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Very general 'scope advice needed.

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Old Tuesday 20th May 2003, 13:15   #1
birdman
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Question Very general 'scope advice needed.

I'm going to have to take the plunge soon, and get myself a half-decent 'scope – but of course, like when you buy anything new, it's a minefield of mind-boggling information!

So, I need your help – just rules of thumb at the minute.

I know most of the decent brands, so I have a bit of an idea where I should be looking, but are there any makes that tend to be good value, or perhaps are overpriced.

Also, when I was researching my binocs, I kept coming across this formula of exit lens diameter divided by magnification squared equals 1, being A Good Thing in terms of light capture.

Are there any similar guidelines that might help me in my trawl of products?

Also, do you lose any significant image quality for Wide-Angle eyepieces?

I know I haven't given any indication of price, 'cos I don’t know yet what I can spend, but is there a lower threshold below which I should dismiss without a thought, and for that matter an upper threshold where the law of diminishing returns kicks in – or do things just keep getting better and better and better.

As usual, any help would be appreciated!
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Old Tuesday 20th May 2003, 13:45   #2
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I take it that as a 'tight-fisted Yorkshireman' you would be more interestd in value for money than pose value. in that case one general rule is "Never buy the very latest model". Look at the price of the latest Swarovski (for example), new model £1200 old model about £800 or less. I know there will be 'improvements' but £400's worth!!!
Only other general rule is don't buy secondhand from a dealer. The small difference in price for good quality secondhand just does'nt make it worthwhile. If you are buying 2nd hand go private (I know there are some dodgy people around but you should be OK if you are careful and ask the right questions).
If you go for a lower price scope check it carefully as the quality can vary considerably within a model range.
Have fun choosing and take your time.
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Old Tuesday 20th May 2003, 13:48   #3
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You can read me FAR too well, Nick-on!!!

Thanks for those tips - and that's an excellent point regarding latest model that I wouldn't have considered.

Cheers

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Old Tuesday 20th May 2003, 14:42   #4
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Must admit that I got my scope off Ebay after exchanging a few emails with the seller - I saved a couple of hundred pounds on the new price, but obviously you take a risk.

I was on a budget too, but if it's within your price range Dave, I'd go for a Leica or Swarovski, as they certainly give crisper results more often and seem to have wider eyepieces - a big consideration when contending with vignetting.
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Old Tuesday 20th May 2003, 15:04   #5
Michael Frankis
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Forget Leica & Swarovski, they're for Felis obesus, people like the would-be managing director of that pharmaceuticals company.

Go for Kowa - far better value for money. Also 60mm rather than 75mm, a lot cheaper, and less of a millstone to cart around.

The other big price saver is to go for standard glass, rather than fluorite glass ('ED' glass). Fluorite just about doubles the price; yes, it is good, but is it really worth the extra £400 or so?

Lenses - go for a 25x or 30x wide-angle. Avoid zoom lenses, they generally have lower optical quality.

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Old Wednesday 21st May 2003, 12:39   #6
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Thanks, Michael and Ian.

Food for thought.

Better get some research done now!
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Old Wednesday 21st May 2003, 13:03   #7
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Never thought of myself as a Fat Cat, Michael - but having just bought the new Swarovski ATS80HD (well, I've paid for it and am awaiting it's arrival with great anticipation), I suppose I must be. Fat certainly.
My philosophy is, if you want the best and can afford it, then get the Swaro' or Leica. I like the Swarovski as it is so much lighter than the Leica - something worth considering if you're going to be lugging a scope and tripod around all day (not to mention bins and cameras). A mate of mine has just bouight the Kowa TSN-823M and is very happy with it, but it isn't in the same league as the 'top two' I've mentioned.
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Old Wednesday 21st May 2003, 13:12   #8
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All very good advice here, but my suggestion would be to go somewhere where you can try a range. As with binoculars, it depends on your eyes and not all people see the in same way.

Just because the Leicas and Swaros are expensive, and therefore people think they are the best, it doesn't mean that they are best for you, even if you can afford them.

As it happens there is a InFocus demo day at Potteric Carr on the 1st June. They set up in the hide near the field centre so it's a good place to try them. He usually takes a good range, but if there's anything in particular you want to try, give the Denby Dale shop a call beforehand and he'll try to take it along.
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Old Wednesday 21st May 2003, 15:32   #9
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I'd agree with Diane and Michael if the scope was just for viewing. I found my old Kowa 611 a super scope for viewing with but if Birdman is comtemplating digiscoping then really you do need the best quality optics which does mean ED or Fluorite glass for most brands.

The larger sized scopes also enable more light to enter the camera, giving faster shutter speeds, preferential for bird photography, a big consideration in our somewhat dull climate.

As regards eyepieces around 30x wide angle seems the ideal size though again in the Kowa/Leica/Swarovski ranges the 20-60x zooms give excellent results.
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Old Wednesday 21st May 2003, 15:53   #10
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As someone who works in the optical industry, I can confirm that high price does not always mean the best. If you are looking for a spotting scope go to a dealer that stocks a wide range of spotting scopes from different companies. Check the weight, handling (focussing etc), warranties, and especially the objective diametre, as this would be important when deciding in what conditions, you wish to use your scope. If you looked at a 60mm objective scope with a 20x-60x variable eyepiece, when you put the magnification up to 60x, you would only have a 1mm exit pupil, this would not be large enough to observe through when the light begins to fade. Do you want to buy the higher quality glass, this is your decision, but the overall image quality is improved with the higher quality glass (sorry guys, but this is measureable, not subjective).

On the eyepiece a wide angled fixed eyepiece is a positive, not a negative factor, and it is your preferance to the eye piece that is important. A as rule the higher the magnification the narrower the field of view. Variable magnification eyepiecs only give a wide field of view at the top of the magnification range not through the entire magnifiaction range.
If you find a unit that you like and it suits you, then that is the unit that is best for you.
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Old Wednesday 21st May 2003, 16:11   #11
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Really appreciate everyone's help

Thanks!
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Old Wednesday 21st May 2003, 22:40   #12
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I dont agree, I used to own a Kowa ts611 and had gone off birding for a long time till recently. So I decided to do alot of overtime and get the best Optics I could afford, which was the Leica Apo 77 and new 20-60x zoom, It has basically transformed my birding.
I can now note tiny details on birds that I would have never seen before and has completely opened my eyes into actually watching the birds. Also It has allowed me to take up digiscoping which Ive had some good results from.
I am out birding nearly every night now, whereas before I went out once every month or so
It has easily been the best grand I have spent ever.
(Ps I am also not a general manager or multi millionaire like michael suggests)
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Old Wednesday 21st May 2003, 22:44   #13
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Thanks Pete, for your input too - there's a lot to think about, and when I've decided how much I can afford, I'll probably get back to you all again.

Once again - everybody - muchas gracias!
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Old Thursday 22nd May 2003, 10:31   #14
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I was having a discussion the other day with a research student who sits at the next desk to me at work. He has MS and is a little interested in birds, but obviously can't get out and about as we can carrying scopes and bags, etc. He watches birds in the garden but cannot identify even some of the common species.

After speaking to Keith and I about birds, he's decided that he may get a scope (he has money to burn, apparently, so he can afford the best). He's heard about Swarovski and thinks he'll get on of those as "they are the most expensive, so that'll be the best one to get".

He's a bit self centred and completely ignored my advice that he ought to try them first before blindly thinking that they are the best ones to buy. Bearing in mind that he'll only be using it in his garden!

Pete, I'm not sure what you don't agree with among the previous posts. Am I correct in assuming that you don't rate the Kowas because of your old one? It's great that you've found a scope that you're happy with, but did you try any of the others as well?

I haven't actually tried all the high-end scopes side-by-side so I don't know what I would go for should I decide to upgrade, which I will be doing before too long I expect, but I have tried my sister's Zeiss 65mm scope and it is a far brighter image than my Opticron ES80. I also liked IanF's Kowa that I had a quick look through at Flamborough at the weekend.

When I do decide to upgrade I shall probably do it at a birdfair where all the brands can be tried together so that I can get one that suits my eyes. Maybe it will be a Swarovski or a Leica, if funds allow, but I won't be buying one simply because others say it's the best. In the end it's all a matter of personal opinion and what suits one person will not necessarily suit another.
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Old Friday 23rd May 2003, 07:46   #15
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Apologies for being late into this thread, but I'll offer a couple of additional points based on my limited experience with a scope and a few observations down the local reserve.


What do you do when you go out 'birding' & how much use will your scope actually get ?


1 .... Do you go far, walk / cycle ? If you walk 10 miles in a trip size & weight can be as important a consideration as glass quality. For cycling also.
There are smaller, compact scopes that work well in this case. If you drive to the reserve and walk round a few miles, then drive home again, perhaps a bigger scope - with possibly better glass - could be favourable.

2 ..... Do you go out and solely watch birds and make good use hides ? Or do you go out and take in the general range of the natural world as you see it, ie. birds, flowers, fungus, butterflies, bugs ...... etc, etc. In the former your scope could get some considerable use, however in the latter would you consider £1000 + is appropriate for what may not be an awful lot of viewing time ?
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