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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

I like the Kowa TSN-55x - am I alone? (1 Viewer)

WRL

Active member
Germany
According to what I had read (i.e. almost everything what was available on the net, and specifically in this forum) about the TSN-55x series before actually buying one recently, I should have been careful. Some (partly frequent) negative verdicts (in my words, though):
"Too expensive". - "No change-/removeable eyepiece". - "Eyepiece of outdated design." - "Zoom eyepiece!" - "(Too) small field of view." - "High-end expensive glass not necessary". - "Plastic body."
Some of those comments are factually true. But im my opinion it is not straight forward/clear what their practical consequences are. Other comments are quite subjective or represent personal preferences.
However, qualities had also been frankly admitted: Very high optical performance, relatively low weight and small size.

As I wanted a supplemental, smaller and lighter scope to my TSN-883 for hiking and traveling, I finally decided for a TSN-554. Deciding reasons were: Small and light. Still having 55 mm objective. Optical quality. Same focusing system as my 883 (fine focus with a "fingertip", I love it). Why straight? I can use it easier (compared to the angled version) while sitting in my car (even better with a beanbag in the lowered window). Handholding and aiming (leaning on a tree or similar) is also possible.

In my field practice: So far I never had the wish to change the eyepiece or have a different one. The magnification range (15x - 45x) fits my ID needs. For scanning or coarse "target aquisition" I am having my bino(s) (preferred stabilized).

Before finally spending my money, I had tried the TSN-50x and the Celestron Hummingbird 56 mm. 50x: too stiff zoom (I tried two specimens), Hummingbird: relatively stiff focus wheel and inconveniently to operate (see my comment on the Kowa focus system above).

So, am I the dimwit who paid too much for too less? Can't really believe that. The guy in the shop where I bought it (and the 883 some years before) told me that they are selling the 55x series quite well. Mostly as the straight version.

Regards,
Werner
 

PYRTLE

Old Berkshire Boy
The guy in the shop where I bought it (and the 883 some years before) told me that they are selling the 55x series quite well. Mostly as the straight version.

Regards,
Werner
No doubt a fantastic optic but not that popular with birders.
 
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Boogieshrew

Well-known member
When I tried the Kowa 55 I thought the view was excellent. If it had a couple of fixed EPs available at 20x and 30x I would buy one. Or if it had a wide angle zoom, say 15-30x or 20-40x.
I haven't tried them side by side but I suspect that I would prefer the Kowa to my Nikon ED50 if it had wide 16x, 20x and 27x EPs as the Nikon does.
 

WRL

Active member
Germany
Hi PYRTLE,
Please quote correctly. Just for the records. Your BOLD assumptions are not my words.

And by-the-way, the shop I refered to is not a hunting gear shop (no firemarms etc.). So, pure speculation who the majority of the customers for straight scopes are (I am neither a hunter nor a stalker). It sells optical gear, like binos, scopes, and cameras. Judging by their advertisements in e.g. birding magazines and their website, their mainly targeted customer base for scopes and binos is indeed birders and the like. In addition, the GOOD SALESMAN is a long time birder as well.

I appreciate that we can agree that the TSN-55x is a fantastic scopes, at least.
 

PYRTLE

Old Berkshire Boy
My sincere apologies for offending you WRL, a practice where I and others used to answer a poster's thoughts by writing an answer in a different font, or colour but I can clearly see why this should not continue as it incorrectly portrays that the wording came from the poster. I hold my hands up.

Edit : I have removed the bold wording now.
 

WRL

Active member
Germany
My sincere apologies for offending you WRL, a practice where I and others used to answer a poster's thoughts by writing an answer in a different font, or colour but I can clearly see why this should not continue as it incorrectly portrays that the wording came from the poster. I hold my hands up.

Edit : I have removed the bold wording now.
Put them down. I am not shooting.
 

gweller

Well-known member
You are definitely not alone! I really like mine - expensive yes, but the combination of size, weight and optics make it for me a real winner!!!
 

forent

Well-known member
(...) So, am I the dimwit who paid too much for too less? Can't really believe that. (...)
No, I think you've definitely made the right decision based on your needs - as you already know. ;)
The Kowa 553/554 may be a niche product but an excellent one. I, too, toyed with the idea to buy one some time ago. Compared to the hands-down great Swarovski ATX 65 the little Kowa held up well. I think that says a lot. In 2019 I wrote:

I was tempted to buy the tiny Kowa 553 as an "always with me" device. I expected the legendary Prominar fluorite quality in a diminutive package and was prepared to pay the premium price.
Last month I had the opportunity to compare the 553 with my Swarovski ATX 65 and - as a benchmark - the Swarovski ATX 95. (...) I found the 553 to be on par with the ATX 65 in terms of sharpness and contrast but the image was noticeable less bright and the colours seemed less neutral - slightly on the warm side. The narrow field of view was something that takes getting used to. Moreover, the whole construction felt (...) less substantial than the ATX (...).
I have to admit that the difference between these two was less obvious than the distinction between each of them and the giant ATX 95. (...)
 

Peregrine Took

Well-known member
United Kingdom
Sorry Werner, but I can't understand why anyone would buy the 553 when they can get the (universally acclaimed - it seems) Nikon ED50 for half the price. I like Kowa, and have a serious eye on the TSN-663, but of all the products in the Kowa line-up the 553 seems to make no sense - is it really worth twice the price of the Nikon, or even the Opticron MM4 with a couple of EP's?

Notwithstanding your thoughts about the Celestron, I briefly looked at the Hawke Nature Trek 9-27 x 56 last week and, for a pocketable 'grab and go' scope it seemed perfectly good enough - all for £179.00.
.
 
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gweller

Well-known member
Sorry Werner, but I can't understand why anyone would buy the 553 when they can get the (universally acclaimed - it seems) Nikon ED50 for half the price. I like Kowa, and have a serious eye on the TSN-663, but of all the products in the Kowa line-up the 553 seems to make no sense - is it really worth twice the price of the Nikon, or even the Opticron MM4 with a couple of EP's?

Notwithstanding your thoughts about the Celestron, I briefly looked at the Hawke Nature Trek 9-27 x 56 last week and, for a pocketable 'grab and go' scope it seemed perfectly good enough - all for £179.00.
.
I had the Nikon ED50 before I got the Kowa and to be honest prefer the later, but perhaps it is more of a personal thing? To me the extra 5mm makes a difference and it's just nicer to look through in my opinion. Yes the MM4 is another option and I nearly bought that instead of the Kowa
 

WRL

Active member
Germany
Sorry Werner, but I can't understand why anyone would buy the 553 when they can get the (universally acclaimed - it seems) Nikon ED50 for half the price. I like Kowa, and have a serious eye on the TSN-663, but of all the products in the Kowa line-up the 553 seems to make no sense - is it really worth twice the price of the Nikon, or even the Opticron MM4 with a couple of EP's?

Notwithstanding your thoughts about the Celestron, I briefly looked at the Hawke Nature Trek 9-27 x 56 last week and, for a pocketable 'grab and go' scope it seemed perfectly good enough - all for £179.00.
.
Hello Peregrine Took:
In contrast to you I can fully understand why someone will NOT buy a TSN-55x and go for something (still good enough, however cheaper) else. As often in life, it depends what you want and can or are willing to pay for a product or service. We all value things more or less differently. In my case the cons (fixed eyepiece, plastic body , FOV) where not regarded as that much negative as others have seen them for themselves. The pros prevailed: In my opinion the TSN-55x is the lightest, smallest scope with the best optical performance. Not in respect of any isolated property but in its combination, its sum. I had been willing to pay the price and I am surely enjoying this intrument every time I use it.
Again, that is a personal perspective, based on weighing all the (for me) relevant factors.
I am quite convinced that shifted priorisations (and contraints) will result in different decisions. So, a Hummingbird, a MM4 50/60 or an ED 50 maybe the right, perfect choice for somebody else (may be including me under different circumstances).
My original intention was only to know if there were more TSN-55x users/lovers out there and why.
Regards,
Werner
 

Peregrine Took

Well-known member
United Kingdom
Fair enough Werner. You didn't really have to justify yourself to me - and I'm a hypocrite anyway, because for similar reasons I recently bought a Range Rover, when a Nissan 4x4 would have done roughly the same job. Ditto the TSN-663... I started out looking at a Hawke Nature Trek!
.
 

birdcat

Well-known member
Anybody else using these baby Kowa scopes? I was thinking about one to replace a Swarovski ATS 20-60x65mm.

I currently have a Gitzo GT2545T tripod and the Swarovski CTH/Gitzo GHF2W head. I would probably keep the tripod and get a different head, something like an Outdoorsmans Pan head. Any other suggestions on a lightweight head for a TSN-553?
 
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Tringa45

Well-known member
Europe
Anybody else using these baby Kowa scopes? I was thinking about one to replace a Swarovski ATS 20-60x65mm.

I currently have a Gitzo GT2545T tripod and the Swarovski CTH/Gitzo GHF2W head. I would probably keep the tripod and get a different head, something like an Outdoorsmans Pan head. Any other suggestions on a lightweight head for a TSN-553?
Is your current scope an ATS HD (recent production) and do you really need to save much weight? With a 25-50x zoom the ATS would have a larger FoV than a 553 and be more versatile.
Your present head is very good, so is the need for a replacement to enable you to fold the retracted legs back over the reversed centre column?
If so, a small friction ball head (with QR clamp in lieu of top plate) would also do the job.

John
 

birdcat

Well-known member
Is your current scope an ATS HD (recent production) and do you really need to save much weight? With a 25-50x zoom the ATS would have a larger FoV than a 553 and be more versatile.
Your present head is very good, so is the need for a replacement to enable you to fold the retracted legs back over the reversed centre column?
If so, a small friction ball head (with QR clamp in lieu of top plate) would also do the job.

John
Thanks for the reply. Yes, my ATS is current production with HD and arca foot. I have also thought about getting a 25-50 knowing it would give me the FOV of the ATX but the weight savings of the ATS. But... I have tried the ATX 65 but wasn't really sold on the FOV (or weight) for my use, so that's why I still think going the other direction for a 553 wouldn't be so bad.

In reality the weight savings would probably NOT outweigh the usefulness of a fluid head and a larger 65mm scope. But I still can't resist the thought of a lighter scope/head. The one big gotcha is I don't think the Kowa polycarbonate body is very durable. Once you add a case or padding to protect the scope you loose the weight savings.

The idea of a head replacement with an Outdoorsmans Pan head would be for weight savings and to experiment with folding the legs over, but also for easier packing as the handle unthreads and is shorter. I have also thought about the RRS BPC-16 ball head, but I think a ball head would drive me nuts as it allows tilt.

This is probably a case of the grass is greener... I do really like the CTH/GF2HW head and last time I tried the Outdoorsmans Pan head I wasn't super impressed.

In my mind I would like to make my bag as light as possible but maybe the juice isn't worth the squeeze here.

The ATX and ATS views looked similar enough (aside from FOV) for my use, I guess the question is would the Kowa still satisfy? If I do try out this little scope I will report back.
 
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WRL

Active member
Germany
Anybody else using these baby Kowa scopes? I was thinking about one to replace a Swarovski ATS 20-60x65mm.

I currently have a Gitzo GT2545T tripod and the Swarovski CTH/Gitzo GHF2W head. I would probably keep the tripod and get a different head, something like an Outdoorsmans Pan head. Any other suggestions on a lightweight head for a TSN-553?
Hi birdcat,
Have you considered the "Peak Design Travel Tripod". It comes in a carbon (1.27 kg) and an aluminum (1.56 kg) version? The pros are its very compact size and the inclusion of some sort of ball head. In other words, with that tripod you do not need an additional head. At least the size and compactness are hard to beat. Question is whether or not the general stability and the functionality of the "ball head" are acceptable for your purpose. I myself opted for the aluminum version (less pricy and a bit more "forgiving" in the filed, though a bit more heavy than the carbon legs). It also works quite well as a monopod with the extended legs folded in. The 554 (in my case) and the PD Travel Tripod are, in my opinion, a very suitable combo for traveling light and small, yet having the power of a scope at hand when needed.
Werner
 

birdcat

Well-known member
Hi birdcat,
Have you considered the "Peak Design Travel Tripod". It comes in a carbon (1.27 kg) and an aluminum (1.56 kg) version? The pros are its very compact size and the inclusion of some sort of ball head. In other words, with that tripod you do not need an additional head. At least the size and compactness are hard to beat. Question is whether or not the general stability and the functionality of the "ball head" are acceptable for your purpose. I myself opted for the aluminum version (less pricy and a bit more "forgiving" in the filed, though a bit more heavy than the carbon legs). It also works quite well as a monopod with the extended legs folded in. The 554 (in my case) and the PD Travel Tripod are, in my opinion, a very suitable combo for traveling light and small, yet having the power of a scope at hand when needed.
Werner
Werner - thank you for the suggestion of the Peak tripod, I have not seen this before! Very interesting option. This definitely gives me something to think about...
 

Tringa45

Well-known member
Europe
I have also thought about the RRS BPC-16 ball head, but I think a ball head would drive me nuts as it allows tilt.
I think that would be completely inadequate for scope use. Hermann here on the forum uses a RRS BH-25 with his ED-50 and although it has no separate friction adjustment, I think the lock works progressively for a similar function..
One can, of course, drop the spindle of a ball head into the vertical format slot so that you no longer have lateral tilt, but this would not work with the 553, which lacks a rotating collar.
There are also ball heads, which allow you to lock out the lateral tilt (FLM), but they are of similar weight to your Gitzo/Swarovski 2-way head.
You have a pretty good set-up and it would be a pity to make radical changes for a step backwards.

John
 

birdcat

Well-known member
I think that would be completely inadequate for scope use. Hermann here on the forum uses a RRS BH-25 with his ED-50 and although it has no separate friction adjustment, I think the lock works progressively for a similar function..
One can, of course, drop the spindle of a ball head into the vertical format slot so that you no longer have lateral tilt, but this would not work with the 553, which lacks a rotating collar.
There are also ball heads, which allow you to lock out the lateral tilt (FLM), but they are of similar weight to your Gitzo/Swarovski 2-way head.
You have a pretty good set-up and it would be a pity to make radical changes for a step backwards.

John
John - Let me just say.... thank you for the sanity check. I do like the idea of the 553, but finding a mount that makes the switch worthwhile is a tough challenge. I agree the RRS BPC-16 would likely be a terrible choice for regular use. The Gitzo/Swarovski head isn't that heavy when you consider what it offers. I suppose the weight savings aren't as great as they first seem once you think of what you are giving up with a more standard setup like I have. I think if I were to try the 553 I would not give up my current setup without a long comparison, because as you say, it would be a pity to take a step backwards.
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia

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