As a hunter, birdwatcher or plain enthusiast, nothing beats the view provided by a spotting scope. Well, nothing but a telescope but that’s a different matter. We are here to discuss spotting scopes and how you can be an expert at using one.
Spotting scopes provide magnification at greater capacity than any other hunting equipment. This is why they are so popular among bird watchers and hunters. They are also used in gun ranges to spot targets further away than the gun scope can achieve helping the shooter to get a more accurate shot.
Before you can be a spotting scope expert, you need to first understand the equipment that you intend to use thoroughly. You cannot claim to be any good at using a spotter if you do not understand the features and numbers and what they mean. You will also not be able to choose between different models and pick the right one for your daily use.
Let’s start by taking a 360 degree view of this amazing equipment then later on we can go about how to effectively use the spotting scope.
Spotting scopes will come with 3 numbers. An example would be 20-60×80. This means that the scope magnifies an image from 20 times up to 60 times. The number on the far right represents the size of the front lens also known as the objective lens. In our case above it is 80 millimeters in diameter.
Consider the Magnification
You can get spotting scopes that will offer up to 80 times magnification. What puts spotting scopes in a league of their own is this high magnification capability. Binoculars usually end their magnification where the spotting scopes begin.
It’s important to note however that all this awesome magnification will come at a cost. While the image is increasing in size, it also drops in quality. There are two main factors that affect the image quality at higher magnifications.
First is the condition of the atmosphere. Dust, moving air and heat waves all take their toll. As you increase the magnification, it becomes that much easier too see the warping air caused by high temperatures. Fog becomes even more pronounced. Combine this with the image you are trying to zoom in on and you can understand why it gets difficult.
The second reason why the image loses its quality at higher magnifications is due to the general design and quality of the optics. High quality spotters will be able to produce a fairly clear image even at higher magnification. But these are expensive and you have to be willing to dig deeper into your pockets.
Cheaper priced spotting scopes will drop the quality of the image fairly fast as the magnification increases.
If you do not have a big bank account then you don’t need to worry. The great thing is that very few instances require you to increase the magnification to the spotter’s full capacity. Anywhere between 30 to 40 times will prove quite useful in your viewing adventures.
The Objective Lens
This is an important feature to look at when considering which spotting scope you want to buy. As a rule of thumb, the larger the objectives lens the better the quality of the image. You will also be in a position to see targets in more detail.
However, you need to take care when going for the scope with the largest objective lens. If it is made from low quality glass then the image will not be very good.
On the other hand, you could be the type of person who likes to keep things small. You can go for a smaller scope provided the objective lens is made with special features. These include fluorite glass, APO glass, HD glass or ED glass. This will allow it to produce images that will match those of larger scopes.
However, considering things in a purely straight line basis or as economists like to say, everything kept constant, then the larger the objective lens the better.
Coatings On the Lens
There are three main types of lens coatings as far as spotting scopes are concerned. These include, fully coated, multi-coated or fully multi-coated. The very expensive high quality models come with fully multi-coated lens.
When light hits the surface of a lens, some of it reflects back and gets lost. In fact the rate could be as high as 5%. With equipment like a spotting scope which has a number of lenses involves the light loss could be as high as 35 %.
Not only that. As the light and image passes through the lens, it will lose some of its color. This results in low quality images that are not very clear.
Coatings on the lenses help reduce and completely eliminate such problems resulting in much clearer better quality images.
Fully coated means that both sides of the objective lens have at least a single layer of anti-reflective material.
Multi-coated means that either the outside or inside or both sides of the lens are coated with more than a single layer of anti-reflective material.
Fully multi-coated means that all surfaces of the lens are covered with multiple layers of anti-reflective material.
The benefit of this is that it allows better light transmission preventing image aberration as well as allowing for visibility in low light conditions.
What is Eye Relief?
This is yet another important feature to consider more so for individual who wear glasses. Eye relief is the maximum distance you can move from the eye piece while still being able to see the whole field of view.
If you wear thicker glasses you will be better off with a spotting scope that provides you with ample eye relief of 14 mm or higher.
Now that you are aware of the basic features of a spotting scope, let’s now consider how to become a spotting scope expert by using the equipment in the most efficient way.
Best Way to Use Spotting Scopes
Spotting scopes can be used for a variety of functions; bird watching, hunting, doing surveillance as well as taking photos from long distances also known as digiscoping.
There are two types of spotting scopes; angled spotting scopes and straight spotting scopes.
Angled scopes are best when viewing as a group. Then you do not have to constantly adjust the height of the tripod. People with varying heights can comfortably look through the eye piece.
Straight spotting scopes are better when you are viewing from a confined space where mobility is limited such as your car. They are also best when looking down from a great height such as the side of a mountain range or up a tall building.
When using your spotting scopes you should:
- Pick the right location.
Whether you are watching wildlife or birds, the right location will keep you safe while allowing you to make the most of the sights.
- Check the weather conditions
Heat waves or foggy days can make it difficult for you to view mages through the spotting scope. Increase in magnification further makes the image blur. Make the necessary adjustments in magnifications by lowering when you can’t see clearly and increasing when the fog or heat wave passes.
Due to the highly magnified images, the slightest tingle or vibration will cause the image to blur and lose quality. That is why you need a good tripod stand to provide that much need stability.
If you are using a spotting scope from the car window, get yourself a window mount.
- Your eyes
There is a lot of face clinching when looking through the eye piece. This may cause your face and eyes to tire after extended use. Ensure that you rest your eyes regularly to prevent this.
Spotting scopes may look a bit complicated to use, but with the right information and practice, you can learn how to become a spotting scope expert. Follow the tips we’ve laid down for you above and you’ll be set to take that cool spotter out for a test!
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