Got a beautiful view of the ocean or a patio overlooking the golf course? Many customers look to a telescope to bring these views closer to home when a spotting scope may be the better choice.
If your objective is to use a magnifying device strictly for land use than a spotting scope may be the best choice. A spotting scope is essentially a telescope but it is designed for land-based observation. Most telescopes will come with more bells and whistles than is needed for simple land based observation. More importantly a telescope may not give you a correct image and may have upside down or inverted images and you will have to purchase an accessory to correct this. For more information see our article: Image Orientation - Why Is Everything Upside-Down?
A spotting scope will usually be much more portable than a large telescope and will be easier to use for land based observing. Many spotting scopes feature a zoom eyepiece or will accept standard telescope eyepieces.
So does this mean a spotting scope is not going to work for astronomy? Not the case. A spotting scope will be primarily for land observation but will also be excellent for simple Moon and Star watching. If you are looking to examine the Moons of Jupiter than a spotting scope will not be for you. A telescope is most likely the better option.
Use the 80/20 Rule
To decide between a spotting scope and a telescope you want to first decide what you want to use it for. If you were thinking something like 80% land observation and 20% moon and stars - a spotting scope would be the better choice. If the opposite is true, a telescope will be the better option.
Looks do matter.
When choosing a spotting scope or telescope for your home or patio it is important to get one that is attractive looking to you. If this is a piece that will always be set-up - don't let it be an eyesore. Spotting scope and telescopes will come in different sizes and colors. Be sure to choose something you will be happy to look at as well as through.