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Zeiss Harpia 95 - Swarovski ATX 95 - Subjective comparison

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Old Tuesday 2nd October 2018, 16:46   #1
OhWeh
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Zeiss Harpia 95 - Swarovski ATX 95 - Subjective comparison

Remark: as I am German, my English is lousy, so please ask, if something is not clear.

Obviously the Swarowski ATX 30-70x95 and the Zeiss Harpia 23-70x95 are the current top models of both competitors.

Both spotting scopes weigh a good 2 kilograms, are of course water pressure-tight, suitable for spectacle wearers with 18 mm or 20 mm exit pupil distance and have a near point of almost 5 metres. Both are manufactured in Central Europe (Austria respectively Germany) and each costs around 4,000 euros! With an adequate tripod and head, each one will cost 5,000 Euros or more, and will weigh at least 4 to more than 6 kilograms.

My wife and I were (and still are) allowed to test both spotting scopes (I wrote an article for the LBV member magazine). The result: there is no objective winner or loser. Both are similar in terms of data, see above, but subjectively there are just as big differences when looking through them as there are constructively different.

Swarovski relies on the proven combination of a fixed focal length on the lens side and a 2.3x zoom eyepiece. The result is a magnification of 30x to 70x with a field of view of 35 meters at a distance of 1000 meters at the smallest and 19 meters at the highest magnification.

Zeiss uses a 3x zoom lens and a fixed focal length eyepiece. (Some years ago the Zeiss Photoscope had a similar construction: 3x zoom, but with 15-45x magnification) The result is a truly magnificent field of view of almost 59 meters at 23x magnification, approx. 45 meters at 30x magnification - 10 meters more than with the Swarovski. At 70x magnification the field of view is 19.5 meters, almost equal to the Swarovski.

In practice this means that I can follow e.g. griffins, white storks, ducks and geese in flight much easier with the Harpia than before. Also the examination of bank lines at low and medium magnifications is a pleasure! A real advantage over the Swarovski. Last weekend the third spotting scope in the row was a DiaScope85 with 25-75 zoom. In direct comparison the view appeared to me (glasses -5 dioptres) like a view into a narrow tube. Don't do so, otherwise your bank account will be in danger!

As already discussed here several times: To increase the image quality, the Harpia stops down the aperture at low magnifications. It only uses the full 95 mm front lens diameter from 40 times magnification up to 70x. We have tested this on a really cloudy rainy day shortly before sunset until shortly after sunset (according to Ornitho.de, the sun itself was covered by thick clouds) in the garden: Where you can distinguish fine branches in the dark edge of the wood well, looking through the Swarovski, the Harpia reaches its limits. From 40 times brightness equivalence, but the Swarovski remains a bit more crisp. So if you have to search for the bittern in the dusk, the Swarovski will be the better choice.

With both spotting scopes the sharpness is wonderful even at highest magnification, no drop in sharpness! If you look through the middle of the eyepiece, you will look in vain for colored edges, at least I did. The contrast of the Swarovski is a bit higher, see dark forest above. Bright objects against dark background will get a sort of aureola in Swarovski, that was quite clear with autumn asters with bees on them in the sun against dark(!) shadows in the background, and less clear but noticeable with reeds in the sun against reeds in the shade.

If the subject is near the sun (i.e. the subject is back lit) both scopes do well, but both do remarkable better, with an improvised lens hood! (the integrated lens hoods are far to short) Too bad, that the Swarovski has an absolutely unusual filter thread size. For the Zeiss you’ll get screwable lens hoods from Heliopan, or other providers (the Heliopan aluminum lens hoods are highly recommended by me)
The view (the optical ergonomic of the ocular) is more comfortable with and without glasses with the Swarovski. With the Zeiss it may provoke to shading (kidney form), if your eye is not exact in the right position. This was especially the case with the first attempts. On Sunday I used only the Harpia. It got better and better, in the end the shadows were only rare and little disturbing.

For me the biggest subjective difference is the view/opticval impression:

At Swarovski I looked through and everything was/is sharp and crisp and good from the beginning, just as you would expect from the price range.

With the Harpia I first had problems, similar to those, if I pick up a new pair of glasses from the optician. To be as precise as possible with the description of the Harpia: if the center is sharp, then the edge appears (but think of the field of view!!) somehow blurred, no not blurred, but the sharpness is not to grab at once. I think (don’t know) there is a curvature of the image field. This irritated me and my wife enormously when I first(!) looked through it.

But after using it for a longer time (a few hours), my eye (and the little brain behind it) got used to the spotting scope (like to a new pair of glasses) and now the impression is quite different: continuously sharp and somehow much more plastic than with the Swarovski. The Swarovski appears flat, the Harpia (apparently) three-dimensional. After I got used to the Harpia, I don't want to go back to the Swarovski from the picture impression. I write this, because this difference between the first glance through and using it over a longer time is significant.

The focus is similarly different (as a right-handed trader, fokus is done with my left hand, with my right hand, I take aim):
The Swarovski needs three full revolutions, the focus adjustment needs to be encompassed, i.e. turned with thumb and (index) finger. That works well and without problems. (With a Meopta it was once so stiff that the picture trembled.)
With the Harpia the coarse drive makes it in two turns and then the fine drive comes into play. Both walk so easily that you don't have to grip the wheel, but can "rip" the coarse adjustment laterally with the ball of your thumb/several fingers (if it's necessary, because you want to move quickly from close to far) and then with one single finger, you can make the exact adjustment very sensitively. Even more ingenious than with the DiaScope!

Accessories.
Lens cap and eyepiece cap are optimally solved for me with the Harpia. At the front a kind of hard rubber with inner handle, at the back well clamping and serially provided with catch cord.
With the Swarovski you have to touch the lens cap outside which is not really comfortable with a diameter of 98mm, the eyepiece cap comes off too easily. You can't lose it, because it has also a catch cord, but the eyepiece the will be unprotected.
The eyepiece rubber at Swarovski is too soft, attracts dirt, the one at Harpia is soft enough but smooth and can be easily wiped off.


The two scopes were compared alternately on a high-quality carbon tripod from FLM and a wooden tripod from Berlebach. Even with moderate wind, it was noticed again, especially with magnification more than 50 x, that wood dampens vibrations much better. Also the head should be first-class, e.g. Berlebach 552/553 The Berlebach tripod was temporarily equipped with a FLM ball head CB43 FT*, which worked wonderfully soft. Who saves weight and/or money with the tripod, gives away optical potential unnecessarily. Then you can take a mid-range perspective right away.

*With tilt function: The ball can only move in one plane, similar to a 2-way-tilt head. This doesn't work perfectly, but quite well.

Conclusion: Now all I have to do, is get rid of my DiaScope.
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Old Wednesday 10th October 2018, 22:11   #2
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Wonderful review! really useful!
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Old Saturday 20th October 2018, 18:46   #3
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...
Conclusion: Now all I have to do, is get rid of my DiaScope.
In case you already ordered the Harpia, I give you 2 suggestions:
- never look through a spotting scope with a eps of >80º AFOV;
- never look through a Swaro with the 1.7x extender...
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Old Sunday 21st October 2018, 21:14   #4
OhWeh
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- never look through a Swaro with the 1.7x extender...
This could be a nice birthday present for my wife. She prefered the ATX 95 As she never asks for jewelry, she got one. She has the better eye, and she knows much more about - not only - birds, than me, so she really deserved it.
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Old Tuesday 23rd October 2018, 18:56   #5
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Very interesting review, thanks alot! Regarding the tripods: I would not have expected the FLM - supposedly a light and compact version with 26mm legs - to support such beefy scopes sufficiently well. Which Berlebach model did you use in comparison?
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Old Wednesday 24th October 2018, 05:48   #6
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FLM: CP30-L3 PRO, this is not comparable at all to the small traveler tripod from FLM (which is very nice for macro photography and more)

Berlebach: they have changed their series, mine is similar to the Report 342. I use up to 10 cm of the column to adjust easily, when watching BIF (looking upwards) or looking downwards etc.
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Old Wednesday 24th October 2018, 13:30   #7
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Thanks again! The CP30 might indeed cope with a 85/95 scope but I think a solid Berlebach Report with single leg extension, although heavy und cumbersome, should be ideal. The 302 might be my next buy - I just hate center columns.
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Old Tuesday 20th November 2018, 20:02   #8
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Update: the DiaScope 85 is sold.

I will keep the Harpia for me. It is a very nice extension of my Zeiss Equipment:

8x32 FL + 20x60S + Harpia 95

In the moment, there are 6 binos here in the room for a short test. Among them a 8.5x42 EL and a 8x42 SF ....

Do not tempt me!
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Old Friday 23rd November 2018, 22:04   #9
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...

I will keep the Harpia for me. It is a very nice extension of my Zeiss Equipment:

8x32 FL + 20x60S + Harpia 95

...
Congratulations!...

Now you can do an objective comparison with your wife's X95...
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Old Friday 23rd November 2018, 22:19   #10
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Objective, in my opinion is never possible.

Even if you "only" measure instead of looking through: the weighting of the results is subjective.
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Old Monday 17th December 2018, 15:45   #11
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Great review. I have the ATX 95mm and the Harpia 95mm. My wife and I prefer the ATX.
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Old Tuesday 18th December 2018, 10:50   #12
Boris Flaccus
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Great review. I have the ATX 95mm and the Harpia 95mm. My wife and I prefer the ATX.
out of curiosity: are you going to keep the Harpia then?
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Old Tuesday 18th December 2018, 12:28   #13
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out of curiosity: are you going to keep the Harpia then?
Yes, I'm a Zeiss and Swarovski dealer. We are going to keep it as a demo.
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Old Friday 28th December 2018, 10:27   #14
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For me the biggest subjective difference is the view/opticval impression:

At Swarovski I looked through and everything was/is sharp and crisp and good from the beginning, just as you would expect from the price range.

With the Harpia I first had problems, similar to those, if I pick up a new pair of glasses from the optician. To be as precise as possible with the description of the Harpia: if the center is sharp, then the edge appears (but think of the field of view!!) somehow blurred, no not blurred, but the sharpness is not to grab at once. I think (don’t know) there is a curvature of the image field. This irritated me and my wife enormously when I first(!) looked through it.

But after using it for a longer time (a few hours), my eye (and the little brain behind it) got used to the spotting scope (like to a new pair of glasses) and now the impression is quite different: continuously sharp and somehow much more plastic than with the Swarovski. The Swarovski appears flat, the Harpia (apparently) three-dimensional. After I got used to the Harpia, I don't want to go back to the Swarovski from the picture impression. I write this, because this difference between the first glance through and using it over a longer time is significant.
Very interesting review, I think you have a very good point in that you need to use the equipment in the field and for more than an hour to be able to get used to it and understand the benefits and possible quirks.

What sometimes annoys me with my current scope is the "smallish" FOV/AFOV (actually the FOV was very good with "normal" standards, before the Harpia..).

I will take a more thorough look at the Harpia as soon as I can get to my dealer. I've only tried a preproduction Harpia for now, it was indoors and the scope was mounted on a horrible tripod. It felt a bit like test driving a car in a garage. Not optimal obviously.

The flat field of the Swaros is not only a "bad" thing IMO as you need to move the scope much less as the complete FOV to the very edge is very usable for making ID:s. Will be interesting to see how much of the big FOV on the Harpia that is usable, without have to re-focus.
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Old Friday 28th December 2018, 17:56   #15
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Here is another comparison done by a polish guy who had the opportunity to test the Harpia and also compare with the competition for a few hours at some Birdfair event. He seems quite impressed. The low level of CA in the Harpia was one thing I noted in the "review".

It's in polish but try the link to google translate.

https://translate.google.com/transla...tory-harpia%2F

Original i polish:

http://birdfair.pl/zeiss-victory-harpia/
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Old Friday 28th December 2018, 21:44   #16
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Thanks, Vespobuteo!

Now that I have used the Harpia 95 a few more times (too rarely, because of the modest weather on weekends where I had time) in the field at length, here are some additional subjective words:

The ocular insight into the Harpia remains less comfortable than with the Swaro 95, but meanwhile it is no longer a problem for me.

The huge field of view, especially at small magnifications, is ingenious! If you have searched gravel banks or something similar with the Harpia, you don't want to do that anymore with the Swaro 95 (or DiaScope 85 or Kowa 883)

If the air between the lenses and the object of desire is clean, then the image of the Harpia is much more "three-dimensional" compared to the ATX 95 (says also my wife, who chose the ATX) and more brilliant, clear, luminous. The ATX in comparision seems almost dull. The greater the distance, i.e. the more air in between, the weaker the effect.

And because something was already to be read in this regard: With our two specimens (the ATX 95 is top) there are no differences in resolution or sharpness at 70x magnification. Both Harpia and ATX are first class.
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Old Friday 22nd February 2019, 20:33   #17
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For the Zeiss you’ll get screwable lens hoods from Heliopan, or other providers (the Heliopan aluminum lens hoods are highly recommended by me)
Addendum: two combined Tele-lens-hoods size 95 from Heliopan do not cause any vignetting, not even with 23x-magnification.
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Old Sunday 24th February 2019, 10:10   #18
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Control of Chromatic Aberration in Harpia

Hello,

I have a question to all users of the HARPIA 95. Are there colour fringes visible? Some images taken with early instruments that have been published in internet show this (a Harpia bird within a tree. The tree and the leaves display some fairly noticeable green and purple colour fringes. It´s the fifth image. See: http://naturetravelnetwork.com/first...-scope-panama/). The aberrations are stronger at the image edges and for out-of-focus areas. But still it is noticeable.

How is the experience with the commercially available instruments that have been released for sale regarding the amount of visual chromatic aberration when looking through the instrument at high contrast objects?

Thanks
Michael

Last edited by Apochromat : Sunday 24th February 2019 at 14:11.
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Old Sunday 24th February 2019, 20:10   #19
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I'm not aware of any color fringes, whilst I'm watching with the Harpia.
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Old Friday 1st March 2019, 06:54   #20
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I didn't see any colour fringes when testing the Harpia on Islay and there were plenty of opportunities with white gulls against dark seas and skies as well as black Jackdaws and Red-billed Choughs against white clouds.

When viewing photos with chromatic aberration how can you be sure the camera/lens was not the source of the fringes?

Lee
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Old Friday 1st March 2019, 20:26   #21
Apochromat
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I didn't see any colour fringes when testing the Harpia on Islay and there were plenty of opportunities with white gulls against dark seas and skies as well as black Jackdaws and Red-billed Choughs against white clouds.

When viewing photos with chromatic aberration how can you be sure the camera/lens was not the source of the fringes?

Lee
Dear All,

I always ask myself such questions before considering a new instrument for purchase, especially as this is the most expensive scope on the market and as such difficult to test at least here in Germany. There are only two knowledgeable and reputable dealers that carry the HARPIA 95 and they are several hundreds of kilometers away from where I live. Although I am a very happy user of a KOWA 883 PROMINAR, the large imaged object field kept over the focus range and the objective diameter of 95 mm is quite impressive.

The more answers we get here the better. Usually the chromatic aberration of the magnification (Farbquerfehler, Farbvergrößerungsfehler, German) -and this was displayed within the quoted picture- is caused by wrong combinations of optical components (e.g. distance between instrument and camera adapter optics, wrong dispersion of camera adapter lens groups), but also can come from misaligned instruments themselves (e.g. wrong distance of lens groups and also missing stops within a beam path etc.).

Thanks
Michael

BTW: Are there any elaborate camera adapters from ZEISS for the HARPIA specifically designed for MFT cameras available yet?

Last edited by Apochromat : Saturday 2nd March 2019 at 06:53. Reason: new idea
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Old Saturday 2nd March 2019, 07:14   #22
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here in Germany. There are only two knowledgeable and reputable dealers that carry the HARPIA 95 and they are several hundreds of kilometers away from where I live.

Michael

Michael
English is a funny old language and I can interpret what you posted above in a few different ways. Could you please clarify the following and forgive me if it sounds like an interrogation:

Do you mean there are only 2 Harpia dealers in the whole of Germany?
Or
That there are more than 2 Harpia dealers but only two of them are knowledgeable and reputable?
Or
There are more than 2 Harpia dealers that are knowledgeable and reputable but only 2 are within a practical traveling distance from where you live?

Cheers Lee
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Old Saturday 2nd March 2019, 15:52   #23
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Michael
English is a funny old language and I can interpret what you posted above in a few different ways. Could you please clarify the following and forgive me if it sounds like an interrogation:

Do you mean there are only 2 Harpia dealers in the whole of Germany?
Or
That there are more than 2 Harpia dealers but only two of them are knowledgeable and reputable?
Or
There are more than 2 Harpia dealers that are knowledgeable and reputable but only 2 are within a practical traveling distance from where you live?

Cheers Lee
Hello Lee,

It´s the middle option. So, I do not know exactly how many dealers offer the CARL ZEISS HARPIA 95 in Germany. I think quite a few. My home- town optician has it displayed too, but does not allow me to take it out of the shop even for one minute. Maybe this is because they are by far no experts in anything optical except eyeglasses.

No, I meant that I only know of two experienced and reputable dealers that allow for a few hours long outdoor testing of their spotting scopes and also encourage people to do so before buying. Also these two dealers have a good knowledge of all products as both offer the major brands (ZEISS, SWAROVSKI, LEICA and KOWA). Another good thing is that none of the two tries to push you in a specific direction/ brand.

As we all know the choices possible are often highly subjective and as we say one man´s meat is another one´s poison.

And yes they are both too far away from where I live just to go there for curiosity.

Thanks
Michael

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Old Saturday 2nd March 2019, 16:06   #24
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Hello Lee,

It´s the middle option. So, I do not know exactly how many dealers offer the CARL ZEISS HARPIA 95 in Germany. I think quite a few. My home- town optician has it displayed too, but does not allow me to take it out of the shop even for one minute. Maybe this is because they are by far no experts in anything optical except eyeglasses.

No, I meant that I only know of two experienced and reputable dealers that allow for a few hours long outdoor testing of their spotting scopes and also encourage people to do so before buying. Also these two dealers have a good knowledge of all products as both offer the major brands (ZEISS, SWAROVSKI, LEICA and KOWA). Another good thing is that none of the two tries to push you in a specific direction/ brand.

As we all know the choices possible are often highly subjective and as we say one man´s meat is another one´s poison.

And yes they are both too far away from where I live just to go there for curiosity.

Thanks
Michael
Hi Michael

Thank you for that. Now, alles klar.

Dealers like the ones you describe are very valuable to know about even if they are an uncomfortable distance to travel. My two favourite dealers are 150km and 230km from where I live but they both offer excellent testing conditions.

Lee
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Old Monday 27th May 2019, 00:47   #25
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Thank you for the excellent review.

I recently wanted to purchase a second scope, angled, my other scope being a well-used, older, straight Zeiss Diascope 65mm. I had the opportunity to compare the Harpia and ATX scopes side by side for several hours. My findings astonished me, because I expected to walk away with the Harpia, but ended up purchasing the Swaro.

The most significant advantages of the Zeiss scope were:
* better focusing system
* better field of view

The most significant advantages of the Swarovski scope were:
* better resolution at high power
* significantly better eye relief (important to me with eyeglasses)
* brighter in the shadows
* better options (attachments) for digiscoping

The deal was sealed by the fact that Zeiss recently increased its minimum advertised price, which meant that I could purchase the Swaro for about $500 USD less. Additionally, Swarovski recently changed the mount system to Arco-Swiss, which means I can use it on my tripod without a mounting plate. Nice.

I am a writer of natural history and I use optics for my research. Strangely enough, my two primary working binoculars are a Zeiss Victory 7x42, and a Swaro Swarovision EL 8x32. So now I have both Zeiss and Swaro scopes to completely split the optical collection.

Last edited by Buff1ehead : Monday 27th May 2019 at 00:53.
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