Optics Master Extraordinaire
I just received this spotter (http://swfa.com/Bushnell-15-45x60-Excursion-FLP-Spotting-Scope-P41844.aspx) from SWFA last night under the Test Drive program. Here are my initial impressions, having taken it out on a bright, clear morning at a temperature of 62F:
The short version: Great glass; good construction, cover and case; okay eye relief; and an adequate tripod.
The long version:
1) First of all, SWFA packaged and shipped this just like any order, sending me confirmation and tracking notifications. Delivery was quite prompt.
2) Inside the box was the semi-soft padded scope case with an included tripod attached to it. My first impression of the case was this is nice step up from the plastic case that came with my cheapo Bushnell refurb. The only quibble I had is that the webbing is really cheap looking. It's probably serviceable, but it still looks cheap. It seems a few extra cents per case would go a long way towards matching the rest of the package.
3) Inside the padded case, the scope is enclosed inside a padded sleeve. The sleeve is designed so that it never needs to be removed. Even the tripod mount has an opening.
4) The tripod is better than what came with my spotter but not as good even as the $40 Dolica that I usually bring to the range. It's wobbly when fully extended and definitely not smooth. For range use, this would not be much of an issue because I usually set up in one spot and once the scope is aimed at the target I don't move it. But if I was using a tripod in the field on high magnification I'd expect to have to shell out some money for something smooth and sturdy.
5) Eye relief is adequate, if not great. I preferred using the eyecup folded down so I wouldn't jostle the scope.
6) The diopter was fairly easy to use to get the mil-dot reticule sharply focused.
7) Yes, this is a mil-dot spotter...and it is FFP. At 15X the reticule is small, but still serviceable, spanning about 1/3 of the FOV. At 45X, it spans most of the FOV and is easy to use. I set up in my alley and had a view of two hikers nearing the summit of a mountain. I estimated their distance at 3600 meters and the actual distance according to Google Earth was ~3400 (nearly two miles away).
8) The glass is very impressive, especially for the price. I could easily see the hikers and felt like at that distance and certainly at lesser distances like a mile I would be able to identify distinguishing features on elk, deer or antelope under similar conditions. (I will also be testing this spotter under early morning light in my next write up). Aside from the eye relief requiring a close-up position to the ocular and care not to bump the scope, there is no fatigue or discernible distortion. The view is clear out to the edges and even when I swung the scope around towards the sun, which was not that high in the sky, I didn't see any glare or color fringing.
9) The form factor of this spotter is dictated by its use of a porro prism. While it is more compact than my current scope, it is less streamlined and perhaps would be harder to get back into a pack. Otherwise, the zoom and focus rings are quite accessible and I really like the padded case.
The middle of next week, I will have the Excursion and El Cheapo set up side by side at the range and will have more to say about using it. It's possible we will also be shooting out to 600 yards so I can see how it stacks up on the .30 cal bullet hole test at that distance and at 300 yards and also whether it helps in shot correction (granted with two inexperienced users).
Reaction time is a factor...