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Binoculars vs Spotting Scope: Which One You Should Buy?

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Even though the binocular and the spotting scope have a noticeable difference in their design, these two need clarification. Since they are both long-distance viewing scopes, it is understandable that people need help finding the best use for each.

The binoculars vs spotting scope argument are huge among outdoor enthusiasts due to their similar range, but their differences are numerous and distinct.

When people compare the two viewing scopes, they do so due to a need for accurate information. Differentiating a binocular and a spotting scope and deciding which one to buy becomes a straightforward decision with the correct details on each product.

Before you spend the next couple of hours checking the best binoculars or spotting scopes to buy, you need to realize that although they both magnify objects, the way and style they use varies.

This guide includes all the essential information to understand which type to choose for their activity.


Image source: bobvila.com

Binoculars have two lenses for each. They look like the joining of two telescopes to fit the two eyes and make it possible to see through each eye simultaneously while enjoying its magnification.

Binoculars are often differentiated by the type of prism they employ, with Porro and roof prisms the most popular, while Galilean prisms are outdated.

Even though there are larger and more powerful binoculars today, most are lightweight and portable. The binocular’s simplicity and portability are some of its strongest pulls.

The scope is easy to use, requiring little to no prior experience. It is also portable, with a good grip area to avoid falling off. People get to hang the binoculars with a rope on their necks without feeling the strain of the additional weight.

You can use binoculars by hand or on a tripod stand for a hands-free experience. The average binocular objective lens diameter is around 30-50 mm due to the typical range and daytime viewing.

You’ll find a few sophisticated binoculars capable of nighttime viewing with objective lens sizes of up to 100 mm, but they are rare.

The versatility and comfort the binoculars bring are helpful as you can use two eyes, removing the strain of using a single eye to view.

They can track targets on the go without any stability equipment that other viewing scopes require. Since they have a wider field of view, they are great at picking up targets and tracking whether it is for hunting or viewing locations farther away.


  • Viewing from both eyes reduces eye stress and makes long viewing more comfortable.
  • Lighter weight and portable design make carrying around and tracking targets easier.
  • Easy to use as its features are straightforward, and handling is great since you do not need a tripod to use the scope.
  • Affordable people on a budget can get this scope.
  • Wide field of view, making it easy to spot and track targets.


  • Its smaller objective lens sizes make it difficult to see at night and over long distances.
  • Its lower magnification ranges reduce the clarity of targets at far distances.

Spotting Scopes

Spotting Scopes
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Spotting scope design features a single lens to view with a single eye. Spotting scopes are more similar to monoculars, albeit with higher magnification and different lenses.

While spotting scopes can look like smaller telescopes, they are less powerful and cannot view the stars. You can hold spotting scopes in hand for quick use or use a tripod for a hands-free experience.

Spotting scopes are built with a certain level of ruggedness to withstand the harsh weather conditions they usually encounter. The magnification for spotting scopes is wide, stretching above 60x in most cases.

You’ll also find smaller magnification levels. However, the average spotting scope is meant for long distances. Their objective lenses match the wide magnification levels as they range from 45 to 100 mm, allowing you to spot them at night and during the day.

The field of view of a spotting scope is smaller, often ranging from 50 to 150 feet; however, they make up for this with clearer images.

Spotting scopes mostly use the bak-4 or bak-7 prisms, which all have advantages, with bak-4 glasses having better light transmission and durability, while bak-7 is great for astrophotography.

While we cannot see the stars with the sporting scopes, we can see distant targets inside our atmosphere.

This makes them ideal for bird and nature watching, where you must stay far away from the targets, so you don’t scare them. Other ideal use cases include spotting your shots in hunting and sometimes even photography.


  • Higher magnification ranges make it possible to get clearer images across long distances.
  • Wider objective lenses help both night and day usage
  • Durable design to protect it in harsh terrains
  • It can be handheld or tripod mounted


  • It is not as affordable as some of the other scopes
  • Its small field of view makes it harder to see the target’s surrounding

Bonus Read: 3 Best Swarovski Spotting Scope Review in 2022

Binoculars Vs Spotting Scopes; Key Differences

Binoculars Vs Spotting Scopes; Key Differences
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Binoculars and spotting scopes may be viewing gadgets, but their styles vary greatly. Knowing their differences will make choosing the right one a lot easier. Here are some key differences:

1. Weight

Binoculars are portable, compact, and lightweight, even though they feature two lens systems. The sight and portability of a scope can affect how you use it.

Heavier scopes are harder to carry and may affect your focus as they strain your hands. Carrying binoculars around will is easy, as some people hang them on their necks.

Spotting scopes may not be as heavy as some other scopes like the telescope, but they’re heavier than binoculars and, as such, lose the weight and portability battle.

2. Magnification

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Magnification is the number of times an image can be increased to make it easier to see over a distance. The higher the magnification, the farther the distance you can view.

The magnification is usually more comprehensive for a spotting scope, with higher levels ranging from 10-65x. Magniefication levels reduce significantly for binoculars, with their levels between 6-12x.

Bonus Read: Best Long Range Rifle Scopes – Our Top 7 Choice

3. Field of View

The area you can see around your target is regarded as the field of view and usually correlates with magnification. Lower magnification often comes with a wider field of view, so scopes like binoculars with low magnifying levels will feature a wider field of view.

Spotting scopes have higher magnification levels and only a short field of view of up to 150 feet. This limits what you can see around your target.

4. Close Focus

Close Focus
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Close objects can be complex for long-distance scopes, like binoculars and spotting scopes, which is why immediate focus is important. Close focus is the minimum distance an object can be for the scope to focus on it. The lower the. Close focus is the better you can see close things.

Spotting scopes generally have a higher close focus distance due to their higher magnification ranges; they are better suited to viewing longer distances.

Therefore, it is unsurprising that binoculars have a better close focus distance since they have lower magnification and are ideal for more relative spaces.

5. Objective Lens Size

Objective Lens Size
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Objective lens size is the number after the X in the scope specifications. It denotes the lens size closest to the target and helps bring light into the tube. You’ll find that larger objective lens sizes bring more light in and produce better images.

Binoculars have smaller objective lens sizes ranging from 25mm to 42mm. On the other hand, spotting scopes have accurate lens sizes of up to 100 mm as they deal with considerably longer distances and even night viewing.

6. Price

Price is always essential when making purchases; however, it is more complex when comparing binoculars to spotting scopes.

These scopes have premium, mid-level, and low-end options, and their prices vary considerably. Mid-level binoculars are noticeably cheaper than spotting scopes. Nevertheless, we’ll be looking at similar levels of both scopes.

Bonus Read: 5 Best Spotting Scope Under $500 {Expert’s Choice}

Binoculars Vs Spotting Scopes: Which to Choose?

Binoculars Vs Spotting Scopes: Which to Choose
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Choosing the right scope between binoculars and spotting scope is easy once you realize there’s no one answer for this. Every scope has strong points and best use cases.

So following the best to choose based on use cases will give a more comprehensive answer. Here are some common scope uses and the best to choose between binoculars and spotting scopes:

1. Hunting

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The type of hunting will determine the most suitable scope to choose. Hunting is variable, some requiring stealth movement among bushy plains while others may require patience in a vantage position as you want for your target.

For example, binoculars are portable and handheld, so they are great when hunting targets at close range that require navigating thick bushes.

On the other hand, spotting scopes are great when hunting big games in a clear field, as you can position your tripod and wait for the target.

2. Target shooting

Target shooting involves shooting at stationary nonliving targets. Target shooting is great for practice and competitions.

Spotting with long-range capabilities is the most suitable scope; however, you can utilize binoculars with a tripod. Since target shooting is usually stationary, having a stable scope is one of the most critical factors.

3. Birdwatching and Astronomy

Birdwatching and Astronomy
Image source: asia.canon

Bird and nature watchers require a scope with precise details across long distances. Since frequent movement is not essential in any of these activities, a spotting scope on a tripod will provide clarity across long distances.

Binoculars produce less image clarity for long-distance targets so they could be better for birdwatching and astronomy.

Bonus Read: 4 Best Gosky Spotting Scope to Buy {Buyer’s Guide}

4. Sniping

Sniping involves long-range shooting from a stationary position, which disadvantages binoculars.

Sniping also involves extreme accuracy making the spotting scope with better image quality across long distances the best choice to pair alongside the rifle.

Final Thoughts

Binoculars Vs spotting scopes is an agelong argument but can quickly be resolved with information about each scope.

Learning about the features and uses of the scope will help you choose the right scope for your activity, as there is no one size fits all answer.

About Author

James Towndrow, a NRA-certified Firearms Instructor. During a career of 18 years had won several shooting competition including major leagues. Taking all those experience down the road, is now a successful Shooting Instructor in Texas, US.