Man using spotting scope in a field

Spotting Scopes vs Binoculars: Learn the Pros and Cons of Each

- Creative XP Brand Team

Whether you're a hunter, target shooter, a birdwatcher, or even a frequent sporting event attendee, you have probably used or considered using an optic device. Between a spotting scope vs. binoculars, though, is one better than the other? Are there times when a spotting scope is better? What pros and cons do binoculars have?

This guide is intended to help answer these questions by explaining how binoculars compare to spotting scopes and when each type of optic device is used.

Choosing the Right Optic For Your Outdoor Activity

If you're conflicted between a spotting scope vs. binoculars, there are a few different factors that you should consider. Binoculars are generally smaller and more portable than spotting scopes. However, this comes at the expense of them not being as powerful as scopes. 

Knowing the types of activities that you will be doing can help determine which optic is best for your situation. In the next section, we will outline the benefits and downsides of spotting scopes and binoculars as well as the activities that they are frequently used for.

Uses for Spotting Scopes and their Pros & Cons 

Spotting scopes consist of one lens that a user views with one eye. They are frequently used with tripods or other mounts due to their larger size. 

Pros and Cons of Spotting Scopes

The biggest benefit for spotting scopes compared to binoculars is that they provide much stronger magnification than binoculars. Spotting scopes typically begin around 15x magnification, and that can increase up to 60x. This is leagues better than even the best of binoculars, which would probably give at most 12x magnification.

Another pro for spotting scopes is that they produce very high image quality. Using a spotting scope, you can zoom in on something a considerable distance away and still see it clearly.

Using a tripod for a spotting scope could be considered either a pro or a con depending on the circumstances you're using it in. If you are watching a fixed point, you can easily set up your tripod and scope, position the scope in place, and then look through the scope whenever you want knowing that the scope will be zoomed exactly where you need it. However, if you are watching something that is moving, a spotting scope could be impractical.

A definite downside to spotting scopes is that they are pricey compared to binoculars. With a spotting scope, you can see things from much further away, but that increased magnification is going to cost.

Another downside is that the field of vision suffers in spotting scopes. Images may be clear, but they are only able to be seen in a smaller field of vision.

Uses for Spotting Scopes

If you are a target shooter, then a spotting scope would be the perfect piece of equipment for you. With a spotting scope, there would be no need to keep going down range to see how you're shooting. Instead, all you have to do is set up your tripod and set your scope's sights on the target. Then, whenever you're ready, you can see how your shots are grouped through the scope. Because your target will not be moving, there is no need to adjust the scope.

Another possible use for a spotting scope is birdwatching or other wildlife viewings where little movement is required. For birdwatchers, imagine that you know a nest is in a tree, and you want to watch the nest activity. You can set your scope up and check the nest throughout the day. The image will be clear through the spotting scope, and because the nest is in a fixed position, you won't need to move the scope.

Big game hunters could also potentially use spotting scopes, especially if the target they are tracking could be dangerous. The increased magnification of the spotting scope gives hunters the chance to clearly see a target without having to be close up. 

Photographers may also use spotting scopes. They can often be connected to cameras, and the combination of clear image and magnification can give a perfect shot for something in the distance.

Uses for Binoculars and their Pros & Cons

Binoculars come as two lenses, one for each eye. They are often small enough to carry on a neck strap, which makes them convenient to access whenever needed.

Pros and Cons of Binoculars

Portability is often considered the be the biggest benefit of binoculars vs. spotting scopes. With binoculars always around your neck, you can pull them up at a moment's notice when you want to view something. Some higher-powered binoculars can be used with tripods, but these are not needed for most pairs.

Related to this is the benefit of tracking. Without a cumbersome tripod or another mount, a user can move their binoculars as needed. Following a moving subject is easy with binoculars.

Binoculars are also known for having a wider field of view than spotting scopes. This is due in part to the use of two lenses instead of the one found in a spotting scope. Having two lenses can also help decrease stress on the eyes, which is a plus if you plan to spend a significant amount of time looking through the optic.

Price is yet another pro for binoculars, and customers can find a good pair of binoculars for considerably less than a spotting scope.

However, binoculars do have their downsides, though. As stated above, spotting scopes have stronger magnification as well as a clearer picture. Even some of the more powerful binoculars will still likely be weaker than some of the least powerful spotting scopes.

Uses for Binoculars

Hunters often bring a pair of binoculars with them to follow a target. The ability to easily move binoculars makes them useful when watching an animal as it moves. Being able to quickly pull up the binoculars also helps if a target suddenly appears, as there is no need to bring out a tripod and set a scope up. When using binoculars for hunting, it is important to consider how dangerous your target is, though. Binoculars can only magnify so much, so if you want to view a target from a farther distance, you may need to choose a spotting scope instead.

Sports fans attending games often bring binoculars along to enhance their viewing experience. Fans with binoculars can easily watch as the action on the field moves around. Plus, they are typically not too far away from the event, so they don't need the enhanced magnification that scopes offer.

Binoculars can also be nice for hiking or other outdoor exploration. If you are out on a trail and spot a bird or other animal that you want to get a quick look at, you can pull up your binoculars.

Generally speaking, any time that a person needs to see something further away, binoculars could help. The convenience that they offer makes them a go-to item for outdoorsmen, even if they do have some downsides compared to a spotting scope. 

Conclusion

In the great spotting scope vs. binoculars debate, there is not necessarily a clear winner. It is not uncommon for an outdoorsman to keep both a spotting scope and a pair of binoculars with them when they are out. Binoculars give quick access to magnified viewing, and having them always around your neck means that you will be able to use them whenever something appears. Spotting scopes, meanwhile, give users the chance to see images further away with a clearer picture. They may not be as portable as binoculars, but you could set one up and focus it on a topic of interest as long as it is relatively stationary.

The biggest takeaway to consider here is that both spotting scopes and binoculars successfully serve their roles as optic devices. You could use either for any time that you need to have an object in the distance magnified.

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