentioned below the scope’s product description.

How to Consider Image Quality vs. Price?

Once you’ve decided on an angled or straight version and if you prefer a smaller or a larger spotting scope, the next step would be to look at image quality. Some models will provide a better and brighter image than others. Image quality will depend on the size of the objective lens, the optics used and the coating process of the lenses. Higher-end models will feature fully multicoated lenses, which allow for a greater light gathering capacity.

With optics, you really do get what you pay for but we have a few outstanding choices for very affordable prices. Below is a list of our best-selling spotting scopes that we believe are also the best bang for your money:

Our Top 2 Spotting Scopes for 2023

** Note: The spotting scopes recommended below are suitable for eyeglasses users **

Avalon 80mm Venture HD Spotting Scope – For those who need the extra power! Our best seller and favourite spotting scope for general observation as well as viewing ocean, land, moon and stars. Featuring up to 60x magnification and a bright, fully multi-coated 80mm lens. Waterproof and durable in all weather conditions. Outstanding image quality with sharp lifelike colours and definition. If you have ocean or country views and need a powerful scope to enjoy them then this is the one. Discounted to $695 inc. free delivery

Vortex Razor HD 22-48X65 – One of the best spotting scopes money can buy. Designed for hunting but can be used for any type of viewing. This is Vortex’s flagship scope, easily comparable to some of today’s top European made scopes. It features an extra wide field of view, smooth focusing and extreme durability. $2069 inc. free delivery


Want to take photos or video using your spotting scope?

Checkout our blog post on digiscoping. It includes everything you need to know about photography using a spotting scope as well as our favourite spotting scopes and adapters for digiscoping.


  1. Hi, I’m looking at purchasing the Avalon 80mm spotting scope. However, I have an opportunity to buy a secondhand Celestron ASTROMASTER LT 60AZ for significantly less. I’m still keen on the Avalon and wondered if you could explain its benefits over something like the Celestron. I understand the Avalon is more portable and optimised for daytime viewing (could I not use the Celestn in the day to look at the ocean, for example?). Is one better in terms of magnification? Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Elle, there are several advantages to the Avalon over the Celestron 60AZ telescope. Firstly, the Avalon 80mm scope can be used for both daytime ocean or land viewing as well as astronomy while the Celestron is only designed to be used in complete darkness to look at the moon and stars. It will show an unclear image when used during daytime. Most likely inverted too, so not ideal at all for looking at ocean. Another advantage of the Avalon 80mm spotting scope is its larger aperture (80mm vs. 60mm of the Celestron) which means more light coming in i.e. a brighter image. The optics are also superior to the Celestron. These are all technical differences but the most notable upside of using a spotting scope such as the Avalon 80mm is that it is much easier and faster to use than a traditional telescope. It is easy to point it in the right direction and view your subject/s right away, adjust magnification/focus etc. no need for using a view finder and most importantly no need to be using it in complete darkness.

      Adam Murray, Procular
      1. Thank you! Appreciate the detailed response.

  2. Trying to find a good spotting scope for my son who hunts in Alaska mostly mountain spotting of animals, I don’t want to break the bank. Can you recommend one or two thanks Jeff

    1. We can recommend the Avalon 60mm Venture HD spotting scope. Its ideal for spotting animals, fully waterproof and weather resistant for Alaska and also lightweight for hunting / travel. Details below:

      Adam Murray, Procular
  3. Hi, I’m looking for a spotter that will be used for astronomy mostly. It’s for my husband who has an interest in what’s up there and has no idea about spotters. Which one would you suggest. Cheers Donella

    1. The Avalon 80mm Venture HD scope reviewed above would work best for astronomy as well as daytime viewing

      Adam Murray, Procular
  4. I currently have a Bushnell Televar 20-60X60 ( over 50yrs old) and notice that it is still competitive with others . I have always wondered if there was any spotter that accepted photographic screw-on filters and is there anyone that has a reticle system , similar to a rifle’scope , with rangefinder graduations

    John McMaster
    1. Hi John, as far as we know there are no common spotting scopes with a reticle system, at least not for personal non-military use. Regarding photographic adapters, the Avalon Venture HD spotting scopes have adapters available for using them with Nikon or Canon DSLR cameras and an adapter for use with mobile phones. You can see these 3 adapters here: — they only fit Avalon spotting scopes though.

  5. Hi Peter,
    I am in a very high rise apartment ,Level 76.
    I would like to see very far as much as possible with good detail but at the same time if possible looking at the moon or sometimes stars.
    I know from your website that Spotting Scopes they need light .What about moon in the day time?
    Do you overall suggest anything that could have mix ability?
    Thank you very much.
    Kind regards,

    1. Hi Mike,

      A spotting scope would be ideal for you for both viewing as far as possible, with good detail, as well as viewing the moon during day and night. Spotting scopes are very unique in the fact that they work well during both daytime and night and do not require light or complete darkness. Their large aperture allows them to work very well for seeing the moon and stars and for seeing brighter, sharper images during daytime as well. Their high magnifications also provide detailed views for long distances. A spotting scope is the only tool we recommend which has this “mix ability”.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  6. Hi

    Is it possible to get the Avalon Venture HD scope in a straight instead of angled configuration?

    Also, which tripod would you recommend for a straight scope which is tall enough from for me to stand and have the scope at eye level?


    Pieter Joubert
    1. Hi Pieter,

      The Avalon Venture HD scopes are only available in an angled eye-piece configuration. We have a few other scopes (by Vortex for example) which are straight but they are not very popular so might be discontinued in the future as well. Regarding a full size tripod, the Avalon Universal PRO Tripod is an excellent choice for any spotting scope really. It can extend to a very tall position where anyone can use it at eye level. Details of the trip below:

      Adam Murray, Procular
  7. Hi,

    I too am looking for a scope to watch whales from a distance of about 5klm. The scope does not need to be portable as we’ll be looking to have it on a tripod. I am a complete newbie to this kind of gear. I am looking for some sort of ‘smart’ scope/spotter that I might be able to view the image on a smart TV, either direct or via computer. I’d also like to be able to record images/video. I see there are a number of suitable suggestions for scopes above, but is there also something that can interface with a computer/smartTV?? Could you also recommend a suitable tripod?

    Appreciate the advice.


    Allan Kearney
    1. Hi Allan,

      Thank you for your message. Basically if you don’t mind the size and weight, and will be mounting the spotting scope on a tripod (best practice), then you can opt for a large powerful model. It will allow you to see the whales in more detail from 5Km and even further. We have several spotting scopes available which will work. We can personally recommend the
      Avalon 80mm Venture HD spotting scope reviewed in the post above as it has both the power as well as the excellent sharpness and image quality. You can read more about the Avalon 80mm spotting scope here: — It works best with a sturdy tripod such as the Avalon Universal PRO Tripod below: — We don’t know of any spotting scope that has photo or video features built-in but you can use an adapter in order to connect a DSLR or a mobile phone to the spotting scope. If your camera or otherwise phone has a live feature then you can instantly see the footage on your computer or smart TV. With an iPhone for example you can use the camera and/or AppleTV to stream the view to your TV or computer. If connecting a mobile phone with the spotting scope you will need the following adapter: — Otherwise if using a Canon or Nikon DSLR you will need one of the following adapters respectively: or

      Adam Murray, Procular
  8. Hi, I’m interested in buying a Spotting Scope to check out boats fishing in a bay 700+ metres away and also viewing ships out to sea.. I live up a very steep hill so i’m looking down to the bay from my balcony. i would like to be able to recognise faces and fish type at that distance, also some star gazing, but the daytime function is the most important. Price is not a big issue, I would rather have something that does the job and i would like the most powerful scope i could buy that would be practical for my requirements.

    Thanks for your help.


  9. Sorry, i also wear glasses, prior enquiry.

    John Ragen

    1. Hi John,

      The Avalon 80mm spotting scope reviewed in this post above should do a wonderful job for checking out boats from that range (and from much further!). From 700 meters you should be able to easily make out the faces of individuals on the boats and even fish types. You can use the scope either with or without glasses but you will probably find it easier without the use of glasses. The scope’s magnified and enhanced image together with its fine focusing will make up for any vision impairments your glasses fix. The scope has a very large objective (80mm) so is also very suitable for night viewing and star gazing. You can read all about the Avalon 80mm Venture HD spotting scope here:

      Adam Murray, Procular
  10. Greetings
    I am looking for a spotting scope for a range of 30-50 km to watch mountains and landscape. Please advise.

    1. Hi Awadallah,

      As you are viewing from such a long range (30-50 Km) we recommend the Avalon 80mm spotting scope reviewed in this post above. You will be able to see fine details with it on the mountains, trees and landscape that would otherwise not be visible with lower powered scopes. Details of the Avalon 80mm Venture HD Spotting Scope again below:

      Adam Murray, Procular
      1. Many thanks your helpful and informative reply. I have the following comments:
        1/ Its price looks cheap relatively.. I have a budget of USD 3000+, therefore please advise if there is more advanced equipment ( more advanced in terms of image quality and longer range coverage).
        2/ can such a spotting scope be fitted with bincular lenses .. I mean I feel more comfotable using the 2 eyes instead of 1 eye.

        1. Hi Awadallah,

          The most advanced scope we carry is the Vortex Razor HD 27-60×85 Spotting Scope. It is the larger version of the Vortex Razor HD scope reviewed in detail in the post above. It has an outstanding image quality and is extremely durable yet lightweight. A professional level spotting scope which is very popular with our avid birdwatchers and hunters. We are unaware of an option to fit binocular lenses to a spotting scope, sorry. You can read more about the Vortex Razord HD 27-60×85 Spotting Scope here:×85-angled-spotting-scope/

          Adam Murray, Procular
  11. Hi,
    I’m looking to buy a spotting scope for longer range target shooting (200-700+ yards) so that I don’t have to walk to the target to check my groups. Which scope would you recommend that gives good enough detail at those distances?
    I would like the image to be clear enough that the spotter has a chance to see the bullet ‘splash’ if the target is missed entirely.

    I don’t want to spend too much on something that’s overkill, but don’t want to get the little Bushnell or NatGeo if they aren’t effective at those ranges.


    1. Hi Dan,

      Unfortunately to spot a clear enough image from that distance (500 years and over) and see bullet splash you will need the absolute top of the line spotting scope. Most shooters use the simple scopes (Bushnell / NG) for up to 100 yards. Mid range scopes with 20-60x magnification, assuming they actually maintain image quality at over 30x, will work well for 200 yards target practice. But for anything over 400-500 yards there are very few spotting scopes on the market that will show clear bullet holes or “splash”. The only one we can can guarantee to perform in your case would be the Vortex Razor HD 22-48×65 below:×65-angled-spotting-scope/

      Adam Murray, Procular
  12. hi adam..

    I thinking of buying a spotting scope.. I mostly uses for long range spotting, about 5 to 10 km away from a high hill looking down at a village. I wanted to buy a scope that can see high details clearly from up hill to down hill looking at a village roughly 7 km away. I want to spot thing from far away without anyone noticing it.. I wants my scope to be able to use in low light condition… Just say in all weather conditions… The cost is not a problem, so as the weight. Which scope should I buy???

    please give me a detail answer…
    kindly regards

    1. Hi Jonny,

      We can surely recommend a good spotting scope for your application. First of all since you are viewing from such a distance and want to see small details very clearly then a spotting scope would be the BEST choice (in opposed to binoculars or a telescope). As you probably know a spotting scope is designed for long distance day viewing while a telescope more for night time astronomy. Because you will be mainly looking downwards we recommend going for a straight eye-piece spotting scope. This will allow you to point your scope downwards in a much easier and intuitive manner. If weight is not an issue then it’s better to have an 80mm scope. Because 1. You won’t need to carry it out to the field 2. The large objective will significantly improve your low light performance and provide a brighter image in all-weather. Note that for a spotting scope of this caliber we recommend mounting it on a tripod. Regarding using the scope discretely – setup the tripod a-bit further away from the window, lower and keep the room dark. A good comfortable tripod setup will be a-lot less obvious than standing up and holding large binoculars.

      Regarding which spotting scope will work best. As mentioned a high power one with a straight eye-piece and a large objective lens. We have a few of these on Procular with the differences being price vs. optical quality. The best one we can recommend is the Vortex Razor HD 20-60×80 (straight), details below:×85-straight-spotting-scope/

      As per its name it really provides razor sharp images. Works well in low light and even at night. It is also beautifully designed, easy to use and fully durable (waterproofed, fog proofed etc.). A cheaper option, similar in specs, would be the Vortex Diamondback 80mm. Details below:×80-straight-spotting-scope/

      Quite a-bit of info there, I hope this helps! Please feel free to let us know if you have any further questions.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  13. Are there any spotting scopes that allow the attachment of a camera?

    I have a Nikon 80D

    Many thanks, Paul

    Paul Paterson
    1. Hi Paul,

      Yes, there are a few options for spotting scopes that can attach to a camera. Here’s all the info on it:

      Adam Murray, Procular
  14. Hi Adam, am moving into a house with ocean views and would like to buy a spotting scope to check the beach and surf as well as boats etc out on the water. Thinking either the vortex razor 22-48×65 or 27-60×85. Am about 200-300 mtrs to the water, your advice would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Gary, both of these Vortex Razor spotting scopes have FANTASTIC optics. So you can’t really go wrong with any of these two. They will both allow you to observe the beach, surf and horizon in great detail and enjoy beautiful, sharp images. From as close as 50m to 5-6 Km easily. And even further. The 22-48×65 has the advantage of being smaller, lighter and cheaper while the 85mm allows for a more powerful magnification and wider field of view (due to its large 80mm lens). On the downside it is a heavier product and more expensive of course. If you plan to have your spotting scope fixed on a tripod and in the same position, and are not interested in taking it out on trips etc. then the 80mm model performs better. But honestly the 65mm version is not far off from it. So it’s mainly a matter of budget. We heard excellent feedback on these scopes so far so happy to recommend them.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  15. Hi, I would like to get a spotting scope so I can take advantage of the magnifications they offer but for photography use. There is not much information on using them for this purpose. I would like to use it with my Canon 5D M III.
    I would like to know which adapter do I get for it and if I need a plate to balance the weight of the scope or anything else I might need. I would also like to know the major differences between the Vortex Viper HD 20-60×80 and the Vortex Razor HD 27-60×85 apart from the obvious price difference! Would any of these be suitable for my camera?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Maria- excellent questions! We published a post about digiscoping (taking photos using a spotting scope) which I think you’ll find very useful:

      At the end of this post you can also see our recommendations for necessary camera adapters for the scopes.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  16. Can a camera be attached?? Use is for sighting from land to sea up to say 4km. I am also looking at Vortex Razor HD 27-60X85.

    1. You can attach most cameras to any spotting scope. The best quality universal adapters for spotting scopes are by Avalon Optics. They fit any Nikon or Canon SLR/DSLR to any spotting scope you see here on Procular. Here’s the adapter for Canon or Nikon cameras:

      Adam Murray, Procular

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