Spotting Scope vs Telescope: What Are the Differences?

Spotting Scope vs Telescope What Are the Differences

In general, a spotting scope is very necessary for you to observe nature, especially small objects or animals like birds. However, a lot of people think that a spotting scope is the same as a telescope. But, this is completely wrong. So, spotting scope vs telescope: What Are the Differences?

In my opinion, I think that they only have 1 thing in common; it is the magnification with eyepiece lens as well as objective lens. That’s why both are used to see an object from a long distance.  In short, a spotting scope is much like a small telescope. But there are a lot of differences between these 2 devices.

Spotting Scope vs Telescope: What Are the Main Differences?


Overall, the basic purpose of a telescope is to study celestial objects. Whereas, that of a spotting scope is to help the user observe terrestrial targets. In addition, a spotting scope is quite lighter than a telescope. So, it is more portable and it also arms to rubber reinforcements.

In comparison to a telescope, a spotting scope also has a more ergonomic design. It is more durable as well as rugged. Furthermore, a spotting scope also has a smaller picture and lesser magnification. Nonetheless, this will allow the spotting scope to have a wider field of view.

Weight and how to mount

Generally, the manufacturer made the telescope to place in a stable place. Therefore, it is likely to be much heavier than a spotting scope.

Another big difference between these 2 devices is that you can mount a spotting scope on generic camera tripods. But a telescope requires special mounts to support it. This kind of mounts is usually more expensive. The image produced by a spotting scope is always right side up. However that of a telescope is always inverted or reversed.


When it comes to the design, a telescope and a spotting scope are not really different altogether. In fact, you can use both of the devices for magnification. They come with an objective lens as well as an eyepiece lens.

Additionally, customers use them to see long distance images more clearly. Last but not least, the manufacturer made both the telescope and the spotting scope specially in such a way that you can mount them on tripods. But you know  that this is exactly where the differences come arise.

The produced images

As I said, an astronomical telescope typically provide inverted images. However, this is not a real problem when you are observing something in the sky at night. But the reversed images can completely be disconcerting and confusing when you are looking at a ship that appears upside- down.

Speaking of the produced images, spotting scopes win

Image source: Procular

Obviously, eyepiece accessories can totally be obtained to erect the images although this can make the telescope clumsy to use. But I’m sure that you will never have this problem with a spotting scope because it is already designed to produce erect and right way round images. That’s the reason why this is the best choice for you when you need to use by day so as to observe the habitats of birds or other animals.

Image Orientation

This is one of the main differences between a spotting scope and a telescope. In details, image orientation is the image coming out of a scope and whether it is back to front or right way up ( some telescopes provide upside- down images.)
For instance, a reflector telescope that is the best for astronomy, always produces an upside down image. This image, however, is quite unsuitable for land viewing. Additionally, a refractor telescope is also effective for astronomy. But it usually produces a backwards from left to right image. That makes it much more difficult and confusing for your land viewing.
On the other hand, a spotting scope can create right way up round images. In general, you can get a clear crisp image for land viewing including many objects. For examples trees, mountains, animals and even yachts.

Portability and Sturdiness

This feature is considered a great benefit of spotting scopes when compared to telescopes. Specifically, a spotting scope is far more portable and  has more rugged exterior, especially good for hostile environments. Because it has a rubble armor that allows for a nice firm grip as well as added protection in case of knocks.

Besides, a spotting scope is even more portable and due to this feature. This device can be suitable for land viewing. It is also easy for you to carry in your arms or in a bag or case. This can offer you the flexibility of transporting the scope for land viewing in whatever spot you want.

Most telescopes are really fragile and they are difficult for you to transport. In fact, they usually tend to be bulk and large, therefore, unsuitable for moving around. That is why nobody wants to bring such a large scope to a beach or forest for their land viewing. In short, both of the features are the reasons why I choose spotting scope instead of telescope for my astronomy.

Inbuilt zoom features

Inbuilt zoom features are also another significant difference between the two products and this is what most users tale into consideration. In details, it is the ability to zoom in and out on objects. A telescope is likely to be in association with a set of standard eyepieces which do not have a variable zoom. That means maybe you have 2 or 3 eyepieces and these eyepieces have their own specific zoom.

If you want to zoom in and out, you will need to keep changing the eyepieces and trust me, it is not comfortable at all. However, you can completely buy a variable zoom eyepiece for your telescope but this will definitely add to the cost of the product itself.

Buying a variable zoom eyepiece for your telescope will definitely add to the cost of the product itself

Image source: Optics & Binoculars

On the contrary, a spotting scope comes with a variable zoom eyepiece. Specifically, when you look at a spotting scope, you will notice that it has a set of numbers in its name. For instance, the device can read 20-60×60. The first 2 numbers mean the spotting scope is able to zoom from a 20 magnification to a 60 x magnification. Additionally, the last number will show you the size of the lens.

As you can see, a spotting scope can totally enhance your viewing experience. Just imagine how disturbing it is when you have to keep swapping the eyepieces to zoom in and out on only 1 object? Sounds not very fun right? Therefore, instead of purchasing a telescope, you can consider a spotting scope, it can make you feel more comfortable and your land viewing will be much more simple and convenient.

Spotting Scope vs Telescope: Which One Should I Choose?

After all, this is the most important question: How to decide whether to choose a spotting scope or a telescope? A spotting scope is generally used for terrestrial. That’s why, when you need higher magnification, a spotting scope is a better choice for you in comparison to a pair of binoculars.

In addition, thanks to the wider field of view, a spotting scope is even better for observing moving targets. Due to the wider field of view that spotting scopes offer, as in comparison to telescope, they are better suitable for observing moving targets than a telescope. Furthermore, a spotting spot can be paired with a camera so you can shoot pictures of distant objects.

Therefore, the spotting scope is not only ideal for hunting, birding, and surveillance but also a good choice for astronomy or stargazing, even when it can’t provide as much clarity as a high- quality telescope. That’s why if you have an intention to observe habitats of animals like birds, or you are just a beginner in astronomy, then a spotting scope is the best option for you.

However, it doesn’t mean that purchasing an astronomy telescope is a waste of money. In fact, the device is great for observing stationary objects with its narrower field of view.  Moreover, it is also suitable for you to view terrestrial objects at great distances such as planets, stars and the Moon.

However, even though people use a telescope for viewing terrestrial objects, we don’t recommend for you to buy it unless you are a professional astronomer since it is quite bulky and produces inverted images.