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There are many excellent spotting scopes available in the market today. Finding the best spotting scope for your purposes can be quite a chore, so I’ve tried to narrow your choices a little while still giving you some options from which to select.
The models you’ll see in this review are either scopes less than $300 (Redfield, KONUS, and more) or spotting scopes under $500 (Vortex, Vanguard, and Celestron), so you won’t have to give an arm and a leg to get one.
If you are in a hurry and want to check the pricing and availability of these spotting scope models at Amazon, you can click a link in the lists below.
Spotting Scopes Under $300
- Redfield Rampage 20-60×60
- KONUSPOT 80 20-60×80
- Bushnell Trophy Xtreme 20-60×65
- SvBony SV46 20-60×80
- Celestron Ultima 80 (20-60×80)
- Emarth 20-60×60
Spotting Scopes Under $500
If you want to skip ahead to a specific section of the review, you can click a link in the box below. Otherwise, you can simply read on as usual.
Reviews of Spotting Scopes under $300
The scopes in this section should cost less than $300. While that figure is the cap at the top of this range, you don’t want to go too much lower than that – even though spotting scopes with a much lower cost exist – because you will end up sacrificing too much in quality.
A quality scope that you’re going to be happy with for many years and will want to use frequently does come with a cost. Pay that cost now and you’ll be satisfied with your purchase for a long time to come.
Some of these are from Chinese manufacturers. In time past, these were not known for high quality products, but these days owners are usually quite satisfied, especially for the low cash outlay.
Redfield Rampage 20-60×60
The Redfield Rampage spotting scope we’ll look at here is the model that magnifies 20 to 60 times normal. All the scopes in this section have this magnification range, so you can compare “apples to apples” as much as possible. The objective lens diameters may vary from one to the next though.
Redfield (part of the Leupold family) markets the Rampage as if it were designed for hunters, and this is certainly a scope that a hunter would appreciate. But don’t think that hunting is the only purpose that the Rampage serves. Birders, nature and wildlife lovers of all types will definitely be able to make good use of this spotting scope.
The scope we’re examining here is a straight eyepiece model. Redfield apparently does make an angled version, but it’s not readily available at Amazon. If you want an angled model, you can get the Rampage 20-60×80 instead.
Both of these Rampage models have a standard tripod adapter, so you can use them on the window of your vehicle or a normal tripod as you see fit.
One nice feature of the Rampage is that it comes with a retractable lens shade to keep the sun and related glare away from the eyepiece.
Eye relief varies (with magnification) from 17 to 14 millimeters. If you need to wear glasses, you should still be able to use this spotting scope easily.
The field of view (FOV) varies from 114 feet (at 1000 yards) down to 51 feet. This is quite good for an optical device of this size. Many offer a significantly narrower FOV.
As you’ll see in the video below, if you get the complete kit, you also get a very nice tabletop tripod, protective case, and carrying straps. (Please watch the video at 1.5x speed, at least. You’ll thank me later.)
Another sub-$300 spotting scope we’ll look at briefly is the KONUSPOT-80. Like the Rampage, this scope also magnifies from 20 to 60 times normal.
KONUS markets this as a photographer’s scope. They even include smartphone and camera adapters in the package. Once again, you can obviously use the KONUSPOT however you want.
Other items included in this package are a forward expanding lens hood, a table tripod, and a tissue case.
The FOV of the KONUSPOT-80 is just 79 feet at 20x and narrows to 41 feet by the time you get to 60x. This isn’t the worst FOV of all the spotting scopes out there, but if this feature is important to you, you might want to shop around some more.
The video below shows what you can see at various distances and magnifications – 20x, 40x, and the full 60x.
Bushnell Trophy Xtreme Spotting Scope
The Bushnell Xtreme is one of only two straight tube spotting scopes in this category. (The other is the Rampage above.)
It has the distinction of being the only one with a 65 millimeter objective lens. So it’s not the smallest diameter (which is 60 millimeters), but it’s far from the largest. The larger the objective lens, the more light you should get going through the tube and therefore the brighter the picture of your target. You can zoom from 20x to 60x with this model.
Also available from Bushnell is a 16-48×50 model which is shown in the video below.
Eye relief is given as 18 millimeters. You would think this should vary with the magnification, but this is the only figure that Bushnell gives. (The case will be the same for the Celestron Ultima below.)
FOV at 1000 yards ranges (as expected) from 105 down to 50 feet. This is average for the scopes listed here.
The close focus comes in at 30 feet, which should be fine for the majority of uses and users.
You get fully multi-coated lenses, but you do not get ED prime glass, phase coating, or band coating. This is why you do get this scope for less than $300.
It is waterproof to IPX7 standards. This means you should still have a usable spotting scope if it gets immersed in water. Just don’t leave it there forever.
SvBony SV46 Spotting Scope 20-60×80
I’m not sure how to capitalize, much less pronounce, this brand. As you can see from the picture, it may be SvBONY. Then again, on the company’s site, they show SVBONY. I’ll stick with the more American looking SvBony for now.
In any case, this is one of those Chinese brands that is apparently better than you’d first expect. It is IPX7 waterproof, just like the Bushnell above. It’s also O-ring sealed and nitrogen filled, so it should stay totally dry inside.
It has a dual focus knob feature that is really handy for first setting rough focus with the one dial and then fine focus with the other.
Lenses are fully multi-coated. That’s probably all at this price point.
You get a soft carrying case and lens caps for both ends to protect your investment from scratches and the like. Throwing in a cleaning cloth is a nice touch.
Below is an excellent video review of the SV46 by a Scottish bird watcher who seems to know what he’s talking about.
Celestron Ultima 80
Here’s yet another spotting scope with 20-60 zoom power. It has an 80 millimeter objective lens. That’s about as big as you get with these scopes.
Many of these scopes come in both straight and angled versions. The one you see here is obviously the angled type. Angled seems to be a little more preferred by most people. It’s a little easier on your neck and eyes.
FOV runs from 105 down to 53 feet at 1000 yards. Eye relief stands at 18 millimeters. Close focus is just over 26 feet (exactly 8 meters).
The Celestron scope is waterproof with nitrogen inside.
Lenses are multi-coated. You get a soft carrying case and the Celestron limited lifetime warranty. Celestron is widely known for quality instruments, so you’ll probably never have to invoke warranty rights.
Extras include an eyepiece lens cap and port cover (for the place where the lens fits into the scope). You get an eyepiece carrying case and pouch – not sure what the difference is here. And you get a cleaning cloth.
Many of these scopes are available in kit form as shown in the video below.
While all the scopes in this group come with tripod adapters, this is one package that also gives you a (cheap) tabletop tripod as shown. (Some others do too, if you get a complete kit.)
The Emarth scope has one of the smallest objective lenses at just 60 millimeters. That said, the popular Rampage (above) is that size too.
FOV is hard to compare because we’re only given metric figures. The distance at 1000 meters ranges from 39 to 19 meters. I leave the math to you because math is hard.
Lenses are fully multi-coated, as are most optics these days. The tube is O-ring sealed helping to waterproof it.
There’s nothing especially notable in this video, so if you watch it, do so at 1.5x speed at least.
Summary: The Best Under $300 Spotting Scope?
Let’s first take a look at some of the more significant specs side by side via the table below.
|Brand||Objective (mm)||Eye Relief (mm)||FOV (ft.)|
|Emarth||60||n/a||39-19m @ 1000m|
Personally, I would prefer a larger objective lens. Since the scope will likely be attached to a tripod, the extra weight shouldn’t matter. This would eliminate the Rampage, Bushnell, and Emarth models.
A wider FOV is normally better than narrower, so that would kick out the Konuspot, leaving me with the SvBony and the Celestron.
Between those two, I would still go with the better-known name of Celestron. But to be fair, users do like their SvBony scopes.
UPDATE: Check out this Landove spotting scope for another budget scope option.
Reviews of Spotting Scopes under $500
Trying to pick the best spotting scope in the $300 to $500 range is extremely difficult. I could only narrow the choices down to 4 models.
Note that prices do change on these instruments from time to time. So don’t be too surprised if one is a bit over our upper limit or a little under the low end of this range.
With four models to compare, I’ll stick to the angled version of each. Some models also come in a straight version which is especially handy for those who prefer to watch nature from inside a vehicle.
Vortex Optics Diamondback 20-60×85
Let’s start by looking at the comment of a current owner who apparently likes the Viper better, but still has much respect for the Diamondback. This comment alone may convince you that this is the best spotting scope for your money in this category.
“While this doesn’t compare to the Viper HD line these give the best bang for the buck when compared to other spotting scopes of this price range.”
So what features lead to a comment like this?
The Vortex Diamondback spotting scope has a field of view (FOV) varying (depending on the magnification you use) from 108 to 60 feet at 1000 yards. That’s pretty good for a scope of this size.
Eye relief varies from 20.3 millimeters down to 18.3 millimeters. This is quite generous, so if you need to wear glasses while gazing through your scope, you should be able to keep them on when using the Diamondback.
Like most scopes, you’ll want to use a tripod due to the size and weight (just over 60 ounces) of the Diamondback.
The glass – lenses and prisms – in this spotting scope have the best coatings currently available to give you the brightest, clearest picture possible. The lenses are fully multi-coated, and the prisms have dielectric coatings.
The tube is nitrogen purged and O-ring sealed making it both waterproof and fogproof. I’m not sure to what depth it is waterproof, but the vast majority of users never have to worry about such a thing. You’ll mount it on your tripod, and there it will stay – safe, sound, and dry.
In addition to the anti-glare coatings hinted at above, you also get a built-in sunshade for those times the sun is at just the wrong angle compared to where you need to stand and look.
You can also rotate the angled eyepiece to a sideways position. This can be handy when multiple people of different heights are using the same scope.
The reviewer in this video notes some design features that you may consider important, depending on how you intend to use such a scope. Note that he especially concentrates on hunting uses, but you’re obviously not limited to that.
Vanguard Endeavor 65A 15-45×65
According to Vanguard at the time of its creation, the “Endeavor HD Spotting Scope is the most advanced piece of optical equipment Vanguard has ever produced.”
You can tell the manufacturer spared little to no expense in creating the glass used in the Vanguard Endeavor HD spotting scope. It uses Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass for accurate colors. The lenses are fully-multicoated and even have phase coating. Inside are BAK4 prisms, and the entire unit is waterproof.
The downside of a large device like this is that the FOV is just 48 feet (15x) at best. It goes down to 23 feet (at the standard 1000 yards) at 45x.
The Endeavor features an extendable rubber covered eyecup and a built-in sunshield (much like that on the Diamondback above).
Vanguard claims it has an “impressive eye relief even at the highest zoom settings”. I was not able to find a measurement of this feature though.
The promo video from Vanguard World doesn’t tell you much, but at least you’ll get to see the scope from various angles. Surprisingly, you’ll probably want to slow the video speed down to .75x.
Celestron Ultima 100mm
Celestron says the Ultima 100 is much better than its own 80 millimeter model for low light conditions. You should expect that with a larger objective lens.
The company also says the lenses are multi-coated. I don’t think that means they are “fully” multi-coated though, which would be even better.
The Ultima has a somewhat unusual magnification range – 22 millimeters to 66 millimeters. Most comparable spotting scopes go from 20 to 60 millimeters. Do the extra 2-to-6 millimeters make a difference? Technically, yes. Practically though, it’s probably not noticeable to most users.
This scope is waterproof and fogproof, which by now you can tell is fairly standard among spotting scopes in this price range.
The FOV is a little on the low side (94 feet to 52 feet), and the weight is a little on the high side (72 ounces). You’ll want to take those specs into consideration when trying to find your target and when lugging your scope from place to place.
Celestron includes a soft carrying case for this camera adaptable spotting scope. Those are nice touches that may raise the value of this model slightly when trying to decide which is the best spotting scope for your purposes.
Here’s a decent comparison of the (straight) Celestron to the Konuspot 100.
Summary: The Best Under $500 Scope?
Here, I’m going to have to leave the choice to you. All four of these are wonderful spotting scopes from top manufacturers.
If push were to come to shove, I’d look for the least expensive one because, in all other respects that matter to me, they’re equal. As of this writing, that would be the Celestron Ultima by about $80.
Sorry, I know that might be a disappointing way to end, but it’s honest.