Angled or Straight Spotting Scope: which one is the best for you?

A major factor when deciding on the right spotting scope is the orientation of the eyepiece, which can be either straight or angled at around 45 degrees. Both variants have their own unique advantages and limitations, and being aware of them and considering them in the context of your requirements is crucial to the selection of the correct spotting scope.

That said, it is understandable if you’re facing a degree of uncertainty because of a lack of experience with these sighting tools – I know I did as a novice. To help you out, here’s a detailed angled vs straight spotting scope comparison that will take out all the uncertainty in your decision!

Straight Spotting Scopes

These spotting scopes have an eyepiece that lets you view in the optical axis, that is, you observe in a straight line through your scope. In certain cases, a porro prism may be involved which means it won’t be a perfect straight line – still, both the objective lens and the eyepiece will be parallel to the ground. This is an intuitive design which most beginners find easier to adjust and handle in the field.

Benefits of straight spotting scopes

Easier to track the subject:

If you will be viewing subjects that are in constant motion i.e. for hunting purposes, or will be changing subjects continuously, the straight spotting scope will be easier to rotate – you may not even have to take your eyes off the eyepiece.

Easier to observe below (and at) your level:

If you’re elevated above the subject, a straight spotting scope will undoubtedly make for easier viewing, letting you observe without forcing you to place your head and neck at an awkward angle as in the case of an angled scope.

It goes without saying that observing objects at your level is much more natural when you’re looking straight through the scope as opposed to having to tilt your head.

Easier to use in enclosed positions:

Again, if you’ll be doing your spotting from inside bushes or cramped in a car, you’ll want to keep your body as relaxed as possible, and this is only possible with the horizontal viewing angle of the straight spotting scope.

This factor should be considered by hunters who prefer to get close to their prey, as well as bird-watchers who use car window mounts in the hopes of getting closer to the birds.

Limitations of straight spotting scopes

Prolonged use can lead to eyestrain:

When you’re using a straight scope, your free eye is constantly trying to focus on the horizon while the occupied eye focuses on the image being projected on the eyepiece.

To make matters worse, you can’t close the unoccupied eye, since this will lead to even more eye strain. This may not seem like a problem with brief usage, but birders / hunters / astronomers who spend hours looking into the distance will definitely start noticing it.

Requires a tripod for height adjustment:

A straight spotting scope’s height can only be adjusted through a tripod – and if you’re taller than most people, a suitable tripod may be expensive and difficult to port around.

Prolonged astronomical use can be tiring:

Since you’ll have to direct the scope’s entire body at the stars using your hands, your arms may get tired during extended observation sessions. Plus, your head will need to be at an angle to look through the scope, and this in turn could put strain on your neck.

Angled Spotting Scopes

As mentioned above, these scopes have eyepieces that are tilted at a roughly 45 degrees angle with the main body. This means that when you’re looking down into the eyepiece, you’re actually observing the view ahead of you. It may seem a bit complex, but it does offer some unique advantages.

Benefits of angled spotting scopes

Less stressful for extended use:

Since your unoccupied eye is focusing on the ground right ahead of you when you’re using an angled scope, it doesn’t experience the same kind of strain as it does while focusing on the horizon as in the case of a straight scope.

Easier to use for astronomy and vertical birding:

The 45 degree tilt means that when you direct the objective lens towards the sky to observe the heavens / birds in flight, your eyepiece becomes level with the ground – allowing you to look into the eyepiece from a very natural angle, as compared to a straight scope which would have you stretching your neck awkwardly.

Height adjustment does not require a tripod:

Most angled scopes come with eyepieces that can be rotated, so both children and adults can use the scope without having to adjust the tripod height.

Furthermore, since the main body of an angled scope is closer to the ground as compared to the eyepiece, it is less susceptible to vibrations at higher magnifications because of the added stability.

Better suited for digiscoping:

Angled scopes are more suitable for use with a DSLR and adapter, for two reasons: Firstly, they depend primarily on gravity to keep the camera lodged in place, rather than putting strain on the eyepiece directly a la straight scopes.

Secondly, the tilt of the eyepiece makes it easier to use for tall photographers, who won’t have to raise their tripod’s height in order to prevent themselves from crouching, at the expense of stability.

Limitations of angled spotting scopes

Difficult to track moving subjects with:

The tilt on these scopes makes them unintuitive for beginners to follow moving targets. As you get used to them, this hindrance will gradually disappear.

Difficult to use in cramped spots:

In order to observe the scene straight ahead, you have to look through the angled eyepiece, which can be difficult to achieve if you’re lying low in the shrubbery, or sitting in the closed interior of a car.

Difficult to view objects at a depressed angle:

Viewing objects from a higher position e.g. a mountain ledge can be uncomfortable because the eyepiece has to be tilted further ahead, which in turn causes the main body to get even more tilted. Looking into the eyepiece thus requires you to stretch your neck / back out even further, which can ultimately cause strain.


It’s tough to pick a winner in this debate – since both contenders have uniquely useful properties as well as specific drawbacks. In general though, straight scopes lend themselves to beginners who will only be using them for relatively short sessions and/or while observing scenes from an elevated position.

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