Spotting Scope Vs. Binoculars – Which One To Choose For Birdwatching

Spotting Scope Vs. Binoculars – Which One To Choose For Birdwatching

We’d like to review the benefits and drawbacks of using a spotting scope compared to using binoculars. The most obvious difference between the two instruments is that the spotting scope consists of a single objective or scope, while the binoculars of two coupled spotting scopes for binocular use.

They are not easily found in every home, but binoculars and spotting scopes are indispensable tools for those who love spending time outdoors or devote themselves to bird watching. Be careful, because these tools, although similar to each other, are nevertheless different – in the characteristics to be evaluated- when taking into account how they’ll be used for your hobby is. For example, hiking or birdwatching enthusiasts can choose a device with objectives between 30 and 50 mm, with a variable magnification ratio between 7x and 10x; whereas, on the other hand, if you’ll use them on a boat, it will be preferable to opt for a model covered in rubber that is waterproof and has objectives between 40 and 50 mm, and 7x magnification.

What Is A Binocular?

Available in all sizes, weights and magnifications, binoculars are an optical instrument made up of two matching spotting scopes to magnify distant objects with binocular vision. And it is binocular vision that differentiates the aforementioned instrument from the spotting scope, thus offering a better observation because it “contemplates” the use of both eyes to view a given object.

The possible uses are many, starting with military uses and including hunting, bird watching, use at sea or in the mountains, and use for astronomical observation. Due to the technical characteristics of the binoculars, as we will see, there is no single tool that is suitable for doing all these things. Each particular use will have a specific type of binoculars that are particularly suitable. In fact, the problem is not limited to enlargements, but extends to other considerations, not least of which is weight and size. You also must consider the field of view and brightness of the image.

Binocular magnification

Not all binoculars are suitable for birdwatching. Some characteristics are necessary, and only optical instruments manufactured for this specific use have them. Before making your purchase, think about why you need this tool. Binoculars can be a great travel companion if you like to observe birds and admire the landscape, but however small it may be it has volume and weight.

It is also true that having binoculars at hand during our birdwatching outings allows us to discover details and nuances of the natural environments that may not be perceptible to the naked eye. In the end, the question arises: are binoculars an essential item to take with us? The answer is only one and it is affirmative, but only if it benefits our excursions. Where the fauna is an invitation to observation and photography, binoculars could prove to be almost indispensable! Rest assured that bird watchers all over the world make extensive use of this optical instrument in the forests and mountains of our planet.

What Is A Spotting Scope?

Like binoculars, a spotting scope is another optical instrument that also allows you to devote yourself to observing terrestrial objects. That can be animals or parts of the landscape. The spotting scope is designed to make objects located far away clearly visible, capturing aspects that are not perceptible to the naked eye. It consists of a tube that acts as a support for two lenses or lens systems.

There are two parts; objective and the eyepiece. The objective forms a real, inverted, and reduced image. The eyepiece enlarges the image produced from the lens. Generally, the lens system and the ocular system are easy to identify since they are located at both ends of the tube – with the eyepiece on the observer’s side. Sometimes this distinction is not so clear.

As highlighted for binoculars, even for the spotting scope it is necessary, before proceeding with the purchase, to define your purpose for buying. Some models, for example, will prove to be more suitable for birdwatching. The type of optical system with which the telescope is supplied works in this regard, as it affects the clarity and the greater or lesser display of details.

What is a spotting scope

It will then be necessary to assess whether the structural characteristics of the instrument allow it to be used outdoors, in various weather and visibility conditions. Therefore, you must pay attention to the waterproof coating, weight and dimensions. And, again, consider the convenience of use and the regular functioning of the spotting scope and the accessories that are included with it.

The handle must be ergonomic and non-slip, so as to prevent the spotting scope from falling out of hand during observation. Also pay attention to the ocular relief – that is, the part of the eyepiece that comes into contact with the user’s face. This is important because the construction material determines your level of comfort. The ideal construction would be a rubber coating, which gently conforms to the eye area of ​​the face, while allowing you to assume a comfortable position for a long time.

On the other hand, ease of use and the proper functioning of focusing are significant considerations. Usually focus manual and not very different from that of binoculars. With the purpose of displaying the object as sharply as possible, it consists mostly of a traditional wheel and is almost always located immediately before the eyepiece, while in binoculars it is located between the two eyepieces.


Once you have chosen the optical instrument that best fits your needs all that remains is to proceed with the purchase. But what are the prices? They differ based on the characteristics and performances offered. The materials and coatings used will increase price as well. The wide range of products on the market makes it possible to meet any requirement. Lower pricing is not, necessarily, synonymous with bad quality. For example, you can change the glass with which the optical unit was made, or the quality of the anti-reflective treatment. In fact, for most users, a medium quality device will be more than satisfactory

Do you need help choosing the right optical instrument for birdwatching? Keep following Avibirds to read our “How to choose a binocular” post coming out soon.