Angled or straight?
We don't mind expressng strong preference on this question. We think that for a birder, an angled scope is almost always better than a straight one.
With an angled scope, you look down into the eyepiece at about a 45-degree angle. It's the easy, natural way you look down at a magazine, or at your plate. And we think the angled scopes have the advantage for birding.
Here's why we prefer an angled scope
1) An angled scope can be mounted lower! A straight scope has to be mounted at the height of your eye, but an angled scope works with a shorter, lighter-weight tripod. That means it produces a steadier, less shaky image. This can make a huge difference in the wind.
2) It's easy to share the view! Because most scopes turn in the "waistband" around the middle, you can turn the scope to the side to let a shorter person look. And the image still looks right-side-up to them!
3) It's easier to look up! With a straight scope, you might have to get down on your knees to look up through the scope to see a bird in the top of a nearby tree. But with the angled scope, you just bend your head a little bit more, and bingo, there's your bird.
4) It's easier to look down, too! No climbing up on a chair to look into a scope that's pointing down over the edge of a bluff. No shortening the legs and losing your aim. Just point the scope and then rotate it to the side if the eyepiece is now higher than your eye.
5) Angled works better from a car! It has a larger arc of use. For example, on a car window mount, it lets you see further ahead and behind the car. With a straight scope, you have to cram your head up in the windshield to see to the rear of the car. And you have to put your head practically in the back seat to see far ahead. But with an angled scope, you can swing the scope to any position and then rotate the scope so that the eyepiece is convenient for your eye.
See some of our favorite birding scopes.