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Help me choose my next spotting scope, please (1 Viewer)


... winging it ....
Hi all. Thanks in advance for any advice you can share. I am in the market for a spotting scope. I previously owned a newer Swarovski ATS 65 HD with both the 20-60 and 25-50 WA eyepieces. I currently own a Nikon EDIIIA 60mm scope with a 20-60 eyepiece that I plan to keep. The Swarovski was great but I sold it to fund other pursuits. I really liked the WA eyepiece and the customer service I received from Swarovski USA. I thought the 20-60 was ok but I did not like the tunnel view so much (yes, the Nikon has a tunnel view as well). I would consider just getting another Swarovski 65 but I'd like to try a larger scope this time, something around 80mm.

Important considerations for my next scope are; High quality image first and foremost, wide angle eyepiece(s) available, good customer service in the US, adapters available for digiscoping and potentially for astro eyepieces, good performance at high magnification, cost.

Currently on my list:
Swarovski ATS 80 HD w/ 25-50 WA eyepiece - pluses include known quality and customer service, downsides include 50x limit on WA eyepiece and cost (would have to buy used)
Kowa TSN 773 w/ 20-60 WA eyepiece (or maybe the 883 if I came across a deal) - pluses include 60x WA and cost, downside is I have no experience with Kowa products or customer service at all...
Meopta Meostar 82mm w/ 30-60 WA eyepiece - essentially the same considerations as the Kowa
Maybe another Nikon or a Leica (I have a pair of Leica binoculars that I adore)?

So my biggest questions are;

How well do these scopes compare optically?
How well do the Kowa and Meopta (and other) scopes do above 50x magnification?
How is customer service for Kowa and Meopta (and Leica/Nikon/other)?
Are adapters for all of these scopes easy to come by?

My primary reason for wanting the larger objective and astro adapters is that I have three young kids and we like to look at the stars and planets with the Nikon... I would love to be able to use the new scope to give us a better view of the night sky. Are there any considerations I should be taking into account that I've left out? Are there any scopes of this class that I'm overlooking? I'm not too concerned with the weight or size differences. I would really love to be able to use this scope primarily for birding and wildlife but also for casual astronomy. I would plan to hike with the scope and also take it on family outings and camping trips, so it would be good if it's somewhat rugged.
I very much appreciate any insight from the community here.

All the best,
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Well-known member

quite frankly this specification list is a bit long for one instrument... especially hiking and meaningful astro are not really compatible as anything above 80-85mm (or 88 in case of the Kowa which is quite light for the aperture) gets a bit heavy to lug around on real hikes...

My advice would be as follows:

- test your Nikon - you have the zoom EP already for high magnifications - do a star test. The very least requirement should be the ability to show a sharp image during daylight at the maximum magnification of 60 or 70x with an easy to find point of best focus.

- if the Nikon is good (as I would expect), get a wide angle fixed EP or two for it... 30x is a favourite among birders for a reason or maybe 40x if you want some more range and are willing to learn the cable tie trick for aiming. The Nikon is going to be great for hiking.

- if the Nikon is not so great, test scopes until you find a good one and buy that. If you can find a good used one, by all means take that. The Kowa 770 series did not get much love in the reviews and usually the price difference to the 880 series is small.

- Angled is much preferred if you want to use the scope with multiple persons. If you want to show stuff to small kids, make sure you have a working rotating collar and use it w/o stay-on-case so the rotating collar can be used... That way you can get sth in the scope and then rotate the scope so the EP points down or sideways so small kids can reach it.

- for astro, get an 8" dobsonian and some EPs - it is going to show so much more on the sky than a small refractor and the instrument plus some EPs can be bought for a 3 digit pricetag - and not even on the upper end of that if you find sth used.

- warranty and/or customer care - I might be strange, but I couldn't care less about that. If I break it, I get it fixed at my expense.
Unlike electronics, which tends to catastrophically fail on its own early or at the very end of the product life, optics and mechanics in optical instruments don't really go bad unless they are abused. And abuse is usually not covered by warranty...
It sure sounds nice to get the legendary Swaro customer service in case sth goes wrong... but you pay for it up front... even if you never need it...



... winging it ....
Thanks for your thoughts Joachim.

An example of customer service (and why it is important to me); when I got my Swaro 65, I noticed a few distracting black "dots" grouped near the center of the view at high magnification in one of the eyepieces... I cleaned the outward-facing lenses but the dots did not go away. I was able to ship the eyepiece to Swarovski in CT and it returned a couple of weeks later good as new and without the dots. This was a defect that was handled by their customer service department, not accidental breakage or something that I had caused.
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Well-known member

sounds like your problem was taken care of - as expected with Swaro - but when I buy an EP and it has black dots near the focal plane... I either don't buy it (when buying in person) or it goes back right away to the seller as defective...
That's not a typical warranty case which involves an item being in good order when you get it but developing a defect later but inside the warranty period.
Focus drive getting stiff or scratchy over time or the hinge on a pair of bins getting too loose would be examples with the mechanics.
In the optics dept. I can only think of the infamous Leica coating disaster when some UK birdwatchers were not amused to see their spotting scope front elements develop catastrophic coating damage after seawatch and contact with salt water spray.
Other manufacturers tend to honor their warranties too - unlike Swaro they might stick to the terms stipulated in the paperwork when the instrument was bought - like only 10 or 30 years vs. lifetime and maybe only for the original buyer and not infinitely transferable. But that's fine with me... especially when I bought a nice used instrument at a good price.



Well-known member
from cloudy nights the kowa 883 reviews better for astro use than the swarovski equivalent , grab the 1.6x adapter with their 25-60x zoom. if you can find a nikon 82ed fieldscope, with the 25-75x zoom you will get some reasonable moon views, planets are sharp but bit small, i used mine for quick looks or when out and about and it gave satisfying views, esp. for campers/tourists whom i used to show objects through it
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Bill Atwood

Registered User
United States
Years ago I owned the Swaro ATS80HD 20-60x, I would never consider it the equal of the 3 discussed further below. Perhaps the newer ones are.

Recently I’ve been comparing the Meostar S2 w/ 20-70 & 30-60x, the Kowa 883 and the Swaro ATX95. The ATX95 I’ve had for a few years, the Meostar S2 for a few months and the Kowa 883 for about 3 weeks. Optically, by which I mean clarity and apparent sharpness at high magnifications, they are all very close. However, the differences are very minor even under dim conditions and at extended distances. I’d rank their performance by objective size, Swaro>Kowa>Meopta. All three are excellent at 50x as well as at their highest magnifications. The Swaro and Kowa work well with their extenders, however I’m not fond of installing & removing them in the field.

With these scopes optically so close to each other, ergonomics and manufacturer service obviously play a significant role when making a selection. I’ve always found the ATX95 too heavy and bulky, especially the eyepiece end. Need to get off my butt and sell it, however will miss having Swaro service available.

I’m likely keeping the Meostar S2 and 20-70x. The 30-60x does have the nice “walk-in” view at 30x, but the 20-70x has similar FOV at 20-25x (albeit with a bit of tunnel) and seems sharper than the 30-60x. I like its relative compactness and that it can be used on the Manfrotto 128RC WITHOUT a mounting plate. Wish the focus was a bit slower and less stiff. There are few reports regarding service, all appear to be positive. Would be interesting to see a version with the Meolux coating.

I’m torn about the Kowa 883, I’ve listed it for sale locally, but sorta want to keep it. Comparing it with the others the image just seems a bit crisper, like a slight film has been removed. The fine focus could be finer, but it is a touch better than the Meostar and I’m growing to like its location. The eyepiece surface catches sidelight occasionally and for some reason it’s hard to prevent when it does. The eyecup is just awful. The 883 is a little larger than the Meostar, the weight is almost identical. Service reports are spotty, and the scope may not be as robust as others. The eyepiece zoom is easy to adjust, reminds me of the old TSN-4. Will work with plate on the 128RC, much better on the Gitzo GHF2W.


Well-known member
I compared the ATS80HD with the Kowa 883 side by side and indeed preferred and bought the latter - I would say the image was brighter and crisper than the ATS80 by some way, though both were very good.

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