Before Christmas we did two posts — here and here — on buying binoculars but have not yet done one about spotting scopes. In the meantime, the winter edition of Living Bird arrived in our mailbox. It has a good article with ratings of 36 spotting scopes. Better even than that, you can read the article for free here. The author does a fine job and there is no reason to think that any manufacturer is favored over any other. As we said in our posts about binoculars, there is a subjective component to optics that no one can quantify; the advice for scopes is the same as for binoculars: Look through as many brands and types as possible, price is a good indicator of quality, and buy the most expensive one you can comfortably afford.
Even though you can read the article for free, our unsolicited advice is to spring for a subscription to Living Bird. You’ll get a gorgeous magazine to hold in your hands and you’ll be helping that marvelous institution, the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.