While it is true that spotting scopes and binoculars serve very similar purposes, they are different enough that there are times when one is the more suitable option than the other.

To help you know when to use a spotting scope or binoculars when carrying out activities such as birdwatching, stargazing, spectator sports or hunting, here is a short guide:

What is a spotting scope?

A fantastic device for anyone who enjoys a range of outdoor pursuits, spotting scopes are compact, high-powered telescopes designed to be more portable than a telescope, and more powerful than the average pair of binoculars.

The higher power and magnification of spotting scopes does make them costlier than some other optical enhancing devices, however.

What are binoculars?

Combining two telescopes that can be easily and comfortably used to view things through both eyes, binoculars are designed in such a way that they’re more enjoyable to use thanks to the perspective and 3D effect. They can also be more affordable than telescopes and spotting scopes.

How to choose the right optic device for your needs

It’s actually rather simple to decide whether to use a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope, and this is mainly due to the fact that in a lot of situations, both devices can provide you with the same benefits. However, while you might be able to use either device when carrying out the activities listed below, there are some instances in which one is the better choice than the other.


Amateur birdwatchers will almost certainly be comfortable using a pair of binoculars, and may never need, or choose, to purchase a spotting scope unless they decide to take the pastime up as more than a hobby. That said, if you plan to stay in one spot while waiting for a rare bird to make an appearance, for example, a spotting scope such as the Vanguard endeavor HD 82A, is a great choice, and will enable you to see the bird in more detail, from a greater distance.

Wildlife watching

Unlike with hunting, wildlife watching enthusiasts don’t need to move around so much, and hence may benefit from setting a spotting scope up on a tripod and enjoying unparalleled views of any wildlife in the area. On the other hand, if you’re hiking and hope to spot some flora and fauna as you go, a pair of binoculars may be the more convenient choice, especially if you leave them hanging by a strap around your neck.


While astronomy does require some degree of movement, it’s certainly a lot less than is needed for bird or wildlife watching, making a spotting scope an excellent choice for budding astronomers and amateur stargazers. Binoculars absolutely can be used, but may never provide you with the magnification needed to get the most out of the night sky.


Many hunters opt for binoculars with higher magnification, making device deployment speedy, and perhaps most importantly, quieter than setting up a tripod for a spotting scope. That said, if you’re a big game hunter, a spotting scope can be ideal for helping you achieve the long distance shot you need.

Viewing spectator sports

While spotting scopes do give unparalleled long-distance viewing, they make little sense for someone watching sports in a park or stadium, as looking at the sportspeople playing through a single lens can be extremely detrimental for your eyesight, and lead to many such issues as headaches and eyestrain.

Whether you choose to use a spotting scope or binoculars while pursuing outdoor activities, you should always buy from a reputable brand and seller, and maintain your optical device appropriately for the best viewing experience.