Wildlife watchers treasure optical aids to bring distant animals in closer and to better detect subtle patterns of behavior. Most commonly used are binoculars and spotting scopes, which are small telescopes. Comparing their assets and characteristics can help you choose which is best for you.
The larger lenses and extended barrels of spotting scopes give them greater magnification than many binoculars. This may or may not be important, depending on how close a view you desire. At higher magnification, remember that the image will appear dimmer and that even slight bumping of the scope can knock the object out of view.
While both spotting scopes and binoculars are reasonably portable, the degree varies. You can find very compact binoculars that lace around your neck or fit into a side pocket; you sacrifice magnification power for this convenience. Scopes and binoculars of great magnification need a steadying tripod or other base.
Ease of Use
For most people, binoculars are easier to quickly and steadily bring to the eye than a spotting scope, which requires more stability. Because of the broader range of view encompassed, binoculars are usually better for scanning countryside, as well as setting an animal in the context of its landscape.
Article Written By Ethan Schowalter-Hay
Ethan Schowalter-Hay is a writer and naturalist living in Oregon. He has written for the "Observer," the Bureau of Land Management and various online publishers. He holds a Bachelor of Science in wildlife ecology and a graduate certificate in geographic information systems from the University of Wisconsin.