Spotting Scope vs. Binocular: Which is Better for You?

The aim of both the spotting scope and the binocular is quite simple. Indeed, both of them are magnification tools that allow you to zoom on an object from afar and view it in great detail.

This is a highly beneficial tool for many different types of activities since the naked eye it is very limited especially when it comes to long-range vision.

But how do you choose between the spotting scope and the binocular? After all, both those tools do the same thing.

Let’s learn more about this comparison and what factors to look for when choosing between those 2 tools.

1. Spotting Scope

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The spotting scope usually has a single eyepiece for viewing. It was originally invented by the military to be used as a sniping scope. However, today it has diversified and you can find spotting scopes for a wide range of activities, from bird watching to hunting.

One of the best things about the spotting scope is that you get a lot of magnification power, usually more than 50X which will allow you to get great visual detail on faraway objects.

Moreover, you will need a stable platform to fix the spotting scope in place. Most of the time, the spotting scope will reside on top of a tripod that will allow you to make very accurate angle adjustments.


High magnification power. Since the spotting scope is generally bigger and focuses on only one eyepiece, the spotting scope has more magnification power. A high magnification power will allow you to see a faraway object with more detail than a low magnification power.

On the conservative side, a quality spotting scope will have at least 50X magnification power, but they are many spotting scope models that have a much higher magnification power.

More stable. The spotting scope normally sits on top of a tripod thus making it very stable and vibration free when viewing. This is highly beneficial especially if you are trying to view a distant object with extreme clarity.

Larger lands for more details. One extremely important aspect in a spotting scope is the objective lens diameter. The larger the diameter of the objective lens, the more detail you will see. Most spotting scopes are equipped with an objective lens of at least 60 mm which will provide great magnification details.

Contrasted to the smaller objective lens of the binoculars which is usually around 50 mm for the best binocular models

Precise angle adjustment. In general, most spotting scope tripods have an angular adjustment that will allow you to quickly and easily adjust the angle of the spotting scope with great precision. This level of accuracy is simply not possible when using the binocular which is held with your bare hands.


Not very portable. Due to the big size of the spotting scope, it is not very portable. Additionally, the spotting scope is also generally heavier than the binoculars making them difficult to carry. However, bear in mind that the spotting scope is not meant to be held in the hand but installed on a tripod.

More prone to wobbles. Since the spotting scope has a high magnification of typically 20X to 60X, it is more prone to wobbling especially when the spotting scope is installed on a platform that is not very stable and when trying to view far objects.

2. Binocular

Photo: Wikipedia

The binocular is one of the oldest types of magnification tool available on the market. Since this magnification tool is meant to be held in the hands, it usually has a limited magnification power of around 10X to 20X.

Additionally, due to its relatively small size and lightweight, it can easily be carried almost anywhere with ease. Best of all, almost all binoculars have a neck strap that makes it even more portable.

However, due to its smaller objective lens, the binoculars usually does not perform very well in lowlight situations.

For casual activities like hunting, bird watching or even stargazing, the binoculars is an absolute must-have.


Lightweight and compact. In general, most binoculars are lightweight and compact making them an excellent candidate for those who need a magnification to on the go. Best of all, the binoculars usually come with a neck strap that will allow you to carry the binoculars around in all comfort.

Can be used while moving. The binoculars are designed in such a way that it is not only portable but can also be used quite effectively when the user is moving. This is simply not possible with the spotting scope as it will wobble too much.

Large peripheral vision. One of the biggest advantages of the binoculars is definitely its large peripheral vision. Peripheral vision is simply the ability to see at a wide angle, similar to the way the eyes naturally see the world. In a spotting scope, peripheral vision is quite limited at the expense of larger magnification power.

Comfortable and ergonomic. Binoculars have been designed in such a way that it is comfortable and ergonomic, allowing it to be used for an extended period of time without causing eye or hand fatigue. You will find the presence of a soft rubber coating on the binoculars that makes handling very comfortable.

Additionally, the large lenses of the binoculars prevent you from squinting thus promoting a more natural viewing that will not fatigue the eyes.


Cannot view very far away objects . Due to the smaller objective lens in the binoculars, it has a limited long-distance capability. Rightfully so, most binoculars intended for casual everyday use only has a magnification of 20X.

Bad low light performance. Additionally, the small lenses of the binoculars allow less light to enter thus making it a poor performer in lowlight situations, unlike the spotting scope.

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As we have seen, depending on your situation and usage, the spotting scope and the binoculars have their own particular advantages and disadvantages. In short, it will depend on when and where to use them.

The spotting scope is definitely the best tool for long-distance viewing where your objective is usually fixed. Note that you will need a stable platform in order to install the spotting scope and use it in the most efficient way possible.

On the other hand, binoculars are more flexible as you can easily carry them around and can be used during motion. Binocular is also more comfortable and natural magnification tools, even if their magnification range is more limited.

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