Spotting scopes and especially high-quality ones can be an excellent piece of gear for a number of people in a number of different situations and can be an absolute pleasure to use.
They can be valuable and useful to hunters, birdwatchers, naturalists, or marksmen or anybody else who needs to observe terrestrial objects with a magnification higher than what binoculars can usually offer. Since there are a lot of options out there, selecting a high-quality spotting scope that fits your budget can be a daunting task.
We’ve dug very deep into the wide variety of models available on the market and have selected 10 models that really offer the best possible specs, functionality and build quality without being swayed by brand popularity or marketing.
No matter what your future use case and budget are, you will surely find the spotting scope that will fit your exact needs on this list and you will surely learn a lot by reading it.
Top 10 Best Spotting Scopes of 2020
1. Vortex 20-60×85 Razor HD
The Vortex 85 Razor HD is truly one of the greatest spotting scopes available on the market and it’s certainly the best one in its price range. It offers outstanding optical performance paired with a sturdy and durable build which is topped off with an absolutely outstanding guarantee.
This is an excellent 85mm spotting scope that delivers superb performance at a fraction of the cost of its direct competitors from more famous brands without being inferior in any way. It’s both bright and sharp and the high image quality extends right to the end of the field of view.
It offers great color fidelity and performs equally well in low light and brightly-lit conditions and environments. It delivers nothing short of what would be expected from a top-class HD-glass spotting scope with a 20-60x zoom eyepiece.
The only consideration that needs to be taken into account is that with its 85mm optics, it might be a tiny bit bulky and heavy for users that plan to carry it around on long hikes who are going to be better off with the lower focal length models considered in this guide.
Additionally, the Vortex 85 Razor HD offers a robust build with O-ring sealed optics that are Argon gas purged. This means that this spotting scope is waterproof to the highest standards and is also protected from internal fogging, moisture, dust, or debris. On top of this, it comes with VIP warranty which means unlimited lifetime repairs and replacements that don’t even require you to keep a receipt or even to be the original buyer.
As long as you have this thing, Vortex will be happy to service it for you for free which is beyond amazing and the awesome cherry on top.
2. Alpen 20-60×80 45-degree 786KIT-B
If you are shopping for a spotting scope in the 80mm category but you want to keep it well under a thousand dollars, the Alpen 786KIT-B 80mm model can be a great budget-conscious choice. It offers most of the important features that the Razor HD does, but at a much more affordable price. The magnification range is also in the 20x-60x which is quite useful for a multitude of purposes.
The BAK4 prism and optics offer great optical performance with good color representation that will provide crisp images all the way to the edges. It performs respectably under low-light conditions which is one of the advantages of the larger spotting scopes in the 80mm lens range and has an anti-glare coating.
The body is sealed and filled with nitrogen, so it’s both waterproof and fog-resistant. It comes with a small tabletop tripod and an aluminum foam-filled case. There is also a reassuring lifetime warranty that covers all kinds of material or workmanship defects which makes it even greater value for money.
While most people would find the 45-degree eyepiece ideal, there is a tiny sliver of potential users that are looking for a straight eyepiece which despite being inferior in the ergonomics department, offers faster framing speeds in the hands of people with experience.
Luckily for them, Alpen offers a version of this model with the exact same optics, accessories, and warranty but with a straight eyepiece at a slightly lower price.
3. Vortex Optics Diamondback
If the 80mm spotting scopes are too bulky or too expensive for your taste, maybe a 60mm option could offer you a better value for money while still providing high enough image quality and respectable magnification.
One such option is the 60mm Vortex Optics Diamondback angled spotting scope with a 20x-60x magnification range. It can’t offer the exact same image clarity or low-light performance as an 80mm spotting scope due to its slightly smaller lens that lets less light in, but you are going to be hard-pressed to find significant differences in most practical situations.
The heart of the Vortex Diamondback’s optics is its multicoated Porro prism that offers outstanding image clarity and brightness paired with faithful color representation. Besides the respectable optical performance, this spotting scope is quite compact and portable. It’s very nicely built and is waterproof and fog-resistant.
It has an adjustable eyecup that can twist in multiple directions allowing for comfortable use with or without glasses and in a multitude of use cases. On top of this, for the people that are not looking for an angled spotting scope, Vertex offers a corresponding straight model which has the exact same specs bar this crucial difference.
In the end, the Vortex Optics Diamondback would be a top-notch choice for people looking for a high-quality spotting scope that is both portable and affordable.
4. Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima
If you are on a budget but you need the superior magnification and light sensitivity of an 80mm lens, there are also more budget-friendly options that do not require you to go down to the shorter 60mm focal length.
One of those affordably priced 80mm spotting scopes is the Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima which still offers the basic functionality of its more expensive competitors that are part of this list.
The Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima spotting scope offers the standard yet excellent magnification range of 20x-60x which will work in a very wide variety of use cases. It sports a multi-coated optics and BAK-4 prism that produce splendid image quality especially keeping in mind the bargain price.
The sharpness of the images remains crisp all the way up to the maximum 60x zoom. The color representation is quite accurate at lower magnifications, but as the magnification factor is increased, it gives rise to a bit of chromatic aberration which shifts the spectrum by a tiny bit towards the blues.
This is not something that will bother most users and this spotting scope still produces tremendous quality for such a bargain offer.
On top of its respectable optical performance, this spotting scope offers robust build quality and waterproofing. Its angled eyepiece is comfortable and comes with the added benefit of T-mount threading hidden under the rubber eye cap that means that a camera like a DSLR.
This spotting scope offers a limited lifetime warranty which means that if you want your spotting scope to be serviced, you need to send it to Celestron at your own expense and include a service fee of $25 and they will take care of your spotting scope.
5. Bushnell Trophy XLT 20-60x 65mm
The spotting scopes reviewed in this list so far have all been designed with a multitude of purposes in mind, but sometimes a user knows exactly what they are going to use their piece of equipment for and therefore require a more specialist solution. The Bushnell Trophy XLT 20-60x 65mm spotting scope is one such option that has been geared specifically towards hunting.
This is a compact spotting scope that doesn’t compromise with optical performance as its 65mm objective lens is slightly larger than the 60mm standard from compact solutions of this kind.
The small difference in lens size is not significant enough to make this piece of equipment too heavy or bulky to comfortably carry around but provides enough of an edge in image quality to make it more useful in low-light situations like early morning game spotting.
Letting in a bit more light doesn’t just help in dimmer environments, it also makes the image quality sharper and the contrast better throughout. It has high-quality multicoated optics and prisms that allow for stunning HD clarity.
The Bushnell Trophy XLT 20-60x has been designed to be suitable for virtually all hunting situations and its build quality and waterproofing make it durable and reliable. The standard package includes a compact tripod and both a soft and a hard case and can be purchased in both 45-degree and straight variations with many hunters preferring the latter.
6. Redfield Rampage 20-60x60mm
The Redfield Rampage is a budget-friendly compact spotting scope that can be used in a variety of situations and offers both nice optical performance and great portability. This is yet another spotting scope on this list that offers BAK-4 top quality prisms and multicoated optics which means that it will provide you with excellent image quality and clarity with the standard 20-60x magnification range.
In most conditions and at most settings the Redfield Rampage provides stellar optical performance while there might be some minor image shift at maximum magnification especially when the light is very bright, but the retractable shade seems to help a lot.
This spotting scope has been built to be sturdy, light, and compact and its polycarbonate build makes it comfortable to use and grip while keeping its weight low. The body of this spotting scope is filled with nitrogen and sealed which makes it waterproof and fog proof with the latter being quite hard to come by at this piece’s affordable price point.
People considering purchasing this Redfield Rampage 20-60x60mm spotting scope should keep in mind that this is a straight model that doesn’t have an angled eyepiece.
This has its own set of advantages and disadvantages and one should consider their own preferences. On top of it all, this spotting scope comes with a lot of accessories including a tabletop tripod, a carrying case, an additional view-thru case with a fold-down objective and eye-piece access and a limited lifetime warranty.
7. GoSky 20-60X 80
The GoSky 20-60X 80 is a Porro Prism 80mm spotting scope with a 45-degree angled eyepiece that was designed mainly with bird and wildlife watching in mind.
This is more of a highly affordable piece of equipment for nature enthusiasts than a professional piece of gear, but it still offers some interesting and unique functions that could make it your preferred spotting scope.
Despite its low price, the GoSky 20-60X 80 has a large 80mm object lens and high quality multicoated green filter optics and a Porro Prism that deliver sharp enough images. The green filter is geared specifically towards looking at birds and wildlife in nature and allows for more contrast in scenes with a lot of greenery. It offers the standard 20-60x zooming range paired with a comfortable 45-degree eyepiece.
Despite its low price, this spotting scope is very well built on a sturdy frame that is covered by shock-absorbing rubber and is fully waterproof. It also comes with the standard carrying bag and the not always useful tabletop tripod.
But the GoSky 20-60X 80 has an additional special feature up its sleeve that makes it stand out from the pack. It also comes with a digiscoping cell phone adapter that allows the user to attach their smartphone to the spotting scope and to record videos or shoot images of whatever they are looking at.
If you want a spotting scope for bird or wildlife watching and this sounds like a killer feature, then this piece of affordable equipment from GoSky might be just what you have been looking for.
8. Barska 20-60×60
If you are looking for a straight eyepiece spotting scope and if you are on a very tight budget, then the Barska 20-60×60 would be your best choice currently on the market. This is a decent 60mm spotting scope that still offers the standard 20-60x magnification range at a very low price.
You are going to be hard-pressed to find a comparable offering that rivals it both quality and affordability, so you couldn’t really find a better value for money in the under $100 budget range that fits the same requirements, especially its straight eyepiece setup.
The Barska 20-60×60 comes with decent optics and provides decent image quality even at higher magnification. It performs better than expected keeping its price point in mind, but you can’t expect it to rival spotting scopes that cost two or three times as much. Still, this spotting scope is well built and quite sturdy.
Despite the fact that it’s really a bargain piece of gear, it not only offers waterproofing, but it is also fog-resistant which might actually make it more desirable for some users than more expensive models that aren’t.
Even if it’s cheap, this low-budget spotting scope from Barska still comes with a standard set of accessories namely a tabletop tripod with a pan-head and a soft carrying case.
9. Emarth 20-60x60AE
While the previous entry on our list was the best straight spotting scope under $100, the Emarth 20-60x60AE is the best angled one in that particular price range, but keeping in mind that angled scopes require more parts and are therefore more expensive to manufacture, you should not expect absolutely stellar results.
While this model is a clear compromise, it’s still a 60mm piece that offers the standard magnification range of 20-60x. The fully multicoated optics and the BK-7 prism still deliver a clear view at magnifications of up to 40x, but if you go beyond that, the image quality starts suffering and the bargain bin pricing starts showing some shortcomings.
If you expect to rarely need the highest magnifications that this spotting scope is theoretically capable of and if you are on a very tight budget, the Emarth 20-60x60AE might still be a viable option.
On the bright side, this spotting scope still offers decent light gathering capabilities and a fairly sturdy waterproof build. On top of this, it is also fog-resistant which is a great feature to have for a scope that costs so little. Emarth offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and a 12-month warranty so you can purchase it without worrying too much and it also comes with a tabletop tripod and a carrying case.
10. Barska Blackhawk Spotter 18-36×50
The Barska Blackhawk Spotter and especially its 18-36×50 version are our final low-budget suggestion but it also comes with an interesting twist. This is the smallest and most compact spotting scope on this list, so this might actually have some appeal with some potential users.
Its variable zoom magnification range is a bit smaller than the other 9 entrants on the list at 18-36 and it comes with the smallest objective lens with a 50mm focal length. It sports multicoated optics and a similar BK-7 prism to the Emarth mentioned before.
As these optics don’t really have to quality to go up to higher magnification powers as evident in the Emarth option, they seem to do better in this smaller scope.
The image quality is adequate but not outstanding. Of course, one could not expect anything more than that with a price tag below $100 and it remains one of the best performing stopping scopes in that price bracket with respectable image clarity, color reproduction and contrast that remain consistent through the whole magnification range even if it’s significantly shorter than the one offered by the rest of the spotting scopes on this list.
Despite the expected shortcomings for an extremely affordable low budget model, the Barska Blackhawk Spotter is actually nicely build and offers both water and fog proofing with a nitrogen-purged optics chamber.
It also comes with a small tripod and a carrying case. In the end, if you are after a really bargain spotting scope and you wouldn’t mind the shorter magnification range and would be happy about the compact form factor of this model, the Barska Blackhawk Spotter might be just for you.
As you can see, there are some very interesting choices on the market for any budget and any activity. Now when you have a better idea of what is available, you should ask yourself about what kind of spotting scope you will be most comfortable and happy with and how much you are willing to spend on one such piece of equipment.
If you yourself manage to become certain about your own answers to those questions, the best choice for you from the products on our top 10 list will become more than apparent.
It might actually be an excellent idea for you to take another day or two to think about it and then come back here and go over the list once more. You’ll notice that everything will become much clearer the second time around and this is an approach that will ensure that you end up with a spotting scope you love.