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Choosing top-of-the-range scope

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Old Tuesday 10th February 2004, 11:15   #1
dogfish
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Choosing top-of-the-range scope

I'm planning to (probably) buy a new top-end 80mm scope in the next week or so, which will involve comparing Zeiss, Swarovski and Nikon. Just wondered if anyone has had the chance to have a good look though these three and has any opinions. Is the Zeiss perhaps the best at high magnification? I plan to use the zoom as the main eyepiece but would also buy a 30ww.
My inclination at present is to go for Swarovski, partly because it has the most birder-friendly design and weight. I've read the reviews but am interested in hands-on experience.
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Old Tuesday 10th February 2004, 11:19   #2
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Leica Apo still wins for me. I think you should included it in your testing. I have a Nikon btw, which is great
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Old Tuesday 10th February 2004, 11:28   #3
GR Triever
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Zeiss for me, but I don't see how you could go wrong with any of them. If the situation permits, compare them side-by-side.


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Old Tuesday 10th February 2004, 11:38   #4
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I have to say for me the swarovski is miles ahead of any other scope,and a big bonus from the old days of resting the Hertel on the Knee.

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Old Tuesday 10th February 2004, 11:45   #5
Sven W
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I have spent quite a lot of time the last weeks dreaming about a new top-end scope. I have ruled out everything except Zeiss and Swarowski based on their avaliability and reputation. Two years ago I tested both scopes (only the 65 mm Swarowski available then) and is certain that I would be very happy whichever I select. Didn't know how large the difference was before the test. And now it looks like it will be the most expensive test I have ever done.

I have passed the biggest hurdle, approval from my wife, but will try to wait another month or two before I go ahead.
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Old Tuesday 10th February 2004, 12:20   #6
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Thanks all. I have a feeling it will be the Swarovski with the Zeiss very much the outsider. I ruled out the Leica AP0 last time I bought a scope because of its weight, its lack of brightness (compared to the old Swarovski) and what to me is a disturbing yellow-brown cast to the image. We all see this sort of thing in different ways of course, so some may not see it at all. All fine scopes though. Incidentally, if Leica can replicate the optical quality of the Ultravid bins in its next scope it could be on to a winner.

The Nikon is excellent value but heavy. I haven't tested the MCII zoom yet but would be surprised if it was better than the Swarovski. The depth of field on the wide-angle lenses on the ED111 Nikon is poor too. Not sure if it's the same on the bigger scope.
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Old Tuesday 10th February 2004, 13:00   #7
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The Swarovski ATS80HD is a stunning piece of kit and when I compared it the APO77, it came out much better at high magnification. Mind you, it is another £400.....

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Old Tuesday 10th February 2004, 13:44   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jthatch555
I have to say for me the swarovski is miles ahead of any other scope,and a big bonus from the old days of resting the Hertel on the Knee.

John
And yet two people on this forum have recently exlained that they have changed from their older Swaro (supposed to be very similar optically to the new model) to the new Nikon ED82.

It must be a very personal thing - undoubtedly, the Swaro is a great scope but it does cost an awful lot of money - certainly far more than, say, the Nikon ED82 or Leica Apo 77; and it offers very dubious real extra benefits over these scopes in the field.

I would say go and try them all out late one day towards dusk - but keep in mind that you can currently get the new Nikon with zoom and Nikon digiscoping kit all inclusive (with tripod I think) from Warehouse Express for significantly less than the Swaro AT80HD on its own.
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Last edited by scampo : Tuesday 10th February 2004 at 13:46.
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Old Tuesday 10th February 2004, 13:59   #9
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Are you referring to the Diascope 85 when you are considering the Zeiss? I have not seen it (didn't know it even existed) but some reviewers have chosen it as their top model.
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Old Tuesday 10th February 2004, 15:39   #10
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Yes, the Diascope 85 Art. It's been available in the UK for a while now. Alula's reviewers regard it and the new Swarovski as being on the same level. I'm hoping they'll get round to reviewing the 80mm Nikon soon. Then I'll toss a coin....
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Old Tuesday 10th February 2004, 16:06   #11
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Hi Dogfish,
It is a very personal thing in choosing optics, but my favourite was the Kowa 824 which I bought way back in the nineties and which is no longer made. I thought it was fantastic to my eyes back then and is still extremely good but I have recently looked at the new Nikon 82 and that for the money is just about the best. The price is dropping all the time. The scope and any eyepiece is being offered for just under £1000 or a digiscoping kit of the scope with 30x plus adaptor and 4500 Coolpix for 1289. I expect that there are better deals around.
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Old Tuesday 10th February 2004, 16:17   #12
Edward woodwood
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While I now have a Nikon Ed78 and mighty fine it is too (same as Jane mentioned) I will still usually take out my much lighter Kowa 614 (still fluorite though) for ease of transport. The Kowa wil definitely be the only one going abroad with me....

So what am I saying? Confuse meself half the time.

It would be nice to have a large fluorite and a small fluorite and be able to choose as befits the birding you're doing. If i had to pick one.....I go small first and save up for a sec. hand 80 mm at a later date maybe...
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Old Tuesday 10th February 2004, 16:31   #13
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Hi Dogfish,

I'll side with Tim on this one. One of the main considerations has to be your own birding/digiscoping habits. If you stick to short distances, reserves with hides etc. then a big, heavy scope/tripod combo will be ok. If, on the other hand you like birding wilder areas or spending long days in the field, a smaller/lighter combination may be more useful.

Try being a 'porter' for a friend this weekend.

Good Luck.

Andy.
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Old Tuesday 10th February 2004, 17:15   #14
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Well i have a lightweight Kowa 600 series for travel, long walks (including Scilly in October) so the new one can be fairly heavy. Not quite ruled the Nikon out yet.
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Old Tuesday 10th February 2004, 17:26   #15
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Rather strong Nikon lobby here, so this might be the time to put some comments on why I will not choose a Nikon scope.

First, I have no opinion regarding which scope gives the best value for money. However, most persons searching for a top end scope have long past the point there this is a thing under condsideration. I look for the best scope for my purposes, period. The differences in price is to small to be a relevant factor in the selection. It is a lot off money anyhow.

Second, the brand is important. Zeiss and Swarovski has exceptionally good reputation here in Sweden. Nikon on the other hand has no reputation at all. I would guess that at least 6 other brands sells better. In my 10 years of birding I can't recall seeing a single Nikon scope in the field. I rather put that huge amount of money on something with good reputation than on something "unknown."

Third, if I ever would decide to sell the scope the second hand value for a Nikon would probably be close to nothing here.
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Old Tuesday 10th February 2004, 17:28   #16
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I have the Swarovski ATS80HD and been using it for about 8 months ,not only does it give a superb image but it is very well made, compact for an 80mm,i like the large focus ring,does'nt need a case.The Leica scope has been out a long time now and could be due for replacement, hence the amazing price.Not looked through the Nikon but it does look good value.I use a 30x eyepiece and find it has a very good f.o.v.
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Old Tuesday 10th February 2004, 21:39   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sven W
Rather strong Nikon lobby here, so this might be the time to put some comments on why I will not choose a Nikon scope.

First, I have no opinion regarding which scope gives the best value for money. However, most persons searching for a top end scope have long past the point there this is a thing under condsideration. I look for the best scope for my purposes, period. The differences in price is to small to be a relevant factor in the selection. It is a lot off money anyhow.

Second, the brand is important. Zeiss and Swarovski has exceptionally good reputation here in Sweden. Nikon on the other hand has no reputation at all. I would guess that at least 6 other brands sells better. In my 10 years of birding I can't recall seeing a single Nikon scope in the field. I rather put that huge amount of money on something with good reputation than on something "unknown."

Third, if I ever would decide to sell the scope the second hand value for a Nikon would probably be close to nothing here.
What you have written is odd to say the least and far too dogmatic. Certainly, it has no relevance to the UK market, even if it has to your own country (but not your neighbour, Finland, I think as the older Nikon scope was rated second equal in a comprehensive test and their fixed focus eyepieces are considered amongst the very best).

In the UK, as in at least France and Germany as well as the US, Nikon is very highly regarded and holds its value as well as any other. To suggest that price is of no consequence is simply to suggest that you must be rather well off yourself: in the UK, the Swarovski is significantly more expensive than Leica, Nikon or Kowa and is optically similar.
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Old Wednesday 11th February 2004, 09:20   #18
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I spent several hours yesterday searching among Swedish sellers of spotting scopes and was only able to find one selling Nikon and that was a shop selling bins/scopes as a secondary business. They had the older 78 mm scope priced as a Ziess 85 T*FL. From the homepage of Nikons swedish subsidary I get the impression that the scopes isn't imported any longer. I tried to phone them to get a confirmation but wasn't able to get in contact with the right person.

What is "significantly more expensive" is quite subjective. In my opinion the relative price difference is not significant, all scopes we are discussing here are very expensive anyhow. For me price is important then selecting between low, mid or high end quality but normaly not within each group. This isn't a sign of wealth, its just a different approach to product selection. Regardless of brand a new scope would dig a deep hole in my budget, and I know that I would regret later if I made a selection based on cost then the difference isn't larger than it is. From the number of new Swarowskis I see in use, I conclude that many other birders share the same view.

That said I might also add that Zeiss is my current favorite, but thats not based on cost.
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Old Wednesday 11th February 2004, 09:53   #19
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Well, I am very surprised. What you report as the Swedish situation seems not to be reflected elsewhere - and, after all, the question relates to the UK on this occasion.

Goodness knows what Nikon is doing in Sweden with its distribution and marketing - is it the same with their photography products, which most everywhere else are surely the leading choice of pros, especially in the press?

Concerning cost, I certainly agree with you in many ways but when all else is equal, with the Swarovski costing here some hundreds of pounds more than its competitors, I cannot think this is something not to be seriously considered.
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Old Wednesday 11th February 2004, 10:39   #20
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I second Sven's opinion about the price. After a few years, even small shortcomings may become increasingly disturbing whereas the price difference is quite soon meaningless. I wonder however, why Nikons are so unpopular in Sweden - especially because to my knowledge Scandinavian Nikons are shipped from Nikon Svenska! Smaller ED-Fieldscopes (not that 78mm) are quite popular here - and without doubt optically excellent.

But being a thread under "Digiscoping"-subject I would emphasize this aspect when choosing the scope. My biggest problem with digiscoping is very narrow usable field-of-view. Zeiss and Swarovski (and Leica) give you slightly wider view than Nikon, and this is often very useful.

Optically Zeiss is sometimes ranked at the very top (eg. Alula), but sometimes surprisinly low - whereas Swaro is always at 1. or 2. Based on earlier discussions I am a little afraid that Zeiss (being a more complex superachromat objective) may be more prone to individual variation than Swaro.

If you feel comfortable with handling of Swarovski, it is optically a very safe bet for digiscoping-oriented birding.

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Old Wednesday 11th February 2004, 10:39   #21
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Nikons photografic products are selling well here and have good reputation. They are also selling binoculars but thats a much larger market with all the hunters and sailors.

My guess is that the scope market is to small with birders as the primary buyers. I did a little math on it. If 10000 birders replace thier scope every five years and and Kowa, Leica, Swarowski and Zeiss takes 95% of the orders, it leaves only 100 units per year for the others to fight about.
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Old Wednesday 11th February 2004, 12:13   #22
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Originally Posted by scampo
Goodness knows what Nikon is doing in Sweden with its distribution and marketing - is it the same with their photography products, which most everywhere else are surely the leading choice of pros, especially in the press?
Take a look at the colour of lenses when you see big groups of photographers: most are Canon white and not Nikon black (though you can sometimes get Nikon white). I believe that Canon dominate the consumer market in terms of sales.

Canon are dominant in many areas, due in part to a technological lead over Nikon and others (think DO, IS, USM, 1Ds, etc) and in part because they go out of their way to look after pros at major events in particular.

What puzzles me is why Nikon binoculars are relatively cheap in the US, compared with German/Austrian marques, but here they are priced level with German/Austrian marques. It must be a policy of Nikon UK to make more profit here, or maybe lower sales volumes force higher prices?
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Old Wednesday 11th February 2004, 12:29   #23
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[quote=iporali]Optically Zeiss is sometimes ranked at the very top (eg. Alula), but sometimes surprisinly low - whereas Swaro is always at 1. or 2. end quote]

Alula ranked the 85mm Diascope top out of several top-end scopes before they tested the new Swarovski 80mm. When they tested the new Swarovski 80mm, they concluded that it 'rose to the level' of the Diascope. I think it was a draw.
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Old Wednesday 11th February 2004, 15:19   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iporali
I second Sven's opinion about the price. After a few years, even small shortcomings may become increasingly disturbing whereas the price difference is quite soon meaningless. I wonder however, why Nikons are so unpopular in Sweden - especially because to my knowledge Scandinavian Nikons are shipped from Nikon Svenska! Smaller ED-Fieldscopes (not that 78mm) are quite popular here - and without doubt optically excellent.

But being a thread under "Digiscoping"-subject I would emphasize this aspect when choosing the scope. My biggest problem with digiscoping is very narrow usable field-of-view. Zeiss and Swarovski (and Leica) give you slightly wider view than Nikon, and this is often very useful.

Optically Zeiss is sometimes ranked at the very top (eg. Alula), but sometimes surprisinly low - whereas Swaro is always at 1. or 2. Based on earlier discussions I am a little afraid that Zeiss (being a more complex superachromat objective) may be more prone to individual variation than Swaro.



Ilkka

I'm inclined to go along with the view that for high end optical equipment, price is a secondary consideration. If you've made a decision to buy one of the top 'scopes, then you've made a committment to spend a considerable sum of money.

You must therefore, I reckon, satisfy yourself that you have the best availabe to suit your own needs and taste. If I concluded that the Swarovski 'scope was better than the Nikon, then I know I would have to have the Swarovski, despite the extra expenditure. I would be prepared to wait and save some money for the 'scope of choice than settle for something I knew that was second-best.

By the way, I haven't a view on which is best. I've looked through both Nikon and Swarovski 'scopes and both are outstanding. I reckon I'd need to spend about an hour with both 'scopes side by side to determine which best suited my needs. The Nikon has quite high gearing as I recall, but this would be something that would be adapted to in regualr use.

I also compare Nikon HG DCH 8x32 and Swarovski EL 8x32 bins on the weekend. Optically there is almost no noticable difference, though they handle quite differently in the hand. Its a question of personal taste.

I do have a pair of Nikon HG DCF 8x20 bins which it must be said are truly supurb and beat, in my view, the Zeiss Victory compacts optically.
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Old Wednesday 11th February 2004, 18:00   #25
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Originally Posted by trealawboy
I also compare Nikon HG DCH 8x32 and Swarovski EL 8x32 bins on the weekend. Optically there is almost no noticable difference, though they handle quite differently in the hand. Its a question of personal taste.
and if you still can't choose buy the Nikon's and save £300!!
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