Spotting Scope vs Camera lens: Which is better?

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Are you a photographer and looking for subsequent pieces of equipment? You may wonder whether you choose a camera lens or a spotting scope.

In fact, sometimes it is confusing to distinguish between their different terms. But let me help you out here. You can use a camera lens, but spotting is better in some cases.

Yet before starting, let’s take a quick intro about spotting scope and camera lens.

The spotting scope is a tripod-mounted and high magnification monocular(one eye) scope. They are usually used to observe birds or other wildlife. It is a specialized telescope that can use to see far things with empty eyesight. It is also familiar as a “birding scope” or “sniper scope”.

On the contrary, the camera lens is a type of optical lens used in photography and cinematography. The lens collects rays from an entity and gets it to a focus. Then the item appears sharp and clear on the sensor or film.

Nevertheless, you must focus on your need to identify which one is better for you. As your requirements, choose the right one from your perspective. Yet keep in mind that both are useful and provide similar functions.

So what is the difference between them or how can you choose? No worry, let’s take a straight comparison between spotting scope vs camera lens.

Spotting Scope vs Camera lens

What are spotting scopes?

A spotting scope works such a small telescope. It can help birdwatchers, wild lovers, and most photographers capture good-quality photos.

It has higher magnification power which helps observe distant objects. Even it is a tripod-mounted scope that controls any required movement of the spotting scopes.

Anyway, the spotting scope is used for various activities like tactical ranging and surveillance, birdwatching, target shooting, skygazing, hunting, and another application.

Yet, most spotting scopes have three levels. The first two numbers display the magnification range. On the other hand, the last number carries the front lens size.

For the model of 15-45×60, the spotting area has a zoom elaboration range of 15-45x. And it comes with a 60mm diameter of the front lens.

Spotting scope vs Camera lens: which is better?

When it comes to your photography, you must have the correct kits on your side. Such as, you may choose a spotting scope or camera lens. Yet both of them vary on your requirements.

Such as, If you are looking for high magnification power, you should go for a spotting scope. It can magnify up to 40x and provide you with excellent clarity.

In contrast, if you are looking for low magnification power, you should go for the camera lens. It can only magnify up to 8x and provide you with poor clarity.

Anyway, here we include some other comparisons between them. So you can make the final decision on which one is better for you among spotting scope vs camera lens:

Comparing the Equipment and Features:

The main difference is that camera lenses are part of a camera and come with it. Yet spotting scopes are made to work with eyepieces or digital cameras.

However, here are some comparisons:

Price and size

At first, you may compare the cost. The price of a spotting scope may start from $400 to $3000. On the other hand, a camera lens is cheaper at about $150 for a new if your budget is high, you can choose a spotting spot. However, you need to focus on the quality, not the price.

Another matter is their size. Smaller size tools may be comfortable for you to use and carry. Spotters tend to be smaller than cameras. It makes them more portable and easier to use in different environments such as hiking, birdwatching, etc.


The second thing is to compare the weight. It is an essential thing to be considered. When you are out and want to capture distant things, you must need one lightweight thing. Of course, finding a light lens can be a little deceptive.

Whatever, a spotting scope can weigh as much as 15 pounds. It means it’s not something you want to carry around with you all day.

In contrast, camera lenses are lightweight. So, you can easily carry it around wherever you go. Now to consider this matter, you may choose a camera lens.

Aperture / Objective Lens Sizes

If the objective lens is large, you can see more detail. Even the scopes will provide better quality photos. Such as high magnification power, supposing you are comparing two items of similar quality.

However,  Spotting scopes come with objective lens sizes ranging from 45mm to 100mm. But the primary size is 60-80mm.

On the other hand, the camera lens comes with a bigger aperture or objective lens sizes. Its focal length size starts from 35mm to 300mm and more( for super-telephoto lenses).

If the objective lens size is larger, the picture will be purer with its foreground or background.

So, in that case, you may choose a camera lens.

Viewing Range

If you are bird watchers or wild lovers, you need a long-range viewing tool because it helps observe the long distant objects. In that case, Spotting scopes are typically used for long-range viewing that can support you to see the remote things.

On the contrary,  you can use a camera lens for short-range viewing.

Even spotting scopes have a longer focal length than camera lenses. So they allow you to view distant objects more effectively.

High-quality images

Those tools have high-magnification power and will deliver high-quality images. So the spotting scope offers you high-quality images with excellent magnification power. A spotting scope can magnify up to 40x.

In contrast, the camera lens has low magnification power. It only magnifies up to 8x. In that case, the image quality is not better than the spotting spot. So you may choose a spotting scope with its high magnification power.

 Field of view and eye Telief

 Field of view and eye-relief is a vital feature that helps capture exact details of the objects. Field of view is the dimensions of the wider space you can see at 1000 yards.  For any fast-moving target, the field of view is essential. Such as, if you want to capture the photos of birds, it is ideal.

However, the spotting scope has a wide field of view than the camera lens. It means it can capture more details of an object at once. Even it can assure your eye relief.

Spotting scopes are also easier to adjust and allow for greater flexibility. In that case, you may select spotting spots.


The design of spotting scopes supports working with binoculars. So you can observe the difference between a bird and a tree branch from a few miles away.

On the contrary, the design of camera lenses supports working with cameras. So you can take photos up close without worrying about light reflecting off objects or blurring them out.

Viewing angle

Spotting scopes collect light from a wide-angle. Thus they allow you to see everything in front of your eyes at once, like a pair of binoculars. The viewing angle of the spotting scope is up to 90°.

Camera lenses also have a broader field of vision than spotting scopes. Because there isn’t as much room inside a camera body, as there is outside it. The angle of view of the standard lens is 50°, and the medium lens is wide than 60°.

According to this feature, a spotting spot is better than a camera lens.


There are various fields of use in spotting scopes. Such as, you can use it for stargazing. It works better with digiscoping and offers high magnification power. Even it works great for astronomy as well as telescopes and binoculars.

Not only that, spotting scopes are used on various platforms. Such as surveillance, hunting, birding, viewing landscapes, ships, wildlife, and other far objects.

hunting bird: Spotting scope vs Camera lens

On the contrary, the camera lens is also known as a photographic objective or photographic lens. It is an optical lens used for photography, cinematography, etc.

Let’s view a quick table for their comparison:

Subject Spotting scope Camera lens
Magnification power Up to 40x Up to 8x
Price Start from 400$ to 3000$ Up to 150$,
Weight More than 15 pounds Lightweight
Size Little Bigger than a spotting scope
Uses Used for hunting, birding, viewing ships, wildlife, landscape, etc. Used for photography and cinematography.
Useful Use to see distant objects Useful to see the closer object
Field of view Wide than a camera lens. Not wider.

For Quick Overview, you might be interest to the video content:

Some test target comparisons between the spotting scope and camera lens:

When we test the spotting scope and camera lens, we can compare the best between them. In our testing lab, we set a spotting scope( Swarovski) and camera lens(canon) at a minimum 90 feet distance. Now we take a shot at both of them. Then we change the focal length of them and grab the photo again.

Here we capture numerous photos for each setup so that we can compare themselves. However, we checked the resolution and saw that Swarovski was more impressive. With a high magnification power, it provides great results and is easy to extract post-processing.

On the contrary, the canon has good acutance. However, with this Swarovski system, we get a clear zoomed image center, which can not accurately be possible with the Canon camera lens.

In the conclusion

So I think this comparison helps you understand these two pieces of tools. You may now decide to select the right one according to your requirements.

But I repeat, it all depends on your needs. You should choose the one which fulfills your requirements.

Yet I suggest you choose the spotting scope and enjoy its unique features. Though its price seems more than the camera lens, the price doesn’t matter with its quality.

In addition, it has fewer elements, moving parts, and fewer corrections. Even scopes are waterproof and sealed.

On the contrary, it is terrible to carry a camera lens with its total instruments. Even it is not waterproof.

However, spotting scope or camera lens, whatever you choose, both have vital features to use.

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