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Old Tuesday 8th December 2009, 16:48   #1
GARoss
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Starter spotting scope recommendation help wanted

My wife & I are very new to birding & I want to purchase a starter spotting scope for her for Xmas. The thing is, I don't see us going into the field where we'd need a very powerful scope. You see, we have a feeder near our back porch that's about 20' (6-7 meters) away so the vast majority of our viewing would require a short near focus. See photos in my 1st (posthttp://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=158272)
I received a recommendation, at the Hello section of this forum, suggesting a Celestron Ultima 65 - 45° Spotting Scope. http://www.celestron.com/c3/product....=84&ProdID=197 The spec of this says it has a near focus range of 15-20' which would be prefect. Others in this series have a near focus of 27ft @ 20x (80) & 33ft @ 23x (100) so they might be too powerful for around the house but better in the field.
Celestron also makes a C90 Mak Spotting Scope that has a near focus of 20' that is more expensive but within my budget. http://www.celestron.com/c3/product....=87&ProdID=203 It has a look more like a true telescope than a spotting scope.
From what I've read, neither of these are state of the art but we're retired & on a budget so what other alternatives if not these?
Please post with your thoughts!
George


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Old Tuesday 8th December 2009, 17:18   #2
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Do you have binoculars already? These are the first must, and something like an 8 x 40 pair are ideal for bird watching. If the budget is restricted a Porro prism pair (traditional z shape) is likely to have better optics than roof prisms (these have a straight viewing tubes) on a like-for-like budget.

Swift make some really good optics for a good price. In the UK they market the Swift Reliant scope, with a 12-24 x zoom lens, and 60mm objective, available for about £120. Waterproof and good clear optics.

see here Link I'm sure these must be available in the US of A too?

I use Swift Ultralight binoculars, my wife has Opticron (both 8 x 42 porro) I use a big 80mm Opticron scope with 20-60 zoom, and my wife the very compact and light Swift scope I mention above...

good luck
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Old Tuesday 8th December 2009, 17:46   #3
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I had the opportunity to look through Ultima 65 with its zoom eyepiece (geese and white-tailed eagles from 300-500 m) - it works quite reasonable if you don't use high magnifications. Anyway even at it's maximum x55 one can see far much more than without the scope ;-)
But use a scope from 6-7 meters? Do you want to study bird anatomy in details? Or maybe you want some low mag scope for digiscoping? In my opinion for observations a good pair of binos should be OK.
Anyway, Mak has this disadvantage that it is hard to obtain less mag that x38. From the distance of 7 meters it if far too much, in my opinion (it is like looking on a bird from... some 19 cm). So if you really need a scope for that particular use - I would reccomend Ultima over Mak.
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Old Tuesday 8th December 2009, 19:05   #4
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I would consider the binocular option, but on a tripod. You would have a far more enjoyable view of your birdfeeder for that kind of distance, and not so tiring for your eyes.

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Old Tuesday 8th December 2009, 21:41   #5
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Originally Posted by R.B. View Post
From the distance of 7 meters it if far too much, in my opinion (it is like looking on a bird from... some 19 cm). So if you really need a scope for that particular use - I would reccomend Ultima over Mak.
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Originally Posted by Rui_Caratão View Post
I would consider the binocular option, but on a tripod. You would have a far more enjoyable view of your birdfeeder for that kind of distance, and not so tiring for your eyes.

best regards,

Rui
Points well taken.
We do own some low cost binoculars but it's hard to hold the steady. The image quality is soft & dark no matter where the zoom is set.
I think I over stated needing 6-7 meter range. Scopes do what they do & I'm just beginning to learn that.
We own several acres with a good size pond on it. Every year a Blue Herring (we're wondering if it's the same one!) hunts frogs there! So, that's in the 50-75 meter range. I'd love to get a good look at that.
We have all kinds of wild life but mainly deer that graze in the back portion of the lot (not mowed) so there's at least 100 meters; & their fawns are small, too.
We've had as many as 30-40 wild turkeys feeding with the males strutting about. And, turkey vultures glide above an open lot behind us & occasionally land in our yard.
Anyway, we'd like to get a better look at them! So, maybe 6-7 meters is not reasonable. Celestron makes an 80 & 100 mm version that's in our budget, too. The 100mm is said to be much brighter. I like the Celestron warranty as well. I do have a heavy duty tripod. And, I think the angled type would be best because of our height difference. She's 4' 10 (1.5 M & I'm 6' (1.8 M). Looks like our budget has moved up to 200-300 USD.
Thanks for your views & looking for more!
George
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Old Tuesday 8th December 2009, 23:03   #6
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Never tried them myself, but the Vortex/Stokes Sandpiper and Alpen 788 have both been well reviewed and are under $500. Here's a chart reviewing some lower priced scopes: http://www.birdwatching.com/optics/2...hart_main.html

Best,
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Old Tuesday 8th December 2009, 23:37   #7
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I think for feeder use I'd prefer something in the "butterfly" category. I just picked up a pair of Swift Eaglet 7x36 on the famous bidding site and they are magnificent feeder binoculars.

But the suggestion of a tripod is good, especially if you have table suitably located for something like a Bushnell shooter's stand.
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Old Tuesday 8th December 2009, 23:48   #8
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If you are not leaving the comfort of your porch or won't be toting it long distances out in inclement weather, the C90 is an EXCELLENT choice. Buy it for $159 from this reputable Ebay seller including a tripod. Use the Bing Cashback search engine to save another 8% too.

If you can afford to spend more then the Celestron C5 Spotting scope #52291, http://www.celestron.com/c3/product.php?ProdID=207

Nothing will be brighter or give you better views. Again, if you use the Bing Cashback search engine and purchase through a reputable Ebay seller, you should be able to be able to get it for ~$400.

happy holidays,
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Old Wednesday 9th December 2009, 06:29   #9
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I agree that for such 'static' use C90 Mak will be much more reasonable choice than Ultimas and other cheap glass. One should also point some disadvantages of this reflector.
1 - you can hardly find any reasonable eyepiece with focal length longer than the one you obtained together with the scope. That means that x38 seems to be the minimum mag you can get. That scope is designed rather for mag 100 not 20! One advantage of this construction - on high mag the clarity of the image is unbeatable by any other scope in reasonable price.
2 - narrow field of view! As minimum mag is x38 the max field of view is mere 22m/1000m. Ultima 80 at x20 has 32m/1000m... The 22m is typical for x50 on good wide angle eyepieces.

Anyway still in my opinion c90 is pretty good choice for the price.
But C5 has all the advantages and disadvantages of C90 almost doubled! It means that except for its huge aperture what makes it pretty bright the min mag seems to be x50... and max field of view is... 16m/1000m. Well, it depends on personal taste but I would recommend some dose of scepticism when considering purchasing one. This is really a high magnification scope. If you really need it - it is perfect.
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Old Wednesday 9th December 2009, 10:14   #10
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Thanks for your views & looking for more!
George
Here are some more comparison reviews which include a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of using astronomy scopes for birding (one from 2002 and one from 2008):

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAbou...opes/sc_review

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/NetComm...x?pid=1039#top

The Celestron models tested do not receive high praise in these reviews, though the reviews focus on higher end scopes.

Best,
Jim
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Old Wednesday 9th December 2009, 15:19   #11
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Wow...you guys are great! C90 pushes the envelope but might be the only scope we'll ever need.
Another thing I'd like to mention is please don't think we'll never go into the field for some REAL watching. Our back porch has been a teaser of sorts that make us long for more. We're hooked! And, I should of known that we could easily become watchers when we get so excited seeing wildlife at the many national parks here in the US.
Thanks to all!
George
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Old Wednesday 9th December 2009, 18:18   #12
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No scope - good binoculars!

The best thing you can do is forget about the scope and get a nice pair of binoculars, and none with a zoom. You may find that for what you want to do, a scope isn't necessary. As a counter at a hawk watch, I encounter many people with poor binoculars who assume that what they need is higher magnification because they can't see what I'm seeing. When I show them the view through mine, which is often less magnification than what they already have, they understand. 8x magnification is great for all around birding, 7x, too.
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Old Thursday 10th December 2009, 12:55   #13
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Fiftheen years ago, when I started doing birdwatching, my first pair of binoculars were some old 20x50 binoculars with uncoated lens, I had a lot of magnification but I couldn´t really see much of the birds details, and as Capemay said, I thought my problem was lack of magnification,..... so I dreamed on having a spotting scope!!!!
Then a friend of myne let me see through is 10x50 binos, and I realised how much detail I was missing.

Since then I have been decreasing my binoculars magnification, and currently I use 8x42 lens, and they provide me 400% more better views of birds than my first ones.
The scope I just use it 5% of my birding time, to count Griffon vultures, Blackstorks nests at long distances, to read color rings, etc... 95% of the fun is done with binos.

Before buying anithyng, consider, and try some mid-good bino optics (Multicoated or even Fully multicoated lens, Bak- 4 prizms, etc.)..... and then if you still think that you really need is a scope, go out and buy one
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Old Thursday 10th December 2009, 16:12   #14
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Fiftheen years ago, when I started doing birdwatching, my first pair of binoculars were some old 20x50 binoculars with uncoated lens, I had a lot of magnification but I couldn´t really see much of the birds details, and as Capemay said, I thought my problem was lack of magnification,..... so I dreamed on having a spotting scope!!!!
Then a friend of myne let me see through is 10x50 binos, and I realised how much detail I was missing.

Since then I have been decreasing my binoculars magnification, and currently I use 8x42 lens, and they provide me 400% more better views of birds than my first ones.
The scope I just use it 5% of my birding time, to count Griffon vultures, Blackstorks nests at long distances, to read color rings, etc... 95% of the fun is done with binos.

Before buying anithyng, consider, and try some mid-good bino optics (Multicoated or even Fully multicoated lens, Bak- 4 prizms, etc.)..... and then if you still think that you really need is a scope, go out and buy one
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Old Thursday 10th December 2009, 18:28   #15
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Have a look at binoculars.com and/or telescopes.com. A US site that tends to have some good deals/prices. Suspect that you may well be aware of them.

I bought the small Bushnell scope through them and have been quite pleased with it. Cannot recall the exact name of it an cannot lay my hands on it but it was about $120. I think Opticron do a similar one called a mighty midget.

Been pleased with it, I know there are better but the cost of this was good and all I wanted was something with more magnification then my binoculars. This has a 25x eyepiece and a zoom eyepiece giving something like 15-30 or 35.

They will have others, several others, by diffrerent makers and a range of prices.
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Old Thursday 10th December 2009, 21:47   #16
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As suggested I read Scope Quest 2008 by Ken Rosenberg. In the budget scopes he was very impressed with a Vixen Geoma II 67mm Spotting Scope & several other Vixen products. I can't find much @ this site about this scope & was hoping some here might have an opinion on it. Another thing I'm learning is they don't come with an eyepiece. Adding a Vixen GLH-48 make this in the mid 500s @ Eagle Optics.
This is 200 more than a Celestron 65ED though I can't find much on it either other than it is mediocre at best.
Another budget minded scope Rosenberg liked was a Vortex Skyline 20-60x80 Angled Spotting Scope. This comes with an eyepiece for 100 less than the Vixen.
Scopes from Brunton, Bushnell & Leupoid all, according to Rosenburg, were out classed by the Vixen & Vortex in this price class.
Anyway, please feel free to add your thoughts.
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Old Friday 11th December 2009, 11:50   #17
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As suggested I read Scope Quest 2008 by Ken Rosenberg. In the budget scopes he was very impressed with a Vixen Geoma II 67mm Spotting Scope & several other Vixen products. I can't find much @ this site about this scope & was hoping some here might have an opinion on it. Another thing I'm learning is they don't come with an eyepiece. Adding a Vixen GLH-48 make this in the mid 500s @ Eagle Optics.
This is 200 more than a Celestron 65ED though I can't find much on it either other than it is mediocre at best.
Another budget minded scope Rosenberg liked was a Vortex Skyline 20-60x80 Angled Spotting Scope. This comes with an eyepiece for 100 less than the Vixen.
Scopes from Brunton, Bushnell & Leupoid all, according to Rosenburg, were out classed by the Vixen & Vortex in this price class.
Anyway, please feel free to add your thoughts.
I think most of us are in the same boat with you regarding the Vixen -- we don't know much about it, but I did find them for sale here: http://www.eagleoptics.com/spotting-scopes/vixen

The vortex scope most strongly recommended in that review is the Vortex/Stokes Sandpiper. However, it has been discontinued, unfortunately, and may no longer be available. The Skyline is a good scope (view is quite good at low mags but poor at high zoom though, like most low-priced scopes), but the Alpen mentioned in my other post outperformed it in the other review: http://www.birdwatching.com/optics/2...copes2009.html

These are more traditional types of scopes for birders than some of the astro scopes discussed above. The astro scopes aren't waterproof and some are bulky/heavy, so birders who are in the field a lot usually prefer traditional spotting scopes.

Best,
Jim
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Old Friday 11th December 2009, 15:00   #18
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Finally made a decision & went with a Nikon ProStaff 16-48x65mm Angled @ Adorama. http://www.nikonsportoptics.com/Prod...mm-Angled.html I hope it's a good product for the $$$ (low to mid 300 delivered). It seems to be a scope that can be used in so many ways; targeting (though I'm not a hunter!), astronomy, nature & birding & can be adapted for photography which I hope to do. The near focus of 4 meters is in range of our feeder & it still has a range good for distance, too. The Vixen would of been about 550 & a Vortex about 450 with similar features. I realize the overall quality would be better but they qualify for the next scope. I though the Celestron's were all over the place as they offer a lot of models. I saw & read of their value but not their quality. I thought the Nikon was a fair balance of both.
I post an update once Santa arrives on the 25th!
Thanks to everyone for their help!
George
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Old Friday 11th December 2009, 15:13   #19
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Finally made a decision & went with a Nikon ProStaff 16-48x65mm Angled @ Adorama. http://www.nikonsportoptics.com/Prod...mm-Angled.html I hope it's a good product for the $$$ (low to mid 300 delivered). It seems to be a scope that can be used in so many ways; targeting (though I'm not a hunter!), astronomy, nature & birding & can be adapted for photography which I hope to do. The near focus of 4 meters is in range of our feeder & it still has a range good for distance, too. The Vixen would of been about 550 & a Vortex about 450 with similar features. I realize the overall quality would be better but they qualify for the next scope. I though the Celestron's were all over the place as they offer a lot of models. I saw & read of their value but not their quality. I thought the Nikon was a fair balance of both.
I post an update once Santa arrives on the 25th!
Thanks to everyone for their help!
George
My only concern about the scope would be if you wear glasses. I have never tried the scope, but some reviews suggest the 80mm version has little in the way of "eye relief", which means you may have difficulty seeing the whole field of view unless you take your glasses off.

Let us know how you make out and hope you have a good holiday.

Best,
Jim
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Old Friday 11th December 2009, 15:17   #20
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The Sandpiper can't be 'had' anyplace ....so not an option. The Vixen has good quality but you will have to remember that with that scope you need to also order an eyepiece with it, not just the scope. So add that to the cost. Bushnell makes some excellent starter scopes. Try the Legend series which is step up from the Sentry. You should be happy with that for what you do.
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Old Friday 11th December 2009, 16:46   #21
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My only concern about the scope would be if you wear glasses. I have never tried the scope, but some reviews suggest the 80mm version has little in the way of "eye relief", which means you may have difficulty seeing the whole field of view unless you take your glasses off.

Let us know how you make out and hope you have a good holiday.

Best,
Jim
The discription notes that it is glasses friendly. I need glasses for reading, though they do improve my overall vision as well. My wife, however, needs them full time. I will post & let everyone know & Happy Holidays to you as well!
George
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Old Friday 11th December 2009, 16:58   #22
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The Sandpiper can't be 'had' anyplace ....so not an option. The Vixen has good quality but you will have to remember that with that scope you need to also order an eyepiece with it, not just the scope. So add that to the cost. Bushnell makes some excellent starter scopes. Try the Legend series which is step up from the Sentry. You should be happy with that for what you do.
Thanks, but too late! I purchased a Nikon ProStaff 16-48x65mm Angled today.
I had pretty much decided to go with the Vixen but the extra cost of the eyepiece was the deal breaker. I understand most serious birders would prefer it that way so they can tailor their eyepiece quality to their viewing needs. But, we are new to this & at this point, not sure how serious we'll get in the future. We're planning a vacation to Yellowstone National Park next summer so we'll make go use of it there.
So, for now, the Nikon is the one. I hope it's good!
George
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Old Friday 11th December 2009, 18:57   #23
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Well I'm glad you've found something. Happy watching!
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Old Friday 11th December 2009, 20:14   #24
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Great scope for the price. Enjoy
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Old Thursday 17th December 2009, 17:55   #25
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My scope arrived yesterday but Santa doesn't until the 25th! I also added what I hope are some good books to start us off in the right direction;

The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America
National Audubon Society North America Birdfeeder Guide
National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Fifth Edition


Just off hand I'd think one would need to commit much to memory in order to use the reference books quickly in the field. Any tips?
George
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