Yikes! My list is getting bigger!
-I do not wear eyeglasses (so far).
-For this use, I prefer a straight eyepiece, rather than angled.
-I will be hunting on horseback (most of the time, with the possibility of some backpacking as well), so size and weight is somewhat important, but not as important as a pure backpack hunt. I need the scope to be 17 inches in length or less, and all other specifications being equal, lighter would obviously be preferable.
-It must be waterproof, fogproof, and durable.
-I want to be able to see animals clearly at potentially long distances, but don't need to be able to count hairs.
-From reading other posts, I understand that environmental conditions can and will play a big part in subject clarity & quality, so I need to give that some serious consideration.
-I have several point and shoot digital cameras (Panasonic, Nikon, Sony), and again, after reading other posts would certainly like to attempt digiscoping. However, any adaptor would need to be easy to use, and have the ability to allow quick use of the spotting scope again.
-A good warranty, preferably no-fault.
-Also need a good quality, lightweight, and compact tripod. The scope would most likely be used primarily in a sitting or kneeling position, rather than standing.
I have really enjoyed reading your responses to other inquiries, and hope that you can sort through my rather lengthy question to provide me with good direction. I'm confident you can. Thanks in advance for your valued assistance.
- Posts: 6
- Joined: Thu Jan 05, 2012 10:12 pm
Gary, we do prefer not to have you link to the competition, but thanks for the suggestion. Those are good folks over there in Middleton, Wi, though.
The Pentax is a great scope, yes, but it is heavy, even as 80 mm scopes go. That 15.6" listed by Pentax for length is for body only, not scope plus eyepiece as is often incorrectly listed by most sources when selling the kit. With that jumbo of an eyepiece, it will easily exceed that 17" max length requirement. The PF 65 ED, though, is a real possibility, though I would use with a good fixed power eyepiece rather than the XF zoom that Pentax supplies with it.
If the horse had to do all the packing, I would say just go 80 mm and forget about it, but that extra weight will cause some problems with your choice of a tripod. Compact, sitting height tripods are not good in terms of stability for 80 mm class scopes. For that size scope, I would definitely go full size Bogen. You can get a good full size Bogen to go down under 30" in height, but that's going to be expensive and it's going to be heavy. I'm sure the horse wont mind the weight, but you might when packing the scope and tripod, yourself. The other problem with 80 mm scopes is your 17" length limit. That disqualifies a good number of excellent choices by the time you add the eyepiece.
if you will be packing, it makes more sense to me to go with a lighter and smaller scope and that also means you can get away with a lighter, smaller and cheaper tripod, so you can spend more money on the scope. Some great choices on scopes, here, would be the very lightweight Kowa 602 or the slightly more expensive 662 or the much more expensive 664 any of which with the excellent Kowa 20-60 9z zoom. Yeah, that's a lot of money for the eyepiece, but if you are going to be digiscoping, you can use it. Zooms with short eye relief and small lenses don't work worth a darn for digiscoping. Any of these Kowas, ED or non-ED would be a great choice for you.
Another great choice and kind of a sleeper in the spotting scope world is the Brunton Eterna 62.
A bit more expensive and right at your budget limit is the venerable and time tested Leupold Gold Ring, standard, non-HD model. It's a classic backpack hunting scope if there ever was one.
Another great choice is the Vortex Viper HD 15-45x65. Vortex makes a solid product and they are great folks to work with.
OP also lists a demo on the Nikon 60mm Fieldscope (non-ED) with zoom eyepiece at a great price. The zoom, however, is not a good choice for digiscoping, but Nikon makes plenty of good fixed power eyepieces with digiscoping in mind and that price is cheap enough on the scope to add one to your shopping list. Call and talk to someone in CS as to availability.
As to a tripod, my favorite backpack, small scope tripod has always been the Leupold Compact, but you might also try the Vortex Ridgeview. Note that these are sitting height tripods, max, not standing height tripods. For standing, try the Bushnell Advanced 780040.
You can spend a ton of money on model specific digiscoping adapters, but why? A universal digiscoping adapter that has a swing away function is more affordable and it will let you switch back and forth between visual use and digiscoping. Try the Alpen 706. It will work just fine with smaller scopes. Myself, I learned to digiscope back in the days before adapters. I handhold and center the camera over the eyepiece without an adapter. That takes practice, though, and a lot of patience, but it is the quickest way to take a pic and obviously the least expensive.
Hope this gives you a place to start. Let us know how it develops for you.
A couple of scopes that I also added to my list based on your previous recommendations are the Kowa 662 & 602, again after reading several of your posts, along with the Brunton Eterna models and the Celestron Regal scopes. The Celestron scopes appear to be excellent scopes with great optics and a good value. However, I'm concerned a bit by your comments concerning ruggedness, not that I don't take care of my equipment, but because I will be in a rugged environment. Again, referring back to some of your previous comments, I feel that although the 80mm scopes are optimum (optically) for my purpose, the downside is length/weight/and tripod requirements. I get the feeling I need to drop down to the 60-67mm scopes across the board, unless you have a recommendation of an 80mm scope that fits the size and weight issue. I should probably clarify my 17-inch length requirement in that the scope pouch on my pack would appear to accept that length of scope. If push came to shove, I could use the main compartment of the pack for the scope, but was trying to leave that for clothing and other equipment. So, dropping down to the 66 or 60mm scopes would resolve those issues, but would not be quite as optically effective. With that said, I am of the impression that I should then definitely consider one of the HD or ED scopes to help improve the optic capability of these smaller scopes. Again, if I am incorrect in any of these assumptions, feel free to comment or correct me, please. The Vortex Viper scopes were on my "original" list, but I had all but eliminated them as you haven't really had the opportunity to test them out, and with so many other quality scopes you recommended, I couldn't see buying one without your stamp of approval. Finally, I know the Leupold Gold Ring scopes are definitely made with backpacking in mind, and I am a loyal Leuopold customer (riflescopes). However, I did not consider these scopes because of either the reduction in power, the increased cost, or both. If I were buying a scope to specifically be used as a backpack scope, and had plans to use it for many years, I would definitely consider them.
Whew!! So, do you have any words of wisdom that may be able to help me trim this list? As mentioned, I greatly respect your input and opinions, based on all the information you have provided to others. It is obvious that you have far more expertise in this regard than I do, or anybody else I could consult for that matter, so your input is now critical to my decision process. I would also like to thank you for your information regarding tripods and digiscoping adapters. Although the digiscoping feature is not critical for my needs, I felt it should definitely be something I should consider having the capability of utilizing.
Thank you so much for taking the time to assist me. As you can see, this trip, and having the right equipment, is very important to me, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate your help!
I have not tried the 65 ED II with the 70509 zoom, so I'm going to have to rely on what others say on this combination. The 70509 is an excellent zoom in and of itself and if it is a good match with the 65 ED II I would say that's a great choice.
I do like the Kowas, of course, since I'm a long time Kowa owner. The 662, though not ED, is optically excellent. The Brunton does have ED and it is also an excellent scope in terms of optics and ruggedness.
Do you absolutely need 60x, as opposed to 40x or 45x as a mx? Probably not - you can do just about anything you need to do with 40x or 45x - but if you are in the Great Wide Open, you will find that you can put 60x to work for you, provided your scope has the optics to handle 60x. That dry air and higher altitude will allow you to use more magnification. Then, too, most of us tend to push magnification beyond what we absolutely need and, as matter of psychology, you'll always wonder if you don't have it.
I do love the Regal. My review was done just after the scope hit the market and my comments on its ruggedness were based on a visual impression of its external build quality. However, the true test is what a scope does in the field with the folks that use them and by now there should be enough feedback floating around about the Regal's durability. I would not discount the Regal based on my very early impressions, in other words. It is an optically terrific scope.
I have never used a spotting scope in the field much. A little bit at the range on occasion, peering through a guide or hunting partners scope from time to time, but that's it. What this translates to is, I'm a novice, and pretty ignorant when it comes to evaluating and selecting scopes. In previous purchases, dealing with rifle scopes, I always went with a known name brand (almost exclusively Leuopold), and figured I would spend as much as I could afford, which then should get me the best scope in my price range. It wasn't until I began reading this forum that I learned that I was pretty inept. So to answer one of your questions Joanie, no, I'm not sure I need 60 power, HD, ED, etc., and probably won't know until I'm high in the Alaska Range looking at Dall Sheep. Initially, I just felt "the more power the better". But now, I know that there is so much more to it, and ultimately it depends on the quality of the optics as to what will work and what won't, how environmental conditions will affect the situation, etc. I obviously have far more questions than answers, and can't besiege you with question after question in my quest for the "near-perfect" scope.
I pretty much scrapped my initial list, and began building a new and improved list, based on recommendations, discussions, actual legitimate testing by you, and personal preference. So here is a list that I put together yesterday and my associated thought process that goes with it. My list is in order of preference, based on discussions I've read on this subject.
1) Pentax PF-80ED w/20-60 zoom: Excellent scope in all aspects, but appears to be too big and too heavy, and would require an expensive and bulky tripod to make it useable.
2) Brunton Eterna 20-60x80 ED: Not quite the equal to the Pentax, but very close. Again, probably too heavy, and I'm unsure of the length as I can never tell if the specs are with or without the eyepiece.
I would have the same issue with the tripod on this scope as well.
3) Vortex Viper 20-60x80 ED: Again, big scope and needs big tripod. I've heard good things about the company, mixed reviews on their products, and no definitive results or evaluation from an expert (Joanie).
4) Celestron Regal 80F-ED 20-60 or 65F ED 16-48: Both of these scopes would be somewhere in this vicinity on my list. Excellent price point on either, and apparently good glass. Both of these scopes appear to be heavier than all the other scopes on my list but my biggest problem is they both appear to only be available in the angled body design. The reason that I have been looking for the straight eyepiece is for quick target acquisition. I've had trouble in the past trying to locate something through an angled eyepiece, simply because you're not looking in the direction of your subject. Maybe I could adapt to this, I don't know, but for this application (mostly prone and sitting), I still think the straight eyepiece would be the more practical and user friendly.
5) Vortex Viper 15-45x65 HD: Good price point, HD glass, a little larger objective lens than most of the other "smaller" scopes, and reasonably sized in length and weight.
6) Vortex Viper 20-60x80 Non-HD: Back to a higher magnification scope at a reasonable price, but again, a bigger scope in size, and non-HD glass. I'm not sure that HD is essential for my needs, especially with the larger objective lens, but you generally recommend going HD if the budget allows.
7) Nikon Fieldscope III 20-60x60: Not completely sure where to put this scope on the list. I haven't had the chance yet to call CS so talk about specifics. The website is kind of confusing as to whether or not the zoom eyepiece is included or not. The demo model appears to be in my price range (barely), where as the new scope is not. Consequently I would be risking the lack of a suitable warranty, and again it is a non-HD scope at a fairly substantial price.
8) Kowa TSN 664, 662, & 602 respectively: I really wanted to have these scopes higher on my list, but the 664 is beyond my price level, the 662 is near the top of my price range but is a non-HD scope and there are other scopes that are less expensive that are HD. The 602 would appear to be in the running, both optically, price wise, and size wise, but again, a non-HD scope.
There you have it. If any of my observations or conclusions are incorrect, please feel free to set me straight. At this point I'm so confused, I'm not sure I'm thinking correctly. I'm almost tempted to print pictures of each, pin them to the wall, and throw a dart. That process may be as legitimate as what I'm currently going through. Anyway, at this point, I'm leaning ever so slightly to #5, the Vortex Viper 15-45x65HD. I'm sure that in 5 minutes, that will change.
Any last thoughts or comments you may have on the subject would be welcome. It is likely that I have missed something, or made incorrect comparisons or conclusions. I greatly appreciate all your sound advice, and appreciate you taking the time to listen to my dilemma. Your feedback has been excellent. I only wish I could meet you at the store and spend a few hours one on one discussing the issue. Then I could walk out, scope in hand, and know that I made the right choice. Kindest regards, Roger.
I feel your pain. The world of spotting scopes is almost a world unto itself and the only folks that really know spotting scopes are the ones that use them.
It's also a world where you are paying for more than a name - if you want a scope that is as sharp at 60x as it is at 20x, it will cost you dearly, regardless of brand.
Just some general thoughts.
If it was me in the mountains of Alaska, I would opt for 60x because you will definitely use 60x. In my mountain travels, there have even been days when I could have used more than 60x had it been possible. That thinner air at higher altitudes allows more magnification on a good day. Then, too, if your guide is using 60x, you'll want to do the same.
If it is the trip of a lifetime, I would opt for performance over portability, if at all possible, and go with the larger scope and tripod combo, even if it means improvising on how you pack things. If you're not in shape to carry the bigger scopes, you better get in shape, anyway, for a hunt like that. (If you are flatlander, you should be getting into shape, now, by the way. Adjusting to high altitude is tough for us flatlanders even when we are in good shape.) I have no way to gauge your ability to tote a load, though, so maybe I'm out of line, here, especially since I wouldn't be able to carry the big stuff up a mountain, myself. Your call.
If you think you can go big, that puts you into the Pentax PF-80 ED or the 20-60x80 Brunton, in my book. Both are as good as it gets at that general price point.
If your guide will be with you at all times, doing the spotting for you, and you just need a scope to stay in the neighborhood, so to speak, that's another matter. Go small, but good. My top choice would be a Kowa 604, though you may have a hard time finding one, since Kowa seems more inclined to supply the 603 these days. It's about as light as it gets in a scope and optics are terrific. Won't keep up with an 80mm Swaro, but it will be usably close. If the 604 is out of reach, even the 602 will work. It's still a great scope, ED or not. Otherwise, try to get that 60mm Fieldscope ED. Call and talk to the folks at OP. That would get you a scope that is right there with the 604.
Angled scopes do require more practice to get on target, but nothing you can't handle. For your application, a big advantage of an angled scope is its ability to sit lower on the tripod and it's also easier on the neck for viewing things up on the mountain.
Thanks very much for all your input and expertise. After yesterday's rant, I was about to just say "to heck with it, and get the biggest and best scope I could afford, and deal with it!" I think that's basically what you are saying, only in a very polite way. I have been working out in order to get in shape, but I know that regardless of how much excercise I get, it won't compare to the real deal in Alaska. Your assistance in this matter has been very much appreciated. Thanks again, and have a wonderful day.
You are very welcome, of course. It's wonderful questions like yours that makes this fun for me.
Take some advice from another flatlander and go easy for the first few days in those hills, even if you are in great shape. That tired and achy feeling is just your body acclimating to the elevation. Also, let us know how things are going with your choice of a scope and your hunt.
Since I have spent over 2 weeks reading, scrutinizing, and devouring information regarding spotting scopes, and trying to segregate and analyze various brands and models, I've decided to take a break for awhile to let it all sink in. I think that right now I just have too much information, and too many models in my head to make a wise decision. I have a lot of time yet until my trip, so I think after a short break, I'll filter the information one more time, and then make my choice. I will tell you however, after going back and rereading our post, and others, that I am strongly leaning to the Pentax PF-80 ED. With that said, I think I'll have to save a few more pennies in order to put together an effective package (scope, tripod & digiscoping adapter), since it will put me a bit over my initial budget.
Your assistance has been amazing, and I simply can't thank you enough. It was such a relief to finally find a site where individuals such as myself, with similar yet specific questions, can get intelligent, non-bias, useful information, from an obvious expert. You're aces! Thanks again for all the help. Good luck, stay healthy and safe. Sincerely, Roger