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Spotting scope alternatives (1 Viewer)

Mother_of_birds

Well-known member
United Kingdom
Up until now my 8x binoculars have served me brilliantly, but having bought a car a few weeks ago I find myself going to coastal areas much more often and sometimes wishing I had something with a stronger magnification. I don't want a big heavy spotting scope since I already carry a lot of gear with me and even though I might stop in hides, I won't just stay there all day, I usually end up walking 5-10 miles, occasionally more, so I really need something lightweight and small. I have tried a travel scope (Celestron Hummingbird ED) and was disappointed by it. I was thinking about getting a compact digital camera with a high zoom, 30 or 40x maybe? Is this a good idea/alternative or not?
 

Richard D

what was that...
Supporter
United Kingdom
The LCD displays aren't great for identifying birds - the detail often isn't good enough for trickier species, however you do have the advantage of being able to identify post visit from the saved images (assuming they're sharp enough!). In terms of viewing experience in my opinion they're not very pleasant or convienient just for observing birds, but if it's as a tool for identifying rather than observing they have a place.
 

William Lewis

Wishing birdwatching paid the bills.
United Kingdom
Some of the higher manification image stabilised binoculars might fit the bill? If your only going to be looking at distant targets they could be all you need but won't have the reach of a scope, 16x is about the max, small scopes can go to 45x with a half decent image.

I'm not a fan of carrying scopes in general so use a swaro CTC 30x75 and a mono pod which works for me, it fits in my birding bag with the obligatory flask and sandwiches and isn't mega heavy.
 

gastonbe

Active member
Belgium
I'm in the same situation as you are. I don't have a car though and I also hike a lot when birding.

I decided to get the new Swarovski ATC (still looking for a small tripod that is stable yet portable). I'll probably buy it early next year (still justifying the cost to myself, lol).
 

WRL

Well-known member
Germany
[...] (still looking for a small tripod that is stable yet portable). [...]
There is no such thing. Small but high enough plus portable and light wobbles and wiggles when, even a bit, windy or being touched. All of them do, more or less, I am convinced (because of physics, material and, last, own experience). Depends how much you can tolerate it. It's always a tradeoff between properties.
B.T.W.: I am using a PeakDesign Travel Tripod (aluminum version) with my Kowa 554. Works within above limitations
 

gastonbe

Active member
Belgium
There is no such thing. Small but high enough plus portable and light wobbles and wiggles when, even a bit, windy or being touched. All of them do, more or less, I am convinced (because of physics, material and, last, own experience). Depends how much you can tolerate it. It's always a tradeoff between properties.
B.T.W.: I am using a PeakDesign Travel Tripod (aluminum version) with my Kowa 554. Works within above limitations
The PD does look interesting. I wouldn't think it to be problematic with such a light scope?

I think the gitzo traveler is more stable than the PD, but I've got a thread going about this in the Swarovski subforum so let's not start here ;) anyways i think you're right but I hope I won't mind the level of instability.
 

Mono

Hi!
Staff member
Supporter
Europe
Something to bear in mind is that "30x" in the world of binoculars/telescopes is a different thing to the "30x" in the world of zoom cameras.

For binoculars 30x is the magnification, the optic makes the thing you are looking at appear 30x larger.

For zoom cameras 30x is the multiple between the widest angle zoom and the narrowest angle. For example if a lens zooms from 20mm to 600mm it has a 30x zoom.

This is important because cameras can have a magnification less than the human eye. In 35mm film equivalent a focal length of 50mm is the same as normal human vision. So in the example I gave above the maximum magnification of the 30x zoom lens is 600/50, 12x in binocular terms.

Have a look at the specs of a zoom camera and they will usually quote the 35mm equivalent focal length. Divide the largest one by 50 to get the equivalent magnification in bin/scope terms.
 

DMW

Well-known member
To echo previous comments, super zoom cameras are not a good alternative to a scope. The only real solution is a decent travel scope. I've never looked through a Celestron Hummingbird, but the higher quality travel scopes are surprisingly good for their size. If your primary use will be scanning from hides, depending on the construction of the hide, you might be able to rest the scope on the sill and do without a tripod altogether.
 

Mother_of_birds

Well-known member
United Kingdom
Something to bear in mind is that "30x" in the world of binoculars/telescopes is a different thing to the "30x" in the world of zoom cameras.

For binoculars 30x is the magnification, the optic makes the thing you are looking at appear 30x larger.

For zoom cameras 30x is the multiple between the widest angle zoom and the narrowest angle. For example if a lens zooms from 20mm to 600mm it has a 30x zoom.

This is important because cameras can have a magnification less than the human eye. In 35mm film equivalent a focal length of 50mm is the same as normal human vision. So in the example I gave above the maximum magnification of the 30x zoom lens is 600/50, 12x in binocular terms.

Have a look at the specs of a zoom camera and they will usually quote the 35mm equivalent focal length. Divide the largest one by 50 to get the equivalent magnification in bin/scope terms.
Thank you, I did not know that! To be fair I know next to nothing about cameras but this information on top of the other comments has made me realise it was a terrible idea lol
 

Mother_of_birds

Well-known member
United Kingdom
To echo previous comments, super zoom cameras are not a good alternative to a scope. The only real solution is a decent travel scope. I've never looked through a Celestron Hummingbird, but the higher quality travel scopes are surprisingly good for their size. If your primary use will be scanning from hides, depending on the construction of the hide, you might be able to rest the scope on the sill and do without a tripod altogether.
May I ask which travel scopes you have tried and/or would recommend? I'm reluctant to go down that path again after the Hummingbird, but after all the comments about the digital camera idea it seems like a travel scope is the only compromise!
 

Richard D

what was that...
Supporter
United Kingdom
How much weight you're comfortable with is very personal. Up to 8 miles I tend to carry a Nikon 60mm Fieldscope ED111(discontinued but widely available secondhand and still a very good scope) with a lightweight tripod that's adequate in non-windy conditions (Manfroto BeFree). If I'm walking further I tend to take my Nikon ED50 and a monopod or occasionally the tripod.
 

DMW

Well-known member
May I ask which travel scopes you have tried and/or would recommend? I'm reluctant to go down that path again after the Hummingbird, but after all the comments about the digital camera idea it seems like a travel scope is the only compromise!
I have a Nikon ED50 with a fixed x27 eyepiece. If you can find a decent one used, they are great value. Kowa and Swarovski also have highly regarded travel scopes, but at a hefty price.
 

Royfinn

Well-known member
I was thinking about getting a compact digital camera with a high zoom, 30 or 40x maybe? Is this a good idea/alternative or not?
It's good alternative, if you have time to take a pic from a bird. You can ID bird as well as with scope from the photo. On the other hand, camera is not good for scanning the surroundings and flying birds might be difficult. I have Nikon p900 with 90X zoom, which same as 40X scope magnification. An there is also digital zoom to double or more the magnification. Small bins+zoom camera is nice combo for long walks. :)

I also have ED50 scope with light tripod. It's light enough to carry long walks and pic quality is great. It's useful, when there are lots of birds to go through, like waders in the beach or little birds in the tree tops when it's difficult or impossible to take photo of the each bird.
 

Mother_of_birds

Well-known member
United Kingdom
It's good alternative, if you have time to take a pic from a bird. You can ID bird as well as with scope from the photo. On the other hand, camera is not good for scanning the surroundings and flying birds might be difficult. I have Nikon p900 with 90X zoom, which same as 40X scope magnification. An there is also digital zoom to double or more the magnification. Small bins+zoom camera is nice combo for long walks. :)

I also have ED50 scope with light tripod. It's light enough to carry long walks and pic quality is great. It's useful, when there are lots of birds to go through, like waders in the beach or little birds in the tree tops when it's difficult or impossible to take photo of the each bird.
Are you referring to the Nikon ED50? Sorry if that's a stupid question! A couple of people have mentioned that scope in this post. Unfortunately that's out of my price range anyway but if its a scope that a lot of birders use and recommend then I can keep it in mind for the future.
 
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BKoh

Well-known member
Singapore
Nikon ED50 seems to be the most-recommended of the very small scopes (~50mm). As it's an old design, it is considerably cheaper than its modern competitors like the Opticron MM4. However it is still priced above the likes of the Celestron Hummingbird. If you want better quality than the Hummingbird, the ED50 is a good choice. If you can't afford the ED50, whether new or used, then it's the Hummingbird or nothing.

If you do have Nikon ED50 money, also consider the Svbony SV406P, 65mm version. I have the 80mm version and it is very good. Search the forums - I have posted pictures taken through it with my smartphone.
 

Mother_of_birds

Well-known member
United Kingdom
Nikon ED50 seems to be the most-recommended of the very small scopes (~50mm). As it's an old design, it is considerably cheaper than its modern competitors like the Opticron MM4. However it is still priced above the likes of the Celestron Hummingbird. If you want better quality than the Hummingbird, the ED50 is a good choice. If you can't afford the ED50, whether new or used, then it's the Hummingbird or nothing.

If you do have Nikon ED50 money, also consider the Svbony SV406P, 65mm version. I have the 80mm version and it is very good. Search the forums - I have posted pictures taken through it with my smartphone.
I've ordered a used MM3 ED 50mm, the Nikon ED50 is out of my price range at the moment and I would rather have no scope than go back to the Hummingbird lol.
 

jring

Well-known member
I've ordered a used MM3 ED 50mm, the Nikon ED50 is out of my price range at the moment and I would rather have no scope than go back to the Hummingbird lol.

Hi,

one is probably better served with a non-ED Kowa 501/2 than with the Hummingbird... but a used MM3 can be a good deal if it's good.

Hoping for the best,

Joachim
 

Mother_of_birds

Well-known member
United Kingdom
Hi,

one is probably better served with a non-ED Kowa 501/2 than with the Hummingbird... but a used MM3 can be a good deal if it's good.

Hoping for the best,

Joachim
Hi Joachim,

I did try the Kowa 501/2 in a store and was impressed by the image. The reason I didn't go for it was that the lowest magnification is 20x and I wanted one that started around 12x to make it easier to use especially handheld. I also felt the dials were really stiff so when focusing or adjusting zoom when handheld the image was all over the place.

I got the MM3 50ED straight scope for £200 with a 13-39x eyepiece which I think is a good deal as I've seen the body alone sell for that.
 

Scott98

Well-known member
Vanuatu
Some people say it's not worth having a 10x bino relative to an 8x because the difference isn't that large, I disagree, I recently added a 10x bino for the first time and it's my go-to for birding at the beach and salt marshes. I sat in a blind for a while and compared my 8x42 and 10x42 and there's no question I was able to see the markings on ducks and other stuff much better at 10x.

At the beach the sand makes a comfortable seat, and resting my elbows on my knees the 10x42 does an excellent job of reaching the ducks & scoters in the water.
 

Tringa45

Well-known member
Europe
Some people say it's not worth having a 10x bino relative to an 8x because the difference isn't that large, I disagree, I recently added a 10x bino for the first time and it's my go-to for birding at the beach and salt marshes. I sat in a blind for a while and compared my 8x42 and 10x42 and there's no question I was able to see the markings on ducks and other stuff much better at 10x.

At the beach the sand makes a comfortable seat, and resting my elbows on my knees the 10x42 does an excellent job of reaching the ducks & scoters in the water.
The OP is interested in a scope and you are suggesting that the 25% increase of magnification of a 10x binocular over an 8x is a viable alternative to the several hundred percent a scope would offer?
 

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