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Pentax PF-63: Review

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/29/2007 at 17:44
lucznik View Drop Down
Optics Master
Optics Master

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Once again I have had the opportunity to do a hands-on review of yet another optic for a different website/forum.This time it is the Pentax PF-63 spotting scope and I thought y'all might also be interested in what I found.


The PF-63 is Pentax’s newest spotting scope and is their attempt to capture some of the more budget-conscious market. It has a somewhat unusual configuration being a 20-50x63 and it retails for right around $350 which places it in direct competition with the 15-45x60 Nikon Sky & Earth ($250), 15-45x65 Stokes Sandpiper ($300), the 20-60x60 Vortex Nomad ($340), 15-45x60 Bushnell Elite ($350), and the 15-45x65 Browning ED spotter ($370).

The Pentax seems quite well made. I didn’t put it through any torture tests but, it seemed sturdy enough. The protective caps for the objective lens and eyepiece are simple, friction-fit, hard plastic deals that, despite not being fancy, manage to do their jobs. The carry case is a reasonably well made, padded cordura nylon bag that holds the scope fairly snug. Despite what you may read in advertisements however, it is not a view-through style. The scope is lightweight and very well balanced. The focus knob, which is located on the righthand side, is smooth and responsive. I’m not sure I was totally thrilled with its placement but, it worked very well. The eyecup on this scope is of the older folding-rubber design which some people will lament but, it doesn’t bother me one bit as I always use eyecups in their fully-down position to allow for my eyeglasses. The eyepiece is not removable and Pentax would like you to believe this to be quite a virtue as their advertising copy states, “…PF-63 is convenient to observe while moving because it is not necessary to put on and take off the eyepiece each time, thanks to the all-in-one type.” Now (aside from the bad English composition) that sure sounds like trying to “find the silver lining” to me. However, since probably the majority of us won’t be doing much swapping of eyepieces anyway, this likely isn’t as big a deal as it might be made out to be.

Speaking of funny advertising; the folks at Pentax really need to hire a good native English speaker to help them put together their advertising copy. For example, their attempt to describe the physical design of the scope includes the following little tidbit. It seems that the Pentax PF-63 incorporates a “dynamic form having sense of speed - With the combination of several sleek units having sense of speed, the exterior design is so dynamic…” I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. It reads like someone submitted phrases into one of those internet-based translator sites and then published whatever it was the site produced without any editing or fine-tuning.

Specs for the Pentax are as follows:

Objective Lens Diameter: 63mm
Weight: 29.6 oz.
Length: 12.9 in.
Close Focus: 39.4 ft.
Weatherproofing: Waterproof/Fogproof
Built-in Eyepiece: 20-50x
Eye Relief: 22-17mm
Field of View: 84-48 ft./1000yds.

For comparison purposes I had my Bushnell Elite binocular (10x43) with the 2.5x “doubler” resulting in a small 25x43 spotting scope. I have been quite enamored with this little set up for awhile now and thought it would make for an interesting comparison.

I set both scopes on tripods and proceeded to look at a small herd of antelope on the hillside about 2 miles away. Then later I spend some time looking at birds and ants feeding on some bread crumbs that I set out about 25 yards away. For most of the testing I set the Pentax at as close to 25x as possible to make the comparisons roughly equal. I did however, also use and evaluate the Pentax’s zoom feature and will comment about it where appropriate. Here’s what I found:

Field of View
I don’t actually know what the FoV is with the Bushnell set up but, it was definitely wider and more comfortable than the Pentax. At 20x an 84 ft. FoV really is very narrow and the uncomfortable feeling of looking through a constricted tunnel was almost overpowering with the Pentax. By the time you got to 50x and the incredibly tiny 48 ft. FoV, it was almost too much to bear.

Eye Relief
Exacerbating the problem with the very narrow FoV of the Pentax was very critical eye relief. The published figures of 22mm – 17mm are exaggerated to the extreme. Between 20x and 25x I could see the full FoV but, eye placement was critical and anything short of “dead center” would result in loss of image at the sides. Above 25x there was no way for me to get the full FoV with my glasses on. Removing my glasses (and extending the rubber eyecup) allowed me to get the full FoV up to about 35-40x but not above that. At the full 50x no matter what I did, I could never get the full FoV.
The Bushnell’s exact eye relief figures with the doubler in place are again unknown (at least to me) but it was more than sufficient for comfortable viewing. Even with my glasses on seeing the full FoV was never a problem and my eye was free to “roam around” the image. I had always understood that this ability to “roam around the image” was due primarily to the size of the exit pupil but, eye relief (or something else?) must also add to (or detract from) this because with the Pentax, eye placement was far more critical, despite the larger exit pupil size.

No surprises here. The Pentax with its extra 20mm of objective lens was noticeably brighter than the Bushnell. This was expected. This extra lens size also means that the Pentax should give better resolution. I was unable to measure this in a verifiable manner however, I don’t doubt the physics involved and I would not be surprised to see the Pentax coming out on top in any such test. The win however, would be by a very slim margin. With both optics I was able to clearly see the legs and antennae of tiny little black ants at 25 yards and I was never able to see anything with the Pentax that I could not see equally well with the doubler-mounted binocular.

Both scopes were soft at the edges. In the Pentax it involved a full 1/3 of the outer edge of the image. This together with the already very narrow FoV made for rather uncomfortable viewing. The Bushnell by comparison did not seem to get soft until the outer 1/4 -1/5 of the image. Chromatic Aberration was apparent in both to roughly equal degrees. This was mostly visible when looking at the skyline.
The colors in the Bushnell appeared more muted or flat than they did in the Pentax. I’m sure some of this is due to the greater amount of light available through the Pentax as well as the fact that the doubler adds a whole lot of extra glass to the optical path which it was not initially designed nor optimized to use. This is not to say that the image was in any way monochromatic, just somewhat subdued. The colors in the Pentax were much more vibrant.

My final impression of the Pentax PF-63 is that I think the company was trying to: first, get an offering into the budget-class market (this they have succeeded in doing) and second, offer something within this market that is significantly different, better, and/or more appealing than the more standardized offerings from other manufacturers. I mean, let’s face it; most of these scopes are essentially carbon copies of one another. It is in this later area that Pentax has some execution issues to address.

The eye relief/eye placement issues as well as the narrowness of the FoV are all going to be issues with the eyepiece. I’m no expert but it seems to me that had Pentax stu

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/11/2007 at 13:27
anweis View Drop Down
Optics Master
Optics Master

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Originally posted by lucznik lucznik wrote:

For now though, my search goes on…



Look no further. I am still stunned and looking through mine with disbelief, after  several months of use. cope.aspx


Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/11/2007 at 15:19
lucznik View Drop Down
Optics Master
Optics Master

Joined: November/27/2004
Location: United States
Status: Offline
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Although I have yet to actually see one of the little 50mm Nikons in any sporting goods store in my area, I have read quite a bit about them.  They are an intruiging little scope and I confess that they have been on my short-list for quite some time now.  I'm hoping that one of the larger sporting goods retailers in Salt Lake will have one in stock the next time I'm in town so that I can give it the "once-over."  I do have a few concerns though:

  1. Is the 50mm objective lens large/bright enough to allow this scope to be a primary/only spotting scope or is it more of a specialty/niche-market filler?  In other words, if I buy one of these, am I still going to end up needing a larger 60mm+ scope for viewing at dawn and dusk?
  2. Is the 30x magnification sufficient for all around use?  I'm sure that by now it's fairly well known that I'm kind of a magnification junkie.  I'm a little nervous about selling myself short here.  Not to mention the fact that many zoom scopes are pretty useless at their highest magnification and if this holds true for this little scope, then I will end up being limited to 20-25x or so.  The obvious answer for many is to forget the zoom eyepiece in favor of one or more fixed magnification options or to at least buy the higher end 13-40x zoom.  However, neither of these two options are without problems of their own.
  3. Nikon Fieldscopes have something of a reputation for fairly narrow fields of view. This being one of my major concerns with the above reviewed Pentax, I am a bit leery of having a similarly negative response to the Nikon offerings. 
  4. Although I understand that Nikon developed this scope specifically with digiscoping in mind, the reality is that the only DSLR attachment available for it requires the use of a Nikon camera. Of course I realize this is done on purpose so as to further pursuade people to purchase one of their cameras too but, it does seem a bit short-sighted to me.  A more generic adapter that (with the addition of the appropriate T-mount) would allow the user to attach whatever SLR/DLSR camera they chose would seem to make better sense.  


Edited by lucznik
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/12/2007 at 07:30
anweis View Drop Down
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the quality of the 50mm is unbelievable. It would be a fine primary scope. In very low light, low magnifications (15x-20x) would work better. 

30x is plenty enough for finding Pronghorn Antelope. If before sunrise and after sunset is the time when you will use the scope most, a 60 mm may be a better choice, but only one of equal quality (a 100 mm Barska won't do it). 

I absolutely hate narrow fields of view, but the Nikon did not bother me.

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