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Smaller Spotting Scope (1 Viewer)

Ian Cockburn

Active member
I presently have a Kowa Spotting Scope TSN 824 with a TSE-14WE eyepiece. As I'm getting on I now find this rather heavy to carry and want some advice about the much smaller models that have come onto the market. Are they any good? Do they do the job? Any advice gratefully received. Ian Cockburn
 

marcsantacurz

Well-known member
I went with the Opticron MM4 60mm with the SDLv2 zoom and the 32x wide (out of production). The in-production fixed are 17x and 27x, if I remember correctly. Most of the time I have the fixed wide eyepiece on the scope. I went with the MM4 because it is very light, compact, and inexpensive. I tried it out at a bird show and was very happy with the view. This tiny mighty guy literally fits in my car's center console with an eyepiece attached.

The MM4 60 has a length of 10.2" / 260mm and a weight of 25.7oz / 729g. The SDLv2 add 9.5oz / 270g, for a total 37.2oz / 999g.

I have heard good things about the kowa TSN-55x series. It costs maybe 50% more than the MM4 and has a non-interchangeable eyepiece. But I've heard it has an excellent view. It also comes in at a lighter 28.5 oz / 808.0g and a similar 10.6". I have not used it, so this is all rumor mongering from me.

For me, price was the main driver as this was my first scope and I did not think I would be using it a lot. I mostly carry a bunch of camera gear. When I do use the MM4, and my girlfriend tends to use it more than I do, I am happy with the results.

mskb has a few threads about the TSN-663 vs ATS60HD vs MM4 60mm vs Nikon 62ED. His conclusion was that the TSN-663 hit the sweet spot for him in terms of price, optics, and ergonomics compared to all those. He liked it much more than the MM4 I have. But from the sound of your post, I assumed you were looking more at the 553-sized.

Marc
 

mskb

Well-known member
Hey Ian,

Marc has my thoughts covered exactly on the TSN-663M. I use the TE-9Z 20-60, there is also a wide-angle 30X, the TE-14WD.

Given that you are used to a Kowa ~80mm scope, if going the Kowa ~50mm scopes route, you may need to make sure that the magnification (with/without the Kowa extender) and the corresponding performance you get are in accordance with your preferences for the price & size.

Cheers and good luck searching! Let us know what you end up with!
Kumar
 
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jkingrph

Well-known member
I have one of the TSN 82sv models, and find it excellent but for the size. It is rather bulky and sometimes I simply do not want to deal with the size. I recently bit the bullet and bought a TSN 664, which is much, much smaller. I was originally looking at one of the 502 models, but decided on the 664 so I could use the same series of eyepieces on both. With the higher quality glass on the 664 I honestly cannot seem much difference in image quality between the two.
 

mskb

Well-known member
Congrats on the straight 664 @Jkingrph!

@Ian, I most certainly recommend the 663M/664M scopes. Kowa's team have been incredibly supportive for me as well. The colors, contrast and sharpness of the 660 series are a delight! We made some twilight observations yesterday, we did have to dial the 20-60 EP back down to somewhere around ~25X for improved brightness. Let's just say the pinks, the blues, and the various mixtures of them in the sky were rendered in a HUGELY appealing way than another much more expensive optic we have access to.

I don't know if the 82 series you have has a dual focusser, but you might want to try to see if you prefer that design better. Kowa hasn't yet incorporated it in the 663M/664M series. The Opticron MM4/60 that Marc mentioned does have it. As you probably already know, the FoV on the 20-60X EP is average / lower compared to the competition. That said, except when trying to place birds in flight at >35X zoom, the 20-60X EP hasn't bothered me at all with its FoV. You might want to make sure you like at least that or the wide angle 30X fixed before considering the 660 series.

All in all, we use the 663M a lot, and we love it when we do. You might well share the same level of enthusiasm as I do for the optic. If you can get it as a demo/on sale (<$1300) /a good used copy, that would be great.

Cheers,
Kumar
 
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jkingrph

Well-known member
My 82sv only has the single focus, as does the 664. I have not seen a scope with a dual focus, but can see were a finer adjustment would be useful at higher powers. I originally purchased the 82 to use when shooting, but it is a bit large to carry back and forth and takes up more room on a bench than I like. The eyepiece if offset and I find aiming it not easy. It does have a little sight tube to aid in aiming but with a stay on case it is not available. I am thinking of taking a small piece of pvc pipe and zip tying on the outside of the case to make a larger diameter sight tube, got to get some longer zip ties first. I have used it to view the moon and eclipses ect and find the angle eyepiece a definite advantage there, but then again have trouble aiming. I guess more practice would help there but in the neighborhood there are only so many things to look at without appearing intrusive to neighbors. I do have a wide angle and long eye relief lens also, and like the long eye relief the best. I have had this scope for several years and with all that equipment really did som shopping for good prices, got some domestic and some from overseas vendors.

Reading the specs the 664 has better glass than the 82, although I find with my rather uneducated older eye that there is no difference. At 74 I have some cataracts and had a problem that created very large numbers of floaters in my eyes.

Weather is starting to cool down a little, but still extremely warm and humid here so will wait a few weeks until more fall like weather to get it out.
 

jring

Well-known member
Hi,

congratulations to the 664 - a straight scope with an LER eyepiece is probably best for shooting.

You will only see a difference between your two scopes either with a high contrast object (black bird against overcast sky) in the form of color fringes or at higher magnification (45x and above) with the plain glass scope getting difficult to get to best focus.

For aiming with an angled scope, you can just put a long cable tie (or several, connected) around the front of the tube with the rest pointing straight up. You then point your scope to some far away object and aim over the top of your eyepiece and the cable tie (you can adjust the cable tie by moving it slightly and cutting it to size). This is of course not perfect like with sights, but usually good enough to be in the general vicinity of the bird, so it is at least partly visible and can be quickly brought to the center.

Joachim
 

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