Best Spotting Scope Under $500: We Review the Top Mid Range Spotters in 2020
Last Updated: October 18, 2020
If this is your budget, you need to do some serious digging before handing over any cash.
$500 is still a hefty chunk of change, but with brands like Vortex, Leupold, Vanguard, and Bushnell, you've got variety and quality on your side.
Let's take a look and see which brand has the best spotting scope under $500.
Top Spotting Scopes Under $500 (Comparison)
When it comes to spotting scopes, often manufacturers either do it well or they don't. Many of our top brands that are hunters' go-to companies had some disappointing hits and misses - mostly misses - in this price range.
Because of this, when putting together the line-up for the $300-500 price range, it was tough to come up with the top three. So, you’ll have to forgive us if we throw in an option that slightly bends the rules – it’s just going to have to do.
We took into account the grade quality of the glass, any special coatings, and ability to see groupings clearly in the 200-400 yard range. Let's take a look at what we came up with.
|Vortex Diamondback||CHECK PRICE|
|Celestron Regal M2 65ED||CHECK PRICE|
|Vanguard Endeavor HD 82||CHECK PRICE|
|Bushnell Legend Ultra HD||CHECK PRICE|
|Visionking 30-90x100||CHECK PRICE|
|Kowa TSN-601||CHECK PRICE|
The 6 Best Spotting Scopes Under $500
1. Vortex Diamondback 20-60x60 Scope - Best Overall
If you don't already own any Vortex Optics, well now you will. Vortex always goes the extra mile in quality, and they're unparalleled when it comes to warranties and customer service. The Diamondback 20-60X60 spotting scope is an American favorite. For such a compact unit, you'd think you'd be missing out on some premium perks-not so. The Diamondback has Vortex's proprietary XR Anti-Reflective coatings, rugged construction, and overall quality that has put Vortex on the map.
If you need weatherproof-ability - done. Comfortable eye relief - done. Exceptional clear glass with dielectric prism coatings - done. That's how Vortex does it, they get it done!
2. Celestron Regal M2 65 ED Spotting Scope
The specific Celestron I'm talking about here is the Regal M2 16-48X65 that's retailing for about $470 on online.
The Regals are the flagship line for Celestron, and it's impressive that they've snagged a highlight in this price range as well 2 spots in the under $200 group. There seems to be a pattern here of surprising quality for the low prices.
The M2 pretty much has everything you want to see here - Extra Low Dispersion glass, XLT fully multi-coated optics, and a dual focus system.
Although this particular spotter is on the more compact side of things, its sibling the Regal M2 20-60X80 is in the $600-$700 price range if you want more power and can stretch your budget.
3. Vanguard Endeavor HD 82 Scope - Best Value
Remember how we said we were going to bend the rules a little bit? This is where we show you how. The Endeavor is just above the $500 mark, but when it's on sale, you can get it within this price range. We had to do a little tweaking because we only want to offer you the most reliable and high-performing spotting scopes there are. There's no point in recommending a dud.
The Endeavor has a beast of an objective lens that can provide ultimate brightness and light collection. To take maximum advantage of the 82 mm lens, it's been made with extra-low dispersion glass elements, been fully multi-coated, and has BaK4 prism glass. There's more yet to spill about the Vanguard Endeavor, so keep your eyes peeled for the full review!
4. Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 20-60x80 Spotting Scope
There's good reason why this Bushnell made this line-up. For the price, it seriously has some bonus features that you might not see elsewhere.
First off, the spotter is huge. Its 80mm lens and 20-60X range will be a trustworthy asset in the field especially when you're counting on long distance target acquisition. Additionally, you've got a dual focus system, special lens coatings, and ED glass. This spotting scope is better than entry level, and you'd be a fool to pass over the Legend Ultra. So, are you smart enough to recognize a steal when you spot one?
5. Visionking 30-90X100SS Spotting Scope
- RainGuard HD water-repellent lens coating 2-speed dual focus controls O-ring sealed,100%waterproof Bak-4 prisms that maximizes light transmission fullly multi-coated...
- Large eye lens for comfortable viewing Twist-up eyecups 30x-90x Zoom eyepiece.large 100mm lens Retractable sunshade
This spotting scope is huge, so it's no joke to assume this thing will be the king of faraway vision. With extreme, high magnification and a huge 100 mm aperture, no distance will be out of your reach.
- Extreme high magnification
- Huge aperture
- Dual focus
If you think you can have these spotting scope specs without some serious poundage, you're kidding yourself. With almost 6 pounds to tote and set up, this is a beast of an optic that you want to use with a quality tripod that can support its weight.
So, what's the point of such extreme specs? To see more of course! The 100 mm aperture will allow in as much ambient light as possible throughout different times of the day whether it's bird and wildlife watching or star gazing. With such high magnification, you'll want to make use of the 2-speed dual focus dials to get the sharpest and clearest image possible.
The BaK4 prism glass is fully multi-coated, but there's no mention of any phase/prism coatings or extra-low dispersion glass elements. The lack of these additional glass features is surprising for such a high powered scope, and it may mean clarity might not be the best as it reaches max magnification.
Even for a generic, off-brand spotter, it still covered its bases when it comes to durability. It has RainGuard HD water-repellent lens coating (sound familiar? Bushnell tech?), it's O-ring sealed, nitrogen-purged, and 100% waterproof.
If you're the type of spotter that likes to get set up and stay stationary, the Visionking scope will work for you. A tripod is included in the buy so you won't have to immediately fork out for one.
6. Kowa TSN-601 Angled 60mm Spotting Scope
Kowa, a prestigious Japanese brand known worldwide for their quality optics, and we have a spotting scope that just barely fits this price range. Owning a Kowa for 500 bucks just might be the best bargain deal of the day.
- Interchangeable eyepiece system
- Made in Japan
- 10-year warranty
- Scope body only
Typically, you won't see spotting scopes sold by eyepiece and scope body separately until you're spending over two grand. This is indicative of premium quality to ensure you're purchasing the most appropriate eyepiece system for your spotting application. Want variety? You can buy and use an eyepiece with a different power range.
With the interchangeable eyepiece system, you also have access to see if Kowa compatible digiscoping accessories can work for photography, recording, and capturing rare once-in-a-lifetime moments that you won't ever be able to duplicate.
Still, if you're spending only 500 buckaroos on the scope body, you've got to wonder how much it costs to get the eyepiece. Expect to add at least a few hundred bucks to your budget.
The Kowa spotter is made in Japan, and they're usually an excellent source of glass and quality when it comes to optics. When you buy this scope from an authorized dealership, you'll get their 10-year warranty on it.
It's nitrogen-purged and O-ring sealed for both fog and waterproof protection. It's made with polycarbonate materials to keep weight to a minimum without compromising build quality.
What more is there to say? You're getting a Kowa for 500 bucks!
What to Look for in a Spotting Scope in This Price Range
Spotting scopes in this price range should have a few premium perks thrown in - we're talking about $500, it's got to be worth it. However, you've got to be brand-specific to ensure you're getting the best of what you can afford.
If you're going with a high-powered and heavy scope, you're going to want to add additional costs for quality, strong, and solid tripods and mounting systems. Just keep that in mind when you plan on spending every penny. Here's what else you need to look for.
- 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 in this price range.
- High power 20-60X: You want to make sure you get accurate distances with these spotting scopes by being brand-specific. Going higher-powered in this price range may result in poorer image quality.
- Eye relief 13-18 mm: Ensure your investment is comfortable to glass with.
- Exit pupil 3-5 mm: Smaller than 3 mm? 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.
We Put The Best Under $500 Through the Ringer!
If you have the chance to shop in person, put your scope through the ringer to really see if it'll work for you. If one promising purchase ends up being a dud, it's one purchase too many.
Buying online eliminates the chance to give the spotting scope a test run before you buy, but that's where counting on our expertise comes into play. If the masses are impressed, you just might be too. Since we've put 'em all through the ringer for you, you can rest assured that your money is well placed. It's called buying confidence - you're welcome!