View Full Version : Spotting scope power?

01-19-2012, 10:48 PM
I've been looking into getting a spotting scope but i don't really understand the powers. I understand the basics but I see some with a smaller power, of the same scope, being more expensive. Am I missing something, or misunderstanding? Any info would be greatly appreciated!

01-19-2012, 11:05 PM
What eyepieces are you looking at. Alot of times it is due to being a wide angle eyepiece meaning your field of view is going to be bigger. It is better for photographers.

01-19-2012, 11:25 PM
Oh that helps a lot! are there any suggestions for power or mm? I usually look up to about 2 miles. Thanks for the help!

01-20-2012, 12:05 AM
The bigger the better. The more money, usually the better. Our in house optics expert will be weighing in when he sees this(bitterroot bulls) he will tell you all about spotting scopes. If money is no object, I would go with a zeiss Diascope 85t fl. There are better ones on the market but Diascope is one of the best. The vortex razor hd is a great spotter and is in my opinion the best bang for the buck. It stands up there with the big 3(zeiss, swarovski, leica) without the price tag although still expensive. I wouldn't overlook the zenray ed2 spotter as well. Very very similar to the razor hd. Nikon makes great glass, the ed82 is a good piece, if you are interested in that spotter, pm me I know someone who has one for sale. They also make an ed50 which is the first choice for a great lightweight compact spotter. There are a ton of different options to choose from. Go to the sporting goods store and look through all of them. The best experience is hands on. Obviously though the bigger objective the more light it will gather giving you a better picture. The trade off in this category is weight though. Is it worth the extra weight to carry a big spotter is a question you have to ask yourself. As far as zoom, the more power the better in my book. That is for hunting anyways. You will find you will spend alot of your time on a lower magnification but when you really want to pick out those fine details, it is soooo nice to crank that puppy up to get a good look. My old man always says, the best equipment you can afford is sorry enough. hope this helps, like I said before, Bitterroot bulls will straighten you out on optics. That is his passion.

Bitterroot Bulls
01-20-2012, 06:58 AM

The Xs refer to how much bigger or closer the image looks. If the object is 100 yards away, it will look 10 yards away through a 10x optic.

Drhorsepower is right, some manufacturers make different zoom eyepieces for their spotters. Swarovski makes a 20-60 zoom and a 25-50 WA zoom. The 20-60 has both a lower magnification and higher magnification than the WA zoom. The WA, however, shows a much wider field of view. Think of it as the difference between looking through a porthole (the 20-60 at 60x), and a window (the 25-50). I think wide-field eyepieces are really usefull for hunting. The more of the hillside you can see, the better. That, and the difference between 50x and 60x really isn't that much in practical use.

"The higher the better" sounds good, but if that were the case, we would all have 100x fixed eyepieces on our spotters. I like high-magnification eyepieces as well, as long as they have a nice wide low magnification as well. Those 75x magnifications (The Nikon ED82 and new Diascopes have eyepieces available that go that high) aren't useable very often. First, the exit pupil, with those magnifications, is barely over 1mm, which is pretty tiny. In low light, this makes for dark images without detail. Second, the image isn't the only thing that gets magnified. Atmospheric disturbances, like mirage, also get magnified, making those high-mag images dancing blobs of color.

The standard 15-45 and 20-60 magnification ranges for 65mm and 80mm spotters respectively didn't happen by accident. They provide a nice balance of magnification, field of view, and useable exit pupils. The new WA eyepieces give up very little in terms of magnification, but add large amounts of field of view, which I think is a real benefit. the WA eyepieces are often more expensive, due to their more complicated design.

The new Zeiss 20-75 eyepiece keeps a low, wide field bottom end at 20x, but also offers a very high 75x magnification at the top end, which is nice to use for detail viewing when there is enough light, and low enough atmospheric disturbance.

The spotter with the highest performing image in a hunting-friendly package is the Kowa Prominar 88. It has a variety of eyepieces available, but is usually used with a 20-60 zoom.


If you give us a budget and primary uses (range, backpacking, hunting from a vehicle, etc.) we can give you some specific recommendations.

01-20-2012, 12:04 PM
Bitterroot, after reading the other posts regarding optics I was hoping you would chime in, thanks! I backpack usually from a central location, but use other methods as well. Being as though I backpack I would like it to be compact. I am also a college student so money is not abundant, but when it comes to getting the right gear I wouldn't mind waiting awhile to purchase the right spotter. Thank you all again for your info!

01-20-2012, 12:46 PM
Nikon ed50 in my opinion. Best compact spotter. Check eBay.

01-20-2012, 01:04 PM
IMO quality of image trumps power. I'm sure the majority here would agree. That said, I have a 20-60 eyepiece on my scope and I would say I use 20-30x 60% of the time, 30-45x 30% of the time, and 45-60x just 10% of the time. That 40x range seems to be the ticket for a balance between image quality, stability, and magnification for spotting critters at very long distances. Many times it's actually easier to count points from a distance when your scope isn't cranked all the way up. This is, of course, my eyes and my scope. Could very well be different for others. Even after getting used to my 20-60, I don't feel like I would be handicapped with say a 15-45x.

Bitterroot Bulls
01-20-2012, 02:23 PM
IMO quality of image trumps power.

Without a doubt.

However, with eyepieces of similar quality (like the Swarovski 20-60 and 25-50 WA), you should theoretically be able to discern more detail through higher magnification. How noticeable the difference would be ... I don't know.

Many times it's actually easier to count points from a distance when your scope isn't cranked all the way up. This is, of course, my eyes and my scope. Could very well be different for others. Even after getting used to my 20-60, I don't feel like I would be handicapped with say a 15-45x.

When you are seeing more detail at lower magnification a few different things might be happening:

1. There are atmospheric effects that are less magnified at lower magnification (typically mirage).

2. There is not enough light getting to your cones and rods to resolve a sharp image (exit pupil is too small).

3. The optical design does not support optimal performance at the highest magnification. Many zoom eyepieces vary in their performance throughout the range of magnification.

BSA, if your Kowa is a 65mm, and you have a 20-60 eyepiece, the exit pupil is getting really small at the upper end of the magnification range.

Bitterroot Bulls
01-20-2012, 02:29 PM
Nikon ed50 in my opinion. Best compact spotter. Check eBay.

I am very happy with my ED50. It really outperforms its size. I end up taking it more than my Razor HD (which I also love) just because it is so compact.

01-20-2012, 03:21 PM
Quality optics will cost more regardless of power, ie a Swarovski 20x will cost more than a Tasco 60x.

I believe my spotter is 20-60x 65mm, and most of the time 60x isn't as clear as 45x etc...

if you really want to use 60x I suggest you get a high quality glass 65mm, or go to 80mm lenses.

Of course get the best you can afford.

IMO if you get a dcent scope say 20-60x65, plan on max usable power around 45x most of the time. If you want more magnification, goto the 80mm and/or high quality glass. 20-60x80mm

Part of me would like to have a big high quality 20-60x80mm and then get a backpack/lightweight something like 30-40x65mm or even smaller.

01-20-2012, 05:45 PM
Thank you all so much! Looks like I need to start saving!

Antler addict
01-23-2012, 01:19 AM
Hey bud I would suggest saving and looking for a razor hd. I had a $300 dollar spotter and it worked pretty well but once dialed up high and object was over 1000 yards I would have hard time seeing points. I was able to find a used razor hd for 1000 bucks, nice thing OS all warranties are fully transferable and the warranty itself is amazing. Unbelievable resolution for 1000 bucks. Bit on the heavy side being a 85mm objective, but to me definately worth the extra weigh.