SCOPES

Best Spotting Scope Under $500: Sighting in on Saving Money

Spotting scope mounted on camera
Mike Benton
Written by Mike Benton

Given the superior features and functionality of scopes, it is increasingly difficult to find a much more affordable scope that will not break your bank. Instead, you find most high-end ones costing over a thousand dollars.

If you do not want to break your bank, read along as this article will try to review and help you choose the best spotting scope under 500 bucks.

Spotting scopes focus solely on what should be the main feature of a scope – providing a clear vision at extremely long distances. This is why many hunters use spotting scopes.

But unlike rifle scopes or laser rangefinders, they do not provide utility and mobility such as some other optic products do. They simply boost one single feature, the main feature of an optical product.

Spotting scope and rifle

The article will unfold the best spotting scopes on the market characterized by their unique features as highlighted hereunder. Handpicking a certain particular scope is a tough job that can be lessened by knowing the important aspects of each scope in terms of the features.

We’ve therefore provided you things to consider before buying in order to make your shopping easy. But, firstly, we have included the table below to give you a glimpse of these products.

Product NameWeightExit PupilMagnificationPrice
Vortex Optics DBK-80S12.9 pounds4 - 1.3 mm20 - 60xCheck price on Amazon
Vanguard Endeavor HD 65A3.2 pounds4.2 - 1.35 mm15 - 45xCheck price on Amazon
Celestron Ultima7.1 pounds4.5 - 1.5 mm22 - 6xCheck price on Amazon
Bushnell Trophy XLT2.6 pounds3.25 - 1.1 mm10 - 60xCheck price on Amazon
Konus 71225.3 pounds5 - 1.67 mm20 - 60xCheck price on Amazon
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD5.1 pounds4 - 1.3 mm20 - 60xCheck price on Amazon
Redfield Rampage Angled6.1 pounds4 - 1.3 mm20 - 60xCheck price on Amazon
Celestron C59.6 pounds2.6 mm50xCheck price on Amazon

Things to Consider Before Buying

Like we have emphasized above, it is imperative to be familiar with the features of a certain scope to be able to make an informed decision. The choice of the best among the seemingly impressive spotting scopes can be overwhelming particularly to the novice.Take a look at what to look for before making any purchase.

Type of the spotting scope

There are two types of spotting scopes; straight models and angled models. When it comes to angled spotting scopes, there are 45-degree and 90-degree angles to choose from.But, do not worry too much about the angle, but other features of the product. For instance, the weight of a spotting scope may have more impact on how it performs overall and how it fits you than angle type of the product.

Price Tag

The spotting scopes can, usually, range from $200 to $2000. In this article, we have brought the ones under $500 to accommodate everyone, including those with financial constraints. No matter how expensive the spotting scope is, you will have to take some of the main features in consideration in order to more accurately determine which one would fit you best and after all, to determine the overall quality of the product.

Magnification

Magnification is the first thing to look for when picking the right spotting scope. It determines the minimum and maximum range the scope can reach with a clear image. Most of the scopes on the list have a magnification range of 20-60 times, which can be considered somewhat a standard magnification for spotting scopes.

become-a-spotting-scope-master-1024x680

Credit: spottingscopereviews.net

However, not all of them fit into this particular magnification range. This is due to some products focusing on special needs of consumers. For instance, not all people need 60x magnification, and for others, a more close range will be more fitting.

Apart from trying to feed the special needs of consumers, sometimes the reason for reduced magnification or having different magnification range from the standard used one is due to reducing its price in favor of some other features such as durability or special technologies applied to the product to fit more extreme weather conditions.

Reducing the price is also something that aims to fit the needs of consumers but in a different manner. Your budget may be limited, and being able to pick a product that performs very well in conditions you intend to use it with the budget given can be very handful and can easily have a great impact on making the final decision.

Exit Pupils

Basically, it’s up to the exit pupil when it comes to how far your eye can be from the scope. Larger exit pupils will allow you to stand back a little bit, which can make it much easier for people wearing glasses.

spotting scope

Dimensions

Spotting scopes come in a vast range of various dimensions. Sometimes they are really big and heavy, but they are usually supposed to be attached to a tripod, so the maximum capacity is more than it would be with people having to hold it themselves. This allows them to use more powerful lenses, so the scopes can reach longer distances. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that larger spotting scopes have better features.

You should consider all the features and see how they would fit you, and many things can have an impact on making your decision. For instance, you might want it to be more mobile, so you will go for a smaller spotting scope.

But you won’t need it to reach distances that 60x magnification would provide, so it might fit your needs since there would be no barricades that you won’t be able to breach.  On the other hand, you can never know where all you can go and in this case, you’ll go for a scope with higher magnification.

Durability

It is very important to be sure that your spotting scope won’t be damaged when using it in your environment. Nitrogen-filled scopes are fog proof and being waterproof and moisture-proof makes your scope last longer.

Costum Vortex Diamondback Spotting Scope

Weather changes can sometimes be unpredictable, and when it comes to them, being resistant will bring two things:

  • Prevents your scope from being damaged.
  • It allows you to continue observing if the weather conditions are not too extreme.

Some scopes are rubber armored, which makes them more resistant to any kind of damage, but also protects your scope from any kind of moisture.

Best Products on Today’s Market

Now that we have gone over everything that you should look for in a quality spotting scope, we’ll zoom in specific devices.  You’ll find that any of these is a great choice, but you’ll need to consider specifically how you’ll be using your scope and select the right one for you.

Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scope

Vortex Optics DBK-80S1 DiamondbackPrice: Approx. $500

Weight: 2.9 pounds

Dimensions: 14.9 x 3.2 x 3.2 inches

Specific features: Straight spotting scope, exit pupil of 4-1.3 mm, 20-60x magnification, waterproof, fog proof, built-in sunshade

Best use: Easy to carry around for longer trips, deer hunting

The Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scope brought a straight-type model which is one of the best spotting scopes on the market under $500. Many people believe that this particular scope is one of the best scopes for the money paid.

It has 20-60x magnification which is considered a standard because it is highly adaptable to different distances, so you can see better and in a wider range. Weighing only 2.9 pounds you can easily carry it around. It allows you to stay mobile and move more quickly and with more ease.

Its exit pupil is mid-sized and can work very well with people wearing glasses. People not wearing glasses will also more easily see through the scope. Built-in sunshade makes the brightness adapt more naturally allowing a much better and a clearer view than it usually appears.

Going on a deer hunt can be improved by locating them at very long distances and verifying your targets, among improved other features when compared to rifle scopes, for an example.

PROS:

  • Good magnification range of 20 to 60x for clearer images
  • Weatherproof, so it becomes easy to use the spotting scope even in harsh weather conditions
  • It weighs just 2.9 pounds. This gives assurance that the scope will not be a burden moving from one place to another
  • Great exit pupil diameter to provide the convenience to those wearing protective glasses as well.
  • Integrated sunshade to enhance clearer images when faced with the shiny sunny day

CONS:

  • To use this spotting scope efficiently, it is recommended you mount it on a tripod/bipod. Unfortunately, these are not included, so they have to be purchased separately. When purchasing them, the price exceeds $500. That’s extra cost you’ve probably not budgeted for.

Related: The tripod that you should buy as the additional accessory is the Vortex Optics Pro GT Tripod. It provides smooth horizontal and vertical adjustments. Having been produced by the same company, it reassures your compatibility with the scope.

Check the price on Amazon

Vanguard Endeavor Spotting Scope

Vanguard Endeavor HD 65APrice: Approx. $450

Weight: 3.2 pounds

Specific features: Angled spotting scope, exit pupil of 4.2 – 1.35 mm, 15-45x magnification, waterproof, fog proof rubber armor

Best use: Best for mid-range use

The Vanguard Endeavor Spotting Scope is an angled spotting scope brought by Vanguard. Since this scope doesn’t have high magnification like many other pieces on the market, it can be considered a very brave decision designing a model like this. However, it seems to have proven worth its value.

It is very small and handy, so it can be easily carried with you whenever you need it, and it doesn’t cause any problem in terms of moving it. Also, its weight is proportionate to its size, with only 3.2 pounds making it one of the lighter scopes around the market in its budget category.

Also, it designed to be totally waterproof and filled with nitrogen, making it fog proof, too. To make it extra durable and prevent from catching moisture, and by this damaging your scope, it’s covered in rubber armor.

Beyond using at mid-range, the image seems to get distorted so this is the main weakness. Still, you should be aware that the market dictations do not necessarily have to mean its optimal overall set of features may fit everyone’s needs equally and universally.

In fact, this spotting scope could be exactly the right fit for you. However, take the notion of that there are much better scopes on the market, but much more expensive ones.

PROS:

  • Even though the tripod is not included, purchasing it leads us to below the $500 mark, still
  • Versatile angled spotting scope with impressive exit pupil
  • Rubber armored design to extend the durability
  • Water and fog-proof to protect it against the inclement climatic conditions
  • Lightweight and compact for ease of handling

CONS:

  • Not having higher magnification like its competitors. However, it still performs fairly well because higher magnification doesn’t necessarily mean crystal images. Some can be distorted the higher you extend the magnification range

Related: To mount and stabilize this spotting scope, we recommend getting the Vanguard VS-82 Table Top Tripod. It is an affordable tripod produced by the same company. It is non-slippery and lightweight with the aluminum construction.

Check the price on Amazon

Celestron Ultima Spotting Scope

Celestron 52252 100mm Ultima ZoomPrice: Approx. $320

Weight: 7.01 pounds

Dimensions: 22 x 7 x 7 inches

Specific features: Angled scope, exit pupil of 4.5-1.5 mm, 22-66x magnification, waterproof, fog proof

Best use: Longer distances

The Celestron Ultima Spotting Scope is a larger and a heavier type of an angled tripod scope. One of its main benefits comes right from its size. It has high magnification, up to 66x, which lets you have a clearer view of what is at very long distances. Also, its exit pupil is large enough to perfectly fit any person wearing glasses.

It is also very sensitive and adaptable to light changes. Its brightness levels with the environment and lets you see a clearer picture, enhancing its power for both people wearing glasses and those without them.

Its clarity is improved by being fog proof, and you can even use during rainy weather, as long as weather conditions are not too extreme. It is fully waterproof which makes it durable and protects you from unpredictable weather changes.

Weighing over 7 pounds, it is not the lightest piece of equipment, so might to put some more effort into carrying it around. Also, when speaking of extreme weather changes it is not as easy to dispatch as it is when having a smaller and a lighter scope.

Although, it is adaptable it certainly is not limitless. That’s why it comes with a rather lower price than many other spotting scopes on the list with similar features.

PROS:

  • Fairly an affordable spotting scope
  • Higher magnification range to ace long-distance spotting activities
  • Sufficient exit pupil diameter for the benefit of those using eyeglasses when viewing
  • It is fog and waterproof, so it becomes conducive to use it in harsh weather conditions

CONS:

  • It is not a light spotting scope. So you have to organize the tripod to hold it of which it is not included in the purchase. Extra cost!

Related: Because 7 pounds of this spotting scope make it a relatively bulkier item, we recommend prioritizing the Celestron Heavy-Duty Altazimuth Tripod to your rescue. It is made of quality materials so it will last long while you mount the scope on it for the stabilized handling.

Check the price on Amazon

Bushnell Trophy XLT Spotting Scope

Bushnell Trophy XLTPrice: Approx. $300

Weight: 2.6 pounds

Dimensions: 13.6 x 5.4 x 6.6 inches

Specific features: 10-60x magnification, exit pupil of 3.25 -1.1 mm, angled spotting scope, waterproof, fog proof, rubber armor

Best use: Both close to long distance

The Bushnell Trophy XLT Spotting Scope brought out by Bushnell is a low-priced product that can bring Bushnell guaranteed performance. Bushnell is a widely-known company creating a line of different hunting equipment and optic products which perform excellently, such as bow laser rangefinders and rifle scopes.

Its magnification is more sensitive than it is the case with the most spotting scopes with a maximum magnification of 60x which usually have the lowest magnification point of 20x. Instead, XLT-20-60x is a product with the lowest magnification point of 10x.

This makes this item much more universal because it can be used for shorter range distances and perform very well. Still, long distances do not reduce its clarity.

However, its exit pupil is not too wide, and it can perform more poorly for people wearing glasses. Although it is not too narrow, and you can see quite well through it, some people might prefer having a larger scope for a better and an easier view.

It is mid-sized, but it weighs much less when compared to other products of the similar dimensions. Even if you compare it with products of different dimensions, it weighs disproportionately less to its size.

Being larger than it weighs, it is easy to carry around, yet creates space for better lenses and better brightness adaptation, providing clearer images.

You can also be sure it’s extremely durable and resistant to weather changes and more extreme weather conditions such as rain or fog. It’s also covered in rubber armor for additional protection and moisture resistance. Also, it scales down the possible consequences of it falling to a hard ground.

PROS:

  • A durable spotting scope with sturdy and quality construction materials
  • It is weatherproof, so it’s safe to use it in unfavorable conditions
  • Has an impressive magnification to reveal the clarity of images at longer distances
  • It is an affordable spotting scope to accommodate every avid hunter
  • Made with the non-slippery rubber armor for a comfortable grip

CONS:

  • The exit pupil is not impressively large enough. So this might cause some inconvenience to others using eyeglasses. Nonetheless, it still performs well

Related: The Company offers the high-quality Bushnell Advanced Tripod made with durable materials. It is a versatile tripod to hold binoculars, monocular and scopes. It was tested extensively for high performance. So, investing in this tripod is worth every dollar.

Check the price on Amazon

Konus 7122 Spotting Scope

Konus 7122 Spotting ScopePrice: Approx. $300

Weight: 5.3 pounds

Dimensions: 20 x 6 x 5 inches

Specific features: 20-60x magnification, angled spotting scope, exit pupil of 5-1.67 mm, waterproof, fog proof

Best use: Mid-range to long-range, requires a solid ground and a heavy tripod

The Konus 7122 Spotting Scope is a big and a decent angled spotting scope. It is a piece of equipment that will surely make your hunting experience or any other use of the product much more interesting and overall effective. It is a bit big in size, and being this big, it requires a tripod that is more stable and that can hold it properly.

This will be an extra expense to gear up fully in order to use this product. However, a new tripod that is capable of holding it still is not more than about $100 and combined with the tripod, this spotting scope fits into the under $500 category.

Its magnification goes 20-60x which is pretty decent and allows you to identify objects with a clear image at the distance of up to 1000 yards. Although its magnification is the same as it is with a few other products on the list, this scope has a larger exit pupil than most with a 5 – 1.67 mm depending on which magnification level you are using.

Being waterproof and filled with nitrogen, therefore fog proof too, it is fit for different weather conditions and can endure weather changes. Extreme weather changes may require of you to pack up and leave, and in this case, it is a bit trickier than other scopes because of its size, and the weight of the tripod it requires.

Still, this is an excellent spotting scope for all of those with a limited budget. Not only that it fits into the under $500 category, but it is way below the limit. It’s a great tool for starters, and those who want to add a good, but a cheap spotting scope to their gear.

PROS:

  • A large exit pupil, If you are using eyeglasses on this spotting scope you do not have to take them off because the exit pupil allows you to use them.
  • Can spot up to 1000 yards. That is a sufficient distance for farther away objects
  • Filled with nitrogen for fog proof and waterproof features. So using this scope in bad weather conditions is not a bad thing
  • Combining the scope and the tripod costs less than $500
  • Objective lens diameter is large enough

CONS:

  • The tripod is sold separately. That is an extra cost to the finance conscious hunters

Related: To mount this spotting scope, you need a reliable and durable tripod. Among others, we recommend to you the Vanguard VS-82 Table Top Tripod, which is not only good quality but affordable too.

Check the price on Amazon

Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Spotting Scope

Bushnell Legend Ultra HDPrice: Approx. $250

Weight: 5.1 pounds

Dimensions: 16.5 x 4.5 x 8.9 inches

Specific features: 20-60x magnification, angled spotting scope, exit pupil of 4-1.3 mm, waterproof, HD rain guard coating, fog proof

Best use: Rainy weather

The Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Spotting Scope is another Bushnell product to make the list. Like all the Bushnell products, it has simplified, easily recognized signature design. What it is focused on is its features that make this spotting scope perform very well, especially in rainy weather conditions.

Unlike Trophy XLT model, which is also on this list, its magnification bottom level is not reduced to 10x but is rather kept at the standard 20x. While Bushnell didn’t focus on creating wider magnification possibilities, they made this product a very special one because of the HD rain guard coating.

HD rain guard coating is a technology that allows this scope to be extremely adaptable to rainy weather conditions. It makes the image as clear as possible, and unlike any other product on the list, it can be effectively used during the rain.

It’s got a mid-sized exit pupil, but even though it doesn’t use pupil size to create a better image, which is, to be honest, still pretty decent, it uses the mentioned technology to adjust the brightness and provide image clarity even during the most extreme weather conditions.

Additionally, it is fog proof and very durable. It weighs a bit more than 5 pounds and with a stable and heavy tripod, it can withstand all that would be barriers to other products. However, a heavier tripod means you will have to spend some extra money to make it work properly.

PROS:

  • HD rain guard technology enables you to use the scope even in rainy weather conditions. Other scopes cannot withstand the downpour.
  • Water and fog proof
  • Impressive magnification from 20-60x
  • The exit pupil is also sufficiently large
  • Affordable scope among others with the price tag under $250, but expect more if you consider the tripod

CONS:

  • The excluded tripod price costs more in total price
  • The higher you go with magnification is the more blurry the images may become

Related: For the best and ideal tripod for this spotting scope, we recommend the Dolica AX620B100 Proline Tripod. It is strong and lightweight, made of the aluminum material. The tripod supports up to 13.2lbs. It also comes with the quick release leg locks and non-slippery rubber feet to survive the slippery terrains.

Check the price on Amazon

Redfield Rampage Angled Spotting Scope

Redfield 114651 RampagePrice: Approx. $290

Weight: 6.1 pounds

Dimensions: 16 x 7 x 6 inches

Specific features: 20-60x magnification, waterproof, fog proof, angled spotting scope, rubber armor

Best use: Mid to long range, rainy and foggy weather, exit pupil of 4-1.3 mm

The Redfield Rampage Angled Spotting Scope is a not-so-expensive spotting scope that can perform really well and serve you the best way possible.

What is the most attractive about it is that it is heavy enough to stand still, though it is not too heavy to carry around (it is not that light either) it’s also got standard 20-60x magnification range and it is a very durable piece of equipment?

In addition, it comes with a small tripod when you buy it which really saves your money, unlike with some other products on the list that require a heavy tripod and suck more money out of your budget.

However, you can always get a bigger and a heavier tripod to make it stand at higher points and in order to secure it so that you can get the most out of it.

Its durability comes from being both waterproof and fog proof as well as being covered in rubber armor. Being waterproof and fog proof makes this scope resistant to different weather conditions and prevents damage or unpleasant experience when unexpected weather changes occur.

Preventing damage is saving money in the long run. Also, it works as a moisture protection.

PROS:

  • Comes with a small tripod to mount it for stable images and hands-free handling
  • Exit pupil is large enough to accommodate those with protective eyeglasses
  • Weatherproof spotting scope that will enable you to use it without harsh weather fears
  • Durable spotting scope made with non-slip design
  • It is affordable under $300. The included small tripod can save you money

CONS:

  • The tripod may be too small for others if you want to make the most out of it. You might be prompted to purchase a larger tripod.
  • Full magnification may make the image details blurry

Related: If you travel by car, you might need the ALPEN Car Window Mounting Device to easily operate this scope instead of holding it with hands throughout the session. And if you want to invest more, we recommend getting the larger Bushnell Advanced Tripod as well because the included tripod is insufficient for other viewing angles. It is nonetheless a great consideration as well despite the small size.

Check the price on Amazon

Celestron C5 Spotting Scope

Celestron C5 Spotting ScopePrice: Approx. $500

Weight: 9.6 pounds

Dimensions: 13 x 6 x 10 inches

Specific features: 50x magnification, exit pupil of 2.6mm, angled spotting scope

Best use: Requires clear weather

The Celestron C5 Spotting Scope has a special on this list because of its magnification. Unlike other products on the list, its magnification is fixed at 50x, so it is not that easily adaptable to different situations and needs. It is a bit more specialized piece of equipment.

Its exit pupil is disproportionately small when compared to its size and magnification with only 2.6 mm, which makes it a poor choice for people wearing glasses.

Also, this product is not weather resistant at all, meaning its scope is not filled with nitrogen, therefore it is not fog resistant, nor it is waterproof, so do not use it unless you’re sure that you going under clear skies.

What is also disproportionate is its weight when considering its dimensions. Its design makes it a fast scope that is probably best to have as an addition to your already existing set of optic items. It is not wise to purchase this spotting scope if you don’t already own one that is more adaptable and more durable than this one.

However, it performs very well when using it in the range of its possibilities and conditions it can endure. It is one of the most expensive spotting scopes on the list, and reduction of its other features is only so that it would be more affordable to the consumer while providing excellent medium long range performance.

PROS:

  • Advanced Spotting features with a superb performance, hence the expensive price tag
  • It is a lightweight spotting scope
  • Durable, but work best in favorable conditions

CONS:

  • Not weatherproof. So, beware of using it in inclement temperatures
  • Has a fixed magnification. You have no wiggling room of choosing whichever magnification you want
  • It is fairly expensive considering the need for the tripod too, the price might exceed $500

Related: For this advanced spotting scope, we recommend a heavy-duty tripod such as the Celestron Heavy-Duty Altazimuth Tripod. It is sturdy and durable to withstand the wilderness abuse on even or uneven terrains.

Check the price on Amazon

Final Thoughts

Spotting scopes are a bit of a more serious type of scopes. If you want to add a spotting scope to your gear set, it is advisable to first reflect on if you will be able to use it productively. Try not to rush into buying a scope that fits into your budget at first look.

It may be too heavy and too big, so you will have to make an extra purchase and get a tripod that can hold it. If your tripod is too light for your scope, you won’t be able to exploit your scope’s full capacity.

Also, dimensions of the scope should be an important feature that you should take into consideration when making your decision because the nature of your activities may require different levels of mobility.

Having a lighter and a smaller spotting scope, therefore a lighter and a smaller tripod for it may make things easy for you. For some, it may be no difference, but it won’t hurt to think it through.

looking in Vortex Diamondback Spotting Scope

Take care of the exit pupil dimensions if you wear glasses. Having larger exit pupils allows you to easily see the image without attaching yourself to the scope. If you are in a dilemma, and you do not wear glasses, it is always better to pick the product with a better image view.

Try to make sure that you pick a product that is also durable and resistant to different weather conditions. You will most likely be using it in the wilderness, so being resistant to different weather conditions may be as important as being able to sustain damage from falling if the terrain is unstable.

Now it is your turn. Let us know which scope you ended up going with and what you liked about it. Tell us all about it in the comment section below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Benton
Mike Benton

Mike is a hunter since he was 6 years old and his father would take him to Alaska or British Columbia. He realized that the difference in gear that you have might have a big impact on how much game will you carry home. Later he decided to share his valuable experience with our readers to help you to choose the proper gear for hunting and outdoors.

  • Carl Agner

    You can definitely spend way more than $500 on a spotting scope, but the abovementioned models are certainly good enough to get the job done. I personally favor the Redfield and will probably invest in it. I heard that it can have some trouble with ghosting, which is really a minor annoyance. I’d like to really know how the high-end spotting scopes perform though and what the real difference is.

  • Mike Benton

    The spotting scopes we have reviewed in this article are all high performing. The best spotting scope is one that best suits your application. For instance, the Redfield is ideal for spot and stalk hunting.

  • Brian Waters

    I want to buy my wife a spotting scope as a gift. She loves to go on camping trips with our family, but she isn’t a fan of guns. I wanted to find something that was phenomenal quality for her viewing pleasure. She loves watching the wildlife and the birds soaring around the mountain sides. Can anyone with experience of the Vanguard Endeavor HD 65A Angled Eyepiece Spotting Scope tell me how it works

  • Mike Benton

    The Vanguard Endeavor HD 65A Angled Spotting Scope features extra-low dispersion glass that does a great job of eliminating color fringing. And it comes with high-quality features.

  • Anton Pasenko

    Most hunters, including me, trust Vortex brand. So, I think that Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scope is the best in the list. However, the price for the Vortex tripod kit is extremely high. So, I wonder whether it is possible to purchase a cheaper tripod from a different brand?

  • Mike Benton

    There are cheaper options as far as the tripod mount goes, from Vortex. Alternatively, you can consider inexpensive, compatible models from other brands.

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