Nikon Prostaff 16-48X65 Spotting Scope Review

elk resting in junipers

Digiscoped photo of elk at approx. 1,500 yards with Nikon Prostaff spotting scope.

Below is our detailed Nikon Prostaff 16-48×65 spotting scope review and our decision making process and why we chose the Nikon Prostaff and eliminated other scopes, read our lightweight spotting scope review.

Quick Summary of Nikon ProStaff Spotting Scope

The mid-sized 16-48X65 Nikon ProStaff Spotting scope is lightweight and short enough to be easily packed in, or attached to your backpack.  It gets high marks for image quality in both good and low light and when the heat waves are minimal it is very useful for spotting wildlife at least out to 3,200 yards (1.8 miles, 2.9 km).  It is a well built and rugged scope that proved to me that it is water proof and fog proof.  It has a very useful and usable protective case.

On the downside, the eye relief is adequate, but not great for eyeglass wearers, but should be fine for everyone else.  The detachable peep site is cheap but useful if you need help finding the target.

I selected the Nikon ProStaff as my spotting scope after comparing to eight other spotting scopes.  In my opinion, the optics of the Nikon ProStaff proved to be best in head to head comparisons.  See post on spotting scope comparisons and all the specifications.

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The Full Story

The Nikon ProStaff (Next generaton Nikon ProStaff5) certainly met my requirement for a waterproof spotting scope that is light weight and compact at 31.7 oz. (900 g) and it is just under a foot long at 11.5 inches and it’s only 4.1 inches wide (293 X 105 mm).

The images seen through the Nikon ProStaff are very bright and clear, especially for a mid-sized (65 mm objective) spotting scope.  No, the images are not as good as the “big boys”, especially on the upper magnification end, and they will never gather as much light as scope with an 88 mm objective, but I bought this spotting scope for less than $400 and I can easily pack it around.

Most of the time, I use a small day pack, and the Nikon ProStaff fits perfectly into an exterior pocket.  When the pack is only partially full, the scope can even be tucked underneath the pack’s cover for extra protection.

Rain Proof and Fog Proof

This past hunting season, I have used the spotting scope in dry, rain and snow conditions at elevations between 5,500 and 10,500 feet.  I had trouble with my eyeglasses fogging up, but never had any fogging issues with the Nikon ProStaff.

Excellent Vue-thru Case

The Nikon ProStaff also has a very useful and usable “Vue-thru” case.  I have been carrying the spotting scope strapped to the side of my backpack while hunting, and the case has kept it completely protected from the brush.  The case also protects the scope with the bayonet eyepiece in place.  When I set the spotting scope up on the tripod, I simply remove a snap from the cover from each end and leave the rest of the case in place, where the focus knob can be controlled through a flap and the sun-shade can be extended if needed.

Minimal Eye Relief for Eyeglass Wearers

The ProStaff was actually toward the bottom of my list for the amount of eye relief (15.2 mm), but I have been using this scope for several months now with my glasses and I can see the full field of view with a little room to spare.  Of course, I would prefer another 5 mm of eye relief, but I still chose the ProStaff over several other models that had more eye relief because the optics were better.

The Nikon ProStaff also includes a removable peep sight to help line the spotting scope up on the target.  It seems a little flimsy to tell the truth, but except the first day that I took the scope out of the box, I have never used it.  It is there if you need it, I just don’t need it.

Scoping Wildlife with the Nikon ProStaff Scope

At distances above 500 yards, image clarity is more dependent upon the environmental conditions than the spotting scope.  If the heat waves are bad, it doesn’t matter much which spotting scope you have, it will be hard to focus on your target.  Obviously, the larger and the more expensive spotting scopes can clean the image up some, but depending upon what you are trying to see, they still may not be very good.

This past hunting season, I used the Nikon Prostaff to watched deer, elk and moose at distances between 90 to 3,200 yards and also used it to ID raptors up to 1,500 yards, including a 2nd year (white belly I) juvenile plumage Bald Eagle at about 900 yards.

Heat Waves Can Obstruct View

One afternoon during the deer hunt, I had spotted some deer at 1,750 yards (1,600 m).  I could easily see the deer, but the heat waves were so bad, I couldn’t tell if they were bucks or does.  If I were using my old boss’s 88 mm Kowa, I might have been able to classify them, but maybe not.  How did I measure the 1,750 yards? I went to Google Earth and used the measurement tool.  It was easy to find the ridge where I was set up and the hillside where the deer were feeding.

Good View without Heat Waves

On another morning, before the heat waves were being generated, I could easily see the tiny little spikes on a small buck that I ranged at 443 yards.  His antlers were shorter than his ears and probably no bigger around than a fat pencil.

The most extreme range I got to use the Nikon ProStaff spotting scope this season was at 3,200 yards (estimated from Google Earth).  It was late in the day, the Sun was setting, the wind had died and the heat waves had disappeared.  I could see two cow elk grazing in a small opening several ridges away.  That is a long way off, but the light was perfect, and I could tell they didn’t have antlers.  A few minutes later, as the light began to fade, it was still easy to see the elk, but became impossible to tell if they were cows or bulls.

Enhanced View; Just for Fun

The most exciting close range view this season was a mature 6X6 bull Elk that I watched at 90 yards as he tried to sweet talk two of his girls.  You can do the math yourself, but if the field of view is 126 feet at 1,000 yards, it is 11 feet at 90 yards and that means the frame (or the circle) is nearly filled with a screaming bull elk.  I zoomed in to 48X, just for fun and could only see part of the elk in the frame at a time.  I could see the spit coming out his mouth when he bugled.  Why was I looking and not shooting?  Because I had a spike tag. Only regret was I didn’t have a video camera, but still an awesome experience that I will never forget.

Top Rated Scopes under $500

Close Focus, Big Plus for Birdwatching

The Nikon ProStaff should score points with the birdwatching crowd by being able to focus on a target at only 13.1 feet away.  And yes, it actually can focus that close and we used it regularly to watch birds at our feeder, which is 14 yards from the back door.  The close focus ability is not so important for scouting for big game, but it is a nice feature for identifying those LBBs (little brown birds) at the bird feeder and for getting those full frame digiscoping photos.

Digiscoping and Digi-Video?

My wife always brings a camera wherever we go out and decided to do some digiscoping through the Nikon Prostaff.  When digiscoping, you can attach your camera to the scope with an adapter or you can simply hold your camera lens up to the scope eyepiece to take a photo, which is what she did. I think her 10-year old Minolta digital camera took a fairly good picture considering it has a lower megapixel value (5.0) compared with the latest digital cameras. Just wish there was a monster mulie or big ol’ bull elk standing there instead of an empty cliff face. Next time.  I measured the distance to the cliff face using Google Earth, and it was 2,100 yards away.

nikon prostaff digiscoping

Using the Nikon Prostaff for Digiscoping

Resulting Digiscoped Photo:

nikon prostaff scope review photo

Digiscoped Photo of Cliff Face at 2,100 yards. The camera lens needs to be right up against the eyepiece, otherwise you get the dark outline of the viewing area as seen in the lower right corner. Or use an adapter.

In addition to taking photos, she also used her Flip Video Recorder to record video through the spotting scope. I was familiar with digiscoping, but what do I call that? Digivideoing?  If that turns into a new word, remember that you saw it here first. We will be posting our digivideo on Youtube soon so you can see how surprisingly well you can record video through the Nikon Prostaff with something like the Flip, which doesn’t have much zoom power, but is easy to carry.

Where To Buy? Best Price for The Nikon Prostaff Field Scope

My version of the Nikon Prostaff is no longer available unless you can find a used one at Amazon or Ebay. It has been replaced by the Nikon Prostaff 5.

I have had good luck buying things at Amazon; great prices, usually free shipping and no problem if something needs to be returned.

Spotting Scope Tripod

I have been using the Vanguard MAK 203 tripod for both a light-weight field tripod and also to watch birds at the feeder and wildlife on the hills near our house.  The tripod uses the GS-28 quick shoe for quick attachment to and removal of the spotting scope from the tripod.  I plan to buy an additional quick shoe for use with the digital and video camera.

Comments, Opinions, Questions?