Spotters: Under $900
Updated in January, 2023.
This is sort of an interesting category since $900 or so appears to be the level of financial discomfort that a lot of people are willing to tolerate. While in the higher price ranges there are only a few Chinese made scopes that I have recommended, here just about everything is made in China, but to an increasing degree it is made well. You’ll see a lot of Athlons here, since I really like what they offer or the money in this price range (it is interesting that with alpha stuff, it is hard to look past Swarovski, while in the mid-range, Athlon is doing good things).
Ultimately, I have seen very little, if anything, change in this price range in terms of being noteworthy, except now I have a lot more mileage with these.
For my personal use, I have pretty much settled on Athlon Ares UHD G2 with a 65mm objective and 22x reticle eyepiece. It is reasonably compact, optically good, and gives me the same reticle as in the Athlon Cronus Tactical spotter that I also use. The larger Ares spotter with a 28x reticle eyepiece is also available, but for my purposes, 22x is a better general purpose magnification. I do have a nice 16-48x eyepiece for it, but I can’t think of the last time I used it. Fixed power works fine for my purposes.
With small spotters, if you need something truly compact, there are two good options here: Vortex Razor HD 11-33×50 and Athlon Cronus 12-36×50. Both are surprisingly good optically given the small size. I somewhat prefer the Razor due to the straight eyepiece. Cronus is angled only.
With 80mm or greater objective, we have the larger of the two Vortex Viper HD spotters: 20-60×85. It is a very respectable spotter, but the biggest reason it gets on my list is the available fixed power reticle eyepiece. Unfortunately, the eyepiece is 33.5x which is a bit more than I typically like in an eyepiece of this type, but it seems to work quite well.
There are a few potentially interesting designs in this price range from Bushnell, Sightmark and some others, but I have been unsuccessful in getting these companies to reply to my e-mails, so it has not been easy to look at them.
Given my time limitations, I sorta end up going down a path of least resistance in mostly testing products that are comparatively easy for me to get my hands on and from companies that I have some confidence in terms of standing behind their product.
[…] Re: Trying to decide on Spotting Scope Under $1,000. I did order a Pentax 80mm today, up grading from an older Bushnell Space Master. Vortex Razor and Zen Ray where in the running, but what brought me to the Pentax 80mm was the eyepiece. For under a 1,000 I got a Pentax and a 20mm fixed eyepiece. I did not look at scopes over 2K. Reviews such as the following Pentax 80mm Ed Spotting Scope | Better View Desired http://opticsthoughts.com/?page_id=100 […]