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In praise of small scopes (1 Viewer)

Hermann

Well-known member
Everyone knows bigger is better, at least when it comes to scopes. Big scopes have higher resolution, they allow the use of higher magnifications and have bigger exit pupils at low magnification making them easier on the eye. And, last but not least, some of the big scopes work with some clever accessories, for instance the Swarovskis with their binoviewer, or an extender to push the achievable magnification even higher. Unsurprisingly most introductions of new scopes were big scopes in recent years, and it looks as though the trend will continue. (A cynic might say big scopes also allow the manufacturers to make more profits than with smaller scopes.)

I just spent an enjoyable week birding at the Northsea coast with my mother. She is well over 80 (with over 70 years birding experience), but still sharp in the field and very keen. She can’t travel on her own anymore, so we did the trip together. I took two scopes, my Nikon ED82A and a Nikon ED50A with two DS eyepieces (16/24/30x, 27/40/50x) and the large Nikon zoom, a pretty sturdy Gitzo aluminium tripod with a Manfrotto 500AH video head, and a Monostat monopod. (I also took the Canon 10x42 IS which was a resounding success. I could kick myself that I didn’t switch earlier. But I digress.) My mother took her Nikon EDII with the 30x WF eyepiece and her Monostat monopod.

What we did was basically that we searched a largish area, checking for birds from the car, and only getting out of the car a hides or if there was anything interesting or concentrations of birds, especially shorebirds. We were a couple of weeks late, most arctic shorebirds had already left, so we needed to do quite a bit of searching. From the car my mother used her EDII on her Monostat, and I usually used the ED50 with the 27x DS eyepiece, also on my Monostat. (We find using monopods from inside a car is far more flexible than unsing window mounts.) Why not the ED82A? Simple – it’s too much hassle to move a big scope around with two people in the car, both in the front seats. It’s far easier to react quickly if something happens if you don’t have to be careful not to hit the other person over the head with a big scope. And let’s face it: A small, light and short scope can be moved around faster than, say, a Swarovski BTX with the 95mm module. A few times I had to get out of the car quickly to check on a bird, putting the scope on the car roof, and even that is simpler and faster with a short, light scope rather than a big scope. So I used either the ED50 or my mother’s EDII – and not the ED82.

When we set up near concentrations of birds I of course put up the ED82A. It’s the best of the three scopes we had with us, simply because it has got the biggest objective lens. And the difference is obvious, even at 30x magnification. However, the atmospheric conditions were such that high magnifications didn’t really work, 30x was about the maximum useable magnification. And to be honest – even though the ED82 had the best image, I could have easily identified every single bird the ED50 with the 27x eyepiece. In fact, the heat haze totally evened out the performance of the different scopes on most days, there was simply no more detail to be seen with the ED82, not even with the zoom eyepiece at higher magnifications.

Now, I don’t want to say big scopes don’t make sense. They clearly do – if and when the conditions are right. On a clear day with good seeing there’s nothing better than a (good) big scope, especially if there’s a rarity in the far distance. However, big scopes are, well, big. And heavy. And long. And slow. And in many situations simply inconvenient. On days or in situations where you can’t make use of the higher magnification or the superior resolution of a big scope, small scopes may show you all there is too see. And using them is, well, often a joy compared to maneuvering one the big boys around. A joy, and not hard work.

BTW, the next time I’m up at the coast I’ll definitely take the ED82 again. Just in case. You never know. I’ll leave the ED50 at home and take a straight EDIII instead. And I expect to use the EDIII well over 90 percent of the time. Simply because small scopes make life so much easier
 

Boogieshrew

Well-known member
You're spot on! Small scopes rock.
I realised that I can see/ID/enjoy everything I need or want to with my Opticron MM4 without lugging around the extra weight of a bigger scope and tripod.
As you say, atmospheric conditions tend to even things out and limit the benefits of a larger objective much of the time.
 

Ratal

Well-known member
MM4 50ED. From Arctic Norway to deserts and rain forests of West Africa. Zero regrets as I can have the 50mm up and observing before most folks have even started to struggle setting up a tripod.
 

Steve Babbs

Well-known member
Good point about heat haze 'evening out' scopes. I used exactly the same words when at the Elenora's. I lugged by Nikon 82mm around at wished I hadn't bothered. The person I was with had a 60mm Kowa with a 27x e/p which gave pretty well the same view as there was no point going over 30X at the very most in the haze.
 

pbjosh

missing the neotropics
Switzerland
Also a fan. I have a larger “better” scope that I rarely use, and just bought an Opticron MM4 and a sturdy travel tripod and compact ball head. The bigger scope will be sold at some point here, it just gathers dust… too heavy for travel, too cumbersome in the backpack / luggage, too heavy carrying it all day.
 

mbb

Well-known member
Also a fan. I have a larger “better” scope that I rarely use, and just bought an Opticron MM4 and a sturdy travel tripod and compact ball head. The bigger scope will be sold at some point here, it just gathers dust… too heavy for travel, too cumbersome in the backpack / luggage, too heavy carrying it all day.
I'm looking into small scopes an travel tripods with light heads. Could you share which travel tripod and compact ball h3ad you are using and your experience with it?
(I have never owned anything lighter than a 65mm scope on a Manfrotto 055 with video head...)
 

Felixtheelix

Well-known member
Germany
I'm looking into small scopes an travel tripods with light heads. Could you share which travel tripod and compact ball h3ad you are using and your experience with it?
(I have never owned anything lighter than a 65mm scope on a Manfrotto 055 with video head...)
I'm using the MM4 60mm on a Sirui VA5 with an Benro TMA27C, the setup weights about 3kg. My previous tripod was an 055XPROB and the whole package was 3.7kg. Its "only" 0.7kg but thats a lot carrying the weight on your shoulder. I carried it over my shoulder yesterday on a 10km walk and i would not want to carry something heavier :D
 

pbjosh

missing the neotropics
Switzerland
I'm looking into small scopes an travel tripods with light heads. Could you share which travel tripod and compact ball h3ad you are using and your experience with it?
(I have never owned anything lighter than a 65mm scope on a Manfrotto 055 with video head...)

Velbon Ultra 655 legs - they are aluminum and not the lightest in the world but high quality and sturdy for 4-section legs, and, crucially for me, one spin of the foot unlocks all 4 sections so that unlocking, extending, and relocking the leg requires three motions and is doable in 3-4 seconds per leg, making the whole thing so much more convenient and faster than any other tripod I've owned. There may be other clever tripods in this realm, but this is the one I found. So far it's holding up well and I greatly prefer it to my theoretically superior and certainly more expensive carbon tripod.

The head is an Oben MBH-11. It's dual action (you can lock the tilt but still unlock the pan). It has a good, smooth action, and works well. Very happy with it for the price.
 

William Lewis

Wishing birdwatching paid the bills.
United Kingdom
Very much on side with this one, my big scope hardly ever went out, the swaro CTC 30x75 goes everywhere when I'm out birding.

I'm not too puzzled why it's not a more popular choice though , I think it's probably the pirate connotations, the lack of immersion waterproofing, the fashion thing that seems to have put the kaibosh on most porro binoculars and the fact that no shops stock them so no one even gives them a try - quite a few hurdles! Still yet to see another birder using one.

Maybe one day someone else on here will give it a go, maybe not.....
 

Hermann

Well-known member
Very much on side with this one, my big scope hardly ever went out, the swaro CTC 30x75 goes everywhere when I'm out birding.

I'm not too puzzled why it's not a more popular choice though , I think it's probably the pirate connotations, the lack of immersion waterproofing, the fashion thing that seems to have put the kaibosh on most porro binoculars and the fact that no shops stock them so no one even gives them a try - quite a few hurdles! Still yet to see another birder using one.

Maybe one day someone else on here will give it a go, maybe not.....
A waterproof alternative would be the Zeiss Dialyt 15-45x60. Not a bad scope, but (like the CTC 30x75) Hardly a small and light scope ...

Hermann
 

Thotmosis

Well-known member
Netherlands
Very much on side with this one, my big scope hardly ever went out, the swaro CTC 30x75 goes everywhere when I'm out birding.

I'm not too puzzled why it's not a more popular choice though , I think it's probably the pirate connotations, the lack of immersion waterproofing, the fashion thing that seems to have put the kaibosh on most porro binoculars and the fact that no shops stock them so no one even gives them a try - quite a few hurdles! Still yet to see another birder using one.

Maybe one day someone else on here will give it a go, maybe not.....
Old pirates never die ;) I tried the 30x75 and i really loved the view (and the looks!) found it too big though when extracted and was also worried for the waterproofing so i bought the Zeiss Dialyt 15-45x60 instead. Not a bad scope as Hermann mentioned, build like a tank and good optics made in Japan. Not the best but for the price very good.

In the end i find the Zeiss also too big for hiking so use it now mainly on a tripod from my balcony or in the car. For this (car) it’s perfect! I use an an old small retractable 17-45x50 scope sometimes now when hiking but the optics are sub optimal and it’s very fragile. Looking for a though 20x50 straight scope with fixes eyepiece.

It’s also a perfect travel scope. I have to use it more, it has great potential.
 

Thotmosis

Well-known member
Netherlands
Hi John,

My dealer told me and there is this review of binomania aka Piergiovanni Salimbeni with translation of John A Roberts:
See post #4:

“OPTICS
OBJECTIVE
The optics of the Zeiss Dialyt 18-45x65 are Made in Japan, consisting of five high-quality achromatic elements and a Schmidt / Pechan roof prism with T * treatment, with transmission values up to 85% of the optical system total.”

When I’m back in The Netherlands i will check my Dialyt scope to check if and which country of production is on the scope.

Cheers,
T.
 

William Lewis

Wishing birdwatching paid the bills.
United Kingdom
Old pirates never die ;) I tried the 30x75 and i really loved the view (and the looks!) found it too big though when extracted and was also worried for the waterproofing so i bought the Zeiss Dialyt 15-45x60 instead. Not a bad scope as Hermann mentioned, build like a tank and good optics made in Japan. Not the best but for the price very good.

In the end i find the Zeiss also too big for hiking so use it now mainly on a tripod from my balcony or in the car. For this (car) it’s perfect! I use an an old small retractable 17-45x50 scope sometimes now when hiking but the optics are sub optimal and it’s very fragile. Looking for a though 20x50 straight scope with fixes eyepiece.

It’s also a perfect travel scope. I have to use it more, it has great potential.

That does sound good. Let me know if you find one, it may be something I'm very interested in by this time next week!

I'm currently packing, packing again, re packaging etc for a trip up to the isle of skye with the back pack. It's the scope that stands out as too big and heavy! I've got a 30lb pack probably 35lb with food and water (16/17 kg) of everything I need to be in the wilderness for 4 days and nights so 1+kg of scope does stand out a bit. Habicht 7x42 GA bins (as usual).

Its still going as I think 75mm and 30x is a good compromise when I'm mainly going for the birding as well as it's my only option but my back will almost certainly regret that decision.

It would have the same exit pupil too at a 20x50, same low light performance if the optics are good quality and probably waterproof - good call!
 

William Lewis

Wishing birdwatching paid the bills.
United Kingdom

Thotmosis

Well-known member
Netherlands
That does sound good. Let me know if you find one, it may be something I'm very interested in by this time next week!
Will do!
I'm currently packing, packing again, re packaging etc for a trip up to the isle of skye with the back pack. It's the scope that stands out as too big and heavy! I've got a 30lb pack probably 35lb with food and water (16/17 kg) of everything I need to be in the wilderness for 4 days and nights so 1+kg of scope does stand out a bit. Habicht 7x42 GA bins (as usual).

Its still going as I think 75mm and 30x is a good compromise when I'm mainly going for the birding as well as it's my only option but my back will almost certainly regret that decision.

It would have the same exit pupil too at a 20x50, same low light performance if the optics are good quality and probably waterproof - good call!
Have a nice trip, sounds very good. Be sure to pack dry socks and petroleum jelly for blisters ;)
 

Dyrlege

Well-known member
Norway
I'm using the MM4 60mm on a Sirui VA5 with an Benro TMA27C, the setup weights about 3kg. My previous tripod was an 055XPROB and the whole package was 3.7kg. Its "only" 0.7kg but thats a lot carrying the weight on your shoulder. I carried it over my shoulder yesterday on a 10km walk and i would not want to carry something heavier :D
Sirui traveler 7VC (carbon with a lovely video head) and an Opticron MM3 60 with an HDF T Zoom eyepiece here, and it's easy om the shoulders!
 

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