Spotting Scopes For Climbing, Wildlife, and Astronomy


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Messages 1 - 14 of total 14 in this topic

Social climber
Butterfly Town
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 12, 2012 - 06:49pm PT
I would like recommendations for a spotting scope that could be used for both climb- and wildlife-watching as well as for astronomy. Desired capabilities would include:

Portability, Durability, High-quality optics; Modest price; Ease of use; etc.

Attaches to standard photographic tripod;

Angled eyepiece bodies;

Camera adaptor capability.

Less important is having interchangeable 1.25" telescope eyepieces, unless zoom features degrade optics unacceptably.

If you have any recommendations or suggestions, either positive or negative ones, Id appreciate any experiences that you may offer.

Big Wall climber
Crestline CA
Aug 12, 2012 - 07:12pm PT
Better yet... a meade ETX-90.... light and servicable and most of all, the view is bright and sharp!

Trad climber
Aug 12, 2012 - 08:50pm PT
L.L. Bean has a great selection in their hunting section -- not sure what they offer online, but the variety of portable scopes was pretty incredible in their Freeport, ME store (open 24x7!).
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Aug 12, 2012 - 08:56pm PT
My limited experience with spotting scopes but more extensive experience with telescopes and binoculars...

Just skip the under $150 spotting scopes. Pure crap mostly.

Skip spotting scopes all together and go for binoculars

Big 5 Sporting Goods can sometimes have excellent deals on very high quality binoculars for about $35 (my actual experience)

I had a pair of non-focus binocs that rocked my world for about 15 years till someone dropped them. Used them to chase Virgo cluster galaxies and all kinds of stuff. Crystal clear and sharp terrestrial viewing at every distance with no focusing.


Trad climber
Douglas, WY
Aug 13, 2012 - 12:05am PT
It depends on what your definition of modest price means; I second the motion of binoculars, but what I consider to be "the best" may not be within your budget. My favorite for what you've described as your intended useage is a pair of Canon 15X50 IS binoculars. The image stabilization feature is fantastic, and the "shaky image" syndrome is pretty well handled. Until mine were stolen from my car, I used them all the time for astronomy and wildlife viewing. Caveat: they aren't "cheap," but YGWYPF.

If you don't mind the hassle of using a tripod or fixed mount, the earlier suggestion of a Meade LX 90 isn't bad, but for astronomy aperture is king and the larger diameter mirror model is superior.

Trad climber
the crowd MUST BE MOCKED...Mocked I tell you.
Nov 14, 2012 - 06:55pm PT
bump for additional thoughts?

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Nov 14, 2012 - 07:51pm PT
I'm not sure the scope is made that will meet all those needs.
A scope that is good for wildlife won't do much astronomically. It is my
experience that you get what you pay for- Bushnell is good value for the
money but is pretty much the bottom of the ladder for scopes. I've had one
for 30 years and it still delivers. Maybe the new made-in-you-know-where
aren't as good. I've a pair of Eagle binos which are made by Celestron, who
normally make telescopes, and they were a great deal, though not cheap.

Here's a $800 Bushnell on sale for $400!

Bushnell 20-60x80

Nov 14, 2012 - 08:38pm PT
Munge or Boodawg, I have a Burris LANDMARK that rates in at 20X-60X80. I'd give it an 8 out of 10 for value, although there are plenty of better scopes out there. The bigger the end the better the light. Generally. So, with that in mind, it's really one of those "You get what you pay for" kind of moments. I can see the beak on a swallow perched on a ledge 3/4 of a mile away, or a seal in the water almost 2 miles down. I'm not unhappy, and I don't fear breaking it, I toss it in the pack and go. Yet if you owned this and you stuck yer eye in the business end of a Swarowski or a Zeiss scope, you'd never want to go back. But you need to add a zero to my $168 I paid for the Burris. But the price performance bell curve starts to get a bit flatter as the price shoots up. You get incrementally smaller improvements in quality for a hell of a lot more scratch. It's noticeable on both yer wallet and yer eyes.


There's a bunch of real quality stuff out there. Nikon and Leupold are good. My link has a guy commenting that he thinks the Burris is better than the Leupold at half the price and some other interesting comments. I have yet to try the Canon binocs with image stabilization but would love too. I bet they kick ass.

I believe that the best price performance ratio for spotting scopes currently is probably Pentax (on the high end of the low end) which runs with the big dogs or Redfield (the low end of the high end -Leupold owns them.) I wish I'd just sacked up and gotten the Pentax. Now that I have the Burris, I can't justify the expense. Which is strange as I do own 2 4 figure rifle scopes. I'd go into a store and try before you buy first to confirm that it works for YOU.

Locker style edit:
I'd look at Reillys Bushnell as well (don't know anything about it myself). Here's a birdwatching review from 2009. Looks good but very heavy, and of substance note that if yer planning on pervin on yer neighbors wife (not sayin ya are, calm down) the min focal distance is a long 35 feet, so she'll be blurry. Not a bad thing if she's heavy of course.

Looks like the Alpen, Slightly less price, won that one. SMOKED the smaller version of the Pentax. $387.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Nov 14, 2012 - 09:03pm PT
Did you buy one after asking in August?
I would think those uses you list are all somewhat different.

I've heard for bird watching, people use a very expensive tripod head that can track the bird smoothly in flight.

Looking at climbers on El Cap you would often have pretty good lighting.

Astronomy - planets, galaxies, I think you would want a regular telescope with higher magnification and you are not getting much light.

If you are still looking, I have a Leica Televid 77 that you can try out if you want. It's for sale (I'm not the owner, but I'm selling it for a friend), and these go for about $1500 on ebay, so I suppose it is not really in the moderate price range. Unfortunately I don't know how it compares in quality with lower priced models. It is quite rugged. It is not the APO model.

Trad climber
Douglas, WY
Nov 15, 2012 - 08:29pm PT
As Clint pointed out, Astronomy use puts more extreme emphasis on light gathering ability at the expense of portability and compact size. I've been into astronomy BIG TIME for many years, and have owned a bunch of different telescopes to that purpose.

If you want a telescope that will actually show you the universe nicely, look at Discovery Telescopes and especially their 12.5" aperture Dobsonian. I've had one for 5 years and have been very pleased with the performance.

For other uses, I'd recommend binoculars over a spotting scope. Canon IS (Image Stabilized) binoculars are pretty spendy ($2000 for 18X50), but are well worth the money both optically and for the image stabilization feature.

Trad climber
the crowd MUST BE MOCKED...Mocked I tell you.
Nov 16, 2012 - 12:32am PT
thanks guys!

I think I had seen the Canon image stabilization feature elsewhere, and that triggered me to search here.

Sounds like Binocs are a good way for me to go overall. Spotting new lines, not birds. Since I'm cheap I'll probably check out just the scopes that fall into my price point. I wouldn't be able to really tell the difference up in the higher higher price points anyways.


Trad climber
Central Coast
Nov 16, 2012 - 12:38am PT
The best Binoculars for under $70 - Celestron Skymaster 15x70 (regular binos are like 8x30 etc.). They come with a tripod adaptor and you can see details on the moon and it is like a mini-scope. Powerful! I use them for birding. If you have steady hands you can even hand hold them. I use a monopod.

Best scope for under $700 -
Mega powerful with quality bild (flourite coating).

Check it out!


Social climber
Butterfly Town
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 16, 2012 - 02:04am PT
No, Clint, I actually haven't bought one yet. My main purpose, I guess, is to show climbers to tour clients. So many folks can't use binos for a variety of reasons (and I have a nice pair of Zeiss already!), so a tripod mounted scope would work well for them as well as for "easy" astronomy targets like the moon, moons of Jupiter, Saturn, Orion and Ring Nebulae, The Pleiades, etc. I GET the deep sky objects' need for large size scopes!

I'll go shopping again after New Years, but thanks to all for your input and information.

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Nov 16, 2012 - 10:13am PT
Been doing a lot of research and the Celestron regal Series (Celestron 52303 Regal Refractor 100mm F-ED Spotting Scope) is where I want to go. Not small or lightweight though. But available in 80mm and 60mm. Not dirt cheap but not anywhere near the cost of Swarovsky. Reveiews indicate close to if not same quality as Swarovsky. A very nice thing is that the Regal series can use standardly available high quality fixed mm eyepeices and camera mounts.

The real problem is that to do really cool Astronomy I keep getting the feeling that I'm gonna want to go to a serious Telescope like an 8inch or better lol.

Id really consider anything elcap pics says though and am now looking into meade myself.


i see Slater is onto the Celestron Regal Series too.
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