Swarovski 65 scopes - a (long) word of caution.

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Subject: Swarovski 65 scopes - a (long) word of caution.
From: "Dr Richard Nowotny" <>
Date: Wed, 8 Feb 2006 01:43:09 +1100

As usual there is recurrent correspondence re scope purchases, performance, price, etc (Margaret Cameron’s recent posting triggered this venture to the keyboard).  A year or so ago I purchased a Swarovski ATS 65 HD scope with a 20-60 S zoom eyepiece for my wife, Diana. (I myself have an aging Kowa TSN1 which has provided excellent and highly reliable service in many settings and with which I am reluctant to part because of its marvelous ease of use and overall high standard of performance, even though its optics have certainly been overtaken by more recent top-end scopes.)

The Swarovski 65mm scopes were (I assume) developed from their very successful, but quite hefty, 80mm range.  And here’s the rub.  The 65mm scopes, while more compact and lighter than their 80mm big brothers, share two key features which together cause the significant problem which I bring to your attention – they both have the same integrated foot-plate (a completely non-adjustable casting) which inserts into the quick-release mechanism on the tripod, and they use the same hefty eyepieces.  I presume (although I have not verified this) that the 80mm scope is balanced over its integrated footplate, with the weight of the barrel forward of the balance point matching the weight of the combined barrel aft of the balance point plus the eye-piece (a knowledgeable reader might like to confirm or correct this presumption).

What I can report from first-hand experience is that the 65mm scope (modified from the 80mm scope by reducing the size of the barrel in keeping with the reduced objective lens size, but not adapting the position of the integrated foot-plate accordingly), while wonderful optically and very convenient size-wise, has the most remarkable design flaw in view of its cost and optical excellence – it‘s centre of gravity lies well behind the foot-plate, resulting in the following highly user-unfriendly difficulties in actual field-use.

If the mechanism to tighten the barrel on the tripod is not sufficiently tight the scope has the distressing tendency spontaneously to tilt backwards (ie point skywards), often at the most inopportune moment, a tendency accentuated whenever the scope is being used to look above the horizontal.  Alternatively, if the tightening mechanism is ratcheted down sufficiently firmly to prevent this unwanted movement it becomes basically impossible to move the tripod smoothly in the vertical plane, making searching for a bird on a perch extremely difficult and frustrating, or, even more troubling, trying to find or follow a bird in flight. Even moving up and down to look at waders or ducks in the foreground versus the background is severely compromised.

Had I known of this design fault (of which I found no mention in any of the very positive reviews of the scope that I read before deciding to purchase) I certainly would not have chosen this model, notwithstanding its significant attributes.  However, I had paid my money (a not unsubstantial sum) and a solution was necessary to prevent “birder-rage” (certainly mine, if not Diana’s).  In the end we found a large, rather hefty, but effective replacement head for the tripod (a one-off, courtesy of the Birds Australia shop) which has an adjustable slide, allowing the scope to be positioned further forward or aft on the tripod and hence to enable it to be located over the balance point for the particular scope in question – the Swarovoski 65 uses almost all the available forward travel such is the degree of balance error it has.  The inevitable downsides are the additional weight and cumbersomeness of the adjustable head, and more disappointingly the total loss of the quick release option, making initial setting-up and dismantling slow and awkward (and requiring a tightening and loosening tool for best results).  What a disappointing saga!

I would value responses to any or all of the following questions from other owners or users:

1.  Has this been the experience of others?  If not, why not?

2.  Has anyone heard or read of this problem with the Swarovski 65mm scopes anywhere else?  (I haven’t.)

2.  Has anyone had any communication with or from the manufacturer about this problem?

3.  Has it been rectified in subsequent versions?  How?

4.  Has anyone else found any other solution to the problem?




Port Melbourne, Victoria

M: 0438 224456


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