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How To Use A Spotting Scope (For Optimal Viewing)

Written by Garrett Hayes

Last updated on Apr 3rd, 2024
How To Use A Spotting Scope

Spotting scopes are popular optical devices that allow people to observe distant objects with greater clarity and detail than they could with the naked eye. These scopes are widely used for a variety of activities, including birdwatching, hunting, nature observation, and target shooting. Spotting scopes are also used by astronomers and researchers for observing stars and other celestial objects.

In this article, we will explore the different types of spotting scopes, their components, and how to set them up. We will also provide tips for using a spotting scope effectively and safely. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced user, this guide will help you get the most out of your spotting scope.

Also, make sure to read about the best bird watching spotting scope if you are planning to buy one.

Understanding a Spotting Scope

A spotting scope is a type of telescope that is designed for terrestrial observation. It provides high magnification and image clarity, which is ideal for observing distant objects such as birds, animals, landscapes, and other natural features.

Components of a spotting scope:

how to use a spotting scope

A spotting scope consists of several components, including:

  • Objective lens: This is the main lens of the spotting scope that collects light and forms an image of the target.
  • Eyepiece: This is the lens that magnifies the image formed by the objective lens and allows the user to view the target.
  • Body: This is the main tube of the spotting scope that houses the lenses and other components.
  • Focusing mechanism: This is a system of knobs or dials that allow the user to adjust the focus of the spotting scope.
  • Tripod mount: This is a mounting system that attaches the spotting scope to a tripod.

Types of spotting scopes:

There are two main types of spotting scopes:

  • Angled spotting scopes: These have an angled eyepiece that is set at an angle to the body of the scope. They are ideal for viewing objects that are high up in the sky or on steep terrain.
  • Straight spotting scopes: These have a straight eyepiece that is aligned with the body of the scope. They are ideal for viewing objects at eye level or below.

It is very important to take into account the eyepiece angle when choosing a spotting scope. I would recommend you to read my article, where I explained everything regarding straight vs angled spotting scope, to select the one that's most appropriate for your specific needs.

Magnification and objective lens size:

Spotting scopes come in different magnification levels and objective lens sizes. Magnification relates to the size of the target image, while objective lens size signifies the diameter of its objective lens. With that in mind, one can more clearly understand how magnification plays a key role when it comes to getting an optimal visual experience from their device.

An increased objective lens size on a spotting scope will yield brighter and sharper imagery, while greater magnification makes it possible to see further into the distance with exquisite detail. It's important to choose a spotting scope with the appropriate magnification and objective lens size for your specific use.

How To Use A Spotting Scope?

Setting up the tripod:

To set up a spotting scope, you'll need a stable base to mount it on. A tripod is the most common option, as it provides a solid and level platform for the spotting scope. To set up the tripod, extend the legs and adjust them to the desired height. Make sure the legs are securely locked in place and the tripod is level.

Attaching the spotting scope to the tripod:

Outfitting a spotting scope with a mounting system allows for simple and secure attachment to its tripod, making stargazing more enjoyable. To attach the scope, first, remove the protective covers from the mounting plate on the scope. Then, align the mounting plate with the tripod's mounting head and screw it into place.

Adjusting the height and angle of the spotting scope:

Once the spotting scope is mounted on the tripod, you can adjust its height and angle to suit your needs. To adjust the height, use the tripod's leg extension controls. To adjust the angle, use the spotting scope's angle adjustment controls.

Angled spotting scopes are designed to be easier to use for extended periods of time, especially when viewing objects that are higher up.

Focusing the spotting scope:

how to use a spotting scope

Focusing the spotting scope is critical to getting a clear and sharp image of the target. Start by adjusting the focus knob on the spotting scope to bring the target into general focus. Then, use the fine focus knob to adjust the focus more precisely.

It's important to take your time and make small adjustments until the image is clear and sharp. Be sure to refocus the scope as you change magnification or move the scope to a different target.

Using a Spotting Scope

Finding the target:

Finding the target is the first step in using a spotting scope. Begin by scanning the area with your naked eye to locate the target. Then, use the spotting scope's wide field of view to zoom in on the target. If you're having trouble finding the target, try using a reference point or landmark to guide you.

Zooming in on the target:

Once you've located the target, you can use the spotting scope's zoom feature to get a closer look. Start with a lower magnification and gradually increase it until you have the desired view of the target.

Be aware that increasing the magnification may also increase the shakiness of the image, so it's important to stabilize the spotting scope as much as possible.

Observing the target:

Observing the target through a spotting scope can be a rewarding experience, as it allows you to see details that you might not be able to see with the naked eye.

Take your time to look at the target from different angles and at different magnifications. Be aware of your surroundings and stay alert to any changes in the target or the environment.

Taking notes and recording data:

If you're using a spotting scope for a specific purpose, such as birdwatching or target shooting, it's important to take notes and record data. Note the time, date, and location of the observation, as well as any relevant details about the target.

You may also want to record the magnification and other settings on the spotting scope. If you're using a camera or phone to take pictures, be sure to label them with the same information. This data can be useful for future reference and analysis.


In conclusion, using a spotting scope can be a valuable tool for a variety of activities, such as birdwatching, target shooting, and nature observation. Understanding the components of a spotting scope and how to set it up correctly is essential for getting the best results.

By following the tips and guidelines for using a spotting scope, you can improve your observation skills and capture details that might be missed by the naked eye. Whether you're a seasoned pro or a beginner, using a spotting scope can open up new vistas and provide you with hours of enjoyment and discovery.

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