Spotting Scopes Buying Guide

Spotting Scopes Buying Guide

Enhance your magnification power for a superior point of view with SCHEELS’ selection of spotting scopes, so you can locate your target. We carry a leading name-brand selection of spotting scopes, including VortexSwarovskiLeupoldBushnell, and many more. Our Spotting Scope Buyer’s Guide summarizes the features and specifications to help you find a spotting scope to complement every outdoor pursuit ahead.

SCHEELS Precision Shooting Expert Cory Rigby advice, “When you purchase your spotting scope, select the right options that fit your needs and pair it with quality accessories. Doing this will ensure you have an optic that enhances your experiences for years to come!”


Spotting Scope Body Type - Angled vs. Straight

Our selection of high-performance spotting scopes is great for zooming in on your target. Spotting scopes are available in the following body types:

Angled spotting scopes are designed with the eyepiece angled at a 45-degree angle to the objective lens. Some designs can be rotated, giving you more versatility, in return, resulting in long-lasting comfort. Also, angled spotting scopes are easier to use without a tripod.

Straight spotting scopes have the eyepiece parallel to the objective lens. This body type is quick and efficient, so you can have a direct line to acquire a target. A straight spotting scope has a Porro prism, meaning there is an internal glass element offset from one another to create a wide field of view.


Spotting Scope Magnification Power & Objective Lens

The magnification power indicates how close an object will appear to the naked eye, and the objective lens diameter indicates the size of the lens — directly affecting how much light will pass through the lens options.

Variable-power scopes are designed with an internal mechanism to adjust the magnification power. As a result, the lens system and position in the tube adjust to the amount of magnification power needed. Variable-power scopes are the most common and widely used scopes for versatility and accuracy.

The magnification of a variable-power scope represents the first two numbers. For example, 20-60x80 indicates the magnification power can be adjusted within the range of 20x to 60x.

Fixed-power scopes are designed with a fixed magnification power, meaning the magnification power cannot be adjusted. Fixed-power scopes are not as common as variable scopes and tend to be less accurate.

The magnification of a fixed-power scope represents the first number. For example, 15x50 indicates the magnification power cannot be adjusted.

Aperture objective lens diameter indicates the size of the lens, in millimeters, closest to the viewing area — directly affecting how much light will pass through the lens options. For example, a 20-60x80 spotting scopes objective lens is 80mm.


Lens coatings are films applied to the lens surface to reduce glare and reflection, in return, to increase light transmission and contrast to create a vivid and clear image.

Single-coated lenses have a single layer applied to at least one lens surface, resulting in a low illumination image.

Fully-coated lenses have a single layer applied to all lens surfaces, resulting in a low-to-mid illumination image.

Multi-coated lenses have multiple layers applied to at least one lens surface, resulting in a mid-to-high illumination image.

Fully multi-coated lenses have multiple layers applied to all lens surfaces, resulting in a high illumination image.


Spotting Scopes Exit Pupil & Eye Relief

Exit Pupil is the bright circle in the center of each eyepiece. This bright light will determine how bright an object will appear when it hits the eye. By simply dividing the objective lens diameter by the magnification power, this will be the exit pupil. For example, if a rangefinder is 15x50 (50 divided by 15), the exit pupil is 3mm.

Eye relief indicates the distance between the scope’s eyepiece and your eyes which is most important for long-lasting comfort and use. 


Spotting scopes are available in the following focusing mechanisms:

Helical focusers have a rubberized collar around the scope barrel. A helical focuser can change the focus quite rapidly by turning the ring. This focuser works great when you’re observing fast moving objects.

Rack and pinion design are common to find on astronomical telescopes. This design offers a fairly quick, smooth focusing mechanism. Most of the focusing components are external resulting in exposure to the elements.

Knob focusers are not as quick as the helical focuser, but they do have a precise and accurate focus. This focuser is best used for slower moving objects at a distance.


An optical design determines the type of material used to focus the image. There are two types of optical designs for spotting scopes, including refractors and catadioptrics. Retractors are designed with an optical glass lens to bend the light with one of the two prism systems to create a clear image. Catadioptrics are designed primarily with a 45-degree to 90-degree prism with the combination of a corrector lens and a pair of mirrors to reflect the light to bring a clear image into focus.

To learn more about prism systems, visit our Binoculars Buyer's Guide.


Spotting Scopes Field of View


Many spotting scopes have additional features to help keep you focused in the field, including the following:

Waterproof spotting scopes are completely protected from the rain, dust and other debris with the help of O-rings to create a seal, but these can fog up at times.

Fogproof spotting scopes eliminate damage and prevent your lenses from fogging in various temperatures due to the nitrogen or argon gas filling for zero moisture content.


Enhance your spotting scope experience to view your outdoor pursuit with the following options, including tripods and phone skopes.

Tripods are used to support the high magnification power of spotting scopes. Tripods are available in three-legged stands or window mounts to stabilize your scope, so you can focus on capturing a clear image.

Phone Skopes are used to amplify your spotting scope experience. Capture high-quality videos and images with your phone skope adapter to modernize your point of view when you need an accurate image of your outdoor pursuit.

You can find our full selection of spotting scopes HERE.