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Opticron MM4 60 - Excellent image (1 Viewer)


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I've had this scope for just about a year now, but until lately have rarely used it. I bought it for a trip to Spain (where it served nicely), but when I go out I usually opt for the big guy (Kowa 883).

Anyway, certain circumstances have me more interested in using a lighter rig lately. Out of curiosity today I did a side-by-side comparison of the Kowa TSN-883 w/ the zoom eyepiece against the Opticron MM4 with the HDF 23xWW eyepiece. The image quality of the MM4 vs the Kowa was impressive. I am not an optics expert, so I cant comment on the technical side of things, but to my eye the detail in the MM4 view was nearly equal to that of the Kowa. The contrast and color of the image was not quite as strong or warm, but that difference was slight. The image from the MM4 is really great.

The one area where the larger scope was of course demonstrably better was in lower light, where the Kowa delivers a stunning image and the smaller MM4 starts to lose some if it's equity.

All in all, I think this petite MM4 is a stellar scope. The detail is fantastic, edge to edge. For the price, it's unbelievable. I wonder how it stacks up against "alpha" scopes that are actually in its size range.

I am going to investigate adding the zoom SDL v2 Eyepiece. Does anyone have any experience with this as it compares to the HDF 23xWW? I'd love to get my hands on one of the 32x fixed WW eyepieces, but it seems they are a tough find.

I also have a Kowa scope (823) & Opticron MM4 60, with all three eyepieces you mention. I use the Opticron the vast majority of the time. I only really use the Kowa in windy conditions or when I know I‘ll be needing high magnifications in low light. Yes, the Kowa is slightly better even in good light (warmer and more contrasty, as you say), but most of the time the difference is too small to justify the extra weight.

I started with the SDL v2 as my only eyepiece, and as good as it is, I find the view a little tube-like, especially at lower magnifications. Also, it feels quite over-sized on the MM4 60; the HDF zoom would be better in this regard. I later added the 23x eyepiece, which I enjoy using a lot more, partly for the more expansive view, but also because it is noticeably smaller and lighter, and feels like a better match physically for this scope. However, 23x isn’t always enough, so last month I added a 32x to my collection. I‘ve been surprised at how good it is; bright, wide and sharp. This will be my go-to eyepiece for birding in bright conditions.

For me, all three eyepieces have their uses. The SDL v2 is the only Opticron eyepiece which is guaranteed waterproof, so this is the one I use in wet conditions. I also use it if I think I may need higher magnifications or the versatility of being able to adjust the magnification to the circumstances. I use the 23x in gloomy weather or in stronger winds when I know higher magnifications will be of limited use (this is where the Kowa comes into its own). And in reasonably bright and still conditions I use the 32x eyepiece, which I find the most useful magnification when conditions permit.

If you are used to the wide-angle zoom on the 883, then you will almost certainly find the narrow FOV of the SDL v2 disappointing. Having said that, I do still find it a useful eyepiece to have and I do use it regularly. It gets the job done, but without the same viewing pleasure I get from the wide angle eyepieces.
I also own the 60mm Opticron with the SDL zoom and the 23x HDF fixed eyepiece and I agree with the assessment above. The SDL is brilliant outside of the narrow FOV at lower mags, but with the small aperture of the scope and tiny exit pupil things get dim and uncomfortable at higher mags (>35x).

It’s not hard for a small aperture scope to look great at lower magnifications. In addition to the Opticron 60, previously I’ve owned the 50mm and the Pentax ED 65. With a fixed mag wide angle eyepiece under 30x magnification, and good light, they give a view that is basically indistinguishable from a bigger aperture more expensive scope.

Where you see the performance gap grow exponentially is at higher mags and/or poor light. Compare them with the SDL zoom maxed out at 45x vs the Kowa at 50-60x and you will understand.
Where you see the performance gap grow exponentially is at higher mags and/or poor light. Compare them with the SDL zoom maxed out at 45x vs the Kowa at 50-60x and you will understand.

You're absolutely right, of course, and I should have qualified my comments by saying the results are comparable up to about 32x in good light. The Kowa gives me a good image all the way to 60x, whereas I try not to go over 35x on the MM4. In poor light I reduce the magnification to about 23x. It actually took me a while to understand and accept this, with the result that I was initially not entirely satisfied with the MM4. But now that I've learned to use it within its limits and not expect it to defy the laws of physics, I think it's a fantastic little scope that I have great pleasure in using. But I'm glad I also have the Kowa for those rare occasions when I need higher magnifications or better low-light performance.

Headwest: I was lucky enough to find a 32x eyepiece on Ebay. They do come up occasionally, so it's worth persevering.
Really think a 27X fixed wide would be the sweet spot on the 60mm. Too bad it doesn’t exist!

The 23X wide is very nice but with a fixed ep would prefer to eke out a bit more magnification. But 32X is a bit too much for general use especially in dimmer light. So I end up using the zoom more often than not for the flexibility, even though the narrow FOV bothers me at low mags.

The zoom is kind of silly because the FOV at 20X is pretty much the same as at 15X. As you start creeping the magnification up you can see the AFOV start to widen dramatically in that first stretch. Makes me wish it was a 20-40X witn a wider angle vs 15-45X since <20 and >40 is mostly useless.

But it is really a cracking little scope overall given the size and weight. Especially for the price I paid (used). I compared it side by side with the Kowa 553 a few weeks back and it really held its own — the Kowa was brilliant and almost seemed to defy physics with how clean the image was at high mags given the small aperture, and that fluoride lens gives it that magical extra bit of sparkle and micro contrast (that I also see in the Genesis bins and when comparing the 883 to the 773). But the 60mm Opticron was quite close even maxed out on the zoom, just a bit dimmer and less “crisp”.
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Yes, 27x would definitely be ideal for the MM4 60. It would have more or less the same size exit pupil as a 30x on a 65mm scope, a very popular combination. Having said that, the 60mm copes better than I expected with the <2mm exit pupil. I used it a couple of times last week and found it still quite useable until at least 15 minutes after sundown (admittedly it was a bright, cloudless day). But it's definitely harder to get onto a bird than with the zoom or a lower power eyepiece.

It's interesting that the Opticron held its own in your side by side comparison with the 553. I've long been intrigued by the Kowa but have never had an opportunity to try one. I don't think I would ever spend £1500 on a 55mm scope, though. And apart from being half the price, the Opticron also has the advantage of a rotating collar (which I use a lot) and interchangeable eyepieces, both of which arguably make it a more versatile scope.
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