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Theron, Zen Ray and Kowa Spotters

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/07/2011 at 23:07
Klamath View Drop Down
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OK, bear with me.  This is a three scope comparison and it is a bit on the long side.  Smile I apologize for the Zen Ray Kowa duplication, but the three way comparison made more sense to me than doing a single make and model.  Those always sound like infomercials and ask more questions than they answer.

 

For a few days now I have had the new Zen Ray ZEN ED 2 angled 20-60x.  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 Prominar 884 TSN 20-60 straight and he loaned it to me for this.  The Kowa is very lightly used and looks like new.  Just about the same time I was contacted via PM about doing a review for the new Theron brand from a company called Predator Optics.  So since I had two scopes already I was not about to turn down a chance to look at some more optics.    FWIW, Theron is ancient Greek for hunter.

 

The weather here has been mostly cold and gray.  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.   A couple of days have been dense fog with less than ¼ mi visibility, so that has slowed things down somewhat.

 

The Kowa Prominar TSN 884

 

This is the first of these I have had the opportunity to use.  The objective is a doublet, with one element being fluorite glass.  It also simplifies things as it removes the need to use a triplet arrangement with two ED elements. That is a function of the fluorite crystal properties.

 

 I will say right up front that if this scope does not suit you, you are likely beyond help.  As far as strict resolving ability, great contrast, and bright, flat images with sharp to the edge performance… there is NO edge distortion, none.  I have a hard time imagining anything bettering it.  I started trying HARD to find something wrong with this scope after I looked it over a little.  I didn’t find a single thing I can even nit pick about.  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 from Zen Ray.  The current price of this instrument is $1,200 US, comes with a 20-60x eye piece, and a zip on view through removable cover 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.  It bears a similarity to the Kowa, but 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.

 

The objective is a triplet, two pieces are cemented and air spaced from the third element.  There is s fourth lens in the objective group 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. 

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/08/2011 at 14:00
Johnny View Drop Down
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Thanks for your review and input on these 3 scopes. So many great scopes, so little time & money!!!!!!Hippie
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/21/2011 at 09:48
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 Klamath, overall were you satisfied with the focus ring on the Theron?
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/21/2011 at 10:26
Klamath View Drop Down
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Pretty much, yes.  It will take some getting used to if you have never used something like it before.  It needs to be a little finer and lighter to the touch to be most usable at over 60x.  When you get above 60x the depth of field decreases enough that a finer focus would be preferable.  The focus ring was a bit stiff too, but I can't say for sure whether that is a characteristic or just a symptom of the very cold days I had when testing the scope.  It does have the advantage of being easier to operate with gloves than the dual focus style.  But I could have no problems with using the Theron as a main scope.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/21/2011 at 11:34
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Thanks Klamath. That price tag with the 30x lens included is looking pretty good.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/21/2011 at 15:01
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Originally posted by Klamath Klamath wrote:

Pretty much, yes.  It will take some getting used to if you have never used something like it before.  It needs to be a little finer and lighter to the touch to be most usable at over 60x.  When you get above 60x the depth of field decreases enough that a finer focus would be preferable.  The focus ring was a bit stiff too, but I can't say for sure whether that is a characteristic or just a symptom of the very cold days I had when testing the scope.  It does have the advantage of being easier to operate with gloves than the dual focus style.  But I could have no problems with using the Theron as a main scope.

You nailed it Klamath.  The Nikon Fieldscope 82ED I had (the Theron is a dead ringer), was superb, especially with the 30x fixed eyepiece.  When using the zoom, as you said, I really had to work at getting the image tack sharp at high mag because of the stiffer focus ring.  I much prefer the fine/course focus as on the ZenRay after having used that setup.  
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/21/2011 at 15:03
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Originally posted by tompac tompac wrote:

Thanks Klamath. That price tag with the 30x lens included is looking pretty good.

I have no dog in this fight, and I'm sure both spotters would work and work very well.  Just to let you know, the ZenRay can be had for under $1K right now.  
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/21/2011 at 15:13
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Yes and I am looking. But the Theron comes with the zoom and 30x.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/07/2011 at 10:42
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"So, to close this up, is the Kowa a better instrument?  Sure it is.  Not much doubt of that.  I think serious digiscopers would really like that nearly perfect, flat, edge sharp picture. Are there better spotters than the Kowa?  Maybe, but truth be told, I’d have to see it for myself."

I think you hit the nail on the head right there.  Actually if you look at the Kowa site, they have really done alot to make this scope a digiscopers dream come true.  I think when they designed this spotter they used their expertise in building ubber upper end camera lens' to make a product to serve as both.  I looked into getting a full on setup for my Prominar 884 to attach to my Sony digital camcorder and my Olympus digital camera.  Just to get set-up for my Sony was going to be almost $1000!  They take their digiscoping very serious and one of these days I will have the funds to get setup but I think I need a more common camera like a Canon SLR of some sort to get the real bennefits.

I did notice on Theron's site that they have or will have digiscoping stuff available.  I spoke with Pat and I am going to do a review on the Theron Vs. my 884 as well and am really looking forward to it.  I really want to get my hands on a Zeiss and Swaro as well before I do the comparison but not sure if I will be able to.  Thanks for your review, I enjoyed reading it.  Did you get you a good tripod yet?  I would like to find a good high end tripod thats detachable base was the same for their window mount so I didn't have to change the freaking bases all of the time!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/07/2011 at 14:43
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Sako...
 
Glad you liked the review.  It will be interesting to see what difference you see in the Theron and your 884.  I took a bit of a chance and perhaps stuck my neck out when I said the Theron and Zen Ray offered 98% of the Kowa view.  Whatever that perceived difference actually is, it is pretty small, especially in light of the cost of the Kowa.  I think the digiscoping use the difference may be smaller because it seemed to me that all three scopes were going to be best digiscoped at no more than 40x max.  I think the differences are less than my stated amount until that point.  While the Kowa was the winner at over 40x, even it was dim enough that a clear digiscoped image may have been somewhat problematic. 
 
I have the idea that the quality of  all three spotter optics very likely outrank the photographic abilities of most digiscopers, that and how well the camera they are using suits the use.  I think the Theron or ZR will take you a good long ways down the digiscoping road
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/07/2011 at 15:04
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Originally posted by Sako7STW<FONT color=#000000 size=3 face=Times New Roman>.<BR>Did you get you a good tripod yet?  I would like to find a good high end tripod thats detachable base was the same for their window mount so I didn't have to change the freaking bases all of the time!<BR></FONT>[/QUOTE Sako7STW.
Did you get you a good tripod yet?  I would like to find a good high end tripod thats detachable base was the same for their window mount so I didn't have to change the freaking bases all of the time!
[/QUOTE wrote:


 
I have pretty well settled on the Manfrotto 055 with a Manfrotto 128 C fluid head, maybe a Vortex tripod with the same head, or a Slik 700 pro DX and a good fluid head, either the Manfrotto (which I have yet been unable to fault much
 
I have pretty well settled on the Manfrotto 055 with a Manfrotto 128 C fluid head, maybe a Vortex tripod with the same head, or a Slik 700 pro DX and a good fluid head, either the Manfrotto (which I have yet been unable to fault much) ot thr equivalent Slik fluid head.
 
I don't quite get your window mount question.  I have window mounts from Bushnell and Nikon and either can have a Quick Release plate attached.  So I don't see what you are getting at.  Maybe I'm dense today or something.  I also wonder why you would even want a tripod window mount on top of a good tripod and under a good scope in the first place.  Just get an extra QR plate mounI have yet to see a window tripod mount that is even close to being in the same level of functionality as a good fluid pan head.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/07/2011 at 21:29
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Steve, every time I come to the spotter threads I'm taken to this thread, and your thoughts on the Theron/ZR/884 comparisons.  I just spent four days guiding aoudad hunters using my 884.  I am amazed at the level of performance it gives, even at 60x under the right conditions.  Reading your remarks about how the two compared to the Kowa is very, very high praise for sure.   For those who haven't looked at the two you reviewed personally, nor the Kowa 884, having them even in the ballpark is high praise.  I had the 884 side by side with two of my buddy's Zeiss 85 T FL's this weekend and it's really not close....the 884 is far superior to the Zeiss at 20x, 60x, everything in between, and especially clarity at the edge of the field. I wouldn't even give the Zeiss 98% of the 884 so that is indeed a fantastic rec.

On the subject of tripods, I have the Manfrotto 055 w/128RC head and it is a great combo with the Kowa.  I highly recommend it.  On the subject of window mounts.  I'm leaning towards the Manfrotto 391RC2 (uses the same adaptor plate as 128RC) with the Manfrotto window pod.  It's a screamin' combo too.   


Edited by JGRaider - March/07/2011 at 21:31
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/08/2011 at 10:41
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Originally posted by Klamath Klamath wrote:

Originally posted by Sako7STW<font color=#000000 face=Times New Roman size=3>.<br>Did you get you a good tripod yet?  I would like to find a good high end tripod thats detachable base was the same for their window mount so I didn't have to change the freaking bases all of the time!<br></font></td></tr></table> 
<div></div>
<div></div>
<div> </div>
<div>I have pretty well settled on the Manfrotto 055 with a Manfrotto 128 C fluid head, maybe a Vortex tripod with the same head, or a Slik 700 pro DX and a good fluid head, either the Manfrotto (which I have yet been unable to fault much) ot thr equivalent Slik fluid head.</div>
<div> </div>
<div>I don't quite get your window mount question.  I have window mounts from Bushnell and Nikon and either can have a Quick Release plate attached.  So I don't see what you are getting at.  Maybe I'm dense today or something.  I also wonder why you would even want a tripod window mount on top of a good tripod and under a good scope in the first place.  Just get an extra QR plate mounI have yet to see a window tripod mount that is even close to being in the same level of functionality as a good fluid pan head.</div>[/QUOTE Sako7STW.
Did you get you a good tripod yet?  I would like to find a good high end tripod thats detachable base was the same for their window mount so I didn't have to change the freaking bases all of the time!
 
I have pretty well settled on the Manfrotto 055 with a Manfrotto 128 C fluid head, maybe a Vortex tripod with the same head, or a Slik 700 pro DX and a good fluid head, either the Manfrotto (which I have yet been unable to fault much) ot thr equivalent Slik fluid head.
 
I don't quite get your window mount question.  I have window mounts from Bushnell and Nikon and either can have a Quick Release plate attached.  So I don't see what you are getting at.  Maybe I'm dense today or something.  I also wonder why you would even want a tripod window mount on top of a good tripod and under a good scope in the first place.  Just get an extra QR plate mounI have yet to see a window tripod mount that is even close to being in the same level of functionality as a good fluid pan head.
[/QUOTE wrote:



I want to be able to use the same quick disconnect plate on my tripod as I would on my my clamp on window mount.  That way I can just pop it out of the tripod and straight on to my window mount without having to unscrew it every time.  Are the fluid heads affected by could weather......say zero to -15F?  I am going to have to look into the Manfrotto's more.


I want to be able to use the same quick disconnect plate on my tripod as I would on my my clamp on window mount.  That way I can just pop it out of the tripod and straight on to my window mount without having to unscrew it every time.  Are the fluid heads affected by could weather......say zero to -15F?  I am going to have to look into the Manfrotto's more.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/08/2011 at 14:29
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On the subject of tripods, I have the Manfrotto 055 w/128RC head and it is a great combo with the Kowa.  I highly recommend it.  On the subject of window mounts.  I'm leaning towards the Manfrotto 391RC2 mini fluid head (uses the same adaptor plate as 128RC) with the Manfrotto window pod.  It's a screamin' combo too. 

I wanted to use the same adaptor plate also, which is why I went this route.  Manfrotto is great stuff.  
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/19/2011 at 12:36
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Anyone seen a review on the Theron Saker ED? 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/19/2011 at 22:18
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Originally posted by JGRaider JGRaider wrote:

On the subject of tripods, I have the Manfrotto 055 w/128RC head and it is a great combo with the Kowa.  I highly recommend it.  On the subject of window mounts.  I'm leaning towards the Manfrotto 391RC2 mini fluid head (uses the same adaptor plate as 128RC) with the Manfrotto window pod.  It's a screamin' combo too. 

I wanted to use the same adaptor plate also, which is why I went this route.  Manfrotto is great stuff.  
 
The ZEN ED2 spotter can be mounted directly onto Manfrotto 700RC2  head without any accessory plate. I also have a 055/128RC combination, which is an excellent platform for fullsize spotting scope like JGRaider's Kowa. If you are looking for light weight tripod, I would recommend manfrotto's 190CXV3 carbon fiber legs.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/25/2011 at 19:28
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Thanks Steve, for yet another great optics review.

On tripods/fluid heads- you guys are hitting all cylinders with your picks of the 055 and fluid heads. The first time I tried a fluid head with my spotter made me a convert, so now have an old beater Bogen 3063 mounted on my old beater 3021 (an earlier 055).
I'd like to try out one of those grip- action ball heads as they seem to be really trick, but don't know how precise or tiresome they'd be for long sessions.
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