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Old Tuesday 13th December 2016, 20:02   #1
ailevin
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Opticron MM3 60 has landed in Redondo!

I've been tracking this Fedex package across the country for the past several days so I knew it could be "out for delivery" today. Not to get my hopes up, I assumed it would arrive late in the day or tomorrow. But about an hour ago I head a knock followed by the thump of a box dropped against the door. Of course this is Christmas season, so packages are arriving continuously as my wife orders and wraps gifts for kids and grandchildren. But the box at the door had my name on it and it was from North Carolina, home of Opticron!

My first impression was that the box was much too light to contain my new spotting scope. It felt more like a premium eyepiece that had been over packaged. Inside the box was a small box surrounded by plastic peanuts and inside the small box was the scope body in a bubble warp sleeve and the eyepiece in its own small box. The accessories consist of caps for both ends of scope and both ends of eyepiece and a modest instruction booklet with warranty card.

The scope is petite and I was surprised that the eyepiece seemed rather hefty, relative to the scope body. Perhaps a better way to put it is that the eyepiece is much more dense than the scope body. When assembled the MM3 60 still seems vey light and notwithstanding my first impression of the eyepiece, the assembly is well balanced. BTW the eyepiece is the HDF T Zoom.

I put it on a rather ancient Celestron Photographic Tripod. It is rather light weight and has a pan head that is spring loaded in altitude. I've used it to mount small telescopes and binoculars in the past, and it was handy. I already had my Televue Oracle set up so I was able to do a quick side by side comparison (The Oracle is a 3" triplet refractor with 560mm focal length and I'm using a Williams Optics erecting prism and 8-24 Televue Zoom eyepiece.)

The view through the MM3 was beautiful--very nice snap to focus, good focus across the entire field of view, nice color balance, good control of CA. At similar magnification, the Opticron zoom eyepiece has noticeably wider field of view than my Televue 8-24 zoom. Of course, since the MM3 goes down to 15x it has a much wider field of view than the 3" telescope with minimum magnification of 23x. The larger telescope seems brighter, but I think I prefer the color balance in the Opticron, perhaps there is a difference in how coatings are optimized for night vs. day viewing, or perhaps the new scope is pristine and clean, or ... The MM3 keeps up well on resolution as magnification is increased up to 45x, though perhaps the edges get very slightly soft at the very limit of 45x. Given my current viewing location, atmospheric effects, and quick look, this is not a truly critical test.

I like the ergonomics of the MM3, the dual speed focus is a nice feature though frankly at this magnification range it seem slightly like overkill. However, I am an inexperienced birder, so who knows. The zoom mechanism works well as does the twist up eyecup. The eyepiece is not parfocal throughout its zoom so you must refocus as you change magnification, but that is true of the Televue zoom as well. The performance differences between the two tripods was much more obvious that the optical differences between the telescopes. The Oracle in on a sturdy pair of legs (Bogen 3046) with an astronomical alt/az mount that has tensioned Teflon bearings on both axes. The motion is smooth and precise and whether you kick a tripod leg, or tap the telescope, the vibration damps out instantly. Not so the tripod under the MM3. OTH, the Oracle on its tripod and mount weighs over 20 lb, while I would guess the MM3 on the Celestron tripod is more like 8-10lb.

After my first viewing session, I think I prefer having the lower magnification range of the MM3 to have higher magnification in the Oracle. In other words, having 15-23x is worth giving up 46-70x at least for general purpose looking around. Obviously both low power wide field views, and high power detailed views have their application.

Breaking News: I just had a Goodyear Blimp fly by and I quickly moved the Oracle out of the way so I could easily reposition the Opticron to track the blimp at low power and then zoom in when it paused over the pier. Wow, moving the bigger scope and tripod was a wrestling match and the smaller lightweight setup was a pleasure.

Loving this little scope so far.

Alan
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Old Thursday 15th December 2016, 17:45   #2
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Old Friday 23rd December 2016, 19:45   #3
ailevin
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Well, I've spent a week with my little MM3 60mm spotting scope, and I am very happy with it. It is definitely a keeper. I ordered an inexpensive ($90) Zomei 4 section aluminum tripod with adjustable tension ball head that also has a pan base. I'm surprised at how well this relatively compact support system works with the scope; the whole combo, tripod/head/scope/eyepiece weighs only 5-6lb. Because of poor weather most of my viewing has been from a covered balcony and I am viewing seabirds and mammals at a distances of 200-400 yards.

I enjoy the relatively wide view at 15x and find myself using the MM3 more and my binoculars less from home these days. When I only had the 76mm refractor, I did more binocular viewing and would training the refractor on an interesting subject only occasionally. With the MM3, I can scan much more effectively both because of wider apparent field and lower magnification. Also, I often see something interesting the the wider background of the bird(s) I am studying, and I'm able to quickly shift my attention as well as the scope to the new subject.

I really cannot find anything to criticize with regard to the optics. I view mostly at 15x-30x with relatively rarer excursions to the full magnification of 45x. My prejudice from astronomical observing is that I like to use the lowest magnification that will allow me to tease out the detail I want to see. I view without glasses, but there is plenty of eye relief.

The little scope is well balanced and easy to control. My only mechanical complaint is that the threads to attach the eyepiece to the scope body seem a bit rougher than I would have expected, but I see there is an O-ring seal and the assembled scope is solid and tight with smooth focus, fine focus, zoom, and eyecup adjustment.

I am trying to figure out what if anything to do about a case. I don't think I want the form fitting cover that stays on the scope, yet I can't bring myself to just dump it in a backpack either. I think I would like something like a long lens case or a short tripod case for transport, or perhaps just a heavy felt sock. In the field I could just carry the scope on the tripod over my shoulder. I am not a backpacker, so I would not be expecting to trek long distances this gear.

Once I live with this setup a bit, I will decide whether and how to upgrade my support system in terms of functionality, weight, stability, and compactness.

All in all a big thumbs up for the Opticron MM3 60mm.

Alan
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Old Friday 30th December 2016, 21:10   #4
ailevin
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I'm still enjoying my MM3 60. I dutifully repackaged both scope and Zomei travel tripod so that SO could wrap them for Christmas and I could unwrap them in presence of children and grandchildren.

I continue to be happy with the ball head tripod for my application--watching shore and seabirds at a distance. I am rarely looking very far off the horizontal. Since the ball portion of the head has two tension adjustments, I can set a minimum tension which allows me to be less precise in loosening the "ball lock tension." I keep the ball tension a bit greater than the resistance of the pan motion so the ball motion is predominantly altitude and the azimuth motion is from the pan at the base of the head. Pointing the scope higher (>45 degree altitude) for some astronomical observing was less comfortable because of 45 degree eyepiece angle and more fiddly because greater tension is necessary to hold the scope far off it's balance point.

Tripod legs with four sections are a good compromise for me of compactness and convenience. Mechanism of tripod (locks, joints, center post adjustment, reverse leg folding for compactness) are all working well and Zomei continues to make a good impression for workmanship at low price. All in all this is a good starter setup up for me to see what I need before making large investments in legs and head.

I went to the fabric store and bought a fleece remnant to create a multifold sock for the telescope before I put it in my backpack. The tripod rides folded and strapped below the pack near where the shoulder straps are attached.

My field excursions have been limited to walking several blocks to a local sea wall or pier but the whole system is easy to transport/setup and works well in the field. I use it mostly at low power 15x-25x, but when I want to zoom in for detail the image holds up extremely well up to 45x. Of course at smaller exit pupil, the image is dimmer, laws of physics and all that, but it certainly is not empty magnification at 45x, nor do I see any bad behavior popping up optically. It seems like the perfect complement to my 8x32 binocular. I wish the eyepiece cover had a loop to keep it on the scope like the objective cover (another small project or internet scavenger hunt). Of course I could wish for more field of view or broader range of zoom, but it seems to me that Opticron made an outstanding set of design decisions and I am very happy with the product.

BTW, Santa also brought a GoSky Digiscoping adapter, but unfortunately the adapter is too small for the large diameter Opticron zoom eyepiece, so it will have to be exchanged.

Happy New Year.

Alan
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Old Sunday 8th January 2017, 21:42   #5
ailevin
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Had my first official "birding" event yesterday when I met up with some local birders at the Ballona Wetlands just North of me. I spent the first part of the visit using just my binoculars (8x32 Sightron) and learning a great deal about plants and animals there, particularly birds. I was using my new RYO ulta-light harness as just a binoculars strap. Then I went back to the car and got my Opticron MM3 60. This was the first off road experience with the tripod/scope combination and I reported on it here.

This was a different viewing experience for me, because several times I was using the scope at relatively close range, under 50 yards, where I found it very important to have binoculars and scope working together effectively. I liked having the 45 degree scope a a comfortable height, but well below my sight line so I could use the binoculars over it. Also, my first experience with the RYO harness used as a harness was pretty impressive as well. It was comfortable, but that is not such a great challenge with these 8x32 binoculars that are in the 17-19 oz range. I really enjoyed not having a swinging binocular as I switched from scope to eyeballs or bioncular to scope, and the binocular was always at the ready for a quick switch. I was impressed enough, that I have already ordered another harness so I have one for the binoculars in the car, and several more sets of clips so I can easily switch binoculars between the harnesses.

The view through the scope is very pleasing and the penalty for bringing it along is quite low. I was expecting to use it like I use it at home to view water birds at a distance, but it was also effective at shorter distances, and especially for a novice birder learning markings and relative proportions. There is a saying among amateur astronomers that I'm sure is echoed by birders, "the best telescope is the one most used." Excellent optical performance, light weight, and compactness make this little scope very useful.

Alan
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Old Saturday 4th February 2017, 04:31   #6
ailevin
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Just a quick follow up post. My MM3 60mm spotting scope is getting daily use at home to view sea birds on the nearby channel. I have packed away my larger APO refractor and use the little MMA3 both at home and in the field.

One very helpful gadget that I recently discovered is the collapsible cable tie sight. With this sight I can easily get my little scope pointed at birds on the wing even in a relatively open sky or without easy guide posts. It has really changed how I use my angled spotter.

Alan
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