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Travelscope help needed

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Old Wednesday 2nd October 2019, 11:20   #1
cbs
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Travelscope help needed

Hi,

I am thinking of supplementing my full sizes scope with a travelscope. I have read a lot about different solutions and it seems there are three compact scopes which stand out:
Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50
Hawke Endurance ED 12-36x50
Opticron MM3 60 GA

They are pretty much in the same price range (the MM4 looks very interesting, but the price increase from the MM3 just seems too steep), so it comes down to specs and how they perform in the field.
I am unsure how much the 50 vs 60 mm impact performance and if the HD/ED of the Vortex and Hawke respectively compensate sufficiently for the reduced aperture.

Does anyone have real life experience with two or all of the mentioned scopes? Also, what is the best eyepiece for the MM3, in your experience?
If I have overlooked a candidate for the list, please feel free to throw your suggestion into the mix.

Thanks in advance,
Christan
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Old Wednesday 2nd October 2019, 11:51   #2
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Not sure of your budget but the Kowa 553 is a stunning little scope.
It is however on the pricey side. Worth looking at though.

This may be of interest...
http://www.birdwatching.com/optics/2...53-review.html
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Old Wednesday 2nd October 2019, 12:05   #3
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You can search in the Jülich-forum for my experience with the MM4-60. (Use the search form there) I've read, that you prefer the MM3, that's ok, but look for my advices for the tripod. If you have one use it, and make your own experience, which magnification range you prefer. My suggestion is, that 50mm is more restricted than 60mm, I'm watching also with a 85mm-DiaScope. The MM3 is discussed also in the binomania-site, you can translate in English.

good decision
Manfred
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Old Wednesday 2nd October 2019, 12:27   #4
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Hi,

if the MM4 is out of budget, the Kowa 553 is for sure...

I would strongly recommend to have a look through the Kowa 501 though - super light, super cheap and the (admitttedly only one) example I have looked through worked surprisingly well - nice and sharp at 40x and the field at the low end at 20x was a bit less constricted than elsewhere...

Joachim
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Old Wednesday 2nd October 2019, 18:56   #5
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...I have read a lot about different solutions and it seems there are three compact scopes which stand out:
Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50
Hawke Endurance ED 12-36x50
Opticron MM3 60 GA...
My favorite isn't in your list: the Nikon Fieldscope 50ED with 27x eyepiece. Buying direct from Japan, it runs ~$500.

I also like the Opticron, which gives you 60 mm and eyepiece choices. I'd never take the Razor over the Nikon. No experience w/the Hawke.

--AP
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Old Wednesday 2nd October 2019, 19:14   #6
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Yes, Darkus_Markus, the TSN-553 looks very interesting, but I have a hard time figuring out how the price equivalent to that of a very decent full-size scope is justified. Even if this scope was not way out of my target price range.

But thanks for the input.
Christian
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Old Wednesday 2nd October 2019, 19:26   #7
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You can search in the Jülich-forum for my experience with the MM4-60. (Use the search form there) I've read, that you prefer the MM3, that's ok, but look for my advices for the tripod. If you have one use it, and make your own experience, which magnification range you prefer. My suggestion is, that 50mm is more restricted than 60mm, I'm watching also with a 85mm-DiaScope. The MM3 is discussed also in the binomania-site, you can translate in English.

good decision
Manfred
Hi Manfred,
Thanks for your input. I find the MM4 a bit pricy campared to the improvements over the MM3 - on paper, anyway. If the real life experience of those of you who actually own this model is that it blowes the '3 out of the water, I might consider it. I just haven't found any reviews that states this, quite the opposite, in fact. Therefore, I have include only the MM3 in the field for now.
I'll take a look at the links you posted.

Thanks,
Christian
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Old Wednesday 2nd October 2019, 19:33   #8
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Hi,

if the MM4 is out of budget, the Kowa 553 is for sure...

I would strongly recommend to have a look through the Kowa 501 though - super light, super cheap and the (admitttedly only one) example I have looked through worked surprisingly well - nice and sharp at 40x and the field at the low end at 20x was a bit less constricted than elsewhere...

Joachim
Hi Joachim,

Thanks for the suggestion about the Kowa 501. Hadn't really considered Kowa after seing the price of the 553.
After reading your reply, though, I found a thread on the same topic from back in November last year, where chicago-al does a side-by-side comparison between the MM3 and the 501 with the MM3 as a clear winner on optical performance. So I think the 501 is out of the race, but thanks for pointing out the model.

Christian
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Old Wednesday 2nd October 2019, 23:46   #9
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I have the mm3 60 w/ SDLv2 for a travel scope. I use a Gitzo ball head, and SLIK pro634 carbon fiber tripod. Attached to the tripod with some cable ties is a metal ring to which I fasten an i-stay shoulder strap. I can carry this setup hands free all day. It is comfortable, the shoulder strap stays in place, it is quick to deploy, and the viewing is totally adequate, even when zoomed all the way out. Highly recommended.

I also have the ATX85 and 65 (with different tripods and heads of course), but the Opticron gets more use because it’s lighter and less cumbersome. My philosophy is that the best scope is the one you have with you.

The i-stay shoulder strap has become difficult to find, so I also highly recommend the Nanuk padded shoulder strap. It is very comfortable, and resists slipping down off the shoulder.
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Old Thursday 3rd October 2019, 00:37   #10
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After reading your reply, though, I found a thread on the same topic from back in November last year, where chicago-al does a side-by-side comparison between the MM3 and the 501 with the MM3 as a clear winner on optical performance. So I think the 501 is out of the race, but thanks for pointing out the model.
Hi,

not quite... the side by side test by chicago-al was a 501 vs an older MM3 50 ED with the HDF zoom (which he got a great used deal on) - a combination which was about double the price of the Kowa when new... and was basically the MM4's predecessor without waterproofing (and priced accordingly).

And to be frank - if you look at the images, the differences were not really huge... most of his gripes were handling issues and eye relief... which you might or might not have...

The current MM3 GA series has an achromat objective and was placed clearly as an entry level option well below the MM4 series.

A comparison between the current MM3 50 GA and the little Kowa would certainly be interesting... but the Kowa has already won the price, size and weight categories... the last one by quite a bit.

Joachim
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Old Thursday 3rd October 2019, 09:17   #11
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And then to add more to the list for consideration we just added an MM3 50 non-ED to the MM range :-)

https://www.opticron.co.uk/our-produ...45-travelscope

(which is waterproof) and has some features not found on the 501 such as rotating tripod ring, full rubber armour, interchangeable eyepieces etc.

Street price with HR2 zoom is around £249.

HTH

Cheers, Pete
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Old Thursday 3rd October 2019, 17:25   #12
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And then to add more to the list for consideration we just added an MM3 50 non-ED to the MM range :-)

https://www.opticron.co.uk/our-produ...45-travelscope

(which is waterproof) and has some features not found on the 501 such as rotating tripod ring, full rubber armour, interchangeable eyepieces etc.

Street price with HR2 zoom is around £249.

HTH

Cheers, Pete
Wow, that's an amazingly large price difference between the MM3 non-ED and the MM4 ED. Makes one wonder whether there are differences in manufacturing tolerances/quality control on top of the difference in objective lens. For someone who already owns an appropriate ocular, it's practically free!

--AP
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Old Friday 4th October 2019, 06:58   #13
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Thanks for your input, Pete, Joachim and bcskr. It all helps.

But perhaps I have, unintentionally, given the impression that I under a tight budget. That is not the case. I am after is a solution with a reasonable feature/quality to cost ratio, which I don’t believe e.g. the Kowa TSN-553 has.

I have a trip to Costa Rica in the cards for next year, and my experience from my last trip there, light can be an issue. Therefore, I think the 50mm MM3 you mention, Pete, is not the best solution. Also, considering the sometimes challenging weather conditions in Costa Rica and other, similar places I have in pipeline for future trips, how is the MM3 expected to fare compared to the MM4? Is the quality – both in build and optically – so much better in the MM4 that it justifies the increased cost?

Thanks again,
Christian

Last edited by cbs : Friday 4th October 2019 at 12:39.
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Old Tuesday 8th October 2019, 19:09   #14
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Vortex Razor. I had a Nikon ED50 but this is better and cheaper.
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Old Tuesday 8th October 2019, 23:52   #15
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Vortex Razor. I had a Nikon ED50 but this is better and cheaper.
How so? Warranty? OK sure. Otherwise, I don't see it.

The Nikon can provide a 2.7 degree FOV at a good all-around fixed magnification of 27x. No fuss, no muss.
The Razor can go as wide as 3.6 degrees but only at 11x whereas at 33x it is only 1.8 degrees. This can inspire a lot of unnecessary fiddling since you don't get a good FOV at good power and vice-versa.

The Nikon is slightly more compact and lighter weight than the Vortex.

The Nikon 50ED with 27x fixed eyepiece can be had new for ~$500 if ordered from Japan.
The Razor HD with 11-33x eyepiece is ~$700.

--AP
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Old Wednesday 9th October 2019, 02:17   #16
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I have a trip to Costa Rica in the cards for next year, and my experience from my last trip there, light can be an issue. Therefore, I think the 50mm MM3 you mention, Pete, is not the best solution. Also, considering the sometimes challenging weather conditions in Costa Rica and other, similar places I have in pipeline for future trips, how is the MM3 expected to fare compared to the MM4? Is the quality – both in build and optically – so much better in the MM4 that it justifies the increased cost?

Thanks again,
Christian
So Christian,
what do you even use a scope for in CR? If at the beach/ponds etc there certainly would be plenty of light most of the day. Inside the forest I do not really see the scope coming in handy (I have left mine at home on the last several travels, choosing to bring a camera instead)

Niels
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Old Wednesday 9th October 2019, 20:18   #17
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How so? Warranty? OK sure. Otherwise, I don't see it.

The Nikon can provide a 2.7 degree FOV at a good all-around fixed magnification of 27x. No fuss, no muss.
The Razor can go as wide as 3.6 degrees but only at 11x whereas at 33x it is only 1.8 degrees. This can inspire a lot of unnecessary fiddling since you don't get a good FOV at good power and vice-versa.

The Nikon is slightly more compact and lighter weight than the Vortex.

The Nikon 50ED with 27x fixed eyepiece can be had new for ~$500 if ordered from Japan.
The Razor HD with 11-33x eyepiece is ~$700.

--AP
I agree. I can’t see that the vortex is better. And as a glasses wearer I find the vortex eyerelief unusable. The Nikon I have and has plenty enough er on 27x and 16x fixed eps.
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Old Wednesday 9th October 2019, 20:41   #18
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It's sharper.

I admit it's not much sharper and if I'd bought the 27x eye-piece I probably would have stuck with the Nikon but I had the 20x. The Nikon certainly isn't cheaper in the UK. It was £309 for a 27X eyepiece alone and £399 for the Vortex scope and I sold my Nikon for £200. Unnecessary fiddling has never been an issue.
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Old Thursday 10th October 2019, 14:27   #19
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I've only the comparison of the MM4-60 with the DiaScope, but I think the v2 is a very good performing zoom, with a tight 15x (20x leads to the same field, so I use 15x only for the bigger exit pupil if needed), and a wide 45x. Obvious I'm an opticron fan-boy, but keep in mind that whilst scanning the landscape, there is a remarkable globe-effect, which isn't (or veeery less) in the DiaScope w/20-75x. The perception of the globe is very individual, and I haven't see it in scopes before. If you're looking 'normal' to your targets with little movements, you cannot see this behaviour. The MM4 is very rugged, look at my 'experience'… ;-)

Good decision
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Old Thursday 10th October 2019, 17:24   #20
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It's sharper.

I admit it's not much sharper and if I'd bought the 27x eye-piece I probably would have stuck with the Nikon but I had the 20x. The Nikon certainly isn't cheaper in the UK. It was £309 for a 27X eyepiece alone and £399 for the Vortex scope and I sold my Nikon for £200. Unnecessary fiddling has never been an issue.
You must have had a defective unit. Or perhaps you are saying you could see more detail through the Vortex at 33x than the Nikon at 20x? I have two ED50 and as far as I can tell they both perform at or beyond the expected limits for a 50 mm scope. I use them at 27x but they yield more detail at 40x or even higher.

As for price, the good prices are when purchased direct from Japan (In USA, easily done through Amazon USA or ebay).

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Old Friday 11th October 2019, 17:16   #21
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Have you actually looked through a Vortex? The Nikon was a good scope for its size, and I used mine for many years as a second scope. IMO and that of every review I have read the Vortex is better.

I will also say that the tripod bush needed replacing twice and both times I was charged as it was out of warranty. Not very impressive as it was very much my second scope used about a tenth as much as my main one, at the most.

I have given my opinion as the OP asked for. For £399 -although it may have gone up by now - the Vortex is a bargain and for that price you get a superb warranty which means the scope should last a lifetime- as long as you don't buy a grey import from Japan.
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Old Friday 11th October 2019, 18:16   #22
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Have you actually looked through a Vortex? The Nikon was a good scope for its size, and I used mine for many years as a second scope. IMO and that of every review I have read the Vortex is better.

I have given my opinion as the OP asked for. For £399 -although it may have gone up by now - the Vortex is a bargain and for that price you get a superb warranty which means the scope should last a lifetime- as long as you don't buy a grey import from Japan.
I've tried the Vortex but I've not given it a thorough, super-critical test. I've no doubt that it is an awesome scope, and I've no problem with you sharing your honest appraisal. But I also have an interest in encouraging information content in discussions on BirdForum, so I prefer that reviewers explain what they mean and the bases for their claims. Without such details, I see little value in reviews for the OP and other readers of a thread. I've not seen a prismatic scope that performs any better, with respect to resolution and color, than the 50ED and I'm not sure it is even possible. Certainly, I've seen models (e.g. Opticron MM4) that did as well as the ED50 and I'm sure, based on your and other reviews, that the Razor does likewise. I've seen a number of reviews (e.g. that of the Porters) that rate the Razor over the 50ED, but not for resolution/contrast/color, but instead for things like eye-relief, FOV etc that are entirely eyepiece dependent and thus not relevant to a discerning user (i.e. the sort of person who would be fretting the details by asking questions on BirdForum). Reviews of the 50ED with the 13-30x zoom are best interpreted with knowledge that that eyepiece is OK but not Nikon's best (Even amongst zooms, the 13-40x is sharper and offers higher magnification, though its FOV is still poor). My biases are such that I like scopes that offer eyepiece options, I like FOV, and I like to keep scoping about aiming and focusing without need for (especially with a travel scope, since they can't support high powers anyway) zooming. I like my travel scope to be as small and lightweight as possible with no-compromise-for-the-size optics. Those preferences lead me to the Nikon 50ED because it is optically as good as it gets and because it offers compatibility with all past Fielscope eyepieces and thus options that can be super sharp, super compact compared to the competition, wide field compared to the competition, long eye-relief, and appropriate magnification for all-around use (rather than zooming out for FOV and zooming in for attaining a standard scope magnification of ~30x). For me, that translates to the 50ED with the 27x WF eyepiece (a very small eyepiece that contributes substantially to keeping the overall package small). Given that a fixed-power eyepiece is unlikely to need service and that the 50ED is available body-only new for ~$325 from Japan, I'm willing to give up the warranty. I don't care if others have the same preferences or make the same choices. I do care and appreciate it when reviewers explain themselves when giving advice. I regret that I didn't do a good job of that myself, in my first post in this thread. I usually do better. I said that I would never choose the Razor over the Nikon but I didn't explain why (Answer: it is optically at least as good, offers interchangeable eyepieces, and thus can be smaller, lighter, have better FOV and eye-relief at working magnification, and can be cheaper).

--AP

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Old Friday 11th October 2019, 18:27   #23
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...I will also say that the tripod bush needed replacing twice and both times I was charged as it was out of warranty. Not very impressive as it was very much my second scope used about a tenth as much as my main one, at the most...
Yes, that was certainly a flaw of the ED50 before the tripod socket was redesigned. Luckily, our repair policy in the USA was more generous (lifetime no-fault) than what you got, so when I had that problem, Nikon replaced (at no cost, under warranty) the body with a new unit of the new design (A 13-30x zoom, which I have no use for, was also included since Nikon USA no longer carries the scope body-only). I subsequently purchased another body from Japan and it is of the new tripod socket design. No signs of trouble now, with either body, after ~5 years of rough and tumble travel and hiking use.

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Old Friday 11th October 2019, 19:07   #24
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[quote=Alexis Powell;3905748]I've tried the Vortex but I've not given it a thorough, super-critical test. I've no doubt that it is an awesome scope, and I've no problem with you sharing your honest appraisal. But I also have an interest in encouraging information content in discussions on BirdForum, so I prefer that reviewers explain what they mean and the bases for their claims.

Surely it is up to the OP to say if the opinion of someone who has had both scopes is of use, not you. So say which you prefer if you wish but it is not your role to criticise other people's advice.
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Old Friday 11th October 2019, 21:35   #25
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I've tried the Vortex but I've not given it a thorough, super-critical test. I've no doubt that it is an awesome scope, and I've no problem with you sharing your honest appraisal. But I also have an interest in encouraging information content in discussions on BirdForum, so I prefer that reviewers explain what they mean and the bases for their claims.
Surely it is up to the OP to say if the opinion of someone who has had both scopes is of use, not you. So say which you prefer if you wish but it is not your role to criticise other people's advice.
Every thread is a discussion. Every thread potentially serves the interests and needs of many participants and readers beyond the OP. We all own the discussion. I wasn't criticizing your contribution/advice so much as I was asking follow-up questions and providing my own perspectives as a means of eliciting the information that I wanted as a reader of the thread. No different than any conversation. I'm just a little more explicit than most conversationalists about my intentions, that is, where I am coming from and what I am looking for.

--AP

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