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Used vs new - a quandary

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Old Monday 13th January 2020, 19:23   #1
MussEd
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Used vs new - a quandary

Hello - I'm looking to buy my first scope and like most have found the array of choice bewildering to say the least! Every time I think I've settled on the correct I find another little gem to muddy the waters!

Anyway my question is would other users recommend buying a second hand - more expensive model over a new but lower price point scope? I've found a used Swarovski ATS at a decent price but I gather this is their older model...for about half that price I could get somehting like a Hawke Endurance with ED glass - brand new with lifetime warranty.

What advice would you give someone in this position? Thanks in advance for any wisdom shared...
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Old Monday 13th January 2020, 19:34   #2
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I've just purchased my first scope and it definetly pays to try it out before you buy as there was quite a few I tried at optic shops/events that I really couldn't get on with including the Hawke you mention. Personally I'd buy used over new as you appear to get more for your money.
I picked up a demo nikon monarch 60ed from infocus for 600 and I can't rate it highly enough. I believe they may still have some in stock.
Hope this helps.
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Old Monday 13th January 2020, 19:38   #3
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My opinion (for what it is worth) is that if you find a used Swarovski which is within your budget, then it simply will be unbeatable (in terms of optics and aftercare) against any other option! I will add, that for a smaller sum of money, the older fieldscope series by Nikon, will deliver 99% of the image quality - I sold my ATS65 HD and replaced it with an ED82 and ED50, with money left over.

As Nick has stated, try before you buy, as everybodies eyes are different!
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Old Monday 13th January 2020, 19:48   #4
ClarkWGriswold
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Hi MussEd. I own the Hawke and have looked through the Swaro. Given the choice. And if I had the spare cash - Swaro for me. I like the Hawke but the Swarovski was something else.

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Old Monday 13th January 2020, 20:17   #5
Ian Byrnes
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Hi Mussed
Like you I was undecided what to do with scopes as you can't get to try many. With binoculars I started with average priced models and ended up new Zeiss which are exceptional and again with scopes I started with average priced then decided to buy used Opticron GS665GA ED with 2 fixed wide angled HD eyepieces saving about 450 on rrsp. Overall I am very pleased as the image etc is very good and clear. Trouble is 77, 80, 85 or 100 mm with HD lenses will be brighter still. The optics on Swaro, Zeiss and Leica are second to none and the edge to edge clarity comes with a hefty price....even second hand. Then there is the question of how you'll use it...in a hide, at home, in the field. 45 edg are more relaxing to use but if you are in a hide you'll nee in my opinion a straight with a hide clamp.
So taking all this in to consideration.....the top brands will be best, but like my Opticron - you can certainly get a really good image for a cheaper price. And again in my opinion ... the 'good' binocular is always the go to first choice for viewing...and the scope is the back detail gatherer.
Amazon is always a good choice as you can if want return them if they don't suit....but for used bargains E Bay is excellent.
Happy birding(not hunting ) .....Ian
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Old Monday 13th January 2020, 22:46   #6
MussEd
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Thanks for the replies folks. Here was me hoping I was going to save some money after checking back here, looks like it’s the dear option after aFBll! Ach well I suppose the old adage about getting what you pay for didn’t come about by accident!
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Old Monday 13th January 2020, 23:42   #7
jring
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MussEd View Post
I've found a used Swarovski ATS at a decent price but I gather this is their older model...for about half that price I could get somehting like a Hawke Endurance with ED glass - brand new with lifetime warranty.
Hi,

used alpha scopes can be very nice - but please make sure to be able to inspect before you buy (or have a no questions asked returns policy) and know how to do it properly.

I have unfortunately seen lemons of from alpha brands which shouldn't have left the factory...

As for the ATS, its history is a bit confusing... It started out as ATS with normal glass, then there was an ED glass model called ATS HD, then they put the ATS HD optics into a magnesium alloy body and called it ATM and lastly, after the ATX came out and was a bit on the heavy side as compared to the ATM, they went back to an aluminum body and called it ATS again (but still with ED glass and it says ATS HD somewhere on the body).

So you should make sure that you get an ATS HD model and test it properly. Unless it's a hot day (ok, not too probable given your location and the date), you should be able to get a nice and sharp picture at the maximum magnification of 60 or 50x (depending on whether you have the newer and more desirable 25-50x wide angle zoom or not) and the best focus should be easy to find.
For a more thorough test you could make an artificial star (place aluminum foil on glass, make a very tiny and round hole with a needle and scotchtape in front of a led flashlight) and observe this with the scope from a distance of 30m or more. You should see a diffraction pattern called airy disc at best focus and when you defocus a tiny bit in each direction you should see equal patterns of concentric rings. See the following link for images of what to expect (ideally the aberration free aperture for the unobstructed case).

https://www.telescope-optics.net/sta..._telescope.htm

Don't be too picky if you see a little bit of fuzziness on one side - a little bit of spherical aberration is common and will not be an issue at the relatively low magnifications of spotting scopes... unless you want to use the 1.6x extender.
Experienced astronomers who have star-tested hundreds of scopes tend to remember the handful of cases at best where the star test was perfect.
Astigmatism (ellipses vs. circles) and Coma (non-concentric patterns) tend to be more visible and should be avoided.

Joachim, who likes his 30 year old Kowa TSN-3 cherry very much...
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Old Tuesday 14th January 2020, 01:07   #8
Alexis Powell
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Originally Posted by dwatsonbirder View Post
...if you find a used Swarovski which is within your budget, then it simply will be unbeatable (in terms of optics and aftercare) against any other option! I will add, that for a smaller sum of money, the older fieldscope series by Nikon, will deliver 99% of the image quality...
Agreed on the Swarovski and the Nikon. The ED versions of Nikon Fieldscopes are superb optically, are super durable, and they often sell for surprisingly little (even at "buy now" prices) on eBay in pristine condition. Only downside is that the best available zoom, while sharp, is not wide angle and does not have good eye relief. But the fixed eyepieces are wonderful, so if a 30x60 or 30x78 or 30x80 will work for most of your scoping needs, the Nikon scopes can't be beat (esp. for their used price).

--AP
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Old Wednesday 15th January 2020, 22:43   #9
MussEd
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So time for an update. I’m less sure than ever which way to go on this! I’ve been looking at various used Nikon and Kowa models mentioned above in the (perhaps vain) hope of getting a great quality scope without shelling out fortunes for the pleasure. To help clarify things can anyone point out a guide to the Nikon model timeline? And Kowa too if such a thing exists? Found a few decent looking scopes but unsure of their age (and if in fact they’re the
Model I should be seeking).

I hope that makes sense...
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Old Wednesday 15th January 2020, 23:39   #10
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Originally Posted by MussEd View Post
So time for an update. I’m less sure than ever which way to go on this! I’ve been looking at various used Nikon and Kowa models mentioned above in the (perhaps vain) hope of getting a great quality scope without shelling out fortunes for the pleasure. To help clarify things can anyone point out a guide to the Nikon model timeline? And Kowa too if such a thing exists? Found a few decent looking scopes but unsure of their age (and if in fact they’re the
Model I should be seeking).

I hope that makes sense...
A BF member called Macs has a Nikon ED 60 III scope with all the bits n'bobs for sale on the Classifieds section here. This is a superb scope, smaller lighter version of the esteemed ED 82. I've looked through one, and thought it was optically equal to the Swaro ATS65HD that I owned at the time. It comes with a CF tripod. I think it would be an excellent choice, unless someone had snapped it up!
Edit...I've just noticed that Steve Babbs is selling a Zeiss Diascope w/15-45 and tripod in the very next ad! An equally excellent choice, if still available!

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Old Wednesday 15th January 2020, 23:40   #11
jring
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Hi,

basically with Nikon you are looking for Fieldscope ED models. I think the only one to avoid is the original 60mm Fieldscope ED (often called I despite not being marked so and its non ED brother) as those only take a few older eyepieces.
After that came the Fieldscope II in ED and non-ED versions and then the Fieldscope 78 (I think there was no non-ED versin of that) and later the waterproof Fieldscope III (ED and non-ED) and 82 (again only ED, I think) versions. The last of the series was the tiny 50 ED.
They all share the same eyepieces (except for the Fieldscope I which only can take older EPs). In general all Fieldscopes except for the 50 ED are out of production and some eyepieces take now a bit of time to find but not yet really rare. The fieldscope zoom EPs are quite sharp but also narrow and have limited eye relief. The fixed EPs in a lot of different magnifications and build styles are all very nice and offer a wide field and better eye relief.

For Kowa models after 1990 (usually called TSN as opposed to the older TS series - with the notable exception of the TS-610 series which is still a part of the small body family) there is basically two families and a few odd series in between.
The families are the large body scopes (with the 770 and 880 series) and the small body scopes (original single digit TSN, TSN-601, TS-610, TSN-660 and the 82SV - the latter is only available angled and in plain glass and aimed at shooters).
The odd series in between are TS and TSN 500 series (inexpensive 50mm models with no removable EPs) , the 550 (very expensive 55mm models with fluorite crystal and no removable EPs) and old 820 series.

There is a general rule in that the last digit encodes straight or angled and fluorite crystal/ED glass or plain glass like this:

1 = angled plain glass
2 = straight plain glass
3 = angled fluorite/ED
4 = straight fluorite/ED
Fluorite was used for the 3/4 models in the original single digit series, the 820 series and the current 550 and 880 series. All other models ending in 3 or 4 have ED glass (which Kowa marketing tends to call XD).

The large body scopes have a wide bayonet and there is currently two zoom EPs (20-60 and 25-60 wide angle) and a discontinued 30x wide and a 25x LER EP mainly used by shooters).
For the small body scopes there is currently a 20-60 zoom, a 30 wide and a 25mm LER available - there used to be quite a bit of others around - 20-40 zoom, the really awful old 20-60 zoom, and 20x, 40x, 60x and 75x fixed EPs - I probably missed some.
The 820 series is somewhere in between and had a 20-60 zoom, a 32x wide and i think a 25x LER. Eyepieces for the 820 series are rare and if you consider an 820 series scope, make sure it comes with the EPs you want.
Kowa offers (rather expensive) adapters to use small body EPs in the 820 and 880 series and 820 series EPs in the 880 series. Using larger bayonet EPs in smaller bayonet scopes is not possible for obvious reasons.
Opticron SDLv2 and HDF zoom EPs can be used in most original single digit scopes (except for the very latest waterproof versions which have a protective glass window in front of the prism assembly which prevents it). I compared the SDLv2 and the original Kowa zoom in my TSN-3 and decided that my example of SDLv2 was better than the Kowa zoom at the store - despite only going up to 53x...

I think some people have modified Baader Hyperion Mk3 and Mk4 zoom EPs for use in the 820 series.

For the large body scopes the german supplier Teleskop Express offers two different adapters to use standard 1.25" astro EPs - although not all will focus to infinity in spotters due to limited focus drive.

Joachim

Last edited by jring : Wednesday 15th January 2020 at 23:51.
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Old Thursday 16th January 2020, 09:31   #12
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Very helpful reply - many thanks!
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Old Thursday 16th January 2020, 11:58   #13
Mike C
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This might not be helpful but forewarned is forearmed.

Swarovski aftercare is the stuff of legend - they are brilliant.
However, my two nearest "optic shops" both stopped working with Nikon because their aftercare service was so poor.
Chances are, you'll never need any aftercare but best to have all the possible information.
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Old Thursday 16th January 2020, 17:07   #14
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I've never, in the USA, had a problem with Nikon service, but there have been changes recently, so who knows? For me, the question is irrelevant because the used prices are so good. In the past year, I bought both an angled and a straight Fieldscope II 60ED, each with 30x WF eyepieces, caps, cases, and in pristine condition, for ~$250 each, buy-it-now price on eBay. Furthermore, these are super durable scopes. I've not known one to need service, even after decades of hard use.

--AP
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Old Thursday 16th January 2020, 21:59   #15
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I'm unsure about Nikon service in the UK, I attempted to contact them a couple of years ago about servicing a pair of HG's, and they never got back to me. I ended up using east coast binocular repairs to get them sorted, and was very happy with the result. I completely agree with Alexis, having owned EDii, EDiii, ED82 and ED50 scopes - all of which have been used at home as well as in the tropics, and all of which delivered fantastic views of many species without mechanical fault. My ED50 has actually gripped me off on a few species, as I've loaned it to friends for their overseas trips - it is still working perfectly.
Sadly, I'm having the same issue with Zeiss UK, who have yet to reply to two emails I've sent enquiring about a service...
Back on topic, if the OP was interested in a Nikon fieldscope, I notice that Cley Spy have an excellent used range at present, all at good prices. Other providers are available of course, but the deals do seem especially good!

Edit: I've just noticed this, which is also a good deal - update to a modern zoom and you're set for the next 25 years...
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Old Thursday 30th January 2020, 15:00   #16
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So this is an on-going saga (fairly common with first time scope buyers from what I can gather from various threads on here!) but I think I've pretty much nailed it down to a choice of three. So what would the consensus be out of these candidates?

Kona TSN-663M w 30x eye piece (used but mint) 900
Swaro ATS 65 HD used body and eyepiece bought separately will come in about 1000
Nikon ED50 with zoom app 400 (keeping an eye out for a highly regarded -but now hard to find in the UK- 30x Wide eyepiece)

From all the reading I've been doing they seem much of a muchness. The ED50 is obviously much smaller (and cheaper) than the other two - thereby freeing up some funds for other stuff. But would I then instantly regret not having bought one of the bigger scopes.

Bear in mind this will be carted about with camera and long lens in backpack (well one will be in the bag other on the Tripod) so will the reduced weight be noticeably beneficial whilst at same time not at the expense of improved optical performance the the bigger more expensive options?

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Old Thursday 30th January 2020, 15:18   #17
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My choice would be the Kowa 663 with x 30. It's not a heavy scope. If it is supplied with a stay on case so much the better. Swarovski without the HD is okayish. ED50 was a lovely little travelscope but not that rugged.

Good luck whatever you choose.
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Old Thursday 30th January 2020, 15:48   #18
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Try the Nikon series, they are great. It is what I am currently using.
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Old Thursday 30th January 2020, 17:06   #19
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My choice would be the Kowa 663 with x 30. It's not a heavy scope. If it is supplied with a stay on case so much the better. Swarovski without the HD is okayish. ED50 was a lovely little travelscope but not that rugged.

Good luck whatever you choose.
Sorry my mistake it is the HD version of the ATS Swarovski...will that change your response?
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Old Thursday 30th January 2020, 17:27   #20
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Yes, without doubt. I had an ATS HD for 10 years, loved it, with a x 30 wide. Go for it.

P
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Old Thursday 30th January 2020, 17:58   #21
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Hi,

I could probably live with good examples of all the types mentioned above. The Nikon is a bit on the small side and is usually used as a lightweight option along with a larger example for occasions where the weight is not so much of an issue. Also the zoom EPs are very sharp but also very narrow and with not great eye relief. A fixed option would be preferred here.

Kowa 663 with 30 wide is great but for 900 quid it's a bit dear for a used example... I would try to negotiate there - it's almost retail - I would expect more like 60% retail or maybe 70 if it's really that good and maybe with paperworks and still has warranty.

The ATS HD seems to be a bit more attractively priced (as it is quite a bit more expensive new) plus you also have the option to get the 25-50 wide angle zoom for more reach and still pretty wide field - but you should try if it works for you - people have had problems to get eye placement right with this EP - especiallly without glasses. If you have to buy it without an EP for testing being available that would be not great.

But in the end you should try all of them before buying or use a business with a no questions asked return policy... sample variation does unfortunately exist with spotting scopes... even with alpha brands...

Joachim
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Old Thursday 30th January 2020, 17:59   #22
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Yes, without doubt. I had an ATS HD for 10 years, loved it, with a x 30 wide. Go for it.

P
I agree. Great scope, great e/p. You may be able to pick up a 20x fixed later or or perhaps gt anastro adapter to use 1.25 eps.
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Old Thursday 30th January 2020, 18:00   #23
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I think you'd be happy with all three, but as a general all-in-one package, I'd say either the Kowa or Swaro are likely going to have more applications, and fewer shortcomings than the little nikon. That said, mine has endured many indignities over the last decade, and is still working perfectly well despite some very rough use in challenging environments - I added a bit of tape where the prism housing is joined as this seems to be the only fault line in the body. I can't say that I've wanted a better view of any of the 1500 or so species I've seen through it, and certainly relished the low weight and compact size when trekking up a mountain or sweating my way through a jungle...

Good luck!
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Old Friday 31st January 2020, 10:16   #24
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Well. As a result of going along to my usual Pub Quiz last night and imbibing some lovely IPA I pushed the button on the Swarovski. I'd have only hankered after it had I gone for either of the others anyway.

Thanks for all the advice, can't wait to get started with the exciting new world of scoping now!
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