The new Vanguard Endeavor HD scopes are a definitive contender in the crowded budget scope market. Vanguard has made a name for itself producing excellent budget binoculars, especially their Endeavor ED open bridge models, and with this scope they try to continue that lineage.
The good news is that this scope has terrific options for a $500ish scope, with ED glass and excellent coatings the image is very bright even at higher magnifications, with good contrast, very little chromatic aberration (color fringing), and very little fall-off as you move towards the edges. Vanguard was smart to limit the zoom range to 15-45x, instead of going for the marketing angle of "bigger numbers" with a 60x zoom. The fact is that it takes a good scope to make magnifications of 50x-60x even usable, so it's better to have a more realistic range that offers a wider angle on the low end.
The only major complaint I have optically is that the FOV of the zoom eyepiece isn't that great, with a standard 40-60 degree angle of view (from low mag to high). But this is comparable to the competition, you have to pay a lot more to get a scope with a wide angle zoom. And again since the scope goes out to 15x on the low end, you can still find a decent field of view to scan and then zoom in.
But one of the biggest distinctions vs other budget scopes is the level of build and fit and finish. The scope is very well balanced and comfortable, with nice handling, comfortable rubber armor, and a dual speed focus knob. There is obviously good attention to detail, from the way the zoom eyepiece clicks in solidly to the smooth, well damped action of the retractable glare hood.
That said, I went through two samples and both had dark specs in the internal elements of the zoom eyepiece. The first had a huge spec right smack dab in the middle of the view, which obviously wasn't going to fly. OpticsPlanet of course provided excellent service and sent me another sample when I returned the first, but unfortunately the second had some smaller specs towards the outer parts of the field. The first sample also was substandard optically, and could not render sharp images above 30x magnification or so.
So I would recommend you inspect the optics carefully, and if you get a nice sample you should be very happy. This is probably the best scope at the $500 or less price point, other than the Celestron Regal F-ED (which is physically larger). It's a huge step up from the kind of garbage scopes that retail for $200-300. But, on the other hand, it's not THAT much cheaper than the Pentax PF-65ED, which is even more light and compact (the major reason for getting a 65mm class scope instead of 80mm) and offers greater eyepiece flexibility with its universal 1.25" mount.
Pros: Bright optics, excellent build quality, good balance and aesthetics
Cons: Not sharp at higher magnifications, quality control
This review was written in the old system and had content requirements that are different than reviews written today.