Spotting Scopes vs. Binoculars for Wildlife Viewing: Who Wins?

  • By: Imad

Spotting scope vs. binoculars for wildlife viewing: which one is better? If that’s what you were searching for, stay with me!

I am going to spill the beans to your advantage so you can make an informed decision. Here you have,

For wildlife viewing, spotting scopes overpower binoculars. Since your focus is highly subjective, spotting scopes are far better due to its ability to observe the wildlife in minute detail. 

However, if detailing is not your need then binoculars could replace spotting scopes

I have discussed some of the essential factors that could assist you in your decision. Let’s dive in and further enhance our knowledge for better understanding;

Binoculars vs spotting scopes for wildlife

Magnification Importance for wildlife viewing

Generally, hunters and birders are concerned more with the details of wildlife viewing. And since spotting scopes offer higher magnification power compared to binoculars, optics enthusiasts vouch for spotting scopes.

Some of the spotting scopes available on the market offer magnification power as high as up to 100x, which is ample to view wildlife. In contrast, you have binoculars that offer less magnification power. You can use them only when clarity is not your concern.  

Moreover, wildlife viewing could be dangerous if you aren’t at a safe distance from the target object. Any levity could cause unfriendly situations. To avert such scenarios, you need gears that not only fulfils your needs but also ensure safety. Since spotting scopes are good at magnification, you could easily stay far away from the danger without compromising on details.

Weight & portability

Spotting scopes do offer higher magnification power but they aren’t as portable as binoculars. Spotting scopes require tripod stands for support which makes them less portable.

Contrary to spotting scopes, tripods aren’t essential for binoculars as they are more compact, lighter and easy to carry. However, for ultra image stability, you can use a tripod for binoculars as well.

Field of view

One of the downsides of spotting scopes is a smaller FOV compared to binoculars. However, the smaller field of view is compensated by higher magnification power. Remember magnification power and field of view are reciprocal.

What would be the benefit of a larger field of view if you cannot focus on details? That’s why, I prefer spotting scopes over binoculars for wildlife viewing, even though they have smaller FOV compared to binos.

If you aren’t concerned about details, simply opt for binoculars as they come with greater FOV.

Spotting scope or binoculars: Which one you should buy?

As far as buying is concerned, make your “WHY” clear. Are you more interested in the details? Or if you want to view wildlife regardless of extreme clarity and vivid details. Experts up their voices in spotting scopes’ favour especially for wildlife viewing.

You may have requirements that vindicate for lightweight, easy to carry equipment, then yes you can opt binoculars, as they are comfortable and hardly requires any support.

The point is your buying decision depends on your needs. Like most wildlife observers, I recommend spotting scopes as spotting scopes allows observing from far and in detail without strand clarity. However, the decision is all yours.

Binocular limitations for wildlife viewing

  • Binoculars don’t offer high magnification power, and for wildlife viewing, high magnification is required.
  • Binoculars have a small objective lens compared to spotting scopes, which means less light could enter. A larger objective lens gathers more light and is better for viewing at low light conditions.
  • Unable to provide clear object details

Spotting scope limitations for wildlife viewing

  • Spotting scopes that exhibit quality come at exorbitant prices
  • Extra carrying stuff adds to the unnecessary cost
  • Set up can consume time and is a bit hectic
  • Field of view shrinks as magnification goes up

Also Read: Where are the world’s top spotting scopes made?


Spotting scopes have undoubtedly cemented a special place for wildlife viewing. They offer extravagant magnification power. You could adjust your scope far from the actual action and yet get a stable and clear view without having to compromise on quality, isn’t that something you want?

Albeit, you can benefit yourself from binoculars but, you have to keep in mind that choosing binoculars could result in shaky and unstable imagery. Binoculars are ideal for you in case you are concerned with weight and portability, and if you need a larger FOV.

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