Best Spotting Scopes Under $300 and $500: Quality, Yet You Keep Your Limbs

Vanguard Endeavor spotting scope
Vanguard Endeavor spotting scope

Note: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

UPDATE #2: This article was updated on 9/5/19, adding more options for the under $300 group.

There are many excellent spotting scopes available in the market today. Finding the best spotting scope 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 less than $300 (Redfield, KONUS, and more) or under $500 (Vortex, Vanguard, Leupold, 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 list below.

Scopes Under $300

Scopes Under $500

If you want to skip ahead to a specific model or a section of the review, you can click a link in the box below. Otherwise, you can simply read on as usual.

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

Redfield Rampage spotting scope
Redfield Rampage spotting scope

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.

See your Redfield Rampage spotting scope at Amazon now.

KONUSPOT-80 20-60X80

KONUSPOT 80 spotting scope
KONUSPOT 80

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.

Check out the KONUSPOT-80 spotting scope at Amazon today.

Bushnell Trophy Xtreme Spotting Scope

Bushnell Trophy Xtreme spotting scope
Bushnell Trophy Xtreme

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.

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.

Find the Bushnell Xtreme on Amazon.

SvBony SV46 Spotting Scope 20-60×80

SvBony SV46 spotting scope
SvBony SV46

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.

See the SvBony SV46 at Amazon now.

Celestron Ultima 80

Celestron Ultima 80 spotting scope
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.

Get your Celestron Ultima 80 at Amazon.

Emarth 20-60x60AE

Emarth 20-60x60 spotting scope
Emarth 20-60x60AE spotting scope

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.

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.

Find an Emarth 20-60x60AE at Amazon today.

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.

BrandObjective (mm)Eye Relief (mm)FOV (ft.)
Rampage6017-14114-51
Konuspot80n/a79-41
Bushnell6518105-50
SvBony80n/an/a
Celestron8018105-53
Emarth60n/a39-19m @ 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 #1: Check out this Landove spotting scope for another budget scope option.

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 20-60×80

Vortex Diamondback spotting scope
Vortex Diamondback spotting scope

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 105 to 51 feet at 1000 yards. That’s pretty good for a scope of this size.

The close focus distance of 22 feet probably doesn’t matter to you much, since you likely use your spotting scope to see targets far away.

Eye relief varies from 20 millimeters down to 16.5 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 47 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.

Check the pricing and availability (plus any discounts) of the Vortex Diamondback Spotting Scope at Amazon.

Vanguard Endeavor 65A 15-45×65

Vanguard Endeavor 65A
Vanguard Endeavor 65A

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 Vanguard spared little to no expense in creating the glass used in the Endeavor 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.

Find the Vanguard Endeavor spotting scope at Amazon now.

Leupold SX-1 Ventana

Leupold SX-1 Ventana
Leupold SX-1 Ventana

The Leupold Ventana spotting scope is highly rated too, but I couldn’t find much information about its features – especially how well the glass is coated.

Leupold (remember, they are also responsible for the Redfield spotting scope mentioned earlier) uses a “proprietary nitrogen fill process” to make this scope fogproof. I doubt that their proprietary process is all that much better than anyone else’s fogproofing.

The Ventana is armor coated in case of rough use in the field. It is ready for a tripod, as you should expect. It is another scope with a lens shade, and it is waterproof.

The FOV is pretty good ranging from 121 feet to 63 feet at 1000 yards. Eye relief is also ample measuring at least 20 millimeters.

The close focus is less than 14 feet (which is excellent), but again, you probably don’t care too much about that.

See the Leupold SX-1 Ventana at Amazon today.

Celestron Ultima 100mm

Celestron Ultima 100
Celestron Ultima 100

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.

Check the pricing of the Celestron Ultima 100 spotting scope at Amazon.

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.

Sorry, I know that’s a disappointing way to end, but it’s honest.

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Author:

Gary is a bird watcher and amateur astronomer. This means he's set up several bird feeders in his backyard and likes looking at the night sky when the weather is warm. To those ends, he uses optics appropriate for those avocations.

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