If you are picking up hunting, wildlife spotting, or astronomy, you may be thinking about buying either a spotting scope or a pair of binoculars. But how do you choose between the two?
A spotting scope is a compact, high-powered telescope that people use to look at distant objects up close.
This portable instrument is ideal for activities that require a high magnification level, such as hunting or tactical ranging.
Binoculars are another type of optical instrument that has two eye tubes mounted together.
Each tube is an individual refracting telescope that faces the same direction. Users can look through the handheld instrument and see a magnified image of distant objects.
If you are not sure what optical instrument to choose, you have come to the right place. This spotting scope vs binoculars guide will help you decide which model is best for you.
We will cover the differences and similarities of each and will also touch on the average price of spotting scopes and binoculars.
If you are ready to learn more, keep on reading.
Similarities and Differences
Let’s start the spotting scope vs binoculars debate by reviewing the differences and similarities of each instrument.
This section will give you a good starting point in choosing the right device for you by covering a few main pros and cons.
Both Devices Magnify Distant Objects
Both spotting scopes and binoculars magnify distant objects.
While both devices have different magnification powers, both tools will provide a clear, close-up image of objects that are far away from you using light and lenses.
You Can Use Both for the Same Activities
While one device will be better than the other for certain activities (which we will cover below), you can generally use both for the same activities.
Spotting scopes and binoculars will both work well for hunting, hiking, stargazing, and wildlife viewing.
You Can Handhold Both Devices
When it comes to the spotting scope vs binoculars, you can handhold both devices. This means that you won’t necessarily need any special equipment such as a tripod to use the instruments.
However, it is worth noting that a spotting scope will look a bit shakier than binoculars while hand holding it.
Both Come in Different Sizes
Another similarity of a spotting scope vs binoculars is that they both come in different sizes.
Some spotting scopes are small and compact, while others are larger and require tripods to use with.
You can also find small binoculars such as opera binoculars or large devices that you have to mount on a stable surface or tripod.
You Can Use Both for Stargazing
Binoculars and spotting scopes will perform differently at night. However, you can use both for gazing at the night sky.
While binoculars may be a bit easier to handle for night gazing, you can easily take advantage of the high magnification power of spotting scopes.
Both Are Built To Withstand The Elements
People generally use spotting scopes and binoculars outside.
For this reason, manufacturers tend to build these devices to withstand the elements such as rain, dirt, and light impacts.
No matter what device you go with, you won’t have to worry about how well it will hold up in harsher conditions.
You Can Buy Accessories for Both Instruments
Whether you go with a spotting scope or a pair of binoculars, you can accessorize both instruments and modify them to fit your needs.
You can easily find cell phone adapters, car mounts, straps, cases, or anything else you need for both devices.
Spotting Scopes Work Best Mounted on Something Stable
One of the main differences between a spotting scope vs binoculars is that you will need to mount them on something stable to produce a crystal clear image with most spotting scopes.
Since binoculars have some weight, it is easier to get a clear image while holding the device.
However, users will need to mount the spotting scope on something solid or use a tripod to get the best image possible.
If you don’t mount the spotting scope, you could end up with a shaky image.
Binoculars Have Two Eye Tubes
Unlike the spotting scope that consists of only one telescope tube, binoculars are made of two eye tubes mounted together.
Spotting scopes only have one optical system and one lens to look through, while binoculars have two.
Spotting Scopes Have Higher Magnification Powers
One of the main differences between the spotting scope vs binoculars is that spotting scopes typically have higher magnification levels than binoculars.
Standard binoculars will have maximum magnification powers of around 12x. When it comes to the spotting scope, the typical standard will be 60x.
You will need to use a tripod to avoid shaky images in situations where you are using the spotting scope at maximum magnification power.
Spotting Scopes Are Lighter Than Binoculars
Another thing to keep in mind with a spotting scope vs binoculars is that the former is much lighter. Spotting scopes are very portable and compact and will be easy to travel with.
However, if you have to bring along a tripod to use with your spotting scope, it might end up being the same weight as binoculars.
While binoculars may weigh a bit more than spotting scopes, manufacturers also design them with portability in mind.
So even though you may have a bit of added weight, it will still be easy to travel with a good pair of binoculars.
Binoculars Can Focus on Objects That Are Closer to You
Since binoculars have lower magnification levels than spotting scopes, it will be easier to focus on closer objects.
When you are working with a magnification power of 60x, you won’t be able to focus on an object around five feet away from you, for instance. For things such as birdwatching, this may be a problem.
When it comes to binoculars, you will have a bit more freedom when focusing on closer objects.
Binoculars Have a Wider Field of View
When looking through a pair of binoculars, you will notice that you will see more square footage of the area in front of you. Compared to spotting scopes, binoculars have a wider field of view.
Field of view refers to the amount of land you can see through the lens. The lower the magnification level, the wider the area you can see.
With spotting scopes, you may be able to see a further object much closer, but you can’t observe the area around the object since it has a narrow field of view.
Spotting Scopes Produce Better Quality Images
Another important factor of the spotting scope vs binoculars debate is the image quality. Spotting scopes tend to have bigger objective lenses.
This means that the image that a spotting scope produces will be clearer, sharper, and higher-quality than binoculars.
Binoculars Are More Comfortable To Look Through
Something else to keep in mind is how comfortable each instrument is to look through. Since you can look through binoculars with both eyes, they will automatically be more comfortable for long-viewing.
If you look through a spotting scope for hours on end, you will most likely experience eye fatigue or even a headache.
Which One To Choose Based on Activity
Now that we have looked at the similarities and differences between the spotting scope vs binoculars let’s see how the two devices work with different activities.
By the end of this section, you will know what instrument to choose based on the activity.
Both spotting scopes and binoculars will work well for hunting. However, you can choose the right device for you depending on the kind of hunting you do.
Closer-Range Hunting in Thick Bush
If you do a lot of close-range hunting in thick bush, then binoculars will work better for you.
A spotting scope will not be very helpful in thick bushes since they do not focus well on close-range objects. The image will be blurry and will not help you aim at all.
Long-Range Hunting in Open Fields
Using a spotting scope with a tripod will work well for long-range hunting in open fields.
Spotting scopes have the highest magnification power, so they will help you aim and collect important information such as the sex and size of the target.
However, you can also use a good pair of binoculars to initially scan a wide area in hopes of finding an animal. Then once you spot a target, go in with the spotting scope.
A spotting scope is the best way to go for target shooting. You won’t find enough magnification power on a pair of binoculars for this activity.
Whether you are shooting 100 yards, 300 yards, or over 500 yards, a spotting scope will be the only instrument that will provide you with enough magnification power.
For those who want to take up wildlife observation, a spotting scope may be the better instrument to invest in.
When you are viewing wildlife, you won’t need to move your device as much compared to scanning a field when hunting.
For this reason, you will be able to use a tripod and get a clearer image.
Spotting scopes will work best for wildlife spotting since they can support higher magnification powers. This way, you can easily view wildlife over 200 yards away.
The device you use for astronomy will depend on personal preference.
If you intend to simply scan the stars and spot some constellations, a pair of binoculars will work fine.
On the other hand, a spotting scope will be better for viewing individual planets, stars, or other terrestrial objects.
You can use a tripod and observe planets close up with a spotting scope since the machine can support high magnification levels.
If you are planning to attend sporting events, then a good pair of binoculars will perform much better than a spotting scope.
Even though spotting scopes have high magnification, you will be moving the device a lot while trying to follow the action.
If you try to do this with a scope, you will inevitably get a headache from eye fatigue.
Binoculars will allow you to comfortably follow the action without experiencing any eye strain.
The final factor we will look at is the price difference of a spotting scope vs binoculars. If budget is the main factor for you, this section will help you decide what instrument is better. Let’s take a look.
Spotting Scope Cost
If you are looking for the most budget-friendly option, a spotting scope will probably be your best bet.
You can find a good quality spotting scope for around $150 to $300. If you buy a scope in that price range, you will have a device that produces crystal clear images.
You can also buy a scope for a bit under that price range if you are willing to sacrifice some image quality.
If you want to buy a high-quality instrument, be prepared to spend a bit more on binoculars.
You can typically find a decent-quality pair of binoculars for around $100 to $500. However, some pairs can go as high as $3000 and beyond.
We hope that this spotting scope vs binoculars guide has helped you learn more about this topic.
A spotting scope is an optical instrument that allows you to see distant objects close up.
The device is a compact yet high-powered telescope that is very lightweight and easy to travel with. Spotting scopes have a maximum magnification power of 60x.
Binoculars are similar optical devices that have two modified refracting telescopes mounted together.
This instrument is a bit bulkier and usually has a maximum magnification power of 12x.
While spotting scopes and binoculars have quite a few similarities, the instruments are very different from one another.
Spotting scopes are ideal for long-range hunting, target shooting, wildlife spotting, and astronomy.
You can use binoculars for close-range hunting, astronomy, and sporting events.
If you have a tight budget, consider going for a spotting scope. Binoculars may be a bit more expensive to invest in.