Angled vs Straight Spotting Scope: Which to Choose?


The debate continues: is a straight or angled spotting scope superior?  As it turns out, there is no right or wrong answer to this question.  It’s entirely dependent on your individual preference and the way you plan to use it.  Check out our guide below to help you determine which will work better for you.

The Pros of an Angled Scope

Because an angled scope is adjustable, many find it more suitable.  Longer glassing periods means less neck strain, especially if you’ll be seated or lying down.  You can also bend over the scope instead of crouching, which can be easier on the knees.  If you’ll be spotting with a group, you won’t have any need to adjust the tripod (everyone can bend according to their height).  They also require a shorter tripod which can be more stable, especially in windy weather, and a smaller tripod means less weight to carry in a backpack.  The angled scope is great for hunting and some astronomy, but birders especially find the angled style preferable, as it’s much easier to angle the scope into treetops.

The Pros of a Straight Scope

A straight scope can be simpler to use, especially for beginners.  Because it has a straight line-of-sight, many hunters find it preferable for spotting and tracking.  It can also work better at downhill angles, as tipping the scope downward is easier than trying to angle it.  A straight scope is also beneficial if you’ll be glassing in wet weather, as moisture won’t collect on the eyepiece.  Straight scopes are great for nature and marine watching.  The flat plain of the ocean lends itself especially well to straight scope viewing.  Many hunters find it preferable, as well, since it’s easier to track moving game with a straight line.  Looking down into a scope and then looking up to find the target can be disorienting.

All the Cons

Here’s where preference becomes more prominent.  The pros of each scope type are strong, but it’s usually the cons that will steer your purchase in one direction or another.  So, let’s weigh the downsides.  The angled scope can be difficult to use at downhill angles.  Imagine having to tilt the scope down and the lean out over the slope to see into the eyepiece.  And even though the smaller tripod is lighter, the elbow-shape of the angled scope can be awkward to stow in a backpack.  Finally, having an eyepiece angled upward isn’t ideal in rain or snow conditions.  Moisture can quickly collect in the eyepiece, ruining your ability to glass.  The straight scope has a few drawbacks, too.  If you’re on an uphill grade, tilting the glass upward means lying on the ground or getting into an uncomfortable crouch to reach the eyepiece.  It can also be awkward for people with different heights, as it’s not easy to adjust the tripod up and down for each person.  Finally, the tripod height is higher by default, which means more bulk and weight to carry around.

How to Choose

Now that we’ve discussed the pros and cons, it’s up to you to decide how you’ll be using your scope.  Which downsides are more manageable for your activities?  From a price point perspective, either scope will run you about the same amount of money.  When you start adding digiscopes for digital photography capabilities, your price point will jump significantly.  Ultimately, if you’re planning on tracking game, you may find the straight scope easier.  If you’re looking at birds or practicing some casual astronomy, the angled scope is better.  Either way, you’re likely to get a long life and great imagery from either style.