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Harpia 95: A Review on a Scottish Island

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Old Friday 23rd November 2018, 10:38   #51
Troubador
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I am far enough from feeling justified in buying any more pricey optical equipment right now that the price difference between the Harpia and other top scopes didn't really register for me. It will be interesting to see what happens, and whether this design really does become 'the way all scopes will work soon,' or not. I'm delighted to be helped to understand what might be lost if it does, as well as gained.

It has been great fun batting the Harpia ball backwards and forwards over the net of different approaches and philosophies.

But after using the Harpia for the purpose for which it was designed, birding and nature observation, over a period of 3 weeks on a wild Scottish island, I am comfortable with the conclusions I reached in the review, and I am content for other folks to try Harpia and form their own opinion about it.

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Old Friday 23rd November 2018, 16:04   #52
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Lee,

Here our optics testing philosophies diverge to the maximum. If I were handed a Harpia as a black box, told to use it for three weeks without the benefit of a reference scope of comparable aperture and known performance, and then forbidden from conducting any basic objective optical tests I would be adrift, unable to gather any more of the hard information about the scope’s optics I want to known than you did in your three weeks. I suppose very bad defects would be noticed, but the causes not identified. I doubt that I could be sure whether the image was dimmer at low magnification than a 95mm scope should be and I wouldn’t be at all confident of how its behavior compares to its expensive peers. Now give me three hours of star testing, measuring resolution at different magnifications with a 3x booster and making comparisons to a reference optic under controlled conditions and the tale will be told without me needing to form any opinions.

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Old Friday 23rd November 2018, 17:40   #53
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Lee,

Here our optics testing philosophies diverge to the maximum.

Henry
Yes we diverge again.

Your hours of backyard testing may discover all manner of things but I fear that it is not clear to most of Birdforum members how this relates to the performance they can expect from the instrument in the field, being used for the purpose for which they were intended. For example if one model falls a little short of another when undergoing a USAF chart test or is found to have more spherical aberration than another, I seriously doubt that many of our 156,000 members will have any idea whether this means, for example, that the shape of a warbler's supercilium can only be seen at 85 yards as opposed to the 95 yards of the 'superior' model. And I also fear that models can appear to be condemned as unfit for purpose when in fact most observers would find they perform perfectly well for their needs.

For sure there are members for whom this kind of information is meaningful and useful, so there is definitely room for both approaches on Birdforum, but my target audience is not them.

My aim when reviewing is to determine whether a model can deliver useful and enjoyable birding or nature observations without design or manufacturing shortcomings interfering with this, as I believe this is the approach most relevant to most members.

Lee
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Old Friday 23rd November 2018, 19:20   #54
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There are two quite different matters here.

Testing a scope for its optical excellence and.
Testing a scope for how well it performs its intended task.

I side with Lee here.

Although I test scopes for their optical excellence, once I have done this, I decide if it suits my observational needs.

I am interested in using high magnifications both for astro and terrestrial, so if I was to buy a large expensive spotting scope I would probably buy a Swarovski 95mm or Kowa 88mm and not the Harpia.
I would choose a Meopta 82mm but I don't think it offers high magnifications.

My most used astro scope was a Jaegers 123mm clear aperture f/5 Rich field refractor.
This is pretty useless for planetary observations, but I made planetary intensity estimates with it, as it was always ready on its tripod. It took about one minute to move it to the garden. It revealed magnitude 13.1 stars from town, and could be used from 16x 4.7 degree field to 145x.
Setting up 12.5 inch, 14.25 inch and 20.5 inch scopes takes time and a lot of effort. Usually the Seeing conditions don't even warrant setting them up.

But the Jaegers 123mm f/5 was used for thousands of deep sky and other observations.
It was ultra useful, despite having lots of CA etc.

The 150mm f/10 Maksutov was not good at high magnifications but was the best terrestrial scope and excellent astro scope also at medium powers. Again easy to set up and compact.

So with bird watchers, I think that Lee's review is very valid.
But I hope that Zeiss can keep the quality up to the performance of Lee's sample scope, and not let it slip so that the modest 23x to 70x magnifications are impaired.
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Old Friday 23rd November 2018, 20:31   #55
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My aim when reviewing is to determine whether a model can deliver useful and enjoyable birding or nature observations without design or manufacturing shortcomings interfering with this, as I believe this is the approach most relevant to most members.
You're joking, right? That "a model can deliver useful and enjoyable birding or nature observations without design or manufacturing shortcomings interfering with this" is good enough - for a scope in THAT price range? A scope by what was at one time THE leading manufacturer of optical gear for, among others, birders? Really? Shouldn't a scope in that price range, made by Zeiss, be about as close to perfection at ALL magnifications as a scope with prisms can possibly be, rather than just "deliver useful and enjoyable birding or nature observations"?

I can only hope that Zeiss still strives to achieve a bit more than making optical gear that "can deliver useful and enjoyable birding or nature observations without design or manufacturing shortcomings interfering with this". Because if they don't they'll stand no chance whatsoever against the competition, including that from China.

And, by the way, how do you know that this approach is "the approach most relevant to most members"? Did you do a survey? Or is that just some convenient way of justifying that your criteria for judging the quality of what is, after all, the most expensive birding scope on the market are maybe a wee bit too lax?

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Old Friday 23rd November 2018, 20:38   #56
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Everybody relax!
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Old Friday 23rd November 2018, 20:56   #57
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Have to agree with Henry Link and Hermann here. Extravagantly praising a scope on the basis of informal field testing with nothing to compare it with is without value, particularly when conducted by a Zeiss fanboy (employee?) like Troubador. This being especially so in the case of a very expensive scope like the Harpia.
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Old Friday 23rd November 2018, 21:16   #58
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It would be great if everyone could relax a bit. So far as I can tell, no one's trying to stop anybody else from writing their own review of any piece of optical equipment they would like, and no one is trying to stop anyone else from expressing whatever opinions they feel like expressing. Which means the room for outrage here—whatever people think about a scope under review after using it, or feel confident they would think about it—seems to the outside observer to be not just limited, but very limited.

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Old Friday 23rd November 2018, 21:32   #59
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It would be great if everyone could relax a bit. So far as I can tell, no one's trying to stop anybody else from writing their own review of any piece of optical equipment they would like, and no one is trying to stop anyone else from expressing whatever opinions they feel like expressing. Which means the room for outrage here—whatever people think about a scope under review after using it, or feel confident they would think about it—seems to the outside observer to be not just limited, but very limited.
What “outrage”? The worst I’ve seen in the thread so far is opinions firmly expressed. Is it your view that BF reviews—even those by interested parties—should be exempt from critical commentary?
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Old Friday 23rd November 2018, 21:46   #60
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I'm new here and don't know what kind of tone is usual, much less how the various relationships among forum members with thousands of posts have played out over time. But I don't, in general, think that posts about other people's forum posts that dismiss them as valueless or read as personal or witheringly sarcastic, will prompt more posting. I would guess it's more useful to an online community over time to 'create content' by posting reviews than it is to censure reviews that are posted. Having said that, let a thousand flowers bloom—and, as I said, I am sure no one is trying to keep anyone else from expressing any opinion. The tone just struck me as becoming bewilderingly harsh.
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Old Friday 23rd November 2018, 21:56   #61
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But after using the Harpia for the purpose for which it was designed, birding and nature observation, over a period of 3 weeks on a wild Scottish island, I am comfortable with the conclusions I reached in the review, and I am content for other folks to try Harpia and form their own opinion about it.
I fully, agree with you.

For me (who is relatively new in this Forum) this thread evolved strange. Some guys, who have no experience at all with a Harpia, know, that your "test" is bad (as is the Harpia).

I, who compared the Harpia with other large scopes, understand, what you are (trying) writing. Thanks again for your efforts to share your experience with us.

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Old Friday 23rd November 2018, 22:28   #62
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I'm new here and don't know what kind of tone is usual, much less how the various relationships among forum members with thousands of posts have played out over time. But I don't, in general, think that posts about other people's forum posts that dismiss them as valueless or read as personal or witheringly sarcastic, will prompt more posting. I would guess it's more useful to an online community over time to 'create content' by posting reviews than it is to censure reviews that are posted. Having said that, let a thousand flowers bloom—and, as I said, I am sure no one is trying to keep anyone else from expressing any opinion. The tone just struck me as becoming bewilderingly harsh.
You have characterized the tone correctly here. This thread took a weird negative turn with personal jabs and an attempt to completely dismiss a user review for not including other scope models for comparison. Some reviewers choose not to do this and this is fine IMO. Lee has his own approach and style and never tries to claim his methods are best, but simply just his way of evaluating optics. I personally like his reviews for their focus on nature and wildlife; in the field impressions using the optics for their intended use.
I also enjoy Henry's approach of objective testing and find them useful too.
There's room for both ways and I don't think we should discourage people from sharing their impressions of optics or disparage their opinions on optics they've used. Almost all reviews here are subjective anyway. Very few contain objective testing.
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Old Saturday 24th November 2018, 07:51   #63
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Have to agree with Henry Link and Hermann here. Extravagantly praising a scope on the basis of informal field testing with nothing to compare it with is without value, particularly when conducted by a Zeiss fanboy (employee?) like Troubador. This being especially so in the case of a very expensive scope like the Harpia.
Fugl

Thanks for your input. There was a time when I was a Zeiss fanboy but since performing and reviewing over 21 optics from Swarovski, Meopta, Bushnell, GPO, Kowa and Opticron as well as Zeiss I have come to appreciate to greatly enjoy using optics from all of these brands and have reviewed them accordingly. Back in 2004 I swapped my Zeiss Dialyt for a Swarovski EL because the Swaro was clearly a better instrument, so I am not unfamiliar with the concept that Zeiss don't always make the best kit. More recently I have particularly enjoyed the instruments from Meopta, Kowa and Opticron.

I really would argue with your description of the review as extravagant praise and ask how many hours of using a Harpia have you got under your belt to come to that conclusion?

And by 'informal field testing' I presume you mean birding and making nature observations, in which case I am happy with that description since it is what the scope was designed for and is the purpose for which most people will consider buying it.

As for being an employee of any company: I am gratefully retired and have no wish to be employed ever again.

And by the way this is not Ruffled Feathers and we apply different standards here.

Lee

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Old Saturday 24th November 2018, 08:33   #64
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You're joking, right? That "a model can deliver useful and enjoyable birding or nature observations without design or manufacturing shortcomings interfering with this" is good enough - for a scope in THAT price range? A scope by what was at one time THE leading manufacturer of optical gear for, among others, birders? Really? Shouldn't a scope in that price range, made by Zeiss, be about as close to perfection at ALL magnifications as a scope with prisms can possibly be, rather than just "deliver useful and enjoyable birding or nature observations"?

I can only hope that Zeiss still strives to achieve a bit more than making optical gear that "can deliver useful and enjoyable birding or nature observations without design or manufacturing shortcomings interfering with this". Because if they don't they'll stand no chance whatsoever against the competition, including that from China.

And, by the way, how do you know that this approach is "the approach most relevant to most members"? Did you do a survey? Or is that just some convenient way of justifying that your criteria for judging the quality of what is, after all, the most expensive birding scope on the market are maybe a wee bit too lax?

Hermann
Hermann

I make no apology for using this criterion and I have used it long before Zeiss even thought of a scope named Harpia and I do apply different standards in accordance with different price levels. This why you might have read an interminable number of complaints from me about the eyecups on SF binos.

I have a lot of sympathy for the idea that something costing as much as Harpia should offer an exceptional performance and I think its combination of capabilities are exceptional. This doesn't mean I think its perfect. I haven't picked up an instrument yet that is perfect and since they are all the product of a designer's opinion of which set of performance parameters and which set of optical compromises best meet the target customers' needs, I don't expect to encounter a perfect instrument any time soon. Its up to individuals to decide whether this scope meets their own requirements and offers value for their money.

I haven't done a survey of our 156,000 members any more than you have but as a moderator I roam all over the site and gather an impression of what our members are interested in. I don't perceive a general thirst for an assessment of a scope using terms such as arc-seconds or based on an analysis of USAF chart performance, although we undoubtedly have some members with the knowledge to understand and benefit from this approach and these members are served by Henry and others.

My judgement is that more members appreciate an assessment based on use in the field and the response I get from members via posts, private messages and emails supports this.

There is room on Birdforum for every kind of approach to reviewing.

Lee

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Old Saturday 24th November 2018, 08:35   #65
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Have to agree with Lee in full. These reviews are principally aimed at the casual birder through to serious professional ornithologist and nature observers. They are not interested in telescopes that are bulky, fragile and time consuming to set up or carry around in extreme conditions.*
A fairly lightweight, compact, rugged, quick and easy to use unit is what they're after.

If one could produce say an 85mm unit that was "perfect" in certain scientific and physical tests but cost €25k then I seriously doubt many ( if any ) punters would purchase one.

Hence why the affordable units are seen around the world; Swarovski/Kowa/ Zeiss etc.

* eg, Questar - not seen one used in field birding for over 25 years. Most resigned to the spare room or set up if youve a view over an estuary or lake. And Nikon WX 10 x 50 IF.....just a demonstrator of what can be achieved, for collectors I concluded.

P

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Old Saturday 24th November 2018, 09:50   #66
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Scridifer, Canip, Arran, Rich, Steve, Alan, Alexis, Vespobuteo, Binastro, Ohweh, Gilmore Girl, Tommybj, Sagittarius, John-W, and Pyrtle, thank you for your kind words of support.

Lee

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Old Saturday 24th November 2018, 09:53   #67
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I'm new here and don't know what kind of tone is usual, much less how the various relationships among forum members with thousands of posts have played out over time. But I don't, in general, think that posts about other people's forum posts that dismiss them as valueless or read as personal or witheringly sarcastic, will prompt more posting.
Peter

Thank you for this. Here is what Birdforum house rules have to say on this subject:

"Please do not post messages containing personal attacks. We do encourage healthy debate but not slanging matches. There is a difference between disagreeing with an opinion and a personal attack, so please think before you post. We will remove posts that are abusive, disruptive, or out of context".

I hope this is clear for you and for others.

Lee
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Old Saturday 24th November 2018, 13:21   #68
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I don’t want anyone to feel ganged up on. I know I have indulged in some free invective directed at ‘Big Optics’ in another thread. It’s nearly impossible to never post while irritated.

The entire Internet, famously, strips away nuance, ratchets up opinions to extremes, and values certainty over doubt—and winning arguments over everything. It makes it impossible to see the way what you say is being received. In that sense, it leaves us all just doing the best we can with no social cues.

I completely appreciate that, and don’t want to blunder into or worsen any long-running debates. I became irritated and Twitter-esque myself, for which I apologize. This concludeth the posting!

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Old Saturday 24th November 2018, 16:01   #69
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I’d like to apologize to Lee for my post #52. That was an impulsive expression of irritation that I wouldn’t have posted if I had sat on it for a few hours. I wouldn’t object to having it and all the related posts that came after it deleted.

Perhaps it still needs to be acknowledged that there is a long-standing (usually civil) disagreement here about what constitutes a useful review. What I consider superficial feel good reviews are very much the norm in magazines and the internet. Products will be declared stunning winners before any real investigation has begun, or just as bad, a model will be dismissed because a defective specimen is assumed to be typical production.

Birdforum’s optical forums appear to me to be first among similar English language forums (I’ll give Cloudynights an honorable mention) in having attracted a cadre of uncommonly curious and competent testers and researchers, mostly amateur, but including a few professionals. As a group we have busted quite a few cherished myths and supplied many evidence based explanations. IMO, that is what has made Birdforum a respected source of information about optics, but it has repeatedly created tension with those who just don’t want to know too much about what's in their expensive optical sausages. I don’t expect that tension to ever go away, but I’ll try to do my part to keep it civil.

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Old Saturday 24th November 2018, 17:33   #70
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Fugl

Thanks for your input. There was a time when I was a Zeiss fanboy but since performing and reviewing over 21 optics from Swarovski, Meopta, Bushnell, GPO, Kowa and Opticron as well as Zeiss I have come to appreciate to greatly enjoy using optics from all of these brands and have reviewed them accordingly. Back in 2004 I swapped my Zeiss Dialyt for a Swarovski EL because the Swaro was clearly a better instrument, so I am not unfamiliar with the concept that Zeiss don't always make the best kit. More recently I have particularly enjoyed the instruments from Meopta, Kowa and Opticron.

I really would argue with your description of the review as extravagant praise and ask how many hours of using a Harpia have you got under your belt to come to that conclusion?

And by 'informal field testing' I presume you mean birding and making nature observations, in which case I am happy with that description since it is what the scope was designed for and is the purpose for which most people will consider buying it.

As for being an employee of any company: I am gratefully retired and have no wish to be employed ever again.

And by the way this is not Ruffled Feathers and we apply different standards here.
Thanks for the soft answer that turneth away wrath. I withdraw with apologies the imputation of disingenuousness on your part. In my defense, I don’t frequent the optics forums much anymore and was unaware of your evolution towards a less Zeiss-centric view of the optics universe.

Peace. . ..
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Old Saturday 24th November 2018, 18:15   #71
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As a relatively new birder who is seriously considering thinking about buying a 'scope sometime in the near or possibly not so near future could I politely remind people there is a huge clue in the name of our chosen meeting place i.e. BirdForum!
I for one find reviews along the lines of Lee's here incredibly informative! That isn't to suggest I don't for one minute enjoy the highly educational input from experts such as Henry Link and Binastro because I do (even though at times I may struggle to understand a lot of it!). There is a place for both approaches in my opinion and let people take away what they want from either!

Thanks again Lee for a most useful (IMO) review,

Chris
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Old Saturday 24th November 2018, 19:25   #72
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Why do some members criticise? I think most reviews that are compiled by members for other members ( with the reviewer not being paid or closely associated to manufacturers) are carried out with the best intentions.
I am no expert, compared to some of the optical scientists that I have been lucky enough to work with, but having worked for two of the biggest German optical companies in the past 21 years, some opinions raised on this forum are certainly technically incorrect and others views raised are subjective ( either by the individual preference / loyalty for one brand over another or simply because that reviewed model suits the reviewer better than others) but hopefully all done in the spirit of Bird Forum.

Surely the review from any individual written with the best intentions should be encouraged, it's up to the reader whether they wish to act on that information or not.
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Old Saturday 24th November 2018, 19:28   #73
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I’d like to apologize to Lee for my post #52. That was an impulsive expression of irritation that I wouldn’t have posted if I had sat on it for a few hours.
Henry
Henry

Thank you for your apology. We have different approaches and Birdforum benefits from both. Let's both strive to keep the peace.

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Old Saturday 24th November 2018, 19:31   #74
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Thanks for the soft answer that turneth away wrath. I withdraw with apologies the imputation of disingenuousness on your part.

Peace. . ..
Fugl

Thank you for your apology.

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Old Saturday 24th November 2018, 19:33   #75
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As a relatively new birder who is seriously considering thinking about buying a 'scope sometime in the near or possibly not so near future could I politely remind people there is a huge clue in the name of our chosen meeting place i.e. BirdForum!
I for one find reviews along the lines of Lee's here incredibly informative! That isn't to suggest I don't for one minute enjoy the highly educational input from experts such as Henry Link and Binastro because I do (even though at times I may struggle to understand a lot of it!). There is a place for both approaches in my opinion and let people take away what they want from either!

Thanks again Lee for a most useful (IMO) review,

Chris
Thanks for your support Chris and your thoughtful comments.

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