We love optics here at Backwoods Pursuit, so getting to do this SX-5 Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope review was a real treat. When you are trying to decide what the best spotting scope is for your needs, there’s simply nothing better than getting to put it to the test in the field side by side with a number of other spotting scopes. When next to each other, you can really start to see the differences. But when does anyone have tons of different spotting scopes at once to literally compare them all to each other?
Amazingly, that’s exactly what we got the chance to do for this series of spotting scope reviews. Our goal for this project was to find the best compact spotting scope, 65 mm class spotting scope, 85 mm class spotting scope, as well as the best values in each of the categories. Make sure you check out all of the other spotting scope reviews here on our website as well as over on the Backwoods Pursuit YouTube Channel!
Want to see how the Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope performed next to 18 of the best spotting scopes on the market? Check out our MASSIVE SPOTTING SCOPE REVIEW where we lined up 19 of the best spotting scopes we could find and put them to the test. All side by side with volunteer testers, no brand loyalties (at least as much as humanly possible), many lighting conditions, and 14 guys ranking these things. What an awesome project to put together! This review is a product of over 2 years of work, research, and testing. You don’t want to miss this!
Dive into the details on every one of the spotting scopes in the review above by becoming a Backwoods Pursuit Member (TOTALLY FREE) and you can download the data we used to put together this review.
Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope: Known Quality
Leupold Optics has been around a long time and has a long history of producing some great optics. The Leupold Santiam SX5 spotting scope is Leupold’s top of the line spotter and gives you the same quality you’ve come to expect from Leupold Optics.
Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope Review: The Testing
As mentioned, this SX-5 Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope review was a part of the huge review we did with 18 other scopes, but we also wanted to go into more detail on what the Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope had to offer than we could provide in that article.
Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope Review: SX-5 Specs
The SX-5 Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope features a large 80 mm objective lens that gathers a ton of light for great low light performance. Make sure to see how the Leupold SX-5 Santiam stacked up against the competition in our “Best Spotting Scope For Hunting” review!
Here are some of the specs of the Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope:
- 27-55x eyepiece
- 80 mm objective lens
- Barrel focus system
- ED Glass
- Sun shade
- Twist up multi-position eyepiece
- Weight: 68.7 oz
- 16.6-19.2 mm eye relief
- Rubber armor
- Angled or Straight options
- Assembled in USA
- Price: $1,799
Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope Review: ED Glass
The Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope features Leupold’s top of the line ED glass. While it doesn’t quite compete with the fluorite glass you get in the “alpha” optics, it gives you very nice clarity in the image, colors, and brightness. In practical hunting situations, you likely don’t “need” the extra boost fluorite glass gives you, but our group did notice a performance difference between spotting scopes that had it and the ones that didn’t.
SX-5 Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope Review: The Eyepiece
The Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope features a multi-position click stop eyepiece that is very comfortable and offers nice, crisp clicks with very minimal play showing the quality you’d expect from Leupold Optics. While the Leupold SX-5 Santiam eyepiece wasn’t my absolute favorite of ALL the spotting scopes we tested in our massive spotting scope review, it was very comfortable and functioned very well. The multiple positions of the eyepiece has enough resistance to keep the eyepiece in place inside your pack, and has a nice comfortable rubber coating.
Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope Review: Barrel Focus System
The Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope barrel focus system features a very nice barrel focus system that our group of testers loved. It ranked very well in this department as the focus mechanism is a fast focus setup that allows you to quickly refocus on the object you are looking at if you need to. It also held its focus well throughout the full magnification range (when moving from low to high magnification) requiring very little fine tuning after zooming in. This is a very handy feature when trying to catch that elusive critter heading into the timber rather than wasting time focusing your optic instead of sizing up the trophy.
Like the rest of the Leupold Optics, the Santiam SX-5 Spotting Scope is extremely well-built and looks incredibly sharp. The grip of the barrel focus is very comfortable and there was no notable play that our group of testers noticed. The barrel focus functionality was an area the Santiam SX-5 excelled in during our testing.
On that note, our group consensus was that the barrel focus system in general, even the silky-smooth barrel focus of the exponentially more expensive Swarovski ATX, made fine tuning the focus at high magnification more difficult than the dual focus system of the Kowa TSN Spotting Scopes or the Athlon Cronus Spotting Scope. Most of the group commented that the dual focus system was the preferred design.
Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope Review: Weight/Body Construction
The Leupold Santiam spotting scope features a fantastic rubber armor to protect your investment, and it makes it look super sharp as well. You also get a very nice rotating collar to make downhill viewing easier if you use the angled version. It feels really well-built all the way around.
Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope Review: Image Clarity/Low Light Performance
With the ED glass featured in the Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope, you are getting a high quality image and good low light performance. The image the Leupold Santiam gives you is nice and clear with very good image resolution and color contrast. As mentioned before, there was a notable difference between optics that were more expensive (like the Maven S1.A and Kowa TSN 773) and the Leoupold Santiam SX-5 fell short of their performance, but fell about in line within its price point. It did, however, beat out the Vortex Razor HD by a large margin, the other competitor in its price category.
Low light performance of the Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope is an area it didn’t quite perform up to our hopes. It received the same number of 4th place votes as the Vortex Razor HD, but given the higher price point vs the Razor, we all hoped for a little better low light performance. The Santiam SX-5 lost its ability to resolve the image a bit faster than hoped for. It wasn’t bad of course and we are being nit-picky here. It’ll do more than you need in most hunting situations.
Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope Review: Edge-to-Edge Clarity
The edge-to-edge clarity of the Leupold Santiam spotting scope is excellent and it performed well in this category. It tied with the Maven S1.A for 2nd place, which is impressive given that it comes in at $300 less. We did notice some loss of clarity toward the outer edges, but nothing significant. While it decisively came in behind the Kowa TSN 773 in the edge-to-edge clarity category from the group’s rankings, it is an excellent top performer. There was very little notable loss of image clarity from the center of the field of view all the way to the outermost edges.
The Leupold SX-5 Santiam HD offers a good amount of “forgiveness” if you will, in the eyepiece. By that I mean that you don’t have to have your eye positioned perfectly to get the full field of view. Some spotting scopes, particularly less expensive models, tend to have less forgiveness and require perfect eye placement to use it, especially at full magnification. This was not so with the Leupold SX-5 Santiam HD.
Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope review: Chromatic Aberration
The Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope did have a bit of chromatic aberration that our team picked out. Edges of snowy banks transitioning to brown dirt, the outline of a tree leaf from 1000+ yards away, were clear but did have a little of that haze around them. It was plenty crisp for almost all of your big game hunting needs, but this was an area it wasn’t quite as good as more expensive spotting scopes, but again it far outperformed the Vortex Razor.
Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope Review: Field of View
Throughout this Leupold Santiam review, we noted that it gives you a very good field of view. It offers the exact same field of view as the Sig Oscar8.
Here are the stats of the Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope vs. the competition that we tested:
- Athlon Cronus: 60 ft-117 ft
- Kowa TSN 883/773: 76 ft-138 ft
- Swarovski ATX 85: 68 ft-124 ft
- Meopta Meostar WA: 68.8 ft-146 ft
- Maven S1A: 83.3 ft-115.2 ft
- Sig Oscar8: 73 ft-105 ft
- Leupold Santium SX-5: 73 ft-105 ft
Now, I understand each of these have slightly different low and high magnifications, so take that into consideration, but these are the manufacturer specs on each of them. Generally, the lower the magnification, the bigger field of view, and the higher the magnification, the smaller the field of view gets.
Leupold Santiam Review: What We liked
There was a lot to like about the Leupold Santiam SX-5 spotting scope. It’s a super good looking spotting scope that gives you performance right about in line with its price point, and being backed by Leupold’s guarantee, their great build quality, and long history of great customer service, you can buy with confidence. The overall clarity and edge-to-edge clarity were good, the eyepiece was comfortable, and the barrel focus had a super smooth mechanism. The price point was in line with its performance, and I loved the build quality.
- Smooth zoom mechanism
- Smooth barrel focus
- Build quality
- Edge-to-edge clarity
- Zoom mechanism
Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope Review: What We Didn’t Like
The Leupold Santiam SX-5 Spotting Scope had a few things we would have liked to seen a bit better. It’s definitely on the heavy side, especially given the fact that other 85 mm and 88 mm objectives weigh in less. It was also just a touch behind in overall image clarity and low light performance.
- Low light performance
- Overall image clarity
Leupold Optics Warranty
Leupold Optics offers a lifetime guarantee that is fully transferable. I’ve not had the need to test out their warranty, but it’s good to know that your purchase is backed by (what I hear to be) a great warranty. Leupold states that they don’t care where you bought it, they guarantee that it’ll perform. (Of course, intentional damage isn’t covered.) This is the kind of warranty I want standing behind my expensive optics purchase!
How The Leupold SX-5 Santiam Spotting Scope Ranked
Relative to Its Price Category
Low Light Performance
Edge to Edge Clarity
Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope Review: Conclusion
At the end of the day your budget will likely determine if you can make the plunge for something like the Leupold Santiam Spotting Scope, but if you can, it is worth the money. If you spend long hours behind glass and look to your optics to save you hiking or like to size up critters before you take off after them, then this spotting scope would be a huge benefit for you. If you don’t particularly need to see if an animal is a certain class, size, or age group, then you can likely get by just fine spending less on your spotter and putting the money elsewhere. That’s a call you have to make for yourself.
Subscribe to Backwoods Pursuit to get Your FREE Backcountry Gear Worksheet!!!
Dial in your gear list, calculate your pack weight, and lighten up your pack with this handy tool!