Stability is essential in every aspect of life, be it relationships, your income, or mental health. And spotting scopes are no different. When looking through the lens of a spotting scope, stability is key.
Thinking about how tripods work might not be everyone’s #1 priority, but in order to see a clear image, a scope needs to be mounted on a stable tripod. An unstable tripod is a culprit for many unclear observations, and many scope owners do not realize it.
Spotting Scopes in General
What defines a spotting scope? Spotting scopes are optical devices that help the observer see enlarged images of faraway objects. They are suitable for many activities, such as hunting, birdwatching, target shooting, and even beginner astronomy. Some also call telescopes portable or miniature telescopes. Whatever you decide to call them, they always serve the same purpose.
Spotting scopes usually have magnifications of between 20x to 80x, but it depends on the eyepiece. You can use your scope lying down, standing up, sitting down, or even from a car. Some spotting scopes can be handheld, but due to their size, most require a tripod to be set up.
Types of Tripods for a Spotting Scope
- Tabletop Tripod: is also known as a Shooter’s tripod is best for spotting, and platforms like a shooting bench or a table. It is most often between 20 cm and 45 cm long. These tripods are the smallest you can get, as they are designed to support small devices, such as cameras.
- Compact Tripod: are larger than Tabletop tripods, and should not be used on a table, like tabletop ones. However, you can use them while sitting down. They are portable, which means compact tripods are mostly used by backpackers and mountain hunters.
- Full-Size Tripod: can also be used while sitting down. Their size varies from 66 cm to 1.5 m, but can also be stretched to almost 2m, so you can use them while standing up. Of course, this makes them less portable, but are more stable if you use them in nature.
When Buying a Tripod for a Spotting Scope
Choose the Right Height
An angled scope needs a shorter tripod to be set up, and a straight scope needs a taller one. Possibly the best way to figure out which height is best for you is a nightmare for those who dislike math.
First, measure the height of your eye level, then subtract the height of the viewfinder. The last thing is to subtract the level of your tripod head. The result is the maximum height you need. Just remember that when tripods are extended to their maximum height, they lose stability.
Choose the Right Head
There are various types of tripod heads and it can be overwhelming deciding on which one to pick. First, we have Ball heads, which are the most common tripod heads for photography, as they can move smoothly in any direction. Pan Heads or Tilt heads most often move across two axes. These heads take up more space than the previous ones but are simpler if you need to make lesser adjustments.
Next, we have Fluid heads, which are extremely similar to Pan heads but intended for video work. Pistol grip heads are also similar to Ball heads but require a pistol grip to loosen the ball instead of a knob. They provide a quick and simple repositioning of the camera. Last but not least, we have Gimbal heads, which are mostly used for wildlife photography.
Choose the Right Materials
There are three basic materials when it comes to tripods: aluminum, carbon fiber, and wood. All of them have both advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage of aluminum tripods is that they are noticeably more affordable, as well as damage resistant. However, carbon fiber tripods weigh less and are more temperature tolerant. Wood ones are also temperature tolerant and durable, and let us not forget ecological, but they weigh more and do not fold to compact size.
Choose a Tripod With a Quick-Release Plate
The purpose of this quick-release plate is to make it easier and more convenient for tripod users, in this case, spotting scope owners, to attach and detach the scope from the tripod fast. More affordable tripods usually come with a simple plastic plate, while more expensive ones come with a more robust and durable plate. No matter which tripod you go for, keep in mind that a model which accepts a quick-release plate is always a good thing.
Choose the Right Weight
Even though this is the last thing on our list, weight might be the most important. Because what good is having a tripod if you break it as soon as you mount something on it? What ends up happening is apparent – the whole thing falls, and the spotting scope gets destroyed. Tripod manufacturers provide the maximum amount of weight that a tripod and head can support safely. However, a load capacity does not always equal stability, so be careful and if possible, test it out before buying.
Many scope manufacturers offer tripods, including Swarovski, Nikon, Zeiss, Hawke, and Vanguard. But when it comes to choosing the right tripod, choose quality, as buying the right one takes more than simply looking for a pricey one from a well-known brand. If you want stability in your life, it might not be so bad to begin with a good tripod.