Ins and Outs of The Best Spotting Scopes: My Experiences

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By Dennis Howard •  12 min read

Many shooters consider a spotting scope as something nice to have but not a need to have item in their gearbox. Many of these shooters don’t understand the versatility of modern spotting scopes. There are many advantages to carrying a spotting scope rather than binoculars even in the field while hunting.

Spotting scopes are technically compact high-power telescopes. These optical devices make viewing distant objects easier by providing magnification and increased clarity for the viewer. Shooters frequently use spotting scopes to locate targets, estimate the target range, and identify elevation and windage adjustments for more accurate shooting.

Competitive target shooters often find a tripod-mounted spotting scope much easier to use than a handheld monocular or binocular for both hunting and target shooting. This article will look at several spotting scopes ranging from budget-priced models to the most expensive on the market.

What I look for in a Spotting Scope

When I shop for a spotting scope, there is a lot more than just price to consider. Price is, of course, an important consideration. However, price doesn’t tell you everything about a spotting scope, and there are exceptionally good spotting scopes that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

Magnification and Lens

The optical glass inside your spotting scope is the heart and soul of the system. Without good glass, you will not get clear images that are crisp and bright. In general, when considering lenses in your spotting scope, these are the things you want:

There are reasonably good scopes on the market that provide these features without costing three or four times what you paid for your whole rifle and scope combination.

Straight Versus Angled

Ask this question among shooters and then settle in for a long debate. In my opinion, it is a matter of personal choice. Each style of spotting scope has its advantages and disadvantages. Consider at least a few of these when shopping for your spotting scope.

Let your shooting styles and needs dictate which spotting scope best fits your situation. There are no hard and fast rules for selecting the style of a spotting scope to put into your gear bag in this category.


Just remember that for most of us, our budget dictates a lot of our decisions. There are good spotting scopes that offer a wide array of features and provide excellent optical characteristics to fit almost any budget.

Don’t let cost override sensibility. For the average hunters, a good midrange-priced spotting scope is a better choice than pouring your entire budget into a single piece of equipment under the assumption that the higher the price, the better the quality. Sometimes, this just isn’t true.

My Spotting Scope Choices

Here are my choices of spotting scopes based on their expected uses, styles, and features. My choices may not fit your needs perfectly. You must do your research to find the spotting scope that best fits your needs and expectations.

The Ultimate Spotting Scope - Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85

Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85

If budget is not an issue and you want a spotting scope that is the king of the hill, the Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85 must be our pick. The Gavia spotting scope reigns as the premium spotting scope for almost any need.

The Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85 delivers a list of features that should impress anyone. Consider what you get with a Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85 spotting scope.

The Pros and Cons in our Opinion

Every product, no matter the price, has its own set of pros and cons. In our opinion, these are the major advantages and disadvantages of the Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85.



All in all, you won’t find many negative comments about the Zeiss Conquest Cavia 85 spotting scope. Those that purchase this spotting scope rave about the clear images and the quality of the build.

Last update on 2024-06-16 at 12:52 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Our Take on the Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85?

The Zeiss Gavia 85 didn’t make our list as the ultimate spotting scope for nothing. If you have the money to spend or your situation calls for only the best in optical components, then the Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85 is a clear choice. If you show up at the range with a Zeiss Gavia 85 and your buddies aren’t suitably impressed, they obviously don’t know much about spotting scopes.

Runner-up Ultimate Spotting Scope - Pentax PF-80ED-A 80mm ED Waterproof Angled Spotting Scope w/Case

Pentax PF-80ED-A 80mm ED Waterproof Angled Spotting Scope w/Case

If you want to be near the top of the heap but can’t quite justify the expense of a Zeiss spotting scope, the Pentax PF-80ED-A 80mm ED Waterproof Angled Spotting Scope offers you many of the same features and qualities as a Zeiss without the price. You may be able to score a Pentax PF-80ED for half the cost of a Zeiss Gavia spotting scope.

Looking at the Pentax, you won’t give up features by coming down to the runner-up category.

The Pros and Cons in our Opinion

There isn’t much not to like about the Pentax PF-80EDA spotting scope. Users tend to offer nothing but glowing reports about the Pentax PF-80EDA spotting scopes.



Pentax PF-80ED-A 80mm ED Waterproof Angled Spotting Scope w/Case (requires...
  • Exceptionally lightweight magnesium-alloy body.
  • Incorporating Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass elements for optimum optical resolution.

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Our Take on the Pentax PF-80EDA

The price is right for a scope that offers almost the same quality and performance of the Zeiss spotting scope. However, this price comparison may be a bit deceiving when you factor in the cost of purchasing the eyepiece to go with the spotting scope. So, will you go wrong with the Pentax PF-80EDA spotting scope?  Not in our opinion.

Best General Purpose Spotting Scope - Vortex Viper HD 20-60x85

Vortex Viper HD 20-60x85

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Vortex Optics products. I don’t think you can go wrong purchasing a vortex optic for your rifle or pistol. The same holds for spotting scopes. The Vortex Viper HD 20-60×85 spotting scope is neck and neck with the Pentax when it comes to quality and performance. However, price-wise the Vortex Viper spotting scope is available for a bit cheaper than the Pentax.

The Vortex Viper spotting scope gets our best overall category based on price and features. The Viper spotting scope is equally at home in the field and on the range. It doesn’t matter if you are hunting, birdwatching, or star-gazing, the Vortex Viper spotting scope is an excellent choice with many features

The Pros and Cons in Our Opinion

It is hard for us to find any reason not to like Vortex Optics Viper HD spotting scopes. Vortex optics have given us years of service with few problems at an affordable price.



Vortex Optics Viper HD Spotting Scope 15-45x65 Angled
  • The Viper HD 15-45x65 Angled spotter is packed with features for incredible glassing and high end...
  • The HD optical system comprised of premium components generates vivid high-definition images. XR...

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Our Take on the Vortex Optics Viper HD 20-60×85 Spotting Scope

Hands down, this is my pick of all the scopes on this list. I own and run several spotting scopes at different times and under different circumstances. All in all, if I had to give up all but one of my spotting scopes, the Vortex Viper scope would be the one that stayed.

Best spotting scope for Digiscoping - Gosky 20-60X 80 Spotting Scope

Gosky 20-60X 80 Spotting Scope

If you aren’t a sport or competitive shooter but want a spotting scope for general use such as birdwatching, surveillance, or star-gazing, the Gosky 10-60×80 spotting scope may be your answer. While this scope doesn’t provide the rugged reliability hunters may need in the field while hunting, the included camera adapter is a great feature for those who want to record their finds.

Gosky provides an impressive list of features in their 20-60×80 spotting scope, making it a relative bargain for spotting scopes in general.

One great advantage of the Gosky kit is all the included extras. This kit comes with a tripod, a camera phone adapter and a carrying bag. There is nothing more to buy to be ready to go into the field.

The Pros and Cons in Our Opinion

Gosky is not the best-known name in the optics game. However, these spotting scopes get good reviews and provide a list of features you shouldn’t expect from a spotting scope in this price range. In general, this is what we found about the Gosky optics.



Gosky Updated 20-60x80 Spotting Scopes with Tripod, Carrying Bag and Quick...
  • Variable 20x to 60x magnification and dynamic lens focusing system - makes it easy to zoom in....
  • Fully multi-coated 80mm green film objective lens provides a field of view at 82.9-48ft/1000yards....

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Our Take on the Gosky 20-60×80 Spotting scope

 The Gosky spotting scope is a good choice when looking for a general-purpose spotting scope for photography. However, going into the field where conditions can be extreme and the spotting scope subject to rough handling, you may be disappointed. You can use this scope on the range for target shooting, but the Gosky can be tedious to focus at higher magnifications

Best Budget Spotting Scope - Emarth 20-60x60AE 45 Degree Angled Spotting Scope

Emarth 20-60x60AE 45 Degree Angled Spotting Scope

Some spotting scope buyers don’t shoot, don’t go to the field, and aren’t interested in one thousand yard viewing. Instead, their interest may focus on watching and photographing wildlife in their backyard or while hiking the countryside.

For these activities, a budget spotting scope may fill every requirement. A spotting scope kit with a budget price and good features can provide an excellent return on your money and time. The Emarth 20-60x60AE spotting scope can certainly provide these kinds of features.

All of this in a package that retails for less than $100 is a great bargain. For the average outdoor recreational use, the Emarth spotting scope package is a great deal.

The Pros and Cons in our Opinion

The Emarth 20-60x60AE  is not a $1000 spotting scope. So don’t expect this spotting scope to perform like a $1000 spotting scope. On the other hand, if you are looking for a reasonably priced spotting scope to set on your patio or carry with you birdwatching, the Emarth spotting scope is a great choice. Here is our Take on the pros and cons of the Emarth spotting scope.



Emarth 20-60x60AE 45 Degree Angled Spotting Scope with Tripod, Phone...
  • ✅【High Magnification】This spotting scope features a powerful zoom magnification range that...
  • ✅【Fully Multi-coated Lens】The lens are all fully multi-coated and features BAK4 roof prism to...

Last update on 2024-06-16 at 12:52 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Our Take on the Emarth 20-60x60WE 45 Degree Angled Spotting Scope

For the budget-minded person who occasionally goes to the shooting range, this is a great little scope. It is also a prime choice for the casual bird watcher or stargazer. However, taking this spotting scope into the field where conditions get extreme probably won’t have a good ending.

Seeing What You Need To See

The ultimate goal of having a spotting scope is to see what you need to see downrange. So whether this is a target or a galaxy millions of miles away, finding a spotting scope that fits your needs is the object.

I hope that this article gives you a better understanding of spotting scopes and what I look for in a premium scope. Then, make your own decisions as you shop based on your expectations and needs.  If you found this article helpful or have experiences or suggestions, please use the comments section below. 

Dennis Howard

A life long hunter, fisherman, and outdoorsman, after surviving a devastating tornado in his home town, he saw the effects on people's lives as they struggled to cope. He built his first bugout bag a few weeks later and has been a dedicated prepper/survivalist since that time. After a career as a fireman, Dennis opened a retail store (FFL approved) catering to the military, law enforcement, and like-minded individuals. The store built their own AR platforms. Furthermore, Dennis was also an NRA instructor in both long gun and handgun as well as a certified range safety officer. Read his full interview here.