Binoculars vs Spotting Scopes: Which one is better?

For an avid hunter, the right spotting equipment can make a difference between spotting your prey and wasting your day. Simply put, not having the right spotting equipment for deer hunting will result in you missing your golden moment – spotting your prey and taking home your kill.  

As a hunter, you have the choice of a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope. Shopping for one can be a daunting task especially if you are not familiar with the features. Currently, there are hundreds of brands and models which makes your search more difficult. 

To help you select the right spotting equipment before you head out for your next hunt, we have compiled this guide - Binocular vs. spotting scope. By the end of the guide, you will get to know which outdoor equipment is best for you. 

Ready? Let’s get started.  


Binoculars Vs. Spotting Scope - Definition And Type

Binoculars vs Spotting Scopes

A binocular is a handheld and versatile optical instrument that enables a user to use both eyes to locate distant objects. Also referred to as field glasses, binoculars are not only used by hunters when spotting prey in the woods but they are also used at concerts, sporting events, and other outdoor activities.  

A spotting scope is a powerful and compact optical instrument with magnifications beyond that of a pair of binoculars. Unlike the binoculars which have two telescopes mounted side by side, the spotting scope is monocular and is normally mounted on a tripod. As a powerful mini telescope, it helps to provide a clear picture to the user when spotting distant objects. There are two types – straight and angled. 

With an angled scope, the lens is positioned at a 45-degree angle while the straight scope has the eyepiece and barrel parallel to each other.  


Magnification Capabilities

Binoculars vs Spotting Scopes

When it comes to magnification capabilities or zoom power, the binoculars are limited. This is because binoculars are usually fixed at a specific magnification or zoom settings. In addition, they have a smaller objective diameter which is less than 50 mm. As a result, they allow users to spot camouflaged objects from a certain distance. A pair of binoculars can have magnification powers ranging from 8 to 15x but you can find powerful ones with a zoom power of up to 100x. 

When it comes to spotting scopes, they have larger magnification capabilities, unlike binoculars. In addition, they have a larger objective diameter set at 60+ mm. As a result, the spotting scope has the capability of providing clear images of distant objects located more than 500 yards away. Spotting scopes also have magnification powers starting from 60x to 250x. 

Winner: Spotting scope. 


Stability and Support

Binoculars vs Spotting Scopes

As you already know, binoculars are handheld and so they don’t come with any type of support, for instance, a tripod. Since you will be holding the binoculars in your hands when long range hunting, when it comes to magnifying an image, any movement made with your hands will result in a shaky image. Unless you have very steady hands, you may end up losing your prey or fail to spot a predator. 

For spotting scopes, they are made available with tripods. Since the tripod has three legs which connect at the stem, you will have more support when spotting prey. Even when you change the magnification settings, you don’t have to worry about shaky images. This means the spotting scope is much more stable than the binoculars.  

Winner – Spotting scope. 


Objective Lens sizes

Binoculars vs Spotting Scopes

Want to view clearer images? What you ought to know is that the bigger the objective lens size, the clearer the image. To determine the size of the lens, check the value that comes right after the x in the specifications section of your device. For instance, if the device has the following specs:  

20 - 60 X 70 mm, it means the objective lens size is 70 mm. When it comes to binoculars, they have a range of 25 mm to 100 mm. 

For the spotting scope, it has an objective lens size of 45 to 100 mm but 60 to 80 mm is the most common among typical spotting scopes. As you can see, spotting scopes have larger objective lens sizes than the binoculars.  

Winner - Spotting Lens. 



Binoculars vs Spotting Scopes

When it comes to portability, binoculars have a strap for easier handling. As a result, when deer hunting in the woods, all you have to do is hold the binoculars in front of your eyes to get a good look at the object. If you spot your prey, you can hunt or observe while waiting for that golden moment. 

While ultraportable binoculars are great, as they fit in your pocket, they are not powerful, especially when compared with a typical spotting scope. 

Spotting scopes are designed to be portable too. Today, manufacturers have chosen to incorporate shoulder straps making it easy to handle and transport the scope when long range hunting. Problem is, spotting scopes come with a tripod which calls for packing the whole unit in a case. This can be quite cumbersome when deer hunting. 

Winner: Binoculars 


Low Light Usage

Binoculars vs Spotting Scopes

Patience is key to successful long-range hunting. In order to spot the best and biggest preys, a vast majority of hunters will wait until the evening. Why? This is the moment when prey starts moving from their sleeping locations to their feeding and watering spots.

If you are equipped with the right outdoor equipment, then you will be able to spot the deer much quicker. During low light hours, you need a gadget with a much larger objective lens size. 

As said earlier, binoculars have a smaller objective lens size compared to spotting scopes. As a result, spotting scopes can help you to see sharp and clearer images. 

Winner: Spotting Scopes


Overall Winner, Binoculars Vs. Spotting Scope

As stated earlier, spotting scopes have large objective lens sizes which make them the best outdoor equipment especially if you are deer hunting under low light conditions. Not only that. If you want to locate an animal hiding in a large herd or in its hiding place, a spotting scope is what you need. 

To conclude, we can declare the spotting scope to be the winner thanks to its superior features. This does not mean that a pair of binoculars is inferior. It is actually useful as it can be used in any situation - at a concert, at a sporting event or bird watching among others.



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