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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 and KONUS) 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.
- Redfield Rampage 20-60×60
- KONUSPOT 80 20-60×80
- Vortex Optics Diamondback 20-60×80
- Vanguard Endeavor 65A 15-45×65
- Leupold SX-1 Ventana 15-45×60
- Celestron Ultima 22-66×100
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.
What Is the Best Spotting Scope under $300?
The two 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.
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.
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.
All these 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.
The other 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.
What Is the Best Spotting Scope 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
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.
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 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.
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 there 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, but again, you probably don’t care about that.
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, 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.