Whether you’re trying to spot something in the night sky or in the distance out in nature, a good spotting scope is an excellent choice. Though. choosing the right option can be difficult as there is a long list of choices to sort through online.
That begs the question, what are the best spotting scopes under $500?
Luckily you can find some high-quality options without breaking the bank while still getting all of the features you might want.
This guide will focus on a few spotting scopes that are popular for a reason.
Here are my top three picks:
Kowa TSN-600 Series Angled Body High-Performance Spotting Scope
- High-performance 60mm spotting scope with a rugged construction
- Constructed of strong, lightweight polycarbonate materials
- Waterproof to JIS class 7 protection standards
- Features an angled eyepiece for comfortable long, and high-angle use
- Weighs 53.6 ounces, measures 13.5 inches in length. Backed by the manufacturer's Limited Lifetime Warranty when purchased only from Authorized North American Dealers
Features & Specifications
- Magnification: 20x – 60x
- Prism: Porro
- Objective Lens Diameter: 60mm
- Weight: 2.5lbs
This spotting scope is the priciest option on this list, but you’ll find that many people agree it’s entirely worth the investment.
Users enjoy stellar optics that are made from durable, crystal-clear glass and a coating that adds to the overall clarity of the image.
It’s perfect for bright or low light conditions, and some people seem to be a fan of the Porro prism system over the BaK-4.
It’s also known for its close focus distance in addition to a wide range of magnification options. This means you won’t have any issues viewing objects up close or far away.
As is standard with many scopes, you can expect this one to be water and fog-proof as well.
Another aspect that sticks out is its overall versatility. It’s built to be compatible with many different parts and accessories.
Whether you need a high eyepoint, zoom, or wide-angle eyepiece, this scope can use them all. It’s only 2.5 lbs, making it easy to carry and hold for long periods of time.
Thanks to the capabilities of its FOV, you can easily track targets and view large areas in a single image.
Although the scope is under $500, it’s still seen as a relatively expensive option compared to many others.
If you’re looking to save a buck, this scope may not be the best choice. Another downside is that an eyepiece is not included, so this will have to be bought separately, making the scope even more of an expensive investment.
You can definitely apply numerous accessories to this scope, but it doesn’t come with much, making it somewhat limited in this regard.
The max magnification is capable of quite a lot, but it isn’t as far as you could possibly go. Regardless of the environment, 60x is bound to limit you to some degree.
One of the biggest downsides about this scope is the fact it’s so expensive, yet doesn’t come with an eyepiece or a range of accessories.
Overall, you will be spending more than just the cost of the scope. However, if you aren’t too worried about the cost, it’s a high-quality scope that won’t let you down over the years.
Bushnell Spotting Scope Engage DX
- Bushnell ENGAGE DX is a trusted line of optics from a USA company that has been serving the outdoor and wildlife enthusiast for more than 70 years.
- ENHANCED DUSK/DAWN PERFORMANCE: Fully Multi coated optics provide a brighter and clearer image at dusk and dawn when you need to see the most.
- BALANCE OF POWER AND SIZE: Large power and objective are balanced in this easy to carry and maneuver scope.
- RUGGED CONSTRUCTION: A durable aluminum chassis and rubber armor create a strong body that protects the optical system for a lifetime of use in the harshest environments.
- KEEP YOUR LENSES CLEAR WITH ANTI-WATER, FOG, DUST AND OIL PROTECTION: EXO Barrier Lens protection coating molecularly bonds to exterior lens surfaces, and repels water, oil, fog, dust and debris making sure you can see your target in any condition.
Features & Specifications
- Magnification: 20x – 60x
- Prism: BaK-4
- Objective Lens Diameter: 80mm
- Weight: 3.75lbs
This spotting scope undoubtedly delivers substantial magnification, making it an ideal choice for many different viewing scenarios.
It’s a universal option that can cater to many different needs and is also built with a large objective 80mm lens.
You also get the benefit of high-quality optics thanks to the BaK-4 prism system, which is known for its clear and sharp images.
The spotting scope is also quite durable and water- and fog-proof. A great option for many different climates without having to compromise on viewing quality.
Many buyers seem to like its relatively compact and lightweight design, making it an easy carry no matter where you go.
Even a handful of accessories come with it to heighten your experience. Some of these include an eyepiece cover, carrying case, lens cover, and more. Essentially, you get everything you need to own a spotting scope that can easily last you a lifetime.
Some people may argue this spotting scope is a little expensive when compared to similar models.
Although this may be true to some degree, it still sits at a midway point in cost.
Right now, you can grab one for yourself for under $400 and some change.
Aside from that, a few users mention that it can be challenging to focus, so you might want to expect a little trial and error.
Overall, the spotting scope is a great buy, but it might not be a perfect choice for every person.
It’s important to take note of the magnification and 18mm eye relief, as it can be limiting depending on what you’re trying to view, especially if it’s considered long-range.
Konus 7128 KonuSpot-65 Spotting Scope
- 15x-45x zoom magnifications
- Swivel set screw rotates spotter for viewing on any surface
- Special eyepiece can be connected to any reflex camera
- Smart phone adapter provides viewing with phone
- Extendable sunshade removes glare
Features & Specifications
- Magnification: 15x – 45x
- Prism: BaK-4
- Objective Lens Diameter: 65mm
- Weight: 1.43
If value is your main concern, this spotting scope would be an excellent choice. It costs under $200 and comes with many features you may not find in more expensive designs.
The cost is a big selling point for a lot of people, but it brings much more than that to the table.
Other benefits include a fair magnification range of 15x to 45x and a FOV that’s capable of 63ft to 132ft at 1,000 yards.
It’s well known that the BaK-4 prism system is reliable and one of the most lightweight spotting scopes you can find for under $500.
Some other standard benefits include a tabletop tripod, a carrying case, and a photo adapter that can hold a variety of smartphones.
This spotting scope is an excellent option if you’re watching your budget, but its specs come with a few limitations regarding long-range viewing.
Nevertheless, the unique photo adapter accessory draws a lot of eyes to interested buyers.
As mentioned above, there are a few limitations, one of which is the magnification range.
Up to 45x is decent, but by no means is it amazing. You’ll still be able to see plenty, but this scope doesn’t fall in the long-range category.
Some may find the object lens diameter somewhat limited, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t capable in certain situations.
There aren’t too many cons with this scope, as the price point says it all, but it is better suited for beginners or anyone looking to save money.
Others have described the 18mm object lens as not enough.
You’ll find this sentiment situational as each person may use the scope for different reasons.
Nevertheless, it’s important to remember these points before spending any money, as it’s definitely not top of the line, but it’ll get the job done for casual viewers.
What To Look For In A Good Spotting Scope
What you’re looking for in a good spotting scope will be different from person to person. However, even if you’re an expert or searching for your first purchase, reviewing aspects such as magnification, prism type, and field of view is essential.
There are many other aspects that make up the quality of a spotting scope, but these three act as an informative starting point.
This is going to heavily determine the range of your view, and you’ll find that many spotting scopes come with various capabilities.
You need to consider exactly what kind of view you’re aiming for, as this will be directly correlated to the magnification you need.
A standard you can work with if you aren’t sure is a spotting scope that’s capable of 20x – 60x magnification.
After a little review, you’ll notice it’s pretty easy to find the right prism, as there are usually two main options available.
Most spotting scopes come with either a roof or Porro prism, both with their own unique benefits. Their differences vary in durability, image quality, and size.
Field of View
How much you’re hoping to see at once heavily relies on the capabilities of the field of view.
FOV determines the width of the area that you’re able to see in your view, and most scopes come with different capabilities.
If you want to observe large areas or track moving objects, you’ll want a wider FOV.
Things To Consider When Buying A Spotting Scope
Before spending your hard-earned money, there are a few things you need to consider before diving in head first. When it comes to spotting scopes, it’s vital you know your intended use and budget. This will help you narrow your options to the right scope that’s perfect for your specific need.
Simply put, are you stargazing, looking for animals, or scoping out the ocean?
Know what you plan on using the scope for, and it’ll help you find the right design and included features.
This helps you to avoid wasting time and money and improves your overall experience.
Speaking of wasting money, you want to know your budget and stick to it.
With the many different scopes on the market, expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better based on your requirements.
Always review what a scope can offer before clicking buy, and you’ll be sure to get the most out of your investment.
Hey, my name is Chris. I’m a passionate and seasoned astronomer who loves nothing more than observing the night sky. I also love researching, learning, and writing all things Space and the Universe. I created Astronomy Scope to share my knowledge, experience, suggestions, and recommendations of what I have learned along the way while helping anyone to get into and maximize their enjoyment of the hobby.