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Fieldscope III 60 HD vs. Pentax 80 ED

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Old Tuesday 5th April 2005, 05:18   #1
Jeff B
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Question Nikon Fieldscope III vs. Pentax 80

Hi. Please advise me on a scope purchase.

A year ago I picked out the Nikon Fieldscope III 60 mm (the better-glass version) as the scope I wanted, based on various reviews, particularly the Better View Desired Web site. I then waited patiently to win the lottery so I could buy the thing I was looking for good optics, ease of use, ruggendness, and portability. (I didn't really want to be a birder who is always in one spot, although I confess that much of my birding has turned out to be just that--seems to be pretty standard OP.)

However, then my very nice family decided to buy me a scope, and based on the opinion of the helpful folks at Anacortes Telescope (who I think have a certain bias to bigger, brighter that is so critical for celestrial observation), got me the nice Pentax 80 ED, with the understanding that I might want to exchange it. They acted, however, like this was a no-brainer in favor of the Pentax and I'd be crazy to do the Nikon. (Maybe yes, but read on.)

I'm having a hard time deciding between the two, and frankly I don't have enough time to adequately research some of the related issues, such as the digiscoping potential. (On the latter point, I do realize the 60 mm Nikon will be limited in this regard, both because of the camera choice limitations and the size of the objective lens.)

I basically think I understand the tradeoffs. The Nikon is proven (now passe?), has good glass, is much more compact, and feels good--I like the focussing mechanism in particular . The Pentax is brighter, has gotten some great reviews, is apparently a (much?) better value, has the standard focussing mechanism, and is quite large. How much of a hassle will it be to hoist that thing around (even though it's not heavy, it's likely to get banged around in the car) or shlepp the bigger tripod I'd think it needs to be steady.

Then there is the warranty issue. My info is incomplete here, but I believe the Nikon has some sort of no-fault warranty, but the Pentax reportedly has a more standard faulty-product warranty. (This is close to a kill decision on the Pentax, I must say, if my info is correct--although I have yet to see a review that mentions it.)

So--and sorry for the long, perhaps old-hat post--Do I stick with my previous decision and go for the smaller Nikon, or take the warranty risk (ouch, what if my nephen, who probably hates birds, knocks it over on concrete) and go for the big, bright Pentax? If I stick with the Nikon, will I regret this down the road when I want to get more out of the scope (photography)?

(The Nikon is a bit cheaper--could probably get the tripod as well for a price comparable to the Pentax--but I'm not reallying considering that a major factor. Of course, if I had unlimitted cash, I'd go for the Swarovski ATS 65HD ... Or, would the Fieldscope III 78, which is apparently relatively compact (but I've not read much about it) be a worthy alternative (still relatively compact, good warranty) for a bit more cash?

... very grateful for your opinions.

-jb

Last edited by Jeff B : Tuesday 5th April 2005 at 06:22. Reason: am sorta anal and cold-fogged
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Old Tuesday 5th April 2005, 08:42   #2
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I fairly recently bought the Pentax on the strength of BVD reviews only to be ultimately disappointed and (eventually) I obtained a refund from the dealer.
As with any product there are pro's and con's and perfection is a dream. What eyepiece does it have? I used the massive zoom which I found too stiff to turn easily, making it impossible to zoom up on a bird without shifting the position of the scope. The optics are very good but so are Nikon's in a far more convenient package. My biggest gripe with the Pentax was it's awful performance against the sun. There was really bad flare caused by the ring the objective lens sits in. This may have been cured/modified I haven't seen a late production sample. Out of curiosity I'd be interested if you tried it out in a low sun to see what the flare performance is like. In the UK the Pentax is a very rare beast indeed and I've only seen one once. What is the availability of digiscoping adapters for your eyepiece ?- I know there was a problem with the big zoom, but the situation may have improved. Personally I would go for the Nikon or the Swaro. or Zeiss. I ended up spending a small fortune on the Swaro.65 HD with zoom.(I will try an upload a file showing the flare in due course). Hope this helps.
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Old Tuesday 5th April 2005, 10:30   #3
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I am one of those very rare beasts that use the PF80 in UK but then I did buy it in the US and for the equivilent of about £430 incl 20-60x. At this price I don't believe you will find much to compare. I don't find it unduly difficult to carry about and in the car it lives in a rucsac which I padded for extra protection. I don't claim to be vastly knowledgeable on all the competition but for what its worth I like it and haven't noticed any particular problem with flare and certainly have no problem with the zoom. I have started digiscoping fairly recently and a few of my results are available in my gallery.

If you don't fancy the bigger scope you could also have a look at the Pentax thread on BF which has had a lot of discussion (by US commentators) recently on the relatively new PF65.

Best of luck in your deliberations - I suspect ultimately either will serve you fine.
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Old Tuesday 5th April 2005, 11:54   #4
Bill Atwood
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I used to have the Pentax, got rid of it due to size and weight. If you can deal with the extra weight and size of I would go for it. I've seen it for as low as $800.

Optics aside, one advantage of the smaller scope is that it will have a much more stable image on the equivalent tripod used for a big scope.

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Old Tuesday 5th April 2005, 12:49   #5
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Hi

I also obtained the PF-80 with the 20-60 zoom from the US ($779). I would agree with Dipped that the zoom is a little stiff, but in my case not so much as to change the scope orientation. I have not experienced any lens flare and have used the scope daily since receiving it.

I initially thought the scope was heavy however, having taken it on a number of day trips last week I think the much heavier and inconvenient weight is the Manfrotto tripod (190 and 128rc head). For me, I am more than happy to carry them, they are a joy to use and I have not been disappointed by the scope at all.

I think it is a case of "horses for courses" - only you will know what's right for you.

David
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Old Wednesday 6th April 2005, 07:20   #6
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Thanks for your input, folks. I've now learned that the usual Nikon zoom eyepiece has limited eye relief, so I'm concerned about that. Then I figured I could get the 78mm, only to find it's not waterproof. Now I'm wondering if I should step up to the 82mm, which sounds good because it's reportedly fairly compact (and perhaps stick with a fixed eyepiece, though I do wear contacts). If anyone has experience with the Nikon Fieldscope III (the HD vreson or whatever they call it), do please tell me your opinion.
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Old Wednesday 6th April 2005, 19:21   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff B
Thanks for your input, folks. I've now learned that the usual Nikon zoom eyepiece has limited eye relief, so I'm concerned about that. Then I figured I could get the 78mm, only to find it's not waterproof. Now I'm wondering if I should step up to the 82mm, which sounds good because it's reportedly fairly compact (and perhaps stick with a fixed eyepiece, though I do wear contacts). If anyone has experience with the Nikon Fieldscope III (the HD vreson or whatever they call it), do please tell me your opinion.
Jeff, I have a Fieldscope IIIED (which is the name of the version you mean), but I also own a larger Leica APO77. The larger one is my standard scope, the Nikon comes along on trips where luggage is limited. Originally, I had the older 20-45x zoom lens which was not satisfactory. However, the newer 20-60x is great, except for eye-relief (a problem for me with my glasses) and limited FOV (I can live with that but only to some extent). So I recently got a 30x fixed power wide angle eyepiece as well, and that can easily become my standard on travels. The Nikon is so compact that you'll have it along at times when the larger scope would stay at home. I combine it with a 4-section carbon tripod. The whole set can easily be slung over a shoulder with a strap I attached to the base of the scope. (In case the set-up should come apart, the scope would thus not fall to the ground.)

So, essentially, it is a question how much that extra weight of the Pentax bugs you. And then - I don't know the Pentax, but I would assume that the Nikon has the better optics. At any rate, the views through that small (or should I even say tiny) Nikon are superb!
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Old Thursday 7th April 2005, 03:47   #8
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Thanks for your thoughts. It's just a tough decision if one can only have one scope. Btw, most reviewers I've read seem to think the Pentax optics in this case are superior, which is what makes this a difficult choice.

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Old Thursday 7th April 2005, 08:22   #9
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If you want the lighter weight and portability of a 65mm then trade your pentax in. If you are seriously now thinking of 78-80mm then keep the pentax. The eyepieces are by all accounts superb.
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Old Thursday 7th April 2005, 19:00   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Mac
If you want the lighter weight and portability of a 65mm then trade your pentax in. If you are seriously now thinking of 78-80mm then keep the pentax. The eyepieces are by all accounts superb.
Thanks. Do you think the bigger Nikon (the 82) would not be a good alternative? (It is more compact, but perhaps not as good optically.)
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Old Thursday 7th April 2005, 19:47   #11
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Jeff check out some of the reviews on here. I think most of the optics chaps on here think they are pretty fair.

http://www.alula.fi/GB/index.htm

and click on published reviews of optics.

the ones you want to look at are 1/2002 where the pentax didn't do very well and came below the old Nikon ED78. also check out 2/2004 where the ED82 is reviewed and comes out well against Swaro and Zeiss.

The little Fieldscope IIIED is a good scope (especially with fixed lenses) and if you check 3/2002 it doesn't do shabbily against Swaro and Zeiss. If you are after a 60mm scope then also consider the Leica APO62. But all 4 of the big names are very good.

FWIW I'd rather have a lighter scope but its your call as are the strengths of the optics. I think what BF proves is that two people can use the same bin/scope and have contrary views. Its the human factor
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Old Thursday 7th April 2005, 21:41   #12
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I think the Alula review of the Pentax 80mm has it about right. I borrowed a friend's to test and found several things I particularly disliked about the design. First the zoom eyepiece is simply not in the same class optically as the best zooms. I compared it on the same telescope (Astro-Physics 92mm APO) to the Swarovski, Zeiss and Nikon zooms and found it to have more lateral chromatic aberration and a loss of sharpness and contrast at high magnifications reminiscent of zooms from the past. It's about as large and heavier than the Zeiss zoom, but has a much narrower field, more like the much smaller and lighter Nikon (20-60X). Another design problem comes from the focusing mechanism. Focus is accomplished by moving half the porro prism cluster back and forth and this causes vignetting of the objective at close distances. As I recall the vignetting begins at about 100-120 ft and gradually gets worse until the effective aperture is reduced to about 66-67mm at closest focus. This sample was not completely defect free. It had some pinching and a little miscollimation, but even a perfect specimen would suffer from the vignetting and the mediocre zoom.
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Old Thursday 7th April 2005, 23:21   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by henry link
I think the Alula review of the Pentax 80mm has it about right. I borrowed a friend's to test and found several things I particularly disliked about the design. First the zoom eyepiece is simply not in the same class optically as the best zooms. I compared it on the same telescope (Astro-Physics 92mm APO) to the Swarovski, Zeiss and Nikon zooms and found it to have more lateral chromatic aberration and a loss of sharpness and contrast at high magnifications reminiscent of zooms from the past. It's about as large and heavier than the Zeiss zoom, but has a much narrower field, more like the much smaller and lighter Nikon (20-60X). Another design problem comes from the focusing mechanism. Focus is accomplished by moving half the porro prism cluster back and forth and this causes vignetting of the objective at close distances. As I recall the vignetting begins at about 100-120 ft and gradually gets worse until the effective aperture is reduced to about 66-67mm at closest focus. This sample was not completely defect free. It had some pinching and a little miscollimation, but even a perfect specimen would suffer from the vignetting and the mediocre zoom.

I agree with what you said about the Pentax 80 ED and it is huge and heavy. What scope do you have? Have you reviewed any scopes on this forum?

Thanks,
Carlos
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Old Friday 8th April 2005, 01:20   #14
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Carlos,

I use small Takahashi and Astro-Physics astronomical refractors for birding. I think the Alula scope reviews above are the best I've seen anywhere.

Henry
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Old Friday 8th April 2005, 03:21   #15
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I would disagree with the some of the lowly impressions given about the Pentax w/20-60 zoom, based on the one I owned. I believe it is the best 80mm scope available today for $1,000 or less. At higher powers it was sharper than the Swaro AT 80 and ANY Kowa I have looked through. At high powers it also totally kicked the ass of the Swaro 65 HD. The FOV was somewhat narrower than other scopes, yet not terribly so. I don't know about vignetting at close distances, I hardly ever use a scope to view anything closer than 100 ft.

I was looking to reduce weight (scope & tripod) and was being seduced by the BVD review of the Swaro 65. I think it was also about this time I had to dump my contact lenses for eyeglasses so ER may have been an issue. The Pentax was still useable, but at times I did have to smoosh my face up to the eyepiece. By the time I got Eagle Optics the ATS 80 was available and was what I ended up with. Back then the Saro was 1.8 x the price of the Pentax, now it is 2-2.5x as much. Is the Swaro that much better optically than the Pentax? No. If it had similar weight and form factor as the Swaro, and was still the same price (as low as $800) I would probably choose it over the Swaro today and use the difference for a plane ticket.
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Old Friday 8th April 2005, 06:53   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by henry link
Carlos,

I use small Takahashi and Astro-Physics astronomical refractors for birding. I think the Alula scope reviews above are the best I've seen anywhere.

Henry
Hi Henry

Don't want to give Kimmo's ego too big a boost but I agree. I do like the way he doesn't see things in black and white e.g. he comments that sample variance can make difference. e.g if I test a "sharp" Leica 62 against an acceptable Swaro 65 I'll prefer the Leica and if you test an acceptable Leica against a "sharp" swaro you'll prefer the Leica.

It just goes to prove what we always say you NEED to test them yourself.
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Old Friday 8th April 2005, 08:23   #17
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Originally Posted by pduxon
Jeff check out some of the reviews on here. I think most of the optics chaps on here think they are pretty fair.

http://www.alula.fi/GB/index.htm
Thanks, Pete. This looks like a very useful reference.
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Old Friday 8th April 2005, 17:04   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff B
Thanks for your input, folks. I've now learned that the usual Nikon zoom eyepiece has limited eye relief, so I'm concerned about that. Then I figured I could get the 78mm, only to find it's not waterproof. Now I'm wondering if I should step up to the 82mm, which sounds good because it's reportedly fairly compact (and perhaps stick with a fixed eyepiece, though I do wear contacts). If anyone has experience with the Nikon Fieldscope III (the HD vreson or whatever they call it), do please tell me your opinion.
I really am thinking you need to try these scopes. The eye-relief is hardly an issue at all unless you wear spectacles of a certain style. My son has the Nikon, I have the Zeiss, my brother the Swaro. They all have pros and cons - even the Swaro does not excel except on price and, if you like it, the rubberised coating.

The Zeiss is my favourite birding scope with its uniquely wide zoom, the Nikon is the best in terms of edge to edge sharpness and its magnificently faithful view; the Swaro is contrasty and sharp.

I think the Pentax is very good value but I've heard it's heavy. That matters on a long walk without doubt. I doubt you'll make a satisfying decision without trying them out first, but buying blind I'd go for the Zeiss 65 or 85.
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Old Friday 8th April 2005, 17:31   #19
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Henry,

I know this is a bit (but not entirely) off-topic for this thread, but would you care to provide us with a detailed comparison of the Pentax, Leica, Zeiss and Nikon zooms since you are in the unique position of being able to test them all in the same scope, and what is more, a scope that is undoubtedly better than any of the scopes the zooms are made for.

I, for one, would be most interested and grateful.

Kimmo
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Old Monday 11th April 2005, 19:19   #20
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Originally Posted by kabsetz
Henry,

I know this is a bit (but not entirely) off-topic for this thread, but would you care to provide us with a detailed comparison of the Pentax, Leica, Zeiss and Nikon zooms since you are in the unique position of being able to test them all in the same scope, and what is more, a scope that is undoubtedly better than any of the scopes the zooms are made for.

I, for one, would be most interested and grateful.

Kimmo
Kimmo,

Sorry it has taken me so long to post about this. I decided to use this opportunity to reaquaint myself with how these zooms sort out, both compared to each other and to premium fixed magnification eyepieces. My plan is to compare the zooms to four fixed eyepieces that cover most of focal length range shared by the zooms; a 19mm Televue Panoptic, a 16mm Zeiss Ortho, a 14mm Pentax XW and a 9mm Takahashi Ortho. The orthos have state of the art center field sharpness, light transmission and contrast. The Pentax and Televue have performance typical of complex premium wide field eyepieces. I'll try to judge center sharpness, light transmission, color accuracy and contrast on an Astro-Physics 92mm f7 Stowaway. I'll post the results on a new thread.

Henry
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Old Monday 11th April 2005, 20:08   #21
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I look forward to reading this, Henry - many thanks.
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Old Tuesday 12th April 2005, 07:01   #22
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Thanks Henry,

That will provide very interesting results indeed. If I may add anything, do you think comparing flare is possible in a reliable sort of way? Also, which Nikon do you have, the MC or the MC II? I don't think their difference is necessarily noticeable in the areas you'll measure, but the MC II does have somewhat improved edge resolution and different eye-relief curve, so the optics must have changed slightly from the MC.

Looking forward to your report.

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Old Tuesday 12th April 2005, 18:11   #23
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Thank you so much for doing this, Henry. Really looking forward to the results. Any chance you could also include the Televue (Vixen, Meade, etc) 8-24mm zoom?

Zack
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Old Wednesday 13th April 2005, 18:01   #24
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Kimmo and Zack,

The Nikon zoom I have is the original MC. Sorry Zack, I don't know anybody locally who has a Televue/Vixen zoom I could borrow to test.

I just examined the interiors of the Nikon, Swarovski and Zeiss zooms at their shortest focal lengths, looking for internal reflections close enough to the exit pupil to cause flare. At its shortest focal length the Nikon has a relatively bright ring about 4-5mm in diameter (measured by placing a ruler across the eyelens). That one is small enough to perhaps allow some flare to enter the eye under the right lighting conditions. The Zeiss has several bright rings, but the smallest is 7mm. The Swarovski is quite well baffled with a dim ring at about 12mm and a bright one at about 17mm. Is this the sort of "flare" you mean, Kimmo, or have you experienced flare from the eyepiece glass itself? Virtually all the flare I have seen has come from internal surfaces near the exit pupil edge. I've never noticed any flare with any of these zooms used in the Stowaway which has a thoroughly baffled tube so that the area between the exit pupil and the first eyepiece internal reflection is completely black. I'll try to look for it.

Henry

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Old Thursday 14th April 2005, 00:26   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kabsetz
Henry,

I know this is a bit (but not entirely) off-topic for this thread, but would you care to provide us with a detailed comparison of the Pentax, Leica, Zeiss and Nikon zooms since you are in the unique position of being able to test them all in the same scope, and what is more, a scope that is undoubtedly better than any of the scopes the zooms are made for.

I, for one, would be most interested and grateful.

Kimmo
Hi Kimmo,

I've read lots of the reviews on Alula and loved them. I agree with most of what is there. After reading your review on the Nikon Fieldscope III ED I wondered if you really liked the scope or not? Wasn't sure? I will be performing my own tests this weekend with a Nikon Fieldscope III ED 60 with Nikon 30X WA eyepiece vs. The Pentax 65 ED with a Pentax 12mm XW (the highest end Pentax eyepiece). Any of your knowledge or informative comments on this would be great. I am doing this amateur review for the eyeglass wearers that want a small scope and cant use a zoom. Any predictions on which will outperform the other?

Anyone else's comments on this would be aprecciated as well.

Thanks in the future,
Carlos
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