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Spotting scope recs
Looking to buy a spotting scope. Never have owned one. Would be used for elk and mule deer hunting. I could spend up to $800 but would buy a cheaper one if it was highly recommended. Just getting started looking at them. I would appreciate any input!
I've been happy with my Vortex Razor 16-48 x 65mm spotting scope. Had it two seasons now. Went with the angled version. It's much easier on my neck glassing for a while.
Similar to other optics, buy the best you can afford. Also, helps to buy optics that have a lifetime warantee! If you want the very best go with Swaro or Leica. There seems to be a lot of followers for Vortex and others. If you can't quite afford Swaro or Leica you may be able to pick up one almost new on Craigslist, Ebay, a demo model, or forum classifieds for a substantial discount. I bought a pair of Leica binos that were almost new off Ebay around 12 years ago for $400 that I have used and abused. They are still crystal clear!
Will you be packing it or mostly from a vehicle. If packing, the skinnier ones are a lot easier to slip in the side pocket of your pack. I've got a Nikon and a Leopold and the Nikon is much easier to haul around.
I have a like new, in excellent condition... Nikon Angled Fieldscope ED50.... I am going to sell If your interested . I bought it to look up on the side hills from the house and really never use it. It just sits on the tripod in the living room . Never have had it out on a hunt. PM me if interested.
The best spotting scope is the one you'd most likely have with you. About five years ago I bought a Nikon ED 50 with 15X45 eyepiece. I have two other scopes, but both are bigger and heavier. With the small size and light weight, I always have it in my pack. And because it is light, I can get away with a lighter tripod to. Currently using a Vortex SS tripod. I prefer the angled scopes for comfort.
Side by side the larger Zies and Swarovski are definitely superior for extreme detail, like rings on a Stone ram or judging a goat at several hundred yards. But I think for deer, elk and bears, the little Nikon is be more than up to the job.
There are a few middle of the road scopes that are good value, but I would strongly advise against the bottom end offerings. And you shouldn't overlook good used glass. You can often move up to better glass for the price of lesser quality in new.
And just a comment. Whenever I hear too many people claim how great the warranty is on a product, because they used it, I get suspicious of the quality of the item. The best warranty is the one you never have to put to the test. A great warranty is cold comfort right when you really need that piece of gear to work.
For $800 range you'd be hard pressed to beat the vortex razor 65mm. I will have to be a used one to get that price, but with their warranty a used scope shouldn't be a worry. It looks like there is one in the classifieds for $800 too. Don't know the guy but that would definitely be worth checking out.
Ambush is right that the best one is the one you'll carry. 65mm would be a good compromise for packability and capability of saving your legs potential miles.
For elk and mule deer Ambush nailed it. I rarely take the 65 mm Swaro for them (my sheep scope), as I'd rather use my lighter Nikon ED50 13-30x (bought used for $600 CA with two eye pieces) or even the 30 year old Leupold fixed power 20x50 that weighs 18 ounces (bought new for $220 in 1987).
Hunt of the day has the old model razor spotter for $899 today. U picked one up a few months ago and really like it
You will use your binoculars much more than a spotting scope, so those should be the best that you can afford. If you are looking at something in the $800 range for a spotting scope, look hard at the length and weight. You will want to have it with you. I would think the Nikon ED50 would work well for what you are doing. A buddy of mine has one and I was surprised how good it compared to my Swarovski side by side.
I pack a 65mm Swarovski with me when I am mule deer, coues deer, or sheep hunting and sometimes even have my 15x56's and a full-size carbon tripod. It is a lot of extra weight to haul around, but many times the big glass has made the difference between finding animals or not. If I am backpacking a long way and weight is a big factor, the old Leupold 25x50 and an ultralight tripod still works well - have found a lot of big mule deer bedded in willows across canyons with that old scope!
Few suggestions: 1) How will you be mostly using it? Lugging it in your pack? If so, an 80 is probably too much. Mostly from a car? Then don't get angled. 2) Do some research. Your library probably has back issues of magazine's that does optics reviews (outdoor life seems to do a pretty competent and honest side-by-side comparisons), so you know what different reviewers consider good and not-so-good. I focus (ha) on clarity and brightness ratings for scopes in your price range, and pay attention to the comments (like "dial feels like it has sand in it"). $800 will get you good but not top notch optics. 3) Print out an optical resolution chart (google the term to find them online). I like the three bars that get progressively smaller around the page). Go to a big Cabelas or similar store, find a wall or support across the store that you can see from the optics counter, and tape the chart to it. Let the service people at the counter know you are there to buy, and spend some time (I took a couple hours) checking out which scopes let you see the smallest bars. Be sure to look at the chart from around the edges of the field of view - that's one place where inferior glass gets blurry. It's difficult to determine brightness from in a store, but try to look at a darker object or area to get some idea of relative brightness. 5) Once you have a winner, ask to look at every example of that model. There are appreciable differences between different examples of the same model scope. This is one reason why I buy my optics in person, and like a big store like Cabelas to do it from. Also, it is bad mojo to rip off a bricks and mortar store by treating it as a showroom for a subsequent online purchase. 6) Get a decent case. Backpacking it will take its licks, but up to the trailhead it should be in a hardsided padded case. If you want to break your heart, slap a Swaro on the tripod and see what top dollar will get you. Then again, don't. I've been saving for years for one of those puppies. Still got a 4-figure sum to go, but won't settle for anything else. Good luck. Hope you see some beauties from far far away.
Angled works fine from the truck window as long as the scope barrel rotates so you can point the eye piece back your way. For me is more ergonomic than viewing twisted around with a straight scope. .....but a bit more difficult to locate critters until you are used to it.
Thanks for the info guys. I will be carting it around in my back pack so I'll be looking for something on the lighter end.
I have an angled leica televid 62 apo with 16 - 48× eyepiece. Can't imagine a better backpacking scope. For the truck I have swarovski sts 80. Each has its uses. Like the straight sts scope on a window mount or big tripod. I highly recommend both.