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How do Spotting Scopes Work?


A spotting scope can bring anyone closer to the target. So, if you wish to figure out what kind of a Robin you are looking at, or whether it is Bambi lurking in the woods or just a regular white-tailed deer, this is what you need. However, knowing how spotting scopes work is essential before knowing how to use one. Welcome to spotting scopes 101.

Spotting Scopes

There are times when binoculars simply do not do the trick. This is where spotting scopes come rushing in. Spotting scopes are optical instruments that produce magnified images of faraway objects, the same as binoculars and telescopes.

However, sometimes binoculars might not be enough, and sometimes telescopes might be too much, so spotting scopes are the perfect middle ground. Spotting scopes need a tripod to be set up, as they are not intended to be handheld, but need mounts for stability.


Source: Alarmy


To put it simply, magnification is an action of magnifying something. It refers to enlarging the apparent size and not the physical size. The magnification of spotting scopes usually ranges between 15x and 60x.

When observing a field through a spotting scope it is optimal to begin with a low power eyepiece (for instance in the 20x to 30x range). Once the object you wish to observe is located, you can switch to a higher magnification. Most times, however, observing with a spotting scope is performed at lower magnifications.

Objective Lens

The objective lens defines the image quality at higher magnifications. People are of the opinion that the larger the lens, the better quality of the image. The size of the lens determens the brightness of the image, so a bigger lens is still better when using a scope in the dusk. However, the lens can still be big and the quality will not be the best. When buying a scope, look for those with a quality glass that manufacturers usually mark as ED or HD glass.


Source: Gohunt

Lens Coatings

Lens coating improves light transmission which is vital when using a high magnification tool like a spotting scope. It is applied to the outside of the lens. However, not all coatings are the same. A spotting scope can be:

  • coated (one layer on at least one lens surface)
  • fully-coated (one layer on all air-glass surfaces)
  • multi-coated (several layers on at least one lens surface)
  • fully multi-coated (several layers on all air-glass surfaces)

The more layers there are, the better the image will be, but the scope will also be more expensive. Premium optics will nearly always be multi-coated.

Close Focus

Close focus is the distance between the optical device and the nearest object that can be focused on. Close focus is crucial when it comes to observing the details of something close to you. A good close focus is most appreciated by birdwatchers or those who look at butterflies and other small creatures. Even though this is not necessary, a spotting scope with a close focus of fewer than 6 m can come in handy, particularly if you intend on using the device with a camera.

Eye Relief

People with a prescription should be more attentive towards the eye relief of a scope. Eye relief refers to the distance between the lens of your scope to the tip of your eye. And why should those wearing glasses pay more attention to it? Because glasses get in the way of getting close to the eyepiece.

At least 14 mm of eye relief is needed in order to view the entire field of view with eyeglasses and people with thick glass lenses will most likely require more. Usually, 12 mm–15 mm of eye relief is adequate for most eyeglass wearers. As is the case with some binoculars, some spotting scopes also have folding rubber eyecups which help those without 20/20 vision.


Source: Shednecks


Spotting scopes are like miniature telescopes, of which the predominant function is to observe on land rather than the sky, even though not even the sky is the limit for these small titans. Spotting scopes can be used to observe anything you set your mind to if you know how they work, and how to use them.

How do Spotting Scopes Work?
Article Name
How do Spotting Scopes Work?
A spotting scope can bring anyone closer to the target. However, knowing how spotting scopes work is essential before knowing how to use one. Welcome to spotting scopes 101.
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Optics Trade Blog
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