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Telescopes Vs. Spotting Scopes


Looking for the best scope on the market but are stuck between a spotting scope and a telescope? You are not alone, as many face this problem. It is remarkably difficult to stand out of the crowd if the products are so alike, and what makes this problem even more difficult is not knowing the difference between the two devices.

While these two products each have many excellent features and similarities, there are also enough dissimilarities between them to help paint a clearer picture of which one is right for what type of buyer, as it all comes down to determining the purpose of use for your device.

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Magnification Power and Zoom

Zooming in wіth аn орtіс іѕ beneficial in every situation, especially for those who wish to scan the field to observe details on a target. Spotting scopes are produced wіth а mаgnіfісаtіоn rіng thаt enables observing at a distance аt lоw роwеr аrоund 20х аnd zооmіng іn fоr better dеtаіls аt 60х, 80х, аnd 100х.

Telescopes, however, include attached eyepieces that offer a high, fixed magnification. Too big of a magnification equals a blurred image due to too much light entering the scope, and the magnification a spotting scope provides is much less than that of a telescope. For best observing with a spotting scope, 30x to 40x magnification is best.

Telescopes, on the other hand, are made in a way that as much light possible can enter, which is extremely beneficial when observing space. Most home telescopes can reach a magnification of around 90x to 150x, which is amazing for astronomy viewing but in order to do so, the eyepiece usually needs to be changed. Zooming, however, is much more difficult with a telescope.

Image Stability

Spotting scopes should get more points when it comes to image stability, correct? This is because telescopes need to be set up on a tripod, as it is almost impossible to use a telescope without a tripod, whereas some spotting scopes can also be handheld.

The lower the magnification, the more stable the image, and since telescopes offer more magnification, this should result in a less stable image. Despite that, spotting scopes can still face image stability issues as oftentimes the tripods and mounts included when buying a spotting scope are not of the best quality.

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The close focus is the shortest distance that should be between the observer and the target in order for an optic to focus on it. The close focus is an extra point to watch out for. With a spotting scope, an object at a distance of 180 cm can be focused, but a telescope is intended for long-distance use, resulting in closer objects being blurred.

So, when stargazing, for example, a spotting scope will not be of much help, as it does not give many details. A telescope is more useful when trying to focus on celestial objects. What about observing on short distances? This is where a telescope loses a few points, as it flips the image, confusing the observer. This is not a problem when observing round planets and stars, but when trying to watch birds, it can be confusing.

Portability and Durability

Ѕроttіng ѕсореѕ аnd tеlеѕсореѕ соmе іn all wеіghtѕ and ѕіzеѕ, but keep in mind thаt tеlеѕсореѕ аrе designed tо bе ѕеt uр аnd be fixed while ѕроttіng ѕсореѕ are made to be mоrе flехіblе аnd easier to move around. On the one hand, spotting scopes are mostly intended for hunting and use outdoors, which means they are already built to be durable. They can be on the heavier side but are smaller than telescopes and can be simpler to store in a backpack.

On the other hand, telescopes are more delicate and are not as portable, as their primary use is to be set on a tripod and not to be carried in a backpack. While there are lightweight and more portable telescopes available, they are most often longer and bigger, because, with telescopes, aperture size matters. Still, you would most likely not take a spotting scope to a concert, but this does not mean you are unable to.

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Fields of Use

Spotting Scopes

The main distinction between a spotting scope and a telescope is in their intended use. Spotting scopes are intended for viewing things on land. Normally, they have fewer features than telescopes, which makes them simpler to use for most. They can be used for target shooting, archery, surveillance, hunting, bird-watching, entry-level astronomy, and photography.


In comparison to spotting scopes, telescopes are not intended for viewing things on land, but what is above it. Using a telescope for land viewing can be confusing, as most often the image is flipped upside down, but you can buy accessories that can fix this obstacle. They are designed for astronomy purposes, and it is also what they are best at.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Spotting Scopes


  • Perform well in low light situations
  • Can observe moving objects on shorter ranges
  • Easier to carry around
  • Less likely to get damaged
  • More affordable
Source: Bushnell


  • Can observe fewer details
  • Cannot observe extremely distant objects

Advantages and Disadvantages of Telescopes


  • Maximum light exposure
  • High magnification power
  • Can observe extremely distant objects
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  • Less easy to carry around
  • More likely to get damaged
  • Weaker zoom capabilities
  • Less affordable


If you plan on using a scope for observing on longer distances and if portability does not pose a problem, a telescope might be a wiser choice. However, if hunting and observing wildlife is your main goal, the spotting scope is a better shot. If money is not a problem and if you are an indecisive Libra, get both.

Telescopes Vs. Spotting Scopes
Article Name
Telescopes Vs. Spotting Scopes
If you plan on using a scope for observing on longer distances and if portability does not pose a problem, a telescope might be a wiser choice. However, if hunting and observing wildlife is your main goal, the spotting scope is a better shot.
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Optics Trade Blog
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  • Spotting scope collects the same amount of light as a telescope with the same aperture. They are actually the same in this perspective. The focal ratio on telescope can be bigger this can lead to better image at high magnification. High quality spotting scope will cost the same or more than a telescope with the same aperture. Eye pieces for a spotting scope are in general more expensive than telescope when it comes to high quality . In general spotting scope is alot more versatile. Telescope is always limited to astronomy only and looses resale value very fast due to small customer base. High end spotting scope does not loose it’s value as fast.

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