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Zen Ray Ridgefield Spotter
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Location: United States
As it happens, I have one each, straight and angled Zen Ray Ridgefield spotters. I also now have on hand everything on the ZR website. This came to be just a few days ago when I got an email from Zen Ray. It seems that their initial booth application for the Winter Wings festival was too late and was initially turned down. After the fact, the booth application was granted. So, it finally dawned on somebody at Zen Ray that I happen to live in Klamath Falls, the site of this conference. The email asked if I'd be interested in helping with their booth. Sure, I was interested. So, with a winter weather forecast and the possibility of maybe precluding their sending somebody, or having their somebody delayed by bad roads, they sent the show display stock to me. That way if they are late, I can be there on time to open the booth and give them whatever fill in time needed. I really do not expect or really want anything out of this aside from reimbursement of my out of pocket costs, which won't be a lot. Just to be clear, I have no financial stake in Zen Ray, and do not expect anything in the way of big bucks or special considerations for doing this. Anyway, that is how I happened into having these scopes. I won't likely have these long enough for a proper review, so this is just initial impressions.
Now, I must confess to never having much interest in sub $300 spotting scopes. I'd looked at a bunch and did buy a Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 12-36x50 compact a little over a year ago. The Bushnell was the result of a service dispute with Bushnell in which I managed to talk them into a trade for a defective binocular they said was fine and would not even look at it to repair it. Anyway, I digress as that is another story. Suffice it to say I had never been much impressed by spotting scopes at that price point. The little Bushnell is really pretty decent, but it did what I needed and I paid more attention to better quality, larger scopes.
So I finally found some time to put these up on a tripod. I figured I needed to look at them before the show anyway just to be sure they were OK for sale. I might mention, that for whatever reason, it seems that there is s fairly high chance of getting a less than cherry spotting scope on the first try, regardless of who makes it and how much it costs. I have read two high end spotting scope reviews where one time the Leica sample had to be sent back four times, and in the other instance the Zeiss had to be sent back three times. It seems somewhat strange to me that this should be the case, but the well regarded reviewers said this was a commonplace occurrence.
So I really did not quite know what to expect when I took my first look through the Ridgefield. The first look made me step back and take a second look. The short story is these are a lot better than I was expecting. This scope is easily analogous to the ZEN ED 2 spotter in the same way the ZRS binocular compares to the ZEN ED 2 binocular.
No it does not have ED glass, but nevertheless the scope is surprisingly bright and sharp and CA will not be a problem unless you are sensitive to it.
This is not removable unless you know what you are doing, so don't remove it. It is a 15-45x zoom. It has twist out eye cups. The only thing I can really fault with this scope is the eye piece falls off in fov very rapidly in the upper half of the magnification range. Now, I had this on a Manfrotto 055XB tripod and 3031 fluid head, so I was dead steady. Now while the image is still really decent at 45x, anything over 35x or so became fov restricted FAST. This was not a problem with the solid mount, but may be a problem if there is any wiggle in the tripod at all. This simply reinforces the idea, that the best way to improve your spotter optics is to be SURE you have a good tripod. This scope would be at its best with a wide angle eye piece in the 20-30x range.
It has a more or less standard dual range focus, while a little stiff (it was both new and it was cold) seems to work just fine. The focus rate is just about right for my tastes.
Not much time for detailed resolution tests, but there is nothing to the image quality to find fault at this price. It is on the ZR website for $279.00. It is not the ZEN ED 2 in image, but it has nothing to apologize for either. The contrast is quite good enough, the color bias is pretty neutral, and CA, as noted earlier will likely not be a problem. The resolution is good enough to pick out horses under Juniper trees at four miles, and if the horses were yours, you could identify them individually at that distance. This is less sharp than the ZEN ED 2, but good enough unless you are really reaching and really need the highest level of detail. But for occasional to frequent use under non extreme situations, the image will get the job done.
This looks like the ZEN ED 2 spotter in miniature. It has a composite body construction and weighs less than the magnesium alloy of the ZEN ED 2. It is an inch shorter, but feels about half the size of its big brother. Both sunshades are pretty loose and may be a distraction, but the construction is not lacking. It feels like a nice solid, well made piece of equipment. It comes with a nice zip on stay on case. The case fits just about right. Some I have tried are really tight, witness the soc on the ZEN ED 2.
What I'd like to see
This seems a natural to evolve into the ZEN ED 2 line. If Zen Ray is listening, I think it would be a good idea to make this scope with a standard 1.25” threaded eye piece to offer a greater degree of viewing options. I think it would be nice to offer it two ways, with an eye piece, or just body only. I would like to see that done, and I'd like to see the Ridgefield maintained. The changes I'd like to see will likely increase the cost quite a bit, and the Ridgefield is s really good scope at its price point.
I always ask my self the same question when I look at an optic. Is this good enough for me to buy it? Here the answer is yes. But I won't do that, as my needs are covered with the 50mm and the 82mm scopes I already have.
Edited by Klamath - February/16/2011 at 20:30
"Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted". Albert Einstein
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