Before you get into spotting scope comparisons you should at least know what the terms used to determine the quality of a spotting scope. The technology for making rifle scopes, spotting scopes and binoculars are all similar. Once you understand what some of the technical jargon means you will have better understanding what makes the best spotting scope. Or better yet, when you see a spotting scope review or start reading spotting scope reviews, you will know exactly what you need to make the best choice for your specific situation.
We are going to assume that you are looking for the reviews in order to determine “What is the best spotting scope?. Or another way to look at the question is to ask “Who makes the best spotting scope?”. Some people search for the term ‘inexpensive spotting scope reviews’ hoping that the article will somehow make the best recommendation for them. If you arm yourself with some basic knowledge, you can not only make the best choice in buying your spotting scope, but you will also understand what makes a good rifle scope and a good pair of binoculars too.
Before you launch into your rifle scope review comparison you’ll need to know things like what terms like “coated” and “multi-coated” mean. You need to know what types of prisms work best and why a 7×50 scope is probably not the best for a hunter.
The best hunting spotting scope reviews will not be the same as the best astronomy scope or the best bird scope. Some of the basic considerations when looking to purchase a spotting scope are not the same considerations you should look at when buying a rifle scope or a birding scope or even an astronomy scope.
The main purpose for all these type of scopes is o make what you are looking at appear closer. From there, you will need to dig a little deeper to get a better understanding.
There are two main considerations when looking for quality; mechanical quality and optical quality. The price of spotting scope is to a great degree affected by the quality of its components. Optical quality: like the type of glass selected for the lenses and prisms, the design of the eyepiece, the quality and care given during the polishing and glass grinding process. Then finally, the quality of the anti-reflection coatings on the glass elements.
Mechanical quality items include the lens barrel material (metal or plastic). Are the lens barrels made of one piece or two piece construction? How are the glass elements secured in place?
Anti-reflection coatings are used by nearly all spotting scope manufacturers today. The purpose of the glass coatings is to assist in bringing the light from the front of the scope back to the eyepiece. When looking to purchase spotting scope be sure to look at how the manufacturer description of the coatings: If they say “Coated”, then they mean they have used a single layer antireflection coating on some lens elements. The cheapest way to go.
Just know that the term “Coated’ does not mean that all glass elements are actually coated. In the most common application, the spotting scope manufacturers only coat the first and last elements (the ones you can see).
A step above “Coated” is the term “Fully Coated”. Fully coated means that ALL air to glass surfaces are coated. “Fully Coated” is certainly much better than “Coated”.
Now comes “Multi-Coated”. This term is somewhat confusing and it means that some glass surfaces have multiple layers of anti-reflection coatings on them (again, usually the first and the last while the other glass surfaces have a single layer of anti-reflection coating on them).
After all this comes the term you should really be looking for in glass anti-reflection quality:
“Fully Multi-Coated” is what you should be looking for. Fully Multi-coated means that all air to glass surfaces have been coated with multiple layers of antireflection coatings. This is, without a doubt, the best way to go.
As an addition, technological advancements are now allowing ‘ruby’ or red multi-coatings. These coatings are applied in order to further reduce glare when using the scope in very bright light.
When you see a description of a spotting scope, you will almost certainly see two sets of numbers, like 7×50. The first number is the ‘magnification’ number and determines how close the object will appear.
For example, 7×50 means the objects will appear 7 times closer than when viewed with the naked eye.
The most common magnification factors are: 6x, 7x, 8x, 9x and 10x.
If you happen to be looking at variable zoom scopes, then you may see something like 7-21×50. This means that the magnification can be varied from 7 times to 21 times what would be seen by the unaided eye. For variable zoom types, almost without exception, the performance at the lowest magnification setting is better than that of the higher magnification settings. The technical reason for this is that in order for the performance to be the same at the higher magnification setting, the amount of light must be increased by the same magnitude. The result is that the image gets dimmer as the magnification increases.
Objective lens (diameter) The second number in our example above, 7×50 represents the diameter (in millimeters) of the objective lens. So 7×50 means that the front lens is 50mm in diameter. The importance of the second number is that then larger the front lens, the more light entering the binoculars (and thus gets to your eyes). So, a set of 7×50 will see much better in dim light than a pair of 7×25.
Armed with a little knowledge will help you in deciphering what rifle scope reviews are talking about. Just keep in mind that with more magnification and larger objective lens size means the weight and bulk really goes up.
Plus the higher the magnification, the ‘shakier’ the image will be when looking through the scope.
You should purchase a tripod for your spotting scope, since most people go for the highest magnification they can afford. These extremely high powered (magnification) scopes are almost impossible to hold by hand.
As to my personal opinion, buy the highest quality you can afford and buy a tripod too. A 3-9x40mm rifle scope may be the best choice for a hunter rifle scope. But to make a broad general classification or recommendation for a spotting scope is not as easily done.