Birdwatching Dot Com


Birding FAQ

Birding Tips







The Scopes


Optics Myth 10:

Straight-through spotting scopes are easier to aim and use

REALITY - Not really!

An angled-eyepiece scope is just as easy. It might take you five minutes to get used to it, if you're switching from a straight-through scope.

You aim a scope by using the sighting marks on the scope body. The angle of the eyepiece doesn't matter in aiming. But it matters when you try to use the scope! Here are some of the ways the angled scope is better for birding.

  1. Birds have wings and live in trees (well, lots of them, anyway). Often you'll find yourself looking up. The angled scope will literally save your neck. And have you ever tried to get a straight-through scope mounted high enough on a tripod that you could look up with it? Most tripods won't even reach that high. If you had an angled scope, you'd be viewing comfortably.

  2. You can share an angled scope. After you sight in and focus on a bird, people of various heights can easily view it, without having to disturb the aim of the scope. With a straight scope, you have to adjust the height for each individual, with the result that fewer people may get to see the bird. With an angled scope, you can set it at a height that will work for young and old, tall and short, rotating the scope so that the eyepiece angles to the side or even down to accommodate children.

  3. Lots of birders use their scope on a car window mount. Here's where the angled scope really shines. You get the maximum range of viewing angle. You can easily see forward or back, up or down, without having to assume extreme acrobatic positions.

  4. The resolution of a scope at high magnification depends upon the steadiness of its tripod. Just as with binoculars, the details disappear if the image jiggles. The shorter the tripod legs are extended, the steadier the image. Angled scopes always allow a lower, inherently more stable tripod height. Mount your scope on a tripod a foot higher, and you lose that high-priced image you paid extra for. It really matters at 60 power.

We hope that we have dispelled some of the myths about birding optics.

And speaking of myths, we'd like to share one, often told about the 19th Century American psychologist and philosopher William James. He awoke in the night with an idea that seemed to explain all of human life, and he scribbled it down. In the morning he read what he had written. It was a bit of doggerel about men and women that has since become famous.

In working on this article, we awoke with almost the same cognition, but about birding optics. Like Dr. James, we couldn't resist writing it down:

Hogamus higamus, scopes are polygamous.
Higamus hogamus, binox monogamous.


Sharp-shinned Hawk

Optics Myths and Misconceptions