Outdoors blog

Uncategorized

The Best Spotting Scopes For Birding (4 Models Compared and Guide)

Birding can be one of the most fascinating experiences you can have without spending a lot of money. But, choosing the perfect spotting scope can be a bit tricky as there are more than hundreds of options available.

Some of the best birding scopes include Vanguard Endeavor HD 82A – EDITOR’S CHOICE, Kowa TSN-883 Prominar, Celestron Regal M2 65ED Spotting Scope, and Vortex Optics Razor HD.

At least one of these scopes should have the features and specs you are looking for.

 

Best Spotting Scopes for Bird Watching

One of these should have the feature you’re looking for.

 

1. Vanguard Endeavor HD 82A

Among the spotting scope community, Vanguard is well-known for making some of the greatest field glasses with cutting-edge features. They used to make only camera accessories, but now, they offer some of the best scopes in the market. With its 82 mm objective lens, this scope creates a vivid and immersive image. It has a limited number of competitors thanks to its awesome pricing.

These scopes are ideal for birdwatching, as they have excellent nighttime visibility. With these field glasses, users claim that they can also spot birds at night. Such compact scopes at a reasonable price would be ideal for individuals who don’t have a ton of cash, but still want to enjoy the amazing birding experience.

Specs:

Diameter (Objective Lens): 82 mm.

Weight: 1.81 kilos.

Highest Magnification: 60 x

 

Features:

Compact

You will be pleasantly surprised after getting the package of Vanguard Endeavor HD 82A. It comes with a pretty decent-looking box which you can use to carry the scope. The field glass is pretty small but not very lightweight. Keep in mind that it is a fully featured scope with all the necessary accessories included, so having a few extra pounds is normal.

It is built with magnesium which is slightly stronger than aluminum. The overall design of this amazing spotting scope is exceptional. It is very easy to handle and simple to use. Even an amateur user will be able to handle it without a problem.

Waterproof

Having the waterproof feature is essential especially when it comes to birding. Most of the entry-level scopes will be ruined or damaged in rainwater. Glasses, in particular, become damaged and shady after prolonged exposure to any sort of liquid.

On the outside glass of the Vanguard Endeavor HD 82A, you’ll find a rubberized coating. Which prevents water and fog from penetrating the scope’s eyepiece.

BAK 4 Prism Glass

For those who don’t know, Barium Crown Glass, also known as BAK 4 Prism, is the best type of glass available. These prism materials are usually reserved for high-end scopes only, but you will find them on the Vanguard Endeavor HD 82A despite their marginal cost.

Pros

  • Very Reliable.
  • Fully waterproof and fog proof.
  • Awesome optical performance.
  • Filled with nitrogen.

Cons

  • Eye-relief isn’t smooth.

 

 

2. Kowa TSN-883 Prominar

If you are looking for a lightweight and durable spotting scope for a reasonable price, then Kowa TSN-883 Prominar would be a perfect choice. The product is filled with nitrogen which prevents any foggy effects on the lens. It is also fully waterproof thanks to the amazing rubberized coating.

One of the best aspects of this spotting scope is, it creates a sharp and crisp image even if the object is far away. The zoom of this scope is 88x and the picture does not get distorted or colors don’t fade while zooming. It is undoubtedly one of the best choices for amateur birders.

Specs:

Diameter (Objective Lens): 88 mm.

Weight: 53.6 oz.

Highest Magnification: 88 x

 

Features:

Warranty

When it comes to a spotting scope, you will get two years of service warranty at most. Well, that’s not the case with Kowa TSN-883 Prominar as the manufacturer of this amazing product gives a full lifetime warranty. That just shows how confident they are about the durability of their product.

Duel Focus

Having dual focus is essential especially if you go out for birding. For those who don’t know, it means you can both optically focus and quickly focus your sighting scope. Now, why is this feature essential?

Say you spot a bird that is resting on a tree branch. You can use optimal or manual focus to see it clearly. And in situations where a bird suddenly appears, the quick focus feature might come in handy. Most of the budget scopes don’t have this feature, but the Kowa TSN-883 Prominar is an exception.

Lightweight

Having a lightweight scope is essential for birding as you will have to constantly move with it to find a comfortable spot. But the problem is, most of the lightweight field glasses perform very poorly.

Well, the Kowa TSN-883 Prominar spotting scope is a lightweight and good performer at the same time. The manufacturer somehow figured a way to keep the performance at an optimal level while keeping the weight low.

Pros

  • Very Reliable.
  • Awesome build quality.
  • Very lightweight.
  • Awesome optical performance.
  • Filled with nitrogen.
  • Duel Focus.

Cons

  • A bit pricey.

 

3. Celestron Regal M2 65ED Spotting Scope

For those who are looking for a birding scope with a few extra features, Celestron Regal M2 65ED Spotting Scope would be a perfect choice as the ED objective lens of this field-glass allows a crisp and accurate image.

One of the best aspects of this amazing scope is that you can zoom up to 60 times without losing any details and colors. A triple mount is added with the package which allows you to observe your favorite bird by mounting the scope on almost any surface. If you have deep pockets, this scope is for you.

Specs:

Diameter (Objective Lens): 88 mm.

Weight: 53.6 oz.

Highest Magnification: 60 x

 

Features:

Field of View

The field of view offered by the Celestron Regal M2 65ED Spotting Scope is simply outstanding. You will be able to observe a bird while it is flying. A wide field of view distorts the main image in less expensive models. However, the Celestron Regal M2 65ED Spotting Scope maintains image quality while providing a wide image.

Important Accessories

The majority of Scope’s add-ons are sold separately, especially if you are on a budget. Meaning, the package will not include the necessary accessories. However, you won’t have to spend any extra money on the Celestron Regal M2 65ED Spotting Scope because the package includes everything you’ll need.

For example, T-ring and T adapter are mandatory if you are birding in a tropical area. Normally, you would have to buy them separately. But these accessories come with the package of the Celestron scope.

XLT Lens Coating

An XLT-coated lens will significantly improve your birding experience. Without these lenses, spotting scopes will not be able to accurately detect a bird’s color, and the Celestron Regal M2 65ED Spotting Scope offers the best XLT lens on the market. This is one of their most popular features, and many individuals purchase these field glasses solely for the lenses.

Pros

  • Good Build Quality.
  • Not that expensive.
  • Versatile.
  • ED glass used.
  • Filled with nitrogen.

Cons

  • Very bulky.

 

4. Vortex Optics Razor HD

Vortex Optics Razor HD is undoubtedly the best mid-range spotting scope you will find on the market. For a surprisingly low price tag, this amazing field glass offers some features that even premium scopes lack.

For instance, the components used to build this scope are of top-notch quality. It is purged with argon gas and thus, is completely fog proof. It is also fully waterproof thanks to the optics that are O-RING sealed. For this price point, this amazing spotting scope doesn’t even have a decent competitor.

Specs:

Diameter (Objective Lens): 88 mm.

Weight: 1.5 kg.

Highest Magnification: 65 x

 

Features:

No Color Fringing

A decent optical coat is necessary for birding as it allows light to refract exactly on our eyeballs. The image will appear more immersive and vibrant if the scope has a triplet apochromatic lens. The good news is, Vortex Optics Razor HD has the best triplet lens in this price range.

When it comes to colors, you’ll only notice the genuine tone of the birds since this scope doesn’t distort the image’s shade in any way. No unwanted color will appear on the edge of the image, and that’s why even some professional researchers use this scope for studying birds.

Waterproof

For a very low price tag, this scope provides exceptional waterproof features. You can use it in heavy rain or on a foggy day. Almost all the holes are rubber coated, which prevents any sort of liquid from penetrating the scope.

Good Optics

This scope’s image quality is superb, thanks to its amazing optics. I can confidently say that it will outperform all of the field glasses I’ve discussed in this article. That is, in my opinion, the minimum expectation of a buyer who pays over a thousand dollars for a spotting scope. Nonetheless, the way Vortex Optics Razor HD performs will astound you.

Sturdy

For the price you are paying, the Vortex Optics Razor HD is one of the most durable scopes you will find on the market. It is built with aluminum and the handles are rubber coated. The grip of this spotting scope is also pretty good.

Even the used glasses are of premium quality. So if you don’t have a giant budget and want an all-around spotting scope, the Vortex would be a perfect choice.

Pros

  • Good Build Quality.
  • Awesome image quality.
  • Versatile.
  • Good build quality.
  • A fine field of view.

Cons

  • Eye relief is short.

 

How to Pick the Perfect Spotting Scope?

Picking the perfect spotting scope can be a bit tricky, but you can make the process easy by keeping a few facts in mind. They are discussed below.

Magnification

Magnification is the most important factor when it comes to birding. But scopes with high zoom capacity are typically very expensive. To watch birds, though, you do not need to zoom in 100 times. Look for a scope that can zoom around 15 to 60 times, depending on your budget.

Now, when it comes to birding, always set the magnification around 20x or less. After you spotted the bird, slowly increase it.

Keep in mind that many knockoff scopes have poor magnification, although their advertisements may lead you astray. Never purchase a product that has a low Amazon rating. That’s the easiest way to determine whether the scope is valid or not.

Zoom Lens

Say you spotted a bird and wanna have a close look at it. Having a good quality zoom lens might come in handy in such cases. You can instantly make your 15x spotting scope into an 80x one, which is very convenient.

But just like zoom lenses of the camera, the increased magnification comes with a few drawbacks. For instance, the image will get noticeably distorted. The light will struggle to produce the image properly, and you will barely see anything in the dark. Most importantly, the field of view will decrease significantly.

30 years back, finding a good quality zoom lens for an affordable price was straight-up impossible. Nowadays, many cheap lenses are manufactured and they even work slightly better in a dark environment. If you just want to observe a bird closely after spotting, get a good quality zoom lens.

Again, you will find very cheap lenses that might seem promising, but buying a crappy product is like throwing your money in the ocean. So always buy the best available lens.

 

Quality of Glass

Having a good quality glass on your spotting scope is essential especially if you are planning to go out in the dark. The difference between good and bad quality glass is significant and most noticeable. In spotting scope, some of the commonly used glasses are extra-low dispersion (ED), high density (HD), and fluorite-coated.

Now, all of this glass will work perfectly fine in daylight situations. But when it comes to low-light, you might observe a significant difference. Most of the people go out birding in the morning anyway. So it is up to you whether you need a high-end glass or not. Keep in mind that a high-quality spotting scope with HD glass costs significantly more than a normal one.

 

Field of View

I know that most people overlook this aspect, but when it comes to birdwatching, the field of view is crucial. For those who don’t know, it allows for more light within the scope, allowing you to see a larger scene.

You’re probably wondering what this feature has to do with birdwatching. Assume the bird takes to the air as soon as you point the scopes at it. You can observe it even when it is flying if you have a better field of view. For that reason, I strongly advise you to keep this feature in mind while shopping for a spotting scope.

 

The Capacity of Light Gathering

For having a good birding experience with your spotting scope, the objective lenses will be crucial. Go for the 50 to 100 mm lens. Using a perfectly sized lens will create a perfect and high-quality image.

The size is obviously not definite. A larger or smaller lens can be used of course, but scopes with bigger lenses have a bulkier design, and smaller lensed scopes are less effective in low-light conditions. Decide on the size of the scope’s lens carefully.

I will recommend buying a 90 mm lens as the scope won’t be too heavy to carry and at the same time, you will be able to spot birds without any issue. Again, the only drawback of having a large lens is its weight. So if carrying isn’t an issue for you go for the largest option available.

 

Weight

A spotting scope’s weight and size play an important role if you plan on observing birds. Keep in mind, you will need to carry it all day long, as birds may appear unexpectedly in different locations. Investing in a bulky field glass won’t help in such cases.

When it comes to scopes, you might assume that lighter ones are less powerful. It’s true to a certain extent. It’s important to note, however, that you’re not purchasing an observatory to observe the solar system. When it comes to birding, a less powerful and lighter scope is more suitable than a heavy and powerful one.

 

Close Focus

I know many people ignore this feature while buying a spotting scope, but having a good close focus is essential in a situation where a bird suddenly appears close to you. Without this feature, you won’t be able to observe it. So, I will highly recommend buying a scope that has 10 to 15 feet of close focus.