• BirdForum is the net's largest birding community dedicated to wild birds and birding, and is absolutely FREE!

    Register for an account to take part in lively discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.

Spotting scope advice please (1 Viewer)

Bulbul87

Active member
I am interested in aquiring a spotting scope but am unfamiliar with the brands. A mate of mine recommended a used Kowa quite some time ago. He also said that I should look for a 45deg eyepiece as its easier on the neck and shoulder to look through for any length of time. I have a couple of options I am looking at, including a Kowa, but have questions regarding not only brands but old vs new. My budget is no more that £200, but if possible something decent optically (i.e. not a cheap Lidl offering - been there got the t-shirt) would be welcome. These are some examples I looked at:

Nikon 20-60x 60mm waterproof, 45 deg, model unknown, price maybe around £200, complete with bag

Nikon field scope 20x 60mm, rubberised, not sure whether waterproofprice £160

Kowa TS9, vintage, 20x, 50mm, 45 deg, complete with tripod, maybe £150

Opticron IF2, 20x, 60mm, 45 deg, about £150

Mirador 20x 60mm, horizontal eyepiece, complete with bag and tripod, very cheap for repairs

I have never heard of Mirador? Anyone familiar with them? Newer Mirador scopes seem to be priced in excess of £100 so I presume they are not rubbish? The Kowa TS9 looks a good deal but the objective size is smaller. How much difference does 50mm vs 60mm make? I know that in astronomy the size of the objective can make a huge difference to light gathering, but the application here is in daylight? I know that Nikon have good optics so I probably wouldn't hesitate if the price was right.

Does anyone know these scopes and can provide some insight as to their optical qualities and any pros and cons? The added value tripods and particularly a bag is something I can consider myself. I have no doubt a bag would be viewed as an essential accessory to carry the scope about in. I don't expect to get anything with fluorite for my budget but I am unfamiliar with the market. Probably wishful thinking.....

I should probably mention that I would like to attach a camera and already have a digiscoping attachment that I was given that clamps on to the eyepiece.

Any comments would be appreciated.
 
Last edited:

jring

Well-known member
Hi,

in general, there is not enough information for most of the offers... the exception being the TS-9... that I know well (i have a straight 20x50mm). It is ok at 20x - I paid 90€ for mine - if there is a usable tripod with it, it could be an ok offer...

Otoh, there is also the following offer of a TSN-601 with 20x EP (probably an LER version mainly for shooting, but also nice for digiscoping) for 99 quid. This gives you compatibility with current EPs and also a 60mm scope is ok in most situations, 50mm is usually a lightweight option used for long hikes and a larger scope at other times.
If you later find a 30x wide EP for the 601, it will be very nice scope visually.

https://www.cleyspy.co.uk/kowa-tsn-601-ref-com-10958.html

For the other options more info is needed. Unamed Nikon could be anything, Nikon Fieldscope could be a Fieldscope I with limited EP options, a Fieldscope II or even III - only the last one is waterproof, II and II can use all classic Fieldscope EPs.

The Opticron IF2 was a 75mm scope and can take HDF fixed mag EPs... some of which are still available new...

https://www.opticron.eu/ukhtml/Pages/classic_if_2.htm

There seems to have been a 60mm version called IF... but not found on the opticron page... probably too old.

Mirador I don't know - too old... Binastro maybe?

Joachim
 

dwatsonbirder

Well-known member
I think Joachim has given you some pretty sound advise as is normally the case - just don't ask him about Kowa TSN3's... ;)
Personally, I am a huge fan of the Nikon fieldscope series, if it is either and ED2 or either a fieldscope 3 or ED3 series, that would probably be the best bet - they are outstandingly good value, and last for years. The Kowa 601 linked above is also a fairly good scope when used with either the 20x or 30x, though it isn't the most compact, and are often a bit leaky - I had the same model but straight (602) when I was starting out many years ago, and remember unscrewing the eyepiece to let the water out on more than one occasion!

The Mirador and Kowa TS9 are both old scopes (google "twitching Isles of Scilly 80's) and you will see several hundred on display! I don't think either are fully multi-coated, and therefore are probably not really up to much optically. Of the same era, but better optically are the Optolyth scopes, which are also rugged - this one is within your budget.

Here are a few recommendations: Hawke ED65 - I'm not sure which model (possibly the endurance) but all Hawke stuff is decent at the budget - mid level of the market. I think for £150, you'd be hard pushed to find a better scope, and you'd still have money left over for a half-decent tripod (check out Velbon sherpa).

Opticron also make some great kit in the budget - mid range sector, and this GS52 is decent. They're a little heavy, but well made, and if you upgraded to another opticron kit, you could use it as a travelscope. It won't be a bright or as versatile as the hawke, but it should be a solid performer.

Both of these have ED glass which will produce a cleaner image, and have better transmission (crisper colours and perhaps a bit better in low light).

Another option from Opticron is the old HR66, but this one is straight and doesn't have ED glass - if you could get it for about £150 then it would be decent enough.

Hope this helps, good luck, and let us know how you get on!
 

Binastro

Well-known member
I have a very nice Mirador 10x40 Porroprism binocular. Remaindered long ago.

Also a high quality 30x75mm Mirador collapsible drawtube scope. Underpriced.

Both Japanese, but old and single coatings I think.
Both not waterproof.

Mirador was a good maker.

I also have an excellent Japanese Optomax 500mm f/8 mirror lens. Somehow maybe related to Mirador. I can't remember.

Yes, Binastro is too old.

Regards,
B.
 

Binastro

Well-known member
The Mirador 10x40 binocular was bought new remaindered c.1980, so maybe made about 1970.

The Optomax 500mm f/8 mirror lens from the same source was surprisingly good.
With a 3x teleconverter visually at 150x it split both components of Epsilon Lyrae, 2.3 arcseconds.
Not bad for a small camera lens. 75mm aperture large central obstruction. There was some turbulence and temperature effects.
It was as good as similar Minolta, Canon and Nikon lenses and better than a Pentax.

None of them were as good as the Vivitar Series 1 solid Cat 600mm f/8, which didn't change from a sudden 20C to 0C.

I think the Optomax and Miradors came from the same stable.

B.
 
Last edited:

Bulbul87

Active member
Otoh, there is also the following offer of a TSN-601 with 20x EP (probably an LER version mainly for shooting, but also nice for digiscoping) for 99 quid. This gives you compatibility with current EPs and also a 60mm scope is ok in most situations, 50mm is usually a lightweight option used for long hikes and a larger scope at other times.
If you later find a 30x wide EP for the 601, it will be very nice scope visually.

https://www.cleyspy.co.uk/kowa-tsn-601-ref-com-10958.html

That looks certianly to be an improvement over crackle painted the TS9. Thank you for pointing it out.

For the other options more info is needed. Unamed Nikon could be anything, Nikon Fieldscope could be a Fieldscope I with limited EP options, a Fieldscope II or even III - only the last one is waterproof, II and II can use all classic Fieldscope EPs.

Apologies for that, but the information in the listings was rather limited. I have contacted some sellers for more information. The Nikon Fieldscope does look to be an older rubber clad instrument. I have seen a newer version which looks much different although the seller couldn't tell me whether its a Mk I, II or III! That one is getting close to £200 now.

The Opticron IF2 was a 75mm scope and can take HDF fixed mag EPs... some of which are still available new...

https://www.opticron.eu/ukhtml/Pages/classic_if_2.htm

Thank you for the link to this listing. I did have a pair of Opticron binnoculars once. The were Ok, but clearly budget and nothing special. I don't have any knowledge of their spotting scopes so can't really comment, but interesting to see these here brand new and within my budget. It is not clear to me whether these include an eyepiece (e.g. 20x) or whether I need to choose and buy one separately? The one on eBay already gone.

Personally, I am a huge fan of the Nikon fieldscope series, if it is either and ED2 or either a fieldscope 3 or ED3 series, that would probably be the best bet - they are outstandingly good value, and last for years.

Nikon seem to have a very good reputation for their optics. I have an older Nikon Microscope and the optics are sharp and clear so it does not surprise me that these are well regarded.

The Mirador and Kowa TS9 are both old scopes (google "twitching Isles of Scilly 80's) and you will see several hundred on display! I don't think either are fully multi-coated, and therefore are probably not really up to much optically. Of the same era, but better optically are the Optolyth scopes, which are also rugged - this one is within your budget.

Thank you for the background on these. It gives me some idea as to what I am dealing with.

Here are a few recommendations: Hawke ED65 - I'm not sure which model (possibly the endurance) but all Hawke stuff is decent at the budget - mid level of the market. I think for £150, you'd be hard pushed to find a better scope, and you'd still have money left over for a half-decent tripod (check out Velbon sherpa).

Opticron also make some great kit in the budget - mid range sector, and this GS52 is decent. They're a little heavy, but well made, and if you upgraded to another opticron kit, you could use it as a travelscope. It won't be a bright or as versatile as the hawke, but it should be a solid performer.

Both of these have ED glass which will produce a cleaner image, and have better transmission (crisper colours and perhaps a bit better in low light).

I am not familiar with the quality of Hawke, but am aware of the brand. That item you linked certainly looks like a good offer although it was described as tatty. I have therefore contacted the seller who has already sent me some photos. The scope looks OK, except that the main section of the barrel has a scratched white appearance and I am waiting on further details of this. Of course if it is optically sound then it may still be worthwhile considering and perhaps the barrel can be cleaned up somehow?

Another option from Opticron is the old HR66, but this one is straight and doesn't have ED glass - if you could get it for about £150 then it would be decent enough.

Ah! Focus Optics! That's the name of the company I was trying to remember last night. They are within reasonable travelling distance from me and often have used equipment. Visited them some time ago to make a binocular purchase and they were very helpful. Was trying to remember the name last night, so thank you for reminding me!

I have a very nice Mirador 10x40 Porroprism binocular. Remaindered long ago.

Also a high quality 30x75mm Mirador collapsible drawtube scope. Underpriced.

Both Japanese, but old and single coatings I think.
Both not waterproof.

Mirador was a good maker.

Thank you for the background information on Mirador. The scope I am looking at is very cheap and has discolouration of the objective lens around the edge. I had the idea of purchasing it as a spares/repairs item and cleaning it up. The non-rubberised assembly shouldn't make this too difficult, but it really depends on how low the price stays.
 
Last edited:

Binastro

Well-known member
Discolouration around the edges may be balsam failure due to moisture, but difficult to know without seeing.

May be useful if the price is low.

B.
 

Bulbul87

Active member
Discolouration around the edges may be balsam failure due to moisture, but difficult to know without seeing.

May be useful if the price is low.

B.

I wasn't sure whether to post the photo while the listing is still running, so I have attached a section of it which I am hoping is sufficient to make a determination. It runs for up to half the circumference. Having Googled balsam failure and seen a couple of examples it does seem very likely although I am by no means knowledgeable on the subject. It is difficult to tell from the photo but AFAIKT the blemish seems beneath the surface, so either on the inside, or as you say balsam failure and delamination. I imagine that will only progress as time goes on so I'm not sure whether to waste my time.

I'd suggest you buy this model, although this one is selling soon.
On the Kowa TS-9, I had one for a year or so. It is a very good little scope with a very poor factory eyepiece. I fitted a b&L 15x balscope EP on mine.

On that note about eyepieces, I am told that 20x is barely adequate and little more magnification than binnoculars, so should I look for 20-48 or 20-60 zoom?

Also, anyone know much about Minox scopes? I have a Minox binnocular which is excellent optically, so if the scope is as good, may be worth a look? I am looking at an advert for a Minox MD50. Again, only 50mm aperature, and zoom only to 30x. Some anecdotal evidence from Googling that the focussing ring is very tight so might be a problem, but the deal is well with within my budget.

I think the Nikon I mentioned earlier close to the £200 mark is non-ED. I have now seen photos of both a Mk II and Mk III ED60 and both are clearly marked Fieldscope ED. This one is not, although it has a simmilar appearance. Is £250-£300 good for an ED60 Mk II? This is getting beyond my budget really, but I might stretch a point if it is worthwhile, but would rather avoid it. Otherwise, I am still very much considering the Hawke. The white stuff on the barrel appears to be adhesive because the rubberised covering is missing. If the adhesive can be cleaned away somehow, that would still be OK.

Sorry for all the questions, but I appreciate all the comments which have been very helpful.
 

Attachments

  • blemish.jpg
    blemish.jpg
    32.2 KB · Views: 32
Last edited:

jring

Well-known member
Hi,

the IF2 is certainly not available as new from Opticron any more - I just found the page in their product archive...

Joachim
 

slingworks

Well-known member
15x probably is a bit too low for your needs. I liked it for other reasons.

20x is a fine magnification overall You can always pick up other ep's later.

I have a couple zooms, but rarely go beyond 30-35x or so...I just dont care for the darker/grainy view...Also zooms tend to have a tunnel effect. Most fixed EP's have a view that you can literally fall into, so to speak.
 

dwatsonbirder

Well-known member
I don't know the little Minox, other than it does not have ED glass - it is probably perfectly serviceable, if a bit average, and likely not as good as either the aforementioned Hawke or Opticron GS52. If the marks on the Hawke are cosmetic, this should not affect the scope, particularly if used with a stay on case.

I think £250 - £300 for an EDii is probably right at the top end of what you should pay, and only if it has one of the newer style DS/MC eyepieces.
The angled variants hold their value a bit better, but as an example, I bought an optically perfect but cosmetically used straight EDii with 2 older style eyepieces and a case for £190. I upgraded with a DS lens and it was honestly not incomparable optically with my Swarovski 65HD - the slight caveat is that they use ED glass but are not fully multi-coated, so there is a negligible amount of optical degradation.

Hope this helps
 

Bulbul87

Active member
Well I've done it! Having spent a few hours considering, I have purchased the Hawke ED65 suggested by dwatsonbirder. Hawke do seem to have consistently very good reviews, the zoom 16-48 seems to cover a nice range, it has a reasonably sized 65mm objective, a 45deg eyepiece and a fine focus feature. The cosmetic issue aside, it seems to tick all the boxes including ED glass and comes with a bag and storage case for £150. I am curious to see how well the fine focus works and what the optics are like. For the price it did seem difficult to better the deal.

I will post an update once it arrives.
 
Last edited:

jring

Well-known member
Hi,

an ED scope with EP for 150 quid is certainly a good offer - I keep my fingers crossed that you get a decent or better example...

Let us know how it turns out and if you bought from a shop with a return policy, read up on star testing...

PS: since you probably might need a tripod & head next - Daniel has a very reasonably priced set of Manfrotto legs down there in the classifieds...

https://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=390317

Add a used head like this 128RC (ends tomorrow at 08:45 am)

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Manfrott...765495&hash=item23d7b19d99:g:n6sAAOSwLmxex4OI

or this 500AH (sturdier and better balance - same weight as 128RC - but not super cheap in this offer)

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Manfrott...982695&hash=item4dac9630f8:g:Jz8AAOSwdzZey-b7

Joachim
 
Last edited:

Bulbul87

Active member
Despite messages advising me of a delay, the scope arrived today!

It came in a nice metal clad carry case. While wiping it I promptly sliced my thumb on the edge of the HAWKE badge. :eek!: Fortunately the damage was minor!

The scope itself has a built-in pop-up hood and a screw on eyepiece cover as well as being waterproof. Optically it seems very good. The objective lens is clean with no marks whatsoever. The lens is recessed perhaps just a little over 1" inside the tube, the pop-up hood extending this approximately another inch. The eyepiece was a little greasy but cleaned up very well with a drop of Baader Optical Wonder Fluid and is also free of any scratches or other damage. The zoom moves reasonably smoothly but does require a firm touch. The focus control is buttery smooth.

The scope yields nice edge to edge crisp images even at full magnification. I am no expert but there seemed to be no obvious chromatic aberration or other distortion and the image looks bright, darkening a little as the magnification is increased, which is to be expected. Colour and contrast both seem rather good even even at full zoom with vegetation being rendered quite vividly. (I have yet to see any birds!). At high magnification the fine focus control makes it so much easier to focus accurately and is definitely a useful feature. One thing I did notice: when looking into a shaded area, there is evidence of a fine coating of dust somewhere - presumably on an internal surface somewhere. Is this normal?

With the pop-up eycup extended, the field of view seems reasonably wide at minimum and maximum zoom and stays constant, but there was noticeable vignetting around mid-zoom. I discovered that I could work around this by simply collapsing the eyecup back down. This is something I can quite happily live with. Since I have no basis for comparison except astronomical telescopes and a cheap Lidl scope I purchased quite some time ago (and promptly returned), I cannot say whether the angle of view is as wide and immersive as ought to be expected, but it certainly feels quite comfortable. There is no ridiculous tunnel and blur effect as can be experienced in some very cheap instruments.

Cosmetically, the barrel has a streaky white appearance as it seems that the rubber covering has fallen away or been removed. The barrel is smooth so it is apparent that the previous owner has already cleaned away the adhesive residue, but the metalwork has very fine groves, presumably to provide a slip resistant surface for the rubber covering and what remains of the adhesive is essentially buried within those groves. I am wondering what to do with this? Leave it as it is? Maybe paint with black Hammerite? Functionally it has no bearing so maybe best left alone?

The other cosmetic problem is that there is some sticky gunge around the neck of the scope. Would the isopropyl alcohol clean this? If not, then what else could I safely use?

Overall, for £150 I am pleased with the scope despite the cosmetic defects.

Regarding the tripod and head, my SLR camera and telephoto lens are long gone, but I still have the Slick Diamond 88 tripod I used with it. It does seem to handle the weight of the scope quite well. The head is pan and tilt and works reasonably well, although not as smooth as a video tripod.

One disappointment was that my digiscoping adapter which as a 45mm maximum opening, does not fit onto the chunky eyepiece which has a 50mm diameter. Neither does my mobile phone adapter. On the plus side, my mobile phone can be held against the eyecup and will take a reasonable photo at minimum magnification but at higher magnifications camera shake is unavoidable. It really needs to be mounted. Can anyone suggest a suitable mobile phone or camera mount?
 

Attachments

  • Collar-gunge.jpg
    Collar-gunge.jpg
    585.6 KB · Views: 52
  • Streaky-white.jpg
    Streaky-white.jpg
    190.3 KB · Views: 52
  • Digiscoping adapter.jpg
    Digiscoping adapter.jpg
    105 KB · Views: 32
Last edited:

Binastro

Well-known member
I was given several large rolls of leatherette material.
We had a large old desk.
I chose the maroon somewhat patterned roll and covered the desk top in this. It looks smart.

Perhaps wrap leatherette around the scope barrel to tidy up the looks.

Dust inside should not be there when new, but can build up over time. If not a thick layer it should be O.K.
If the scope is waterproof, probably best left as it is.
It could be paint residue from inside the barrel.

Regards,
B.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top