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View Full Version : Best budget spotting scope? (under $400)



elktracker
02-27-2011, 06:28 PM
I'm looking for some advice on the best spotting scope I can get for less than $400. Right now I am leaning towards the Leupold Sequoia 20x60. I haven't been able to look through one yet because there is no where around here that has a decent selection of scopes in stock. I want a 20-60 power that is reasonably light as I will be using it on back country hunts. I would love to buy a Swarovski or even a high end Nikon like the one I use everyday for work but right now my budget won't allow it.
Also if anyone has a used scope in good shape that might be better than what I can get new I would be interested.
Thanks.

NDHunter
02-27-2011, 08:28 PM
I too am looking for a new spotting scope. My uncle has a Sequoia 15x45 and i really dont like it that well. I just can't ever seem to get it focused very well. At low power it isnt too bad but when you try to zoom in, it isnt very clear. If you go onto Cabelas website and look at the reviews for the Sequoia, they really aren't all that good, with guys saying the same thing that I thought about it. I'm pretty sure im going to get a NIKON Prostaff. They are a little over $400 but I am just waiting for them to go on sale. I think it is a lot clearer and the reviews on Cabelas are also a lot better too. I just saw Cabelas has free shipping so that would save some cash...I would try and find a place where you can look through a Sequoia before buying one. Honestly with the Leupold name on it, I was disappointed with it.

Elkoholic307
02-28-2011, 08:56 AM
A good spotting scope under $400 seems impossible to me. I know this isn't the answer you're looking for but I definitely suggest holding off and build the cash stash. I'm disappointed that Leupold has come out with so many low end items. I bought the 12-40x60 Golden Ring and love it. I honestly think if you skimp you will regret it in the long run.

arrowslinger21
02-28-2011, 12:11 PM
A good spotting scope under $400 seems impossible to me. I know this isn't the answer you're looking for but I definitely suggest holding off and build the cash stash. I'm disappointed that Leupold has come out with so many low end items. I bought the 12-40x60 Golden Ring and love it. I honestly think if you skimp you will regret it in the long run.

Agreed. I have used some of the lower end spotting scopes and they are not up to snuff. I would recommend a nikon like was mentioned earlier if needed,but ultimately I would hold off and wait for something else.

AZ Hunter
02-28-2011, 03:39 PM
I agree with the last two posts. You get what you pay for. A few years ago I bought a new Nikon Prostaff 65mm. It wasn't bad at lower mags, but did not have a crisp focus at higher mags. It didn't do well in low light conditions either. In AZ, heat waves are a problem and this scope was terrible with heat waves. My buddy had a really old Bushnell fixed 25x spotter that we set up side by side. I could see no difference in image quality....that was dissapointing! I consider it a decent range scope, but that's about it. I sold it and bought a lightly used Zeiss I found on Craigslist for under $1000. I am very happy that I spent the extra $$. If the glass is mediocre you won't bother to carry it in your pack. It must be benificial to carry the extra weight. You'ld be better off with good 12x or 15x binos than a mediocre spotter.

*******
03-01-2011, 02:23 PM
I second for a look at nikon. I got a great spotting scope that has been indestructable for me and it only ran $550. Above the $400 mark but they make some nice stuff for uner $400.

Elkoholic307
03-03-2011, 07:48 AM
If you want one soon, maybe look at the Vortex Nomad 20-60x60? They're just over $300 at Cabelas.

mcseal2
03-03-2011, 05:14 PM
I actually like my Leupold sequoia 15x45. I've spent alot of time looking through an older 12-40 gold ring and nikon pro-staff and think mine is just as clear. I probably haven't used it at the extreme ranges some of you do in the mountains though, when I hunt up there we cut weight and only carry the gold ring. I don't need much over 30x around home. I figured when I save up enough money to buy a new HD gold ring this scope will get de-moted to riding in the truck with the window mount during months when antlers are intact. On a side note, I also bought the Leupold 10x50 Olympic binoculars and really like them. They only weigh 26oz and I'm real impressed with the clarity and light gathering. They will get retired to the truck eventually if I find a good deal on 10x42 zeiss classics, but I'm happy with these and in no hurry.

Elkcrazedfrk
03-03-2011, 07:05 PM
Yep..Save ur coin and buy a good one. If your a serious spot and stalker, your going to end up doing that anyway so dont wast ur 380 bucks. Save it + more over the next year and buy a good scope.

Archer32
03-05-2011, 10:31 AM
If you want one soon, maybe look at the Vortex Nomad 20-60x60? They're just over $300 at Cabelas.


I have this scope and really like it. Its pretty light, and is very clear.

elktracker
03-08-2011, 10:44 AM
I haven't been on the forums for a while, thanks to everyone for the comments and advice. I really don't want to wait and save up enough for an expensive scope, I would like to get something decent for this year and next. With what I make and my bills it would take a long time to save enough for an expensive scope, I know I'm not going to get the clarity of a high dollar scope at the higher zoom levels and in low light but I want something to use until I can afford some really good glass. I read the reviews on the Sequoia and they don't sound very good, could be a QC issue where you might get lucky and get a good one once in a while. I will check out the lower end Nikons and the Vortex, thanks again.

4th_point
03-09-2011, 06:02 PM
I'm in the same boat wanting a sub-$400 spotting scope. I've narrowed it down to the Alpen 786/788. I like straight eyepieces so I'd get the 786. It gets good reviews from hunters, birders, etc. I don't think there's really anything better in this price range, and I've researched and looked through almost all of the budget spotters available locally over the past few years. I currently have an ED50, but want an 80mm for those times when weight is not an issue.

Good luck and let us know what you decide to get and how it works for you.

NDHunter
03-09-2011, 07:10 PM
I really don't want to wait and save up enough for an expensive scope, I would like to get something decent for this year and next. With what I make and my bills it would take a long time to save enough for an expensive scope, I know I'm not going to get the clarity of a high dollar scope at the higher zoom levels and in low light but I want something to use until I can afford some really good glass.

Man I hear you. I agree 100% in the "buy the highest quality" stuff that you can afford, but when you are young, have very little in the bank, have a limited income and looking at buying binoculars, a spotting scope, tripod, new rifle and scope, pack, GPS unit, new clothing, tent, sleeping bag, coolers, tags, bonus points, and 50 other items, it isn't possible for a lot of us to be buying the best that there is. Sounds like you at least got some good input on this thread (as did I) and good luck with finding a good scope.

elktracker
03-09-2011, 11:40 PM
4th_point, I've seen some of your other posts on optics, looks like you have done a lot of research and know what you are talking about. I just read a review on the Alpen 786 (http://www.westernshooter.com/2008/10/alpen-786-20-60x80-spotting-scope.html), sounds like it is a great scope for the money. I have never heard of Alpen before but I will definitely give them some consideration. I would like to compare the Alpen 786 side by side to a Vortex Nomad. What is your personal opinion on the Vortex?

NDHunter, you make a good point. A scope isn't the only piece of equipment I need/want to buy, even if I had the money for a high end scope I would have a hard time dropping it all on one item.

T43
03-10-2011, 10:25 AM
You may look at Theron. I have seen through a pair of their binos and was impressed for the price. I can only assume their spotters are similar in quality. Saving up and getting a better scope is always a good idea but if it means not having one for a season or two, is no scope better than a less expensive scope. I made that decision a while back and I'm glad I did. Not only did I have better than nothing for a couple years but now I have a spotter my 3 year old can look through an I don't worry about it tipping over...as much.

4th_point
03-10-2011, 09:17 PM
4th_point, I've seen some of your other posts on optics, looks like you have done a lot of research and know what you are talking about. I just read a review on the Alpen 786 (http://www.westernshooter.com/2008/10/alpen-786-20-60x80-spotting-scope.html), sounds like it is a great scope for the money. I have never heard of Alpen before but I will definitely give them some consideration. I would like to compare the Alpen 786 side by side to a Vortex Nomad. What is your personal opinion on the Vortex?

NDHunter, you make a good point. A scope isn't the only piece of equipment I need/want to buy, even if I had the money for a high end scope I would have a hard time dropping it all on one item.

Thanks for the compliment elktracker, but I'm still a rookie with optics! I just enjoy looking at and comparing different optics like a lot of other guys.

I think Outdoor Life rated the Alpen 786 as a "Best Buy" for several years and there's at least 1 or 2 spotter shootouts that rate the 786 well. I had a Alpen 742 for a little while, and it had really good resolution for a $200 scope. But, it didn't handle stray light well, and the focus was so sensitive it made the scope impossible to use. The 786 is much better, and has a great image for the price but I haven't tried it in difficult lighting conditions to see how it handles stray light.

I did look at the Nomad a few years when I was shopping for my first spotter, but I don't remember why I didn't like it. Its been awhile. I ended up buying another Vortex scope called the Stokes Sandpiper 15-45x65. Vortex made this scope for the birding community and Stokes put their name on it. That was a great scope, and actually was considered the best budget scope in the Cornell spotter review. I sold it awhile ago to buy an ED50. If you do a search you should be able to find some good reviews of the Nomad. IIRC, its never really been considered a decent scope. I don't think Vortex has updated this scope, but it might be worthwhile to look into to see if they did.

The new Viper scopes from Vortex look really nice, but I haven't tried one yet.

elktracker
03-27-2011, 11:40 PM
Got down to Salt Lake last week and looked through some scopes at Sportsman's Warehouse. I looked at an Alpen 742 and a Vortex Nomad. The Alpen was a little sharper but the Vortex was definitely better built. The focus on the Alpen seemed cheep to me. I saw an Alpen 786 but didn't realize it was an 80 mm scope before and that is just more than I want to carry around.

I also looked through a Nikon ED 50 just out of curiosity and that got me thinking I don't really need a 20-60x because I could see just as much detail at 30x on the Nikon as I could at 60x on the cheaper scopes. It was so much brighter and clearer I guess I just don't see the need for the extra magnification. I'm sure a Swaro at 60x is awesome but that's not going to happen. So now I am thinking about not getting a new tent and spending the extra to get the ED 50.

I am also wondering if anyone has compared the ED 50 to the Leupold Gold Ring 15-30 compact scope? I am sure the Nikon is better but is it really $400 better?

Big Sky
04-06-2011, 08:48 PM
I just bought a Nikon prostaff for $400 and havn't put it through the ringer yet. But has done well gopher hunting so far.

RobinHood
04-06-2011, 09:56 PM
http://www.vortexoptics.com/product/vortex-skyline-20-60x80-straight-spotting-scope

My vote is for Vortex. Quality stuff for the price. I have this scope and am satisfied. Plus their customer service and warranty is second to none.

Also keep an eye on camofire.com. They have a spotting scope pop up once and a while and they are usually right in that price range.

Edit: In fact there is a scope on camofire as I right this. Nikon ProStaff 20-60x82. Normally a $850 scope for just over $400. give it a look if you get this in time

http://www.camofire.com/

mntnguide
04-06-2011, 10:04 PM
I bought the Vortex Nomad before going into guiding last year. Previous years had me carrying around a 20-60X80mm Zeiss. Which was amazing to look through. But when guiding all fall, it becomes the biggest pain to carrying around day in and day out. I really do like the Nomad. Its light as heck and fits great in my pack and i barely notice im carrying it. It is built very well and withstands plenty of abuse it went through last season. Been using it all winter watching animals, and will carry it again this coming fall.

6mm Remington
04-10-2011, 04:06 PM
I have a Leupold Gold Ring 25 power fixed by 50 mm scope. It is light, compact, and has great glass in it. It's about $400.00 as is the newer 10x30 power variable Gold Ring scope Leupold has come out with. It too is about $400.00. If I did not already own my 25 power Leupold fixed, I would get the new 10x30 power variable. Really nice optics and compact. You won't be able to use them if you don't carry them, and these are small and light enough you will carry them. You also cannot beat the Leupold warranty! Just my thoughts.

mntnguide
04-11-2011, 09:50 AM
Figure i might as well throw this up... on Camofire.com right now is a Vortex Skyline ED 20-60x80 for 400.00. normally retails around 800.00. . Dont know how long it will last, pretty good deal and probably wont last through the day.

Futboler
04-11-2011, 01:51 PM
Still up at 2PM. I thought about it, but I don't know alot about this spotting scope. Vortex Nomad was reviewed pretty well in this forum, but the Skyline hasn't had any discussion. 3 hours left on it and about half of them are sold.

Rob P
04-11-2011, 03:31 PM
Vortex skyline on campfire looks like a steal. I have the nomad and it works for my budget. If I didn't have one already I'd be all over that skyline. Although at 64oz not considered great for backpacking.

elktracker
04-11-2011, 04:18 PM
That is an awesome deal on the Skyline, I just read a few reviews sounds like a good scope. It is heavier than anything I would want to carry on a backpacking hunt though. Wish I had an extra $400, I would buy one to keep in the truck.

RobinHood
04-11-2011, 08:09 PM
That is an awesome deal on the Skyline, I just read a few reviews sounds like a good scope. It is heavier than anything I would want to carry on a backpacking hunt though. Wish I had an extra $400, I would buy one to keep in the truck.

Yes it is heavier, but that is a steal on a great scope! I have that exact scope (as mentioned earlier) and was happy with it at full price. If you picked one up you will not be disapointed. Any questions let me know.

elktracker
04-11-2011, 09:29 PM
Thanks for the info RobinHood, I am sure it is a great scope even at full price and an unbelievable deal at $400 but I can't see myself packing around a 4+ lb scope plus a full size tripod to hold it up. I think I'll save my coin for a scope I would carry in the back country.

Jon Boy
04-13-2011, 02:01 PM
Considering your on a budget and ull be using the scope for backcountry hunts id recomend the leupold compact spotter

Ridgerunner
04-14-2011, 07:18 PM
I like my little 25x50 leupold spotter when weight is a concern, you can pick them up for about $200 on ebay if you watch over there, I know there is one for sale on monstermuleys right now. Very compact and lightweight.

6mm Remington
04-16-2011, 03:56 PM
I made a small mistake, the new Leupold Gold Ring Compact scope is a 15-30x50 mm. I just looked at one and it was marked at $360.00. It is a great little scope and powerful enough for most situations.

T43
04-17-2011, 11:37 AM
NIKON PROSTAFF 16-48x65 SPOTTING SCOPE Camofire right now for $319.

Nic
04-17-2011, 02:00 PM
I use the Leupold Gold Ring Compact 15-30x50 Spotting Scope for sheep hunting up here and I thenk its a grate backcountry scope.