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MM3/MM4 Has anyone given up using zoom? (1 Viewer)

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
(Sorry if this is on the long side)

Nearly three years ago I got an MM3 60 ED scope + SDL V2 zoom eyepiece and have been very happy with its performance (optical, size, weight). The more I look through other scopes the more impressed I am with the image quality of the MM3 60 ED. Some months ago I got a fixed x32 eyepiece (a demo 40858 HDF that Pete Gamby very kindly offered me here at BF; cheers for that!) and I’ve been using it almost exclusively since then. Given the logical compromises of using a x32 in such a device as the MM3, I am frankly quite impressed with the performance of this x32 fixed eyepiece. So much so, that now I’ve got myself a fixed eyepiece of lower magnification (especially for dark conditions, and some stargazing where I don't want so much magnification). I've bought a second-hand 40810 HDF T that delivers x17 in the MM3 60 and a stunning wide field view. Find attached a couple of pictures to illustrate this (SDLV2 vs HDF 40810); the same tree as reference. Taken with a smartphone, not ideal I know, but enough for you to have an idea of the difference in fov you get. Mind you the zoom was set at x15, not x17 (so the difference is actually bigger). If you compare the branches, you can see that with the fixed x17 (40810 HDF) the phone camera is simply unable to show the field stop, and even so, the wideness of the image is mindblowingly greater (don’t pay attention to the quality of the picture, since it was taken through a window). The pictures come straight from the phone, no editing or cropping whatsoever.

As per size/weight. There is something about using fixed eyepieces on the MM3 that feels just right. They are way smaller than the SDL V2; both shorter and narrower. The weight of the zoom is 270 g and the x17 fixed is just 150 g (and so very short), while the x32 weights 210 g. I remember reading how FrankD preferred the HDF zoom to the SDL, among other things because it somehow made more sense and balanced the scope better (or that was my take). I think I can now understand his rationale. The x32 fits the scope perfectly, and the x17 just makes it so short and nimble it is a joy to use and carry around, it takes the ensemble below the 900 g threshold.

So, given the impressive performance of both fixed eyepieces, now I think I am spoilt and find hard to justify the use of the zoom. Ok, we all know that the zoom gives you flexibility/dependability, but I find the optical performance of both eyepieces so much nicer (which is obviously to be expected). So the question now is: has any user of the MM3/MM4 scopes completely abandoned the use of zoom to the extent of not owning one? (in my case, the question would be, should I keep the zoom at all?)

Thanks for reading this far. All your comments and ideas are welcome. It is actually because of the comments and ideas exposed by the members of BF that I got the MM3 in the first place!


*A last comment about “cash-flow” ;) The price of a brand new SDL V2 is 329 GBP, I was lucky enough to find nice used samples of the HDF 40858 and 40810 for less than 200 GBP combined (instead of the MRSP of 319 GBP combined). So the idea of selling the zoom to fund the fixed eyepieces sounds attractive.
 

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Alexis Powell

Natural history enthusiast
United States
I'm a Nikon scope user, so I don't literally fit your criteria, but I use the Nikon 50ED exclusively with the 27x eyepiece. If I wanted a lower power view, I would use the 16x (which I own), not the 13-30x or 13-40x zooms (both of which I also own). With my 82ED, I use a 30x almost exclusively, but also have 50x and 75x fixed. I carried the 25-75x zoom with the big scope for many years without really using it. Recently, I have started using the zoom when digiscoping to document finds of a rare species that I am studying.

--AP
 

bioscope

Well-known member
Yes, it's true - the FOV of the v2 in the lower zoom range is narrow (like many zoom ep), it's very narrow at 15x (~36°). But I like the flexibilty with my MM4-60 much more - so I use 15x only if the bigger exit-pupil is needed, the magnification of 20x yields to exact the same FOV than 15x, with the smaller pupil.

It's easier to reach bigger fields with a fixed focal length, so it's good if the manufacturer has some focal lenghts in his portfolio; it's bad that more and more brands have none or only one fixed focal length to choose (also the 'big four' like LeiZeiSwarikon). I think also, that 27x is a vary useful magnification with wide field to detect birds with a fine size and eye-distance of the exit pupil, whether a big scope or the little gems.

Manfred
 

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
Alexis Powell, I think your point is actually very valid. I use an Opticron scope, but I could as well have placed this thread in the general scope subforum, since I guess it is just the same question regardless of the brand used. So you answered my question fully, since the Nikon 50ED is a comparable animal to the MM3/4 series, thanks for that! The only thing I find puzzling is the reason you are now using the zoom again for digiscoping; wouldn't it actually make more sense to use a fixed eyepiece for that very particular purpose (it seems to be a common idea that fixed eyepieces give a better performance in digiscoping).

baz1973, I remember you mentioned your use of the x32 fixed ep when I asked about it, and I'm very glad (and grateful) that you did, because it is just a joy. Since I got it, it's on the scope 90 % of the time; the other 10 % being when I go out late at night to watch the stars or some stone curlew near my place, that's when I use the zoom, but mostly because I can use it at low-mag -brighter, and that's where the x17 fixed ep comes). As with anything new, I feel the uncertainty of parting with the zoom.

bioscope, I haven't realized that x15 and x20 provided the same fov with the SDLV2. I was hesitating whether to get the x17 (40810) or the x23 (40831), but I thought that having x17 and x32 would give me more flexibility than x23 and x32, because my main concern for getting the x17 was the ability to get a big exit pupil for dusk/night.

Thanks all for your replies, very interesting insights!
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
A zoom is really handy when it is raining and you don't want to be swapping eyepieces.

Lee
 

Tringa45

Well-known member
Europe
A zoom is really handy when it is raining and you don't want to be swapping eyepieces.

But Lee, when it's raining it's dull and on scopes the useful magnification is limited by the exit pupil size (or mirage or scope quality).
Some weeks ago I started a thread on practical magnifications in the field and, apart from those that are out at dawn or who live in northern climes, the general consensus was that 25-30x was the happy medium.
I bought a Kowa 883 because I thought I needed more magnification than the 30x fixed on my ATM 65HD. However, I find myself using the 883 most of the time at 25x and really appreciate the large exit pupil. The occasions I need to use higher magnifications for an ID are very very rare. No regrets, but it was just another case of looking for a justification for a new purchase ;).

John
 

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
Troubador said:
A zoom is really handy when it is raining and you don't want to be swapping eyepieces.

Hmm, you're right, I never thought about it, hmm (scratches head). But then, I think I never thought about it because I never thought of carrying several eyepieces on the same day out. Say I'm going to see stone curlews at night (which I do quite often), then I'll carry the x17 with its bigger exit pupil; or I'm going to see gulls, then I'll just carry the x32. Either way (and this worries me to a certain extent), neither of the HDF fixed eyepieces is waterproof, as opposed to the SDLV2. I wonder how much rain can a HDF stand... Any experiences?

Tringa45 said:
but it was just another case of looking for a justification for a new purchase
Hehehe, in my case (once I've purchased 2 fixed eyepieces, it was more about looking for a justification for selling the zoom o:D ... and maybe fund something else)
 

Alexis Powell

Natural history enthusiast
United States
...The only thing I find puzzling is the reason you are now using the zoom again for digiscoping; wouldn't it actually make more sense to use a fixed eyepiece for that very particular purpose...

I'm not taking photos for art or aesthetics, I just need a clear photo of each individual that I find to document that I really saw it, and to allow for individual identification (based on unique skin patterning). My target species is a turtle--Graptemys geographica--which I find while they are basking (and are thus fairly immobile). I've been using the zoom because my (suboptimal) digiscoping set-up has been cobbled together using equipment that I already own. I use my Sony RX100 IV camera, which works fine with the small eye lens of the Nikon zoom. Unfortunately, that camera also has a small sensor compared to micro 4/3 or to full format 35 mm, so when the ISO is cranked up to a high level (e.g. ISO 3200), as it has to be for much of my work (esp. because of wind and bridge vibration, and because I am using the camera hand-held), the resolution of the image becomes quite poor (due to high noise to signal ratio, or to resultant aggressive noise reduction). I record significantly more information when I spread the image of the individual over a larger area of the sensor. For optimizing doing that, the zoom on my 78ED or 82 ED is handy. I will be using _much_ better equipment next season, but this system worked fine for demonstrating proof-of-concept so I can justify purchase of better equipment.

In summary, I'm not a fan of the zooms available for the 50ED, but I tend to hold on to things that I own in case they have a future use, and in this case I have found one for the zoom, but it isn't one that is likely relevant to you! Dump that zoom eyepiece with confidence, unless you plan to use it with a larger scope occasionally for high magnifications.

--AP
 

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
Alexis, thanks again. Fascinating to read about Graptemys geographica (I don't have a clue about turtles), I can see your situation. I too use the scope for ID purposes, and there my smartphone camera usually gives me everything I need when coupled to the scope. I have a 10 $ adapter that works equally good with scope and binoculars (I use it 95 % with the scope), and I'm very happy with the results. As you say, won't win any arty competition, but back home it gives me an opportunity to lear more. What I've been doing recently is using the camera on video mode choosing the maximum resolution (it claims HD) and slow-mo. This way, back home not only the plumage details become more apparent (and acquire a new richness) but the behaviour of the birds goes to unknown depths. More than one day, checking the footage at home I've discovered things that escaped my eyesight on-site (like the bird eating a particular tiny midge or doing "number 2" :D ). I don't know if it can be of any avail for turtle ID purposes, but for me it's been an amazing step up.

As for the zoom; I'll see how I manage with the 2 fixed eyepieces and if the zoom must eventually find a new home.
 
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yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
I've finally made up my mind and decided to let the zoom find another home; it is now up for grabs in the For Sale forum :) Thanks to all who share their opinions on "living a fixed life".
 

marcsantacurz

Well-known member
I recently found the 32x (40858) new at a retailer I've not used before, OpticsCamp.com. Must have been old stock. What a great eyepiece. That 67* AFOV is fantastic.

I also found that the Pelican 1060 case with foam pic-in-pak is the perfect size for my 3 eyepieces: SDLv2, 32x, 23x.

Mac
 

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yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
What a nice little case, I'm jealous!
The field of view of the HDF40858 compared to the zoom is just another planet.

By the way, you do keep the zoom eyepiece in spite of having a lowish range (23x) and a longish one (32x)?

I wonder if anyone has tried the 72x (40861 HDF). I know a 0,83 mm exit pupil doesn't sound very promising. But I'm curious as to what a high power eyepiece could offer. Maybe a 50x could be more useful, especially thinking about the usability of a 72x60: it is such a dark combination that you need a pretty bright day in order to see anything but a dim and dark image... but then, many times a bright and sunny day means heat waves that would eventually render the whole 72x useless. Any experiences in this area with the MM3/MM4-60?
 

marcsantacurz

Well-known member
By the way, you do keep the zoom eyepiece in spite of having a lowish range (23x) and a longish one (32x)?

I don't think the 32x is waterproof / debris proof, given the way it mounts. If I'm going to be out in bad weather (or a dirty location like beach), I might prefer to just have the zoom on it and not swap eyepieces.

Based on my use so far, I think some 8x/10x binoculars and the 32x MM4 would be all I need.

On my Sirui CF tripod and small video head it is super light, especially compared to the camera gear I often lug around.

Marc
 

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
marcsantacurz said:
Based on my use so far, I think some 8x/10x binoculars and the 32x MM4 would be all I need.

Yes, I think that is a great combo, is also what I use 90 % of the time. Although not claiming to be waterproof, the 32x seems to use an O ring in the contact point with the scope, so I wonder about its "weatherproof" capabilities.

On my Sirui CF tripod...
Interesting, which Sirui tripod/head do you use? I use a 235 AP Vanguard tripod, but I got rid of the head that came with it (I found it useless) and now I use a Velbon FHD-43M which I find better (although not perfect).
 

marcsantacurz

Well-known member
Interesting, which Sirui tripod/head do you use? I use a 235 AP Vanguard tripod, but I got rid of the head that came with it (I found it useless) and now I use a Velbon FHD-43M which I find better (although not perfect).

I use it with the Sirui T2205X carbon fiber tripod (2.6 lb / 1.2 kg) with the Sirui VA-5 fluid video head (1.3 lb / 0.6 kg). The VA-5 uses standard arca swiss plates. On the MM4 I use the RRS B26 (1.1 oz / 32 g) camcorder plate, which has the extra anti-twist pin.

The whole package (tripod + head + plate + MM4 (25.4 oz / 720.0 g) + 32x (7.5oz / 212g)) is 6 lb / 2.8 kg.

Marc
 

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
Marc, thanks for all the details, great info. I never heard of the anti-twist pin plate before. I'll have a look into that.
Just out of curiosity, I weighted MM3 60 + 32x + Vanguard VEO 235 AP + Velbon FHD-43M head and it comes to a total of 2560 g caps/covers included. Which I found very convenient. However, I'm not particularly happy with the Vanguard tripod. Obviously it costs less than half of what the Sirui costs, but the quality leaves a lot to be desired. I might have to have a look at the Sirui. I guess that the Sirui, being carbon fibre and weighting a bit more should be more stable (which is one of the weak points of the Vanguard, well I guess of any light tripod for that matter).
Thanks again!
 

marcsantacurz

Well-known member
Marc, thanks for all the details, great info. I never heard of the anti-twist pin plate before. I'll have a look into that.
Just out of curiosity, I weighted MM3 60 + 32x + Vanguard VEO 235 AP + Velbon FHD-43M head and it comes to a total of 2560 g caps/covers included. Which I found very convenient. However, I'm not particularly happy with the Vanguard tripod. Obviously it costs less than half of what the Sirui costs, but the quality leaves a lot to be desired. I might have to have a look at the Sirui. I guess that the Sirui, being carbon fibre and weighting a bit more should be more stable (which is one of the weak points of the Vanguard, well I guess of any light tripod for that matter).
Thanks again!

My numbers above are all from the specs, not an actual weight, so there will be some small variation in reality.

I bought the Sirui for long-lens photography (Nikon d500 + Tamron 150-600 + gimbal head) (about 8 lb / 3.6 kg) and it works well for this intermediate setup for birds where I'm usually shooting at 1/250th or faster even on tripod. It has a hook under the central pillar so I can easily hang a backpack or something else there for more stability. For photography, I leave the central pillar down and locked tight. For the MM4, I extend the pillar as needed. I tried a lighter tripod but did not think it was sufficiently sturdy for this camera setup.

If there is low wind, I find the Sirui setup pretty stable. A decent wind will still show up as some vibration, but I usually don't lock down the head.

The Sirui is a 5-section tripod, so it packs pretty small but does take a bit of extra effort to setup and teardown.

Marc
 

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
Marc, thanks, looks like the Sirui is more stable than the Vanguard. As for the twist-lock system, I've never tried it. The VEO 235 has a traditional lever-lock system with 4 levers, which is not the most convenient.

etudiant, thanks. I see now. I don't think I've felt the need for such a device, maybe I haven't moved the scope harsh enough for it to slip/rotate on the plate.
 

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