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Recommendation for light and compact scope setup (1 Viewer)

David_

Active member
Germany
Hi there,

I have been birding since end of summer last year and have been using a Nikon Monarch 7 8x30 and really like it.
Now I'm thinking about getting a scope and need some help in deciding which scopes, tripods and heads I should look into.

My overall budget is around 800€ maximum and I am looking for a light and compact scope (same applies for head and tripod). I am aware that going for lightweight options is not necessarily the best way when choosing optics but that is really important for me. Why? I don't own a car and I am doing most of my birding trips by bike (last year up to 100km one way) and when the covid situation permits probably also in combination of public transportation and bike or hike.
When I do trips of more than 50 km (one way) I will often do them as multi day trips and will carry light sleeping gear (sleeping bag, sleeping pad, bivy bag), depending on trip length and weather forecast maybe some additional clothing and/or tarp plus food and water. Because of the way I travel I want to keep the weight as low as possible and even more important I will have a problem carrying bulky equipment, so compactness is even more important than weight.

What I am considering right now (prices are the cheapest prices I could find in Germany):

  • Kowa TSN-501 ~260€
  • Opticron MM4 50 Travelscope + 40831 HDF Eyepiece ~600€ (430€ + 170€)
  • Nikon ED-50 + 13-30x/20-45x/25-56x MC Zoom ~760€ (490€ + 270€)
Head: Sirui VA-5 135€

Tripod: Sirui Traveller T-005kx (already own this one. Bought it for my MFT camera a few years ago)

The Nikon is a bit over my budget and I read some bad things about the build quality, with the constant shaking and vibrations it will have to endure on trails and gravel roads on my bike I tend to rule the Nikon ED-50 out. Are there any other scopes, eyepieces or heads I should consider? (seems like Opticron MM3 is not available in the EU, at least I did not find an online store outside of the UK were it was available)
I looks like I will be able to borrow a Kowa TSN-501 (and a head which would be way to heavy for my usage) for a couple of days to do some testing.

My existing tripod should be able to carry up to 4kg if I remember the specs correctly so I would like to use it. Are there any potential problems with the tripod I am not seeing right now and which would call for an upgrade?

Any recommendations are welcome!
 

lmans66

Out Birding....
Supporter
United States
I would easily take the Opticron....nice scope...very compact. Great service if needed... Good product.
 

jring

Well-known member
Hi David,

all the options you listed are good for their price.

The Kowa 501 I tried was surprisingly good for the price, but of course only the zoom and not too wide.

Any reason why you chose a 30x wide EP for the MM4 and a (really narrow and short ER) zoom for the ED50 rather than the great fixed wide angle EPs?
Also the SDLv2 or v3 zoom EPs are really nice for the Opticron...

As for the tripod, my main gripe would be the achievable eye level - it seems to be 130 cm fully extended - add 15 for head and 12 for scope and it's below 160 cm...
And of course that is with center column up, which is not ideal for stability...
If you plan to take a stool and observe while seated, no problem...

Joachim
 
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Ratal

Well-known member
I've taken the MM4 50 ED and SDL V2 zoom from Arctic Norway to Africa, across to the USA (Florida) and down to Chile. Not once did I think I needed anything 'more' - Not once. In fact, for many outings, a major gripe rising up from people carrying 80mm+ scopes was 'Wish I brought a light rig.' - Especially through swampy Florida and snow etched Norway.

Between the scope and my 8x32 Sightrons? My entire rig weights less than 2Kg. That's scope and bins.
 

David_

Active member
Germany
Thanks for the recommendations!

Can't comment on the merits of the individual scopes. But there is a German store that sells Opticron.

Thanks, I came across the shop and they have the MM4 50. The comment on non-availability was only about the MM3 (

Any reason why you chose a 30x wide EP for the MM4 and a (really narrow and short ER) zoom for the ED50 rather than the great fixed wide angle EPs?
Also the SDLv2 or v3 zoom EPs are really nice for the Opticron...
In general I was preferring a wide angle EP but for the Nikon ED 50 scope plus wide angle EP would put me too far over my budget so this why listed the zoom.

As for the tripod, my main gripe would be the achievable eye level - it seems to be 130 cm fully extended - add 15 for head and 12 for scope and it's below 160 cm...
Good point. Hadn't really considered the height. As I'm 195cm this will be an issue.

I've taken the MM4 50 ED and SDL V2 zoom from Arctic Norway to Africa, across to the USA (Florida) and down to Chile. Not once did I think I needed anything 'more' - Not once.
Thanks. Right now the MM4 50 ED ist my favorite but still unsure about zoom vs fixed EP. Initially I preferred the wider range of an fixed EP because during my limited experience with scopes I struggled with finding the birds the scoping because of the small angle. But I guess this is a matter of practice, when I first got my binoculars it also took me a while to get faster at finding birds with the binos.

Just received my dad's Kowa 501 which I can have for at least a couple of weeks (possibly longer) so I can test if the 501 is all I need or if I go for the Opticron. Also gives me the opportunity to check how much of an issue my short tripod is and if it's something I can upgrade later.
 

jring

Well-known member
Hi,

nice, please let us know how your dad's 501 performs... I remember to have been surprised at how well it did when I tried it... but that might also have been influenced by the Celestron Hummingbord right beside it - that didn't work too well...

As for finding birds with an angled scope... search for cable tie trick in here...

Joachim
 

Ratal

Well-known member
jring is correct. The MM4 50 set up accepts a cable tie, and I use a Sigma (6omm f2.8) lens hood that screws into the front end of the scope to give me a couple of inches of protection from overhead sun and snow. Works a treat. Yes, seriously.
 

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