How much magnification is really usable in a spotting scope is open for debate. The exit pupil of most spotting scopes in small enough that a lot of light is necessary for them to be truly effective. A good set of 10x40mm binoculars has an exit pupil of 4mm, which is bright enough for almost any situation. A spotting scope with an 80mm objective lens has a 4mm exit pupil at 20X. Of course, such scopes go up to 60X, but the exit pupil is reduced to 1.3mm, so you'd better have plenty of light. Such scopes also weigh 40 ounces or more and are a foot and a half long.
It occurred to Burris' engineers that high country hunters would compromise magnification for field of view and portability. The firm's Landmark Compact Spotting Scope packs 20X magnification in a wonderfully light 14.5 ounce package. It's only seven inches in length and the 50mm objective lens offers a field of view of 152 feet at 1,000 yards. The exit pupil is 2.5mm which should be good enough for any but the darkest times. The eye relief is 3/5 inches and a fold-down eye cup accommodates eye glass wearers. The lenses are fully multicoated and the body is water resistant. The kit is complete with a table top tripod and carrying case. The Compact Spotter is priced at $120 ($152 with table top tripod). Contact Burris, Dept. RS, 331 East 8th Street, Greely, CO 80631, 970/356-1670, www.burrisoptics.com.