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Help me find a scope for my dad

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/16/2010 at 22:43
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Hi my name's Geoff and this is my first post. Thanks very much for having me. Big Smile

My dad has a view across a bay (it's about 15 miles to the other side, with mountains about 30 miles away) and of an airport (3-5 miles away, on his side of the bay). He loves looking at the planes, boats, and the mountains.

To "enhance" his view, he's used a $50 Meade reflecting telescope for many many years. It's big and stationary. Also the airplanes are flying upside down and the sky is where the sea should be. Whacko He'd like a portable optic that provides right-side-up images. I've always suggested to him that a spotting scope might be a good idea. Well, he's recently become interested in investing in a nice optic, and he's decided he's willing to spend $2000 give or take. However, he's not a rich man, and value does count.

My questions:

1. Is a spotting scope the best type of optic for this application? 

2. If so, what do you recommend? I've been searching here and on other forums, and it seems like these could be good possibilities:

Kowa 880
Swaro ATS80
Meopta 75APO
Pentax 80HD
Nikon 82ED
Leupold HD Golden Ring

I'm partial to Meopta and Leupold because of good experiences with their riflescopes, but maybe these don't have the optical quality that he needs for such a long view. My dad is a Pentax fan from his photography experience. What say you optics gurus? Big Grin

3. Angled or straight? My old man's an old man--literally--and ergonomics will be important. His view is pretty much straight ahead, and maybe a little down. He'll probably use a window mount as well as a tripod.

I'd appreciate your comments and suggestions!







Bucky
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/17/2010 at 00:41
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Hi Stringer. I have to admit something here, I could've paid less and got just about as good of optics. There's two things here, you can get your dad a diagonal and it will re-invert the image if he likes his current scope. It'd save you a lot of money. 

But if you're going to get a scope, and this is my opinion, get one of the high performers that cost less and get him a great tripod too. Considering the kind of viewing he's doing, I'd suggest the angle view scopes (I have a straight through for hunting) 

A Vortex HD or the Pentax HD will cost a lot less than the others and still give you a budget for the great tripod for stability. The others, if I'm not mistaken, cost right up to your budget. 

If money were no object, I'd get a Televue and different optics. It'll kick the pants off of anything else.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/17/2010 at 16:25
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Welcome to the OT Stinger.
I've been researching spotting scopes for some time now, but have not been able to really look through any, and have to go by what I have read. The Kowa 880 and the Pentax 80HD are two that always get great reviews as well as the Swaro. The Leupold doesn't come close to fitting in your price range, and the Nikon has good glass but the eye relief is a little short and critical. Haven't read that much about the Meopta to comment.
If a window mount is going to be used, I think a straight body would be your best choice. Huck made a good point about a good tripod, even the best scope looks like junk if your image is constantly bouncing around.
This is JMHO from the research I have done. You may also want to look at Zeiss spotters too.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/17/2010 at 17:06
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Originally posted by BeltFed BeltFed wrote:

The Kowa 880 and the Pentax 80HD are two that always get great reviews as well as the Swaro.



I've compared both side-by-side; that they are both well reviewed should not indicate (nor did you say) they are roughly equal.

The Kowa is sharper at range with better color and contrast.  The Pentax is a great scope (it is what I use on the range) but it is not the equal of the 880-series.

There is, with spotters as in all things, a law of diminishing returns: each additional dollar spent yields and incrementally smaller increase in quality and/or usability.

All that said, the Kowa 884 is the best spotter I have looked through, it is fantastic, and you pay handily for that fantasticness.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/17/2010 at 17:10
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Personally, I'd get the new Vortex Razor HD. I plan on getting one myself later this year.

http://swfa.com/Vortex-20-60x85-Razor-HD-Spotting-Scope-P13265.aspx

I've read various reviews on these and they compete right up there with the Big 3, and outshine them on various features. Plus, it's compact for an 85mm scope and Vortex has a great warranty and service.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/17/2010 at 21:23
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Regardless of which you pick, to answer your question #3, I would get angled personally.  It requires less tripod height, resulting in a sturdier setup, adapts to people of varying heights without having to readjust tripod height, and makes looking at things at an upward angle MUCH easier.  Since it has a rotating mount collar on the body, the eyepiece can be rotated around at a variety of angles, making it very adaptable for different viewing positions.

The main advantage to a straight eyepiece scope is that it makes aiming the scope at your intended target a little easier, since the eyepiece is inline with the body.  However, with only a little practice, I learned to aim the angled scope almost as easily, and most scopes come with an aiming device on the body and/or extending shield.

The Kowa Prominar 880 series scopes are as good as it gets.  They are frequently touted as the best spotting scopes on the planet.  If they aren't the best scopes made, they are in the top 3.

Having said that, I too would be tempted to get the Vortex Razor 85 HD spotter.  It is 1/2 the price of the top scopes in its size class.  Koshkin is currently reviewing one, and he commented that it is fully an alpha contender, as good as just about anything available at any price.  Knowing him as I do, I trust his opinions.  Here is his quote on the Vortex Razor HD from his website (www.opticsthoughts.com):
"This spotter is available for $1600 street price and I dare you to look at it side-by-side with Leica/Swaro/Zeiss and tell me if they are better.  The optical quality of this spotter is astounding.  I suspect that 88mm Kowa may be marginally better in terms of resolution.  I also suspect that the new Leica Televid HD might have a touch better contrast.  However, those scopes cost about twice more and I am not sure that I would be able to see the difference even side-by-side."

Link:  http://opticsthoughts.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=53:spotters-under-1600&catid=3:the-rating-scale&Itemid=6

I have seen the Razor HD at shows, and it did look to be fantastic, but I've only seen it inside convention centers and have never compared it side by side against other alpha scopes.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/18/2010 at 09:10
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Good stuff Rifle, and I too am interested in the Razor HD spotter, if only it had a straight eyepiece.  ( I hate angled).  I'm wondering if the Razor is a joint venture with Kowa, like the Leupold GR HD binos/Kowa Genesis ED binos joint venture.  
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/18/2010 at 10:09
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Have you ever truly given an angled scope a thorough "test drive," Raider?Wink

I too once thought I liked straight scopes better... until I actually used angled scopes in the field.  They take a little getting used to as far as aiming is concerned, but you get the hang of it pretty quickly.  As far as viewing, you don't have to set your tripod anywhere near as high, which means your setup is much more stable in the wind.  You don't have to adjust tripod height nearly as much overall, because the scope doesn't have to be in alignment with your eye to view comfortably.  Multiple people of different heights can share the same scope without having to adjust tripod height.  If you want to look at something at an angle above you, it's so much easier to do so with an angled scope.

I don't know about the Kowa - Vortex Razor HD question.  Who knows, maybe they consulted with Kowa on the design.  The specs on the Razor aren't similar to any Kowa scope I'm aware of, though the dual focuser design is similar to the Prominar scopes.  I doubt you'll ever get an answer to that question, as those types of arrangements are seldom disclosed.

So, are you saying that Kowa makes the GR HD binos for Leupold, or that Kowa helped Leupold in some way with the GR design?  How certain are you of collaboration on these binos? 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/18/2010 at 11:44
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Rifle, I had a discussion with a guy on another forum about Leupy GR HD binos.......

There is some legal sidestepping here. Leupold long ago gave up the ability to mix, cure, cut, grind and polish optical glass, at least to the extent needed to make or MANUFACTURE the whole product. I don't know when this happened, or really to what extent Leupold ever made their own glass, but regardless the sources of strictly US made and manufactured glass has been non existent to very slim for some time.

There was a thread on Bird Forum a couple of years ago on the Leupold Gold Ring. One of the participants in the thread was the enginer in charge of the design of the GR binocular. This was also the same fella who was in charge of the Yosemite project.

I asked the question point blank if that apparent relationship with the Kowa Genesis was significant. He neither confirmed nor denied, but said simply "yes it is significant". Now take that bit of information and have a good close look at the Kowa Genesis. Last post in the thread below.

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=93910

I had some PM conversation with this man, so not all is in the thread.

I asked once directly to Leupold and they said they assembled them in Beaverton from Japanese glass. Now the box no longer says anything about even assembled in USA. Since Leupold dropped the price, I think assembled in USA went away and we have a very damn good binocular that is a joint Kowa-Leupold project. Who exactly makes the glass and does the assembly, we may well never know.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/18/2010 at 11:52
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I will preface this by saying I can be hard headed........but yes, I did briefly use my neighbor's Zeiss 85 FL T (an angled, loaner version while his being repaired).  I probably didn't give them a real fair shake, but here's what I really did not like.

1.  Using a window mount was really a PITA for me.  It took much longer to find the aoudad we were hunting. 
2.   We spend alot of time hunting from the top down (caprock escarpment).  Viewing at steep downhill angles is also a PITA for me.  I hated messing with the collar to rotate the scope. 
3.  I didn't like looking through the scope for extended periods with my neck bent over. 

You make good points about looking uphill, and tripod height.  In both cases the angled was better.  All that being said, you're right in that I could probably get used to it.  I'm probably in the minority, as most people probably prefer angled, which is why and angled Razor was introduced first I'd guess. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/18/2010 at 11:58
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That could just mean that Leupold consulted with Kowa on elements of the GR design.  The GR and Genesis have similar styling, but there are some form and spec differences.  Leupold may have sourced their glass from Kowa Optimed, but the two binoculars have different coatings. 

Leupold has been getting their glass from multiple sources in Japan and China for quite some time; at least for the past 20 years that I know of.  This applies to all their optics, scopes included.  I don't believe they ever made their own glass lenses; they just make the metal components of their scopes and do the final assembly.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/18/2010 at 12:10
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Could be, Ted.  I'd just be guessing.  I thought it was interesting if nothing else, as I'm very impressed with the GR HD's.  
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/18/2010 at 12:11
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Originally posted by JGRaider JGRaider wrote:

I will preface this by saying I can be hard headed........but yes, I did briefly use my neighbor's Zeiss 85 FL T (an angled, loaner version while his being repaired).  I probably didn't give them a real fair shake, but here's what I really did not like.

1.  Using a window mount was really a PITA for me.  It took much longer to find the aoudad we were hunting. 
2.   We spend alot of time hunting from the top down (caprock escarpment).  Viewing at steep downhill angles is also a PITA for me.  I hated messing with the collar to rotate the scope. 
3.  I didn't like looking through the scope for extended periods with my neck bent over. 

You make good points about looking uphill, and tripod height.  In both cases the angled was better.  All that being said, you're right in that I could probably get used to it.  I'm probably in the minority, as most people probably prefer angled, which is why and angled Razor was introduced first I'd guess. 


I've never used a car window mount, but if I did use one frequently, I would probably prefer a lighter, more compact scope than the 77mm scope I have.  I would think a straight scope would be better suited for car window use, but Chris claims angled is better for that too because you can angle the scope better front and back relative to vehicle position.  I would think looking straight 90-degrees from the side of the vehicle would be more difficult with an angled scope.

I can see how looking at steep downhill angles could be more of a problem, but my scope can be rotated very easily and quickly to accommodate that.  On the bent neck thing, I can see that too, although if you raise the tripod a little higher, you don't have to bend your neck much any more than if you were just standing and looking slightly toward the ground.

If you like to get behind your scope often in prone position, for instance, when using the scope without a tripod, I can see where a straight scope would be superior for that.

I just remember having the exact same thoughts as you about angled scopes, until I actually got out and used both and gradually moved over to the angled camp.

But, if both didn't have pros and cons, manufacturers wouldn't make both styles.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/18/2010 at 12:15
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Originally posted by JGRaider JGRaider wrote:

I'm very impressed with the GR HD's.  


They are very good binoculars, and have received pretty consistent praise in all the reviews I've read.  I haven't spent a great deal of time behind them, but I was impressed with what I saw of them.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/18/2010 at 14:30
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Originally posted by Rancid Coolaid Rancid Coolaid wrote:

Originally posted by BeltFed BeltFed wrote:

The Kowa 880 and the Pentax 80HD are two that always get great reviews as well as the Swaro.



I've compared both side-by-side; that they are both well reviewed should not indicate (nor did you say) they are roughly equal.

The Kowa is sharper at range with better color and contrast.  The Pentax is a great scope (it is what I use on the range) but it is not the equal of the 880-series.

There is, with spotters as in all things, a law of diminishing returns: each additional dollar spent yields and incrementally smaller increase in quality and/or usability.

All that said, the Kowa 884 is the best spotter I have looked through, it is fantastic, and you pay handily for that fantasticness.
I was in a hurry when I wrote that, and yes you are right about the difference in the two scopes image quality. I should have taken the time to include that these scopes are good in their price ranges. The Pentax is not the equal of the Kowa, but at half the price or more the Pentax comes close enough for serious consideration.
Sorry for the confusion.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/18/2010 at 15:32
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I posted this on Snipers Hide earlier this week:


A fairly well known digiscoper did a comparison of the Vortex Razor HD and the Swarovski HD. Here are a couple comparison pics that he took:





Scott
 


Edited by RifleDude - March/18/2010 at 17:54
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/18/2010 at 15:48
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Why is there no edit function on your board Chris?
 
 
Obviously there is a sentence that doesn't belong in my previous post:)
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/18/2010 at 15:53
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YOu have to have 50 posts to edit

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/18/2010 at 15:57
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Ah!  Thanks super tool. Maybe Chris will come by and take care of it for me.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/18/2010 at 17:55
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I fixed it for you, Scott.

Good comparison pics!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/18/2010 at 19:22
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Wow! I am very grateful for all of these informed responses. Excellent The mounting is an especially good point. What quality window mounts and tripods would you guys recommend?

I will check out the Vortex, for sure. I've heard glowing opinions of their riflescopes, although I haven't used one before. I'm heading to Bass Pro this weekend; hopefully they'll have a sample to peek through.

The Pentax looks like a contender as well, and my dad would be very happy on the brand name aspect since he's a Pentax fan. It's a shame Bass Pro doesn't carry them. (not that I'd actually BUY from Bass Pro--there's a much better place for optics and we all know it's SWFA.) Big Grin

You guys make some very compelling arguments about the benefits and drawbacks of angled and straight eyepieces. From your info, I gather that the virtues of one over the other depend mostly on vantage point and mounting setup. I was initially leaning towards angled, but given my dad's stature and the places where he'd mount the scope, it looks like straight might be better for his situation. (That is unless I go with Vortex and have no choice but angled)

I was hoping for a bit more feedback on Swaro and Meopta as well if anyone has comments Smile
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/19/2010 at 06:00
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Originally posted by RifleDude RifleDude wrote:

I fixed it for you, Scott.

Good comparison pics!
Thanks Ted!!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/19/2010 at 08:19
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Scott at Vortex........why no straight, and when is one expected?  Thanks. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/19/2010 at 10:16
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Originally posted by JGRaider JGRaider wrote:

Scott at Vortex........why no straight, and when is one expected?  Thanks. 
We are hoping to have them available late this year, maybe by the holidays?  I can't promise anything, we are working on them though.
 
 
 
 
 
Scott
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/19/2010 at 12:14
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I can honestly say, I LOVE my Swarovski. But, and this is a huge but, I'd take the Vortex in a split second and have money left over for a top of the line tripod AND camera adapters to complete the package. 

One thing more that people aren't talking about here, and it is a HUGE one thing more, is Vortex's warranty. Go to the websites and look at the difference. I've never seen anyone with a better warranty than Vortex, period. I've never, and I mean never, read anything but glowing reports about people's experience with Vortex customer support and warranty claims. 

If someone stole my Swarovski, I'd have a new Vortex Razor, tomorrow.
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