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Spotting Scope Comparison Results

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/09/2007 at 11:39
Matt Travis View Drop Down
Optics GrassHopper
Optics GrassHopper

Joined: February/09/2007
Location: United States
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Points: 1
Several weeks ago I conducted a comparison of four spotting scopes: Leica 77mm APO, Zeiss 65mm, Zeiss 85mm, and Swarovski 85mm (non HD).  I did this because I wanted to purchase one spotting scope I could be happy with for the rest of my days - I wanted the best. In that one day study, I ruled out the Swaro scope. It simply did not have the resolution I wanted. Perhaps the HD version might have, but the store didnt have any.
Okay, so for round two of the evaluation I narrowed it down to Leica, Zeiss, and a third one that I heard about, the Meopta 75. Following are my observations. I offer them up because making these comparisons isnt easy - most stores do not have multiple brands. I took a beating from the mop squeezer over this one, since she seemed to think buying groceries was more important than spotting scope comparisons. Maybe someone can save some time and money and learn from what I learned.

I selected three scopes for round two of the evaluation - knowing I would keep one of the three. A Leica 77 APO, a Zeiss 85mm, and a Meopta 75 APO. Had I known what I know now, I would have subsituted a Kowa for the Meopta. More on that in a minute.

I studied the three scopes over the course of three days, in early morning, morning, afternoon, late afternoon, dusk, and pitch dark. The following observation are not mine alone, a friend was with me on half of it, and once again we had identical findings. We even wrote them down so we wouldnt influence each other - then compared notes.

Meopta - not worth the money for the price range it is in. Single large focus ring does not lend itself well to fine focus. Glass is close to being good, but has irregularities, such that one can get a better focus merely by shifting one's head slightly side to side - to get on a different section of the glass. The eyepiece glass is small in diameter, which doesn’t lend itself to easy viewing, because eye alignment is critical. Pain in the butt. I stopped looking through it right away - removed it from the lineup.

Now down to Zeiss 85 vs. Leica 77 - As a rule, the Zeiss beats the Leica in resolution in low light only. Several times throughout the day, as the light was lost due to cloud cover, the better resolution was sometimes found with the Zeiss. In total darkness this difference is easily demonstrated- the Zeiss' better light gathering (bigger objective) simply provides more light and hence gives higher apparent resolution. But in most daylight conditions, the Leica was better and provided that extra crispness that resolves small subtle details. When the Zeiss was better in daylight hours it was subtle. When the Leica was better it was noticeable and there was no ambiguity about it. For example, at 2000 yards or so in bright light I could see something on a roof top with the Zeiss, and make out it was the size of a sparrow,but with the Leica I could get the tiny bit of extra crispness in focus and see it was round, black, and probably the stub of a roof vent.

The design of the Leica eyepiece is far far better than the Zeiss - the way it clicks into place with the button - very precise and extremely close tolerances to the tube. The Zeiss is much less precise in the eyepiece fit, but once in, it is unlikely to be removed anyway.

Overall I gave the Zeiss the higher marks because of low light resolution, because it is noticeably lighter, has shorter length, and has a great matte green and black finish - it isnt at all shiny, all important considerations to a hunter. No doubt in my mind. I bought the Zeiss. Well, okay, a little doubt. It was a very tough decision. They were both outstanding scopes.

If Leica lightened up their scope, and changed the appearance to appeal to hunters, instead of retaining the old BAUHAUS design that appeals to birders, I would have picked it in a second. I love resolution.  Lastly, I didnt have the money to add a KOWA to the list, since that would have been four scopes. Wish I had replaced the Meopta with a Kowa for the study, as I have heard they are also good. They are not cheap however, they are on a par with the two I looked at.

Many many thanks to Chris at SWFA , now (Board Sponsor) for being such a help. He is quite a nice man and wonderful to do business with. 

Edited by Matt Travis
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/09/2007 at 13:15
tahqua View Drop Down
Have You Driven A Ford Lately?

Joined: March/27/2006
Location: Michigan, USA
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Nice review and first post. Thanks Matt, and welcome to OT.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/11/2007 at 01:09
tbone1 View Drop Down
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Matt, great review, well tested and very thorogh.  As you probably realize side by side testing can be difficult with very similar optics.  This is the kind of info that we apprecitate and it is very useful.  I bought the Leica 62 APO with rubber armouring for an exceptional price.  I never got an opportunty to get my hands on all three for enough time to conduct any quality side by side testing.  Your results make sense.  I would expect a Zeiss 85 to have a little better low light capability due to the larger objective.  Larger objectives don't always make a big difference but at such high magnification they do.  I agree also that the Leica 77 is large although many birders rave about it's performance.  I would like to see how a Leica 62 vs. Zeiss 65 vs. Swaro 65 would turn out since the objectives sizes are very close.  I also agree about the silver Leica scope.  However I don't like the silver Zeiss any better (I prefer the green).  That is one reason that I bought the Leica with rubber armouring.  It is dull grey, rugged, and very suitable for hunting.  Thanks for taking the time to post your results.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/02/2007 at 19:28
Losthwy View Drop Down
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I would of like to seen the Pentax ED in that comparision.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/21/2010 at 02:07
Huck BB62 View Drop Down
Optics GrassHopper
Optics GrassHopper

Joined: February/20/2010
Location: Alaska
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From what I've read, the Pentax ED would do very well. The Pentax as a great benefit of taking any 1.25" eyepiece (awesome benefit) especially for the money.

I can add to the OP's take on the non HD Swarovski. I took it back. It just disappoints. The chroma adds to a fuzziness that I couldn't take. The Swarovski HD though? Completely different story. It's awesome. 

To tbone1, I can't see a 65 in dusky conditions. They just don't allow enough light through compared to an 80, any 80. If the spotting scope's for hunting, that's extremely important to me. 

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