5 Best Spotting Scopes Under $500 (for Wildlife, Hunting & Photography)

Tori Rhodes
Written by
Last update:

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, define the word spotting scope as: an optical instrument for looking at distant objects or scenes or observing close-up details.

There are many things to consider when looking for the best spotting scope for wildlife, hunting, or photography. The object lens diameter, the magnification eyepieces, and the lens construction are all objects to be analyzed when it comes to deciding which one will work best to provide wildlife, hunting or photographic observing.

NameCategoryProduct
Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting ScopesBest OverallVortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scopes
Vanguard Endeavor HD 82A Angled Spotting ScopeBudget PickVanguard Endeavor HD 82A Angled Spotting Scope
Celestron – Ultima 100 Angled Spotting ScopeUpgrade PickCelestron – Ultima 100 Angled Spotting Scope

1. Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scopes

Our rating: 9 / 10

Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scopes

Check Price on Amazon

Pros:

  • Optically superior
  • Compact, lightweight design
  • High-end lenses
  • Extendable sunshade
  • Unlimited eye relief
  • Lens caps
  • Comes with carrying case
  • 11 year manufacturer warranty

Cons:

  • The reticle is illuminated which can be distracting for some users
  • The lenses are prone to collecting fingerprints
  • The gasket sometimes comes loose
  • Comes with only one lens cap

The Vortex Optic Diamondback Spotting Scopes are really a whole lot of scope for the outdoor enthusiast. With three different models to choose from, you won’t be able to go wrong regardless of your needs and preferences.

The Diamondback HP Series, for instance, includes a 30mm main body tube that’s lightweight. The matte/satin coated lenses are multi-coated using proprietary technology that’ll allow for maximum light transmission. It has a magnification range of 12×40 to 25×60. The range of the Diamondback SP model goes from 15×56 to 45×85.

The third and most expensive model, the Diamondback ED, has a magnification range of 18×56 to 45×85 with a diameter of 30mm.

2. Celestron – Ultima 100 Angled Spotting Scope

Our rating: 8 / 10

Celestron – Ultima 100 Angled Spotting Scope

Check Price on Amazon

Pros:

  • Made with multi-coated optics delivering crisp, vivid images
  • Ergonomic design and long eye relief with fast focusing
  • Lightweight and portable with the included soft carrying case

Tripod and Binocular Strap – Tripod NOT Included.

The Celestron Ultima is an extremely powerful 70mm spotting scope. Its is great for birdwatching, hunting, and studying weather patterns.

This scope had a range of 22x to 66x magnification and 1 eyepiece. The eyepiece is rainproof, which means it can handle a few spills. It’s also fogproof, and waterproof up to 1 meter for 30 minutes.

3. Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 20-60 x80

Our rating: 6 / 10

Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 20-60 x80

Check Price on Amazon

Pros:

  • Excellent quality of construction
  • Excellent eye-relief and generous eye-box
  • Outstanding technical specifications and fantastic image quality
  • Generous eye-relief and comfortable eyecup
  • Smooth and precise mechanics
  • Great value for money

Cons:

  • Best suited to terrestrial viewing
  • Clumsy tripod and case
  • Eye relief requires relatively high eyepiece magnification

If you live in an area with a lot of wildlife or you’re into bird watching and want a scope for exciting sports such as hunting or fly fishing, this is the scope for you. Depending on what you need, you can choose different magnifications ranging from 20x to 60x.

It is a top performer, with 20-60x magnification. It is great for wildlife watching, sporting events, even landscape viewing. It is great for nature observation, bird watching, and hunting. It is compact, lightweight, yet ruggedly built to withstand the roughest of conditions.

With a 45x zoom, this eyepiece guarantees a superb image quality. Its astonishing magnification range, from 20x to 60x, makes it ideal for a wide range of activities from nature observation to casual sports.

4. Vanguard Endeavor HD 82A Angled Spotting Scope

Our rating: 6 / 10

Vanguard Endeavor HD 82A Angled Spotting Scope

Check Price on Amazon

Pros:

  • Incredible Clarity and Light Transmission
  • Brilliant as a Birding Scope for the advanced birder
  • High-Quality Construction
  • Sturdy Tripod
  • Better Range thanks to built in level
  • Can be used for Hunting, Photography, and Bird watching

I couldn't believe what I saw when I first saw the price tag on the Vanguard Endeavor HD 82A Angled Spotting Scope. The price is so low, especially when you see the quality of the product.

This incredible spotting scope is waterproof, fog proof, and covered with a protective coating that makes it resistant to most types of scuffs, scratches, and abrasions. It’s an angled spotting scope, but you can also adjust the eyepiece for a diagonal view if you prefer.

High-quality 82mm glass lens get you up to 60x magnification, and the larger 82mm objective lens delivers astonishing light-gathering ability for crisp, bright images. It’s the ideal choice for photographers and wildlife observers.

5. Konus 7122 20x-60x100mm Spotting Scope

Our rating: 5 / 10

Konus 7122 20x-60x100mm Spotting Scope

Check Price on Amazon

Pros:

  • A absolute quality piece of glass
  • Very clear, crisp images
  • Feels well built
  • Usually comes with a case
  • Spotting scopes have a rigid tube that keeps the scope durable, plus waterproof depth finder and compass

Cons:

  • Complex design makes for a slightly larger scope (10.3 x 3.2 x 6 inches)
  • Focus knob is a little tricky to see

When you buy a good spotting scope you are investing in an optical instrument that will give you an accuracy that you can not get with binoculars no matter what you spend. To get this level of accuracy, you will typically need a tripod with a good stable platform too and good optic glass.

Konus has a very good reputation for making great spotting scopes that are relatively inexpensive if compared to high-end optics by top-of-the-line manufacturers like Zeiss and Swarovski. The Konus 7122 is a great example of what they can do.

The optics are a very pristine level of magnification. The Konus 7122 will give you a magnification between 20x – 60x and a field of view of 20 – 2.6 degrees.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the best hunting spotting scope?

Though they can be used mostly for wildlife watching and photography, spotting scopes are not typically a good fit for hunting because their long length makes them awkward and may interfere with a hunt (e.g. getting stuck in thick brush).

That being said, there are scopes that are specifically designed for hunting, and are thus a lot more compact and portable. When choosing a hunting scope, you can go for a full go-to scope like the one below or a so-called spotter/telescope combo like this one. The two combined offer exceptional and versatile performance, and are a favorite among professional hunters.

How good is a 20 60×60 spotting scope?

A 20 60×60 is a good spotting scope for people who are on a budget, but that is looking for something more powerful than the typical 10×50 spotting scope and good for looking at wildlife. This power and this size comes at a price and it’s not going to be a good option for stargazing. It’s not going to be bright enough and there’s not enough light to collect for people who are looking at the night sky.

Usually, a 20×60 60mm lens will be good for looking out at birds, but it’s not going to be as good for looking at say grizzly bears that are further away.

Are spotting scopes any good for astronomy?

There are plenty of extremely powerful spotting scopes intended for astronomy, but you can also get plenty of use out of one made for hunting or wildlife watching. Even though spotting scopes don’t have the high magnification of an astronomical telescope, and even though they’re not made to be pointed directly at the sun, the high-end spotting scopes are very adept at lunar and planetary viewing.

Some spotting scopes are even ideal for birdwatching or hunting. They are comfortable to hold and lightweight, portable, and easy to mount on a tripod. You should, however, know that such scopes will always have a problem with chromatic aberration to a certain degree.

Take a look at our guide to choosing the right spotting scope to find out more.

What is a good spotting scope for 1000 yards?

I don’t think there is a spotter out there that will give you the 1000 yards you’re looking for. At 1000yds a 10x should be 85mm+ in diameter and at that point you might as well go with the binoculars. However, I think there are a couple of good choices for you. Do you need the ability to lookup to 1,000 yards? You say you’re a hunter so I’d be looking at low light hunting binoculars. Something with 8x -10x magnification, large objective lens and good glass. The bigger the objective the further away you can see in low light conditions. It’s not as easy to learn as a spotter but you probably know the advantages of a hunting binocular.

Conclusion

Before shopping for a spotting scope, it's a good idea to think about your specific needs and figure out what you'll use the scope for in detail.

The range of budgets and features available varies massively, so it's important to understand what you are spending your money on, and what you are going to use the scope for. After all, there's a surprising amount of difference between the best spotting scope for a budget wildlife-spotting trip, and the best one for low-light photography of the night sky.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting ScopesBest OverallVortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scopes
Vanguard Endeavor HD 82A Angled Spotting ScopeBudget PickVanguard Endeavor HD 82A Angled Spotting Scope
Celestron – Ultima 100 Angled Spotting ScopeUpgrade PickCelestron – Ultima 100 Angled Spotting Scope