Straight vs Angled Spotting scope – Advantages & Disadvantages
This is a common debate: should I buy a straight vs angled spotting scope?
Whether you’re a hunter, an astronomer or a birdwatcher, you will require a spotting scope. They don’t come cheap as well, which makes the purchase of a spotting scope a tough decision. You don’t want to be wasting your money on something that doesn’t work well for you. Here are some comparisons between straight and angled spotting scopes to help you make that decision.
There are no differences in optic quality between straight vs angled spotting scope. Both have the same clarity, resolution and brightness.
Straight Spotting Scopes
Straight scopes have the barrel and eyepiece in a straight line. Some have a Porro prism, which has the eyepiece slightly above the barrel and objective lens. However, the lens and eyepiece would still be parallel to the ground.
A straight scope is great for car window mounts, if you have a larger car where you have room to adjust the angle of your scope and position it exactly where you want. Hunters also prefer straight scopes because it’s much easier to spot moving targets and more convenient for switching to binoculars or a rifle. If you’re using a tree stand, straight scopes are much better for looking downwards.
Let’s get into the advantages and disadvantages of a straight scope in our straight vs angled spotting scope debate.
Easier to find and track moving targets quickly
With a straight scope, it’s more intuitive to adjust your view and find a distant object. With an angled scope, you don’t have a direct line of vision to your object. This makes it much easier to track your targets with a straight scope.
You can look up from the scope and switch back without having to turn your head much. All these make a straight scope more user-friendly for people new to spotting scopes.
Easier to maintain and pack
The eyepiece of a straight scope doesn’t collect dust or debris as easily as an angled scope. An angled scope eyepiece that points upwards will have a natural cup shape that collects dust, snow, or debris. A straight scope, with its shape, is also much easier to fit and pack in a bag or a case.
Easier to use with binoculars
If you’re switching between binoculars and a spotting scope, a straight scope is much easier to use because you don’t have to adjust the tripod.
Easier to view objects below your eye level
It’s much easier to look downwards with a straight scope, compared to an angled scope. If you’re looking over a high wall or hedges, it’s also easier to look downwards with a straight scope rather than stretching your neck over with an angled scope.
Higher tripod position with less stability
A straight scope requires a higher tripod position compared to an angled scope, but this is less stable and your scope might move around more when there is wind. If you’re digiscoping, the increased tripod movement and instability will increase the chance of damaging your eyepiece.
Furthermore, if you’re tall and looking into a straight scope while standing up, you’ll need a bigger tripod which can be hard to carry around.
Harder to look upwards
To look upwards with a straight scope, you have to lean your neck back. If the object is directly above you, it’s very hard to get and maintain the view you want.
Uncomfortable for prolonged observation
Due to the neck craning required for a straight scope, it can be much more difficult to maintain your position without some sort of neck discomfort which is a minus for straight vs angled spotting scope. You might also be crouching with a straight scope which can strain the neck and knees.
Difficult to share the scope between different people
You have to continually adjust the tripod depending on the height of the people looking through the straight scope, since you have to look into the eyepiece in a straight line.
Angled Spotting Scopes
These angled scopes have the eyepiece at a 45 or 90-degree angle to the barrel.
They are especially great for birdwatching and astronomical viewing. The reason is that angled scopes are much easier for viewing upwards, similar to a telescope. An angled scope may also be great as a car window mount in a situation where you want to see more angles compared to a straight scope, because you can look behind or upwards more easily with an angled scope.
Competitor rifle shooters who shoot from a prone position may also prefer the angled scope. You can switch between the spotting scope to check conditions and your rifle scope with a smaller head movement when the scope is positioned well.
Now we look more closely at angled scopes in our straight vs angled spotting scopes comparison.
More comfortable if you’re observing for a prolonged time
You can tilt the scope upwards easily to view objects in the sky or in higher terrain, as you’re usually positioned above the scope. When you’re looking into an angled scope, you’re bending your head forward which you can do while sitting or lying prone.
It’s also easier to maintain that position for longer periods. With a straight scope you would have to crane your neck which is harder to maintain.
Easier to look upwards
It is much easier to angle the view on an angled scope upwards into the sky or treetops. You don’t have to crane your neck all the way back.
Lower position on the tripod for stability
The angled scope can be mounted in a much lower position, compared to a straight scope. Furthermore, a lower tripod will be much more stable if there is a lot of wind. This is especially important for digiscoping.
You don’t need a large tripod if you’re able to get the view you want with a lower tripod position. Smaller tripods are also much lighter.
Easier to switch the scope between different people
With an angled scope, if it is mounted on a tripod and the eyepiece is aligned upwards like a telescope, you only need to bend over to look into the scope. Many people can thus look into the scope without moving it. You would have to adjust a straight scope for people of different heights.
Harder to find and track moving targets
It’s slightly less intuitive to use an angled scope to find moving targets when you first start using one. Time and prior experience would be needed to learn and get used to an angled scope. Thus, someone new to angled scopes can’t use one to track moving targets right away.
Harder to maintain and pack
It’s more difficult to pack and fit an angled scope, which is not what you want if you have a lot to pack! The natural cup shape of an angled scope eyepiece that points upwards can also collect dust, debris or water which you have to clean out.
More difficult to view objects below eye level
If you’re looking at something downhill at a very low angle, you have to lean over to look into an angled scope eyepiece. Hence, it’s going to be very difficult to use an angled scope to get the right view. If you’re using a tree stand or hides, an angled scope is harder to use as well.
Harder to use with binoculars
Often you might be using a spotting scope with binoculars or other tools, and since an angled scope would work a little differently, you might have to make adjustments to your scope to get the same view as you would through binoculars.
Final Thoughts on Straight vs Angled Spotting Scope
How do you make a decision on which one to get? It really depends on what you intend to use your scope for most of the time to decide whether to get a straight vs angled spotting scope.
Hunting vs Birdwatching vs Astronomy vs Shooting Target Practice
If you’re a hunter, a straight scope might be a better choice if you’re using tree stands or car window mounts or switching between binoculars and a spotting scope. It’s also much easier to spot moving targets with a straight scope which is extremely important for a hunter. Straight scopes also fit into a backpack more easily when you’re moving around while hunting.
If you’re a birdwatcher or astronomer, then an angled scope would certainly be the way to go given that you’d be looking for birds or stars in the sky. Target shooters may also prefer angled scopes as it’s easier to switch to a rifle scope while lying prone.
If possible, test out both the angled and straight scopes before making your purchase to see which feels best for your purposes.
Another consideration is if a couple of people are going to be using the scope during your activity. If so, you’ll want the angled scope so you don’t have to make adjustments to your tripod all the time. Different people can look through the scope comfortably.
An angled scope will be much more stable because it can be positioned lower on a tripod, and you can use a smaller tripod which is easier to carry around.
In terms of maintenance, in rougher weather conditions where there’s snow or rain, you might spend a lot of time cleaning out the eyepiece of an angled scope which tends to collect more debris, as compared to a straight scope.
There are quite a few considerations to make, but ultimately you need to be clear on the main activity you’re going to use the spotting scope for as that determines which advantages and disadvantages are absolutely important for you. I hope this guide on straight vs angled spotting scope is helpful for you to make your decision.