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could use some help refining my spotting scope choice (1 Viewer)

glennd

Member
United States
hi bird forum folks,
i'm searching for wisdom on spotting scope selection. i was an active birder decades ago and have moved to astronomy for some time - so that's my frame of reference. i've become increasingly interested in observing birds at higher magnifications than my 8x and 15x binoculars allow - mostly for raptors here at home (but really anyone who shows up and will hold still long enough for scope use) and birdlife on very rare trips to lake champlain here in vermont or the atlantic coast.

i have larger astronomical scopes that can be adapted for terrestrial use but i'm not a huge fan of that idea. for ease of use, i'm on point of purchase of the tiny kowa tsn-553 but could be accused of taking the portability factor a little too far. i won't go over $1800 but would be more comfortable at half that. i am now officially kicking myself for selling my 65mm nikon edg when i bought swaro 15x 56 slc's. (no knock on the swaros!! - just miss the edg now).

the scopes i'm considering in addition to the tiny kowa are it's slightly bigger brother, the tsn-663m (is the tiny fluorite scope that much better corrected than the 663M?), the meopta meopro 80 hd angled (because i imagine 80mm might be nice at the ocean and if the quality is anything like my meostar B1+ 8x 42 binoculars, they know what they are doing) and perhaps a nikon monarch in some variation. i prefer a good quality zoom for convenience but don't want to spend the extra big money for the wider field zooms. i'll be content with 40-60 degree afov.

in terms of aberations, a little edge of field softness is ok with me. i really don't like ghosts or poor stray light control (this spotter will occasionally be used to steal quick looks at the moon, but dso's and planets will be better left to larger telescopes). a small hint of false color on the moon would be fine but no violet or green lights shows in the day or night. and i'd prefer to avoid flash in the pan optics houses.

i just re-read this and am afraid i overemphasized astronomy use - really this scope is for daylight on land and sea!

i'd appreciate any thoughts. thanks so much!
glenn
 

henry link

Well-known member
If $1800 is your limit and you don’t mind a 40-60 degree AFOV the Nikon 82mm Monarch is the strongest contender IMO. A good sample is optically just as good or better than any of the alpha scopes with similar apertures.
 

glennd

Member
United States
thank you henry! i will look into the nikon carefully. i wish i could land all 3 scopes here to compare them! if there is considerable sample variation within a model, that is of concern though. is the issue typically collimation?
 

Felixtheelix

Well-known member
Germany
You possibly saw my thread and my way to a spotting scope. I own the Opticron MM4/60 since three days and tested it today so I’m still in the honeymoon phase but I really can recommend to try it. Your budget is high enough for the small Kowa but the MM4/60 is about 1000€ with the great SDLv3, even cheaper with the HDF zoom. The MM4/77 would be in your range too as you mentioned a bigger scope. To me, the MM4/60 seems to be the perfect scope to complement my binoculars and help to identify birds too far away.
I wouldn’t want to carry a 80mm scope, especially cause I do more of a hike/bird combination. But if you don’t walk that much I bet an 80mm scope offers definitely brighter views. I was amazed by a Leica APO with x90 zoom, it was like a documentary see the yellow eye of the yellow legged gull hundreds of meters away.
 

glennd

Member
United States
thank you felix. i wasn't thinking about the opticron spotters but i guess i should. it is interesting that the MM4 77 GA ED/45 Fieldscope + SDLv3 18-54x Eyepiece weighs the same as the nikon. i just read troubador's review of the scope and the flurry of comments that followed. sounds like i should put the opticron on the list as well although i was not sure about the degree of false color indicated in the review. off axis is tolerable for me, but i value a sharp and large sweetspot. i will be hiking a bit with this scope so weight is a factor. that's one of the things about the tiny kowa - it would never be left behind. too many constraints to balance!!
 

Binastro

Well-known member
The faults in spotting scopes mentioned here are usually not poor collimation.

Just poor optics, even with expensive scopes.

Regards,
B.
 

BKoh

Well-known member
Singapore
Since you have astronomical telescopes, consider a spotting scope that can natively use 1.25" eyepieces:

1. Celestron: Trailseeker, Regal 65/80/100
2. Svbony: SV406P 65/80
3. Pentax 65/80/100

I have a Svbony SV406P 80mm, very good performance for visual use, no CA even at 108x (with a 4mm EP). Nice views of Jupiter at 90x (9mm EP w/1.5x barlow). I have not looked through an "alpha" scope so I don't know how much better the view is, but for its price (USD 300 +/-) I am sure it is hard to beat. The included zoom is quite good - see digiscoped pics in the threads about this scope - and if you have good quality astro EPs the scope does even better. I have the APM UFF 18mm and 10mm EPs and the scope uses them well.

Besides Meopta, some people also like the Vortex Razor scopes. But someone on BF also tested the SV406P with a Baader Hyperion EP, apparently that combo was better than the Vortex Razor with its own zoom.
 

glennd

Member
United States
Since you have astronomical telescopes, consider a spotting scope that can natively use 1.25" eyepieces:

1. Celestron: Trailseeker, Regal 65/80/100
2. Svbony: SV406P 65/80
3. Pentax 65/80/100

I have a Svbony SV406P 80mm, very good performance for visual use, no CA even at 108x (with a 4mm EP). Nice views of Jupiter at 90x (9mm EP w/1.5x barlow). I have not looked through an "alpha" scope so I don't know how much better the view is, but for its price (USD 300 +/-) I am sure it is hard to beat. The included zoom is quite good - see digiscoped pics in the threads about this scope - and if you have good quality astro EPs the scope does even better. I have the APM UFF 18mm and 10mm EPs and the scope uses them well.

Besides Meopta, some people also like the Vortex Razor scopes. But someone on BF also tested the SV406P with a Baader Hyperion EP, apparently that combo was better than the Vortex Razor with its own zoom.
thank you Bkoh! super interesting thought. we have an 80mm pentax where i work which seems dim and not terribly sharp to me, but it might be that particular scope. it is not well maintained. i once tried a small astronomical apo for terrestrial use and got a first hand lesson in balancing design constraints. the 24mm panoptic i used in it so successfully at night provided laughably distorted views in daylight. i wanted to try a longer focus orthoscopic with it but did not have one on hand. i imagine that would have been a very nice combination. i do have a stupid number of astronomical eyepieces, some of which outweigh a few of the spotters i'm considering (ok, an exageration but only a slight one). i just looked up the price of the Svbony SV406P 80mm and have a televue zoom on hand that might make a nice combination. wow! so i can have my cake and eat it too? tgtbt? those photos in your posting from 6/20/21 are lovely! ok, now i'm really confused.
 

BKoh

Well-known member
Singapore
If you buy from a place that offers easy returns, like Amazon, you can order and test a few scopes. There are other satisfied owners of the SV406P here. One review on Amazon JP notes it was used with a TV Nagler too; he/she seemed satisfied.

A few more of my pics to show what the SV406P and included zoom are capable of:

Ashy Tailorbird
Coppersmith Barbet
Jerdon's Baza
Oriental Magpie-Robin (male)
Common Iora
Blue-Tailed Bee-Eater

All shot using my Samsung Note 9 handheld to the eyepiece. You can probably do better if you spend 10x as much for a Leica or Swarovski, but I am quite happy with what I have.

BTW the Meopta can use 1.25" EPs via an adapter, there was a recent thread about it. So that could be a good choice for you too.
 

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Felixtheelix

Well-known member
Germany
If you buy from a place that offers easy returns, like Amazon, you can order and test a few scopes. There are other satisfied owners of the SV406P here. One review on Amazon JP notes it was used with a TV Nagler too; he/she seemed satisfied.

A few more of my pics to show what the SV406P and included zoom are capable of:

Ashy Tailorbird
Coppersmith Barbet
Jerdon's Baza
Oriental Magpie-Robin (male)
Common Iora
Blue-Tailed Bee-Eater

All shot using my Samsung Note 9 handheld to the eyepiece. You can probably do better if you spend 10x as much for a Leica or Swarovski, but I am quite happy with what I have.

BTW the Meopta can use 1.25" EPs via an adapter, there was a recent thread about it. So that could be a good choice for you too.
I'm really impressed by the pictures and quality of the scope! It's just a little too heavy for my taste. This in a 60-70mm version would be great!
 

BKoh

Well-known member
Singapore
I'm really impressed by the pictures and quality of the scope! It's just a little too heavy for my taste. This in a 60-70mm version would be great!
As luck would have it, the SV406P is available in 65mm. So far the reports here are from 80mm owners, but the design and execution look identical for the 65mm, so 99.9% likely they come from the same factory.
 

Felixtheelix

Well-known member
Germany
As luck would have it, the SV406P is available in 65mm. So far the reports here are from 80mm owners, but the design and execution look identical for the 65mm, so 99.9% likely they come from the same factory.
Hahah thank you - i only saw the 80mm version..
This may be a good and cheap alternative to the MM4/60. Maybe i will give it a try just for fun.
 

JakeM

Well-known member
Since you have astronomical telescopes, consider a spotting scope that can natively use 1.25" eyepieces:

1. Celestron: Trailseeker, Regal 65/80/100
2. Svbony: SV406P 65/80
3. Pentax 65/80/100

I have a Svbony SV406P 80mm, very good performance for visual use, no CA even at 108x (with a 4mm EP). Nice views of Jupiter at 90x (9mm EP w/1.5x barlow). I have not looked through an "alpha" scope so I don't know how much better the view is, but for its price (USD 300 +/-) I am sure it is hard to beat. The included zoom is quite good - see digiscoped pics in the threads about this scope - and if you have good quality astro EPs the scope does even better. I have the APM UFF 18mm and 10mm EPs and the scope uses them well.

Besides Meopta, some people also like the Vortex Razor scopes. But someone on BF also tested the SV406P with a Baader Hyperion EP, apparently that combo was better than the Vortex Razor with its own zoom.
I also have the svbony 406p. i have used it with a baader hyperion 10 mm and 13 mm. Also have coupled it with a 1.9 x Barlow with these two eyepieces as well as the supplied zoom. At 7.1 with the Barlow i am at 115 x. On good days with co operating atmospheric conditions, it is still quite impressive. i am to identify clearly birds at the far ends of our local marshes, something that i have never been able to do before ....i don't do digiscoping, so i am unable to post examples, unfortunately. This is where the "slow" fine focus is important.
 

glennd

Member
United States
an embarssment of riches!! i don't know if my experience with astro telescopes holds here but for instance the really high quality, relatively inexpensive fpl-53 and the like doublets are astonishing performers for the price. side by side with the same size apo at 3 or 4x the price does reveal a significant difference in image quality even though the less expensive scope puts up really nice images. on the one hand - diminishing marginal returns are at work but on the other you do get what you pay for in astro telescopes and i've found the same with binoculars. in binocular equvalent terms, i'm a swaro slc buyer, but not an nl pure buyer.

the nikon 60mm monarch bundled with zoom, the kowa tsn-663m with zoom and the substantially heavier meopta meopro 80hd (which has a fixed zoom) are all around $1350. then there is the tiny kowa tsn-553 for $500 more. i think that's what this is coming down to for me. thanks for everyones thoughts!
 

Jkloz

Member
United States
As a beginner I bought the celestron Regal because it accepts 1.25 eyepieces . Im very happy with the results of the baader zoom mark 4 as a replacement for the stock eyepiece . My plan is to upgrade eventually to the Kowa 77 , which is in your budget and with a $40 adapter will accept 1.25 eyepieces .
 

glennd

Member
United States
As a beginner I bought the celestron Regal because it accepts 1.25 eyepieces . Im very happy with the results of the baader zoom mark 4 as a replacement for the stock eyepiece . My plan is to upgrade eventually to the Kowa 77 , which is in your budget and with a $40 adapter will accept 1.25 eyepieces .
thank you! i did not realize the kowas could accept 1.25" eyepieces! i've been debating whether i should try the svbony 406p, the altlon ares uhd 65 (which has the barrel focuser which i like in cold weather as well as an absurd 3.7 degree fov at 15x) or go with a more expensive scope and be done. thank you for this thought!
 

Jkloz

Member
United States
thank you! i did not realize the kowas could accept 1.25" eyepieces! i've been debating whether i should try the svbony 406p, the altlon ares uhd 65 (which has the barrel focuser which i like in cold weather as well as an absurd 3.7 degree fov at 15x) or go with a more expensive scope and be done. thank you for this thought!
 

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BKoh

Well-known member
Singapore
i've been debating whether i should try the svbony 406p, the altlon ares uhd 65 (which has the barrel focuser which i like in cold weather as well as an absurd 3.7 degree fov at 15x) or go with a more expensive scope and be done. thank you for this thought!
Spotting scope FOV @ 1000 yards as per Vortex and Athlon websites:

(Vortex)
Razor HD 27-60x85: 117-60
Razor HD 22-48x65: 138-75
Viper HD 20-60x85: 101-50
Viper HD 15-45x65: 137-68
Diamondback HD 20-60x85: 108-60
Diamondback HD 15-45x65: 138-72

(Athlon)
Argos 20-60x85: 102-48
Talos 20-60x80: 82.9-48
Ares 15-45x65: 171-81
Ares 20-60x85: 99-47

The 3 Vortex 65mm scopes offer ~140 ft @ 1000 yards. It is possible the 65mm Athlon Ares has a unique eyepiece with an unusually wide FOV. But I would hazard a guess that most likely it is a typo and it probably offers 141-71 or similar. Note how close the 85mm Ares is to the 85mm Viper, the 65mm units are probably similar also. Better doublecheck with Athlon, and if you buy, make sure you can return it easily.
 
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jring

Well-known member
thank you! i did not realize the kowas could accept 1.25" eyepieces! i've been debating whether i should try the svbony 406p, the altlon ares uhd 65 (which has the barrel focuser which i like in cold weather as well as an absurd 3.7 degree fov at 15x) or go with a more expensive scope and be done. thank you for this thought!

Hi,

the large body Kowas (770 and 880 series) can use 1.25" astro EPs with an adapter. Not all will come to infinity focus though. The grub screw adapter helps a bit with that. Search cloudynights and here for some examples that come to infinity focus.

Joachim
 

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