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First impression: Will Swarovski ATC be a gamechanger?

Swarovski ATC/STC 17-40x56

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I want to start this post by thanking so many of you for the insight, advice and subjective views that I am a frequent reader and beneficiary of. This is my first post onto the forum and there is a reason for that. I have noted the many posts in anticipation of the Swarovski ATC/STC 17-40x56 Scope, but no reviews. When I tried the ATC over the weekend and was told the sample was only one of two available in the UK and that there will be some time yet before the retailers have it, I felt I needed to share my impression.

I am a birder but also devote my time to nature conservation work for a charity. When the two go together as a Wetland Bird Surveyor (WeBS) here in the UK, I am not only the happiest but find the perfect excuse or reason to have gear that enable me to do my work better (or so I reason anyway).

Last Saturday I went to a Swarovski field event 2 hrs drive away to see if it is time for me to part ways with my darling Zeiss Victory Diascope TFL 85. I emailed Swarovski beforehand asking what they would have available to test. Primarily I was interested in the 95 ATX module as I had just replaced my 65 ATS with a 65 ATX. The setting was at a river estuary by the sea on the south coast. As promised, the whole product line up was available, scopes as well as binoculars.

The ATC looked slightly out of place on its tripod with its bigger siblings lined up beside it, like a pistol on a gun shooting range. It reminded me of the time I had a Minox MD50 as a travelling scope and visited birding sites where others had their bigger gear aiming for birds. I felt a bit misplaced then.

But I quickly overcame my memories was immediately drawn to the ATC . I was amazed by the view at 17x, very bright and sharp to the edges with great field of view. Amazing feel of quality in the zoom and focus ring as expected. As you zoomed in it kept its brightness and I compared the view with the nearby ATX 65 at similar magnification settings. As it was really clear and bright light conditions, I struggled to find any contrast challenges unless I faced the sun and aimed for the shadowy vegetation on the water-edges. However, the ATC excelled over the 65 at these conditions and it was only the 85 and 95 that I would have said were better. Saying that, it was only a short test.

Many of us birders might bring our binoculars along on a walk even at times with the chance of seeing something are slim. The threshold of bringing your scope is much higher and means scopes are usually underused by many of us. When the EL-range came out two decades ago, it was labelled as a gamechanger at the time because of its ergonomics. This time Swarovski is bringing portability into the very top end of the scope market.

I still struggle with the moment when shifting from bins to scope for higher magnification when needing to id a bird fast. Where do I look and what do I aim for? That is where field of view at reasonable magnification comes in. The shift needs to happen fast and the reason for the shift needs to be rewarded with a better brighter view. This scope can do that. It will not compete with the bigger range when birding in poor light or more demanding conditions like coastal birding for instance. But the likelihood you bring it along and thereby enable you to see more birds will be a gamechanger for many.

Was the experience worth a 2 hrs drive? Yes.

Do I think I can justify a 90mm module? Yes.

Should I trade in my 65 module and save up for the ATC? I am very tempted.

Visit a binocular field event soon if you can and bring your gear along!

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