Comparing a spotting scope vs binoculars reveals a variety of different features and applications for each.

Imagine drawing your dream tag: sitting on the side of a pristine alpine rock ledge, watching thousands of acres below you. Mountain goats dot the high ridges while mule deer feed on the grasses and forbs on the tree line. Elk drift in and out of the mist, bugling across the valley floor while bears gorge on berries on sun-soaked slopes.

This is only one stage of a hunt. The image of a “dream hunt” is often very different from the terrain where much of the actual hunting takes place. In fact, a heavy dose of a hunting trip takes place in timber or tighter vegetation, and both of these environments require different optics. 

In one case, a spotting scope is the only option. In the other, binoculars shine above all other glass. When comparing a spotting scope vs binoculars, hunters and competitive shooters must know the strengths and limitations of each to be able to appropriately plan their next adventure or day at the range. 


Comparing a spotting scope vs binoculars reveals a variety of different features and applications for each.

Comparing a spotting scope vs binoculars reveals a variety of different features and applications for each.

Comparing a Spotting Scope vs Binoculars

Spotting scopes and binoculars display obvious differences in construction. One is built with a single tube, while the other features a pair of tubes. One is large and heavy, while the other is smaller and portable. The differences in construction and design can lead a user to their intended goals. 

For instance, the larger construction of a spotting scope allows it to host much larger lenses, which lead to more light gathering ability and the ability to utilize higher magnification. A smaller objective lens (the big lens on the opposite end of the eyepiece) can be fitted to be able to zoom as far as a larger objective lens, but the zooming process restricts light flow into the eye of the user. A smaller objective lens would eventually go dark when zoomed too far. If a smaller lens, like on binoculars, were zoomed to 80x, the sight picture would be poor. Thus, a larger lens, like those found on a spotting scope, is needed to maintain brightness and clarity over longer distances.


spotting scope vs binoculars

The SCHOTT HT Glass and ED Lens in this 80mm Spotting Scope allows for increased brightness and resolution.


The larger build of a spotting scope simultaneously presents some disadvantages. The larger build and incredible zooming abilities require the use of a tripod. Flimsy tripods can shake in the wind or when the user is manipulating the scope. Sturdy tripods needed to adequately support a larger spotting scope are heavy and not suitable for carrying and deploying quickly in vegetation or wooded areas. 

Binoculars are more appropriate in this situation, being much lighter, more easily used in thick cover, and available at a moment’s notice. In short, a spotting scope is best utilized in longer sits overlooking vast areas while binoculars are more appropriate in areas where quick deployment and maneuverability is needed.

Tips for Choosing a Spotting Scope

Spotting scopes come in a variety of different styles. Some are big and heavy with more powerful zoom capabilities, while others are lighter but not as powerful. Spotting scopes also can be purchased with angled or straight eyepieces.

Hunters that hike deep into the backcountry on foot would appreciate a lighter scope. In many cases these hunts occur in units where hunting pressure is higher and hunters are using a scope to simply find game – any game. Our new 22-45x65mm spotting scope was designed specifically with this use in mind. 


Spotting Scope vs Binoculars

Our compact 65mm Spotter as seen attached to this small day pack comes in either angled or straight versions.


Conversely, in trophy units, hunts are often conducted from horseback or even a vehicle. Hiking distances are generally less, and more often than not, hunters only carry their daily hunting gear on their back rather than an entire camp and provisions. In these situations, hunters also need more ability to gauge the trophy class of an animal. Their lighter pack allows more room for added weight, and the need for gauging trophy quality facilitates the need for more magnification. Our flagship spotter, the 27-55x80mm, is great for seeing intense detail and longer ranges.

An angled eyepiece would be the better option in both scenarios, especially if the hunter needed to glass any areas that were higher in elevation than the hunter’s glassing point. In this case, a straight eyepiece tilted at extreme angles can put significant strain on the user’s neck and shoulders. A hunter in a valley trying to glass mountaintops would need to flex their neck to be able to see through a straight eyepiece, while an angled one would allow for a more relaxed posture.

Competition shooters or recreational shooters would likely benefit more from a straight eyepiece. In many cases, the shooter also sets up a tripod on his or her benchrest to be able to check shots without standing up. Secondary spotters are often positioned behind the shooter and commonly watch from a standing position. In both cases, a straight eyepiece would allow the user to assume a more natural position when looking through the scope.

Tips for Choosing Binoculars

We have already established the different applications for a spotting scope vs binoculars, but some binocular options are more appropriate for different purposes. When deciding between different binoculars, magnification should be the starting point.

Lower power binoculars, like the TORIC 8x42 hunting binocular, are best at seeing through foliage in dense cover. Turkey hunters and whitetail hunters that hunt in timber need a larger field of view to be able to find game before the hunter is spotted. Archery elk hunters can also benefit from having a lower power pair that can cut through the chaff in deep vegetation. 


Is it true, that "less is more" when it comes to binoculars? Watch and find out...


Hunters that spend more time in open country can benefit from the extra magnification of 10X or 12X. The trouble comes when game is at close range but still obstructed. Since a pair of binoculars with a higher magnification has a smaller field of view, finding animals in the sight picture can be difficult at closer ranges. Hunters who hunt in bigger country don’t normally have this problem and can see animals much farther off with a little more oomph. 


spotting scope vs binoculars


15X binoculars are commonly used by competition shooters who want a two-eye spotting system and hunters that glass a lot of open territory. Certainly, some overlap exists in the prime applications of a higher-power pair of binoculars and a lower-power spotting scope. In fact, most people that utilize a 15X pair of binos to glass in open country do so with their binoculars mounted on a tripod, much like a spotting scope.

Comparing a spotting scope vs binoculars is like comparing a car to a truck. While they may have overlapping uses at times, their best uses complement each other. To be properly equipped, both deserve consideration on a shooter’s gear list. At TRACT, we have listened to the end user and tried to provide a solution to all of the obstacles and environments that people will find in the mountains, the hardwoods, the shooting range, and all places in between. Surely, you’ll be ready if you’re ever lucky enough to notch that dream tag you’ve always waited for.

Personal Optic Outfitting

If we can answer any questions about a spotting scope vs binoculars, please give us a call at 631-662-7354, send us an email at [email protected], or hit the Live Chat button at the bottom left of your screen. We’re always happy to help!

Spotting Scope vs binoculars