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The best spotting scopes under $300

A spotting scope can be likened to a mobile telescope that provides close-up images of objects far away. You may have recently moved to the countryside, and want to see the creatures up close. A spotting scope is an ideal addition for both these activities. With so many spotting scopes available, how do you choose the right one? We have put together 12 of the Best Spotting Scopes under $300, to give you some insight as to what you can get without breaking the bank.

Spotting scopes are available in two configurations — straight-through (the eyepiece is on the same axis as the body of the scope) and angled (the eyepiece is at a 45-degree angle to the body). We have included both types in our list of the Best Spotting Scopes Under $300 based on certain criteria and user reviews.

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Q&A Part 1

Best Spotting Scopes Under $300

How do I choose a spotting scope?

How you intend to use your spotting scope will determine which scope you buy and of course price. Birdwatching, wildlife, or hunting requires good magnification because being too close will scare the animal away. Stargazing is best done with high magnification, a big lens, and a decent zoom.

Is a spotting scope better than binoculars?

There is no right or wrong answer. If you are sightseeing, then binoculars are probably the best choice. They’re lightweight and have reasonable magnification. If you want to see if you have hit the target’s bulls-eye on the 400yd shooting range then a spotting scope is the better choice.

Things to consider in this price range are:

  • Magnification: 20x-60x is the most popular, although some have 80x.
  • Lens coatings: More coatings means better results. Look for Fully Multi-Coated lenses.
  • Eye Relief: If you wear glasses look for 16mm+.
  • Warranty period: Make sure the warranty is the best on offer.
  • Type of scope: Is straight or angled better for you?

Note: An explanation of and the benefits gained from each of the standard specifications is shown at the end of this article. 

The best spotting scopes under $300

If you are looking for the best spotting scopes, we’ve done some of the hard work for you and come up with what we consider to be 12 of the best spotting scopes under $300.

Gravitude 20-60x80mm HD Spotting Scope with Tripod and Carry Case

This spotting scope is one of the angled configurations and comes complete with a tripod, carrying case and shoulder strap, cell phone adapter, and photo clicker. Ideal for target shooting, bird watching, or stargazing, and it is one of the best spotting scopes under $300. It boasts a 2-knob fine-focus for that extra fine detail with superior, clear, and bright viewing even at 60x zoom magnification. The adjustable large eye relief of 17-12mm is beneficial if you wear glasses.

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Key Features
  • Prism type: BAK4
  • Objective Lens: 80mm
  • Magnification: 20x – 60x
  • Lens Coating: FMC (Fully Multi-Coated)
  • Field of View: 100 – 49.5ft at 1000yds
  • 2-knob Fine Focus
  • Eye Relief: 17 – 12mm
  • Nitrogen Purged and O-Ring sealed
  • Interior optical surfaces use anti-fog technology
  • Weight: 4.5lbs
What Stands Out For Us
  • The easy 2-knob focus system.
  • Crystal clear images at maximum magnification with no distortion.
  • Multi-coated lenses that eliminate reflections.
  • Interior optical surfaces use anti-fog technology.
  • With a minimum focal distance of 32ft, watching birds close-up is a breeze.

SVBONY SV13 Spotting Scope Telescope

Another spotting scope in our list of best spotting scopes under 300 dollars is the SVBONY SV13 - F9314AB. It is perfect for hunting, target shooting, but especially bird watching. The variable 20-60x zoom makes distant objects appear close, but add in the 2.37" resolution and everything is sharp at 60x magnification. You have three options with this scope. Scope only, scope plus a standard tripod, or scope plus a professional tripod. All three options include a phone adapter and a soft case.

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Key Features
  • Prism type: BK7
  • Objective Lens: 80mm
  • Magnification: 20x – 60x
  • Lens Coating: FMC (Multi-Coated)
  • Field of View: 82.9ft at 1000yds (20x) – 48ft at 1000yds (60x)
  • Eye Relief – 17.9 – 15mm
  • Nitrogen Filled, 100% Waterproof
  • Durable Polycarbonate Body & Rubber armoring
  • Weight: 4.47lbs
  • Length: 18.5in
  • 45 degree angled eyepiece
What Stands Out For Us
  • The solid construction, although some thought it slightly heavy, but the quality of images by far compensated for the weight.
  • The focus and zoom knobs operate smoothly and have the perfect amount of resistance to stay in place.
  • All in all, an impressive scope.

Celestron 52330 TrailSeeker 65

Gaining a slot in the best spotting scopes under 300 dollars, this spotting scope features a handy 16 to 48x magnification eyepiece giving the user views from substantial panoramas at the lower end of the zoom to compact, meticulous images at full zoom. Its dual-focus system allows for initial coarse focusing then you can enhance the image with the fine-focus control. It features a 360-degree rotating tripod mount, allowing you to set the eyepiece at any viewing position.

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Key Features
  • Prism type: BaK4
  • Objective Lens: 65mm
  • Magnification: 16x – 48x 
  • Lens Coating: FMC (Fully Multi-Coated) and XLT
  • Field of View: 135ft- 45ft at 1000yds
  • Close focus distance: 23 ft
  • Eye Relief: 18 – 15mm
  • 100% Waterproof and Fogproof
  • Overall Length: 14.86 inches
  • Weight: 3lbs
  • 45 degree angled eyepiece
What Stands Out For Us
  • The high quality of the optics.
  • The included soft case has a tripod opening which means the case can stay on the scope while in use.
  • Along with the sturdy rubber-armored housing, its sliding sunshade helps keep glare off the lens.

Gosky 20-60 X 80 Porro Prism Spotting Scope

Acquiring a position in the best spotting scopes under $300 is the Gosky 20-60x80 spotting scope. Ideal for shooting, archery, bird watching, or wildlife viewing, this uncomplicated spotting scope has HD Optics for clearer, brighter, crisp, and higher-contrast viewing. The newly designed focusing wheel gives you accuracy by using a dynamic lens focusing system. A retractable sunshade can be pulled out to protect the eyepiece from glare. With advanced multi-coating, this scope delivers superior images even in low-light situations.

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Key Features
  • Prism type: BaK4 Porro
  • Objective Lens: 80mm
  • Magnification: 20x – 60x
  • Lens Coating: FMC (Fully Multi-Coated)
  • Field of View: 127ft at 1000yds (20x) – 62ft at 1000yds (60x)
  • Eye Relief: 17 – 13.5mm
  • 100% Waterproof and Fog proof.
  • Durable Magnalium Framework & Rubber armor.
  • Weight: 2.41lbs.
  • 45 degree angled eyepiece.
What Stands Out For Us
  • The clarity of images at full magnification without losing quality.
  • The smartphone adapter that actually works.
  • The ease of focusing and its portability ranks high on the list of likes—making it one of the best spotting scopes under $300.

Barska AD10350 Blackhawk 20-60x60

The Barska AD10350 straight spotting scope weighs 2.86lbs. It is light enough to be hand-held, earning it a position in the best spotting scopes under 300 dollars. It comes with a tripod (compact), two cases, (one hard and one soft), and an extendable sunshade to help with glare if you're looking toward the sun. It has a durable rubber armor body, which helps to protect the scope from damage should you drop it when you are out on the trail.

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Key Features
  • Prism type: Porro
  • Objective Lens: 60mm
  • Magnification: 20x – 60x
  • Lens Coating: FMC (Fully Multi-Coated)
  • Field of View: 91ft at 1000yds (20x) – 45ft at 1000yds (60x)
  • Close focus distance: 23 ft
  • Eye Relief: 18 – 15mm
  • 100% Waterproof and Fogproof.
  • Nitrogen Purged.
  • Overall Length: 14.86 inches
What Stands Out For Us
  • Its weight of just over 2.5 lbs.
  • The quality of the optics and focus adjustments.
  • On a 300-yard shooting range, performance met with expectations.
  • The clarity of the image at 60x zoom.
Q&A Part 2

Best Spotting Scopes Under $300

What is the best magnification for a spotting scope?

Magnification can be difficult to get right. You might think the higher the magnification, the better the scope will be. Not necessarily true. The more powerful the magnification, the more you will see the image shake and quiver.

The best magnification for a spotting scope is the one that combines power with quality lenses and is within your budget. The majority of spotting scopes range from 15x to 60x magnification, but a scope with good quality lenses and 15x-40x magnification is better than one with bad lenses and 15x-60x magnification.

What is better, straight or angled spotting scope?

It depends on what you want to use the scope for. If you use it mainly for hunting, then a straight scope is the type that will work best for you. An angled spotting scope will work better if you are bird watching, digiscoping, or on a long shooting range.

Can spotting scopes be used for stargazing?

Absolutely. Although you could mount a straight scope to your tripod, an angled scope would be your best choice as it makes viewing at an upwards angle easier and much more natural. The scope should also have a minimum 65mm lens to capture all available light, especially at night.

Redfield Rampage 20-60x60mm Straight Eyepiece Spotting Scope

Weighing in at just over 5lbs, the Redfield Rampage 20-60x60mm Straight Eyepiece Spotting Scope is a bit heavier than other scopes but still deserves to be listed in our best spotting scopes under $300. Included with the scope are a compact tripod, soft storage case, a view-through soft case, and an adaptable tripod mount. An excellent feature on this scope is the slip-resistant ridges which allow for easy tripod mounting and precise focusing even if you are wearing gloves.

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Key Features
  • Prism type: BaK4
  • Objective Lens: 60mm
  • Magnification: 20x – 60x
  • Lens Coating: FMC (Fully Multi-Coated)
  • Field of View: 114ft at 1000yds (20x) – 51ft at 1000yds (60x)
  • Eye Relief: 17 – 14mm
  • Nitrogen Filled, 100% Waterproof, Fog-proof, and Shock Proof.
  • Durable Polycarbonate Body & Rubber armoring.
  • Weight: 5.08lbs
  • Length: 14.5in
What Stands Out For Us
  • Its polycarbonate body construction and the BAK4 prism system.
  • The clarity and resolution of the images were comparable to more expensive models.
  • The lifetime warranty that comes with the scope.

Athlon Talos 20-60x80 Spotter Scope

Another one of the best spotting scopes under 300 dollars is the 45 degree Talos 20-60x80 Spotting Scope by Athlon Optics. With its powerful range of magnification combined with the large 80mm objective lens, it gives crystal clear images throughout the range of zoom, from early morning till twilight. The fully multi-coated anti-reflection lenses permit the transmission of light through the optic path giving clear accurate colors. The angled eyepiece allows easy viewing no matter which position you prefer.

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Key Features
  • Prism type: Silver-Coated K9
  • Objective Lens: 80mm
  • Magnification: 20x – 60x
  • Lens Coating: FMC (Multi-Coated)
  • Field of View: 82.9ft at 1000yds (20x) – 48ft at 1000yds (60x)
  • Eye Relief: 17.8 – 15mm
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 19.7ft.
  • Nitrogen Filled, 100% Waterproof.
  • Weight: 2.4lbs
  • Length: 16.5in
  • 45 degree angled eyepiece.
What Stands Out For Us
  • This scope is great value for money.
  • The eye relief is excellent, and images are clear and sharp.
  • Focus adjustment is fast, with only small turns needed to focus in and out.

landove 20-60X 65 Waterproof Spotting Scope

Another spotting scope in our best spotting scopes under 300 dollars, is the Landove 20-60X 65 Waterproof Spotting Scope. It has numerous features found only on more expensive scopes. The body of the scope is made from magnalium, an alloy made from magnesium and aluminum, making it sturdy yet lightweight, and has a rubber armor coating. Included with the scope is a metal table tripod, smartphone adapter, carrying bag, two lens covers, and a lifetime warranty guarantee.

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Key Features
  • Prism type: BAK4
  • Objective Lens: 65mm
  • Magnification: 20x – 60x
  • Lens Coating: FMC (Fully Multi-Coated)
  • Field of View: 82.9ft – 50.6ft at 1000yds
  • Eye Relief: 14.5 – 11.5mm
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 19.7ft
  • Nitrogen Filled, 100% Waterproof, and fog-proof
  • Weight: 3.9lbs
  • 45 degree angled eyepiece.
  • Eyepiece lens: 20mm diameter
What Stands Out For Us
  • The ability to spot targets and the image detail at distances of over 1000 yds.
  • The ease of focusing and the clarity of the picture.
  • The scope’s overall performance and getting value for money.

BARSKA 30-90x90 Colorado Waterproof Spotting Scope

The BARSKA 30-90x90 Colorado Waterproof Straight Body Spotting Scope is another of the best spotting scopes under 300 dollars. It has an impressive 30-90x zoom magnification with a generous 90mm objective lens, which maximizes available light delivering clear images in challenging conditions. The broad zoom range allows it to be used across a spectrum of activities — bird watching, spotting at the range, as well as stargazing. This scope comes with a tripod, carrying case, and is definitely worth checking out.

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Key Features
  • Prism type – BK-7 Porro
  • Objective Lens: 90mm
  • Magnification: 30x – 90x
  • Lens Coating: FMC (Fully Multi-Coated)
  • Close focus: 32.8ft
  • Field of View: 78ft at 1000yds (30x) – 40.2ft at 1000yds (90x)
  • Nitrogen Filled, 100% Waterproof, and fog proof
  • Weight: 3lbs
  • Length: 21 in
  • Straight eyepiece.
  • Flip-down lens cover
What Stands Out For Us
  • The ease of use, and clear views.
  • Magnificent quality when focusing at great distances — highly recommended.
  • The 90mm lens provides ample light and the sunshade is a bonus.

Orion Grandview 20-60x80 Zoom Spotting Scope, Green/Black (51691)

The Grandview 20-60x80 Spotting Scope by Orion deserves to have a place in our list of the best spotting scopes under $300. With its powerful zoom ranging from 20x to 60x magnification, you can view the horizon and increase the magnification to 60x to see details. With its 80mm objective lens, and the ability to focus on objects as near as 27ft., the Grandview 20-60x80 is a great choice no matter what you intend to use it for.

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Key Features
  • Objective Lens: 80mm
  • Magnification: 20x – 60x
  • Lens Coating: FMC (Fully Multi-Coated)
  • Field of View: 105ft (20x) – 63ft at 1000yds (60x)
  • Eye Relief: 16 – 14mm
  • Close up view: 27ft
  • Weight: 3.2lbs
  • Length: 18 in
  • 45 degree angled eyepiece.
  • Rotatable eyepiece mounting collar.
  • Extending sunshade with lens cap.
What Stands Out For Us
  • The clarity of images is excellent at 60x magnification.
  • A removable eyepiece cover and an anchored lens cover is a nice touch.
  • Clear, affordable, and excellent value for money.

Meade Instruments 126002 Wilderness Spotting Scope - 20-60x100-mm (Black)

The Meade Instruments Wilderness 20-60x100mm spotting scope deserves to be included as one of the best spotting scopes under $300. It is an ideal spotting scope for the outdoor enthusiast, perfect for bird watching, wildlife, scenic views, long and short-range target shooting. Perhaps your passion is stargazing. If so, this scope will definitely not let you down. The scope's 20-60x zoom is smooth to adjust from locking in your target to zooming in close for a detailed view.

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Key Features
  • Prism type: BAK-4
  • Objective Lens: 100mm
  • Magnification: 20x – 60x
  • Lens Coating: FMC (Fully Multi-Coated)
  • Field of View: 79ft at 1000yds (20x) – 40ft at 1000yds (60x) 
  • Eye Relief: 21.0 – 18mm
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 32.8ft
  • Weight: 3 lbs
  • Length: 21 in
  • 45 degree angled eyepiece.
  • Fast-focus knob.
What Stands Out For Us
  • The eye relief being more comfortable than some scopes.
  • The focus adjustment knob is smooth to turn and is precise.
  • The large optic delivers very bright images, even at 60x.

Emarth 20-60x60mm BAK4 Prism Spotting Scope with Camera Tripod

The Emarth 20-60x60mm BAK4 prism spotting scope is another of the 12 best spotting scopes under $300. Included with your purchase are an adjustable, folding, aluminum compact tripod, carrying case, and lens covers. It boasts a larger eyepiece, coming in at 21mm, which makes for more comfortable viewing. This scope is a 45 degree angled scope with a 60mm objective lens, and it is perfect for long-range target shooting, hunting, birding, watching wildlife, or viewing the moon, etc.

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Key Features
  • Prism type: BAK-4
  • Objective Lens: 60mm
  • Magnification: 20x – 60x
  • Lens Coating: FMC (Fully Multi-Coated)
  • Field of View: 156ft – 81ft at 1000yds.
  • Eye Relief – 19.5 – 18mm
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 32.8ft
  • Weight: 1.41lbs 
  • Length: 13.39 in
  • 45 degree angled eyepiece.
  • Nitrogen Filled, 100% Waterproof, and fog proof.
What Stands Out For Us
  • For the price, this scope is difficult to beat.
  • This scope has excellent magnification and target clarity.
  • A five-star scope — very clear even at the highest zoom setting.
Q&A Part 3

Best Spotting Scopes Under $300

How to use a spotting scope for birding?

Using a spotting scope for birding will give you detail you never imagined. But since a scope is larger and heavier than binoculars, a good tripod will make your birding experience more enjoyable. A 45-degree scope makes for comfortable viewing with a tripod that can be raised and lowered.

What is the difference between a spotting scope and a telescope?

The biggest differences between them are:

  • Spotting scopes are lightweight, portable, and compact, whereas telescopes are much larger, heavier, and not really portable.
  • Spotting scopes give you a normal image which is the same as viewed with the naked eye. A telescope’s image is inverted in both directions.

Are monoculars better than binoculars?

The answer depends on what you are going to be doing. If you are an avid hiker, then choose a monocular. They benefit from being lighter and smaller. If you enjoy hunting, then binoculars are probably your better choice, since you are probably stationary and weight isn’t usually a problem.

Feature benefits of the Spotting Scopes

In our list of the best spotting scopes under $300 each scope listed has similar standard specifications. The explanations of each one and benefits are shown below.

Prism type

In our list of the best spotting scopes under $300, the prism type is listed as one of the following:

  • BAK4.
  • BK-7 Porro.
  • Silver-Coated K9.
  • Porro.
  • BaK4 Porro.
  • BK7.

The majority of prisms used in spotting scopes are BK7 (BK-7) or BAK4 (BAK-4) glass. It is generally accepted that BAK-4 glass is of a higher quality and yields brighter images with higher edge definition.

Choosing a spotting scope with either of these two main prisms would be a benefit to any new spotting scope user, mainly because the images produced won’t be a disappointment.

Objective Lens

When looking at spotting scopes, you will see numbers, such as 20-60×60. The last number is the objective or front lens’ diameter, in this case, 60mm. The higher the number, the larger the diameter of the lens.

The main benefit of a larger lens is that more light is allowed into the scope’s optics making the image brighter.

Magnification

Spotting scopes are listed with numbers, like 20-60×60. We just discussed the last number, but the first two numbers show the magnification power of the scope. In this example the scope has a variable magnification system, making whatever is being viewed appear to be 20-60 times closer than with the naked eye.

With variable or zoom magnification, the higher the numbers, the larger or closer the image will appear to be.

Lens Coating

There are four types of lens coatings:

  • Coated. At a minimum one lens has a single coating
  • Fully-Coated. All air-to-glass surfaces have a single coat
  • Multi-Coated. At least one lens has multiple coats and all other surfaces are coated a minimum of once
  • Fully Multi-Coated. Multiple coats have been applied to all air-to-glass surfaces

The best lens coating is Fully Multi-Coating. All premium grade scopes have fully multi-coated lenses, as do some of the best spotting scopes under $300 in our list. There is improved light transmission, important in higher magnification units such as spotting scopes.

Field of View

The field of view is the measured distance, side to side, of the viewing field or area. It is usually shown as two numbers, the width in feet (or meters) of the visible area at a distance of 1000 yards (or meters), at two zoom levels – for example, 156ft – 81ft at 1000yds.

New buyers can see that at the low zoom level you see a 156ft wide area and at the upper zoom level, an 81ft wide area.

Close focus distance

The close focus distance is the nearest you can get to an object and still have it remain in focus, a benefit to those who love watching wildlife up close and personal.

The dual focus systems bring benefits to birdwatchers, inasmuch as one knob moves quickly from a wide view to close-up and another for adjustments to fine-tune the focus.

Focus system

Your spotting scope will probably have one of two main types of focusing systems. Either single or dual focus knobs that move the internal parts to give a sharp picture. It may however come with a fast-focus knob. This has the added benefit of allowing you to focus in and out extremely fast with barely a full turn of the knob.

Eye Relief

Eye relief is the term used to describe the distance between your eye and the eyepiece and still have a complete field of view. Of particular importance to eyeglass wearers, there should be two numbers to look out for. For example, you may see Eye Relief: 17.9 – 15 mm. This tells you that your eye can be between 15 and 17.9mm away from the eyepiece and still view the whole picture.

This is a real benefit to people who wear glasses and if your glasses are particularly thick then look for a scope with even higher numbers.

Nitrogen Purged Waterproof, Fog proof and O-Ring sealed

This term refers to scopes that have been designed to exclude all water from the optical tube. Nitrogen purged is the method used to fill the scope with the gas to be an extra barrier against internal moisture, preventing fogging to the inside of the lenses. Many scopes have “O” rings sealed, an added benefit.

Configuration

Spotting scopes come in two configurations. Straight and angled – which is better? There is no easy answer. Both are great depending on their intended use, like:

  • Hunters tend to use a straight scope.
  • Birdwatchers and stargazers generally go for angled scopes.

Straight Spotting Scopes

  • Different people can use angled scopes without raising or lowering the tripod.
  • If viewing upwards, they provide less neck strain.
  • Can be used when seated or lying on the ground.

Angled Spotting Scopes

  • Easier to handle for the new user.
  • Quicker target locating.
  • Comfortable to use if on your own.

Body construction

Spotting scopes are designed to be sturdy, yet lightweight, and may be constructed with carbon fiber, a metal alloy, or other lightweight materials.

  • rugged construction.
  • durability.
  • easy to handle.

Most spotting scopes also have a rubberized armor coating for added protection.

Eyepiece lens

The eyepiece lens on the models in our list of the best spotting scopes under $300, all have the eyepiece included. There are two basic types of lens:

  • Single power eyepiece.
  • Zoom eyepiece.

With a zoom eyepiece you can change the magnification easily and quickly as your situation changes.

Lens covers

Nearly all scopes come complete with lens covers. Some are loose, and others are attached to the body.

  • Loose caps are easy to take off and slip in your pocket.
  • Attached caps are fixed to the body, either with a strong cord, or a “flip-down” type, so you should never lose it.

Sunshade

Some spotting scopes have a “sunshade” attached to the objective lens which slides in and out.

As the light changes, you can move the shade to help block glare or unwanted sunlight.

Eyepiece mount

Some scopes have a rotatable mounting collar which allows you to adjust the position of the eyepiece giving you the benefit of some degree of comfort while spotting.

Hopefully, our list of the best spotting scopes under $300, along with an explanation of the specification and related benefits, will help you with your next spotting scope purchase.

So what are the best spotting scopes under $300?

Generally speaking, spotting scopes priced under $300 all have the same basic features and comparable quality of optics. However, there are a couple of spotting scopes that have a surprise or two in their specifications, and according to recent buyers, perform just as good as higher-priced spotting scopes.

In our list of the best spotting scopes under $300, we hope we have been of some assistance with selecting the scope of your choice.

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