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Kowa vs Zen Ray spotters

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/02/2011 at 14:54
Klamath View Drop Down
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OK, I suppose I can now post a few comments about the spotter. For a few days now I have had both the newly introduced Zen Ray ZEN ED 2 angled 20-60x, and a Kowa Prominar 884 Fluorite 20-60x straight.  The first thing I decided I had to do was get another spotter to serve as a frame of reference.  After some checking around, I located a friend with a Kowa and he loaned it to me for this.  The Kowa is very lightly used and looks like new

 

The weather here has been abominable.  The lows have been in the -5* to +5* F range and it has not been getting above freezing at all.  So the days have been from dull gray all day twilight sort of days to blinding white, hurt your eyes bright, always with a bite clear through you wind.

 

The Kowa Prominar TSN 884

 

This is the first of these I have had the opportunity to use.  This spotter has the fluorite glass.  I will say right up front that if this instrument does not suit you, you are likely beyond help.  As far as strict resolving ability, bright, flat images with sharp to the edge performance, I have a hard time imagining anything bettering it.  I really started trying HARD to find something wrong with this scope after I first looked it over a little.  I don’t think I did find a single thing I can even nit pick about at all. There is no apparent curvature, the image is apparently flat, and there is NO distortion at the edge, none.  I suppose other alpha level glass will equal it and there are  individuals who may  prefer some other brand for color bias, eye relief, ergonomic factor, or some other user perceived factor, but the optics are likely as close to state of the art as can be gotten into a spotter as of now. 

 

A quick check of prices shows the body of this spotter available for around $2,500 US.  The TE-10Z 20-60 eye piece is about $500 US.  There is a wide angle fixed 30x and a 25x LER eyepiece available.  So that is obviously a chunk of change and this is certainly an outstanding optical instrument.

 

This is a little shorter than the ZEN ED, and a little slimmer in body dimension at the location of the focus mechanism, but they bear a lot of physical similarity to each other.

 

The Zen Ray ZEN ED 2

 

This is a new scope and has been some time in coming.  The current price of this instrument is $1,200 US and comes with the 20-60x eye piece included, so in total is less than half of the price of the Kowa.  Zen Ray plans to introduce a 30x Wide angle eyepiece for the ED 2.  No information on what it will cost.  Bearing a noted similarity to the Kowa, both are likely forced into physical similarities due to the fact that they are both 80mm plus porro prism spotters.  The objective of the ZEN ED 2 actually measures 85 mm, but is stopped down to the advertised 82 mm effective aperture.

 

Comparisons

 

The removable eye piece assemblies are obviously quite a bit different, the Kowa being about twice the size of the ZEN.  Both are bayonet style.  The ZEN eyepiece, as noted elsewhere, looks like a dead ringer for the Swarovski, but  Zen Ray  told me they did not advise interchanging them.  Personally at this kind of money, I do not plan to be the guinea pig and be the first to ruin something.

 

I can’t find too much on the Kowa internals, other than the use of a pure fluorite lens in the objective, but I did get some information from Zen Ray about theirs, which I will pass on here.  The objective is a triplet, two pieces are cemented and air spaced from the third element.  There is s fourth lens near the tripod mount plate.  I do not know which two elements of the triplet are cemented, but I do know that two of the elements are ED.  

 

I suppose the obvious question foremost in most people’s mind is if the spotter is the optical equivalent of the ZEN ED 2 binoculars.  As far as I can see, the answer is yes.  The spotter seems built

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/02/2011 at 15:25
Bitterroot Bulls View Drop Down
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Thanks Steve!  Excellent review.

I really hope to find one of these to compare to my Razor 85HD.  They sound to be as similar in performance as they are in appearance.  (But construction seems to be different).
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/02/2011 at 16:27
Klamath View Drop Down
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Matt,
 
Glad you liked it.  Back at the local gunshow in early December there was a Vortex Dealer, he,'s been coming for several years and I have gotten to know him fairly well.  He let me take his Razor outside for awhile.  I did load up the ZR and make a run to the same parking lot as one day here was just like the day at the show for cloud cover and light.  I used the ZR on the same targets and my impression is that the ZR is maybe a bit brighter.  I'd like to get them side by side too.  I am pretty sure the Razor would be just fine.
 
The eye piece construction is different between the two.  Some refinement of the final eye piece configuration was one reason for the slight delay ZR had.  Also there is some silver coating in the eyepiece on the Razor while the ZR is dielectric.  I think the focus mechanics are different too.  I also don't know for sure if the Razor has removable eye piece or not.  I don't think so.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/02/2011 at 20:40
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Great review!
 
The Kowa TSN 883/884 represents my dream scope.  I don't anticipate being able to afford one for quite some time and until then my ED 20-60x80 Bushnell Elite will serve quite well.   Had the Zen Ray scope been available back when I was buying my scope I might have had to give it a try.
 
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/02/2011 at 21:37
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Brighter than the Razor!  I will definitely need to find a ZEN. 

When compared side-by-side, I found the Razor was a touch brighter at 60x than the Swaro 80HD.  The Kowa 88 I looked through next to a Swaro was slightly brighter than the Swaro.  I would expect such results given objective diameter.  If the Zen is brighter than the larger objective Razor, that is an impressive result.

The Razor does have  a removable eyepiece.  Two 30x fixed eyepieces are also available, one with a ranging reticle.

Here is a link to a thread (with video) discussing the features of the Razor 85HD:

http://www.opticstalk.com/vortex-razor-hd-spotting-scope_topic23874.html
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/03/2011 at 07:30
Klamath View Drop Down
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lucznik,
 
Yeah, that Kowa is nice.  But in all honesty if I were to give a 100 rating to the Kowa, the ZEN ED 2 would do no worse than a 98 or so. 
 
Matt,
 
Brighter...well sometimes I cuss myself for using the term Big Smile.  That is really too subjective to have much meaning and I should know better than to use it.  People can tend to automatically equate brighter to being better.  I'm pretty sure you know what I mean.  For example the Viper binocular looks brighter side by side to the Razor, but the Razor has a better pure resolution spec.  All brighter can mean is that the color bias on one is warmer or cooler as compared to another.  I doubt the pure resolution specification on either Razor or ZEN is much different, and either is probably all the eye can use and then some.  I suppose a guy could pop an eyeball trying to get to some meaningful, observable, practical difference between the Razor and ZEN.  That is kind of where the Kowa vs ZEN comparison would go as well.
 
I had done a little more checking after that last post of mine and what I remembered is that the actual eye cup is removable on the ZEN.  So, I guess that this begs the question as to whether the ZEN and Razor eyepieces will both interchange (recommended or not I suppose) with the Swarovski or with each other.
 
I'd tend to think that the Razor might be stepped down to a bit less than 85mm.  The ZEN actually has an 85mm objective.  You can probably get an idea by measuring the exit pupil diameters.  I personally think that any practical difference between 80, 82 and 85 mm is not going to make much difference.  I am further not convinced that the 88 mm of the Kowa will mean much either.  At this level of quality, other things tend to level stuff out pretty quickly, but the math on surface area says there is a difference.  I tend to think (yeah that can be dangerous) that the Kowa 88mm size meets a design criteria for focal length someplace in the design rather than a more light requirement.  But marketers will be quick to hang their hat on any percieved advantage.


Edited by Klamath - January/04/2011 at 12:41
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/04/2011 at 12:33
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Really excellent review, Steve - thank you.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/04/2011 at 21:42
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Thanks for an unbiased review Excellent
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/14/2011 at 18:35
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anyone has side-by-side experience between the ZEN and Vortex Razor. I tried my buddy's Razor and walked away very impressed.  If ZEN is as good as Razor, I can get one from SWFA for $1200 and save myself few hundred bucks

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/15/2011 at 20:16
Klamath View Drop Down
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As I posted above I have not had them side by side, but I have seen the Razor.  You will not be dissapointed in either.  My impression is that they are so close together, I'd save my money and get the ZEN.
I think Zen Ray has a new introductory offer out right now for $999.

Edited by Klamath - January/15/2011 at 20:17
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