Best Spotting Scope For Birding | Top Rated Spotting Scope For Birding
This article will go far beyond binoculars to show you equipment that is perfect for birding. Instead of focusing on binoculars, this article will focus on the best spotting scope for birding. Spotting scopes are generally higher powered than binoculars and require the use of a tripod or monopod to get the best views.
Generally, birding or bird watching, is done from the comfort of a deck or patio. Some bird watchers prefer to go out in to the wilderness to find species they cannot find near home. However you choose to do your bird watching, there is an optic for you. So, what is the best spotting scope for birding?
Each spotting scope on this list is a prismatic spotting scope. Prismatic spotting scopes come with a built-in erecting prism system, such as a porro prism. Others, such as the catadioptric scope, come with a prism for observing at a 45° viewing angle. Both give you erect and right-reading images (correctly oriented from left to right). This article will tell you what the best spotting scope for birding is and why they are the best.
There may be terms in this article that are unfamiliar to those who are just beginning their hobby of birding. One of those terms is eye relief. Eye relief is the distance you must hold your shooting eye from the rear lens of a spotting scope in order to see the entire image produced by the spotting scope. Another term that you may be unfamiliar with is field of view. Field of view or FOV is the extent of the observable world that is seen at any given moment.
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The best spotting scope for birding is the Celestron Ultima Zoom. This spotting scope has a large 80 mm objective that allows you to see some of the smaller species of birds that exist. It has a 45-degree eye-piece and that can be adjusted from 20x up to 60x magnification.
This eye-piece has an 18 mm eye relief. The eyepiece of this spotting scope can be rotated so it can be used at any tripod height or angle. The Ultima Zoom has a field of view that varies based on magnification. At 20x, you can see 105 feet at 1000 yards. At 60x, you can see 53 feet at 1000 yards. This spotting scope utilizes a BaK4 prism for clear viewing. The BaK4 prism, in conjunction with lenses that feature multiple coats of anti-reflective material, will allow you to see the details of any bird in any lighting conditions.
The Celestron Ultima Zoom features a rubber coated body that weighs 56.96 ounces. A quick sighting tube is built-in to the body so that you can quickly transition to other birds or areas to find what you are searching for. Once you have located your bird, the Ultima Zoom’s smooth focus knob can be turned using only one finger. This will help you avoid getting off target when zooming in to the maximum level. This scope also features a built-in tripod mount and the ability to mount a camera or smartphone. Using the include t-mount, this spotting scope can act as a telephoto lens for your DSLR camera. Included with this spotting scope is a soft, waterproof carrying case. This spotting scope is great for quick hikes in to the woods, but it is a little cumbersome for long range hikes. It would be ideal for birding from a stationary vehicle or structure.
The Ultima Zoom is backed by a two-year warranty from defects or issues with workmanship. It is easy to see why this spotting scope is ranked so highly on the best spotting scope for birding list.
The next spotting scope to make the best spotting scope for birding list is manufactured by Vortex Optics. By the end of this list, there will be a total of three Vortex spotting scopes. This company makes outstanding products.
The Diamondback model has a 20x to 60x magnification range and a 45-degree eye piece. The eye relief of the eye piece is from 10 to 16.5 mm. The eyepiece on the Diamondback can be rotated so that the spotting scope can be used at many different angles. The eye piece features adjustable eye cups that can be used if you wear glasses. This spotting scope has a FOV at 1000 yards at 20x of 105 feet and at 60x of 51 feet.
The Diamondback uses a Porro prism. The prism in this spotting scope has a dielectric coating. This coating provides bright, clear, and color-accurate images. The lenses of the Diamondback feature Vortex’ XR multi-coat. XR multi-coat is a proprietary coating that helps increase light transmission with multiple anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces.
The Diamondback is O-ring sealed making it waterproof. Plus, it is nitrogen gas purged making it fog proof as well. With a built in tripod mounting system, the Diamondback is a bit lighter than the Ultima Zoom, weighing in at 47.1 ounces.
Vortex includes a view through carrying case so that the Diamondback is ready to be used at a moment’s notice. Plus, Vortex Optics backs their products with their VIP Warranty. If they cannot repair your spotting scope, they will replace it, no questions asked.
If you are asking yourself, what is the best spotting scope for birding?, the Vortex Optics Diamondback is number two on that list. It is light weight, durable, and can be used in any weather conditions. The warranty and quality glass land it at number two on the best spotting scope for birding list. You will not be disappointed with this spotting scope.
The third spotting scope to find itself on the best spotting scope for birding list is the Vanguard Endeavor HD. This spotting scope has an 82 mm objective that helps you see birds in most lighting conditions. Like many of the other spotting scopes on this list, it features a 45 degree eye piece. The eye piece can adjust the magnification from 20x to 60x. The eye piece has a 19 to 20 mm eye relief. The Endeavor’s FOV at 1000 yards is 330 feet at 20x and 156 feet at 60x. This FOV is unrivaled by any other spotting scope on this list. This scope uses a BaK4 prism.
Extra-low dispersion glass elements provide clear images even at the highest magnification. The lenses of this spotting scope are fully multi-coated with anti-reflective material to provide the best image possible. If you can find the bird you are looking for, you will not have a problem seeing it with the great lenses this spotting scope possesses. The focus on this spotting scope can be adjusted using either a coarse adjustment knob or a fine adjustment knob to ensure you get the best image of your bird.
The Endeavor weighs a hefty 66.7 ounces and has a built-in tripod mounting shoe. The body of the Endeavor is manufactured from magnesium alloy and has a rubber armor that protects it from damage. This spotting scope is sealed making it waterproof. It has been nitrogen gas purged to be fog proof when operating in many different conditions. The Endeavor has a built-in sunshade.
Vanguard backs the Endeavor with their Premium Lifetime Warranty. If your scope is damaged or defective they will replace it for you. With an unparalleled FOV and durable body, the Vanguard Endeavor is the third spotting scope to earn its spot on the best spotting scope for birding list.
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4. Best Spotting Scope for Birding : Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85
The fourth best spotting scope for birding is another Vortex Optics product. This spotting scope is from their high-end Razor line of optics. Having one of the larger objectives, 85 mm, on the list means that the Razor HD has better light transmission and better images than other spotting scopes. The 45-degree eye piece can be adjusted from 20x to 60x. On the eye piece there are adjustable eye cups. These cups use helical focus technology that allows for faster and finer adjustments.
The Razor HD’s eye piece has an eye relief between 16.7 and 17 mm. The Razor HD’s FOV at 1000 yards is 117 feet at 20x and 68 feet at 60x. This field of view is better than many other spotting scopes on this list. The Razor HD utilizes a Porro prism and premium lenses.
The lenses of the Razor HD have several features.
- The glass is coated with Armor Tek, which is an ultra-hard, scratch-resistant coating that protects exterior lenses from scratches, oil and dirt.
- The lenses also use Vortex’ plasma tech. Plasma tech is an edge coating application process that provides better durability and performance.
- Vortex also index matches their lenses so that the correct color reaches your eyes.
- Lastly, the Razor HD features HD lens elements. These lens elements offer extra-low dispersion that delivers fantastic resolution and color fidelity, resulting in high-definition images.
The Razor HD is O-ring sealed making it waterproof. Plus, it is argon gas purged for fog proofing qualities.
Although it is one of the heavier spotting scopes at 65.6 ounces, it can be used effectively by any user. It has a built-in tripod mount and a view through carrying case for quick mounting and viewing. You can feel comfortable using this spotting scope for birding in any conditions.
Vortex’ VIP will give you piece of mind when using this spotting scope anywhere in the field. The lens features of the Razor HD earn its spot at number four on the best spotting scope for birding list. It is also backed by the VIP warranty. You will not be disappointed by this spotting scope if you pass on the other Vortex Optics higher on our list.
The fifth best scope for birding is the Kowa TSN-880. This spotting scope has a large objective that measures 88 mm. An interesting note about the TSN-880 is that it does not come with an eye piece when purchased. You will need to buy the eye piece and there are two options. You can get a 25-60x or a 20-60x eye piece. These eye pieces mount at a 45-degree angle so they can be used like most spotting scopes that you may be familiar with. Depending on which eye piece you choose, the TSN-880 will have a 16.5 to 17 mm eye relief.
As with the eye relief, the FOV will vary based on which eye piece you buy. At 1000 yards the FOV will be between 42 and 18 feet. The field of view is about the only downside to this spotting scope. The lenses of the TSN- 880 have a fluorite crystal coating. This coating reduces chromatic aberrations which allow you to have the ultimate view. The PROMINAR objective lens has special light dispersion properties that allow you to see a wide range of colors. The TSN-880 also uses ECO-Glass which does not contain lead or other harmful substances.
The TSN-880 weighs 53.6 ounces without an eye piece. It features a waterproof, magnesium alloy body. It is nitrogen gas purged ensuring its fog proof in any conditions. A neoprene case is available for this spotting scope, but it is sold separately. It is tripod ready with a built-in tripod shoe.
The TSN-880 is backed by a 10-year limited warranty. This spotting scope would be number one on this list if all of the accessories were not sold separately. Even though its accessories are not included, this is a great spotting scope. It can be used anywhere you want to go birding.
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The sixth best spotting scope for birding is the third and last entry from Vortex Optics. It speaks to the great quality of Vortex that three of its spotting scopes are in the top six of this list.
This Razor HD features the same great qualities of the Razor HD listed above but with a higher magnification setting. It has a 45-degree angled eyepiece. It utilizes a Porro prism, is argon gas purged, and uses all of the same glass coatings as the number four scope on this list.
The seventh best spotting scope for birding is another entry by Celestron. This spotting scope has an 80 mm objective and a 45 degree eye piece. It can be adjusted from 20x to 60x, like most of the other spotting scopes on this list.
No matter the magnification setting, you will have a 20 mm eye relief that is considered generous compared to other spotting scopes. Due to its smaller objective, the FOV at 1000 yards at 20x is 110 feet and at 60x is 52 feet. This spotting scope uses a BaK4 prism. The lenses of the Regal M2 are XLT multi-coated which provides maximum light transmission in any condition. The objective lens is an extra-low dispersion lens that eliminates chromatic aberration.
The Regal M2 is 56.7 ounces and is constructed using magnesium alloy. Mounted to the body are coarse and fine adjustment knobs that can be easily reached without removing the spotting scope from its mount. The Regal M2 does have a built-in tripod mount so it can be used with any tripod you might already own.
This spotting scope is waterproof and nitrogen gas purged to make it fog proof as well. The Regal M2 can be used quickly with the help of its view through nylon case. It can be effectively used on a tripod because the eye piece orientation can be changed to match almost any angle.
Plus, the Regal M2 comes with a mount that can attach to a DSLR or 35 mm camera. The Regal M2 is a fantastic spotting scope. It lacks many of the features of the spotting scopes ahead of it, but it will make any bird watcher happy. It is protected by a two-year warranty against defects and issues with workmanship.
The eighth best spotting scope for birding is produced by Nikon. Nikon has a long history of using quality glass in all of their optics and cameras. The Prostaff 5 has an 82 mm objective lens.
The 45-degree angled eyepiece can adjust the magnification from 20x to 60x. This spotting scope has a 15.2 mm eye relief. This spotting scope has a FOV at 60x of 99 feet at 1000 yards.
The Prostaff 5 uses a Porro prism and has multi-coated lenses. This multi-coating helps provide you with the true color of the bird you are viewing. The glass of the Prostaff 5 is lead and arsenic free eco-glass.
The Prostaff 5 is the lightest spotting scope on this list weighing only 31.7 ounces. It has a built-in tripod shoe, but the eye piece does not rotate for use at different tripod settings. The entire spotting scope is O-ring sealed to make it waterproof. It is nitrogen gas purged ensuring its ability to eliminate fogging in all conditions.
Nikon includes a Vue-Thru case that allows you to use the Prostaff 5 without wasting time removing it from a cumbersome case. As Nikon is a large manufacturer of cameras, the Prostaff 5 comes ready to mount a camera. The Prostaff 5 is a fantastic option for a new or experienced bird watcher. It is compact and lightweight. It will be light in a backpack so that getting far into the wilderness will not be exhausting. It is protected by a two-year warranty against damage or defects.
The ninth best spotting scope for birding is another Celestron offering. This version features one of the largest objectives on our list at 100 mm. This Ultima Zoom has a 45-degree eye piece that can adjust the magnification from 22x to 66x. The eye relief of the Ultima Zoom is 18 mm. Even with its large objective, it does lack a large FOV.
This spotting scope has an FOB at 1000 yards of 94 feet at 22x and 52 feet at 66x. This spotting scope has the highest magnification setting of any on this list. The Ultima Zoom uses a BaK4 prism and has fully multi-coated lenses for high levels of light transmission.
The Ultima Zoom weighs 72 ounces which makes it the heaviest spotting scope on this list.
This spotting scope is waterproof so it can be used in the rain. It is also nitrogen gas purged to prevent fogging in every condition you can find yourself in. This spotting scope has a built-in tripod shoe and comes with a nylon view-through case. Mounted on the body of the scope is a sight tube that allows you to find a bird and then zoom in to when you are ready.
The small FOV and heavy weight make this the number nine spotting scope on our list. This spotting scope can be used for birding from a porch, deck or patio. It may be too large for some to carry out in the field if much walking is involved. It is covered by a two-year warranty against defects and quality of workmanship.
The tenth best spotting scope for birding is the SVBONY SV13. This is a budget friendly scope that is perfect for anyone starting their birding hobby. It has a 45-degree eye piece that can rotate and match any tripod angle. It can be adjusted from 20x to 60x magnification. Depending on the magnification, it has an eye relief of 15 to 17.9 mm. The FOV at 1000 yards is 82.9 feet at 20x and 48 feet at 60x. It houses a BaK4 prism and features fully multi-coated lenses.
The SV13 weighs only 42.36 ounces so it should be comfortable to carry on long excursions. It is waterproof and nitrogen gas purged to make it fog proof.
When purchased, this spotting scope comes with a tripod with four segments per leg. It also comes with a carrying case for the spotting scope and tripod. There is a camera adapter that can be purchased separately from the spotting scope. This allows you to see the bird and take fantastically clear pictures of it as well. This scope is tenth on our list because it lacks the quality glass and durability that others on this list feature. It will still work for birding and it will not break the bank.