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Can a spotting scope really be a "compact" optic?
What brands make the best small spotting scopes?
Which compact spotting scope is best for the money?
Between many different manufacturers and the plethora of high-power ranges available, the "consideration list" for compact and/or traveling spotting scopes can get very long.
So, we've compiled some of the best spotters you'll find for the money!
QUICK ANSWER: 9 Best Compact Spotting Scopes In 2021
- Zeiss Optical Dialyt Field Spotter 18-45X65
- Vortex Razor HD 11-33X50
- Maven CS.1 15-45x65
- Roxant Blackbird HD 12-36X
- Leupold Compact GR 10-20X40
- Nikon Fieldscope ED 13-30X50
- Celestron LandScout 10-30X50
- Bushnell Prime 16-48X50
- Barska Blackhawk 18-36X50
The Best Compact & Lightweight Spotting Scopes
|Zeiss Optical Dialyt Field Spotter 18-45X65||CHECK PRICE|
|Vortex Razor HD 11-33X50||CHECK PRICE|
|Maven CS.1 15-45x65||CHECK PRICE|
|Roxant Blackbird HD 12-36X||CHECK PRICE|
|Leupold Compact GR 10-20X40||CHECK PRICE|
|Nikon Fieldscope ED 13-30X50||CHECK PRICE|
|Celestron LandScout 10-30X50||CHECK PRICE|
|Bushnell Prime 16-48X50||CHECK PRICE|
|Barska Blackhawk 18-36X50||CHECK PRICE|
Our 9 Top Compact Spotting Scopes
There are some general guidelines to defining a compact spotter. The first consideration is going to be by magnification range and objective lens size. Usually the power range will start off around 10-18x and max out around 30x. The aperture will max out around 50 mm.
As the saying goes, "Little things matter a great deal," so does weight and length. The spotter has to be light enough to be conveniently portable and should weigh less than 40 oz to be considered compact. It also has to be small enough in size to pack up in your bag and conveniently fit with additional gear like tripods, mounting heads, etc.
When it comes to glass and overall quality, you might be disappointed to see only one or two prominent brand names. Many high-end brands don't manufacture compact spotting scopes and they pour their expertise into full-size spotting scopes. With that said, the majority of the spotters in this lineup will be in the lower end of of the price range with a couple of options costing close to or over a grand.
Most people in the market for a lightweight or low-powered spotting scope are those who are going to be on the move. We recommend these for hunters who need a little extra reach and for hikers, sightseers, and wildlife observers who want a high-powered optic with the convenience of portability. It's time to take the caps off and scope out your new compact optic buy!
1. Zeiss Optical Dialyt Field Spotter 18-45X65 - Best for Hunting
This spotting scope may be the only one available on the market with compact optical and size specs and with high-end glass! While the specs bend the rules a little bit, it's the smallest field scope you'll land from this well-known brand.
Since expensive brands tend to sell their eyepieces separately, it's a relief to know that the 18-45x eyepiece comes included with the purchase. Even though it lacks the fancy interchangeable eyepiece technology, it ends up strengthening the integrity of the scope since it has a one-piece body.
To shave weight, they did without the technology tweaks like flouride/ED glass etc. The idea is provide a simple and reliable spotter for ideal use when portability is a must-have for mountainous or difficult terrain. Even with high mag over 18x power, it can still be used as a free-hand device with the option to mount it at your pleasure. Zeiss thought of everything a user on the go would value. It's why it takes our number one spot as the best compact field scope!
2. Vortex Razor HD 11-33X50
What do we love about Vortex spotting scopes? They almost always have the largest field of views on the majority of their optics. It's what they're known for, and the Razor HD doesn't disappoint. It has the largest field of view of 191-96 feet at 1,000 yards -more than any other scope in our lineup (save one)!
Looking past the field, it's a true hand-held device that can still be used this way even at max power. You won't be compromising on image quality since it literally has everything you'd want to see on a spotter - APO lenses, HD glass elements, dielectric prism coatings, and more.
As their flagship series for the spotting scope line, it also features a dual focus knob for extra precise focusing when you depend on usable details no matter the light conditions.
Weighing only 1.5 lbs, you'll forget you're carrying this optic on your sling. That's the whole point of a traveling spotting scope, right?
3. Maven CS.1A 15-45x65
The CS.1 comes in with full-size power for a compact spotting scope. Going up to 45x max magnification and a large 65mm objective lens, the Maven spotter is powerful and yet compact.
- ED glass
- Build quality
- Loose caps
The Maven CS.1 falls into the mid-range class of spotting scopes when it comes to optical quality and performance. With that in mind, its low price for under $1000 makes it a value buy although you may unintentionally consider compact scopes to be synonymous with cheap scopes. This is not a ‘cheap’ scope although it’s priced attractively.
The frame is made from both magnesium and aluminum, is waterproof (IPX7), and fogproof having been purged with nitrogen gas. It’s tough, rugged, and ready for field use in harsh conditions.
Unlike many cheaper spotting scopes in the market, the CS.1 features ED glass, FMC, and phase correction coatings. I discovered in my field test that this spotting scope is perfect for most applications out to mid-range distances with sharp clarity and impressive color fidelity.
Just hold onto your lens caps because the objective cap does not come tethered. Fortunately, replacements are cheap, but it’s best not to lose them at all.
Made to be stowed in a backpack and easily mounted to tripod, the Maven spotting scope is both powerful and compact – the best of both worlds!
4. Roxant Blackbird HD 12-36X - Best for Birding
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Although Roxant has been around for a little bit, their Blackbird spotting scope is definitely new to the market and a new product for them. For a company that specializes in making electronic gear, they've certainly nailed it on the head with their spotter.
It's a fantastically successful spotter considering it is only one year old. It's made it within the Top 10 spotters in the Best Seller's List, and it has even earned "Choice" status with a popular online retail vendor. For the ridiculously low price, there has to be a catch right? Nope! It's earned its highly-praised reputation for more than a few things.
First off, it's a very compact scope in all respects. It weighs only 17 oz and is 9 inches in length. It has just the right amount of magnification for a compact spotter with a 50 mm aperture.
It has an impressive field of view of 170 feet, has BaK-4 prisms, and military-grade glass. It's ranked high in our lineup for good reason, and there's more features to look forward with the Blackbird, so check out the full review!
5. Leupold Compact GR 10-20X40
Why isn't this Leupold ranked higher in the lineup? It's not due to quality but merely because it's an expensive optic compared to the rest in this lineup. Additionally, the buyers it does have report nothing but praise, but it's been out on the shelves for a long time still with a minimal online reputation. We think it's because buyers who want compact always want something cheap, but Leupold never produces anything cheap, and their higher prices can be justified.
On that note, the Golden Ring (GR) spotting scope is literally your compact optic. There are rifle scopes and binoculars that can come higher powered than this, but there are advantages. It's lightweight at only 1 pound - lighter than many binoculars and definitely more so than a rifle scope attached to a rifle. Point to the GR scope.
It's also easier to focus as a monocular versus focusing a binocular with two barrels and seeking perfect collimation and focusing. Another point to the GR scope.
With long eye relief, fantastic field of view of 199 feet (beats the Vortex Razor!), and the ability to use it as a hand-held device, it's a compact spotting scope all the way! There's no debate about it, the GR wins!
6. Nikon Fieldscope ED 13-30X50
This is another excellent, high-quality spotter in the market, and it's also Nikon's compact and lightweight option. As you would expect for a Nikon, the optical quality is all there and is anything but small. With fully multi-coated optics, ED glass, and excellent image quality even at max power, the Nikon is set to impress!
While its optical prowess may be large at heart, it's your ultimate traveling and portable spotter. It only weighs approximately 20 ounces and is 11 inches in length. It's short, small, and lightweight.
It's one pricey spotting scope though. It's why it has its ranking in our lineup where it is. But, it's no cheap and entry-level buy. You might find the price justified when you look through its stellar glass. How can you expect anything less from Nikon?
7. Celestron LandScout 10-30X50
One of the highest-rated, budget spotters for the brand, the LandScout definitely earned its spot. It's the epitome of a compact spotter in every way with its low power range and 50 mm aperture. The price also falls right in line to parallel low weight and small size.
Surprisingly, the spotting scope has an excellent wide field of view of 169 feet at 1,000 yards. Even better, the spotter sports an over-sized, textured focus collar and not some dingy knob. Max eye relief is long at 18 mm and length isn't. At only 8.75 inches, it's right where you want it to be.
When it comes to glass quality and weatherproofness, you'll have a few compromises since you're getting it at such a low cost. However, for target practice or close range observation, this can be your go-to optic.
8. Bushnell Prime 16-48X50
The Prime series has been touted as the "standard" line of optics from the well-known, American brand, but meeting the bar doesn't always mean mediocre. In this case, it means better quality is now the new standard, and that's what you can expect from the compact Prime spotting scope.
- Easy to use
- Argon gas
- No ED glass
The Prime spotter has a straight design that's great for hunting and observing wildlife from treestands and anywhere else you need to watch fast-moving targets on the go. To make it easier to maneuver, it has a rotating tripod ring, and its 32.7 oz and 12.8" size obviously helps to make it a compact option for hunters and hikers constantly on the move or who want to use it free-hand.
It doesn't have any special ED glass or coatings which is surprising for the price. Image quality may degrade at higher magnification and chromatic aberration may be imminent especially when there's high contrast differences in your sight picture. But, at the very least it does have fully multi-coated optics that you should always expect to see in this price range.
To outfit this scope for the field and for hunters who never experience ideal weather, the Prime scope sports the brand's ExoBarrier protection coating for water-beading, scratch-proof lenses. Plus, it's IPX7 rated with an argon-purged body - an upgrade from standard nitrogen gas which is well worth noting if you're going to come up above par.
Do the optics meet the bar? Eh, it's standard, but its compact build and ruggedness is what makes it a better than average spotter.
9. Barska Blackhawk 18-36X50
This Barska barely makes the lineup thanks to its borderline compact magnification specs, 50 mm aperture, and short length. But, when it comes to weight, it's no light joke for the compact spotter market. It's heavy at 52.8 ounces - that's about 3 pounds!
Despite its weight, it has very nice, extended eye relief of 20 mm - plenty for the glasses-wearing user. It also comes with a complete accessories package for the beginner user who wants the whole kit in one go.
Better yet, the spotting scope is completely weatherproof. You don't see this benefit on most budget scopes for under $100. But, the Blackhawk will shed rain drops just like water beads off a hawk's feathered wing.
What about the price? It's cheap since it's an entry-level spotter. Not bad though if you only want to spend pocket change for an instantly-ready spotting scope.
What to Look For in a Compact Spotting Scope
Keep in mind that while compact spotting scopes are often "small," it doesn't mean the prices will be too. It's tempting to associate compact optics with lower prices, and sometimes that might be the case, but quality will vary between brands and so will the costs involved.
Additionally, a small spotting scope can be as versatile as you want it to be, even more so than higher-powered spotters. If you plan to use one spotter for multiple applications, the compact size is the way to go!
- Design: Consider whether angled or straight is for you.
- Glass: The higher the quality, the better.
- Coatings: The more, the better. Additional prism-specific coatings should also be expected with a more expensive spotter.
- Magnification 8-30X: Spotters can be as low-powered as 8X and can even push past 30X magnification. Keep in mind weight and size the higher the power range.
- Aperture max 50mm: The larger the aperture (objective lens size), the heavier your spotter will be. Keeping your options at 50mm or smaller means you're more likely to land a compact spotting scope.
- Weight 40 oz: Spotting scopes are heavy devices. To keep things compact, a general guideline says to look for a spotter lighter than 40 oz.
- Length max 16": Spotters can get long and big. To keep spotters compact and short in length means it's more portable and convenient to carry, use free-hand, and store away.
- Free-hand use: Lower power means more of an ability to use a spotting scope as a hand-held device. Sometimes this might be more achievable with higher-quality glass. While tripod use is always recommended for a spotting scope, some compact spotters may allow free-hand use for convenience and portability benefits.
- Eye relief 13-18mm: Ensure your investment is comfortable to glass with.
- Exit pupil 3-5mm: Smaller than 3mm? Expect to lose out on a lot of light-gathering potential.
- Quality Warranty: If you're spending the best of what you can afford, ensure you have a warranty to match the quality of your investment.
Compact in Size, But Big in Benefits!
Small and compact should never mean that you're getting the short end of the stick or that you're settling for mediocre and entry-level. If anything, it's the contrary.
Compact spotters allow for the ability to go between using a hand-held device to a tripod mounted one. You can have the convenience of close focus distances nearer than ever before while still reaching max distances with one optic.
When it comes to quality, every spotter is different as is indicated by brand and price range. But, despite a humble, compact appearance, you might never know it was sporting some choice features if you don't check out the full reviews!
- Maven CS.1 Review - 15-45x65 Spotting Scope (Real Hands On Field Test)
- Leupold SX2 Alpine HD Spotting Scope Review (Angled)
- Maven S.1A 25-50 X 80mm Spotting Scope Review (Angled Body)
- Zeiss Victory Harpia Spotting Scope Review - 85mm Angled with Dual Speed Focus System
- Pentax PF80 ED Angled Spotting Scope Review (Eyepiece Not Included)