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Feel the intensity, not your equipment. Maximum image quality. Minimum weight. The new ZEISS SFL, up to 30% less weight than comparable competitors.

Is a travel scope worthwhile for a first-time scope buyer? (1 Viewer)

Peregrine Took

Well-known member
United Kingdom
I'll add to the recommendations for the Opticron MM4, which I owned for the last year. Mine came with the HDF T eyepiece, but I recently tried one with the latest SDL v3 eyepiece and it is a great improvement. Not on sharpness or colour correction, but it gives a wider field of view, so viewing feels more immersive... like you're 'in' the scene, rather than looking at it 'through a tube'. That said, I was happy enough with the HDF T for a year, until I used the SDL v3.

The only reason that I sold the Opticron was that I moved on to the Kowa 773, which is portable enough for me, and compact and light enough for a compact tripod, the pair fitting into a small backpack. The point being, that your choice of scope will dictate your choice of tripod, so you need to consider the two together - for travel, no point a small scope and a large tripod.

FWIW, I use the Manfrotto BefreeGT, which is a beefed up BeFree. It has a height that doesn't require the centre to column to be raised for an angled scope (for anyone up to about 6ft), keeping it more stable. Which is just one reason that I feel you'd be better off with an angled scope.


Sempach, Switzerland
For me a 60 mm (Nikon Fieldscope ED-III) is the best balance between portability and performance - I rarely use my 80mm and my ED50 is pretty much a 'I don't expect to be using a scope much on this longer walk, but might' option (good but, not as good). What suits you might differ. It's always a balance between bulk/weight/carrying distance and performance in less than perfect lighting.
I fully agree with Richard D. (Post #5), but the superbly suited Nikon Fieldscope ED-III suffers from a lack of eyepieces. Fixed optics are great (27-30x would be ideal), but the zooms are way too restricted in their viewing angles. Much depends on whether you can use a scope without eyeglasses, though.

At any rate, I highly recommend getting a travel scope first, you might well decide then that this will be all you need. So better go for a good brand right away. And if affordable, go for a carbon tripod as well.


United States
I replaced a heavy old larger scope with a light 60mm one, easier to use means I don’t dread lugging it about. If you are birding then having a 30+x view on tap to complement your 8-10x bino view is almost obligatory. Enjoy your search for the model that fits your needs and budget best.

Thanks. Have you had occasion to take your 60mm on a plane? Did it eat up your whole carry-on bag? Just curious?


Well-known member
Not yet, the scope is quite compact and so is the tripod. I can usually squeeze some snacks etc round the pair in a backpack for day carry, I expect the same if I flew with them. Might pop the tripod in the hold luggage as it wouldn’t mind any knocks.



Sempach, Switzerland
Thanks. Have you had occasion to take your 60mm on a plane? Did it eat up your whole carry-on bag? Just curious?
I always carry all my optics (scope, binoculars, and camera) in the carry-on luggage. But the tripod goes well padded into the checked luggage. It's always considerably heavier than the 8 kg officially allowed. So far, I have never had any major problems, but I'm always prepared to hang camera and binoculars around my neck. I mostly have to unpack the carry-on, however due to the scanning they can'd do properly.


Active member
I recently got into birding myself and I'm always traveling by bicycle. To me, it made sense to try and be as light as possible so I bought a Swarovski 8x25 CL binoculars. My next purchase will also be a lightweight travel scope. I know I won't bring it if it isn't light enough anyway.

I myself have been eying the Swarovski ATC. It looks like you get top quality without getting to heavy. Of course, it comes with a price tag so I'll start saving up.

As mentioned here in the thread, I think it makes sense to buy 2 pair of tripods with these: a lightweight travel tripod for on the road - and a heavy, stable one for when you're going by car and don't have much hiking to do. I think that will make the ATC a perfect choice - at least for me. I don't want to buy a cheaper one and replace it in 2 years because I decided it had crappy optical quality and brightness.


Well-known member
After years of being vexed by waterfowl and field birds, I’d like to get a scope.

I’m attracted to the portability of the smaller travel scopes, like the Kowa 553. I feel like I’ll actually bring them on outings more often, and they seem much better suited to air travel (I have two trips on the books). That said, I’m concerned that they’ll end up being only slightly better than my binoculars.

I’ve been to two vendors and compared scopes in person, but it’s such an artificial environment that I don’t feel like I came away with a good sense of how the smaller scopes would fare. (I even made a superimposition of Google maps to compare sight-lines at the test locations to a familiar spot and a place where I know I’ll be bird watching! 😅)

In your opinion, is a travel scope a good place to start?
If you think a larger scope is a better first investment, what is your experience with traveling with a full size scope?

Yes, travel scope is a great place to start.
Like @Boogieshrew above, Opticron 60 + SDLV3 would me my recommendation.
Portrability, including air travel is not a problem. (I have carried a bigger 66mm scope in my backpack without any issues.)
Good luck!

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