I have looked through a handful of different ones over the past several years and they range in quality from poor to WOW that looks great and everywhere in between. Of course the prices range as well and I know you usually get what you pay for. Is it possible to get a spotting scope that won't be a disappointment with only $500?
For example is the Leupold 20-60x60 SX-2 Alpine HD going to be a waste of my money?
For under 500 I'd say all are similar to about mid power range... in your example 40x will be about top of the usable mag range, from my experience.
Maven’s midrange scope CS.1 - 15-45X65 is $650 and I would put It much higher then the Alpine HD. I would still caution you to look for maybe used (Swaro, Lecia, kowa, Zeiss) for a few hundred more