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Last updated: May 27, 2021
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A spotting scope is a portable telescope, but some scopes are more portable than the other. The compact models offer more ergonomics, portability, and are recommended for hobbyists, students, and anyone interested in hunting and game watching. Straight or angled, there is a wide range to pick from. To make it easier for you, take a look at our guide to the best compact spotting scopes.
In this article, we’ll discuss the top seven compact scopes and how to choose them. Since we need these scopes to be as compact and portable as possible, the size and weight were the primary features we looked at while making this list. And naturally, we considered the quality of optics.
"The Fieldscope is a very compact, extra-low dispersion (ED) spotting scope that comes with a zoom eyepiece and eye relief of 12.9mm.3–40 degrees angle field of view.9.8-foot close focus.19.6-ounce weight."
"The Lucid Optics SC9 is also a compact spotting scope with extra-low dispersion glass, a fully multi-coated (FMC) lens, and 8 feet to infinity close focus.8.25-inch long.14–17 mm eye relief.120 ft at 1000 yds."
"Equipped with a carrying case, eyepiece caps, and objective lens cover, the Vortex Razor HD is a lightweight, durable, and reliable scope.11–33x magnification.50mm objective lens diameter.96–191 ft at 1000 yds."
"The Bench Mark offers a 58mm lens with a length of 7.8 inches and weighs only 16 ounces, which makes it one of the best lightweight spotting scopes.8–24x magnification.225–14.5 ft at 1000 yds.10.8-foot close focus."
The Nikon Fieldscope is a very compact, extra-low dispersion (ED) spotting scope. It has a magnification of 13 to 30 times and a large 50 mm objective diameter. It comes with a zoom eyepiece and eye relief of 12.9 mm.
The Fieldscope is for those who need a very compact but premium spotting scope. It is completely waterproof, fog resistant, and filled with nitrogen gas. This also makes it suitable for all weather conditions as it is a gas that prevents fogging and eliminates the moisture problem.
What do we love it for?
One of the few things we like about this scope is that it is lightweight, compact, and easy to travel with. You can place this into the hand luggage. You would think it would lose quality somewhere, but it doesn't. Being a smaller scope, its lower power allows you to get a lot of light coming through a big eyepiece. Therefore, the images are crisp, bright, and sharp as you would expect from any other Nikon spotting scope.
What were we disappointed with?
The spotting scope could be cheaper. This is not a cheap spotting scope. Its price is closer to $1,000. But the optical quality and practicality it brings are unrivaled. This scope produces sharp, crisp, and clear images, even in tough weather conditions.
The Lucid Optics SC9 is also a compact spotting scope with extra-low dispersion glass. It is designed in black and has a fully multi-coated (FMC) lens. It has 8 feet to infinity close focus. It also comes with a lifetime warranty. The full multi-coated optics give high optical efficiency, thus creating a clear and bright vision. It is completely waterproof (IPX8) and purged with nitrogen gas which also makes it suitable for all weather conditions as it is a gas that prevents fogging and eliminates the moisture problem.
The Lucid Optics is the cheaper option to the Nikon Fieldscope. It’s not necessarily seen as an upgrade, but it is one of the best-angled spotting scopes with compact size on the market. You can magnify this scope from 9 to 27 times. Also, it has an objective lens of 56 mm diameter, which is much larger than the Nikon Fieldscope. It can be used at different heights without changing the length of the tripod. It offers more comfort of use when it is intended to see angles when looking upwards. It can even be used effectively even in lowered positions – sitting or lying down.
Why is it special?
The spotting scope is a very inexpensive model. We like that it comes with a lifetime warranty and it is suitable for all weather. This scope has a 45-degree angled eyepiece at the scope's body. It can be used at different heights without changing the length of the tripod.
What are the flaws?
Like many other users, whose reviews we've monitored, we didn't find any downside with this scope. It's compact, waterproof, comes with a lifetime warranty, and has a good objective lens and magnification range. What more can you ask for?
The Golden Rings spotting scope is a compact model adjustable from 15 to 20 times. Made by Leopold, it weighs 21.5 ounces and is 11 inches long. It has a close focus of 13.5 feet. The scope comes with operating instructions and a Leopold sticker for the vehicle. It is designed, machined, and packaged in the USA. It comes with a product registration card and a compact-looking Leopold case.
So, what makes this different from what Leopold has been producing? First, the Golden Ring has a construction made of carbon fiber. This keeps it very light and tough. Its FMC lens ensures it stays bright maximally for clear images with color fidelity and contrast.
What are its best features?
What we like particularly about this unit is its glare-reducing technology, even when in harsh lighting conditions. It's therefore ideal for recreational sports. We also like the price it's sold for. It's not as cheap as the Lucid Optics SC9 but it's less expensive than the Nikon Fieldscope.
What could be improved?
The scope has a glass without extra-low dispersion. Also, some users think it's not the best scope with enough sharpness for viewing targets. Also, the field of view is limited at a distance.
The HAWKE Endurance spotting scope system has magnifications of 15 to 45 times and a very large objective lens diameter of 60mm. The lens comes fully multi-coated. Also, for greater reflective properties, the prisms are dielectrically coated. The Endurance spotting scopes have a two-stage focus setting (coarse and fine), 3 × zoom eyepieces with twist-out eyepiece cups, and extendable sun visors.
All models from Hawke, including the Endurance, are constructed with ED glass to minimize the occurrence of chromatic aberrations. The low-scatter ED glass reduces color fringing and increases the clarity and sharpness of the image, which is why it is most used by nature-lovers. It’s also very good for bird watching, for marksmen, and digiscoping.
What makes it special?
We liked that you can choose between the full-format spotting scopes with 85mm or 68mm lens and the compact versions with 60mm or 50mm lens. Also, the spotting scope comes with lens covers and an integrated soft protective cover. It has an ultra-compact and lightweight construction with dielectric coatings to increase light reflection. Finally, it has the highest magnification in this review.
What cons did we find?
Although this is marketed as a compact sighting scope, as a product that weighs 31.6 ounces, this is heavy.
Equipped with a carrying case, eyepiece caps, and objective lens cover, the Vortex Razor HD is a lightweight, durable, and reliable scope. It has a magnification of 11 to 33 times and an objective lens diameter of 50 mm, which is not bad for a compact scope. It is a spotting scope with premium HD (high density) glass that offers extra-low dispersion and the best color resolution.
Ornithologists and nature lovers tend to choose it as it is the most comfortable option for making long-distant observations. It has Plasma Tech technology. This provides a coating without paralleling distortion with outstanding durability and performance. It has a new focusing system that has become central helical and highly precise, achieving a perfect focus throughout the field of view.
Why is it special?
This is designed to be used in wet conditions. It is waterproof and fog proof, which means it is purged from nitrogen. It has a fully multi-coated lens with a field of view of 96 to 191 feet at 1,000 yards. The Vortex Razor HD is not only a fantastic spotting scope with an amazing value for money. But it is above all the right item for those looking for a spotting scope with a moderate objective lens diameter and small overall dimensions for ease of transportation.
What are the flaws?
The only complaint worthy of mentioning is its short eye relief. However, this is compensated by its lightweight and quality optics.
The HAWKE Nature-Trek System is a new ultra-compact 56mm model. It features twist-out eyecups and delivers up to 27x magnification and a minimum of 9 times magnification. It comes in a package no bigger than the palm of your hand and is supplied with a neoprene protective cover.
Different from the rest, this unit is a zoom spotting scope with an angled view. Also, it has a BaK-4 glass material with a fully multi-coated lens. It also includes a zoom eyepiece and a rotatable pipe clamp. The Nature Trek is ideal for use in nature, for bird watching, for hunting, and for digiscoping.
What are our favorite features?
Some of the ways we're impressed about this spotting scope are that it has a protective cover against damage, a twist-out eyepiece cup, and an extendable sun visor. It's compatible with the Digi-Spotting Scope System for use with cameras. The device is purged with nitrogen. This makes it fog-proof, splash-proof, and waterproof for the best use in any type of weather. Also, at 20.3 oz and 7.6 inches in length, it is a very lightweight and compact model.
What could be better?
This scope turned out to be hard to focus when the sun is low, as there is pronounced purple fringing.
The Bench Mark offers a 58 mm lens with a length of 7.8 inches and weighs only 16 ounces, which is around 450 grams. This makes it one of the best lightweight spotting scopes on the market. The magnification of the scope can be adjusted to a minimum of 8 times and 24 times maximum. It has an eye relief of 19 to 14.5 mm and a close focus of 10.8 f.
We can define it as a compact spotting scope among large scopes if, for example, we compare it to the Viper HD or the Razor HD. This model is recommended for any activity, in wildlife observation it gives good results up to 400 meters. For those interested in astronomical use, with this telescope, it is possible to see Jupiter and its 4 large moons or to clearly distinguish Saturn’s rings.
What are our favorite features?
It is completely sealed for 100% waterproof protection which is a plus especially if you're using it in the rainy season. It is nitrogen purged and prevents fogging which is great especially in the winter. With the dynamic focusing system, you can focus by spinning the front of the camera lens. It also has a portal prism design and fully coated optics.
What could be better?
We think an extra-low dispersion glass could complete this model. Also, it's unfortunate that the scope is not for those who wear glasses, because of the eyecup.
Things to Consider
There’s much more to buying a spotting scope than depending on intuition. The selection process has to be deliberate and meet your needs and applications. This is why we have prepared a not-too-long guide on how to choose the right compact spotting scope.
What spotting scope can be considered compact?
Compact spotting scopes are models which come with their travel case, with a weight between 10 ounces (300 grams) to around 30 ounces (850 grams). They have a small to medium size objective lens diameter that ranges from 30 to 60 mm. They range in length from around 7.5 inches to around 12 inches. Some of the best spotting scopes that are considered compact are Lucid Optics SC9, Hawke Sport Optics Nature Trek, and the Barska Bench Mark Scope.
Features to consider before you buy a spotting scope
Here are some criteria to take into account when choosing your spotting scope:
Eyepieces: Magnification and diameter
Spotting scopes are medium-range telescopes. In general, the most widely used magnifications are between 20x and 50x: they maintain good optical quality; beyond that, the image becomes darker and less precise. Not to mention that a 50x approximation allows you to observe an object located at 1000 m as being at 20 meters.
To change the magnification power, they have either interchangeable fixed-length eyepieces or a single zoom eyepiece. While a higher magnification expands the capabilities of a spotting scope, a model with 40 to 100 is probably overkill if you are doing birding or hunting at close range. Also, consider that higher magnification will ultimately reduce image quality and a smaller field of view.
Eyepieces, when interchangeable, provide the ability to vary magnification. There are even zoom eyepieces that allow you to vary the approximation without changing eyepieces, very practical. On the other hand, they offer a little less field than a fixed focal length eyepiece.
To determine the optical quality of the spotting scope, it is necessary to look at the distortion of the image, the sharpness in the edges, the rendering of the colors, and the sharpness of the image. We recommend you test them in-store.
Almost all spotting scope optics are coated with an anti-reflective coating which improves their transparency.
Straight vs angled scope
There are two different types of spotting scopes: the straight and the angled scope.
Straight spotting scope
These types have their eyepiece and scope body on same horizontal plane of optics. This type of glasses is suitable for all uses, and all skill levels. They are particularly user-friendly, especially for beginners, as it is faster and easier to spot and follow moving targets. The main disadvantage of this type of spotting scope is that it is difficult to see or target objects at high altitudes or above sea level.
Angled spotting scope
Like the Hawke Sport Optics Endurance, these scopes typically have 45-degree angled eyepieces at the scope’s body. It can be used at different heights without changing the length of the tripod. It offers more comfort of use when it is intended to see angles when looking upwards. It can even be used effectively even in lowered positions – sitting or lying down.
This type of spotting scope is ideal for hunting, bird watching, and occasional use in astronomy.
Field of view
Knowing that the magnification means the range of scope, then the field of view is that which is used for the width of your target. Think about what activities you will be using the device for before buying. If you are using it for hunting, would you need the tool for spotting targets far away? If so, high magnification with a small field of vision is the best.
However, if you are hiking or birding, you need low magnification with a wide field of view. This criterion is usually shown in degrees. It’s also shown at some distance (i.e., 39m wide at 1000m distance).
Some of the few features which you will find helpful ergonomics-wise include:
Tripod-adaptability: All spotting scopes need a mount to allow use with minimal vibration. This is a point that should not be overlooked.
Minimum focusing distance: A good spotting scope must have a minimum focusing distance of fewer than 6 meters.
Zoom eyepiece: The eyepiece can be removable or not. Usually, the preferred eyepieces are the zoom eyepieces that allow you to easily change the magnification.
Eye relief: The eye relief is that distance from the eyepiece. 14 mm is the minimum distance for the wearer of glasses. Up to 20 mm is still great for eyeglass wearers.
Durability and warranty
Unlike telescopes used for astronomy, spotting scopes are for use in the field. They can fall, be knocked on the furniture, and can be exposed to the elements such as mud, rain, and fog. Hence, the body, weather seals, lens, and lens cap must be sturdy.
A defect in an instrument during the first few months or years of purchase can be duly covered by the warranty. Many models such as the Lucid Optics SC9 have a lifetime warranty, which is the best in this aspect. However, impacts and wear cannot be covered by the warranty.
The prices of compact spotting scopes like the ones we recommend usually range from around $400 to $1,000 or more. If you want a low-budget model, choose the Lucid Optics SC9. It details for under $500.
In spotting scope terms, HD is used to refer to high definition and ED, extra-low dispersion. During backlit observations with a regular instrument, we can observe a blue and red colored fringe, around a dark silhouette on a light background: this is chromatic aberration. To correct this defect, manufacturers use special glasses (HD, ED, Super ED, Prominar ED, etc.). The difference between a regular lens and a high-definition lens is hardly visible at low magnifications (15–30x). On the other hand, the contrast becomes much more evident with high magnifications (40x, 50x or 60x). The high-definition spotting scopes are useful in difficult weather conditions, for color recognition (ornithology) and for photography.
Compact spotting scopes are like a small monocular telescope. They are versatile, practical, and transportable. The Nikon Fieldscope 13-30x50mm, rated 9.9 out of 10, is our Editor’s Choice. It is a very compact, extra-low dispersion (ED) spotting scope and has a magnification of 13 to 30x. It also has a large 50mm objective diameter. It comes with a zoom eyepiece and eye relief of 12.9 mm. This is our overall best compact spotting scope.
The Lucid Optics SC9 doubles as the Best Angled Scope and our Budget Pick. At under $500 price range, it has a high value with no compromise on quality. The Lucid Optics SC9 is also a spotting scope with extra-low dispersion glass. It has a fully multi-coated (FMC) lens and 10 feet to infinity close focus. It also comes with a lifetime warranty. It is rated 9.8 out of 10.
The Leupold Golden Ring is our Best Value product. Rated 9.6, the spotting scope is a compact model adjustable from 13 to 20x. Made by Leopold, it weighs 21.5 ounces and is 11 inches long. It has a close focus of 13.5 feet.