Throughout the years, I have often wondered if a telescope can be used as a spotting scope or not. After some thorough research and 3 cups of black coffee, I finally found the answer. Interested?
Can a telescope be used as a spotting scope? You can use it, but it won’t be the most effective approach. Both telescope and spotting scope are made for two different purposes. One can’t completely fulfill the purpose of the other. Also, there are some structural and functional differences between the two. So, one can’t fill in the cup for the other.
Telescopes vs Spotting Scopes
Telescopes are mainly invented for observing extra-terrestrial objects. They have very high magnification power and uses interchangeable eyepieces. Telescopes need to be mounted on a tripod and they are designed for one eye only.
On the other hand, spotting scopes also offer high magnification and designed for one eye only. However, the magnification power is not as high as the telescope. In comparison, the magnification power of spotting scopes lies between the telescope and the binocular.
Let’s discuss the comparisons between telescope and spotting scopes in details below:
The main feature of the telescope is its magnification. Telescopes can even offer magnification up to 500x. with changing the eyepiece, you can get different magnification from the same telescope. Theoretically, it is possible to get 500x magnification from a small telescope.
However, the problem with a small telescope is, they can’t get enough light. So, the target object gets unclear and wobbly. That’s why we use larger telescopes for higher magnification.
On the other hand, spotting scopes can offer up to 60x magnification maximum. Magnification greater than 60x can be affected by the atmospheric environment such as wind, dust particles, heatwaves etc.
So, in terms of magnification power, telescope will always be the BIG DADDY!
Both the telescope and the spotting scope has two lenses: objective/primary lens and the secondary lens. The larger the objective lens is, the more light the scope can gather and the clearer the image will be.
The secondary lens size is also very important for image quality. In case of spotting scopes, the size of the secondary lens is listed after the ‘x’ in the spotting scope specifications. On the other hand, telescopes generally include the lens size in the model number.
The object lens size for spotting scopes ranges from 45mm to 100mm (the most common one is 60-80mm). As telescopes are used to observe the night sky, they need larger aperture size than the spotting scope. Telescopes have aperture ranging from 60mm to 140mm in general. But don’t think 140mm is the limit. There are much higher aperture telescopes in the market too.
When considering image orientation, telescopes lose to spotting scopes. There are different types of telescopes such as reflector telescopes, refractor telescopes, etc.
In case of a reflector telescope, the image we see is in the upside-down orientation. Refractor telescopes show us horizontally flipped images. These phenomena are not that significant for astronomy.
However, in the case of bird watching, these will surely be a deal-breaker.
The feature that differentiates Spotting scopes from telescopes is the variable zooming ability. With spotting telescopes, you can use the variable zooming feature. This helps to observe a distant moving object such as running cheetah or flying bird.
In the case of telescopes, the magnification is pretty much fixed. In order to change the magnification, you’ll have to change the eyepiece.
Thus, spotting scopes offer a better zooming experience than telescopes.
Portability & Weight
Spotting scopes are designed to be portable and travel-friendly. They generally weigh much lower than a telescope. Spotting scopes are ideal when you are traveling lightly.
On the other hand, telescopes are not as portable as spotting scopes. As I have already mentioned earlier, telescopes need to gather a large amount of light to see objects in the night sky. To fulfill this purpose, telescopes need to have a larger aperture size.
Which in turn means, telescopes are generally larger and have more weight than spotting scopes.
Both the telescope and spotting scopes need stability for optimum performance. In case of spotting scopes, you can do without a tripod. However, telescopes must need a tripod or stable base to perform.
With higher magnification, the image gets blurrier and wobbly. The only way to prevent that is to make sure the telescope doesn’t shake or wobble when viewing. You can’t do that without a stable tripod.
Field of View
Field of view simply means the amount of area we can see through the scope. Magnification and field of view are inversely related to each other. That means, with higher magnification, the field of view gets smaller and vice-versa.
As telescopes have far much greater magnification than spotting scopes, their field of view is also significantly smaller than the spotting scopes.
Close focus is the minimum distance between the optic and the object for the optic to clearly focus on the target object. If the close focus of an optic is 10 feet, it means that the object needs to be at least 10 feet away from the optic for a clear image.
In case of spotting scopes, the close focus is generally 6 feet. However, for telescopes, it is further more than that. Telescopes are designed for observing very distant extra-terrestrial objects. So you can’t find any practical use of the telescope for viewing terrestrial objects.
Spotting scopes generally come with 2 types of eyepiece setting: straight and angled. With angled eyepiece setting, the eyepiece can be angled either at 45 degrees or 90 degrees to the scope. Also, the eyepieces are generally movable in the spotting scope.
In telescopes, I have never seen a straight eyepiece. Eyepieces are generally set at angle 45 degree or 90 degrees. Angled eyepieces make using telescope far much easier and comfortable.
I shouldn’t be comparing the price between the telescope and the spotting scope. It will be like comparing apple with bananas. Both have their price range depending on many factors like specifications, durability, etc.
However, if you want to buy an entry-level spotting scope, it will probably cost more than buying an entry-level telescope.
Telescopes are classified into many types. Some of the types of telescopes are: reflector telescopes, refractor telescopes, etc. These are the major types. However, in today’s market, you’ll see many more types such as Newtonian reflector telescope, Dobsonian telescope, Cassegrain telescope, go-to telescope, etc.
On the other hand, spotting scopes don’t have that much classification like telescopes.
Spotting scopes can be used in many fields such as:
- Practice for target shooting
- Beginner level stargazing etc.
The main application field for telescopes is astronomy.
I hope by now, you have a clear explanation of the question ‘can a telescope be sued as a spotting scope or not’. Technically, you can use the telescope as a spotting scope, however, it won’t produce any practical result due to too much higher magnification.