Spotting Scope vs Binoculars – How to Choose

When it comes to spotting scope vs binoculars, they both have their uses. Each one can be beneficial in your tool kit. You need to learn which one to use in different situations to have the best experience available. 

Spotting Scope 

A spotting scope is a single tube optic tool that uses a lens to magnify and enhance your vision. Scopes can come in greater magnification than binoculars. With a large one, you can get up to 60x magnification. Of course, the higher your magnification, the more expensive the scope can become.

When you increase your magnification with your spotting scope, you also lower your field of vision. You can put the spotting scope on a tripod. It can help you hyper-focus on something specific. 

The lens on the scope tends to be larger. The extra size of the lens leads to a more precise, higher-quality image. You get this clarity due to the lens being able to take in more light. Spotting scope lenses tend to fall between 45mm to 100mm. 

Spotting scopes can be larger and less mobile than binoculars. They are harder to use with moving targets. You may have to spend some time setting up the tripod and finding the sight you desire. 




Binoculars come in all shapes and sizes. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the binoculars, the greater the magnification will be, though some avoid this trend. They are incredibly versatile and are a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts for almost every activity. 

The smaller lens size used by binoculars limits both their top-end magnification and their image quality. The lens on binoculars tends only to be 25mm-40 mm. Even large binocular lenses tend to be smaller than spotting scopes. 

This size limits how much light can pass through the lens, which limits the overall image quality. With some smaller binoculars, you can notice a change in color for the image due to this lack of light. 

They make up for in portability what they lose in magnification and image quality. Most binoculars can strap around your neck and come with you wherever you go. 

The maximum magnification for binoculars is about 15x. It is much lower than a spotting scope. The lesser magnification allows them to have a much larger field of vision. This extra vision enables you to find your target quicker. You can also track that target with greater ease. 

When you plan on activities that involve lots of movement and following particular things in motion, binoculars are a great tool. 



Which One Should You Choose? 

The better optics tool will depend a lot on what you are doing. There are a bunch of different activities where you may want to see better. Knowing what you plan on doing will let you know which device to choose. 

Target Shooting 

Target shooting has some distinct differences from hunting. Usually, you don’t move around much when target shooting, and you know where your target will be. All this information allows you to set up your optic and focus on a specific place. Spotting scopes are great for this activity. 


When you’re hunting, there are times where you will want to have fantastic magnification, and you plan on watching a specific spot. However, at other times you may have to be ready to move and track a target quickly. 

Having both options could be very useful. Spotting scopes are great if you are hunting in wide-open areas and using long-distance rifles. In heavily wooded areas, binoculars tend to be the hunter’s choice if you had to pick just one. Binoculars can adjust to changes much quicker.  


When you are bird-watching, you and your target are moving around a lot. Portability is vital in these situations. You want to be able to carry your optics with you. 

The birds’ speed in flight can make you adjust very quickly with little warning or set up time. To keep up with the birds, you will want to have a good set of binoculars. 

In instances where you are watching birds roost, it can be beneficial to have a dedicated spotting scope trained on the nest. It can be advantageous for larger birds like eagles who set up their nest on trees and cliffs. 


You will want to upgrade to an actual telescope and take advantage of the much greater magnification for most astronomy. However, if you just want a better view with the tools you have, the spotting scope’s extra magnification will make it the better option. 

Sports Viewing  

Most of the time, for sports viewing, you aren’t that far away from the action. You will also want to follow specific plays as they unfold and develop. These conditions make binoculars the winning choice. They should magnify the events enough and keep up with the players. 

If you are sitting still, though, and want to focus on a specific spot, like a finish line, or a golf hole, a spotting scope can be a great addition to catch a hole in one or photo finish. 


As you can see, the event dramatically affects which optic is the better choice. When it comes to spotting scope vs. binoculars, both can help you immensely. 

Many of these activities can benefit from using both. You can focus on specific things with the spotting scope and follow the action with the binoculars. 

If you’re unsure what activities you want to do, binoculars are the more versatile option, but they can’t beat the magnification you gain with spotting scopes. Trying out both can show you how they differ and give you a better idea of which one could be best for you.

Joseph Fox

Joseph Fox

Joseph Fox writes on a variety of topics ranging from reloading ammunition to gun cleaning. He has been featured on various publications like thetruthaboutguns, Sofrep & many more. Joseph is also the founder of Gunloading, where he reviews different types of reloading & firearm products available on the market.