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Recommendation for moderate priced scope

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Recommendation for moderate priced scope

Postby JessePenn on Fri Feb 26, 2010 2:32 pm

I am a novice bird watcher mostly watching birds out of our great room window. We have seen bald eagle, lots of hawks, etc. To date we use binoculars but I'd like to buy a moderate priced spotting scope, preferably with zoom lens. I have been on most of the websites and read all the reviews including Cornell Institute of Orinthology. I wear glasses. I would like to invest moderate amount little as possible but still get the best "value". Several scopes that I've investigated are:

Zhumell 20-60 80mm ZHU1004 online for 199.98
Barska 20-60 80mm BRK201 online for 259
Bushnell 20-60 80mm Legend Ultra BUP670 for 399
Celestron 52253 Ultima 100ED Zoom for 414.95

You can see that I'm looking at a wide range including ED types. There are so many and at lots of different prices that I don't know what is the right on for a novice bird watcher. Any advice on these scopes or any recommendations for others that I should purchase?

Re: Recommendation for moderate priced scope

Postby bearclawthedonut on Sat Feb 27, 2010 6:29 pm


You wear eyeglasses - tough luck! So do I. Spotting scopes are not made for those who wear eyeglasses. Eye relief is of great concern for all eyeglass wearer's. A spotting scope is not like binoculars; you bring binoculars to your eyes (or to your eyeglasses). You bring your eye to a spotting scope's eyepiece. That's a big difference. I can get away with 16.5mm of comfortable eyerelief with binoculars. Generally, I find 18mm to be the minimum that I can begin to comfortably approach a spotting scope eyepiece. 20mm is better, a lot better.

Eye relief is a factor of the eyepiece. So, the best way to go for eyeglass wearers in spotting scopes is to get a body that will accept 1.25" telescopic eyepieces. There are a lot of telescopic eyepieces on the market and a lot of them have 20mm of eyerelief. All zooms that I've looked through have much better eyerelief at low magnification then at high magnification. This even includes some rather expensive zooms that are supposed to have constant eyerelief. And remember this: all zoom manufacturer's lie about their eyerelief - no exceptions.

I bought a WO Zoom, because the specs said it had 20 to 18mm of eyerelief. No, more like 20 to 15mm, which is pretty much standard. Around 35x eyerelief drops off rapidly for most zoom eyepieces. Fixed focal length eyepieces have fixed eyerelief. Generally for the same ammount of money you can purchase a better fixed focal length eyepiece, then a zoom eyepiece.

The Celestron Regal F-80ed, has a great reputation; it comes with a 24 to 8mm (20-60x) zoom eyepiece of very good quality with the standard 20 to 15mm of eye relief. It's a big, heavey scope, which is OK for your use and they go for a bit over $500. With it you will need a very sturdy tripod (A spotting scope is worthless on a flimsey tripod) such as the Bogen 055XB (the 190 that JK likes is too light for the 80mm Regal) with a Manfrotto 128RC or 701HDV head you will spend another $200 to $300. Then you could get a Baader Hyperion fixed focal length eyepiece for $120 with 20mm of eyerelief and be set for a total of $850 to $900. You will not find good quality optics and good eyerelief for less.

In spotting scopes - tough luck, but you wear eyeglasses.

Re: Recommendation for moderate priced scope

Postby JessePenn on Sun Feb 28, 2010 12:20 pm

Thanks so much for the "glasses" tutorial. I had no idea that it was that complicated. I very much appreciate your recommendation for what works for a glasses wearer. JessePenn

Re: Recommendation for moderate priced scope

Postby Jne_K on Mon Mar 01, 2010 9:28 am


Good points.

I do prefer a good zoom eyepiece for birding, since changing eyepieces to get a closer look costs you time and time is often something you cannot afford before that bird flies, away. The problem with a zoom eyepiece that works, well, with glasses is the expense. These zooms typically run anywhere from $350 to over $700 JUST FOR THE EYEPIECE. However, for your type of birding, from your house, the zoom advantage is not quite so critical as it is out in the field or marsh. I do think that a good fixed power eyepiece is a good solution if you wear glasses, but even a fixed power telescope eyepiece with a wide field of view and good eye relief can be a very expensive option. The beauty, though, of a scope like the Regal HD is that you do have some options. Going with any other scope on your list means you are stuck with the zoom that comes with the scope and none of those zooms are good choices for an eyeglass wearer.

I would also forget the big, 100mm scopes. Your money is better spent on a smaller spotting scope with a better eyepiece or a scope like the Regal HD that gets you more eyepiece options. A good choice in a smaller scope is a Kowa 661 and the Z9, 20-60x eyepiece, which is excellent for eyeglass wearers. I know, because I use a Kowa 663 with that eyepiece for birding. The 661 is not ED, but optics are still excellent and that eyepiece will make you very happy.
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