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High-end Scopes Review

For Bird Watcher's Digest, November, 2009

by Michael and Diane Porter

The Best of the Best

For this review, we surveyed an even dozen full-sized birding scopes, sent to us by manufacturers as their top-of-the-line scopes. All were full-sized scopes, with objective lenses between 77mm and 88mm, and all were angled-eyepiece design.

They all came with zoom eyepieces—ten scopes with the usual 20-60x zoom and two, the Leica and Swarovski, with new, wide-angle, 25-50x zoom designs. All were waterproof, and all had fully-multi-coated optics and special glass to minimize chromatic aberration.

Team Iowa
Team Iowa reviewed the high-end scopes
Left to right: Alan Hale, Murray Foster, Diane porter,
Phyllis Thompson, Michael Porter, Dennis Greenley, Glenn Watt

We had the scopes for over a month, enough time to become very familiar with them and to test and retest under varying conditions. We also invited a team of Iowa birders, who were delighted at the opportunity to compare the best of the best, to come for a test day to assist in the evaluations.

Perusing the prices, you may catch yourself blinking. Can you now really spend $4000 on a spotting scope? Indeed you can, and over half of those in our survey cost more than $2000, but the range of street prices in the twelve scopes is from $575 to $3995.

In the following pages we'll show how we tested, we'll reveal which scopes got the top scores, and we'll explain why. Most of this information was in our review in Bird Watcher's Digest (November, 2009). However, because we have more room here on our website (Birdwatching Dot Com), we have expanded some sections to provide more indepth detail.

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