• Welcome to BirdForum, the internet's largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

    Please register for an account to take part in the discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Opticron MM4-60 vs Kowa TSN 553? (1 Viewer)

MMcD

Active member
United States
With the help of folks on this forum, I’m on the fence between the Opticron MM4-60 and Kowa TSN-553.

At the moment, the Kowa is on sale, so the price difference (once you throw in an eyepiece for the Opticron) is only a few hundred dollars... which puts them temporarily in a comparable bracket.

This will be my only scope for the foreseeable future, but I’m prioritizing portability over the impressive magnification of a bigger scope.

When I tested the two side by side in the store, the Kowa felt a little trimmer and more tightly constructed (and perhaps a little bit brighter)... I’d go back to try them again, but the nearest optics store is a 2.5 hr drive.

I’ve read as much as I can in older threads, but am wondering folks’ opinions on this particular match-up. Arguments for one over the other?
 
Having used an Opticron mm4 50ed as my only scope across the arctic and deserts, I can say that the Kowa 553 is absolutely going to be the best bet with ONE caveat: It does NOT have a rotating collar, so it sits on the tripod and cannot be rotated if you need to change viewing positions. As long as that doesn't bother you? Kowa. That extra lightness is going to be a world of difference in the long days out in the field.
 
I think the advantage of the opticron, and for me it's a big advantage, is the choice of eyepieces. Zoom and two wide fov fixed EPs at 27x and 23x

The kowa only has it's permanently fixed zoom.

If the choice had been between 50mm Opticron and the Kowa, I would obviously stay with what has travelled well with me. But the priority is weight, and the 553 wins.
I love my MM4 50mm ed and won't swap, because lightweight is the all-consuming factor in my kit list.
 
I wouldn't normally chime in on an A vs B scope discussion but "only a few hundred dollars" is, as far as I can tell from the offer price for the Kowa at $1499, actually a nearly $500 price difference based on MAP of $998 for the MM4 60 with SDLv3. So for me, not really in a "comparable bracket"...
 
I wouldn't normally chime in on an A vs B scope discussion but "only a few hundred dollars" is, as far as I can tell from the offer price for the Kowa at $1499, actually a nearly $500 price difference based on MAP of $998 for the MM4 60 with SDLv3. So for me, not really in a "comparable bracket"...
On Opticron USA’s site, the MM4 60 GA ED/45 Travelscope + SDLv3 15-45x Eyepiece is listed as $1144, which is $355 difference (few meaning ~3, this being on the upper end of that range). This is consistent with the dealer nearest me, who is listed on Opticron’s ‘Where to buy’ page and on whom I was basing the price in this post.


I’m genuinely not trying to get in an argument, but I’d be much more interested in hearing why the MM4 is the way to go based on its merits.
 
Last edited:
ONE caveat: It does NOT have a rotating collar
I confess that this is yet another factor that I hadn’t considered. So, if I understand correctly— this would be for when you’ve found your target using the movements of the head, but the position of the eyepiece is now awkward. With the Kowa you’d have to shift the set up so that the eyepiece is in a more favorable position, but risk losing track of your target.
.
(Thanks for your help— This would all be much easier to understand with the scopes in front of me, but the closest dealer is 2.5 hrs away)
I would obviously stay with what has travelled well with me
Folks on other threads had suggested the MM4-60 over the MM4-50 due to brightness, but it sounds like you’re an advocate for the 50, is that correct? Do you find yourself often frustrated by low light conditions?
 
I think the advantage of the opticron, and for me it's a big advantage, is the choice of eyepieces. Zoom and two wide fov fixed EPs at 27x and 23x

The kowa only has it's permanently fixed zoom.
Do you routinely carry multiple eyepieces, or is this something you’d swap for a given outing? Or just a general aversion to the zoom eyepiece? I was reading a bit about this on another thread:


I’m caught in that catch-22 of not having my own habits-of-use to guide my purchase, bc I‘d need to own the gear to establish my own habits…
 
Low light? No. Frustrated? Never.

I understand that I chose ultra lightweight over all else - and as I am a zoom only (I do also have fixed 24x eyepiece also but it is never used) I have a wonderful birding experience. The MM4 50ED is a brilliant, brilliant scope and is my one and done now. I sold off my 80mm scopes and never looked back.
 
Do you routinely carry multiple eyepieces, or is this something you’d swap for a given outing? Or just a general aversion to the zoom eyepiece? I was reading a bit about this on another thread:
I do carry multiple EPS, yes. Most of the time I use the zoom and enjoy it but I like the fixed EPs for their much wider fovs. They are really enjoyable when I am watching large flocks of waders, for instance, to enjoy their murmurations.
 
I do carry multiple EPS, yes. Most of the time I use the zoom and enjoy it but I like the fixed EPs for their much wider fovs. They are really enjoyable when I am watching large flocks of waders, for instance, to enjoy their murmurations.
Thank you! So many factors to consider! 🤯
 
...I can say that the Kowa 553 is absolutely going to be the best bet with ONE caveat: It does NOT have a rotating collar, so it sits on the tripod and cannot be rotated if you need to change viewing positions.
Aziak Equipment makes a rotating collar for the 553. Normal price is $50 USD.
 
I think Opticron is discontinuing those fixed eyepieces.
That seems like an odd move, judging by how many folks seem to love them.
Aziak Equipment makes a rotating collar for the 553. Normal price is $50 USD.
Oof… every time I think I’ve made a decision the scales get kicked back into motion! 😂
 
It’s been noted that Opticron sell a large multiple more zooms than fixed focal length eyepieces so there isn’t the market for more than the occasional fixes focal length and not getting additional batches. I would love to be proved wrong.

Peter
 
So, I ended up going with the MM4 60. Partly based on the ability to swap out eyepieces, partly for the decreased liability of traveling with a more expensive scope, and partly because I found one for sale less than an hour from me. That said, I’m still waiting on my tripod to get shipped, so I haven’t been able to really take it out for a spin.

Fingers crossed.
 
So, I ended up going with the MM4 60. Partly based on the ability to swap out eyepieces, partly for the decreased liability of traveling with a more expensive scope, and partly because I found one for sale less than an hour from me. That said, I’m still waiting on my tripod to get shipped, so I haven’t been able to really take it out for a spin.

Fingers crossed.
Won't go wrong with that at all.

My mm4 50 takes an absolute beating out in the field - and has always delivered no matter rain, shine, snow or sun. Enjoy the new scope!
 
Quick update for anyone reading this post later with a simiiar considerations of the MM4

A month and a half later, and I’m very happy with my MM4. I’ve taken it on hikes (both in a pack and held in hand) and found it to be very light and easy to transport. It fit easily into my carry-on for air travel (once in a rolling bag in the overhead bin, once under the seat in my backpack bc I had to check my rolling bag).

I coupled it with a Manfrotto BeFree Live travel tripod and have been quite happy with the combo so far.

While there are more powerful scopes out there, I’ve found the magnification and viewing experience to be quite good. On a recent trip to Baja California Sur, Mexico, I was able to view a freshwater lagoon from my balcony (I’d had this in mind when looking for a scope). The MM4 allowed for good observation up to the small mud flat at upper right (see photo) and allowed for moderate ID ability on the far bank of the water (able to ID familiar/distinctive birds like American Coot and Redheads, but harder on less familiar/distinctive or more secretive birds). I’ve attached some no-mount, digiscoping pics that I took for documentation. Geese are on mudflat, falcon is in trees on close bank, shore image shows closer portion of far bank with drab bird that I could not confidently ID). The picture of the far bank was taken about 20 min before sundown. You can definitely see a bit of reduced quality from the goose image, which was taken around midday, but I feel like the scope preformed well at lower light levels (It’s also possible that some of the reduced quality is due to the interplay of autofocus and scope)

I plan to rig up a shoulder strap so that I can more easily switch between binoculars and scope when moving around. I’m quite happy with my choice and look forward to future adventures with this scope.
 

Attachments

  • D98E8661-11C9-49EC-BA6A-0A75357926D2.jpeg
    D98E8661-11C9-49EC-BA6A-0A75357926D2.jpeg
    3.7 MB · Views: 74
  • B6E1CD4A-7A08-4C69-AB3D-1F89CECB8E31.jpeg
    B6E1CD4A-7A08-4C69-AB3D-1F89CECB8E31.jpeg
    3 MB · Views: 65
  • 381610A6-BCF8-4F38-8D04-C8D2A53C4376.jpeg
    381610A6-BCF8-4F38-8D04-C8D2A53C4376.jpeg
    184.1 KB · Views: 62
  • 4A94DE88-2E53-4EDA-A4E2-60584D949D79.jpeg
    4A94DE88-2E53-4EDA-A4E2-60584D949D79.jpeg
    300.7 KB · Views: 62
  • 73B09342-3170-4F1E-B6D2-3332F2998DFE.jpeg
    73B09342-3170-4F1E-B6D2-3332F2998DFE.jpeg
    3.5 MB · Views: 67
Last edited:
Warning! This thread is more than 1 year ago old.
It's likely that no further discussion is required, in which case we recommend starting a new thread. If however you feel your response is required you can still do so.

Users who are viewing this thread

Back
Top