If you are passionate about bird watching and wildlife observing, hunting and shooting activities, a spotting scope is something you may need. However, when you think to buy a spotting scope under 400 dollars, you will be faced with some tough choices. Because there are quite huge spotting scopes on the market from different brands. And each brand and model has its own strengths and purpose for best use.
The available options can overwhelm even experienced hunters and outdoor enthusiasts.
After thoughtful research, going through tons of reviews and looking at the best spotting scopes under $400 for professionals and enthusiasts alike, we came up with this list of top 5 models that will meet everyone’s needs. In fact, the spotting scopes that include this list are most popular among some of the demanded outdoor enthusiasts.
- 1. Vortex Optics Diamondback DS-65A HD Spotting Scope
- 2. Athlon Optics Argos HD 20-60×85 Spotting Scope
- 3. SVBONY SV406P HD Dual Focus Spotting Scope
- 4. Leupold SX-2 Alpine HD 20-60x60mm Spotting Scope
- 5. Bushnell Trophy Xtreme 886015 Spotting Scope
- How to choose the best spotting scopes under $400
- Final Thoughts
In the following table, you’ll find the comparative analysis of the best spotting scopes under $400.
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1. Vortex Optics Diamondback DS-65A HD Spotting Scope
If your budget is less than $400, but needs a high-quality HD glass spotting scope, then the Vortex Optics Diamondback DS-65A would be the best option for you. It is a great budget spotting scope for multiple uses and this model is available in both angled and straight. It has all the optical horsepower the western hunter needs and provides excellent image quality even in low light.
Vortex Optics Diamondback DS-65A spotting scope has 16-48 magnification power and 65mm objective lens. The magnification ring glides effortlessly and allows you to change easily the magnification rating without having to step out from behind the rifle. For fast and fine adjustments, the Vortex spotting scope built-in helical focus wheel.
It is covered with multiple anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces which increases light transmission. The eyecups are adjustable for comfortable viewing from different angles with or without eyeglasses. It is also universal tripod adaptable, allowing use on a tripod or car window mount.
Diamondback DS-65A spotting scope comes with a BK-4 prism and it is completely waterproof because of is O-ring sealed and argon purged. In terms of sharpness, it is very sharp optically and is basically unbeatable in this price range. This model is also simple to use because it has not a lot of buttons or lenses to interchange the scope. It is suitable for shooting up to 200 meters.
The Vortex Optics Diamondback does not have a carry case. However, the package includes a soft cover and lense covers for long-lasting. Remember, it is quite large and might not be well suited for backpacking. This unit is a notch better built – the plastic body high pretty much durable.
- Adjustable viewing angle
- HD optical system
- Large field of view
- Durable and sleek design
- Great optics for the price
- Doesn’t come with a tripod
- Focus ring is a bit tight
2. Athlon Optics Argos HD 20-60×85 Spotting Scope
We purchased the Vortex Optics Diamondback DS-65A and Athlon Optics Argos for doing this comparison. The Athlon Optics Argos has a significantly better image than the Vortex, however, the Vortex is better built and ergonomic. Although the image quality suffers at higher magnification, you’d be hard pressed to find a better scope for the price.
Athlon Optics Argos spotting scope has HD glass and the difference in chromatic aberration (CA) is significant. In terms of sharpness, the image is very sharp optically and is basically indistinguishable from the Diamondback DS-65A. Because the advanced Fully Multi-Coated lenses and Porro Prisms provide the highest level of light transmission and bring optimum brightness for long-distance shooting.
It has a ring that allows you to rotate where the eyepiece of the scope is pointing. It also has rubber armor that makes this device durable and easy to handle at any given moment. The waterproof protection is remarkable to withstand in the harshest weather conditions, even if accidentally gets submerged underwater. Athlon Optics Argos spotting scope comes with a nice neoprene wrap to help protect it as well.
In terms of construction quality, Athlon Optics Argos is also a notch better built, and the body feels higher. However, This unit doesn’t come with tripod but has a standard 1/4″ thread so you can provide your own tripod. Also, it will crack if not taken care of. It is a high-end spotting scope – but neither would be confused with a $1000+ spotting scope.
- Sturdy and well-made
- Built for maximum comfort
- Durable and easy to handle
- Comes with a fitted case
- Lifetime warranty guarantee
- Very powerful for the price
- Pretty heavy
3. SVBONY SV406P HD Dual Focus Spotting Scope
SVBONY is a new company focused on only high-quality optical instruments, since 2014. We love their products because they bring affordable and high-quality products for everyone. And their optics products are practical and able to please more on-budget people.
The SVBONY SV406P is their latest edition spotting scope under 400 dollars that features ED Extra-Low Dispersion Glass which provides 2.0″ ultra-clear resolution and reduces light scattering. The power changes and parallax adjustments are also excellent.
The 80mm large objective lens ensures clear and bright images with variable magnifications. It also provides sharper detailed images even at high magnifications. Although a bit hard to focus on higher magnification, it still lets in lots of light.
SVBONY SV406P features coaxial Dual speed focusing wheels that are designed for Smooth & Accurate focus on the target. It supports any 1.25inch astronomical eyepiece which means you can combine the eyepiece of this scope with your astronomical telescope.
The minimum focus distance is 18 feet which would be very efficient if you want to watch nature at close range. This is an incredibly clear, low chromatic aberration spotting scope under $400. Like all spotting scopes in this list, it is well made, and the glass is pretty good.
SVBONY SV406P spotting scope has a standard tripod metal interface, so it can fit most tripods on the market today. The package includes Soft Carry Case, Lens Cloth, Lens Protectors, and a camera adapter.
However, it doesn’t come with a tripod. We also have reviewed some of the strongest spotting scope tripods. If you need, make sure to check.
- ED Extra-Low Dispersion Glass
- Low chromatic aberration
- Includes camera adapter
- The build quality is superb
- Easy to use
- New brand
- Doesn’t come with tripod
4. Leupold SX-2 Alpine HD 20-60x60mm Spotting Scope
If you want to combine value and quality, you have a number of options, including the Leupold SX-2 Alpine. Leupold is an old-school optics company that has been manufacturing optics for generations of shooters. It is a moderately sized spotting scope under $400 with a 20 to 60 power rating magnification with a 60mm objective lens.
It has an angled lens and offers a powerful magnification rating and a nice lens for locating shots at 200 meters. This super-tough build spotting scope offers high performance and protection that outdoorsmen need. Eye relief is also great at 18 mm at max magnification.
Leupold SX-2 Alpine spotting scope has impressive image quality and gives a clear and consistent image. It can stand up to the conditions of harsh climates because it’s completely 100% waterproof and fogproof. This spotting scope also features low-light technology with Twilight Max Light Management System.
The Leupold SX-2 Alpine comes with a lifetime warranty, so you can shop with confidence and without anxiety. On top of that, you will get fully multi-coated lens and high-quality prism for a crisp, bright picture. It is absolutely an adequate spotter for birdwatching. It is also lightweight and highly portable.
However, the neoprene skin doesn’t allow the sunshade to extend and makes adjusting the focus a little harder but it’s not a huge deal in most cases.
- Strong and durable construction
- Stunning clarity
- Lightweight and compact
- Completely waterproof and fogproof
- Versatile design
- Doesn’t come with additional accessories
- Old design
5. Bushnell Trophy Xtreme 886015 Spotting Scope
The last model that achieves good for the money is the Bushnell Trophy Xtreme Spotting Scope. Bushnell as a brand produces some of the best general optics. Whether you are looking to spot wildlife and take pictures or mark them off your book or are interested in target shooting practice, you’ll do no wrong with the Bushnell Trophy Xtreme.
It is 100% waterproof and coated with armored rubber to give protection against uncertain environments. The glass is surprisingly good and clear, and most importantly, the distance you get with this scope is definitely worth it. Bushnell also offers a lifetime warranty so don’t worry too much about any problem in the future.
It has a magnification range from 20 to 60 with a 65mms objective, designed for the 0 – 300-yard range. And on a clear day, it can probably go up to 400 meters. There is also 16-48×50 model available. It is simple to use because the magnification and focus wheel are conveniently incorporated into the eyepiece.
The package comes with a tripod and hard case so it’s ready to use outside of the box. The Bushnell Trophy Xtreme is a standard fully multi-coated spotting scope that offers an affordable price.
The only downside is that this model doesn’t have an angled eyepiece, and the tripod is poorly designed. However, the included case and bag are very nice.
- Premium fully multi-coated optics
- Waterproof rubber armor construction
- Comes with compact tripod and window mount
- Slim and lightweight design
- Outstanding zoom flexibility
- Doesn’t have an angled eyepiece
- Included tripod is poorly made
How to choose the best spotting scopes under $400
You probably know that the basic features of spotting scopes are quite the same. However, when choosing a spotting scope for any reason, you need to examine both the internal and external parts of the optics. Take a look at the following features before putting your money on the spotting scope.
The body size of the spotting scope actually determines the size of the lens diameter. Generally, compact spotting scope has an objective lens that does not exceed 60mm. Midsize spotting scopes are larger than compact models and have objective lens sizes that range between 60mm to 80mm. Full-size spotting scopes on the other hand have the largest objective lens of all, exceeding 80mm.
However, the size you go for depends on your preferences and the type of activity you want to partake in. Compact spotting scopes are lightweight and portable and offer you a type of convenience that’s unparalleled. This makes them easier to carry, store and use.
If you’re browsing in the $300-$400 range, means you’re probably an experienced spotting scope user or familiar with that. However, you have to consider the overall weight, because at this level of optical power, sometimes you’re going to have to cart around other accessories or so of glass and optics.
Mid-size spotting scopes are a bit bulkier than compact models but they are not so bulky that they are difficult to transport. You’ll definitely have to use a tripod with high range spotting scopes.
In general, big size spotting scope deliver good performance over thin and compact models. But you won’t have to go as far as full-size spotting scope as there are several midsize and with top-notch eyepiece designs and coatings that perform similarly full-size spotting scope.
Focusing mechanism is important, especially with the sky or star gazing models, you might need to focus calmly for greater clarity. That’s not a problem for spotting scopes set on a tripod but it’s going to be inconvenient if you’re walking and birding.
The magnification capacity of the spotting scope and the objective lens diameter respectively like 15-45×60 or 20-60×80. This means that your magnification range is variable between 15x to 45x or 20x to 60x.
Here, bigger is not always better with optics because higher magnifications significantly reduce the steadiness of the image. However, for a budget under $400, it’s a good idea to settle with a 20-60x magnification to get long-range observations. With a magnification as small as 15-45, you can still achieve vivid images for target shooting, hunting or bird watching activities without expending a large amount.
Objective lens diameter
Let’s take a look at the objective lens diameter. To put it simply, the objective lens diameter determines the amount of light your spotting scope can gather. A larger objective lens diameter spotting scope delivers a brighter view and better quality images even in low light. We previously mentioned that the size of the objective lens determines how much weight your spotting scope has.
Exit pupil determines the amount of light that gets to your eye through the eyepiece when you look into the spotting scope. To enable more light for brighter viewing, the right exit pupil size should be slightly big. You can choose an exit pupil that is about 7mm or above for a full view of your targets.
Exit pupil is smaller than the average human pupil size. Some models don’t show actual exit pupil but it’s actually easy to determine. Just divide the magnification with the objective lens.
Field of view
Field of view of a spotting scope refers to how much you can see. It’s measured in yards over a distance of 1000yds. Wide the field of view spotting scope can easily locate different objects or animals in the field.
More expensive spotting scopes tend to have better optics and thus a greater field of view as a result. Activities like hunting and birdwatching generally require spotting scope with a large field of view. However, you don’t need to care about a lot if your primary purpose is target shooting.
Eye relief is the distance between your eye and the eyepiece. If you wear glasses, picking a spotting scope with eye relief is crucial. It will make a difference between comfortable viewing and total frustration. Adjustable eyecups let you set the right eye relief for your scope.
Lens coating is the layers of anti-reflective coating that the lens glass has. Spotting scope with more lens coating layers delivers better light transmission, and the result is a bright and clear image.
However, there are different levels of lens coating. For example, multi-coating is most used for entry-level spotting scopes which provides a decent amount of performance in terms of image brightness. On the other hand, a fully multi-coating spotting scope helps improve the quality of the image by completely reducing reflection and increasing light transmission to nearly 100 percent.
If you plan to use your spotting scope to travel to harsh environments and expose it to harsh weather, choose a premium scope that cannot hold its edge in extreme conditions. It’s common to see manufacturers using an internationally accepted standard to indicate waterproofness.
The spotting scope you have to choose with an O-ring seal to prevent fog and moisture from getting into the lenses and distorting your images. Most of the models on our list are filled with nitrogen to keep the fog and moisture outside the lens.
Keep in mind, all fog-proof spotting scopes are waterproof, but NOT all waterproof spotting scopes are fog-proof.
We have sampled some of the best spotting scopes under 400 dollars for people’s taste but it all depends on your purpose of use. Whether you are a birder, an avid hunter or even a fishing enthusiast, it would not be a problem finding a premium spotting scope under $400 to serve your needs.
However, be sure to check out our buyer’s guide to know what makes a good spotting scope. By using our buying guide, you should have enough information to find a great model in your budget. Also, check the customer reviews before placing the order.
We hope this article helps you to make a quick and easy decision.