Land viewing telescopes are a fantastic way to observe your surroundings more closely. Whether you like to scope out wildlife, architecture, or something else nearby, a land viewing telescope is the best way to do so. Here’s a look at our top picks for these unique, refractory telescopes.
Our best overall pick was Sarblue Mak60 Catadioptric Compound Telescope.
Even though it’s a beginner’s kit, the telescope has the best balance of affordability coupled with sharp image quality to get you looking at the land around you quickly and easily!
|Celestron Regal Spotting Scope
|Pankoo 16X52 Monocular Telescope
Related post: Best Telescopes for Beginners (Kids and Adults!)
Best Telescope for Land Viewing
1. Best Overall — Sarblue Mak60 Catadioptric Compound Telescope
Sarblue Mak60 Catadioptric Compound Telescope
Great balance of portability and top-notch optical clarity.
The Mak60 Compound Telescope from Sarblue has a Maksutov-Cassegrain’s design. In a nutshell, it’s a mix of excellent clarity and portability. Quite important considering that you’ll easily get tired of the view from your backyard!
This 60mm f/12.5 telescope comes with a plastic tube that feels sturdy and the entire unit is well put together. You get a 20mm eyepiece that delivers sharp images along with a smartphone adaptor.
The maximum magnification level of the 3X Barlow lens is 120x. Way more than you need for land viewing! The other big advantage of the design is that the images are free from chromatic aberration or diffraction spikes.
One of the best features of this scope is its portability. The overall weight is just 5.25 lbs. and it comes with a travel bag.
On the other hand, the tripod is on the shorter side. That means you will need to hunch down which can get uncomfortable during long periods of observation. Users have found it easy to assemble though. As a bonus, you also get a one-year warranty on the product.
While it is designed with amateur astronomers in mind, the telescope delivers excellent results while land viewing. Overall, this is an awesome “entry-level” telescope that’s perfect for travelers as well as astronomy enthusiasts.
Note, there is also a Dobsonian version of this telescope that you can pick from Walmart. It comes with a Dobsonian mount that allows movement in two directions. However, the Dobsonian version is best suited for observing deep-sky objects.
2. Best Premium Pick — Celestron Regal Spotting Scope
Celestron Regal Spotting Scope
A powerful beast yielding incredible colors and sharpness.
The Celestron Regal Spotting Scope is one of the very few top-class telescopes we found that are specifically marketed for land viewing. This puts it a little ahead of some of the other scopes, because the lenses for astronomical and land viewing can differ (see our frequently asked questions below).
Crafted from premium materials, the Celestron Scope is best for those who know they want to pursue land viewing as something more than a hobby, like photographers or scientists. It provides true-to-life colors, maximum light transmission, and can attach to a DSLR camera.
Additionally, this scope is waterproof and fog proof with a durable armored body, so it can stand up to being outdoors for long periods and even getting dropped. The dual-speed focusing mechanism means getting your subject in focus is easy and quick, so you never miss a moment.
Celestron scopes are known for offering excellent value and this one is no exception. This is a top-of-the-range scope that ticks all the right boxes for serious observers.
3. Best Budget Option — Pankoo 16X52 Monocular Telescope
Pankoo 16X52 Monocular Telescope
If you think it’s a toy just because it’s dirt cheap, you’re wrong!
While the Pankoo monocular scope is not one with premium features, it has a few distinct advantages. To start with, it has a lightweight and compact design that makes it easy to carry around. It even fits in a pant pocket without any fuss. Since it can be operated one-handed, it is a good choice for even for hikers
The BAK-4 optics prism and multi-coated lens deliver good image quality. Magnification is limited to 16x but the image quality remains bright and clear throughout the optical range. However, don’t expect the image quality to match up to the premium-grade spotting scopes.
While it is affordable, the overall quality isn’t cheap in any way. The construction feels sturdy and the focus ring rotates smoothly. It is also waterproof and the lens has an antifog design. I wish it came with a lens cover though.
Whether you want to spot hummingbirds in the backyard or catch your kid at a football game, the Pankoo monocular scope is an affordable choice. Besides, the customer service is surprisingly forthcoming and efficient for a brand that doesn’t ring any bells for most people.
4. Best for Land + Beginner Astronomy — MaxUSee Refractor Telescope with Tripod & Finder Scope
MaxUSee Refractor Telescope
Most affordable without sacrificing quality.
This company makes quality scopes, and the MaxUSee Refractor Telescope is no exception. Best for those on a budget or who aren’t sure if they’re fully committed to land viewing yet, this scope is portable and comes with a range of magnification levels.
Reviews reflect that it’s a good telescope for beginners and is easy to assemble and use. It also comes with a phone adapter, so taking pictures of whatever you’re looking at is simple.
It comes with fully coated lenses and 4 interchangeable eyepieces. The magnification range is between 16x and 200x. A smartphone adaptor is included as well. Considering the price, the quality of the optics is impressive.
The large lens and finder scope makes finding your desired subject quick and the images you see crisp and clean. If you’re just starting out with land viewing, this is the scope for you.
5. Best Value for Money — Celestron Travel Scope 70
Celestron Travel Scope 70
You’ll get a scope for day and night, land and sky, as well as a tripod, carrying bag and proprietary software.
This traveling companion comes with fully-coated refractor glass optics and a lightweight aluminum frame that can be easily packed in the backpack you’ll get within the package. For better viewing, you get two eyepieces — 20mm and 10mm. In addition, it also comes with an adjustable tripod.
The eyepieces have 20x and 40x magnification powers. That makes it a great telescope for observing wildlife. You won’t exactly be counting the rings of Saturn with this unit. However, when you need to observe the landscape, it’s a great pick.
On the downside, the tripod that comes with the Travelscope 70 is not of the best quality as it tends to wobble. Also, the body is made entirely from plastic which some users may not like.
Even so, what makes this a great travel scope is its excellent portability. While the tripod isn’t the most stable in this category, considering the price tag, the kit offers excellent value as a starter scope.
5. Most Popular Pick — Gskyer 70mm Telescope
Gskyer 70mm Telescope
This scope packs a pretty powerful punch while being affordable, portable, and easy-to-use.
This product from Gskyer is one of the best-reviewed “entry-level” telescopes on Amazon and is a great option for beginners from all walks of life. No wonder it has almost 25,000 ratings as of this writing! The unit has a 70 mm objective lens and two 25 mm and 10 mm eyepieces.
In addition, it also comes with a 3X Barlow lens that can increase the magnification limits to 120x. That makes it powerful enough for newbie sky gazers and also for landscape viewing. Obviously, serious astronomers will need a larger aperture than 70 mm.
The accessories include an aluminum tripod and a carry bag. A smartphone adapter and a wireless camera remote are also included.
However, the tripod is too light and needs careful handling to minimize vibrations.
6. Best for Challenging Conditions — Bresser Condor 20-60×85 Straight View Spotting Scope
Bresser Condor 20-60×85 Straight View Spotting Scope
Solidly durable and easy to use, it allows for amazingly sharp view even at low light.
When you are heading outdoors with a telescope, you need one that can deliver a great viewing experience in challenging light conditions. The Bresser Condor spotting scope has excellent light-gathering capability that makes it a great choice for spotting wildlife during those pre-dawn hours.
The construction is a combination of plastic and aluminum. A good option for cutting down weight without compromising durability where it is needed. It is water and fog-proof as well. And unlike other scopes that come with cheaper tripods, the Condor has a metal tripod that serves as a solid base.
The best part is the oversized 85 mm objective lens that allows extra light to come in- great for low-light conditions. Using this scope in good light conditions delivers excellent images with true-to-life contrasts.
The 20-60x zoom range makes it great for long-distance viewing. Plus, the zoom eyepiece can be replaced with any other eyepiece of your choice.
Overall, this is a land viewing telescope that punches above its price point. If you want a high-quality scope at a reasonable price, go for it.
7. Best for Spotters — Vortex Diamondback HD 16-48×65 Spotting Scope
Vortex Diamondback HD 16-48×65 Spotting Scope
An affordable scope that offers excellent functionality for outdoor lovers.
Vortex has upgraded the Diamondback spotting scope while holding on to its best parts. With top-grade HD optics, the new Diamondback packs tons of optical power at a reasonable price.
As expected from Vortex, the build-quality is top-grade. The combination of rubber armor and a scratch-resistant outer coating adds to the overall durability. While it is not the lightest choice, the clunky feeling inspires confidence.
The streamlined design and the easy-to-use focus wheel make it outdoor-friendly. The fully multi-coated optics makes sure that the image quality is great.
Even with a 65 mm objective lens diameter, the light transmission is great. Unfortunately, Vortex does not disclose the specifics of the optical system, but even at the highest magnification level, the image clarity is impressive.
To sum up, the Diamondback HD scores high marks in the list of the best sub-$500 spotting scopes. If you want to upgrade from a binocular, this is a scope that is a solid choice. The cherry on the top is a lifetime warranty from Vortex.
8. Best for Kids — Emarth 20-60x60AE 45 Degree Angled Spotting Scope
Emarth 20-60x60AE 45 Degree Angled Spotting Scope
Recommended for those who want quality without a huge investment.
The Emarth Telescope is a great next step if you have a curious kid but are not quite ready to sink your money and time into something like the Celestron Regal Spotting Scope. It’s another option way below $100 that still comes with high magnification and easy setup.
Fully multi-coated optics ensure pristine clarity, thanks to the BAK4 roof prism. The relatively larger eyepiece also makes the viewing experience easier for kids. Add to that, the angled eyepiece adds to the viewing comfort. The central focusing knob is easy to use too.
That said, with magnification levels over 40x, the image clarity comes down. Surely, this is not a scope that is recommended for hunting. But considering the price, that’s acceptable.
The portable and compact design means it’s another scope that’s easy to travel with. The rubber armor adds to the overall durability and it will survive falls without a hitch. It’s also a good option if your budding child land viewer has graduated from their kids’ telescope and is ready for a better challenge.
Utilize this scope if you want crisp images, a lightweight but stable construction, and durable parts.
9. Best for Mid-Level Watchers — Gosky 20-60×80 Spotting Scope
Gosky 20-60×80 Spotting Scope
This one’s ideal for outdoorsy wildlife observers. Waterproof and fogproof!
To be honest, telescopes are not specifically designed for terrestrial viewing. So, if you’re past the beginner phase, a top-grade spotting scope can be a better option.
The Gosky 20-60×80 Spotting scope offers a multi-coated 80 mm objective lens and 20-60x magnification at an affordable price. The BAK4 Porro prism optics ensures crisp images and better light transmission.
The scope also has a wide field of view which makes it great for landscape screening. If you’re a sports fan, this is a great device to carry along as the portability is excellent. Even with a viewing distance of 200 yards, the image quality remains sharp.
In addition, the device is waterproof and fog-proof which makes it ready for the rough outdoors. It has a solid build quality with a rubber armor. The package also includes a smartphone digiscoping adapter and a tabletop tripod.
10. Best for Bird Watching Pros — Nikon Monarch Fieldscope 82ED
Nikon Monarch Fieldscope 82ED
A feature-rich product from a top brand that outclasses competition.
Monarch is a popular product range from Nikon. And while it comes at a premium price, you get exactly what you expect — optical quality that’s not just great but downright superb.
Once you take the scope in hand, you will notice the top-notch build quality. The angled body makes the scope more comfortable to use and the focus ring offers tactile touch for smooth operation. However, one flaw is the plastic eyepiece cover that feels cheap.
To be honest, the optical performance is outstanding in this price category. Nikon uses an Advanced Apochromat Optical System along with an 82 mm objective lens made from Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass. The result is vibrant imaging with minimum chromatic aberration. The clarity across the zoom range is excellent.
The 20-60x magnification range is perfect for a closer view of the colored feathers. Another great addition is the Optimized Focusing System which makes it easy to view objects from varying distances.
All in all, this is a high-end spotting scope from Nikon that any professional will enjoy using. You will love using it for bird watching or during a hunting trip.
11. Honorable Mention — Orion StarBlast II 4.5
Orion StarBlast II 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Telescope
Good option for those who want to dip their toes into both daytime or nighttime, land or star gazing.
The Orion Starblast II is a great choice when you are looking for a top-grade telescope for daytime as well as nighttime observations. The fact is, top-end telescopes are super expensive. However, this model strikes the right balance between superior optical quality and affordability.
The telescope comes with a 114 mm objective lens and a 4.5-inch diameter reflector tube. That means it draws enough light to make good observations in low-light conditions. Since this is a Newtonian reflector, chromatic aberrations are also reduced.
Included in the kit are high-quality 25mm and 10mm Sirius Plossl eyepieces that deliver sharp images. It also comes with an equatorial mount with slow-motion controls. That means when you point it at the night sky, the star clusters and nebulae are distinctly visible.
This device will need some precise adjustments before you start using it. But considering the image quality, it is worth the effort. Besides, the convenient portability also makes it a good choice for a travel telescope.
What to Consider When Buying a Land Viewing Telescope
Make sure the telescope you’re looking at is designed for terrestrial use. While you can go land viewing with a scope that’s designed for celestial purposes, sometimes the lenses, magnification, or tripod set up aren’t optimal for land. Double-check that the item says “land,” “terrestrial,” or “daytime” use before you buy.
If you’re buying a telescope for a child, it will be a vastly different purchase than the one you buy for a skilled viewer. Make sure whatever you choose is designed for the appropriate age group. If you’re buying for a child, look for durability and ease of use at an affordable cost. If you’re buying for an expert, look for higher quality, more features, and better lenses.
By “practicality,” we mean how and where the scope will be used. Will you use it up on your roof, in which case it needs to be very light and with a stand designed for angles? Will you use it hiking through forested areas, in which case it needs to be portable and durable? Or will you use it in flat areas but want to take stellar photos of what you’re looking at? The “how” and “where” will make a big difference in your selection of telescope.
There are plenty of technical aspects to buying a telescope starting with magnification, objective lens diameter, and field of view. The magnification power depends on your requirements and larger lens diameter will allow more light to enter the lens. Then again, the weight and durability need to be considered too. Keep in mind, telescopes with larger objective lenses are heavier. Lastly, check the eye relief to ensure better viewing comfort. The minimum eye relief required should be around 15 mm.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is land viewing?
Land viewing is basically exactly what it sounds like—viewing the land around you through a telescope. These scopes can be used in bird watching, studying flora in an area, or looking close-up at boats that are far away on the ocean. Any time you want to have a closer, detailed look at the environment around you via a telescope or even binoculars, that’s land viewing.
What is a refractor telescope and why are land viewing scopes different from celestial?
Refractor telescopes, as opposed to reflector telescopes, use lenses as opposed to mirrors, respectively. They typically collect less light than reflector telescopes, making them ideal for daytime or land viewing, as you don’t need to try to collect the light of a far-off star to see it. They also typically have slightly clearer images than reflector telescopes.
Due to the different ways the two telescopes work, they’re optimized for their intended purpose. Land viewing telescopes have three lenses to view the image and then turn it right side up. Celestial telescopes have two lenses plus their mirrors to collect more light, and the image is usually upside down (that doesn’t matter so much when you’re just looking at stars).
Is land viewing a STEM activity?
It can be! If you want to turn land viewing into a STEM activity, either for yourself or your child, consider adding other elements. Take a local bird book to a park nearby and see how many different types of birds you can spot, then learn about their habits. You can also use land viewing to teach about types of architecture (engineering), rock formations (geology), or wind and wave patterns (environmental science). With a little ingenuity, the possibilities for turning land viewing into an educational STEM activity are practically endless.
Last update on 2024-02-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API