Binoculars vs Spotting Scope
- Rob V.
Here is an article I have written which may help.
HIGH POWER OBSERVATION FOR HOME OR OFFICE
A high power binocular or telescope is a great way to view distant
landscapes, wildlife, ships at sea or other activities right from the
comfort of home or office. With so many models, however, it can be tough to
narrow down the choices. Here are some general guidelines that will help.
1. High power instruments require a tripod or mount, not only because of
their weight, but also because of magnification. Simply put, you cannot hold
these instruments steady enough without support. Furthermore, the heavier
the instrument and/or the higher the magnification, the more critical the
support becomes. If you plan to move your binocular or scope around a lot,
choose the size carefully.
2. Keep your expectations within reason. No instrument is capable of showing
fine detail, e.g. features on someone's face, at a mile or more, regardless
of the optical quality of the instrument or the magnification. Larger
objects can be seen at greater distances, of course, but there are limits to
what an instrument can do during the day. The problem is the atmosphere. The
atmosphere is an ocean of air and like an ocean, it is in a constant state
of motion. It is also filled with impurities - water vapor, dust, smog and
so on. These factors have a direct bearing on the magnification you can use.
The greater the instability and/or turbidity of the atmosphere, the lower
the magnification that is possible. It is a rare day when conditions will
allow much more than 60 - 80x and many days you will be limited to much
less. This holds true for any size instrument. Don't be tempted to buy an
astronomy telescope with 300x magnification and expect to use 300x during
3. Optical quality does not come cheap. Most instruments provide reasonably
good image quality at lower magnifications, but only a handful of very
expensive instruments will provide equally sharp images at high
magnifications. On the other hand, for scenery viewing of large objects, you
may not need the performance of these premium grade instruments.
4. There are two types of instruments used for this application - binoculars
and telescopes (specifically a type of telescope known as a spotting scope).
Both have advantages and disadvantages.
Binoculars offer the viewing comfort and widescreen effect of using two
eyes. For extended viewing sessions, a binocular will cause less eye
fatigue. On the other hand, binoculars, with some notable exceptions, offer
only one magnification. (Zoom binoculars might seem to be a good idea here,
but in general, zooms do not have the optical quality or durability of fixed
power models). In addition, large observation binoculars are cumbersome and
heavy and at the very limit of portability.
Spotting scopes are small telescopes designed to be used by day, although
they can also be used for some limited astronomy at night. The main
advantage of a spotting scope is its versatility. Most spotting scopes come
equipped with a zoom eyepiece which allows you to switch magnification
instantly from a low end of about 20x all the way up to 60x. A few spotting
scopes use standard telescope eyepieces for even more versatility. Spotting
scopes are also lighter and more portable than a binocular of the same lens
size and all are designed to fit a standard photo tripod. The drawback, of
course, is that you can only use one eye. Still, the typical spotting scope
will have a much greater "reach" than the typical observation binocular.
Here are some choices in a conventional observation binocular.
Bushnell 20x50 Powerview Binoculars (requires a tripod adapter)
Pentax 20x60 PCF WP II Binoculars - 65810 (requires a tripod adapter)
Celestron 20x80 Skymaster Giant Binoculars 71016
Steiner 25x80mm Observer Binoculars + FREE Steiner 8x22 Safari Binoculars
(requires a tripod adapter)
Nikon 20x120 BinoTelescope Binoculars - 7448
Here are some specialty observation binoculars that allow you to change the
eyepieces to observe at different magnifications. These are large
instruments and will require the heaviest mounts.
Apogee 20-32x88mm Binoculars Right-Angle Astro VUE
Kowa 32x82mm High Lander Binoculars Waterproof Binoculars w/ F...
Oberwerk 25/40x100mm Military Observation w/ tripod...
Oberwerk 100mm Binocular Telescope w/ 25x & 62x,
Vixen BT80A Astronomical Binocular ..
Here are just some of the many choices you have in a spotting scope. A few,
such as the Meade ETX and Televue are also excellent choices for astronomy.
All require the addition of a tripod.
Bushnell 20-60x65 Trophy Spotting Scope 78-2065
Celestron Ultima 80 - Straight Spotting Scopes 52254
Meade ETX-90 Spotting Scope
Bushnell Elite 20-60x80mm ED Glass Spotting scope 780080 Rainguard &
Meade ETX-125 Spotting Scopes
Swarovski STS-80 Spotting Scope
TeleVue-76 Telescope Package
TeleVue-85 Telescope Package w/ Free UPS
In a traditional brass telescope for more of that antique look, try one of
Barska 32x80 AnchorMaster Spy Scope w/ Mahogany Floor Tripod A...
Barska 18x50 Anchor Master Spyscope - Spotting Scope w/ Mahoga...
Barska 15-45x50 AnchorMaster Handcrafted Brass Scope w/ Mahoga...
Bushnell 35x60 Harbormaster Refractor Telescope
Zhumell Admiral Brass Nautical Telescopes 343-ADM
Zhumell Commodore Brass Nautical Telescope 8040-COMM
TeleVue Renaissance 102 telescope BXC-4086 w/ Free UPS
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