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

Spotting scopes are a traveler’s best friend. Next time you go for hunting, bird watching, or professional photography, consider taking a spotting scope instead of binoculars. The biggest challenge with these is buying one that comes with loads of features and if you’re going to buy it for the first time, then you may not even understand the technical features.

Which is why we have scoured the internet for the best spotting scopes under $500. These scopes have a range of features, with some being better at certain things than the other. Let’s take you through everything you need to know before buying the best spotting scope for your situation. 

We Recommend

Best lightweight

Vortex Optics

Best affordable option

Vanguard Endeavor
HD 82A

Best for wildlife

Ultima 100

What can you get for $500?

When it comes to optics, you mostly get what you pay for. You can’t expect to get much in a lower budget. The higher you spend, the more likely you are to be satisfied with your product. 

Mid to low-range spotting scopes have about the same features that the costlier ones have. However, as you lower the price, expect to see some blurry images. Most of these scopes go out of focus at their max zoom. And many start to lose their steadiness after a few weeks. Moreover, the coating on the optics may be less refined, resulting in lenses that are not as durable. 

When you’re looking to spend $500 on a spotting scope, you’ll normally get an 80-100mm objective lens, carrying case, tripod, and adaptor. Don’t expect too much in terms of magnification and quality of the lens. Expect 20-60xzoom, a decent FOV, carrying case, camera adaptor, and tripod stand.

A further low cost may mean lower resolution, blurry images, and a shorter lifespan. But the customization, portability, and accessories remain similar, for the most part.

What do the scope numbers mean?

If you’ve had the chance to get acquainted with spotting scopes, you’ll know that many come with a random set of numbers on them. These numbers are, in fact, not random at all and point to various aspects of the scope.

An example of the markings on scopes would be “20-60×80”.

  • “20-60x” refers to the magnification range of the scope. This means that the scope has a magnification of 20 times when you use it. You can’t reduce it below that. And you can adjust the magnification all the way up to 60 times.
  • The “80” refers to the size of the aperture (80mm), which may also translate into the lens diameter, but not always. For those of you who don’t know, the aperture is the small hole or slot through which the light enters. The smaller the aperture, the sharper the image. But a smaller aperture also translates into a narrower FOV.

Recommended Scope For:

  • Range Shooting: 20-60x 80mm or upwards
  • Hunting: 15-40x 60mm
  • Birding: 15-33x 50mm or 80mm
  • Photography: 20-60x 80mm or 100mm
  • Overall Wildlife: 20-60x 80mm

What to look for in a $500 scope?

Weather Proof – Aside from the regulars, it is crucial for your spotting scope to stay tough even against the elements. A simple waterproofing scheme should be more than enough, especially on a budget. Each partition should be epoxy-shut and properly screwed in place.

BAK-4 Prism – A BAK-4 Prism is the best type of prism used primarily in optics and telescopes. It’s made from a superior glass that aids in producing brighter and sharper images. They have circular exit pupils or holes and give better sharpness. Scopes using the BAK-4 prism are not only cheaper but present a lot of value.

Durability – The durability of the spotting scope depends on two things: the external strength and internal durability. Externally, the scope should be weatherproof and all the components should be sealed shut. Internally, the prism and optical lenses should be chemically treated to last longer and remain sharper.

Prime Optics – Aside from the BAK-4 prism, you’ll also need to consider the markings on the scope. Primarily, you’ll need to check for the lens diameter, exit pupil, and eye relief. All of these features will combine later on to give you the best spotting experience.

Related: 5 Best Spotting Scope Tripods in 2020 [Buyer’s Guide]

How to choose the right budget spotting scope?

Magnification – Spotting only has its fun when it’s done from afar. The magnification is mostly up to you, but most scopes don’t have a magnification below 3x. For hunting and range shooting, anything above 15x should work fine.

Aperture – The smaller the aperture the sharper and brighter the image. Normally, aperture sizes range from 80mm to 100mm, with some going as low as 50mm.

Field Of View (FOV) – The FOV is how much area you can see from the scope at a certain distance. Normally, this is measured at a distance of about 1,000 yards. Most scopes can see 110+ feet at the minimum magnification, and 50-70 feet at the highest.

Prism Type – The type of prism can vary, but for starters, we’d suggest that a BAK-4 prism is best. Other types, like BAK-7, also exist but are rarely used.

Lens Coating – Lenses in scopes are coated with special chemicals for various reasons. This can be done to eliminate fogging, sun glare, and scratching. And some may even protect from UV light.

Weather Proof – To make the casing waterproof, it should be coated with waterproof material. And the compartments should be sealed shut with epoxy glue.

Best spotting scopes under $500

1. KONUS 7122 20x-60x100mm Spotting Scope

Love sightseeing? Then you’ll absolutely adore the Konus 7122 Spotting Scope. This scope has been rated as one of the best for birdwatching and hunting

It provides a higher range of magnification than regular binoculars, and have a wider range of vision.

The Konus Scope can be zoomed in between 20x and 60x, providing a wider range of magnification. This makes it better equipped for hunting and birding.  

At 1,000 yards, the FOV is 29 m at the lowest magnification, and 15 m at the highest. A wider field of view is best for when the game is moving or when you’re scouting a wider landscape.

The Konus Spotting Scope comes with a carrying case as well as a camera adapter. So you don’t even need to do the hard work. However, this scope does not come with a tripod. Any standard tripod can work with it.

Furthermore, it is slightly heavier, weighing in at 7.5 lbs. So carrying it from place to place can be straining on the hands.

Check the price of KONUS 7122 20x-60x100mm Spotting Scope here

What we liked

  • Comes with carrying case
  • Adapter included
  • Smooth and streamlined
  • High magnification range
  • It does not blur too much when fully zoomed in
  • Wide Field Of View (FOV)
  • Works with most tripods

What we didn’t like

  • No tripod included
  • Slightly heavier than competitors

Aperture: 100mm
Magnification: 20x-60x
Lens diameter: 100mm
Field of view: 157.2 ft @1,000 yds
Eye relief: 20mm
Weatherproof: Yes
Weight: 7.5 lb
Length: 21 inches
Best for: Hunting & Birding

2. Celestron Ultima 100 Angled Spotting Scope

The Celestron Ultima features a magnification of up to 66x and has an eye relief of 18 mm. 

This scope is best for viewing objects at a distance, but it has a narrower FOV. To be more specific, this scope has a FOV of 1.8 to 1.0 degrees or 94 to 52 ft at 1,000 yards.

Taking your spotting scope out can be a risky decision. For one thing, your scope can get dirty and fall prone to the elements. 

The Celestron, however, is 100% waterproof. And it comes with a T-mount adapter to compensate for all types of cameras. However, it does not come with a tripod included.

This scope, by far, has the largest aperture, at 100 mm. This results in images that are 50% brighter and more dynamic.

Check the price of Celestron Ultima 100 Angled Spotting Scope here

What we liked

  • Wide magnification range
  • Best for bird watching and sightseeing
  • 100% waterproof
  • Produces brighter images
  • It can be used for digiscoping
  • T-mount adapter included
  • Multi-coated optical coating

What we didn’t like

  • No tripod included
  • Narrower FOV

Aperture: 100mm
Magnification: 22x-66x
Lens diameter: 100mm
Field of view: 95-53 ft @1000 yds
Eye relief: 18mm
Weatherproof: Yes
Weight: 4.5 lbs
Length: 22 inches
Best for: Birding & Sightseeing

3. Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scope

The Vortex Optics Diamondback comes in various sizes and eyepiece positions. 

This one, in particular, has a 20 feet close focus distance and has an angled eyepiece.

The eye relief is about 14 to 17 mm, and the FOV ranges from 1.0 to 2.2 degrees. 

This is by far the widest FOV range on this list. 

Wider FOV means you can clearly view wider areas over longer distances, and even digiscope moving objects.

This Diamondback Spotting Scope is 100% customizable. You can adjust the focus, eyecup, and even the sunshade. 

Moreover, it allows you to choose your viewing angle and even toggle magnification. Specifically, you can magnify from 20 times to 60 times.

Check the price of Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scope here

What we liked

  • Wide magnification range
  • Wider FOV range
  • 100% customizable
  • The viewing angle can be set
  • Produces bright images
  • It comes with a case
  • Perfect for digiscoping

What we didn’t like

  • It does not include a tripod stand
  • A smaller aperture (60 mm)

Aperture: 60mm
Magnification: 20x-60x
Lens diameter: 60mm
Field of view: 114-51 feet @1,000 yds
Eye relief: 14-17 mm
Weatherproof: Yes
Weight: 2.94 lbs.
Length: 14.0 inches
Best for: Hunting & Birding

4. Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 20-60 x80 Spotting Scope

Now here’s something that’s sure to excite your interests. Meet the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Spotting Scope. 

This scope not only looks professional but provides the same functionality as some of the higher-end scopes

To begin with, this scope has a premium magnification of 20-60 times. It also has an aperture size of 80mm- large enough to brighten the image, small enough to get a sharp image. 

This scope features a 2-speed focus control system that lets you adjust the magnification and focal length. Along with that, the Bushnell also uses BAK-4 prisms.

But the best part is that this Bushnell model comes chemically treated to be both water and fog-proof. Even the lenses have water repellent coating to keep the images as sharp as possible.

Check the price of Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 20-60 x80 Spotting Scope here

What we liked

  • Reduces chromatic aberration
  • Sharp image processing
  • Water and fog-proof
  • Professional design
  • Angled to relieve eye strain
  • Dual focus control
  • HD lens coating

What we didn’t like

  • Narrow FOV
  • It does not come with a case
  • Relatively heavier

Aperture: 80 mm
Magnification: 20x-60x
Lens diameter: 80 mm
Field of view: 110-51 ft @1,000 yds.
Eye relief: 18 mm
Weatherproof: Yes
Weight: 9.4 lbs
Best for: Birding

5. Vanguard Endeavor HD 82A Angled Spotting Scope

The Vanguard Endeavor Scope is an angled spotting scope that has a high zoom range

It comes complete with a sunshade and excellent eye relief

The Vanguard is a prominent example of everything a low to mid-range spotting scope can have

The images produced by the scope have a relative brightness of about 4.1, and the diameter of the lens is about 82 mm.

The FOV range varies from 1.0 degrees to up to 2.0 degrees, which is one of the highest we’ve seen. And to top all of that off, the entire thing comes in a skin-tight carry bag, along with a detachable strap.

Check the price of Vanguard Endeavor HD 82A Angled Spotting Scope here

What we liked

  • Perfect for outdoor photography
  • Eliminates color fringing
  • Comes with case and strap
  • Protects from water and fog
  • Wide FOV
  • Brighter images
  • Lightweight

What we didn’t like

  • No tripod stand
  • Waterproofing may be faulty
  • Quite heavy

Aperture: 82 mm
Magnification: 20x-60x
Lens diameter: 82 mm
Field of view: 37m @1000 yds
Eye relief: 20 mm
Weatherproof: Yes
Weight: 4 lbs
Length: 14.76 inches
Best for: Photography

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