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Small and light scopes ... (1 Viewer)

Hermann

Well-known member
... are few and far between, even though they can be really useful in many situations especially when travelling or when hiking in difficult terrain. Sure, there are some products, like e.g. the Nikon ED50 or the Opticrons, but they're all flawed in one way or another. The ED50, for instance, isn't quite as robust as it needs to be in the rough and tumble of a birding trip. The small Kowa has a fixed zoom eyepiece that isn't exactly the cat's meow. And the various 60mm offerings (like the Swarovski 60mm scopes) are simply to heavy for such purposes, a weight of >1000 gr is simply too much. Add to that a decent monopod (or a lightweight tripod), and then you're talking about 2-2.5 kg. Too much for many people and in many situations.

Taking into account the number of older birders - and I'll be officially one of them when I retire at the end of the month - there must be a market for such scopes. A simple, high quality scope, with a fixed eyepiece like a 25x would be ideal in many situations. Zeiss/Hensoldt made such a scope many, many years ago: http://www.monocular.info/dialyt25x56.htm. It's long enough to lean against a tree if need be, doesn't have a complex focuser and a simple eyepiece, not a complex (and heavy) zoom. Weight is under 600 gr. including the eyepiece. The present Zeiss scope (https://www.zeiss.de/consumer-products/jagd/spektive/dialyt/dialyt-18-45x65.html) has a narrow zoom eyepiece - and weighs close to 1200 gr.

Today Swarovski, Zeiss and the other alpha makers focus on large, complex and heavy scopes. I am convinced small, light scopes would sell well. And the manufacturers would still be able to sell their big scopes no doubt - a small scope is for a different purpose.

Hermann
 
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etudiant

Registered User
Supporter
Well, John Roberts just posted a link to a Swaro patent for an IS scope, so the need for lighter offerings may be met by getting rid of the tripod.
That said, I too would love to have a compact, rugged light scope with good optics. IS would always be nice as well, but not essential.
 

PYRTLE

Old Berkshire Boy
There just isn't a sufficient market for a premium lightweight 50mm telescope imo......hence why both Swarovski and Zeiss have developed larger telescopes instead as you've mentioned.

The Nikon ED5O filled this niche well when launched, as it could take the various eyepieces offered at the time. Even though there were continuous issues with the tripod adapter, it was portable and offered a good view, for me.

Kowa's 55 mm model doesn't seem to be that popular ; perhaps due to the zoom performance. I agree a x 20 or 25 ww would be interesting. Swarovski and Zeiss have a certain market covered by their drawtubes....rugged, portable and easy to operate in the field.

Again, as you mentioned, others have tried but not reached the requirements expected by some birders.
 

Tringa45

Well-known member
Europe
Kowa's 55 mm model doesn't seem to be that popular ; perhaps due to the zoom performance. I agree a x 20 or 25 ww would be interesting.
Well the price is something of a deterrent, but I agree that the 553 or 554 would have been much more desirable with a 20x or 25x WW.
The potential is there but I suspect that the decision to equip it with a zoom was marketing-driven. I don't think that either the 1,2 mm exit pupil at 45x or the 36° AFoV at 15x would be very satisfying.

John
 

chill6x6

Well-known member
I agree with you! I think we all agree a big, heavy, quality tripod with a scope of 80mm or larger is really the BEST way to go in terms of the best image. But since my first spotting scope I too have searched for a quality light-weight scope. I tried the TSN-663 and quite frankly was disappointed and expected better than it delivered. Tried a Opticron 50mm....similar results but about what I expected for the price paid. I've pretty much settled on a Leupold Gold Ring 12-40X60mm HD. Weight is 2lbs 6oz. My Meopta S2 weighs 4lbs 1oz, Kowa 883 weighs 4lbs 3oz, and the huge STX 95 weighs 4lbs 15oz. Thinks I really like about the Leupold is it's one small scope. It will fit in just about any backpack. I really like the magnification starting out at 12X. ER is the most of any spotting scope I've ever owned. Image is clear and bright and still good at 40X. I find I use it at 25-30X mostly. The main thing I'm not that crazy about is the focus adjustment which is inline with the eyepiece and magnification adjustment. Friction is a little too much and the adjustment ring is kinda small so as you focus the scope moves more...especially more than those with the adjustment on top of the tube. Some may not like the the straight eyepiece. Some may not like the non-changeable eyepiece. Overall it has been an excellent scope! IMG_3445.jpeg
 

Tringa45

Well-known member
Europe
Just a few more thoughts:
Hermann has exposed the constrictions to which small scopes are subjected, but which are unfortunately ignored by the manufacturers due to marketing considerations. A zoom eyepiece is considered desirable on a large scope, so a small scope has to have one too, regardless of whether the magnifications are useful or usable.

I don't think I have ever seen a birder in the field using a scope without a binocular, so a scope with 13x magnification doesn't make much sense, particularly if the FoV is a mere 52 m (38,5° AFoV) as on the 13-30x and 13-40x zoom eyepieces for the Nikon ED50. No wonder there have been so many posts here on Birdforum of owners looking for the discontinued 16x and 27x WA eyepieces.
A sensible minimum magnification would be around 20x but higher magnifications would be limited by the size of the exit pupil. Too small, and the gains of increased magnification are counteracted by the loss of brightness and acuity of the eye. See this quote from Wikipedia:

"As in a photographic lens, visual acuity is affected by the size of the pupil. Optical aberrations of the eye that decrease visual acuity are at a maximum when the pupil is largest (about 8 mm), which occurs in low-light conditions. When the pupil is small (1–2 mm), image sharpness may be limited by diffraction of light by the pupil (see diffraction limit). Between these extremes is the pupil diameter that is generally best for visual acuity in normal, healthy eyes; this tends to be around 3 or 4 mm. "

If we regarded 2 mm as the minimum tolerable, then that would impose a maximum magnification of 25x for a 50 mm scope, a very narrow window of sensible magnifications, which essentially dictate a fixed focal length (preferably wide angle) eyepiece.
There would then be no need to make it detachable and one could save two air/glass surfaces by dispensing with the sealing "window" in the scope body.
Mechanical complexity could also be reduced by dispensing with internal focussing. Adequate waterproofing could be provided with simple helical eyepiece focussing as on the old Zeiss Dialyt linked by Hermann.

John
 

Hermann

Well-known member
If we regarded 2 mm as the minimum tolerable, then that would impose a maximum magnification of 25x for a 50 mm scope, a very narrow window of sensible magnifications, which essentially dictate a fixed focal length (preferably wide angle) eyepiece.
There would then be no need to make it detachable and one could save two air/glass surfaces by dispensing with the sealing "window" in the scope body.
Mechanical complexity could also be reduced by dispensing with internal focussing. Adequate waterproofing could be provided with simple helical eyepiece focussing as on the old Zeiss Dialyt linked by Hermann.
I fully agree. 25x magnfication, wideangle (60 degrees AFOV would do nicely, no need for a huge eyepiece), simple and straightforward eyepiece focusing. That would do nicely. I'd prefer an angled scope but I would also get a straight scope if some maker were to make a straight scope only. Heck, I'd even get a drawtube scope despite its inherent disadvantages - provided it is light and high quality.

I'm pretty sure such a scope would be a success. Nikon must have sold large numbers of the ED50 despite its somewhat suspect build quality and despite the lack of suitable, small and light wideangle eyepieces. The reason is clear: People WANT a light alternative to their large scopes when they're travelling or hiking. And a lot of older birders would dearly have a small, light scope becaause they psysically can't lug around their big scopes all day.

Hermann
 

Hermann

Well-known member
Well the price is something of a deterrent, but I agree that the 553 or 554 would have been much more desirable with a 20x or 25x WW.
The potential is there but I suspect that the decision to equip it with a zoom was marketing-driven. I don't think that either the 1,2 mm exit pupil at 45x or the 36° AFoV at 15x would be very satisfying.
If Kowa had made this scope with a 25x or 27x WW eyepiece I would have got one. The zoom is pretty horrible IMO. No way I'm going to pay that much money for a scope if the eypiece isn't up to scratch.

Hermann
 

Alexis Powell

Natural history enthusiast
United States
I concur w/the thoughts of Tringa45 and Hermann. Until such a scope exists, I am happy with my Nikon 50ED with 27x WF eyepiece (which is much smaller than the MC and DS versions) wrapped in McNett camo-form. If Nikon would make the 50ED more robust internally and re-release the 27x WF, I would call it essentially perfect. By the way, last I knew, the Nikon 50ED was still a current product and available cheap from Japan.

--AP
 

ajfossey

Registered User
Supporter
My wife and I on occasion use the Nikon ED 50mm along with the 27x eyepiece and it is undoubtedly a useful and very lightweight piece of kit. This is the only eyepiece available to us for this scope. I have no experience of the zoom options here.

I’d also recommend the Opticron MMx ED 50mm and ED 60mm versions. They both are excellent with the SDL2/SDL3 eyepieces, but are surprisingly good with the 40858 HDF which yields a very useful 24x on the 50mm (32x on the 60mm) and the 40831 HDF giving a bright, good field of view and 23x on the 60mm (18x on the 50mm).

The biggest issue with the latter two Opticron eyepieces is finding them to purchase!
 

GeorgeL

Active member
I really love my Pentax 65ED straight scope. I have a variety of astro eyepieces that I can use, Pentax XW’s and Explore Scientific eyepieces. And no eyepiece adapter required (reason I chose Pentax). I mostly use the ES 82degree 14mm (27x) or the ES 68 degree 20mm (20x) eyepiece on this scope, mounted on my monopod with a tilt only head. Good eye relief and tack sharp to the edge of field also. Oh, and another thing, on a monopod I prefer a straight scope.
Also, this scope and monopod fits in my daypack nicely, for hiking.
 
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Hermann

Well-known member
I really love my Pentax 65ED straight scope. I have a variety of astro eyepieces that I can use, Pentax XW’s and Explore Scientific eyepieces. And no eyepiece adapter required (reason I chose Pentax). I mostly use the ES 82degree 14mm (27x) or the ES 68 degree 20mm (20x) eyepiece on this scope, mounted on my monopod with a tilt only head. Good eye relief and tack sharp to the edge of field also. Oh, and another thing, on a monopod I prefer a straight scope.
The Pentax 65ED is a nice scope, no doubt. However, we're talking about a lot more weight than I envisage. I'd like to see more truly lightweight scopes, scopes that weigh no more than, say, 800 gr. including the eyepiece.

BTW, you're absolutely right about straight scopes on monopods. They just work better. I also find they work better when observing from a car. The difference is such that I actually got a straight Nikon EDIII to complement my angled scopes. On tripods I prefer angled scopes any time.

Hermann
 

Hermann

Well-known member
I concur w/the thoughts of Tringa45 and Hermann. Until such a scope exists, I am happy with my Nikon 50ED with 27x WF eyepiece (which is much smaller than the MC and DS versions) wrapped in McNett camo-form. If Nikon would make the 50ED more robust internally and re-release the 27x WF, I would call it essentially perfect. By the way, last I knew, the Nikon 50ED was still a current product and available cheap from Japan.
Ah, the 27x WF eyepiece ... That a neat eyepiece for use on the ED50. Unfortunately I've only got the 27xDS, and that's a monster on the ED50. I used it for a while but it makes the combination quite unwieldy. I now use the 30x WF (20x on the ED50) most of the time and carry one of those old, narrow but tiny 40x eyepieces in case I need a bit more magnification.

And yes, a more robust ED50 would be very nice indeed. Alas, Nikon doesn't often make what customers want ... ;)

Hermann
 

pete_gamby

Birds? What Birds?!
Regarding the eyepieces for the Opticron scopes, the 40858 HDF eyepiece is discontinued but the 40831 is still current and available to buy from either our UK or US websites.

The various 50mm scope models do continue to be popular, especially as a trade in against larger scopes. We've shipped several thousand since the MM3 arrived in 2014 so I guess there is some demand out there!

I had a look at sales of the fixed mag eyepieces versus zoom and even when we had reasonable sales of all the various fixed mag options the ratio was 50:1. That is what makes it so difficult to financially justify having an extensive range of eyepiece options - there's a perception that demand should be good but the reality does not match!

HTH

Cheers, Pete
 

ajfossey

Registered User
Supporter
Regarding the eyepieces for the Opticron scopes, the 40858 HDF eyepiece is discontinued but the 40831 is still current and available to buy from either our UK or US websites.

The various 50mm scope models do continue to be popular, especially as a trade in against larger scopes. We've shipped several thousand since the MM3 arrived in 2014 so I guess there is some demand out there!

I had a look at sales of the fixed mag eyepieces versus zoom and even when we had reasonable sales of all the various fixed mag options the ratio was 50:1. That is what makes it so difficult to financially justify having an extensive range of eyepiece options - there's a perception that demand should be good but the reality does not match!

HTH

Cheers, Pete
Thank you Pete. I’d forgotten that the 40831 was still available.

I like the brightness of the 23x on the 60mm MM4. This is a magnification that I can generally work with when walking some distance and works very well on a lightweight Gitzo series 1 tripod (GK1545T-82TQD) if not too windy!

Many aren’t fans of the ball head, but I have no difficulty on lighter/small scopes. If needed I’ll step up to a series 2 with a more typical birding head, but of course the weight goes up accordingly.

The SDL3 is also very useable, particularly if the light is good, the higher magnification benefits from better stability as is true of any scope. The field of view and brightness of the fixed 23x is a pleasure every time though!
 

Hermann

Well-known member
I like the brightness of the 23x on the 60mm MM4. This is a magnification that I can generally work with when walking some distance and works very well on a lightweight Gitzo series 1 tripod (GK1545T-82TQD) if not too windy!

Many aren’t fans of the ball head, but I have no difficulty on lighter/small scopes. If needed I’ll step up to a series 2 with a more typical birding head, but of course the weight goes up accordingly.
I also use a small Gitzo, a Gitzo GT0532, not really tall enough for me, but very stable, and an RRS BH-25 ballhead. I also find a small ballhead (of high quality!) works pretty well with a small and light scope.

Hermann
 

Kevin Conville

yardbirder
Many aren’t fans of the ball head, but I have no difficulty on lighter/small scopes. If needed I’ll step up to a series 2 with a more typical birding head, but of course the weight goes up accordingly.

I also use a small Gitzo, a Gitzo GT0532, not really tall enough for me, but very stable, and an RRS BH-25 ballhead. I also find a small ballhead (of high quality!) works pretty well with a small and light scope.
Right on gentlemen.
I'm a fan of, and have been using, small-ish (high quality) ball heads on light carbon tripods with an ED50 for many years. To me it checks all the boxes.
Light weight, quick handling, positive locking, or easy tracking (if adjusted for that).
Though I've tried some less expensive heads in the past, I have been using a Markins Q3 for a long time.

A light weight tripod and ball head fulfills the promise of a small scope like an ED50, or similar scope.
 

Kevin Conville

yardbirder
I have several thoughts about all this. I agree that it would be welcome if the top makers produced something in the size / weight category of an ED50. I also agree that a fixed 25x-ish EP would be about right, though my personal preference for a 50mm scope is 20x. The scope wouldn't even need to have interchangeable EPs which would make sealing and manufacturing simpler and (maybe) render less cost to the consumer.

I don't see the above happening inexpensively, and if there is a Swaro, Zeiss, Leica, or even Kowa badge on it, it will be expensive... relatively.
Relative to what? The Nikon ED50. As Alexis points out (below) they can be had cheap, less than $400. for a body and $200-250 for a 27x DS or MC EP.

Though I don't discount the stories of ED50s incurring damage, I think the number of incidence of this is probably over blown. The foot issue is easily mitigated by mounting a plate that is compatible with some head. My preference is Arca Swiss compatible and a ball head. The plate eliminates wear and tear on the threads and if properly designed with a lip to prevent rotation, the screw attaching the plate to the foot doesn't have to be wicked tight, which I believe is the root of the problem. People over tighten the foot with conventional heads using the 1/4"-20 screw and they need to be pretty tight with this set up. I've used an Arca plate on the ED50 for 13 years without a hitch.

The body coming apart upon impact is more difficult. Maybe placing some strategically placed sections of neoprene at likely impact points before wrapping the scope with the McNett product, or similar might be an answer. I use my ED50 bare and have not had an issue, but maybe I'm lucky with this.

So what's the likelihood of S, Z, or L producing something like this? Not very likely IMO, for several reasons. But if they did I'm guessing the body will be at least 3 and possibly 4 or 5 times the price of the ED50, plus the eyepiece. I don't see them making a fixed EP scope after all, so add another $3-400. for a 25x EP. You can have a straight -and- an angled ED50 for probably half. It's a cost benefit equation.

Last, I was told years ago never to bet against yourself. Buying a (probably) heavier, much more expensive scope from an elite maker is a form of insurance. I'll bank the difference and buy another ED50 if it breaks and I can't get Nikon to fix or replace it.


I concur w/the thoughts of Tringa45 and Hermann. Until such a scope exists, I am happy with my Nikon 50ED with 27x WF eyepiece (which is much smaller than the MC and DS versions) wrapped in McNett camo-form. If Nikon would make the 50ED more robust internally and re-release the 27x WF, I would call it essentially perfect. By the way, last I knew, the Nikon 50ED was still a current product and available cheap from Japan.
 
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