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Next step: I need a scope (1 Viewer)

Felixtheelix

Well-known member
Germany
Hello bird enthusiats,

i hope you had a good start into the new year and already the chance to spot some birds!

Yesterday i was at a small lake to have a look at some Microcarbo pygmaeu because i've heard that some individuals were there. Usually i use my Nikon Monarch HG 8x42 for birding and i'm very happy with it. The 8x magnification ist great, i can hold it easily and see most of the birds and details.
Standing at the lake i saw a bunch of Phalacrocorax carbo and coudln't figure out if there was a Microcarbo pygmaeu or not, i just hadn't enough magnification to see the details. After a while there was another guy with a spotter, i think a kowa. He set up his gear and immediatliy said "ou there is a Microcarbo pygmaeu". That was the moment i knew its time for the next step. I need to buy a spotter for those days at the lake. I think i will still use my Monarch HG most but a spotting scope could come in handy and i will bring it with me when i know that i will stay for some hours.

I did some research yesterday and think that with about 1000€ i can get a decent spotting scope. I know it wont be the best but i'm sure i will enjoy the bigger magnification to see the details and use the Monarch HG to enjoy the view. I will use it in daytime 90% of the time so i think around 60-80mm lens would be fine.

For my needs i think an angled scope would be perfect, especially because my wife would use it too. I guess it sill is comfortable to use sitting in a small chair?

I think something like The Kowa TSN 663M could be a good mid level scope. Would you recommend buying it with the 20-60x zoom or the 30x fixed focal length for the better image?
On here i saw the Svbony SV406P ED 20-60x80 which seems to be a cheap chinese scope. How does it compare to something like the kowa mentioned above? Is it something you could be happy with at about half of my budget?
I also would buy a used one but i think the market over here (germany) is very limited, especially in the mid-price range.

Do you have any other recommandations?

As a tripod i would use my old manfrotto 055XPROB (sadly heavy) in combination with something like the manfrotto MVH500AH.

 

wllmspd

Well-known member
I use the same head and the 190 tripod. Keeping things light might be a consideration, especially as the tripod can weight several times what the scope does. The zooms on most scopes are narrow at low powers and open up at higher powers. Most scopes have limited eyepiece options unless you can use 1.25” eyepieces, where there are lots of food astro options. I normally use a medium power (x30-40) ultra wide angle, but bring one or 2 extra in case I need higher power occasionally. (Sometimes beyond what normal zoom ranges can offer). Angled allows you to use a shorter tripod and make is easier for people to share the view. If you want to look longer distances then the larger scope would be better, but be heavier, though spotting scopes are much lighter than similar astro refractors.

Peter
 

Felixtheelix

Well-known member
Germany
Thank you @wllmspd
Weight is a thing, thats why i thought 60mm would be good. The tripod will be the next thing to be exchanged in future. I think i've already settled to an angled scope. As with my binocular i'm more a fan of wide and crisp view than a bad zoom. I think most of the "standard" zooms aren't great at their max zoom.

After further research i "spotted" some other scopes that are within my price range and sound good. I'm still debating with myself which objectiv size would be right. I thought 60mm are enough but with those high zooms more light seems to be great.

  • DDoptics EDX 25-50x82 S (yes its 82mm but it seems to be a good package?!)
  • Meopta MeoPro 80 UHD 20-60x
  • Opticron MM4 GA ED 16-48x60
  • Vortex Viper HD 15-45x65 (i own a Viper HD 8x42 too an think its a good binocular)
  • Hawke Endurance ED 20-60x68

I hate the fact that there are so many options :D
 
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mskb

Well-known member
@Felixtheelix , just sharing some experience on the scope.

I use a 663M with 20-60. I did not go for the much more relaxed 30X fixed EP view because I found I needed around 40ishX in the areas I bird in. Beyond 45X, I found the view is definitely not something to write home about.

When a good copy comes around, 663M + 20-60X can be good.
The trouble is, I am not sure it often does.
As always, buy from a place with a good returns policy.

I would personally recommend you first give the Opticron 60 or 77 a try for your field use, before going the much more expensive 663M route. Of course, if you can try both, that would be best. In my limited experience with the Opticrons, I found the view through them to be a lot more relaxed. I would certainly give them a serious look if I was starting over. I also would not worry about the Opticron zoom EPs going only about 54X, in contrast to the 60X with others. Where I am sure I would be confused is in choosing between the 60 and 77. :)

My suggestion is to spend some time and effort in choosing among the three. You will not be disappointed in the long run.

Cheers and good luck with your search!
 

Felixtheelix

Well-known member
Germany
@Felixtheelix , just sharing some experience on the scope.

I use a 663M with 20-60. I did not go for the much more relaxed 30X fixed EP view because I found I needed around 40ishX in the areas I bird in. Beyond 45X, I found the view is definitely not something to write home about.

When a good copy comes around, 663M + 20-60X can be good.
The trouble is, I am not sure it often does.
As always, buy from a place with a good returns policy.

I would personally recommend you first give the Opticron 60 or 77 a try for your field use, before going the much more expensive 663M route. Of course, if you can try both, that would be best. In my limited experience with the Opticrons, I found the view through them to be a lot more relaxed. I would certainly give them a serious look if I was starting over. I also would not worry about the Opticron zoom EPs going only about 54X, in contrast to the 60X with others. Where I am sure I would be confused is in choosing between the 60 and 77. :)

My suggestion is to spend some time and effort in choosing among the three. You will not be disappointed in the long run.

Cheers and good luck with your search!

Thank you very much! It's so frustrating that there are bad samples often. Already had this problem on the way to my binocular.
I think having the 20-60 as a standard is fine, the 30x fixed could be a nice additon.

I really don't know which route to go. With my binoculars i went from cheap to more expensive: Vortex Diamondback HD -> Hawke Frontier EDX -> Vortex Viper -> Monarch HG. In the end i definitley lost some money on that route but it altough tought me that you don't need to have THE best equipment. Switching between the Diamondback HD 8x32 and the HG 8x42 is really noticeable and i enjoy the more expensive HG BUT the Diamondback HD is still good enough to have fun while birding. Maybe its worth a try "below" the 663M.

That said i think a great combination would be the Opticron MM4 60 with the SDL V3 - this would be 932€ and with a new tripod head i would scratch the 1000€ just by a bit. Any opinions on the Opticron HDF or HR? Its more than half the price but i read mixed reviews on here. Some say they cant see a difference to the SDL, the others say that its much sharper and brighter. Another thing is waterproofing..

Sadly i cant try them in real life and i dont want to end like last time sending back and ordering about 10 binoculars :D I hope that some experts on here are able to push me in a good direction - in the end the optic needs to suit my eye, but hopefully i dont need to try all scopes in my price range :D
 
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Tringa45

Well-known member
Europe
Hi Felix,

First off: your lowest priority is a change of tripod. Anything with smaller dimensions is going to sacrifice stability, and if at some later stage you feel the need to save weight, then it could be replaced with a suitably dimensioned carbon fibre tripod.
The Manfrotto MVH500AH video head would be a good choice. A lighter weight and still reasonably priced alternative is the Sirui VA-5, which would be adequate for any medium-sized scope.

I think the Kowa TSN-663M would be a very good choice and would personally favour the 30x eyepiece. I have a Swarocski ATM 65HD with 30x wide-angle eyepiece and a Kowa 883 with 25-60x zoom but almost invariably take the former with me to inland stretches of water, where the magnification is adequate 95% of the time. At higher magnifications the size of the exit pupil gets smaller and brightness suffers. The resolution of the human eye is also at its best around 2mm pupil size, so increasing magnification is a question of diminishing returns, and with a 66 mm scope there would probably be no significant gains to be had terrestrially above 40x or 45x, even with a very good example.

John

PS:- Every dealer will try to sell you a stay-on-case. Give this some thought before you buy. I have never used one or ever damaged a scope and personally think they're a PITA.
 
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On here i saw the Svbony SV406P ED 20-60x80 which seems to be a cheap chinese scope. How does it compare to something like the kowa mentioned above? Is it something you could be happy with at about half of my budget?

As a tripod i would use my old manfrotto 055XPROB (sadly heavy) in combination with something like the manfrotto MVH500AH.

I assume you've seen this thread on the Svbony (the 2nd post there also links to another good thread):

I have the SV406P and am impressed with it. Most of my scope experience is with astro refractors and the size and weight difference is amazing. The 80mm SV406P is about the same size and weight as my 60mm f/5.5 refractor (once the drawtube is extended enough for terrestrial viewing), while my 80mm f/6 APO is much larger and heavier. The optics on the SV406P are good enough that it does well at 91x on the moon with a 4.7mm astro eyepiece, so 60x for daytime use is no issue. Yes, the view softens at max zoom and the brightness, contrast, and color reduce but some of that is the zoom eyepiece and some is just the physics of less light. If you intend view to at 40x regularly an 80mm scope will do much better than a 60mm.

A cheaper 80mm scope like the SV406P has a shot of doing better than a much more expensive 60-65mm scope just due to the larger aperture. Even compared to other 80mm scopes you'd have to spend quite a few times the cost of the SV406P to see a big improvement (going off US prices). Some of the 80mm scopes on your list are in this range and I'd expect them to be better than the Svbony.

That said - I know the progression from cheaper, "good enough" equipment to better, "more enjoyable" gear and often it's better to skip that if your budget and use allows. To give you an idea of where I am with bins, I use Kowa BDII XD 6.5s and Monarch 7 8x30s.

As for a tripod, I'm currently using an older 3011N which is the same class as your 055. Tapping the scope at 60x, vibrations settle in 2 seconds, which I find to be a good trade off for the size/weight of the mount. The SV406P has a fine focus knob that is smooth enough to focus without inducing vibration on this setup (the primary/course focus knob does cause shake). It took a 14lb tripod/head combo to get down to 1 second settling times. I'm currently in the market for a CF tripod that will give same or better performance than the 3011N for less size/weight (the 24" folded length of the legs being the biggest pain point in terms of portability).
 

Felixtheelix

Well-known member
Germany
Hi Felix,

First off: your lowest priority is a change of tripod. Anything with smaller dimensions is going to sacrifice stability, and if at some later stage you feel the need to save weight, then it could be replaced with a suitably dimensioned carbon fibre tripod.
The Manfrotto MVH500AH video head would be a good choice. A lighter weight and still reasonably priced alternative is the Sirui VA-5, which would be adequate for any medium-sized scope.

I think the Kowa TSN-663M would be a very good choice and would personally favour the 30x eyepiece. I have a Swarocski ATM 65HD with 30x wide-angle eyepiece and a Kowa 883 with 25-60x zoom but almost invariably take the former with me to inland stretches of water, where the magnification is adequate 95% of the time. At higher magnifications the size of the exit pupil gets smaller and brightness suffers. The resolution of the human eye is also at its best around 2mm pupil size, so increasing magnification is a question of diminishing returns, and with a 66 mm scope there would probably be no significant gains to be had terrestrially above 40x or 45x, even with a very good example.

John

PS:- Every dealer will try to sell you a stay-on-case. Give this some thought before you buy. I have never used one or ever damaged a scope and personally think they're a PITA.

The tripod is the only thing thats save :) Thank you for the input concerning the video head.

The TSN-663M is about 300€ more expensive than the Opticron MM4 x60 but instead of 60mm its 66mm. For me its hard to compare whats better to have, 300€ in my bank account or 6mm more on my scope :D I didn't have the chance to compare a zoom to a fixed lens and so it's hard to choose. When i start to order a scope i think i will try both, fixed and zoom. So first decision to make: which scope body do i need.

I assume you've seen this thread on the Svbony (the 2nd post there also links to another good thread):

I have the SV406P and am impressed with it. Most of my scope experience is with astro refractors and the size and weight difference is amazing. The 80mm SV406P is about the same size and weight as my 60mm f/5.5 refractor (once the drawtube is extended enough for terrestrial viewing), while my 80mm f/6 APO is much larger and heavier. The optics on the SV406P are good enough that it does well at 91x on the moon with a 4.7mm astro eyepiece, so 60x for daytime use is no issue. Yes, the view softens at max zoom and the brightness, contrast, and color reduce but some of that is the zoom eyepiece and some is just the physics of less light. If you intend view to at 40x regularly an 80mm scope will do much better than a 60mm.

A cheaper 80mm scope like the SV406P has a shot of doing better than a much more expensive 60-65mm scope just due to the larger aperture. Even compared to other 80mm scopes you'd have to spend quite a few times the cost of the SV406P to see a big improvement (going off US prices). Some of the 80mm scopes on your list are in this range and I'd expect them to be better than the Svbony.

That said - I know the progression from cheaper, "good enough" equipment to better, "more enjoyable" gear and often it's better to skip that if your budget and use allows. To give you an idea of where I am with bins, I use Kowa BDII XD 6.5s and Monarch 7 8x30s.

As for a tripod, I'm currently using an older 3011N which is the same class as your 055. Tapping the scope at 60x, vibrations settle in 2 seconds, which I find to be a good trade off for the size/weight of the mount. The SV406P has a fine focus knob that is smooth enough to focus without inducing vibration on this setup (the primary/course focus knob does cause shake). It took a 14lb tripod/head combo to get down to 1 second settling times. I'm currently in the market for a CF tripod that will give same or better performance than the 3011N for less size/weight (the 24" folded length of the legs being the biggest pain point in terms of portability).
Thank you, thats a lot of input!
Yes i saw the thread, it lead me to the scope.
I think a 1200€ scope is hard to compare with a 400-500€ scope, especially as you said 60mm <-> 80mm. I think i need to try and ordering off amazon shoudln't be a problem, maybe i will give it a try when i made a decision for a more expensive one to compare.

Tripod wise i'm happy that i don't need to invest and you guys say that it's fine. Don't get me started with carbon, that's another rabbit hole :D
 

Felixtheelix

Well-known member
Germany
Today i met another birdwatcher with a leica apo and had the chance to watch a seagull trying to crack an egg with 90x zoom. That was an incredible view, like watching a documentary on tv, wow. Sadly that setup costs about 4000€.
I think i will go for the MM4 77 with the SDL v3 for more light, it was really impressive to have so much light and a clear view.
 

mskb

Well-known member
Whenever you have a chance to try out the 77 and contrast it with related models discussed, would love to know your thoughts! All the best!
 

marcsantacurz

Well-known member
@Felixtheelix, I unfortunately do not have an extensive experience with Opticron EPs. (@jring or @marcsantacurz, might).

hello! I've not been on the forums in a while, so this reply is a bit late.

I went with the Opticron MM4/60 because (1) is it easily taken on a hike, (2) is inexpensive, and (3) can be used with a smaller, lightweight tripod. My GF and I do not use the scope much, so a budget choice was perfect for us. I have the SDL v2, but really I use a wide angle HDF 38mm (don't remember the number) or 23mm (40831). I think the 38mm is discontinued but I found old new stock somewhere. The zoom SDL is versatile, but if it's close enough for one of the wide lenses, I really like the increased view.

If you are going to use the scope a lot or at higher magnifications, I'd go with something larger than the MM4/60.

Also, the Pelican 1060 case is perfect for my three lenses.

Marc
 

Felixtheelix

Well-known member
Germany
Four months later and today i ordered a Opticron MM4/60 with the SDLv3 Zoom. There is another big thing that helped me during my decision progress: Who will i use the scope or which type of "birding" is my style. Most of the times i'm out birding i walk around lakes or other habitats. I'm not very static, driving to a lake and carry the scope for two minutes. I think the smaller and lighter scope will fit into my backpack and i could even use it with a monopod. I really enjoy the lightweight of my new M7 8x30 compared to the already light HG 8x42, that i barely use the HG.
I hope i can test it on the weekend to see if it fits my needs.
 

Felixtheelix

Well-known member
Germany
Okay, it's here and i really like the build quality. It's much smaller than i thought. I mean, i did measure first but holding it in my hand is another thing.
The first view is great, even if i just look through my window on todays rainy and dark day. The fine focus is perfect and i couldn't think about using a scope without this feature. What makes me wonder is the fact that i immediately wanted more reach - x45 is fine and much more than i could see with my x8 Monarchs but i instant wanted more. I guess its normal and something i would experience with a x60 zoom too?!

I only saw one bird (if i would be a bird i wouldn't go out in todays weather :D) but could clearly spot the male house sparrow about 100m away with x45 zoom. To be honest i expected a much worse performance fully zoomed in, the picture is not bright but given the fact that today is a rainy and dark day (did i already mention it?) i would have expected a darker picture.

The whole setup i use weights 3,72kg. The obvious MM4/60 with the SDLv3, Sirui VA5 and a Manfrotto 055XPROB modded to be used without the center column. I won't say its heavy but walking around for about four hours with my Nikon D7500 and the Sigma 150-600mm C attached (2,90kg) makes my shoulder/neck hurt (god damn i'm still under the age of 30). I wonder if the MM4/77 would be too much to carry. It's about 5cm longer and 500g heavier than the MM4/60. I really want to like the MM4/60 because it's such a great package but the fear of missing out more zoom is there. I could easily save about 1kg of weight with a carbon tripod, that would equalize the 500g heavier MM4/70. Keeps me thinking about it....
 

jring

Well-known member
Hi Felix,

congratulations to a new toy!

I have to warn you about a dangerous disease closely related to the common affliction of binomania that we all know too well... it is called aperture fever and causes people to always desire a larger telescope than the one they have...

See the following article for the description of an advanced case...


As for more magnification, I have a rarely used HDF 40861 eyepiece which would result into 72x on your 60mm MM4... if you want to try it, you can PM me...

Enjoy the view!

Joachim
 
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Felixtheelix

Well-known member
Germany
Hi Felix,

congratulations to a new toy!

I have to warn you about a dangerous disease closely related to the common affliction of binomania that we all know too well... it is called aperture fever and and causes people to always desire a larger telescope than the one they have...

See the following article for the description of an advanced case...


As for more magnification, I have a rarely used HDF 40861 eyepiece which would result into 72x on your 60mm MM4... if you want to try it, you can PM me...

Enjoy the view!

Joachim

Haha it’s a bad virus :D

Thank you for your offer, I will test the mm4/60 this weekend to see if it fits my needs and possibly come back to your offer - too kind.

Which scopes do you own? Could you be happy with „just“ mm4/60?
 

Binastro

Well-known member
I think I have seen the 42 inch telescope before.

It is in my opinion extremely foolhardy to observe the Sun using Mylar foil in front of the scope.
There is a photo of this in the link.

If a pigeon flew at speed into the foil, instant permanent blindness would result.

Aperture fever is a serious condition.

Regards,
B.
 

wllmspd

Well-known member
I replaced a heavy astro refractor recently with an MM60, shave a kilo off. Also got a much lighter tripod (less stable, but much easier to carry) to save another kilo or more so walking about a lot is much more pleasant. (Found my bird guide was almost a kilo too… !) I am still happy to lug about my 4kg binoculars and a proper tripod, but only when I’m likely to be more static. With the MM60 at 45x you need the fine focus and the view dips in brightness. I found myself running a little below that and pushing to max only when I felt I needed the reach. For more power I’d suggest a bigger scope so the view doesn’t dim too much. Of course on many days the heat haze will prevent you going that high. You have to decide how much you want to carry and where you observe and with what weather. As you note it shows hugely more than 8x bins, that themselves show much more than no binoculars.

Peter
 

jring

Well-known member
Haha it’s a bad virus :D

Thank you for your offer, I will test the mm4/60 this weekend to see if it fits my needs and possibly come back to your offer - too kind.

Which scopes do you own? Could you be happy with „just“ mm4/60?

Hi Felix,

my main scope is a (quite goood) TSN-3 with the Opticron SDLv2 EP... still like that a lot even when standing next to current alphas...

I do own another TSN-3 which I got very cheap because I wanted the stay on case which it had and a 613 planned as a lighter option but not used a lot as I'm fine with carrying my TSN-3 kit with a mulepack for a few hours...

Some old soviet spotters too... but not in active use.

I'd really recommend to try a mulepack - it certainly helps with carrying around your scope kit...

Joachim
 
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Felixtheelix

Well-known member
Germany
Hi Felix,

my main scope is a (quite goood) TSN-3 with the Opticorn SDLv2 EP... still like that a lot even when standing next to current alphas...

I do own another TSN-3 which I got very cheap because I wanted the stay on case which it had and a 613 planned as a lighter option but not used a lot as I'm fine with carrying my TSN-3 kit with a mulepack for a few hours...

Some old soviet spotters too... but not in active use.

I'd really recommend to try a mulepack - it certainly helps with carrying around your scope kit...

Joachim
Hi Joachim,

as far as I see the TSN-3 isn't that heavy and it's great to hear that it's fine for you to carry with a mulepack. I see myself packing the spotter in my usual clamshell opening pack. When I'm out in the field i hike and watch so the spotter will get umpacked on smaller lakes and rivers and stays in the backpack while I'm on the way, still having the HG 8x42 around my neck/shoulder. I don't stay in the same place for hours, if i would, i guess a bigger spotter would be a great thing. As i already mentioned above, i had the chance to look through a Leica Apo with 90x zoom and it was incredible - but i would not want to carry the weight around, the guy drove to the spot with his car and walked about ten meters :D

Next challenge is to find a tripod that is lightweight, suited to me (185cm) and my wife (165cm) and packable, preferable strapped onto my backpack.
 

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