Choosing Between Spotting Scopes and Binoculars

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When it comes to viewing from a distance, the human eyesight is posed with a limitation. The eyes can only look as far as possible but this is not much of a help when it comes to observing objects beyond their capacity.

Therefore, viewing instruments have become a necessity – especially for those who engage in outdoor activities such as hunting, bird watching, shooting, terrestrial viewing, and surveillance. To pick up where the normal vision leaves off, the spotting scopes and binoculars come in handy.

However, when it comes to spotting scopes vs. binoculars, which is the better option? The answer would depend on the circumstances present in a viewing situation.

General Features – Spotting Scope vs. Binoculars

A spotting scope is a type of telescope that has a single optic for viewing upright images and an eyepiece that is either straight or angled. Binoculars, on the other hand, are portable viewing devices that are made of two optics being paired together to accommodate both left and right eyes.

For portability, binoculars are more portable than spotting scopes because they are smaller. For higher magnification, the spotting scope is better because it has built-in zoom-in lenses.

Magnification in a spotting scope is variable around 20x to 60x while binoculars have static magnification that is either 10x, 15x, or 20x. For the size of the objective lens, the spotting scope is bigger with a lens diameter starting at 60mm whereas binoculars have objective lenses below 50mm.

For a distance of 100 yards, binoculars can give a good view but when the distance increases and goes beyond 200 yards, the spotting scope will give a better view.

If the binoculars can be used while in motion, the spotting scope is prone to wobbling the higher the magnification becomes. Also, the spotting scope is sensitive to movement – it has to be placed on stable ground in order to function effectively.

While a spotting scope is able to perform in low light, binoculars are not very useful. This is because the spotting scope has a larger aperture – the wider the aperture is, the more detailed and crisper the quality of the image is, even in a low light.

Spotting Scope vs. Binoculars for Bird Watching

The choice between the two would depend on the preference of the viewer and the distance of the bird. If one wants to move around from one place to another to find a good spot for viewing, then binoculars are better because they do not need to be set up on a tripod.

If the distance of the birds to be observed is over 100 feet, then using a spotting scope for a more detailed viewing of the creature is better. For optimum viewing, however, it is better to have both of the viewing instruments.

Spotting Scope vs. Binoculars in Hunting

Carrying binoculars around the woods is easier than the spotting scope. A hunter will not normally need to scan several hundred yards of open ground when hunting so binoculars are enough.

However, there are instances when a hunter needs to look over long distances – for this using a spotting scope with a tripod is better. Also, the target to be hunted makes a difference in the preference.

Binoculars are enough for medium to large-sized creatures but smaller targets would need the help of a spotting scope.

Spotting Scope vs. Binoculars in Target Shooting

The spotting scope and binoculars are also important in target shooting from a distance. But between spotting scopes vs. binoculars, the spotting scope is far superior for target shooting from a far distance.

Here, the spotting scope is usually mounted on a tripod. There is no need to set the rifle down just to use both hands to keep the binoculars steady.

One can simply look down at the angled lens of the spotting scope and direct it with small movements to spot the target. This is the reason why a spotting scope is an important instrument among tactical sniper groups.

Spotting Scope vs. Binoculars – Conclusion

There is no clear winner between the spotting scope and the binoculars when all circumstances are taken into consideration. Each instrument has its strengths and weaknesses and one works better than the other under certain conditions.


If there is a need to choose between the two, determining the intended use of the device is necessary for making the choice.

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