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You might describe 2002 as the year of the spotting scope, with new models appearing in all price ranges, including a battle royal between the Swarovski ATS 65 HD and Zeiss Diascope 65 T* FL for the Editor’s Choice award. Interestingly, we saw trends moving in two directions: toward smaller, more lightweight models like Kowa’s petite 20-40×50 and toward bigger and heavier spotting scopes like Pentax’s huge PF-100 ED, with its light-gulping 100mm objective lens.

**Bausch & Lomb Elite **
45º 20-60×80 ED
($1,276.95; 800-423-3537)
Objective lens diameter: 80mm
Eyepiece magnifications: 20-60X,
22X WA LER, 30X
Exit pupil: 4mm @ 20X; 1.3mm @ 60X
Prism type: Porro prism, w/BaK4 glass
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated w/Rainguard
Weight: 61 oz. w/eyepiece
Length: 17 in.
Waterproof: Yes
Best for: Trophy evaluation where weight is not a factor and at shooting ranges
This scope is very similar to the Bausch & Lomb Elite 80mm that has been around for a while, the difference being its 45-degree-angle viewing, which is especially handy for glassing at upward angles, such as in alpine terrain or when stargazing, or when viewing targets from a bench rest. Amenities include Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) glass, Rainguard lens coating, BaK4 Porro prisms and waterproofing. The resolution, at 1.6 SOA, is very good. Hunting applications include glassing from vehicles or from sturdy tripods where relatively little hiking is involved, because this scope is heavy.

Extra Comments

  • Angled eyepiece is nice. Focuses beautifully. Power adjust wonderfully
  • Too big and awkward to pack on a hunt. Good clear view. Good bench shooting scope. Like sunshade on lens.
  • Very easy to use focus knob. Nice looking, very heavy-more difficult to cry.
  • Kind of big & clunky. Nice optics.

Bushnell Multi-Position 20-60×60
$319; 800-423-3537)
Objective lens diameter: 60mm
Eyepiece magnifications: 20-60X
Exit pupil: 3mm @ 20X; 1mm @ 60X
Prism type: Roof prism, not P-coated
Lens coatings: Multicoated
Weight: 36.5 oz.
Length: 14.5 in.
Waterproof: No
Best for: All-around hunting and at shooting ranges
We were intrigued by this scope’s unique Multi-Position eyepiece, which offers an infinite number of viewing angles ranging from straight through to 90 degrees. One tester complained about not seeing small details clearly enough. There were two factors: First, while Bushnell promises that all Multi-Position scopes have resolutions of at least 2.4 SOA, our test sample, at 2.9 SOA, wasn’t that good. Second, the tester was trying to use the scope at 60X, which is far beyond the resolving power of any 60mm objective lens, which explains why the zoom eyepieces for 60mm scopes usually top out at 45X. Bushnell should have done likewise.

Extra Comments

  • Adjustable eyepiece is great. Wonderful feature. Rotating collar is a nice bonus. -I like being able to adjust the angle of the eyepiece. Other handy features e the rotating tripod mount and the sunshade.
  • I like the option of changing the angle of viewing. Nice focus ring, power ring smooth, easy to see.
  • Can’t see fine details clearly enough. I really like the pivoting eyepiece, which is great for bench rest shooting or if you’re lying down in the field at odd angles.

**Cabela’s Alaskan Guide 20-60×70 **
($474.99; 800-237-4444)
Objective lens diameter: 70mm
Eyepiece magnifications: 20-60X
Exit pupil: 3.5mm @ 20X; 1.2mm @ 60X
Prism type: P-coated roof prism
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated
Weight: 52 oz.
Length: 16.5 in.
Waterproof: Yes
Best for: All-around hunting and at shooting ranges
Here we have a first-rate spotting scope at a very good priceTo put the testers’ negative comments regarding this scope’s image quality into perspective, it is important to understand that they were comparing it side-by-side with scopes costing upward of $1,000, including a couple with larger and therefore inherently sharper objective lenses. Besides, a resolution of 2.1 SOA, which our test sample had, is excellent for any spotting scope.

Extra Comments

  • Nice focusing and power rings. Easy to move & focus. A little long for back packing.
  • Not quite as clear as the more expensive scopes.
  • Very stiff power ring. Not terribly crisp focus. Somewhat heavy for its size
  • Not bad. Nice and clear. Doesn’t seem as bright as some of the others. Great value.

Kowa TS-502 20-40×50
($290; 310-327-1913)
Objective lens diameter: 50mm
Eyepiece magnifications: 20X or 20-40X
Exit pupil: 2.5mm @ 20X; 1.25mm @ 40X
Prism type: Porro prism
Lens coatings: Single-layer
Weight: 14.5 oz.
Length: 10.4 in.
Waterproof: No
Best for: Backpacking or other go-light hunting
Kowa spotting scopes have long been popular with bird-watchers, who tend to be more knowledgeable about optics than hunters. My first reaction to this astoundingly small and lightweight beauty was, “Where have you been all my life?” Though not as sharp as models with larger objective lenses, this scope has sufficient resolution for serious big-game hunting, including sheep and mule deer, where weight savings is of paramount importance. Moreover, there is no excuse for not carrying it. Model variations include body configurations for either straight or 45-degree viewing and choices between 20X and 20-40X built-in eyepieces.

Extra Comments

  • The weight on this one is a dream. I’d like to take it home! Out of this world. Easy to focus. Size is great. Plus the price is wonderful.
  • Nice little scope. Compact & easy to take on a hunt.
  • Not terribly sharp. Love the lightweight aspect. Also like the small size.
  • Fantastic value! Super lightweight. Ideal for backpack hunting. Simple controls-easy to use.

Leupold Wind River 15-45×60 WP
($378; 800-929-4949)
Objective lens diameter: 60mm
Eyepiece magnifications: 15-45X
Exit pupil: 4mm @ 15X; 1.3mm @ 45X
Prism type: Porro prism
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated
Weight: 35.1 oz.
Length: 12.1 in.
Waterproof: Yes
Best for: All-around hunting and at shooting ranges
Unlike Leupold’s Golden Ring American-made 12-40×60 spotting scope, this Wind River 15-45×60 scope hails from Korea. The resolution at 2.6 SOA is excellent for a scope in its price range ($260 from Cabela’s). It’s a good, solid instrument. Our panel agreed with comments such as “easy to focus” and “very nice scope for the money.” With reasonable care it should give a lifetime of dependable service.

Extra Comments

  • Nice size. Compact. Easy to focus & adjust power. Winked out quite early in the low-light test.
  • Really like the small compact size.
  • Very stiff power ring. Great for crying in daypack.
  • A very nice scope for the money. Very packable.

Minox 20-45×62 ED
($858; 800-631-1584)
Objective lens diameter: 62mm
Eyepiece magnifications: 20-45X, 22X Wide Angle, 40X
Exit pupil: 3.1mm @ 20X; 1.4mm @ 45X
Prism type: Porro prism
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated
Weight: 35.5 oz.
Length: 13 in.
Waterproof: Yes
Best for: All-around hunting and at shooting ranges
Why a 62mm objective lens on this spotting scope? It is, I suppose, a case of one-upmanship-though a 62mm objective lens does gather 7 percent more light than a 60mm objective. Features on the Minox 20-45X62 include ED glass to eliminate chromatic aberrations, interchangeable eyepieces, a close-focus distance of 16 feet (great for backyard bird-watchers), a sturdy metal body and waterproofing to a depth of 16 feet.

Our panel’s major criticisms were that the focusing knob is too smooth, and this model is pretty pricey.

Extra Comments

  • Focusing knob is too smooth-needs more grip. ED glass should have a noticeable effect on the resolution. But doesn’t!
  • I don’t like focus wheel.
  • Very nice glass-clear and bright. Easy to focus. Relatively compact. Good looking. Seems a bit pricey.

Pentax PF-100 ED 26-78×100
($2,700; 303-799-8000)
Objective lens diameter: 100mm, with a focal length of 630mm
Eyepiece magnifications: 26-78X, 22.5X, 30X, 45X, 60X and 90X
Exit pupil: 3.9mm @ 26X; 1.3mm @ 78X
Prism type: Porro prism
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated
Weight: 111 oz. w/zoom eyepiece
Length: 23.6 in.
Waterproof: Yes
Best for: Long-range and low-light viewing
This Pentax spotting scope proves all axioms regarding extra-large objective lenses: 1) they gather more light and so provide brighter images; 2) they have better resolution, providing sharper images; and 3) they are disproportionately large and heavy, and therefore unwieldy for certain uses. If judged solely on its optical performance- attributable to its apochromatic 100mm (four-inch) objective lens and high-quality astronomical-type eyepieces-the Pentax would have been the Editor’s Choice. Regrettably, its 2-foot length and 111-ounce (6.9-pound) weight make it totally impractical for hunting. Nevertheless, I’d love to have one of these on my patio where I could use it for counting a buck’s chin whiskers at 100 yards.

Extra Comments

  • Eye relief seems short. Awesome resolution! But large size definitely limits its hunting use.
  • Very big, not handy to pack & cry. Great, clear view.
  • Outrageously crisp image. Totally impractical for hunting. Stiff power wheel.
  • Awesome brightness, but totally impractical for hunting-too big to cry.

**Swarovski ATS 65 HD **
w/20-60X eyepiece ($1,730; 800-426-3089)
Objective lens diameter: 65mm
Eyepiece magnifications: 20-60X, 20X SW, 30X SW
Exit pupil: 3.3mm @ 20X; 1.1mm @ 60X
Prism type: Roof prism
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated
Weight: 49 oz. w/zoom eyepiece
Length: 14.8 in. w/zoom eyepiece
Waterproof: Yes
Best for: All hunting and shooting applications
Though our test spotting scope featured 45-degree-angle viewing, there is an otherwise-similar STS 20-60×65 HD model with straight-through viewing, and there are non-HD (High Definition) versions of each. Incidentally, 65mm objective lenses capture 17 percent more light than 60mm objective lenses, which is significant with regard to brightness as, a close-focus distance of 16 feet (great for backyard bird-watchers), a sturdy metal body and waterproofing to a depth of 16 feet.

Our panel’s major criticisms were that the focusing knob is too smooth, and this model is pretty pricey.

Extra Comments

  • Focusing knob is too smooth-needs more grip. ED glass should have a noticeable effect on the resolution. But doesn’t!
  • I don’t like focus wheel.
  • Very nice glass-clear and bright. Easy to focus. Relatively compact. Good looking. Seems a bit pricey.

Pentax PF-100 ED 26-78×100
($2,700; 303-799-8000)
Objective lens diameter: 100mm, with a focal length of 630mm
Eyepiece magnifications: 26-78X, 22.5X, 30X, 45X, 60X and 90X
Exit pupil: 3.9mm @ 26X; 1.3mm @ 78X
Prism type: Porro prism
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated
Weight: 111 oz. w/zoom eyepiece
Length: 23.6 in.
Waterproof: Yes
Best for: Long-range and low-light viewing
This Pentax spotting scope proves all axioms regarding extra-large objective lenses: 1) they gather more light and so provide brighter images; 2) they have better resolution, providing sharper images; and 3) they are disproportionately large and heavy, and therefore unwieldy for certain uses. If judged solely on its optical performance- attributable to its apochromatic 100mm (four-inch) objective lens and high-quality astronomical-type eyepieces-the Pentax would have been the Editor’s Choice. Regrettably, its 2-foot length and 111-ounce (6.9-pound) weight make it totally impractical for hunting. Nevertheless, I’d love to have one of these on my patio where I could use it for counting a buck’s chin whiskers at 100 yards.

Extra Comments

  • Eye relief seems short. Awesome resolution! But large size definitely limits its hunting use.
  • Very big, not handy to pack & cry. Great, clear view.
  • Outrageously crisp image. Totally impractical for hunting. Stiff power wheel.
  • Awesome brightness, but totally impractical for hunting-too big to cry.

**Swarovski ATS 65 HD **
w/20-60X eyepiece ($1,730; 800-426-3089)
Objective lens diameter: 65mm
Eyepiece magnifications: 20-60X, 20X SW, 30X SW
Exit pupil: 3.3mm @ 20X; 1.1mm @ 60X
Prism type: Roof prism
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated
Weight: 49 oz. w/zoom eyepiece
Length: 14.8 in. w/zoom eyepiece
Waterproof: Yes
Best for: All hunting and shooting applications
Though our test spotting scope featured 45-degree-angle viewing, there is an otherwise-similar STS 20-60×65 HD model with straight-through viewing, and there are non-HD (High Definition) versions of each. Incidentally, 65mm objective lenses capture 17 percent more light than 60mm objective lenses, which is significant with regard to brightness a

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