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$400 scope recommendations?

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Old Thursday 22nd December 2011, 15:13   #1
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$400 scope recommendations?

I'm currently using a 35+ year old Bushnell spacemaster, straight, solid gray metal body, ~65mm with a fixed 25x eyepiece (I also have a 60x eyepiece, but it's so dark that it's near impossible to see anything). To compare against I have semi-decent binoculars, Minox HG 8x33 and it'd be nice to have something at least in a similar optics class.

I've made the mistake of looking through some friends scopes this last weekend of back to back CBCs, and realized I should really get a new one if I plan on spending anymore time using a scope. I looked through a newer spacemaster (looked like this), an EO Raven scope, and just to make anything I can afford seem crappy, a Swarovski STM 65 (wow). I'd like to get a newer scope, but I work for an non-profit conservation group so my funds are kind of limited.

Is there anything in the approximately $400 range that is worth buying? At first glance the scopes that are in my price, weight range (I'd like to have something I wouldn't actually mind carrying in the field) and are angled scopes, are the Vortex Viper 15-45x65mm, Vortex Nomad 20-60x60mm and Leupold SX-1 Ventana 15-45x60mm. The Celestron Regal 16-48x65mm F-ED is also in my price range, but weighs about a pound more than I actually want to carry.

Are any of these three worth buying? Are there other options in this price range I should be looking at? I think nearly anything would be an upgrade on what I have but I'd like to get something I won't be annoyed using for many years to come.

Thanks for any insight.

Last edited by Bosque : Thursday 22nd December 2011 at 15:15.
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Old Thursday 22nd December 2011, 16:40   #2
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The Regal was my first thought but you mentioned weight. If you can get past the weight issue it is an excellent optical performer in this price range. I haven't found a better one at this price point or even somewhat above it.

On the other hand I would recommend, wholeheartedly, the Nikon ED50. I picked one up about a month ago and it is quite amazing actually. Excellent optical performance for such a small scope. I bought mine from Doug at Cameraland NY via Ebay. Price was $400 (free shipping) plus it came with a fixed 13x, semi-wide angle eyepiece. That is an excellent price for the scope with or without the eyepiece. You could always add other Nikon eyepieces on at a later date though they are becoming a bit harder to find. The little Nikon 13-40x zoom would be a good addition to the fixed power 13x. That one still is available from a few internet retailers but would cost more.

Here is a link to a current auction for the same scope with the same eyepiece from the same retailer.....

Note: The eyepiece in the picture is not the same one that comes with the scope.
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