A spotting scope is, in essence, a hand-portable telescope fitted with a large objective lens, used for long-distance bird watching and basic astronomy. Normally used in conjunction with a tripod, spotting scopes are also normally fitted with a range of eyepieces to achieve different effects. Some also act as lens attachments for SLR cameras, and can be used for ‘digiscoping,’ using the extra zoom afforded by the scope to take very detailed long-distance images.
Spotting scopes normally come in one of two configurations – straight or angled, dependant on the location of the eyepiece. Each type has specific uses, depending on the circumstances and activity in which they are used. For example, a straight spotting scope is best suited for observing birds that are at or below eye level, or for use from inside a moving vehicle, while angled scopes are best suited to observing objects that are high up, such as a bird in flight. Angled scopes also require a tripod to use effectively, while the straight scope can be used at any time.
There is also a third variety of spotting scopes that can be mounted on the operator’s shoulder, but these are far less common. The major advantage of these types of scope is that you do not need to use a tripod quite so often.
Spotting scopes make great field telescopes – their portability combined with the fact they are normally made with a highly-durable rubber casing makes them ideal for carrying out into the wilderness. Their high imaging power makes them useful for a wide variety of outdoor activities – long-range hunting, plane spotting and safari trips all provide ample opportunities and uses for spotting scopes.
A spotting scope is normally around 300-400mm long, with a lens of at least 60mm in diameter. Most lenses are between 60-80mm, though both larger and smaller lenses exist. A larger lens makes for a better, clearer image, while smaller lenses make the scope more portable and easier to use without a tripod. Most spotting scope eyepieces are set to a magnification of 25x-32x, but once again measurements either side of these values are available. It is also possible to pick up spotting scopes with variable zoom lenses, but it is important to bear in mind that a high magnification results in a shortened field of vision, as well as limiting the light that can be captured by the scope and thus affecting the clarity of your final image.
Astronomy Spotting Scopes
Bird Watching Spotting Scopes