Most magnification glasses will work within ranges no farther than what a person can see with the naked eye. A spotting scope allows a user to see much, much farther.
Spotting scopes are essentially small telescopes designed to look not to the heavens, but to targets in the far distance here on earth. These scopes can be as short as a couple inches, but provide massive magnification capabilities and do so with incredible clarity.
What type of magnification are we talking about here? Any spotting scope worth its weight will magnify the target between 20 and 60 times compared to what the naked eye can see. To give you a point of comparison, most binoculars provide magnifications levels of 5 to 10 times. Given this, spotting scopes can provide as much as 12 times more magnification than binoculars. This is a massive improvement as anyone who has used binoculars before well knows.
Scopes work essentially the same way as binoculars do, but they incorporate higher quality lenses as well as superior image amplification and clarity. Spotting scopes typically must be attached to a tripod or other device as stability is required to keep the viewable image from shaking. The scopes are so sensitive that holding them in the hand produces tremors in the images produced.
Spotting scopes are used in any situation where the normal magnification process simply does not suffice. In the case of binoculars, a spotting scope would be used for any item too far away for the binoculars to capture.
For example, bird watching enthusiasts will often use spotting scopes in lagoon areas. The lagoons tend to stretch far and wide, which means the user needs to see great distances. Since birds are small and often differentiated by detailed markings on their bodies, being able to view the animal in detail is also critical. In such a situation, the spotting scope is a perfect solution because it can provide both the detail and magnification needed.
Typical uses for spotting scopes include hunting, birding, viewing wildlife, viewing detailed areas from long distances and surveillance. In truth, spotting scopes are effective in any situation where a user needs to view something far in the distance.
The outer lens of a spotting scope is a critical component to the ultimate quality of the image produced by the scope. Given this, manufacturers coat the lens in different ways. The coating is designed to protect the lens, but it also facilitates the intake of more light and produces better images. When considering different scopes, the best come with a “multiple-coating” lens.
Spotting scopes should never be used in the rain if for no other reason than the scope will simply produce an image of blurring rain. Despite this, there are waterproof scopes available to the public. Many people believe these are an excellent investment, but not for the waterproofing per se. Instead, the waterproof design is useful because it also keeps dust and dirt out of the scope, which extends its useable life.
Investing in a scope means caring for it as well. These are very sensitive devices. If they are treated like binoculars, they are going to break. It is as simple as that. Before purchasing a scope, it is important one understands the item should be treated more like a telescope than something you can toss in the backseat after a hike.
Pricing and Quality
There are more than a few products where it can be difficult to determine if the highest price version of the product is all that much better than lower priced versions. This is not the case with spotting scopes. With spotting scopes, you clearly get what you pay for.
The reason there is such a difference of quality between high and low priced spotting scopes has to do with the sensitive nature of the device. Remember, a tripod has to be used to provide enough stability to keep the image from shaking in the best of circumstances. Given this sensitivity, the quality of the materials and craftsmanship is critical to the ultimate performance of the scope. A scope with the best lenses will perform far better than one simply mass produced with little attention paid to materials and quality. Put another way, this is a product where it makes sense to spend significant money.
Ultimately, spotting scopes represent the best magnification option available to those who need to accurately and clearly see targets in the far distance. The ability of modern spotting scopes to allow one to see a far off object in incredible detail is amazing and something one really has to see to believe.