The best budget spotting scope will serve its owner well for a lifetime with the right care, from hunting your way across the most expansively open country the United States has to offer to late nights spent gazing up at the brilliance of the moon and stars throughout a peerlessly clear night sky. The most powerful pair of binoculars in the world won’t compare to a quality spotting scope’s power, especially when it comes to sizing up trophy pronghorn, mule deer, caribou, sheep, goats, and other species who thrive where they can see threats approaching from literally miles away.
At the very least, having these essential optics in your pack could save you the trouble of an exhaustive stalk toward an animal that doesn’t exactly meet your standards. These three spotting scopes all earn exceptional marks in these four key categories, and do so within a remarkably reasonable price range:
- 3 Best Budget Spotting Scope – Comparison Chart
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3 Best Budget Spotting Scope – Comparison Chart
|Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope||5||$$|
|Konus 7122 20x-60x100mm Spotting Scope with Case||4.8||$$|
|Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 20-60 x80 (45 degree) Spotting Scope||4.9||$$|
- Konus 7122 20x-60x100mm – I can’t help but believe Konus missed an opportunity to perfect the 7122’s already impressive clarity and sharpness at every power just by stepping up its lens coatings. Multi-coating already diminishes glare and maximizes light transmission. Full multi-coating would likely eliminate it entirely. Just as importantly, the added layer might even reduce the minor rainbow coloration around the field of view’s edges at 60x magnification.
- Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom – Celestron sweated their details when designing the 52250 Ultima Zoom. Again, however, we have another spotting scope that could have delivered even brighter, clearer visuals had the manufacturer not settled for finishing its 80mm objective lens, zoom eyepiece, and BAK-4 prisms with middle-of-the-road multi-coating. As a result, despite achieving 77 percent brighter images than competing 60mm objectives lenses and an incredible focus range from 27 feet out to the horizon, its pictures suffer minor chromatic aberration and blue-fringing. It’s truly impressive how little focal adjustment it needs from 20x to 60x magnification and thoroughly waterproofed, but one improvement in processing might have solved this one flaw that slipped through quality control.
- Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 20-60x80mm – The Bushnell Legend Ultra HD, on the other hand, more than lives up to its name. It can chalk a fair portion of its apt moniker to the choice of ED Prime extra-low dispersion glass for color-tuned viewing with impeccable resolution. Unlike its two rivals in my comparison, Bushnell not only went all-in with full multi-coating, but added their newly developed Rain Guard HD coating, which reduces water droplets to microscopic specks virtually imperceptible to the naked eye.
Our Pick of BEST CLARITY: Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 20-60x80mm
HONORABLE MENTION: Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom
- Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom – When it comes to literally sizing the Celestron and Bushnell spotting scopes up, I had to truly reach for a convincing edge to give one over the other. Bushnell scopes are notoriously rugged and backed by incredible customer service when it comes to repairs and replacements. More importantly, however, the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD has more outer protection and measures an inch-and-a-half shorter than the 18-inch 52250. The Celestron might weigh almost 1.5 pounds less, but I would also be more concerned about banging around the 52250.
- Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 20-60x80mm – As stated above, Celestron and Bushnell’s scopes physically measure up almost identically. There isn’t much difference in their exceptional durability at all. However, protection matters when it comes to precision-engineered optics and Celestron clearly spared more expense than Bushnell. A thick rubber armor could have gone quite a long way.
- Konus 7122 20x-60x100mm – It might be the heavyweight of my trifecta but there is no denying the durability of the 7122. Measuring 18.8 inches long and weighing in at 8 pounds, my one complaint would be that its substantial metallic bulk makes it almost prohibitively bulk for long hikes into wilderness areas where it would be nicest to have it on hand. That being said, speaking to its pure toughness, its rubber anti-shock armoring not only absorbs short drops to hard surfaces with ease but provides rainproof and fogproof fortification against moisture. The included nylon carrying case may not be padded, but it is at least easily roomy enough to accommodate this behemoth of a spotting scope.
Our Pick of MOST DURABLE: Konus 7122 20x-60x100mm
- Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom – We have another category in which Celestron and Konus appear evenly matched. Celestron gets major points for consistency. My images retained distinct, crisp clarity all the way up its magnification range to 60x with virtually no detail lost. Its zoom eyepiece’s smooth wheel and sight tube made for impressively quick sighting with nice, clean adjustments. Sadly, I cannot quite explain the hazy images and black dots that seem to accompany magnification past 25x.
- Konus 7122 20x-60x100mm – Konus also made a significant impression with remarkably simple fine-focus controls, but it trumped the Celestron with images almost as full at 60x magnification as at 20x. Its field of view at 1,000 M/YDS spans 29m/88ft at 20x and 15m/44ft at 60x, a superb span by any standard. From one end of its range to another, every adjustment is smoothly and consistently controlled for seamless focus.
- Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 20-60x80mm – When your magnification compares favorably to the likes of high-end manufacturers such as Leica and Swarovski, your craftsmanship approaches a class all its own. Like the Celestron scope, Bushnell features a 45-degree angled eyepiece that indeed makes it easier to both use a lower tripod and take pictures with its small camera attachment while viewing. However, it wins out with dual-control stacked focus adjustments for incredibly rapid fine adjustments made instantly and with no fuss.
Our Pick of BEST MAGNIFICATION: Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 20-60x80mm
- Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom – Once again, a simple difference in finishing processes comes back to haunt Celestron and Konus while making it clear how Bushnell’s commitment to quality routinely sets it apart. Full multi-coating might have nudged it forward. Once you look through the Legend Ultra HD’s lens, you can’t ignore the brightness the 52250 loses past just 25x magnification. Nevertheless, this is still a spotting scope easily bright enough for a round of early-morning target shooting.
- Konus 7122 20x-60x100mm – The Konus is equally effective in early or late daylight, the two times of day when a spotting scope’s capacity to cannibalize light makes the greatest difference. Those are the hours when the illumination advantage of a 100mm objective lens becomes abundantly apparent. Another trump card: the 7122 includes a retractable sunshade for prime bright daylight. It would be the undisputed leader in all-around brightness, were it not for one advantage it lacks.
- Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 20-60x80mm – One layer of multi-coating. That’s all it takes. It’s the difference between minimal glare and lost brightness and near-total light transmission. It’s an advantage Bushnell will virtually always enjoy because so many manufacturers still settle for less than the utmost light gathered through their optics.
Our Pick of BEST ILLUMINATION: Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 20-60x80mm
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Bushnell’s Legend Ultra HD 20-60x80mm is far and away the best budget spotting scope. As a manufacturer, they never seem to fail to find ways to edge up their brightness. Their products are always almost incomparably durable. Brightness can often mean everything in crafting leading sporting optics, and between its commitment to full multi-coating and the way its Rain HD process defies moisture that would cloud up lesser scopes, not many brands can touch Bushnell’s reputation.