Spotting scopes are a high-utility tool for precise target practice, incredible wildlife views, or next-level glassing. Check out the best compact spotting scopes for your outdoor hobbies.
A high-quality spotting scope is an optical tool that most outdoor enthusiasts will have ready to go in their packs. These scopes are ideal for glassing, target acquisition, birding, nature watching, and astrophotography. The best compact spotting scope can be the difference between the perfect shot – whether with your bow or camera – or a complete miss. A factor you should consider, though, is just how portable is your spotting scope? As you explore the wilderness, you need a compact, lightweight spotting scope to keep up when you’re on the move.
There are several ways to cut down the weight of your scope. We’ve compiled a list of the features you should look for to ensure your purchase packs the ultimate punch. Check out this guide to help you find the perfect, compact spotting scope at a variety of price points so that you can enjoy spectacular views.
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
The primary use of a spotting scope is to be able to quickly and efficiently scan a piece of land for the views you desire. Spotting scopes offer a range of magnification to accomplish this. While you might think a higher magnification equals better performance, this isn’t necessarily this case. There are several considerations to select the appropriate magnification range for your scope. First, higher magnification will bring your view closer to an object, but you need to make sure the scope has a high-end optical system and a large objective lens to create a bright, vivid image. Without proper light transmission, a high magnification image will appear blurry and distorted, which defeats the purpose of the increased power.
Even with a superior optical system that supports high magnification, the more you zoom in the narrower your field of view. This is a natural consequence of magnification and can be beneficial depending on how you plan to use your scope. For instance, a competitive shooter using a high-magnification scope for long-distance target practice does not need a wide field of view to accomplish their goal. On the other hand, a hunter might prefer lower magnification for glassing so that they can survey an area of land.
As a general rule, higher magnification will require a larger objective lens, which will increase the scope’s weight. While these scopes provide a healthy balance of power and compactness, you might consider what features you’re willing to forgo for the most lightweight scope.
Leupold GR 10-20x40mm Gold Ring Compact Spotting Scope
The Leupold 10-20x40mm Gold Ring spotting scope is one of the most compact scopes on this list and weighs an astonishingly light 15 ounces. This scope is truly golden but will cost you just as much at about $399 on Amazon. If that falls in your budget, you’re going to want to add this scope to your cart now.
Leupold is well-known for its Twilight Light Management System and includes this exclusive technology in its Gold Ring model. The Twilight Light Management System provides users with 10 plus minutes of glassing light, perfect for pre-dawn and post-dusk. The National Rifle Association clarifies how this light management system works. Rather than allowing more light into the scope, this system manages the specific light waves for better visibility.
The Leupold GR provides 10-20x magnification with a 40 mm objective lens. A relatively large objective lens size for the magnification, you can expect high light-gathering capacity for crisp, clear images.
The Gold Ring also has the best eye relief on our list, with a comfortable 18.5 – 17.2 mm for hours of glassing. This model features a straight eyepiece and the eyecup is also adjustable so that its friendly to glasses-wearing hunters. The Gold Ring scope has a built-in 1/4-20 tripod adapter port for easy mounting. A highly durable product built for hunters, the Gold Ring is manufactured with carbon-fiber construction making it 100% waterproof and shockproof. With this scope, you’ll always be prepared no matter what Mother Nature has in mind. This scope is best for hunting and target practice.
Celestron 52238 C70 Mini Mak Spotting Scope, 25-75x
The Celestron C70 Mini Mak is an impressive feat of engineering. Celestron designed this scope with all the advanced features of their fuller sized scopes, but in a much more compact body. This scope offers an incredible magnification range from 25-75x. This spotting scope can be used for nature-viewing and target practice but is probably most exciting and useful for at-home astronomers.
The Celestron Mini Mak can provide high magnification due to its 50mm objective lens. The Mini Mak is also built with a Maksutov-Cassegrain optical design, which enables this scope to have a shorter tube while still maintaining great focal length. Celestron also uses its proprietary Starbight Optical Coating, a multi-layered coating that provides optimal light transmission for sharper images. Unlike other scopes on this list, the Mini Mak can be paired with other eyepieces. This scope is compatible with virtually all 1.25” eyepieces for even more magnification if you’re doing some serious stargazing.
While the Mini Mak is much more compact than other Celestron designs, it does weigh a whopping 27 ounces. However, once you set this scope on its tabletop tripod, included in your purchase, you’ll probably have little need to move it around while exploring the night sky. It’s also difficult to pack such high powered magnification into any smaller of a body, so you’re getting an amazing deal in terms of size and power.
This angled scope has pretty decent eye relief at about 16mm and a foldable eyecup for flexible viewing options. It also comes with a convenient, view-through case, eyepiece cover, objective cover, cleaning cloth, and it is 100% waterproof. You can also pair this scope with your favorite DSLR camera for mesmerizing pictures of our galaxy.
Bushnell 12-36x50mm Waterproof Ultra Compact Spotting Scope
Bushnell is well-known for delivering high-performing and reliable sporting goods, and the Bushnell Ultra-Compact scope is no exception. The Bushnell 12-36x50mm Ultra Compact Spotting Scope is an excellent mid-range, compact spotting scope for hunters. You can pick this scope up from Amazon for only $120. This spotting scope is remarkable for its durability to withstand the great outdoors.
The Bushnell Waterproof Ultra-Compact spotting scope is just that – 100% waterproof. It is also constructed with a premium, shock-absorbing rubber armor that can endure rugged terrain. Bushnell knows that hunting and target practice requires flexible set-ups, and gives you the tools you need for a variety of positions. This scope comes with both a tripod and a car mount so that you have the freedom to choose your optimal glassing stance. You’ll also receive a soft carrying case and hard case so that you can guard your scope against the elements and accidents.
This scope has a great magnification range of 12-36x and a nice-sized objective lens at 50 mm. The lens features a fully multi-layered coating for superb light transmission. It will provide you with a decent field of view. At 1,000 yards, you can expect 140 ft. at 12x and 65 ft at 36x. This is great for hunters so that you never miss a beat. This straight angled scope has an eye relief of only about 14 mm and does not make mention of special eyecup accommodations for glasses wearers.
Roxant Authentic Blackbird High Definition Spotting Scope
The Roxant Blackbird HD gets into our more budget-friendly compact spotting scopes. You can grab this scope from Amazon for only $75.95 (don’t worry we have even cheaper coming up next), but don’t let the price tag fool you. The Blackbird HD packs in the features that matter in hunting and target acquisition so that you’re paying for exactly what you need. This scope stands out because of its superior optical system at such a low price point. This scope has an excellent range for its class, 12-36x, and a 50 mm objective lens. Roxant uses military-grade glass and a BAK4 prism in its optical system. A BAK4 prism has a higher refractive index, which means that it can transmit more light from the peripheries of the optical tool. With a BAK4 prism, you can expect brighter edge-to-edge views, whereas with BAK7 prisms you will typically notice some dimming of your image around the edges.
The Blackbird HD is also accessible, especially for beginner hunters, competitive shooters, stargazers, and birders. The angled eyepiece is comfortable whether you’re standing or lying prone. This scope is also constructed with a no-slip grip and a smooth and textured, gliding focus on the main barrel of the scope. This design makes for easier adjustments with less hassle, especially when using the scope with children or those with less mobility. The eyepiece is also extendable for those who wear glasses. For maximum comfort, the Blackbird HD comes with an extendable sunshade that is built onto the main barrel. The sunshade is great for reducing glare and controlling the amount of sunlight which can interfere with your viewing.
This scope is the second lightest scope on our list at only 17 ounces. The package comes with a portable, foldable tripod and a lens cap to guard your scope against dust and dirt. The Blackbird HD is built with a No-Slip armored rubber to reduce inadvertent drops and dings to your scope. This is also the only scope on our list that advertises a lifetime replacement guarantee. With all these assurances, this scope is perfect for family camping or hunting trips without any worries.
Celestron 52322 Landscout 12-36×60 Spotting Scope
Another Celestron makes our list, but for even less from your wallet. The Celestron Landscout Spotting Scope can be purchased for Amazon for only $63, while still providing incredible outdoor views. At this incredibly affordable price, this is the ultimate scope for kids, families, beginners on a budget, or as a back-up scope. Even at this reasonable rate, the Landscout still offers a high magnification range of 12-36x with a massive objective lens size of 60mm. The diameter of this objective lens will provide superior light transmission. To further enhance the details in your viewing, the lens is also fully multi-coated. While not as impressive as the Blackbird, this affordable scope still comes with a BAK7 prism, which will offer less edge-to-edge clarity. Although the image might not be perfect, you can expect a wide field of view. At 1,000 yards this scope gets 157 ft at 12x and 84 ft at 36x. Not bad for less than $70.
This angled scope will be easy to hold and adjust due to its centrally located, extra-large focus dial. Even your budding glasser will be able to use this sophisticated scope. Celestron also includes a table-top tripod and a soft carrying case. Even with the large objective lens, this scope only weighs 18 ounces. Unfortunately, unlike the Mini Mak, this model cannot be paired with a DSLR camera. However, if this is your starter scope, you’re on the right track.
Big Things Come In Small Packages
Not only is quality significant, but nowadays outdooring folks are looking for compact scopes with excellent portability. When browsing Amazon for scopes, the difference of a few ounces might now seem like much, but imagine this added weight when you’re hiking to your favorite outlook. You’ll feel the strain after carting around a 26-ounce scope through miles of hilly trails.
This list shows that you don’t need a massive tube or wild magnification ranges to get the same great benefits you need in a spotting scope. Compact spotting scopes are the best investment for lighter weight glassing. As the song goes, big things come in small packages.