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Over recent years, the use of spotting scope has gained popularity due to its portability. Moreover, it often results in clear images and is much cheaper than a conventional scope. Spotting scope is a durable telescope which is used for bird watching, hunting and even digiscoping. Depending on the configuration of the lens and eyepiece, it can be either used with or without a tripod. The major difference between a spotting scope and a telescope is that telescope gives inverted images unlike spotting scope.
The length of the spotting scope is around 300-400mm and the diameter of the lens is 60mm. Most lenses are of diameter between 60-80mm. A clear and sharp image is formed by a large lens while a small lens makes the scope portable and can be used without a tripod. The eyepiece of the spotting scope is set between 25x-35x while as the cost of the spotting scope increases the highest possible magnification also increases.
You can also choose a scope which offers variable zoom lenses. However, it is important to note that with the increase in magnification many other factors lowers; field view, image brightness, image sharpness etc. With a high magnification, the field of vision gets shortened and the amount of light collected also reduces, thereby decreasing the quality of the picture. It is advisable to use a scope with the lowest available magnification to gain a clear image. Scopes can also be fitted with the eyepiece of the telescope to increase the range of use.
Spotting scopes are best for nighttime stargazing and viewing heavenly body located close to earth. If the conditions are suitable, they can also be used to spot planets. However, a conventional telescope proves to have an edge over the spotting scope for viewing the other heavenly bodies in the sky. If you have to choose between a spotting scope and a conventional scope, think of the 80/20 thumb rule. According to the thumb rule, if you have to spend 80% of your time in viewing terrestrial objects and 20% of your time in watching stars, go for a spotting scope. However, if you are looking for your scope to perform a variety of functions like: electronic tracking, the ability to get sync to a computer, or studying deep astronomy, then you should go for a conventional scope. You should base your choice depending upon how you will use the scope.