Well, here's my take on it:
Bushnell 20-60x80 ED Elite (Mine is the straight model.)
- Excellent image quality (helped greatly by inclusion of ED glass.) Image is bright, flat, and optical abberations are very, very well controlled. Color fidelity is excellent.
- Lightweight (relatively speaking) The 80mm Elite is only 4 ounces heavier than the 60mm Swarovski (once you attach an eyepiece - which most people find necessary).
- Inexpensive (again, relatively speaking). I spent $650 on mine with the zoom eyepiece included.
- Excellent accessories. Stay on case and objective lens and eyepiece caps are very nice.
- Optional camera adapter (+ appropriate T-ring) allows the spotting scope to connect directly to a DSLR making digiscoping that much easier. Cost ~ $80
- The retractable sunshade is very useful.
Cons (Of course there are some - you do have to give up something for the price difference.)
- FoV is fairly narrow (98 ft @ 20x and 50ft @ 60x). This is even a bit narrower than the oft-maligned Nikon Fieldscope. This FoV doesn't bother me and so I was happy to make the trade in favor of the more-than-$1500 in savings I received as compared to the so-called "Alpha" scopes. Optional fixed magnification eyepieces (of 22x and 30x) are available and offer improved Fields of View. I have yet to buy one of these so; I can't comment on their quality. (30x ~ $100 & 118 ft., 22x ~ $160 & 131 ft.)
- It may be relatively lightweight but, it's still too big and too heavy to pack around very far. I'm currently looking for a great deal on a small 50-60mm spotting scope to serve this "packing-in" purpose.
"Niether Here nor There" (Some things are different, even if they aren't "better" or "worse.")
- Eye Relief is adequate. I am able to see the full FoV while wearing my glasses and throughout the magnification range but, I do have to get right in close, especially at high magnifications.
- With the included zoom eyepiece the eyecup is of the older, rubber fold-down type. This doesn't matter a bit to me as it is always in the competely folded down position to accomodate my eyeglasses but, it could matter to someone. (The 30x eyepiece has this same type of eyecup whereas the 22x has a more modern twist-up eyecup.)
- The scope has RainGaurd. I put this in this particular category because (as most people here know) I consider RainGaurd to be mostly an advertising gimmick. Some people think it works though so; it has to be a consideration somewhere.
My tripod is a Manfrotto model 728B and it works fine for my purposes. I may not pack this scope around the backcountry much but, I still want a fairly lightweight tripod. For use when backpacking (with my camera) I had an "el cheapo" Mars I from Vangaurd. I think I paid $40 for it at a Sportsman's Warehouse. It actually worked great until just recently when I dropped it from my SUV onto the cement and broke the plastic head. I'll probably just go get another one of those sometime. Either that or I might go get one of the Leupold Compact Tripods. I think they run something like $80 and incorporate a ball head. I also have a "gorillapod" that I like alot. Finally, because of its size, a lot of my spotting scope's useage is done from my vehicle, where I mostly use it off of a window mount. Mine is from Bushnell.
Edited by lucznik - April/28/2008 at 16:07