Best Spotting Scopes Under 500 (2021): Robustly Constructed Models With Impressive Magnification, High Adjustability, Multi-Coated Lens & Waterproofing– Tested & Reviewed
- Erik Himmel
Spotting scopes are in the middle point between binoculars and telescopes. They have a greater vision range than regular binoculars. They're more compact and less expensive than best telescopes. You can take them with you to all your outdoor trips to enjoy even more of nature's wonders.
However, finding a spotting scope that really works isn’t that easy. The market is full of generic products, made with low-quality materials. For that reason, you have to be able to distinguish between a good spotting scope and a useless piece of junk.
In this buyer’s guide, you’ll learn all the factors that you should consider before buying a new scope. Here you'll also find a top 10 list with the best selling models at low cost.
What You Will Get Here
- Spotting Scope Under 500 Comparison Chart (Updated 2021)
- What Is Special About Spotting Scopes and What Can You Get for $500?
- Spotting Scope Under $500: Buying Guide
- Our Top 5 Spotting Scopes Under 500 USD
- Roxant Authentic Blackbird High Definition Spotting Scope
- Emarth 20-60x60AE Waterproof Angled Spotting Scope
- Barska 15-40x50 Colorado Spotting Scope
- Celestron Ultima 80 Angled Spotting Scope
- Gosky 2019 Updated 20-60x80 Spotting Scope
- Other Notable Brands
- Spotting Scopes Care & Maintenance Tips
- A Word from RangerExpert
Spotting Scope Under 500 Comparison Chart (Updated 2021)
Roxant Authentic Blackbird High Definition Spotting ScopeRead Full Review
Emarth 20-60x60AE Waterproof Angled Spotting ScopeRead Full Review
Barska 15-40x50 Colorado Spotting ScopeRead Full Review
Celestron Ultima 80 Angled Spotting ScopeRead Full Review
Gosky 2019 Updated 20-60x80 Spotting ScopeRead Full Review
What Is Special About Spotting Scopes and What Can You Get for $500?
A spotting scope can be an inexhaustible source of entertainment. However, these devices have many more benefits than you might imagine. Here's a list with some of them:
They're better than binoculars
Spotting scopes have a higher magnification and better light gathering ability than the high-end binoculars. That means, they can provide a better image quality. In addition, they can reach longer distances. This is why, spotting scopes are better deals when it comes to accuracy and magnification.
They're more compact than telescopes
Some spotting scopes have the same features as some telescopes. However, spotting scopes are usually smaller and easier to carry than telescopes. So, you can take them with you to your outdoor adventures without effort.
They allow you to enjoy nature more
Spotting scopes allow you to enjoy those small details that escape from naked eyes. For example, the subtle colors in the plumage of birds or the natural glow of the stars or the impressive craters on the moon.
Spotting Scope Under $500: Buying Guide
1. Spotting scope power
Magnification and light gathering are two features that determine the scope's power. Both features are usually designated by numbers. In this case, the spotting scope is more powerful when the numbers are higher. Generally, these handheld scopes were used for astronomical purposes. Later, birdwatchers and hunters adapted them for their games.
Usually, the magnification is defined by a number followed by an "X". In simple words, magnification is the zoom level of your spotting scope. For example, if magnification is “20X”, the target will appear 20 times larger than if looked with bare eyes.
In the case of spotting scopes, it’s common to find power designations with two numbers. For example, 20-60X. This is the magnification range, which tells you the minimum and maximum values . Usually, the lowest value corresponds to the magnification of the ocular lens.
On the other hand, the number that follows the “X” is the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters. The objective lens receives light and focuses it on the optic system of the scope. When the objective lens is larger, more light passes through the barrel. As a result, you get brighter and sharper images.
It’s always good to have a large objective lens with high levels of magnification. If the magnification is high and the objective lens is small, images will look blurry. However, choosing too large lenses isn’t recommended. They make your spotting scope heavier and more difficult to carry.
2. Fixed vs. detachable eyepiece
In the case of spotting scopes, eyepieces can be fixed or detachable. Usually, devices with fixed eyepieces are more common and cheaper. Many people believe that having fixed eyepieces with high-power magnifications is better. But they’re wrong.
If magnification is too high, images tend to look dark and blurry. For bird hunting or birding, eyepieces with 20X-30X are the most preferred.
Spotting scopes with detachable eyepieces are more practical and versatile. In some cases, lowering the magnification of the ocular lens is good. For example, when the target is too close but your magnification makes the image blurry.
3. Straight vs. angled eyepiece
Choosing between a straight or angled eyepiece depends on personal tastes. However, it’s true that angled eyepieces are much more comfortable than straight ones. For example, when you’re looking through a straight eyepiece, you tend to put too much pressure on your neck.
Choosing a straight configuration isn’t recommended if you’re using your scope for hours. On the other hand, angled eyepieces allow you to vary the incline at your convenience. That way, you set a position where your neck doesn't suffer too much.
Angled eyepieces are useful when you’re sharing your scope with others. That way, each user can set the right tilt of the eyepiece for maximum comfort.
4. Glass coatings
Glass lenses work the same way as prisms. When light passes through them, it separates into beams of different colors. This is the main cause of color distortion. When this happens, you don't see the actual colors of your target. And that's a big difference when you're using your scope for bird watching.
Only high-end scopes usually come with the ED glass on the lenses. This material prevents light scattering, focusing all wavelengths on a single point. The result is a sharper and more colorful image.
However, ED glass reflects some of the light it receives. Therefore, it’s recommended that the lenses are coated with magnesium fluoride. This material reduces up to 20 times the light reflection index of glass.
If you’re going to buy a new scope, make sure it includes some useful accessories like a tripod and carrying case. Make sure the tripod is sturdy and completely made of metal. Those tripods with plastic parts tend to break too soon. If that happens, you’ll have to spend more money on a new tripod. Apart from that, you can also attach a digiscoping adapter to your scope to record video clips while birding simultaneously. Make sure your backpack has got a spotting scope pocket to carry the thing safely.
It’s convenient for the scope to have its own cleaning kit. Keeping the lenses and the barrel clean will prevent scratches and other damages.
Our Top 5 Spotting Scopes Under 500 USD
Blackbird is a powerful spotting scope with 36X of magnification and an objective lens of 50 mm. It's portable, foldable and easy to handle. In addition, you can attach it to a tripod so you can aim with extreme precision. The eyepiece is tilted 45 degrees, leaving you in a comfortable position to watch and enjoy.
This device is completely waterproof and covered with rubber. The focus ring is wider for better handling. In addition, it has a textured surface to improve grip. That way, your hands will never slip off the ring if they’re sweaty. The eyepiece can be extended or retracted so you can put it at a convenient distance from your eye.
The multi-coated lenses correct color distortion and prevent light reflection. The barrel has a built in sunshade which prevents dazzled eyes. So, you'll always have a clear view of your target if the lenses are directly exposed to sunlight. You can use this spotting scope for all kinds of outdoor activities. That includes hunting, stargazing and bird watching.
Roxant Blackbird has a lifetime replacement guarantee. The manufacturer covers all costs associated with the replacement of defective parts. So, you’ll never have to spend your money to repair your spotting scope.
Unlike other scopes, this one has a metal mounting screw where the tripod goes. This guarantees the scope will never separate from the tripod. Usually, inexpensive spotting scopes have plastic mounting screws. They tend to wear out too quickly. When the screw breaks, the scope falls to the ground.
This device is built following Military standards. So, it's incredibly resistant to high impacts, scratches and water pressure. You can use it in humid places or near water bodies.
- Magnification: 12X-36X
- Objective lens: 50mm
- Compatible with standard tripods
- Metal mounting screw
- Multi-coated lenses
- Built-in sunshade
If durability is important to you, this is the spotting scope you need. Besides, the 12-36x50 zooming capacity, rubberized waterproof construction, retractable or extendable eyepiece, vivid image quality are the key features that make the deal more lucrative.
Nevertheless, Roxant Blackbird scope is manufactured following Military standards. That means, it will suffer no damage if it accidentally falls to the ground. So, what is the best spotting scope for the money? We give you the Roxant Authentic Blackbird. It’s simply the best spotting scope under 500 USD for all kinds of outdoor activities.
This scope is perfect for use in rainy environments. It’s 100% waterproof and is completely sealed with rubber on the outside. The lenses are fog proof to guarantee optimum visibility in high humidity. The built-in sunshade prevents glare when sunlight is focused on the lenses.
Emarth spotting scope has a 20X-60X of magnification range and a 60 mm objective lens. This configuration gives you a maximum vision range of 39 m at 1 km. This device is perfect for long-range shooting, hunting and wildlife viewing. You can also use it to appreciate the smallest details of the moon.
Unlike other spotting scopes, this one comes with its own tripod. Its ¼-inch fixing screw ensures stability and zero accidents. In addition, the tripod has a handy rotating handle that allows you to change the position of your scope.
This device occupies a special place in our top 5 list due to its incredible resistance to humidity. The O-rings that cover the lenses are thick and durable. The rubber stays strong even in high temperatures. This guarantees no gas leaks in the worst environmental conditions.
Another valuable feature is the advanced focal system. The prism inside the barrel is highly reflective, focusing more light on the eyepiece. Images of targets at long distances appear sharp and crystal clear. In addition, the eye relief is quite comfortable, perfect for people who wear glasses.
This Emarth spotting scope has an affordable price that makes it a great choice for the budget-conscious buyer. If you’re new to hunting or bird watching, this device will exceed all your expectations.
- Magnification: 20X-60X
- Objective lens: 60 mm
- Max vision range: 39 m at 1 Km
- Aircraft grade aluminum tripod
- Metal mounting screw
- Multi-coated lenses
- Built-in sunshade
Emarth spotting scope is perfect to take with you on your outdoor trips. Rain and wind can’t harm this masterpiece. The optical system is just amazing. Images look so sharp at maximum zoom. Best of all, its price is so low that anyone can buy it. It can be safely said that it’s one of the best spotting scopes under $500 and we highly recommend it.
Barska Colorado scope has a low profile that lets you to spot at the target range while you're lying on the ground. This design makes it perfect for snipers and experienced hunters. With this spotting scope, you can better hide in the forest so that your prey doesn’t notice your presence.
This scope also has multi-coated lenses that improve image quality in low light. In addition, the 50-mm objective lens lets in more light. This makes it a perfect buying choice for night hunting and watching the moon. Best of all, it only weighs 400 grams. So you can carry it in your backpack without effort. Perfect to take with you on your next trip.
This device comes with a practical case where you can also save the tripod and accessory. The tripod is foldable and doesn’t take up too much space once folded. This is a great advantage when there isn’t enough space in your backpack to store more things.
Above all, what makes this scope so special is its incredible image quality. No detail will escape from your vision range at a maximum distance of 150 yards. After that distance, the image may become a bit blurry. But, the difference is barely visible.
Another feature that draws our attention to this product is its size. It’s incredibly smaller and more compact than a regular spotting scope. Most spotting scopes make you slow on the hunting ground because they’re large and heavy. However, with this scope you can move fast so your prey never escapes from you.
- Magnification: 15X-40X
- Objective lens: 50 mm
- Soft case included
- Metal mounting screw
- Multi-coated lenses
- Mini tabletop tripod
If you’re looking for a portable scope that you can easily carry with you even into the nights, this is your best choice. Despite having night vision capacities, Barska Colorado scope is small, practical and easy to use. The image quality is excellent in both daylight and low light conditions. And the external case is solid, capable of resisting direct impacts without trouble.
This scope has an 80-mm objective lens, providing superior light gaining. The eyepiece is tilted 45º. This way, your neck suffers less when using your device. The multicoated lenses help correct color distortion and prevent light reflection. That way, you can perceive those little details that most scopes on the market can't show you.
This scope is slightly heavier and bulkier than usual. However, its ergonomic design makes it very easy to use. Once the scope is on the tripod, things get easier. The tripod isn’t included with the product. So, you'll have to buy a sturdy one to support the weight of this device.
This scope has a complete care and storage kit. It includes a carrying case, lens cloth and eyepiece pouch. The instructions are also included. That way, you can learn how to use your spotting scope if it's the first time that you buy one.
Certainly, the most interesting feature of this scope is its incredible zoom level. With 60X of magnification, this device can give you a clear close-up of the moon. So, this device can be a cheaper alternative to a telescope. You can also use it to watch the delicate details in the plumage of small birds.
Another reason that makes this scope a worth-buying option is its design. The frame and the lenses are one of the strongest ones, almost unbreakable. The cover of the barrel is resistant to external agents and water. The focus ring is larger, allowing you to make small corrections with precision.
This spotting scope also includes a T-Mount adapter so you can attach a digital camera. For this reason, you can also use this device as a digiscope. You can also avail an electronic accident protection plan for the device for an extra payment.
- Magnification: 60X
- Objective Lens: 80 mm
- T-Mount adapter included
- Metal mounting screw
- Multi-coated lenses
Celestron Ultima 80 can easily replace a small telescope. But, this option is more compact and easier to use. The rugged construction of this scope makes it almost indestructible. If it accidentally hits the ground, you can be sure the delicate lenses are well protected. No wonder why it is one of the top-rated models out there. Besides, Celestron also has a 90mm model that will give you an edge in the game too. Overall, it’s an amazon piece of optic up for sale and you can totally get it.
Gosky scope has a BAK4 Porro prism, which has an ultra-reflective surface. This spotting scope can give you sharp and crystal clear images even in the darkest night. So, it’s perfect to enjoy the beauty of the starry skies.
With an 80-mm objective lens, this scope is the one with more light gaining in our top ten list. For that reason, we highly recommend it for all kinds of nighttime activities. The multi-coated lenses prevent light reflection and make colors appear more vivid.
The barrel is sealed and filled with nitrogen. This makes it 100% waterproof and fog proof, making it ideal for tactical purposes. So, it's a suitable buying choice for duck hunters. If your scope accidentally falls into the water, nothing will happen. The rubber O-rings around the lenses prevent water entrance and gas escapes.
What most caught our attention about this scope is its sturdy tripod. It’s quite stable and completely made of metal. So, there are no plastic parts that may weaken and then break. The tripod is resistant to high temperatures. So, UV rays won’t affect its strength and durability.
Unlike other scopes, this one includes a handy phone adapter. So, you can use your smartphone to take photos of birds, stars and other targets. The adapter is lightweight and easy to install. It’s compatible with the newest smartphone models produced by Sony and Samsung.
- Magnification: 20X-60X
- Objective lens: 80mm
- Phone adapter included
- Metal mounting screw
- Full-metal tripod
This is by far one of the most powerful spotting scopes for night use. Its advanced optic system improves light gaining and prevents reflection. In addition, it's completely waterproof. So, you can use it close to bodies of water without risk. A powerful piece of equipment for any duck hunter.
Other Notable Brands
Let’s take this space to name other reputable brands and their popular product lines:
SWAROVSKI, SOLOMARK (known for their models compatible with iPhones and other cell phones), SWFA Outdoors (known for their BigEyes system), Canon, Bushnell, Pentax, Nikon (ED50), Vortex, Kowa, Zeiss, Hawke, Leica, Newcon Optik (known for rangefinder spotting scope models), Minox (MD 80Z with mil dot reticle), Leupold (Mark 4), and Harbor Freight.
Other Hot sellers:
Simmons, Vesta, Maven, ACC, BRITUDE, SVBONY, TASCO, CREATIVE XP, Huicocy, MaxUSee, SME, Konus, Burris, TORIC, KMLFZ, USCAMEL, Gravitude, Allkeys, Gskyer, ESSLNB, SkyGenius, VIVREAL, Landove, Eyeskey, Athlon Optics, YVELINES, Alpine, Sportsman's Outdoor Products, Vanguard, EACONN, AOMEKIE, Pinty, Visionking, and Redfield.
Spotting Scopes Care & Maintenance Tips
In order to extend the useful life of your scope, you need to do frequent maintenance. These are some things you should do:
- Use a cloth dampened with alcohol to clean the barrel and lenses. The accumulation of dust is one of the most common causes of scratches.
- Use a Q-tip dampened with alcohol to clean around the lenses. You can use the same Q-tip to reach those difficult corners around moving parts.
- Don’t use water to clean a scope. Some parts made of metal may be prone to rust. In this case, use alcohol or professional scope cleaners.
- Do a quick cleaning after using your scope. That way, the dust build-up is less.
A Word from RangerExpert
Here at RangerExpert we believe that choosing the best spotting scope under 500 USD will be easier now after going through all the scope reviews in this guide. Always remember to choose a decent optic system with multi-coated lenses. Also look for the optimum balance between magnification and light gathering.
To get good value for the money, find a model with the highest amount of accessories. However, these gadgets don’t come cheap. But spending some extra bucks would always be worth it when it comes to buying a spotting scope. Still, if you are looking for discounts, check out the Black Friday deals and clearance sales in your area. And don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any queries about these devices.
1. What is the meaning of scope numbers?
Ans. The numbers of a scope define magnification and objective lens diameter. The number followed by an "X" is the magnification. The other one that follows the “X” is the objective lens diameter in millimeters.
2. Is 33X of magnification good for a scope?
Ans. Yes. 33X is a good value for the magnification of the eyepiece. However, you need between 50X-60X to watch targets up to 1000 m away from you.
3. What is the maximum vision range of a 20-60X60 spotting scope?
Ans. It all depends on the technical specifications of the spotting scope. However, most models with this feature have a vision range of 39m at 1000m.
4. Are spotting scopes better than binoculars?
Ans. Yes. Spotting scopes usually have higher magnification and light gathering than regular binoculars.
5. What is the purpose of a spotting scope?
Ans. The main purpose of these devices is to improve visibility to targets at long distances. Usually longer than 200 yard.
6. What does “close focus” mean?
Ans. The close focus is the minimum distance at which a spotting scope can focus. It’s the minimum distance that must exist between the scope and the target to have a clear image.
7. What are the best accessories for spotting scopes?
Ans. Tripods, eyepiece caps and carrying cases are among the best accessories.
Ans: Check out our review on Emarth 20-60x60AE Waterproof Angled Spotting Scope. It should be a great scope for a 1000 yards range.