If you’re looking for an entry-level spotting scope for a price that won’t make you wince, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together a list of the 5 best spotting scopes under 300.
These scopes are in the sweet spot for affordability and function, so you can see what you need to without taking privilege second mortgage.
Best Spotting Scopes Under 300
Best Spotting Scopes Under 300 Reviews
1. Celestron Ultima 80
A mid-budget option from the famed telescope manufacturer Celestron, this spotting scope is reasonably priced, durable, and comfortable to use in any weather.
With an 80mm lens, and 20x to 60x magnification, the Celestron Ultima 80 is a good benchmark for a scope in this price range. It’s a robust piece of equipment, thanks to the rubber-coated housing that has been waterproofed and fog proofed, so you’ll be able to use it even if the weather turns nasty. Most of the optics are multi-coated to avoid unwanted reflections, which helps with the image clarity.
The Ultima 80 is pretty versatile, featuring a comfortable 45º angled refracting eyepiece that has 18mm of eye relief. The eyepiece also has a removable rubber eyecup that has a T-thread underneath if you want to attach a camera. It can also be mounted on pretty much any tripod that you can try, though unfortunately, it doesn’t come with one itself. The sight tube is a nice extra touch that makes target acquisition quick and easy, and the focus and zoom dials are smooth and easy to use.
This scope’s main flaw is that it starts to struggle in terms of clarity past the 25x magnification mark, due to chromatic aberration (red and blue rings around the image). Even so, it still produces a relatively clear picture if you can ignore this. All in all, this is a solid entry-level option, though it might not be suitable for more serious users wanting the best possible clarity at any range.
2. Bushnell Trophy Xtreme
Coming in comfortably under budget, this straight angle spotting scope from the well-respected optics producer Bushnell provides impressive clarity of vision in all sorts of conditions. Thankfully, it’s Xtreme performance is not matched by an Xtreme price point.
This spotting scope is an excellent option for an extended trip out into the field. With its rubber-armored and sealed housing, it has an IPx7 rated waterproofing, meaning it can handle being in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes. The optics are nitrogen-purged and multi-coated, preventing fogging and enabling an excellent clarity of vision in all but the worst of weather.
The premium quality BaK-4 glass in the 65mm lens provides a great view with impressive brightness at any of its magnification settings, from 20x to 60x the norm. There’re no issues with phase shift or chromatic aberration, even at the highest zoom setting, and you should be able to pick out targets or wildlife up to around 500 yards away without any trouble. It’s even a great pick for casual astronomers, and with a bit of luck, you might well be able to see Saturn’s rings on a clear night.
It comes with a few handy extras, including both soft and hard travel cases, a car mount, and a relatively simple tripod. The tripod isn’t the best around by any means, but it’s still better than no tripod at all. Some people have noted that the scope can sometimes come with spots on the lens, though the no-questions-asked lifetime warranty means that you can easily get a replacement if you have any problems with your Xtreme.
3. Meade Instruments Wilderness
With a price nearly at the top of our budget range, you’d expect Meade Instrument’s Wilderness spotting scope to provide something a bit more than the average, and it does. With its exceptional 100mm objective lens, it provides superbly bright and clear images without you having to spend a fortune.
If you want to know where this scope really shines, the clue is in the name. Out in the wilderness, you don’t have to worry about bad weather, tough terrain, or dropping your gear. The housing of this tough scope is coated in rubber armoring, the lenses are fully multi-coated, and the optical chamber is nitrogen-purged. In other words, bad weather doesn’t mean a bad image here.
The lenses are precision ground BaK-4 glass, and combined with the much larger than average 100mm objective lens; you can be sure of excellent clarity of vision for the full range of its 20x to 60x magnification options. The sliding sunshade, in combination with the anti-reflective lens coatings, mean that glare shouldn’t be a problem on brighter days.
The Wilderness doesn’t come with a tripod, but it does have a standard ¼-20 thread hole that should fit any normal tripod. It’s also certainly not the lightest scope around, but that’s the price you pay for rugged reliability that will last you years on end.
4. Vanguard Endeavor XF
At the top limit of our price range, the Vanguard Endeavor XF is the closest you will get to a premium spotting scope on a budget, especially as it has become significantly cheaper in the last few years. It’s reliable, versatile, and hard to break. All in all, a great candidate for the title of the best spotting scope under 300.
Vanguard is perhaps best known for their work in the video and photography sectors. However, it’s easy to see why they make such a well built and clear-pictured optic, given the considerable crossover between the two markets. Though it might be a stretch price-wise, as it is right at the top end of the budget of this article, you get an excellent scope for your money.
The Endeavor XF is extremely robust, easily handling being fully submerged in water with no discernible negative effects. The housing is made from magnesium, and is rubber-armored and nitrogen purged, so it won’t break if you drop it. Also, it won’t fog up no matter the humidity. The fully multi-coated high-quality lenses provide exceptional clarity of vision, and with a magnification range from 15x to 45x, and a 60mm objective lens, it’s surprisingly compact for the performance it offers.
The range of magnification might be lower than other scopes in this price range. But unlike some of its competitors, the image quality doesn’t suffer even at the highest level of zoom. And, despite its relatively small 60mm lens, you’ll still find yourself with a bright, clear, and crisp view. Plus, it’s comfortable to use, with an extendable eyecup that gives plenty of eye relief even at full magnification. Basically, this is probably the best scope you’ll find in this price range.
5. Emarth 20-60x60AE Waterproof Angled
Though super-affordable, the Emarth 20-60x60AE by no means cuts any corners in terms of image quality or durability. It provides unparalleled value for money, with some features that aren’t seen on scopes that are twice the price.
Emarth have created something special with this angled spotting scope. It’s light, but rugged. It’s small, but not uncomfortable to use. It’s cheap, but it provides excellent picture quality. It’s easy to use, and it can hold up to the worst of conditions.
Fully multi-coated optics are rare enough on a scope this cheap, but what really impresses is the fact that this scope features a dual focus knob that allows you to really zoom in on the smallest of details. Combine that with the impressive weatherproofing characteristics, as it’s fully waterproof and fog proof, and even has an extendable sunshade to reduce glare, and you’ve got a magical little spotting scope that’s great for all sorts of environments.
If you wear glasses, you may find that the eye relief is a little short for comfort, especially at the highest of its 20x to 60x magnification settings. And it’s not the perfect scope for shooters looking for a long-range scope for checking their shots on a range greater than 200 yards. But, despite these minor shortcomings, it’s hard to find a better bang for your buck when it comes to a budget spotting scope.
If you don’t mind paying a bit more for your entry-level spotting scope, then to the best spotting scope under 300 is the Meade Instruments Wilderness scope. It’s highly robust, provides exceptional clarity of vision come rain or shine, and will serve you well for years to come.
If you’re on a stricter budget, then the Emarth 20-60x60AE scope is remarkably fully featured for a surprisingly low price. It is absolutely worth a look.