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Spotting Scope Advice

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Old Thursday 28th September 2017, 21:19   #1
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Spotting Scope Advice

Hi all

Completely new to this so looking for some advice please? I want to buy a spotting scope for my fathers 60th birthday. He doesn’t know he is getting it and he has never used one before so complete beginner. He lives on Jersey Island and he has a lovely view of France from his house. The French coast is approximately 14miles away.

Can anyone please give me some ideas on what scope to buy? It has to be easy for beginners, I would like him to be able to see as much detail as possible in regards to boats/people/houses etc. and also affordable?

Thank you so much in advance. Darren.
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Old Friday 29th September 2017, 02:32   #2
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If he has never used a scope, remember that a scope requires a tripod and tripod head, which are a pain to move around, so your purchase will effectively become part of his furniture. Are you confident he wants one or would binoculars be more convenient/pleasing?

Separately, your budget will drive the decision. At one extreme, Swarovski's superb ATX95 with a binoviewer costs around $6000, whereas some more modest Celestron setup sells for a few hundred. The difference is ease of view and image quality, not magnification. A good optics shop is well worth visiting, just to get a feel for what you are paying for.
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Old Friday 29th September 2017, 06:47   #3
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Originally Posted by Darfle View Post
Completely new to this so looking for some advice please? I want to buy a spotting scope for my fathers 60th birthday. He doesn’t know he is getting it and he has never used one before so complete beginner. He lives on Jersey Island and he has a lovely view of France from his house. The French coast is approximately 14miles away.
This is a lovely idea of yours. I see only one potential problem: You will have to pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars to implement this idea, and if your father doesn't know what's in store for him, it is possible that your gift only gathers dust in your father's attic.

Also, I'm not sure your expectations are realistic: It's not rocket science to operate a spotting scope, so the "easy for beginners" part is not a problem.

However, seeing details from 14 miles distance seems like a tall order. Most scopes deliver up to 60 times magnification, which would ideally mean that the French coast appears to be only (roughly) a quarter mile away from your father's house.

Try out for yourself what your naked eyes can resolve and recognize from a quarter mile away. I'm not sure this will be sufficiently entertaining.
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Old Friday 29th September 2017, 10:20   #4
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In general 14 miles is pushing the limits terrestially - as has been pointed out, at 60x, the maximum magnification of most spotters, things will not appear very close.
Increasing the magnification means that the choice of spotting scopes is limited to some few which offer this (usually with an extender or special eyepiece) and also depending on the day, air movement called seeing can make any attempt of reaching higher magnification futile.

If you really want to go through with it, a small astro scope (either a refractor of 60 to 80mm or a Maksutov-Cassegrain up to 90 or 100mm) on a manual alt-az mount or even a stable photo tripod and video head like a spotter is probably the cheapest way to get optics capable of doing this at the cost of higher weight than most spotters and no ruggedizing and waterproofing.

But remember most astro scopes deliver an image with left and right reversed, unless you use an amici prism instead of the normal star diagonal.

Whatever you do, please stay away from very cheap spotting scopes sold for $100 or less - those are usually a huge disappointment.

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Old Friday 29th September 2017, 13:41   #5
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Darfle, post 1,
A draw tube telescope may be a choice, they are made among others by Meopta, Optolyth and Swarovski.
Especially Meopta and Optolyth have some very compact models which are easy to carry around. If you want to orient yourself a bit more you can find test reports of different (compact) telescopes on the WEB-site of House of Outdoor, look under Verrekijkers testen etc. The reports are in Dutch but the tables and graphs are well understandable I think. As far as compactness, different eyepieces, (so also different magnifications) is concerned, the Meopta draw tube telescope may be a good choice: not too heavy, easy to carry around and since it is a straight telescope one can easily find the object one wants to see.
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Old Friday 29th September 2017, 14:21   #6
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Look at Optical Vision Ltd site.

100mm ED refractor on good altazimuth mount.
A terrestrial prism gives correct images.

Or the 120mm f/8.3 refractor on altazimuth mount. AZ3, AZ4 or AZ5?

The main problem is the atmosphere. Sometimes 14 miles can be good, usually not.
Spring and autumn conditions are usually best. Mornings and late afternoon usually give the best images.

I used to view the fortresses in the sea off the north Kent coast with a 3 inch refractor at 11 miles and often excellent detail was visible.

I also used a 150mm f/10 Maksutov at 95x.
The Russian Maksutovs are good.
My 127mm Skywatcher Maksutov not so good.

At 3a.m when conditions are best and temperatures stable I frequently used 120mm f/8.3 refractors at 250x. But only 4.7 miles.

I would think that astro telescopes able to comfortably handle 100x plus would be best, although 90 times might be used generally.

Zeiss made 3 30cm binoculars for viewing over 22 miles.

The APM/LZOS 304mm f/7.5 binocular would be nice, but might take 3 years to build and maybe the house would need to be sold to pay for it. (:

Arthur Frank of Charles Frank, Glasgow lived in Jersey. His optics collection was world class. He offered me his 6 inch Ross fortress of Malta binocular for £250 in the 1960s but I couldn't afford it.

I used to visit Jersey and Guernsey.

If your father wears glasses he may need eyepieces with long eye relief.
A good zoom eyepiece might be best possibly with a Barlow lens.

If looking through window glass, it must be high quality and one needs to view at right angles to the window or a few degrees off to prevent ghost images. Some modern double glazing is very good and one has to use the best part of the window.
Then 100x is probably all one can use.

The Russian TAL 100mm f/10 refractor on a heavy altazimuth mount would probably do well at 14 miles.

I used an Ex gov. heavy aluminium tripod with square legs that could support 75kgs easily, with a custom altazimuth head with single arm. I used a heavy chain to hold the legs at the correct position. The chain made a racket when I set the tripod up by the coast.
I did some viewing over 45 miles but rarely much good although mirages were frequent with upside down ships above the real ships.

Last edited by Binastro : Friday 29th September 2017 at 15:01.
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Old Sunday 1st October 2017, 15:19   #7
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The AZ5 mount SRP £229. Slow motions 5Kg capability.

100mm Evostar ED DS-PRO APO refractor about 3.5KG £849.

I'd also get an upright finder. 6x30 or preferably 8x50.

I usually use Sherwoods Photo but not sure if there are any astro shops in Jersey.
Does one get it VAT free in Jersey?

Viewing the horizon at 14 miles needs observing site 130ft above sea level.

But 35ft above sea level will give you 7 miles and at 14 miles 35ft above sea level feature should be seen.
However, I find one can only see cliffs and higher structures at about 14miles.

Sometimes ships are seen floating in the sky well above the apparent sea.

Looking south from Jersey one is looking into the Sun at midday, so another reason for early morning, late afternoon.
Looking north from France is better.

One should observe over grass not asphalt or concrete, with no heat sources to spoil the view.

If viewing from indoors through closed windows the room must be unheated.

With 900mm focal length objective 7 to 21mm eyepiece gives 43x to 130x. 8 to 24mm eyepiece 38x to 110x but maybe long eye relief zoom needed.

Alternatively, an 82 degree eyepiece of about 11mm gives 80x, which may be ideal.
May need 2 inch eyepiece holder, which these scopes usually have.

The 120mm ED is more expensive and heavier.

The 120mm f/5 Skywatcher is cheap but false colour seen.
Not sure if a 120mm f/8.3 is available with simple doublet objective.

Last edited by Binastro : Sunday 1st October 2017 at 15:26.
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Old Wednesday 4th October 2017, 09:16   #8
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I just wanted to pitch the Kowa TSN-883 with 1.6x extender as a possible route. This gets you 100x. Although the comments about atmospheric distortion are spot on. There may be many times that the image is wavy and unclear at that magnification.
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