Best Spotting Scope for Birding [Under $499] – A Helpful Buyer’s Guide

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Birding spotting scopes are great for bird watching, surveillance, hunting, long range shooting, and viewing the landscape and other distant objects.

Bird watching is a hobby that over 47 Million Americans are doing as outdoor recreation.

If you love the extreme close-up view of a rare bird in the wild, then let us help guide you through picking the best spotting scope for birding for under $499.

We gonna bust through the noise on the internet, and do some comparison on their features and price. At the end of this post you will know which one to get.

3 Best Birding Spotting Scopes  Under $499

Right off the bat, you should AVOID anything less than $100. Getting a high-quality spotting scope would prevent eye strain and give you better image quality.

Spotting scopes have incredible magnification in a lightweight and simple package for outdoor use & fantastic optical quality for bird watching.

3 best and affordable spotting scopes for bird watching under 499

You can’t go wrong with these!

  1. Celestron 80mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope (UNDER $200)

  • Available in both straight and angled designs.
  • Greater light-gathering capacity for low-light conditions
  • The perfect price point for bird watching
  • Standard camera T-Thread
  • Entry-level scope for beginners
  1. Vortex Diamondback 20-60X 80mm spotting scope (Under $500)

  • 2 steps tripod setup – No tedious work at all
  • Angled & Straight Options
  • Only 33.8 oz – Lighter than your wallet & phone altogether
  • Big objective lens for better low-light conditions
  • Lifetime VORTEX warranty
  1. Bushnell Trophy Xtreme 16-48X 50mm & 20-60X 65mm (Under $400 )

  • Perfect magnification range for hunter and bird watching
  • More reach than binoculars without weight burden
  • Sliding sunshade to prevent sun glare
  • 15-45X is perfect for a wider field of view & Spot moving herd
  • Porro prism design that maximizes light reflections minimize optical coatings required.
  • Brighter and crystal clear image even at the highest magnification power.
  • Complete accessories package including the tripod

Next, you need a steady tripod to stabilize the magnified image. Nobody likes to see shaky 20X or more magnified image through a spotting scope; it’s not comfortable or makes any sense.

If you want to be outdoor observing comfortably for a long period, then getting tripod support is a good investment.

2 Best Spotting Scope Tripod Under $100-200

There are a lot of tripod options, and what we want for bird watching is just something easy to use and rigid. You need something that can stand steady and also wind resistant.

From my personal experience there are a lot of options, and here are two I highly recommend for under just $150.

Neewer Carbon Fiber 66 inches

  • 2-in-1 tripod, Monopod included
  • 4.72 lbs
  • Quick release leg locking, more convenient leg handling
  • High-density fiber tube, lightweight, high strength, and holds up to 26.5 lbs
  • RSS Ball Head, the World’s top-quality tripod ball head for superior handling & reliability

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Aluminum Tripod

  • Best selling, award-winning tripod
  • Multi-Angle Central Column system lets you shift between horizontal and vertical positions
  • Separate controls for pan and tilt – It allows you to position the spotting scope quickly and securely
  • Fluid-like tripod head motion without increased overall weight
  • 3 Different leg angles for creating a level surface on uneven grounds

Angled VS Straight Spotting Scope For Birding

Angled and straight are two basic body designs of refractor spotting scopes. The straight scope has the barrel and eyepiece aligned with each other, and the angled scope has the eyepiece offset 45 or 90 degrees from the barrel.

A straight spotting scope is easier to use from an elevated position. For example, you are viewing from your second-story deck, or on a hill. Most people find the straight design is easier for accurate aiming.

Birding Angled Spotting Scope

An angled spotting scope is preferred if you’re tall or you do a lot of bird watching with groups, or your viewing is above the horizon. For example, anything that requires you to strain your neck looking up.

The angled design would be a better choice for more comfort, which makes it much easier for people of different heights to use the same scope.

Best Objective Lens Size For Bird Watching

The bigger the objective lens, the better the image you’ll see. It also gathers more light in low-light conditions so that you can see better.

Please don’t think that bigger is always better because the lens quality matters a lot. Spotting scopes generally come with the most common 60mm-100mm specification.

Binoculars have objective lenses ranging from 25mm to 42mm; it’s typically smaller than spotting scopes.

Are Spotting Scopes Better Than Binoculars?

Some people think binoculars and spotting scopes are the same, but they’re two different tools with two different goals in mind.

Binoculars are versatile; it’s mostly made for hand-held use with both eyes open. It’s small and easily portable. People can use it for anything. Some binocular can do pretty much anything you can with a spotting scope.

For long-range object viewing, a spotting scope is a better option.

Birding with binoculars

A Spotting scope has higher magnification monocular scopes that are normally going on a tripod mount. It has an angled and a straight design option to fulfill your outdoor need. Spotting scopes are used quite often in long-range shooting, bird watching, surveillance, astronomy, and viewing other distant objects.

Can I Use A Telescope As A Birding Scope?

You can use a telescope as a spotting scope. Telescopes are very powerful optics with very high magnification up to as much as 120X to 500X and interchangeable eyepieces.

When you hear the word Telescope, you think about viewing the stars and The Moon at night.

For bird watching, you don’t need a telescope because the magnification is too much. A spotting scope is smaller than a telescope, and it makes total sense to use it for bird watching.

What Magnification Is Needed For A Spotting Scope?

Most spotting scopes will have a variable zoom. For bird watching, we recommend getting the 20-60X. Large magnification means you can see further. 20-60X is a great range for you to adjust if needed when viewing.

What Do the Numbers Mean?

A spotting scope is always presented by two sets of numbers such as 20-60X 80. 20-60X means the magnification or zoom. 80 means the objective lens size in the unit of millimeters.