Are you an avid bird watcher, a seasonal hunter, or a stargazer? Looking to get your hands on the best budget spotting scopes without breaking your wallet?
You’ve come to the right place.
Price is not the only deciding factor when you’re looking to buy a spotting scope. Besides the price, the objective lens, magnification, lens diameter, field of view, eye relief, weatherproofing, and weight are other key factors.
Read this optics guide to learn more.
No matter what type of spotting scope you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered.
Here’s a list of the best 7 spotting scopes reviewed if you’re on a budget.
Best Budget Spotting Scopes of 2021
1. Gosky 20-60×80 Scope – Best Overall
The best budget spotting scope that you can find on the market is the Gosky Spotter. It is equipped with a powerful variable magnification that ranges from 20x to 60x and boasts an 80mm lens. It means that this spotter can perform well in dim light conditions.
Your scope also comes with a tripod, a carrying bag, and a smartphone adapter. This spotter features a BAK4 angled prism.
If you are looking for a spotting scope that you can use for various outdoor activities like hunting, birdwatching, and somewhat stargazing, then this is the right option for you to consider.
Thanks to the variable magnification system of this scope, you can focus on distant objects and closer objects without compromising on clarity.
It also means that you can use it for archery and hiking as well. It’s truly a versatile spotter, and you can use it for a variety of purposes. Gosky has used fully multi-coated lenses on this one for exceptional clarity.
You can access a field of view ranging from 48 feet to 83 feet at 1000 yards. This scope is filled with nitrogen to make sure it remains fog-proof and waterproof.
- Features a large lens for distant viewing.
- Crystal clear images.
- Come switch smartphone adapter tripod and carrying bag.
- Wide field of view.
- Anti-slip grip armor.
- Great for digiscoping.
- It has a stiff zoom.
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2. Vortex Diamondback HD Scope – Best Premium Quality
The Vortex Diamondback is a high-quality budget spotting scope with a pretty decent price tag. It’s available in different modes, and you can either go for an angled model and a straight model based on your purposes.
There are two different options for you to explore here as well. You can either go for a smaller spotting scope with a variable magnification that ranges from 16x to 48x. This model features an optical lens of 65mm.
The other model comes with a variable magnification of 20x to 60x, and it comes with an 85mm fully multi-coated lens. This scope comes with a helical focus so that you can adjust the docs quickly and more efficiently. If you need a quality spotting scope with some really powerful specs, you need to go for the Vortex Diamondback HD.
It comes with an HD optical system designed to deliver an exceptional viewing result. In addition, the lens system comes with multiple voting features anti-reflectivity for better light transmission. This scope also comes with fully adjustable eyecups.
Moreover, in the built-in eyeshades, the view is clean and comfortable for you to see in different light conditions.
This scope is fully tripod-adaptable, and it also comes with a window mount. Apart from the Vortex, argon purging and O-ring sealing make sure that it can easily handle a range of different conditions. It’s a pretty good quality spotting scope that you can use for hunting and bird watching.
With the right conditions, you can also use it for stargazing up to some extent.
- Fully adjustable eyecups.
- Multiple anti-reflective coatings for clarity.
- Suitable for low light conditions.
- Available in straight and angled models.
- Crisp and HD views.
- It is fully tripod, and car window mount adaptable.
- Its eyepiece is somewhat flimsy.
3. Celestron C90 Spotting Scope – Best Lightweight Model
The C90 Celestron comes with multi-coated optics and Maksutov-Cassegrain optical construction. With this construction, this is probably the lightweight spotting scope that you can use. That is why it’s great for traveling and easy carrying as well.
This scope is pretty compact as well. If you are looking for a spotter that is ideal for hiking and backpacking, you don’t need to look any further. It also comes with its bag, so you can keep it safe in its bag when you are on the move. Thanks to its erectile image mechanism, it is a great option for both astronomical and terrestrial usage.
There is an inbuilt T-adapter thread so you can attach your SLR camera for digiscoping. Adjustability is pretty simple, and you won’t find working on this spotting scope any difficult.
All controls are easily adjustable, and you won’t have any trouble using this cope. It does come with a highly versatile mounting with the dovetail rail and a threaded mounting port. It means that you can easily mount it on your camera tripods as well as astronomy tripods.
This scope doesn’t come with variable magnification, so it will be a better performer when you use it for distant observation. Because it doesn’t come with variable magnification, it is not going to come with a very good close focus range.
- Comes with an eyepiece.
- Multi-coated optical system.
- Lightweight and compact.
- Ideal for backpacking and hiking.
- Easy to use controls.
- The close focus distance is only 15 feet.
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4. Athlon Talos Spotting Scope – Best Value for Money
The Athlon Talos spotting scope features a high 80mm lens and comes with a magnification ranging from 20x to 60x. This spotter is a great choice for a variety of outdoor activities, including wolf watching and hunting.
It comes with an angled eyepiece, and it has a close focus if less than 20 feet. This scope manages a field of view that ranges between 48 feet and 102 feet.
There are fully multi-coated optics present on this scope, and it has been nitrogen purged to ensure that you always get the clearest possible view. This scope is fully waterproof, and it is built for the outdoors.
In addition to that, it comes with an extendable sunshade and a rotating ring, and it’s completely ready to mount a tripod. This scope is not that heavy either, so that you can use it on the go.
The scope is very simple to use, and it will not require any specialization for you. It just works for every condition. Athlon has used aluminum to construct this scope, and it is pretty robust in its design. However, at times, this scope becomes slow when it comes to focusing on distant objects.
Apart from that, it is an ideal choice for hunting, shooting, bird watching, and somewhat stargazing.
- Pretty decent eye relief.
- A nice field of view.
- Robust construction and waterproofing.
- Highly versatile.
- Nitrogen purges and fully multi-coated lenses.
- Slightly slow in quick zoom in at a distance.
5. Barska Colorado Spotting Scope – Best for Price
Barska Colorado is a good option to consider if you are short on budget but don’t want to compromise on quality. It’s a pretty lightweight yet great option for viewing any distant objects up close.
This scope comes with a variable magnification that ranges from 20x to 60x and comes with a 60mm lens. The zoom dial on it has grooves so moving that it is pretty simple.
There is a flip-down lens cover on this scope. It has a straight body design, so it will be a top voice if you want to view down on your target from a higher vantage point.
The scope comes with fully multi-coated lenses and BK7 Porro Prism. It means that image clarity will be pretty good. It also has a durable construction and has a wide magnification range.
The controls are pretty simple to use, but this scope does get weak if you look for more clarity at distant objects. It also had a slightly darker view when the conditions were gloomy. So, this is not going to be a perfect voice for digiscoping.
If the conditions are great, this scope will perform exceptionally well, but it’s not the best option for dull light conditions. On the other hand, it’s a pretty good quality scope that you can use for bird watching and scenery but nothing too precise.
- Great budget option.
- Lightweight and easy to transport.
- A carrying bag is included in the purchase.
- Features variable magnification.
- Wide field of view ranging from 51 feet to 114 feet.
- Dim in low light conditions.
6. Bushnell Trophy Xtreme Spotting Scope – Best for Wet Conditions
The Trophy Xtreme Bushnell is a waterproof spotting scope. Its premium lens coating doesn’t allow moisture to enter the lens of the scope. Additionally, this scope has rubber armor on it. It means that no matter how wet your hands can get, you are not going to lose grip on your Bushnell scope.
This scope comes with a full rubber design to ensure you have a proper grip on it when you are holding it. It comes with a straight eyepiece and has a pretty lightweight design.
It comes with fully multi-coated lenses and Porro prism to make sure that light transmission and clarity go hand in hand when you are viewing through the scope.
The telescope also comes with a shorter tripod, so it will work well if you are going to use it when laying around or on high ground. This scope comes with a variable magnification that ranges from 18x to 48x, and its close focus is around 25 feet.
Controls are pretty simple to use, and the cope itself can produce pretty good viewing results. It’s alright, is pretty impeccable, and you will also get a pretty fair eye relief, so all those glasses wearers will use this scope pretty efficiently.
- Fully multi-coated lens.
- It is made of completely waterproof rubber armor.
- It can handle moisture really well.
- The compact tripod work as a car window mount.
- Features variable magnification.
- Low light performance could have been better.
7. Leupold SX-2 Spotting Scope – Best for Hunting
Leupold is second to none when it comes to durability. The Alpine SX-2 is a good quality spotting scope with a 60mm HD lens and a variable magnification ranging from 20x to 60x.
In this budget, this is the best spotting scope. However, you will also notice a big size, especially if you compare it with other options on this list.
This scope does come with angled eyepieces, and its eyepieces are of high quality as well. So if you’re looking for something that you can use on your shooting or hunting sessions, you need to go for this scope.
And the best part is that if you have the right phone mount, you can connect your smartphone with it for digiscoping. But this scope doesn’t come with any special accessories, and you will have to purchase them all. Also, it could have had a better eye relief, but that is not the case, and we think this is the only flaw.
- Solid construction.
- Lightweight design.
- Easy to adjust and focus.
- This cope is tripod ready as well.
- It comes with a variable magnification of 20x to 60x.
- Eye relief should have been better.
Spotting Scope Buyers Guide
Hopefully our Best Budget Spotting Scopes review helped you decide which scope is best for you and your activities. We’ve spent many hours separating these great picks from the rest.
Continue reading this spotting scope buyers guide if you’d like to know more about the anatomy of spotting scopes and what we specifically look for when placing one on this list.
If this is your first time purchasing a spotting scope I suggest reading this guide first.
Straight Versus Angled Scope
The biggest difference between these two styles, is that the angled scope performs best when used to view objects at a different height than you. Whether that be above or below you. Straight scopes fair well when viewing things at different heights but should be reserved for viewing objects at your level.
Straight spotting scopes tend to be a bit longer, but have a bit less height, while angled scopes are a bit shorter in length, but a bit taller.
Zoom and Lens Sizes
There are two important numbers that describe every spotting scope. They’ll often be presented as 20×60 or 20-40×60. The number before the “x” describes the zooms available on the spotting scope. So in this example it was 20×60 scope, meaning it has a fixed zoom scope with a magnification of 20 times.
Most spotting scopes manufactured today are variable zoom. Meaning they can provide clear images at different magnifications. The amount of zoom is often control by a spinning wheel around the scopes casing.
If a scope was 20-40×60, that would mean it can offer clear images anywhere between 20 and 400 magnification.
The number after the “x” indicates the size of the lens. By default this number is always measured in millimeters. So a 20×60 spotting scope would have a 60 millimeter lens.
The bigger the lens is, the more light it lets in, and the better the final picture quality will be.
Lens & Mirror Coating
Lenses throughout history have always struggled with reflecting and focusing natural light. However, thanks to more modern spotting scopes and their new manufacturing techniques, special coatings are applied to the glass to solve this problem.
You’ll need to decide how much light you want your final images to have before purchasing a budget spotting scope. The protective glass on untreated mirrors can absorb up to 96% of the light they’re exposed to. But if you’re looking for a brighter image, some chemicals can be added to the glass that allow it to absorb just 20% of the light.
An ED lens is going to be your best friend, given the price points of the budget spotting scopes, ED lenses are the best way to deal with chromatic aberration or issues with lens focusing different wavelengths of light.
Extra-low diffraction lenses, or ED use either a special shape or chemical coating to help manage the colors and ensure a crystal clear and well-defined image.
Frequently Asked Questions
A spotting scope with a magnification of 20-60X60 can get you clear images up to 100 yards, but often these scopes offer the best resolution in ranges 20X to 40X.
Knowing how much your willing to spend on a spotting scope is important as most options range in price from $300 up to $6,000. Scopes that are sold for well over $1,000 offer significantly better image compared to a $300 scope.
Spotting scopes are popular among people who need enlarged images of something far away. Ideal uses of a spotting scope include hunting, birding, camping, stargazing and other large distance viewing activities.
Spotting scopes are generally only worth using if you’re hunting large game in wide-open areas. The spotting scope can help you set up and get a long distance shot. For wooded areas with dense vegetation, a pir of binoculars should do just fine.
In our opinion, the best budget spotting scope is the Gosky 20-60×80 Scope. It comes at an affordable price, and it is fully packed with features. It’s a waterproof device with a larger 80mm lens and variable magnification of 20x to 60x. In addition, it’s a lightweight design, so you won’t have any trouble carrying it.