Bob Forsyth's posting re his 'experiences' with a certain brand of spotting
scope may not be typical (hopefully!!) but he has helped me to overcome a case
of creeping jealousy that has been gradually infecting me as I note the increase
in the numbers of very expensive (and very large and obvious) 'scopes that are
being displayed at wader ID days.
I'm sure Freud would have a 'field-day' at a wader ID gathering ;-).
You see, many years ago I purchased my first, current and last 'scope.
It is a Carton brand 60mm model.
It came with a 20x eye-piece which I replaced with a 20-45x zoom eyepiece.
The zoom eyepiece quickly became a 'permanent' fixture.
The styrene packing that came with the 'scope' made a good carrying case when
surrounded with some scrap ply-wood, a couple of hinges, corner pieces and a
A coat of red paint and a couple of appropriate stickers makes the package
And the whole unit can be packed in the car without any worry of damage.
I'm not really sure what the purpose is of the (lightly) padded 'designer'
covers I often see gracing the seductive curves of many 'scopes these days.
I don't remember exactly how much my unit cost but I do remember feeling a sharp
pain in the wallet at the time of purchase.
However, it was merely a 'pin-prick' compared to the agony I would have been in
while paying for some of the current 'scopes that seem so popular currently!
Having said that, I am extremely pleased with my 'working-class' scope and do
not regret the initial outlay.
The image is clear and bright; the whole unit is light in weight but quite
powerful in operation.
I find that the best zoom range to use is 25x to 35x.
Unless the air is very cool and clear anything more powerful only magnifies the
distortions caused by heat-haze and the depth of focus is greatly reduced.
The June 1991 edition of "Wingspan" (the official newsletter of Birds
Australia [aka RAOU]) had a brief Product Review featuring the Kowa TSN-3
Prominar spotting scope.
This model was the first of the 'larger' scopes on the Australian market and had
a 77mm object lens (the big lens at the front of the scope).
The manufactures claimed an increase of 65% in light-gathering over that of
conventional 60mm units.
For me the significant point of the review was the observation that under
overcast conditions the performance of the 77mm Kowa was indeed superior but
under full (Australian) sunlight the unit actually gathered too much light.
The image was, in fact, washed-out and it was impossible to obtain a clear,
During a visit to the Broome Bird Observatory in 1992 I was able to directly
compare my Carton 60mm 'scope with their Kowa 77mm model.
I actually felt that the image produced by my 60mm 'scope was superior.
(Ah, you say: But he would, wouldn't he!)
There may have been something wrong with that particular Kowa 'scope but the
image produced was not as sharp and clear as that of the Carton 60mm unit.
Since then I have had a great deal of use out of my Carton 'scope.
It has travelled over many miles (oops...kilometers) of rough country in my
4-wheel drive and has visited a number of beaches and inland lakes.
At no time has anything 'jammed', broken or fallen off.
The only 'problem' I have experienced has been with the lens-hood which is too
loose and won't stay in place when extended.
This is not a real problem and I have taped it 'closed'.
A problem that appears to be common to all 'scopes is that they don't seem to
allow for users with spectacles.
Many types of binoculars allow for adjustable eye-relief by using fold-down
'rubber' eye-cups thus allowing spectacles to be worn while using the binos.
Has anyone seen such fittings for 'scopes?
I have tried a couple of times to 'mate' my 'scope up to my various cameras
(film and digital) without any real success.
(Perhaps the differences in DNA have been too great; no viable images or
off-spring have been produced as a result of such mating.)
So....what am I saying?
Bob Forsyth is correct when he says: "Optical quality is not everything !"
and: ".....make sure that whatever you buy, does not have to be treated like
grandmother's cherished crystal."
Sometimes size does matter; but does it really matter with bird-watching
There is one thing that I am sure of: If you are the least bit serious about
bird-watching (not just wader-watching) then get yourself a 'scope!
If you can afford the 'top-of-the-range' model then go for it.
Just be aware that a smaller, cheaper model may be all you need.
You may be better off putting the extra money into a really good set of
binoculars; you will use the binos more than the 'scope.
If you are thinking about a 'scope, go to a wader ID outing and try as many
different models as possible.
You can be sure that the owners of the various units will be only too keen to
help you choose.
P.S.: Bob F's 'scope sounds like the wood-cutter's favourite axe.
He only had to replace the head twice and the handle three times!
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