Optics Review: OL Ranks the Best New Spotting Scopes of 2012

Zen-Ray Zen ED2 20-60x82 If you still think "quality optics" and "China" are mutually exclusive, the first-rate spotter from Zen-Ray will reset your expectations. From its durable magnesium housing to its two-speed focus and big, bright extra-low-dispersion glass, the 82mm scope is built to hunt. It is hefty--nearly 4 pounds--but produces a big, bright, clear image. The Zen handily topped the resolution scoring and edged the Nikon in our low-light test. But it was the hands-on field testing that won over the panelists. Testers praised details such as its stylish, textured housing, smooth 20-60x angled eyepiece, and fine focus, which allows the image to be sharpened without shaking the spotter. Those features--plus first-rate glass--make viewing through the scope a fatigue-free joy and make the Zen the first Chinese-made optic to win OL's Editors Choice award. Test Results
Score: ★ ★ ★ ★
Price: $1,000
Optics: A+
Perceived Image: A-
Design: A-
Price/Value: A
Contact: zen-ray.com
Nikon EDG Fieldscope 85 VR 20-60x85 Before you dismiss this serious spotter on the basis of price, know that it's probably worth every penny. This isn't an optic for everyone. In fact, its utility is limited to a few very specific pursuits, but for those--big-game guiding, mountain sheep hunting, and long-distance shooting among them--it may well be the perfect tool. The guts of this 6.2-pound scope with a 20-60x eyepiece is crisp EDG glass, but it has been married to a vibration-­reduction module with DNA from Nikon's camera lenses. The result is a dead-steady viewing unit. We were skeptical, until we deployed it in the field and saw its resolution soar as the VR unit tamed shake and tremble. An optional DSLR camera adapter turns the EDG into a decent telephoto lens. All that electronics has a cost, in money and optical quality, but the combination of image stabilization with a first-rate spotter earns the Nikon our Innovation award. Test Results
Score: ★ ★ ★ ★
Price: $5,500
Optics: B+
Perceived Image: A
Design: A-
Price/Value: B-
Contact: nikonhunting.com
**Vanguard Endeavor 82S 20-60x82 ** This is a very good choice for a hunter who wants a full-size spotter without spending the kids' inheritance on an Austrian or German scope. The Vanguard has a number of hunter-friendly features, including a bombproof textured metal housing, a two-speed focus control that allows users to fine-tune the focus without shaking the scope, and a handsome carrying case. But there's no substitute for premium optics, and the Vanguard's underwhelming glass affects its performance. It turned in a middling performance on both the low-light and resolution tests. Test Results
Score: ★ ★ ★ 1/2
Price: $600
Optics: B+
Perceived Image: B
Design: B+
Price/Value: B
Website: Vanguardworld.com
**Konus Konusspot-80 20-60x80 ** A good value in a full-size scope, the Konus comes with enough amenities that you may not notice the mediocre optics. A tabletop tripod, soft carrying case, and camera adapter make this a great buy in a beginner's scope, but seasoned hunters will be disappointed in the clarity, low-light performance, and durability of the 80mm spotter. It scored last in the field on both the low-light and resolution portions of our test. On the subjective evaluation, testers dinged its imprecise focus and ghosting around the image. Test Results
Score: ★ ★ 1/2
Price: $300
Optics: C-
Perceived Image: C+
Design: C+
Price/Value: B
Website: Konususa.com

Our team of experts spent a week at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, where they put the screws to the newest spotting scopes. Here are the results of the 2012 spotting scope test.