Spotting Scopes Comparison: 43 Scopes Priced Between $200 – $500

Below you will find a spotting scopes comparison chart of 43 scopes under $500. As I mentioned in the post about Choosing Outdoor Gear, I found myself without a spotting scope with the hunting season fast approaching. I have been using spotting scopes for observing raptors and wildlife for both fun and for work for more than 30 years.  I have used a variety of spotting scopes over that period of time from the very inexpensive to the very expensive, top quality scopes and have mostly used the large, full-sized 80-88 mm spotting scopes as well as some of the smaller, mid-sized 60-65 mm spotting scopes, but had little experience with some of the newer compact spotting scopes (40-50 mm).

I started my search for a new spotting scope by spending many hours researching online before going to the stores to test them in person.  I knew the brands I wanted to test first, but also wanted to see what new brands and spotting scope models were on the market.  I compiled a list of all spotting scopes that I found that would fit my budget; the $200 – $500 range.  I found 43 spotting scopes (see table below) that were listed in that price range.  I am sure that there are more spotting scopes in that price range, but I was tired of searching and 43 was probably too many spotting scopes to test anyway. (Later I added the Nikon Prostaff 5 after the price dropped below $500, so table now has 44 spotting scopes.)

The Spotting Scopes That Were Compared and Why Some Were Left Out

The 43 spotting scope models were made by 17 different manufacturers, including 1 Alpen model, 7 models made by Barska, 1 Brunton, 7 Bushnell, 1 Cabela’s, 2 Celestron, 1 Konus, 4 Leuopold, 1 Minox, 1 Nikon, 1 Redfield, 5 Vanguard, 4 Vortex, 1 Weaver, 1 Winchester, 1 Yukon and 1 model made by Zhumell.  They range in magnification between 6X and 100X and range in objective lens size between 40 and 100mm, so all sizes between full-sized, mid-sized and compact models are represented.  The spotting scopes range in weight from a very light 15.2 to over 100 ounces (431-2,858 g) and vary in length from 7 to 22 inches (178-559 mm).

You will notice that many very popular brand names are missing from the list of spotting scopes below.  That’s because I did not find any spotting scopes made by Kowa, Leica, Pentax*, Swift*, Sworovski or Zeiss for less than $500.

*After this was published, I learned that both the Pentax Pentax PF-63 (20-50X63) and the Swift 943ED Premier (16-20X65) were available for less than $500. I also added the Nikon Prostaff 5 after the price dropped below $500, so the table now has 44 spotting scopes. Also note some spotting scopes have increased in price.

Spotting Scope Comparison Table of 44 Scopes Priced Between $200 and $500

Model Mag & Obj Wt (oz) Len (in) Min Focus (ft) Eye Relief (mm) FOV (ft) at 1000 Yds Min Price* Notes
Alpen 788 20-60X80 56 17 20 18 113 $305 Angled or straight
Barska Blackhawk 20-60X80 52 19 27 15 105 $260 Angled or straight
Barska Blackhawk 22-67X100 73.6 21.5 27 15 95 $392 Angled or straight
Barska Gladiator 30-90X100 100.8 19 32.8 13.8 72 $260 Straight only
Barska NaturscapeED 15-45X60 51 14.5 16.4 18 147 $262 Straight only
Barska NaturscapeED 15-45X65 49.3 15.5 19.7 18 138 $322 Angled or straight
Barska NaturscapeED 20-60X80 68.6 18.8 13.1 18 110 $420 Angled or straight
Barska Spotter Pro 22-66X80 34.9 15.5 26 17.3 78 $300 Straight only, camo $329
Brunton Eterna 20-45X62 40.7 12.5 20 16 105 $599 Angled or straight, price increased
Burris Landmark 15-45X60 24 12.7 13 17 146 $200 Straight only
Burris Landmark 20-60X80 42 17.5 17 15 105 $220 Straight only
Burris XTS-2575 25-75X70 33 10 15 17 58 $207 Angled ony
Bushnell Elite 15-45X60 26.5 12.2 30 na 125 $387 Straight only
Bushnell ImageView 15-45X70 25.4 11.6 26 11 122 $260 Digital camera not waterproof
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 12-36X50 36.3 10.5 15 17 179 $235 Angled or straight
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 15-45X60 40.4 11.1 18 20 140 $299 Angled or straight
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 20-60X80 80.1 16.5 35 18 110 $418 Angled or straight
Bushnell Spacemaster 15-45X60 43 12.7 30 11 126 $275 Straight only
Bushnell Trophy 20-60X65 42.3 13.4 32.8 na 110 $200 Straight only
Cabela’s Alpha 20-80X80 64 17.8 na na 78 $300 Straight only
Celestron Regal 65F-ED 16-48X65 61 13 15 20 136 $365 Angled only
Celestron Ultima100 22-66X100 72 19 33 18 95 $260 Straight only
Konus Konusspot 20-60X100 85.7 19.2 na 12 99.5 $245 Angled only
Leupold Goldring Compact 10-20X40 15.8 7.5 5.5 17.2 199 $350 Angled or straight
Leupold Goldring Compact 20-30X50 21.5 11 13.5 17.1 136 $395 Angled or straight
Leupold SX-1 Ventana 15-45X60 30.6 13.5 13.8 24 121 $283 Angled or straight
Leupold SX-1 Ventana 20-60X80 37 17 24.9 24 100 $380 Angled or straight
Minox MD Compact 16-30X50 21.7 8.4 16.4 11 142 $260 Straight only
Nikon ProStaff 16-48X65 31.7 11.5 13.1 15.2 126 $375 Angled or straight, Realtree Camo
Nikon ProStaff5 16-48X60 33.6 11.4 13.1 16.5 136 $377 Angled or straight
Redfield Rampage 20-60X60 37.2 14.4 19.8 14 114 $210 Straight only
Vanguard Endeavor 16-48X65 47.1 14.2 14.8 19 105 $500 Angled or straight
Vanguard HighPlains 561 15-45X60 39.9 12.8 26.3 18 121 $200 Angled or straight
Vanguard HighPlains 581 20-60X80 55.9 16.1 42.7 16 85 $260 Angled or straight
Vanguard Signature Plus 661 15-45X60 40.7 13.3 23 18 102 $311 Angled or straight, tripod & case
Vanguard Signature Plus 681 20-60X80 53.6 16.5 39.4 18 78 $350 Angled or straight
Vortex Nomad 20-60X60 36.1 14 20 14 114 $339 Angled or straight
Vortex Recon 15X50 15.2 7 12 16 215 $550 Handheld monocular, price increased
Vortex Skyline 20-60X80 56 17.4 26 18 113 $430 Angled or straight
Vortex Viper 15-45X65 50.1 15.8 16 18 140 $450 Angled or straight
Weaver Classic 15-45X65 na 15.2 na 20.7 174 $245 Angled or straight
Winchester 20-60X80 53.7 15.8 na na 89 $280 Straight only
Yukon 25-100X 100 53 16.5 na na 126 $400 Straight only, Water resistant
Zhumell 22-68X90 na 22 36 15 na $250 Angled only

* The price of the angled version of each spotting scope is usually higher than straight version.  Note that prices change often, but were accurate when posted.

All Mid-priced Spotting Scopes are not Created Equal

With all the differences in size and weight, not all spotting scopes in the spotting scopes comparison chart above are designed for the same purpose.  And though the $200-$500 range is only a small section of the total price range one could pay for one of the best spotting scopes, we should expect that there can be a big difference in quality between the $200 scopes and one that costs $500.  But with all the competition between the optics manufacturers and the ability for almost everyone to buy on-line, there can be a huge difference between a manufacturers suggested retail price and the actual price.  I found one spotting scope that originally listed for over $1,000, but now sells for less than $400, while other newer models are still listed at their suggested retail price.

Trouble Finding Spotting Scopes at Local Stores

We live at a time when there are many models of spotting scopes to choose from and with the internet, we can find and buy every model that is produced and have it delivered directly to our front door, but many of us still have limited opportunities to test many of the spotting scope models in person before buying them.

How many of you live close to enough sporting goods stores that we could easily find, touch and test each of the 43 models of spotting scopes in the table above?  I only found 14 of the 43 of the above spotting scopes at Cabela’s.  I found only two more spotting scopes at Sportsman’s Warehouse and five more spotting scopes at Dick’s Sporting Goods for a total of 21 of the 43 on my list.  But I had to drive to three different cities, all of which were at least an hour’s drive from my house.  I also went to Walmart and Sears, but didn’t find any new spotting scopes on the list.

I was also able to see two more of the spotting scopes on my list at the local shooting range.  I  find that people at the range are usually happy to show and talk about their spotting scopes if they aren’t pushed for time.  The shooting range is also a good place to test spotting scopes in real outdoor conditions.

The Selection Process of Purchasing a Spotting Scope

In the next post, I go through the process I used to first, eliminating spotting scopes that didn’t fit my need for a light-weight, mid-sized spotting scope that I can pack in the mountains and then 2nd, eliminating spotting scopes I couldn’t find in local stores and 3rd, the  side by side comparisons of the the models I tested in person. We have reviewed the Nikon Prostaff by itself, have given general tips about spotting scope reviews and my personal selection process of why I chose the Nikon Prostaff 16-48×65 spotting scope in other articles under Gear Reviews.

If you have have questions about our spotting scope comparison and the different models, please let us know by using the comment form below.

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Comments

  1. dave stephens says:

    Other than the pro staff, what did you consider in a scope? I would be using it at the range only. Please reply. Thanks D.Stephens

    • Hi Dave: If you plan to use the scope only at the range, then small size is not important and you could probably get by with a less expensive model. You don’t need great optics to see holes at 100 yards, but 200 yards and up is a different matter. You could also consider fixed magnification for use at the range.

      For my purposes, I actually tested the Nikon ProStaff against the Leupold SX-1 Ventana, Leupold Goldring, Bushnell Elite & Bushnell Legend. At the time, I did not have a chance to look at any of the Vortex scopes.

      All of these are good scopes for the money, but I wanted light weight, which eliminated the Legend and I decided I needed at least 60 mm objective, which eliminated the Goldring. For me, the eye relief eliminated the Ventana. I am happy with the Nikon.

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