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Wildlife Spotting Scope

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Duluth, GA
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31 posts
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Wildlife Spotting Scope

I was thinking of purchasing a spotting scope for our upcoming trip to Costa Rica. I was wondering how powerful of one I would need for basic bird and animal watching. I was thinking of picking up one from ebay, but they range in price from $70 to $5,000.00. I don’t want to waste my time with a toy, but I am no professional either. I would also like to get one that would allow me to connect a digital camera or iphone.

Slovenia
Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
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12,093 posts
59 reviews
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1. Re: Wildlife Spotting Scope

For just spotting the wildlife binoculars are much better option. It is true that you will be able to make nice photos with a P&S camera through a scope ... but first you will need to find that elusive bird or sloth or monkey. For this you will need a guide, and every respectful guide will have her/his own telescope, and you will be able to use it for taking photos (or better, ask a guide to do it).

If deciding to get one (telescope) then be aware that even the most professional tend to get foggy due to high humidity levels. Amateur ones will not last long into your journey.

Chicago, Illinois
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633 posts
134 reviews
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2. Re: Wildlife Spotting Scope

I agree with Xelas. I have two sets of Binoculars, a small one for around my neck, when in transit, and a good powerful pair for observing (Heavy too in comparison)...they were most handy in Tortuguero, Cano Negro, Selva Verde, and the OSA Corcovado areas.

Costa Rica
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25,656 posts
26 reviews
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3. Re: Wildlife Spotting Scope

One of the issues with spotting scopes is actually finding and focusing on an animal and getting your camera set up before it moves! I have used a spotting scope and the people with me were "oohing" and "ahhing" over some beautiful bird while I was setting up the scope and finding the bird. Keep in mind, that with a spotting scope, you will probably need something sturdy for it - a tripod or just rest it on a branch. This tends to add to the complication.

There are many good binoculars that will give you a good view of an animal. I would rather use a good camera with zoom than the spotting scope/camera setup.

San Jose, Costa Rica
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45,169 posts
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4. Re: Wildlife Spotting Scope

In your case maybe good idea not to spend to much money on a scope...they are not cheap as you already know...a nice set of binoculars will do it,...or as Hattie mentioned the zoom in a good camera will work perfectly...

roadadvisor

Brooklyn, New York
Destination Expert
for Sarapiqui
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5,104 posts
119 reviews
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5. Re: Wildlife Spotting Scope

Spotting scopes are generally for professionals.

As an amateur, a good pair of waterproof binoculars (such as the Nikon Monarch 7294 8X42--my weapon of choice) can be had for under $300.

Additionally, a camera with a good zoom lens (e.g. 300mm or longer) with a DSLR will also work pretty well.

One thing to keep in mind is that the greater the magnification power of any device, the greater the shake factor if it's hand-held. Which is why zoom lenses for cameras that offer image stabilization are worth the money if you have it.

Edited: 10:56 am, January 09, 2013
Slovenia
Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
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12,093 posts
59 reviews
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6. Re: Wildlife Spotting Scope

Rac, not only that we share passion for Costa Rica, we also share Monarch binoculars! #7432 10x42 is my weapon of choice.

Mad,if going for long zoom and DSLR anything longer then 200 mm will require or excellent shooting technique or a tripod - later is much easier to acquire.

There are cameras that offers in-camera image stabilization, like Sony.

And lastly, new formats camera, like 3/4 have reached the quality of DX DSLR in much lighter package, excellent for travelers.

Brooklyn, New York
Destination Expert
for Sarapiqui
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5,104 posts
119 reviews
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7. Re: Wildlife Spotting Scope

My Canon 70/300 mm F4-5.6 IS USM works pretty well with its image stabilization. Not cheap, but a great lens for shooting wildlife that moves around pretty quickly and not nearly the luxury price that other lenses cost (some cost as much as a used car).

Edited: 1:55 pm, January 09, 2013
Slovenia
Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
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12,093 posts
59 reviews
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8. Re: Wildlife Spotting Scope

Ha, not brothers anymore, Rac! My Nikon 70-300 mm F4-5.6 VRII also works pretty well! Just joking. Fast lenses (F 2,8) are not only prohibitive expensive but also weights too much. Sadly not even the best IS (or VR) system can substitute a tripod when really sharp photos are needed. There is never enough light under the canopy to satisfy the 1/mm rule (lowest speed at 300 mm should be 0,300 sec). And on DX 300 mm = 450 mm. Well, now I really have to take the tripod on our next trip to Costa Rica.

Brooklyn, New York
Destination Expert
for Sarapiqui
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5,104 posts
119 reviews
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9. Re: Wildlife Spotting Scope

Problem with tripod, of course, is that the animals rarely stay still long enough to pose for a photo.

Tripod photo will always be clearer than a non-tripod photo, but IS can come really close, especially in good light.

There's no perfect lens for photographing wildlife. Especially if you have to lug it around the rainforest after paying for it.

I do find the camera lens useful for spotting far away animals and also ID'ing them later. The photos don't need to be gallery-worthy to help in that.

Texas
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for Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna de San Carlos
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153 reviews
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10. Re: Wildlife Spotting Scope

A lot of our guides have had scopes made by Swarovski, but I'm sure they don't come cheap. We just use binoculars when we go without a guide.