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General spotting scope questions (1 Viewer)

kimsrk

I dnt knw enuf 2 knw if what I'm asking is evn dum
United States
I'm looking to maybe grab a spotting scope mostly for shore bird watching and I don't really want to drop 3k on the high end glass, or go back and forth trying and returning scopes (no good stores in Hawaii to see in person) to find the right one, if I decide to spend that money.

The questions I have are mostly around magnification. The birds I'm trying to view are a range of about 100m-1300m. I like the idea of the compact scopes, was looking at the usual suspects Kowa 55x or newer 55a, Sawors, etc. but I'm not sure if 40x does much for 1300m. I had some 15x bino's that weren't too bad, but definitely not enough to ID easily. So that thought already bumps me up to probably the 70-80mm range if 60x is going to be necessary.

Any suggestions or explanations to help me understand if 40x would be enough at 1300m or should I just start looking at 60x models?
 
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Depending with the heat haze and air quality in my place, my scope's starts from 30x and occasionally I zoomed up to 60x for critical ID with the 95mm Swarovski Optik. Most of the time, it stays at 30x with the STX. It is good to have a zoom eyepiece with wide field of view rather than fixed eyepiece. I used the scope on the wetlands, coast and also rainforest
 
If weight is not a major consideration then I would recommend you get a proper sized scope for those longer viewing distances.

In a 55 mm scope the exit pupil is going to be very small at 40x magnification, resulting in a darker and less colourful image. It will make for less relaxed viewing.
You are going to be more comfortable observing at 40 x (or more) with an 80 + mm scope.
(I have a 95 mm scope and find that the loss of brightness is noticeable from 50 x magnification upwards)

If you don't want to spend huge money, maybe check out the Nikon Monarch 82.

Don't forget to budget for a decent tripod and head. Good luck!
 
As mentioned, 1300M will require some stable air. I would check reviews here on the highly regarded, earlier Nikon Fieldscope ED78 and ED82


Or:

 
If weight is not a major consideration then I would recommend you get a proper sized scope for those longer viewing distances.

In a 55 mm scope the exit pupil is going to be very small at 40x magnification, resulting in a darker and less colourful image. It will make for less relaxed viewing.
You are going to be more comfortable observing at 40 x (or more) with an 80 + mm scope.
(I have a 95 mm scope and find that the loss of brightness is noticeable from 50 x magnification upwards)

If you don't want to spend huge money, maybe check out the Nikon Monarch 82.

Don't forget to budget for a decent tripod and head. Good luck!
Really appreciate the recommendation. This price point is a little more palatable! Looking Forward to checking this one out.

Steve
 
I have read good things about Kowa, a lot of nra iron sight competitors use them. Been a while since I've looked into it so not sure if that is still the case. I don't think they have a mil reticle option though so keep that in mind.
 
I have read good things about Kowa, a lot of nra iron sight competitors use them. Been a while since I've looked into it so not sure if that is still the case. I don't think they have a mil reticle option though so keep that in mind.
Not having a mil reticle is probably a good thing for birding.
 
Even with a perfect scope, perfect atmospheric conditions and a magnification of 60x with the attendant reduced exit pupil, making an ID at 1300 m is going to be very difficult, much more so than with the naked eye at 22 m.
Might be sufficient with the larger species though.
Recently I took along my smaller 65 mm scope with 30x eyepiece to a location and was observing at little more than 200 m in backlit conditions.
I could not distinguish between Ringed Plovers and Little Ringed Plovers or even between Greenshanks and Spotted Redshanks! :(

John
 
Hi,

if I had to ID birds at 1300m I would take a medium size astro scope, maybe my ED120, the Baader Zoom for 38-113x (plus maybe the corresponding barlow for that day - or night, after all it's an astro scope - with perfect seeing, since I already have it) and maybe the ES 82 deg 30mm cannonball for a super wide angle 30x view for scanning.

And of course a really sturdy tripod - maybe a Berlebach and a manual altitude/azimuth mount or some used Sachtler pro video setup - those sometimes can be found on a german classifieds site for a few hundred Euros and they are rated for medium two digit weights in kilogram....

This setup (which I bought used) was way below 2k€ (although I cheated a bit and did get a german army surplus surveyor tripod for cheap instead of a Berlebach)... in hindsight a really sturdy Berlebach or Sachtler would probably have been better, especially since the altitude/azimuth mount could take another scope...

PS: BF member DRodrigues has a lot of experience with using astro scopes for birding at really high distances... maybe have a look at his website PT-Ducks ...

Joachim
 
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I have and use a Monarch 82ED-A with the 20 to 60 eyepiece but much prefer the new to me this spring Athlon Ares UHD 15-45 x 65.
Have a look at them. Very lightweight and quick on focus.
 
My British survey ex gov. tripod takes 75kg or more and cost me £25.

But I had a one arm altaz mount made for the 6 inch Maksutov that would probably work well at 1300m.
In fact it works well at 3000m.
The Maksutov cost £250 secondhand but long ago.

Or a selected Celestron C8 or C9.25, Tube and optics plus heavy altaz mount Selected secondhand.

A secondhand TAL 100mm f/10 refractor.

The Skywatcher 150mm f/8 tube and optics good secondhand. It has CA but would probably work well at 1300m despite this.

Regards,
B.
 
With some scopes, like the ones from Pentax, any 1.25" zoom eyepiece can be used. The magnification depends in part on the objectives of the scope.
26-78x with 100mm Scope
16-46x/16-48x with 65mm Scopes
21-63x/20-60x/20-61x with 80mm Scopes

Even though my scope has 20-60 zoom magnification I seldom us it past 30x as the image clarity suffers too much with my $700 setup. A more expensive and heavier scope would be able to support greater image magnification.

A scope to consider is the Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 spotting scope that weighs only 1.6 lb.
 
Didn't mean to abandon this thread but I was lost in researching, and trying out the scope I ended up with. Thanks to all of you this was exactly the help I was looking for.

Y'all were correct, the distance I was hoping for was way too much to ask. I was actually wrong on the distance too, it was almost exactly 1 mile.

The birds were medium sized seabirds, shearwaters and noddy's and it just wasn't quite enough to get the details needed for ID' ing. Not sure how much was due to air quality or the visual detail, clarity, and contrast that fell off at 75x zoom. That and the shaking from the slightest touch while trying to track them in the air... It was a lot. I was able to read a sign on the island that I couldn't even see with the naked eye, so that was kinda cool.

I ended up with a Fieldscope III ED 82 and 20-75x MC II eyepiece, that I'm pretty happy with, nothing else to compare it with, but it seems pretty good for the money. Again thank you all, for the very very helpful information.

Steve
 
I have an ED-82A and it is stunning at 75x, when conditions allow it. ER and FOV may not be the best, but it has spoiled me to the point where I find 60x limiting for my vision (I have several smaller scopes that are optically excellent, but have 60x max). I often hear or read about people not caring about high magnification, but I like having the option!

One of my best viewing experiences was observing a herd of mountain goats at ~2 miles (measured with mapping software). I could see them chewing their cuds, and falling asleep on a remote mountainside. I watched the goats on and off over several days while backpacking. I tried lower magnifications, but found myself on 75x nearly 100% of the time. This was at 7000' elevation in a wilderness area, viewing from a ridge across a valley to a steep mountainside. I was glad that I had 75x.

If you have a good sample, you should have an image at 75x that snaps into focus. Defocus one direction, go through best focus to the other side of defocus, then back to the middle. You should see the image literally pop into focus, or snap as the photographers say, when you move the focus back and forth. There are more sophisticated tests that can be done, which have been shared here at Birdforum, but focus snap should be apparent with a good sample.

I would not have my ED82-A and many amazing viewing experiences without this forum, and some of the fine members here that have shared so much. I have had a few scopes that were duds too, but learned what to look for!

Enjoy your Fieldscope!

Jason
 
I have an ED-82A and it is stunning at 75x,
Hey Jason,
I'm still learning some details so bear with me. The MCII 25-75x, has three zoom configurations listed and it's a bit confusing to me. The middle zoom, if I'm reading the Nikon website correctly, is for III/III A models other than Fieldscope III ED82 right? So for example, a Fieldscope III ED60 with the same lens would be 20-60x? Only the 82mm model benefits from the extra zoom?

One of my best viewing experiences was observing a herd of mountain goats at ~2 miles (measured with mapping software). I could see them chewing their cuds, and falling asleep on a remote mountainside. I watched the goats on and off over several days while backpacking. I tried lower magnifications, but found myself on 75x nearly 100% of the time. This was at 7000' elevation in a wilderness area, viewing from a ridge across a valley to a steep mountainside. I was glad that I had 75x.

That sounds amazing, I wish I could say the same thing about mine. From minimum zoom until probably around 75% of full zoom, the view is stunning, I literally couldn't ask for more, especially at this price range. I recently tried some shore bird viewing at about 1 mile and I could not resolve enough detail to ID medium to large birds. Not even close actually. Air quality wasn't amazing, but it wasn't that bad either. Additionally, above 75% of the zoom optical quality drops off pretty noticeably. Specifically, saturation and contrast. In my back yard with ideal lighting the view is much better, but the contrast is still noticeably worse. I am wondering if this is expected at this price point, or if I don't have the best copy. Are there any Alpha scopes that do well at 60+x? It seems like from what I've read most, if not all, suffer from image degradation at high magnifications, but I honestly don't know.


I would not have my ED82-A and many amazing viewing experiences without this forum, and some of the fine members here that have shared so much. I have had a few scopes that were duds too but learned what to look for!

Enjoy your Fieldscope!

Jason

I feel the same way, I'm glad I was able to pick one up for half of the price I was thinking of spending on a scope. Looking forward to some great views over the years.

Cheers.

Steve
 
The MCII 25-75x, has three zoom configurations listed and it's a bit confusing to me. The middle zoom, if I'm reading the Nikon website correctly, is for III/III A models other than Fieldscope III ED82 right? So for example, a Fieldscope III ED60 with the same lens would be 20-60x? Only the 82mm model benefits from the extra zoom?
That sounds amazing, I wish I could say the same thing about mine. From minimum zoom until probably around 75% of full zoom, the view is stunning, I literally couldn't ask for more, especially at this price range. I recently tried some shore bird viewing at about 1 mile and I could not resolve enough detail to ID medium to large birds. Not even close actually. Air quality wasn't amazing, but it wasn't that bad either.
Additionally, above 75% of the zoom optical quality drops off pretty noticeably. Specifically, saturation and contrast. In my back yard with ideal lighting the view is much better, but the contrast is still noticeably worse. I am wondering if this is expected at this price point, or if I don't have the best copy.
Are there any Alpha scopes that do well at 60+x? It seems like from what I've read most, if not all, suffer from image degradation at high magnifications, but I honestly don't know.

Hi Steve,

First off, does your scope come into sharp focus at 75x when viewing at closer distances, where air quality is less of a factor? Or do you need to hunt and not really achieve a distinct point of best focus? Second, have you looked inside the scope for any obvious issues?

1) You are correct, the MC-II is 20-60x for the 60mm. The symbol with the slash through the circle = diameter. The EP is 25-75x for the 78mm and 82mm, and 13-40x for the 50mm.

2) One mile is quite far for objects that small, especially if there is mirage or heat haze! And if there is sea spray, fog, particulate, etc. it can be difficult as you are literally looking through all that "stuff".

3) I have owned seven Nikon Fieldscopes and don't recall any of them with that drastic of drop in contrast. I sometimes take a new-to-me scope to a local duck pond, after doing a star test and resolution comparison against a known scope. The image I get from my ED82-A when viewing some of the waterfowl in the sun is sometimes hard to believe as it is incredibly vibrant. However, there are times where some scenes and objects are dull even with the 82mm. The quality of the light, clean/dirty air, and I'd imagine the human eye and brain all factor into it.

For example, I have been in situations with multiple observers where none of them could view well with perfectly clear skies and clean air. One time it was due to the fact that it was so incredibly super bright out that everyone's pupils were very constricted, however the area being viewed was in a very dark shadow from an immense cloud. Many people said out loud that they could not see anything. Was it their scopes? Or the conditions, plus the equipment, eyeballs, and brain? Some people thought that they needed to buy new optics! It made me realize how quickly we blame the equipment.

4) I cannot speak to so-called alpha scopes, as I don't own one. I have only used those owned by others. However, if you take time to read some of the threads here you will find that the ED-82 and the scope that replaced it, the Monarch 82mm, are held in very high regard while some of the "alpha" scopes have exhibited some design and/or assembly flaws resulting in optical aberrations.

If you are super curious, you can read about "star testing". Just do a search here. There are some good threads, sample pictures, and reasons why it is relevant in finding lemons quickly without having to spend days, weeks, or months wondering if you have a bad sample. But first, I would just check to see if you can just get sharp focus at 75x before doing anything more elaborate. You could even use a dollar bill as a target across a large room. You should be able see all sorts of defects in the print, with more and more detail at progressively higher magnification. It definitely helps to have a really good scope for comparison though.

And if you want to compare, there are companies that allow you to rent a scope! But you might get an alpha lemon!

Jason
 
The ED82 is an alpha scope. With the zoom you should be able to get a sharp, contrasty image at 75x with the zoom - provided the atmospheric conditions are OK. Heat haze and so on are a killer with any scope.

Check the scope at short to medium distances early in the morning or an hour or so before sunset on a clear day. If you don't get a sharp and contrasty image at 75x something may be wrong with the scope.

Or, better still, do a star test. There are several posts on the forum detailing how it's done. Use the forum search!

Hermann
 
The ED82 is an alpha scope. With the zoom you should be able to get a sharp, contrasty image at 75x with the zoom - provided the atmospheric conditions are OK. Heat haze and so on are a killer with any scope.

Check the scope at short to medium distances early in the morning or an hour or so before sunset on a clear day. If you don't get a sharp and contrasty image at 75x something may be wrong with the scope.

Or, better still, do a star test. There are several posts on the forum detailing how it's done. Use the forum search!

Hermann
The star test seemed ok to me nothing obviously wrong there. It's absolutely an interesting test I'll keep in mind for future purchases.

I would say that within 100 yards the contrast difference isn't nearly as noticeable, but looking at something long range can be very noticeable. It's not like the view is horrible, just the image quality does degrade. And under that 75%ish zoom range, the view looks perfect. It goes from a pretty much perfect view to maybe 80-90% perfect. I feel more need to hunt for focus at max zoom compared to other ranges....but that could be because I don't like wearing glasses using the scope and I have some astigmatism. There is noticeably more pop and clarity at lower zooms but hard to quantify how much. It is also much touchier to focus at high zoom but that feels intuitive to me.



I do have another question for the Fieldscope II and III experts in here.

I picked up another scope, Fieldscope III ED 60, to see if I liked the compact one. When I was cleaning I noticed the color of the objective lens reflection is a distinct green hue on the III ED82, but blueish on the III ED60. A lot of the eBay ads also showcase the same green reflection in most of the Fieldscope III's, ED60 or ED82. But the Fieldscope II's appear to generally have a more purple blue.

Why would there be any difference unless sellers are swapping lenses? Does anybody know if there are for sure differences in coatings between those two generations?

Appreciate the help

Steve

*The attached pictures somewhat showcase what I see. The fairy tern is 75x zoom, the flowers are 30x, if I remember correctly. The focus wasn't as bad on the first photo IRL, but the washed out color is pretty accurate
 

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