Binoculars, as well as spotting scopes, are an extension of your eyes. But which type of optics is best depends on your personal preferences, and your personal preferences only.
If you feel most comfortable observing birds from your local park, a pair of binoculars can bring you excellent views with the most convenience. Fancy going target shooting instead? Pack your spotting scope and hit the road. But which flagship takes the crown is entirely your decision.
Spotting Scopes in General
Spotting scopes can be defined as small telescopes or as high magnification monoculars, usually mounted on a tripod. Spotting scopes can be either straight or angled, and as is the case with binoculars and spotting scopes, both types of scopes have their advantages, as well as disadvantages.
A spotting scope has a body, which is the central part that contains every lens. It also has an eyepiece, which can oftentimes be interchangeable. It requires a tripod to be set up – the scope attaches to the tripod head which enables the user to rotate it while observing. Spotting scopes are compact and powerful, great at bringing distant objects closer.
Binoculars in General
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, binoculars are “a pair of tubes with glass lenses at either end that you look through to see things far away more clearly.” More specifically, binoculars are optical devices sporting two smaller telescopes, one for each eye, that supply the user with a magnified view of distant objects.
Binoculars are the most varied optics on the planet. Produced with the purpose of hand-held use, use with both eyes and portable, a pair of binoculars is packed with a variety of features, uses, as well as magnification ranges.
Fields of Use
- bird watching
- wildlife observing
- long-distance microscopy
- basic astronomy
- target shooting
- bird watching
- basic astronomy
- wildlife observing
- sporting events
- everything else
Close focus is the distance between the optics and the nearest target that can be focused on. Usually, optics devices with a lower magnification and smaller aperture have a closer focus. Both spotting scopes and binoculars are intended to observe distant objects.
But in the field, you may come face to face with instances that may require you to focus on something closer, and this is where the close focus is helpful. Normally, we would say that because binoculars have a lower magnification power, they also have a nearer close-focus point.
Field of View
The field of view (FOV) is the open observable area a person can see through an optical device. So of course, spotting scope and binoculars also have a field of view. And a bigger one means you can see more of your surroundings.
This is where binoculars take the wheel because a smaller magnification also usually equals a wider field of view. So, it becomes difficult to have the best of both worlds – a spotting scope with a high magnification but a narrower field of view, or a pair of binoculars with a lower magnification, but a wider field of view.
Portability and Durability
Except for fitness, heavy equipment can be a real hobby killer. But as with so many other situations in life, education can help you avoid making unnecessary mistakes. So, it is good to know that a pair of binoculars usually does not differ much in weight from a spotting scope of the same size. Keep in mind that spotting scopes can be extremely big, binoculars tiny, and vice versa, so you have an array of different weights and sizes available.
Nevertheless, it is much easier to store the binoculars, as they are also designed to be more portable. You can carry them around your neck, or even put some models in your pockets. When it comes to spotting scopes, straight spotting scopes are easier to store in your backpack than angled ones. It is true, however, that pocket-sized binoculars will not be as powerful but will be easier to carry around.
Magnification is there to magnify the image you see. Lower magnification gives the user better observing opportunities at closer distances, but bigger magnification is better when you want to be safe, or simply cannot get close to the target. Yes, binoculars with 100x magnification exist, but the typical spotting scope will always be more powerful in comparison to the typical pair of binos.
Connected to the field of view, eye relief defines the distance between the lens of the optics and the observer’s eye. More specifically, it refers to the distance in mm, the distance between your eyes and the eyepieces in order for you to still see the entire field of view.
Eye relief is especially significant for those who wear prescription glasses, as glasses hold the eyes back from the eyepieces. So, the higher the number, the easier it is to observe through the binoculars or the spotting scope. Those who wear eyeglasses should look for eye relief above 15 mm.
- bigger magnification power
- better viewing angle (on angled scopes)
- bigger objective lens
- more compact
- more complex to use than binoculars
- narrower field of view
- bigger and less portable
- wider field of view
- for handheld use
- smaller and more portable
- easier to use than spotting scopes
- usually cheaper
- less magnification power
- smaller objective lens
Are you more of an “I like to watch birds from my backyard” or “I like to hike and hunt in the mountains” kind of person? Every optics user needs to determine which optics work best for their needs, and many often own both binoculars and spotting scopes, at times even more than one of each.
But if you need to decide between the two, the decision can sometimes be as simple as a walk in the park, and other times as difficult a really long, tiresome walk in the park where all paths lead to nowhere. Thus, we hope this article will help to guide you, so you do not lose your way among the trees.