Best Spotting Scopes Under 500 – The Complete Guide

If you are looking to get a great spotting scope for the money, the most quality for every dollar spent, what you want is the best spotting scope under 500 bucks.  As you spend more, you can get a better product but each dollar gets you less and less quality.  That midrange is the sweet spot for the thrifty fellow that still wants quality.

best spotting scope under 500

You can opt to get scopes that cost more or less but you lose the savings or the quality, your choice.  I have often found myself happiest somewhere in the middle of product prices.  You still get quality and features without the huge expense up front.  That's what I mean by bang for your buck.

Whether you are looking for spotting scopes for hunting, a powerful spotting scope for target shooting, or just an affordable spotting scope, you can find them all for less than $500.00.  Unless you are in a professional category, there is little reason to spend more.  Some of the options below will do everything you could need and more.

A mid-range spotting scope will offer you all the features of most of the higher end spotting scopes. If you lose anything it will be a little image quality.  The glass may not be as pure or the coating may be less refined.  If you can live with that, you can save some serious money.

Some of the companies that produce mid-range spotting scopes are the same ones that produce the higher end scopes and they get most of the same treatment and will have all of the same features as the less budget-friendly options.  That is what makes these such a value.

Whether you are here after a simple bird watching scope or a true tactical spotting scope, you will find exactly what you are looking for.  There are even scopes you could use for a budget digiscoping setup.  Whatever your needs, a spotting scope in this range should provide you with years of service.  Even if you are looking for a spotting scope for long range target shooting, there is no reason one of these can’t serve that purpose.

Spotting Scope Considerations

At this level of cost, there will be tradeoffs.  If you want the best glass, you may have to give up a few features.  If good glass is good enough, you can get a loaded spotting scope with everything you want.  Understanding what you are giving up at your price point is vital to getting the scope that suits your needs best.  You may want one scope for hunting while if you prefer a peaceful day with a spotting scope for ocean viewing, a different scope would serve you better.

Magnification

When looking at a scope, they will be designated with a number like 20x60mm or 18-45x60mm

In this case, we are looking for the numbers before the x which denote the magnification of the scope.

If the number is a single number like the 20 it is a fixed power scope.  If the number is hyphenated like the 18-45 it is a variable power scope. All other considerations equal, a variable scope is more versatile but a fixed power scope will have a slightly better image.

Most of the scopes in this price range will be variable and have a max power between 45 and 60 with the majority as 60 power scopes.  Power wise, there is little difference between these scopes and those costing much more.

Objective Lens

The second number in the examples above represents the size of the objective lens.  If a scope has a larger lens the image through the scope will be brighter.  Opting for a larger objective lens will make the scope more useful in low light conditions.

A large objective lens will also have a larger field of view allowing you to see a broader area at a given range.  If all else is equal, a large lens is better but the quality of that lenses will be a more important factor in the image quality.

Lens Coatings

There are four types of lens coatings available on spotting scopes.  The idea behind the coating is to prevent glare and increase the light gathering ability of a scope.  All of the scopes in this price range will have a coating but the quality and type of the coating will differ.

A scope will be listed with one of the following coatings: Coated, Fully Coated, Multi-Coated, Fully Multi-Coated.  While these go up in price from cheaper coated to the most expensive multi-coated, they also go up in quality.  Pay attention to the coating type of the scopes you look at. There is a big difference between a coated lens and a multi-coated one.

Straight or Angled Scope

There are two styles of bodies available on a spotting scope, either angled or straight.  Each will have its own benefits and drawbacks.  One of the most common questions I have gotten is whether a person should get an angled or straight spotting scope for target shooting.  Which one is best will depend more on how you target shoot but both are effective.

A straight scope is great for a handheld option but using one from a shooting bench can be more difficult but not as difficult as using an angled scope as a handheld option.  Using a spotting scope in an awkward orientation can lead to neck or eye strain and ruin a fruitful day in the field.

Eye Relief

Eye relief is the distance you can hold your eye away from the eyepiece and still get the full field of view.  Eye relief of less than 15mm can make it harder to get your head in the right position to use the scope if it's at an odd angle.  Scopes of that level of eye relief are often impossible to use if you wear glasses.

Most of the scopes at this price point will have sufficient eye relief to use however you would like with the norm being in the 18-20mm range.

Weather Protection

Even at this price point, demanding a scope with good weather protection should be the norm.  Even if these are more budget-oriented scopes, they are still expensive and a properly protected scope will last for years if not a lifetime.  Make the money you pay an investment.

Many scopes in this price range will be nitrogen or argon-purged to keep the inside of the scope fog free.  This is a very important feature to have on a scope.  Waiting for the fog to clear from the inside of a scope can turn an exciting day of hunting into one of boredom and frustration.

Because of the importance of this feature, all of the scopes here have weather and fog protection to some degree.  If a spotting scope doesn’t last, how good of a deal you got isn’t that important.

{Top 5} Best Spotting Scope Under 500 2020 -Comparison Table

Product

Magnification

Objective Lens

Lens Coating

Body Type

Eye Relief

Weather-Proofing

Vortex Optics Diamondback

20-60

80mm

Fully Multi-Coated 

Angled

20mm

Waterproof
/Fogproof 

Vanguard Endeavor

20-60

82mm

Multi-Coated 

Angled

19mm

Waterproof
/Fogproof

Konus 7122

20-60

100mm

Multi-Coated 

Angled

20mm

Waterproof
/Fogproof 

Our Top 5 Best Spotting Scopes Under 500 recommendations:

 1  Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scope

Vortex Optics Diamondback

It’s really hard not to get caught up in the Vortex craze but their reputation is well deserved.  As a newcomer in the world of optics, they have been slowly dominating every market they enter by offering optics that are far better quality than their price would lead you to believe.  For a mid-range scope, you get high-end features.

The Vortex fluoride glass is some of the best on the market in image clarity and when combined with their own multi-coating that enhances color and light, you get some of the best clarity and chromatic transfer of any scope out there, even some selling for much higher prices.  There is better glass out there but you are going to pay three times this price to get it.

When you add their glass to an outstanding Porro prism, huge 80mm objective lens, and built-in sunshade, no matter the light or weather conditions, you are going to be able to reach out to the farthest targets with superb detail.  If you are looking for a spotting scope for target shooting or the more extreme spotting scope for 1000 yards or more, you can get there with this scope.

Since the scope is such an amazing piece of optical engineering, it would be a shame to have it ruined by weather but the Diamondback is ready with a rugged rubber armor that protects it from dust, dings, water, and pretty much any other environmental factor out there.  And since it’s nitrogen purged, you won’t have any fog issues either.

 2  Vanguard Endeavor HD 82A Angled Eyepiece Spotting Scope 

Vanguard Endeavor

Some people are just looking for a spotting scope with a tamer look, something you could carry without turning heads, all they want is a budget spotting scope for birding or just enjoying the views.  If so, this is the perfect scope for bird watching or other more relaxed hobbies.  That isn’t to say that that the Vanguard scope can’t hold its own in the field.  It is plenty rugged and can shrug off rough environments well enough to serve any hunter.

Like the other scopes, the Vanguard maxes out at 60x and has fully multi-coated glass with a large

Much like our other variable power 60x scopes, the Vanguard has fully multi-coated glass and an extra-large 82mm objective lens for some truly outstanding images that blow away most scopes costing the same as this unit.  It is ultra-bright, amazingly crisp, with vibrant color from edge to edge.  Something most budget scopes can’t claim.

Similar to the competitors, the Vanguard is shrouded in rubber armor to prevent dings and dents while keeping water out and nitrogen purged internals to prevent fogging.  Despite the more relaxed look, the scope can hold its own in any weather you would care to carry it in.

The Vanguard has enough zoom to get in tight or zoom out to get to the farthest reaches in the field.  The dual control focus enables you to get a great image no matter the range.  At the price of the Endeavor, you can be confident that you have a scope that few can beat that will be at home while hunting or just gazing at the landscape.  Whatever you want to do, the Vanguard is ready to do it.

 3  Konus 7122 20x-60x100mm Spotting Scope with Case

Konus 7122

The Italians are known for their fine engineering but Italy is also the birthplace of some of the first high-quality optical glass.  Konus is carrying on that tradition and making it available at a price low enough that most hunters and outdoor enthusiasts can own some of the best glass on the planet.

This scope may not have a fancy name but why bother when you can combine ultra-clear glass with a massive 100 mm objective lens capable of some of the brightest images ever seen through a scope?  That clarity makes this a perfect budget spotting scope for digiscoping, enough so that Konus even sells this with a camera adaptor.

But what makes their glass so good?  Well other than a meticulous craftsmanship and science born over three decades ago, they have also led the industry in multi-coated optics.  They started in the world of telescopes which have to be the best and brightest glass possible to be useful, this time they just made it to point at the ground rather than the sky.

Now there are always trade-offs, especially for a spotting scope under 400 bucks.  This scope is rubberized and has all of the weatherproofing and resistance of the other scopes, but it still isn’t as durable.  With care, it will still last you a lifetime but that will require more care than some of the other scopes.

Conclusion

The range of prices between $300.00 and $500.00 has perhaps the most options of any range on the market, especially if you are talking about decent scopes.  Picking three was hard, picking just one of those three is even more challenging.  There isn’t a lot of difference between them and they all excel at a variety of uses.

You could almost pick them with a roll of some dice or a flip of a coin and come out with a scope that would satisfy you.  My recommendation would be the Vortex for the hardest uses and the Konus for the best view with the Vanguard nestled neatly between.  Any pick you make will be a solid choice with very few compromises on the quality of the image it provides.