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Old July 21, 2006, 01:53 AM   #1
Dead-Nuts-Zero
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Spotting Scope under $200.00

Looking for suggestions on a spotting scope for range use to 200 yds. but mostly 100-150yds or less and some hunting and wildlife viewing. I don't need a top of the line, but could spend a little more than 200 if needed. Thinking about a variable power with a 50mm lens or better.

I have seen the reconditioned Nikon sky/earth (I think that's the model) for around the 200 mark. Anyone have one of these? Is a reconditioned unit ok? Usually, I guess they are returns/exchanges that are wiped down and repacked after a quick inspection. ???
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Old July 21, 2006, 02:41 PM   #2
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I'll make a quick recommendation based on a recent visit to Sportsman's Warehouse. I asked to look at one of the Bushnell Sentry scopes behind the glass - something like a 18-36x50 for about $150. Looked okay, and would certainly do the job out to 200 yards. Then the fella' behind the counter said "now check this out". He grabbed another scope in the $150 range and mounted it on the tripod and let me compare. Compare?? Christ, there was NO comparison to be made - the second scope he mounted was absolutely superior in every respect! So much brighter and crisper! This scope showed just how HORRIBLE the astigmatism problem was with the Bushnell of the same price. Generous eye relief and decent exit pupil all the way zoomed in too. I would find it very difficult to find a better quality scope for less than $200.

The brand? Alpen. To be perfectly specific, the model was the 735 - 18-36x60:

Alpen Spotting Scopes

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Old July 21, 2006, 10:27 PM   #3
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I'll second the suggestion for the Alpen 735. I bought mine a couple of months ago for IIRC $180 including hard and soft carrying case, tripod and car window mount. Great scope.

You might also look at an unconventional optical retail source - Astronomical Scope companies like Celestron. They carry reflecting not refracting scopes. They are cheaper, lighter, smaller and have better optics. They just look different and you might get some confused stares from other shooters at the range. Try this link http://
www.celestron.com/c2/product.php?CatID=30&ProdID=207
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Old July 22, 2006, 01:25 AM   #4
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Hey Dead nuts Zero, send me a mail, I got one to get rid of for 100.00
It's a Simmons,used but optics are clear,function is perfect and has tripod stand.
I don't need 2 of them.

George e-mail gl04@ev1.net
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Old July 22, 2006, 12:14 PM   #5
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i would echo Tommy's suggeston. dont rule out used mirror scopes. some of
these puppies are absolutely amazing. there is also a huge market out there
for used eyepieces, thereby allowing you access to a wide range of magnifications.
what can be neat too, are to go-to scopes. with a small, wired remote, you
can skew to target and pretend.....to be Bruce Willis in the Jackal.
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Old July 22, 2006, 12:33 PM   #6
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I'll second the Celestron and throw a Meade in there as well. Prior to the development of the Maksutov-Cassegrain optical system, these scopes were horrendously expensive, but Maksutov-Cassegrain put top quality optics within reach of the average Joe.

They are much brighter than a conventional spotting scope and capable of greater magnifications while retaining sharpness. Since I got my Meade, I rarely ever use my Tasco any more.

There is one down side though. Most of these scopes tend to be a little more fragile than conventional spotters, but not so much that a little bump will affect them.
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Old July 23, 2006, 01:29 AM   #7
Dead-Nuts-Zero
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Thanks Guys!

I took a look at the Clestron and Meade sites. Wow, I was just getting into the research of a good spotter and then I see these sites that really confuse me. However, I can see where they should allow more light with the lg. mm lens & the eye piece selections giving 75X up to well over 150X. I am guessing that the 3X Barlow lens will triple the eye piece?


Are you guys talking about the short tubes with the wide 5" + lens, or the more traditional looking long tubes?

http://www.meade4m.com/4mshop/70200RE.html

A spotter delivered for 30 bucks? Is this anything like you have?

How about leveling these at the range? They look to be mounted for upward sky viewing angles? And are there complications with reverse images that need to be corrected with a special part? Is there a problem of too much light when using these in bright day conditions at the range?
Yes I know, too many questions!

Maybe you could give me the model # you are using (or a suggested style) to get me started in the right direction.

I have had a slight interest in the night sky, now I have to take a Closer Look!

Thanks for your ideas and suggestions.
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Old July 23, 2006, 12:34 PM   #8
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DNZ, your link is to a refractor telescope. These use lenses only in a straight line to magnify an image (same as conventional spotting scopes). You want a reflector 'scope (short, wide barrel) which uses ground mirrors along with lenses. Reflectors are much brighter.

Quote:
I am guessing that the 3X Barlow lens will triple the eye piece?
Correct, but Barlow lenses also cut down the amount of light transmitted and magnify any aberrations in the eyepiece. Better to use an eyepiece only, if you can, and if you must use a Barlow, use a 2X.

Quote:
They look to be mounted for upward sky viewing angles? And are there complications with reverse images that need to be corrected with a special part? Is there a problem of too much light when using these in bright day conditions at the range?
Scopes with the eyepiece mounted at 90 degrees are designed for astronomy, and they are a little awkward for range use, and yes, image reversal can be a problem, but most of those designed for use as a spotting scope have the eyepiece mounted at 45 degrees, and have no image reversal. Being too bright isn't a problem unless you happen to cross paths with the sun, and that would result in instant blindness with any scope.

I have a Meade ETX-90-EC. It doubles as both a spotting scope, and an astronomy telescope. You can mount the eyepiece on top at 90 degrees, or on the back at 45 degrees for a spotting scope. The 45 degree mount also corrects the image reversal. The ETX-90 would cost you considerably more than $200. though.

Whichever scope you decide on, I strongly suggest you make sure it uses the Maksutov-Cassegrain optical system. This is what makes all the difference, in quality, and in price.
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Old July 23, 2006, 02:19 PM   #9
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Just a word of caution from a guy who knows nothing about spotting scopes. I have a 55 pwr (there abouts) Baraska, cost under $200.00. It does great unless it's hot out, then the heat waves distort everything beyond 100 yards.
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Old July 23, 2006, 04:10 PM   #10
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Mirage will distort the image from any spotting scope, and the higher the power, the worse it is. I use a $650 Kowa with a fixed 25X eyepiece shooting highpower, and on a hot and humid day (which we have many of in beautiful Georgia), mirage is wicked, bad enough to where somedays, I can't reliably see bullet holes at 200 yards.
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Old July 23, 2006, 04:43 PM   #11
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What about spotting over a rough lawn area all the way to the target? Do you think I will notice the heat rise with high X out to 200 yds? My range use would be only 200 yds, but more often just 80-100 yds. Wildlife viewing would be over vegetation most of the time too but at much longer distance. Any idea what problems I would have with the mirror type scopes? I am guessing the heat problems are more trouble over hard pact surfaces like stone alleys or blacktop found at formal ranges. I am lucky to have a nice grass area with sod and a soil bank for my backstop. Do you think I would escape most of the heat rise in these type conditions?

I think most spotters would do the basic job at the range for most of my needs. I think my reason for upgrade would be more for the wildlife and nature viewing. Now I find that I could view outerspace too with the right insterment. Maybe I am asking too much from one unit?

Thanks to all for your comments, I find them very helpful.
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Old July 23, 2006, 05:23 PM   #12
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Mirage usually isn't a problem over vegetation. I've only encountered it over blacktop or other dark, solid objects on very hot days. While it's certainly possible, I think days when bullet holes wouldn't be visible would be rare.

Quote:
I think my reason for upgrade would be more for the wildlife and nature viewing. Now I find that I could view outerspace too with the right insterment. Maybe I am asking too much from one unit?
Not really. I did a little digging, and I think this would be ideal for your needs. The optics, specs., and magnification are similar to the ETX-90, but it appears to be built more ruggedly, and it seems to be close to your price expectations.

For an astronomy telescope though, you need to realize that this is considered a small telescope with some serious limitations. It's a good beginner's scope and would be great for lunar viewing, and under clear conditions the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn will be somewhat visible, but not nearly as spectacularly as most pictures portray them. Deep sky objects will be somewhat disappointing, although the Lagoon Nebula looks pretty neat through mine. To get into a good sky 'scope, you're talking big buck$, well up into the 4-figure range and even approaching 5!

All in all though, I think you'd find the Celestron in the link above a good compromise for all you want to do. If you decide to go this route, I'd appreciate your candid review of it here.
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Old July 23, 2006, 08:59 PM   #13
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fortunately, for folks just starting out, there has been a great eyepiece kit
on the market for a couple of years at a very good price. helps keep the
cost down, buy you a little variety in power.....while you learn the ropes.
i can even see if what gasoline is going for 4 miles away w/o leaving my
yard. should also give you a selection to dial back when mirage conditions
prevail.
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Old July 24, 2006, 12:19 AM   #14
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You may wish to look at binoculars also instead of a spotting scope because of use requirements. A good pair of binoculars can be as good as a scope and do more.
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Old August 14, 2006, 02:02 AM   #15
Dead-Nuts-Zero
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Thanks loads for all yer suggesrions. I spent hours researching and hunting for good websites. I really like the idea of the big 5" for moonlighting and range spotting.

However, I fell upon a used Alpen mini spotter that had some digs and dings and a dirty lens. It's a fixed 20x50 that is/was waterproof but I am not so sure but what is has been dismantled as I found some tiny specs of dust when looking into the large lens end and also what looks like a finger smudge...wow right?

But only 15 bucks (includes some extra goodies) and it does what I need it to do for now, (but I have not tried it much past 75 yds yet). Yes, I still have my eye on the Meade & Clestron's (is that a pun?) for a future investment. I think they may be the way to go.
Maybe I can send in the Alpen for a tune-up for just a few bucks and have a good little unit...or maybe not... by the time I pay s&h and labor. Anyway, thanks for all the help. I will come back here someday to search and read this thread again when I am ready to make the jump into the serious spotting optics.
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Old August 14, 2006, 09:53 AM   #16
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FWIW, I use my Celestron 11x80 binoculars mounted on my camera tripod. They work just fine. And once you're done shooting and the sun goes down, they're great for astronomy viewing as well (the reason I bought them in the first place). I've seen the Andromeda galaxy through them.
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Old August 14, 2006, 09:34 PM   #17
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Capn Charlie, thanks for all the excellent info.

After looking at http://www.bigbinoculars.com/usage.asp?sqlq=M , and now hearing about the advantages of reflector scopes over refractors, I can't help but wondering if anyone makes a big reFLECTor binocular?!? That would be very cool.

And why are refractors so popular, given the advantages touted of reflectors? I mean,

Quote:
They are cheaper, lighter, smaller and have better optics
So what's the catch??

And what's the difference between a Maksutov-Cassegrain system and a Schmidt-Cassegrain system? Other than replacing a Ruskie with a Swiss makes the price double! Thanks.

Which do you think I could see .25-.30 cal holes at 400 yards easier with:

1. This one.. http://www.bigbinoculars.com/22100.htm
or
2. This one.. http://telescopes.com/products/celes...ope-25829.html

I've been able to find both of these for the exact same price ($379) - does binocular vision trump a big objective monocular vision reflector, or vice versa?
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Old August 17, 2006, 12:44 PM   #18
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Sorry it took me awhile to reply, FF. The last couple of days have been hectic, and I've only been able to hit & run here.

Binos or reflectors, hmmm. I suppose that would be a matter of personal choice. I personally think binoculars are bulky and have no advantages other than twin eyepieces. That would be especially true of binoculars powerful enough to view a 0.3 inch hole at several hundred yards. At that power, it would also be impossible to hand hold them and keep them steady.

A reflector binocular? I'm getting this mental picture of binoculars almost two feet wide .

Refractors were very popular in past years, since they were the standard for centuries before reflectors came along. When they finally did come onto the scene, the good ones were expensive and the ones available to the average Joe weren't all that great.

The Schmidt-Cassegrain system has been around for a relatively long time and is more complex and demanding than the Maksutov-Cassegrain system, but it's still pretty much the standard for better scopes. I'm not familiar with the technical differences between the two, but I do know that Maksutov-Cassegrain is relatively new, and while the Schmidt is better, it's also much more expensive to manufacture. The Maksutov-Cassegrain system is a simpler system with fewer parts, and that, coupled with computer controlled mirror grinding machines, put decent and powerful optics well within reach of the casual amateur. Except for specialty items like rifle scopes, I think that refractors will become all but extinct someday.

Between the two you mentioned, I would definitely go for the telescope, if for no other reason than its ability to let you see in low light. Binoculars just can't touch it in that aspect.

Quote:
So what's the catch??
The only catch I can think of is that reflectors are generally more fragile than binoculars or refractors. You can mount lenses in pretty sturdy mounts (as in rifle scopes), but the mirrors and their mounts require more precision and the wider tube makes it more susceptible to jarring and impact. Still, a half decent scope will hold up to average abuse. Just don't try to mount one on a .300 Win Mag .
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Old August 17, 2006, 01:15 PM   #19
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This one has gone up in price, use to be $199 on sale. I got to borrow one a couple months back, for the money they're nice. Don't think you could go wrong with it. http://www.opticsplanet.net/konus-ko...ing-scope.html
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Old August 17, 2006, 05:07 PM   #20
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Thanks, Capn Charlie, that helps me a lot. By the way, those binocs are a tripod-mounted proposition only - see the central frame & hardware?
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Old August 17, 2006, 07:57 PM   #21
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Charlie, BTW, I hate you - now I MUST have this one, and soon:

http://telescopes.com/products/celes...ope-25829.html



Can't wait to see the funny looks at the range. Or to use it also for heavenly body observation (and no I'm not next door to the municipal swimming pool - shame on whoever thought of that).

But final question: It won't be TOO bright to use in the daytime as a spotting scope will it? IOW, it won't hurt your eyes in broad daylight to use it?
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Old August 17, 2006, 11:06 PM   #22
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Quote:
Charlie, BTW, I hate you - now I MUST have this one, and soon:


Ya 'spose Celestron will give me a commission?

Quote:
Or to use it also for heavenly body observation (and no I'm not next door to the municipal swimming pool - shame on whoever thought of that).
Shame on me then; works great at the beach, too .

Quote:
But final question: It won't be TOO bright to use in the daytime as a spotting scope will it? IOW, it won't hurt your eyes in broad daylight to use it?
No, but if is was, there's a solution to that too. Celestron makes neutral density, lunar filters for it to dim things down a bit. The only time I've found things a bit too bright is viewing a full moon in a clear sky. It really knocks the hell out of your night vision.

By the way, if you do go this route, don't forget to post a range report.
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Old August 18, 2006, 05:59 PM   #23
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OK, thanks again on the lunar filters and all - I'm looking forward to it. Yours is the 90mm? The 130 sure seems like a good lot of product for $379 to me - 130 mm of objective @ 63 power, on a par in clarity with $1,500 spotters or better? What's not to like? It's on my to-buy list, but it'll be 4 or 7 months since I have a few things higher on the list, but I'll post a report when I get it and use it.
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Old August 19, 2006, 12:22 AM   #24
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Optics Planet has OK prices but I suggest you get a Popular PHotography magazine and look at some of their ads for Meade scopes. EXcellent prices- I can use my Meade 90 and see 22 holes at 300 yards.
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Old August 19, 2006, 08:10 AM   #25
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You might want to look into the NcStar line. They make a very good product at a affortable price. I sell them at gun shows and have a lot of good comments on them.
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