How to Choose a Spotting Scope (UK) 26

[ 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 best. 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 50 miles away or simply observe subjects from a very long distance.

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 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 80mm) 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: All spotting scopes recommended below are suitable for eyeglasses users **

National Geographic 20-60X60 – If you want to purchase a good general viewing scope without breaking the bank then this is a great entry-level model. The National Geographic scope is well built yet very compact and easy to use. Features 20x to 60x magnification and an included tabletop tripod. Great for daytime viewing and as a first spotting scope. £179 + free delivery

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. Up to 60x magnification, 80mm lens, waterproof, 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 £399 + 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. Hello Adam Murray,
    I am partly disabled and like to watch garden birds from about 10 metres. I have a Jessops 20X60 Zoom. Set on 20 i get a good focus but only half the bird feeder cage. I need a wider view. Can you recommend a spotting scope or binoculars. I already have zeiss 8×42 but they do not give the detail. Thank yo for your help…William

  2. I have a question about a spotting scope with a Slix tripod. The tripod and the telescope are in good working order, but unfortunately the shoe that attaches the telescope to the tripod is broken and appears to be beyond repair. The shoe is about 40 years old and was made by Cullman of West Germany. Is there any shoe or other accessory that could be used to replace the broken shoe?

    1. Hi Richard, unfortunately not, the shoe itself cannot be repaired as its likely moulded to the telescope’s body and using a different part will not provide adequate stability. If your telescope is still under warranty we recommend contacting the vendor. Otherwise you might want to look at replacing the whole scope or purchasing a new one.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  3. Hi Stephen,

    I have lost my left peripheral vision in both eyes following a stroke 3.5 years ago. I want something decent to look at the night sky, birds and general viewing if on holiday. Will my vision loss preclude me from binoculars? Can you recommend something please?

    Howard Wilkins
    1. Hi Stephen, that should not be an issue as the binoculars will magnify and enhance the image for you. We recommend trying binoculars first to see if they assist you in viewing the night skies, birds and general viewing. We would go for something like 10×42 binoculars as they are easy to use and adjust for your eyesight as well as use for any type of viewing.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  4. Hi Adam. Is there an adaptor for Panasonic cameras? I have a dmc-FZ72 which I’d like to team up with your avalon 60?

    1. Hi Dave, sorry unfortunately there are no adapters for Panasonic cameras to spotting scopes. Only Canon, Nikon or mobile phones.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  5. Hi Adam, I am looking for a high quality spotting scope, that has interchangeable eyepieces. This will allow me to use my 1.25” eyepieces that I use with my telescope. What would you recommend? The scope will be used mainly for terrestrial landscape viewing.

    1. Hi Les, unfortunately spotting scopes work differently to telescopes. They have a zoom adjustment instead of changing the actual eyepieces. This is actually much easier to operate and allows you for a wider range of magnifications (variable 20x to 60x normally). The scopes recommended in the post above are perfect for terrestrial landscape viewing as well as moon and star watching.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  6. I have seen videos of a monocular Attached to an iPhone taking zoomed in photos. Although I’m sure the results are exaggerated, is there a decent monocular that might do this.

    Fred Manning
    1. Hi Fred, yes, we’ve seen the video as well on social media. It is probably exaggerated. But you CAN attach an iPhone or any other mobile phone to a handheld monocular. Here’s the monocular to use:×42-wp-monocular/ — and the phone adapter for it: — by the way this is done much more efficiently using a spotting scope, mounted on a tripod, and either a camera or the phone adapter. This way the tripod holds and stabilises your scope so you can focus on taking the photo. Taking photos with a spotting scope (or monocular) is called “digiscoping”. We have a useful post explaining everything you need to know about it here: — It is a very fun activity and you can get truly amazing photos (see the moon photo above as an example), but it does take some time, patience and practice to achieve the best results.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  7. I’m an avid photographer and love to shoot birds.
    Dies a scope as described above fit onto a tripod in the same manner my caneras do please ?

    Adrian Arnett
    1. Hi Adrian,

      Yes, the scope uses a standard 1/4′ connection to any photographic tripod. There is no need for an adapter either. But due to the length and weight of the scope compared to a DSLR, you need to use a stable tripod which can support it. If you already own a solid full-sized photo tripod you can try it out with the scope.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  8. Hi. I love to plane watch. I have the celestron skymaster 15 x 70 which are ok but I want more detail. I have been looking at the celestron 25 x 70 using a tripod. I would like to know your comments. Thanks in advance.

    Anthony Wilson
    1. Hi Anthony,

      Although the Celestron 25×70 have stronger magnification, you will not notice too much of a difference between them and your current Celestron 15×70 binocular. If you are already intending to use a tripod, which is a very good idea in order to stabilise the highly magnified images, then you can consider a spotting scope instead. The Avalon 60mm Venture HD Spotting Scope for example would be ideal. You can adjust its magnification from 20x to 60x to see more details when looking at high flying planes. You might need to initially use your binoculars, or even the naked eye, to spot the plane and point the scope at the right direction.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  9. I am looking for a spotting scope so I can see views of the coast, The vast majority of the time the scope will be indoors on a tripod so weight is not an issue. The view to the coastal town is 1.6 miles or 2.6 km away so would be great to be able to see the boats in the harbour clearly. I am looking for a bright clear image and a scope that is easy to use.

  10. I have recently lost the sight in one eye, and need a monocular to do what a pair of good binoculars used to do; general looking at distant things when out walking, on holiday etc, and birds/animals in general, though not specifically birdwatching as such. So good magnification, bright and clear lens.

    Any thoughts much appreciated.



    Mark Lysons
    1. Hi Mark,

      If you need the monocular for general use while walking, to see things in the distance, you will be best off with a handheld monocular rather than a spotting scope. We can recommend the Avalon 10×42 WP Monocular which is our best selling compact monocular at the moment. It offers 10x magnification (same as any good binoculars) and a very sharp image. It is also very easy to use with one hand as the focus wheel is on top of the monocular’s body. You can read more about it here:×42-wp-monocular/

      Adam Murray, Procular
  11. Hi there,

    My husband and I have just returned from holiday where we visited several national parks and spent days watching wildlife, some of which was around 0.5 – 1 mile away (using the zoom on one of my cameras!) We have decided that for our next trip we need a spotting scope. I do like the idea of being able to attach a camera to it although it’s not completely necessary. I was looking at the Avalon 80mm – is that over the top for what I want to do or having used my 230x zoom (digital) will I find it not as good?

    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Alex,

      A spotting scope only uses optical zoom so the image quality is significantly better than looking through a camera. Also, since these scopes have a very large objective lens you are able to see a much brighter, sharper image than you would with a camera. Especially when zooming in. The difference is very noticeable. You can also use a special adapter to connect any camera, or even a mobile phone, to the spotting scope. These adapters work with any spotting scope we have on Procular. This is called “digiscoping” and is quite a popular hobby with avid bird watchers and nature viewers.

      Now, regarding which spotting scope works best. The Avalon 80mm might be an overkill for seeing from only 0.5-1 mile. Also, it is larger for safari and travel. If you don’t mind that then it will work fine. Otherwise most bird watchers, hunters etc. favour the 60mm angled spotting scopes. They are more compact and more practical for using in the field. The angled eyepiece is also better for bird watching as you can point the spotting scope upwards. you can also rotate the eyepiece and point it straight ahead or downwards. Specifically we can recommend the Avalon 60mm Venture HD spotting scope, it works well for 0.5 to 1 mile and further (2-3 miles). It has 20x to 60x times optical zoom. Note that other products offering 100x times or so optical zoom simply have bad image quality when using over 30x !! So beware of products like that. You can read more about the Avalon 60mm spotting scope here:

      You can mount it on any photographic tripod. If you don’t have a tripod then we have a better quality, more durable tripod, the Avalon Universal PRO tripod below:

      Last but not least, camera adapter. There are a few on the market but we only recommend the ones by Avalon Optics for digiscoping. They have 3 models, for Canon DSLR, for Nikon DSLR and for phone cameras. Here’s the links for the 3 adapters respectively:

      Adam Murray, Procular
  12. Hi ,
    I am interested in buying a high mag spotting scope for viewing over extreme distances (5 or 6 miles). Why would you recommend the Avalon over the Yukon & how sharp would images be at this distance ?

    1. Hi Dave,

      Although both scopes have the same magnification the Yukon seems to only provide sharp images up to about 30x-40x power. When zooming in further than that the image become significantly less clear. Also, the focusing mechanism is quite wobbly and does not always set the focus to the magnification – it takes some playing around. It is quite an old model. We find the Avalon better in terms of image quality (regardless of power) and also sharper images even when using the full magnification. From 5-6 miles you can still recognise a person’s body for example but not facial features. Overall in terms of long distance viewing it is excellent value. Scope like the Avalon 80mm Venture HD or even with less power can be over twice more expensive. The only downside is that you will probably be best with a better tripod if you’re viewing from such distances. In order to achieve more stability while viewing as well as properly support your (full sized) spotting scope. We can suggest the Avalon Universal PRO Tripod below for it:

      Adam Murray, Procular
  13. Is there a dual telescope for spotting and astronomy? My husband is a complete beginner but likes good quality equipment.

    Linda Dilley
    1. Hi Linda,

      Yes, the Avalon 80mm Venture HD Spotting Scope does a very good job at both terrestrial viewing and astronomy (stargazing). It has an angled eyepiece which can be easily rotated. So you can use it to look straight ahead at the horizon, look upwards towards the skies or look downwards if you are on an elevated. platform. This spotting scope also has very good quality optics and produced a clear and bright image. Suitable for watching the moon and stars and also for watching landscape, ocean etc. during daytime. Details below:

      You will need to mount it on a tripod. If you don’t have one we can suggest the Avalon Universal PRO Tripod below:

      Adam Murray, Procular
  14. I am going bird watching in the country side and to the islands of South Wales. Please could you recommend a good Spotting Scope and a tripod which is easy to handle and which would be suitable for the spotting scope you recommend. I am after one which would give me very good detail. Many thanks.

    1. Hi Stephen,

      As you will be on the move we would recommend a spotting scope that is not too heavy yet still offers a sharp image and high detail. A very good fit would be the Avalon 60mm Venture HD. It has good power, an excellent image quality and is quite portable (Weight: 2.1 pounds). It is also very suitable for spotting and following moving subjects (birds, wildlife etc.) and a very popular choice by our birdwatchers. You can view the details of the Avalon 60mm spotting scope below:

      Adam Murray, Procular

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