What is a spotting scope?

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David Frydman
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What is a spotting scope?

Post by David Frydman »

Part one.
A spotting scope is a small terrestrial telescope, typically from 30mm to 100mm aperture, mounted on an altazimuth table top, photographic or other small tripod. Generally they are f/5 or f/6 for refractors and f/8 to f/15 for mirror optics. There are several types.
The earlier ones were DRAWTUBE TELESCOPES, fixed or zoom eyepiece, such as those made by Broadhurst Clarkson and Dollond etc. and recently the good 20x50 Russian Turist and present Yukon 50mm of variable quality and the fairly good zoom Acuter 50 and 60mm. The high quality 75mm and 85mm Swarovski is a top current model. Eyepieces can be changed on these.
There are a few straight tube, rotating eyepiece models such as the 8 to 24x russian or ukrainian and the rather good red, blue or grey lightweight metal 30x to 120x f/6 1970s model and various old Zeiss scopes.
The zoom eyepiece 65mm, 80mm and 100mm Acuter are good reliable PRISMATIC SPOTTING SCOPES. Straight or 45 degree angled eyepiece. I highly recommend getting the HM5 eyepiece if you buy one of these in addition to the zoom. It gives 80x, 95x and 108x respectively which is very good for planets etc. My 80mm Acuter can easily take 95x, which has given me my best views of Jupiter through the double glazing. It should perform better outside. Similar CELESTRON scopes should be just as good.
Also my 100mm Revelation zoom eyepiece scope is very good, especially considering the low price.
There is a new Acuter model taking 1.25 inch eyepieces which should be good. There are also various more expensive models with ED glass.
The Soviet 66mm and 70mm spotting scopes are good but use a 3/8 inch tripod socket instead of 1/4 inch. Some professional tripods have 3/8 inch fittings or you would need a small adapter.
A few 'prismatic scopes' actually use mirrors instead of prisms.
To be continued, regards David.
David Frydman
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What is a spotting scope?

Post by David Frydman »

The 8x to 24x russian or ukrainian scope mentioned above is 40mm aperture. The 30x to 120x f/6 is 80mm aperture.
David.
David Frydman
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What is a spotting scope?

Post by David Frydman »

Part two.
60mm to 90mm Maksutovs make good spotting scopes. They tend to be higher magnification models. There are also 100mm, 105mm and 127mm Maksutovs, which some would say are too large aperture to be called spotting scopes, but they are listed as such by the makers.
There are Russian, U.S., far eastern and some older U.K. and Dutch Maksutov spotters. They vary from the awful cheap plastic Konus to good to fantastic. The 89mm Questar is rightly highly regarded but I have tested a few better makes. The discontinued Quantam 4 and large Quantam 6 are supposedly unbeatable (100mm and 150mm). Also Meade and Celestron are good as are their small SCT spotters. Russian Maksutovs are usually excellent.
In general tube and optic astro models are likely to be higher quality than terrestrial models, but not always so.
Some models have integral barlows that double the magnification at a flick of a lever.
Maksutovs can take time to cool down to giveoptimum performance. Refractors are better in this regard.
Short focus small REFRACTOR DUAL PURPOSE scopes such as the 80mm and 102mm f/5 Celestron Wideview and OVL Startravel similar models are highly recommended. Also the Televue 70mm Ranger, 66mm Williams and clones, Takahashi, Vixen and Pentax small astro scopes. These are small enough to use on a medium photographic tripod.
The description as either astro scope or spotting scope is blurred here.
I hope to complete this discussion of spotting scopes in a third part.
Regards David.
mike a feist
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Post by mike a feist »

My approach to the use of spotting scopes for astronomy differs in detail from David Frydman with whom I have been corresponding on the subject recently. His description of "what is a spotting scope" however is absolutely correct and covers a far greater range than I have used.
I believe that there are two ways of looking at the astronomical use of spotting scopes.
Firstly, astronomers who have used large reflectors and refractors find them very useful as portable 2nd scopes or indeed as replacements when the use of "big guns" become too much of a hassle or too difficult in a confined space or even from indoors. Essentially although such observers may want something simpler to set up and use, they will still want the opportunity, to produce high magnification. In such cases, which I would call a top down approach, the larger scopes David mentioned are ideal.
As a long time user of binoculars and hand-held monoculars, I use a bottom up approach, in that I am looking for something that allows a bit more magnification and can be mounted on a simple tripod to enable finer detail to be seen. The instrument should be as compact as possible and not so large as to be a hassle to set up and small enough to be safely left set-up at the window without getting in the way. Hence, I prefer 50mm or 60mm spotting scopes that can produce reasonable quality images between about x12 to say x30. The lowest magnification acts also in a finder-mode.
So the subject of spotting-scopes is a huge one and can be approached from many different angles and there are many may points to consider from cost, zoom or not, ability or not to use astro-eyepieces, aperture, armoured or not, water resistant, straight eyepiece ot 45 degree or even 90 degree, prismatic or not, mirror telescopes, cats etc etc etc....and of course here we have only been thinking about their astronomical use but in truth their birdwatching, terrestrial, target-shooting and even photographic uses all have special constraints and requirements. maf
David Frydman
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What is a spotting scope?

Post by David Frydman »

Thanks for your comments, Mike.
I hope to complete my third part, may be not today.
Best regards, David.
David Frydman
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What is a spotting scope?

Post by David Frydman »

Thinking about your comments Mike.
You are indeed right. Because of mobility problems most of my observations are carried out indoors.
I miss the large telescopes I used up to twenty years ago. Furthemore the light pollution around here is so horrendous deep sky objects are mostly invisible. This leaves the Moon, planets and double stars, which need higher magnifications.
In fact, nearly all my observations are with binoculars or my 40mm PST in the day at 32x magnification.
I use all manner of binoculars, but my favourite is the 18x 50 image stabilised. What I really would like is lightweight 22x50 or lightweight 25x 56 image stabilised binoculars. These don't yet exist.
We all have different needs and ways of observing. If I had the darker skies you have I may prefer the lower magnification spotting scopes with the wider fields you prefer.
Best wishes, David.
mike a feist
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Post by mike a feist »

Hello David
There are a couple of additional points worth considering about the advantage of a small spotting scope over binoculars. If you are using binoculars from indoors (mounted on a tripod or handheld) their width can be restrictive if you want to get both "eyes" in and too much panning will inevitably lead to dimming of left or right eye as you hit the edge of the window or curtain. (Viewing from across the room, eg from your bed is completely hopeless and only a small spotter or monocular will do.)
Mounting binoculars on a tripod is fine to a degree although so mounted the tripod legs restrict a very close approach to the window (this is also a bit of a problem if using a very short spotting scope).
Another advantage, and the reason I favoured monoculars over binoculars, is that some people (like me) do not have stereo-vision and can find binoculars troublesome.......it is also impossible to merge the two images........similarly 3D glasses and those hidden-image-pattern things are beyond doing. Having a small squint or a lazy eye means that binoculars are not really suitable although you kind of learn to just use you dominemt eye.
As you say the increase of light pollution has meant that in some places/cases the advantage of the wide field of the binoculars has been lost as the deep-sky vistas are no longer available, thus generally restricting city observer to limit themselves to bodies in the Solar System where magnification comes into its own. It is obviously true that low magnification (x12 - 30x) cannot show much on the surface of the planets, althougth you can find Mercury, see the phase of Venus when a crescent and find it in daylight, study birds on Earth, see the large craters and general topography of the Moon, follow Jupiter's moons, see Saturn's rings and Titan, and follow Mars, half a dozen asteroids, Uranus and Neptune. And also locate the bright binocular comets.
Finally have you yet received the photograghs I sent you lst week?
regards mike
David Frydman
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What is a spotting scope?

Post by David Frydman »

Part three.
FOLDED REFRACTORS from Yukon are interesting spotting scopes being lightweight. These use mirrors to shorten the tube. The 50mm versions are variable in quality but I like the good ones.
Probably the most useful spotting scope I have is the 6x to 100x 100mm model. It uses to switchable objectives, 35mm and 100mm. The first goes from 6x to 25x then the larger objective goes from 25x t0 100x. Mine easily handles 100x. This is a vast zoom range. It is 'plastic' and lightweight being easily supported on a Slik 88 photographic tripod. Mine is a 45 degree eyepiece model. But straight ones are now also available.
At around £240 it is essential you test it before purchase as Yukons vary in quality. It may not be as robust as say a prismatic Acuter, although I haven't heard of bad reports regarding this.

And for a low price deal, Aldi, Lidl, Clifford James and Daily Mail 20x to 60x 60 prismatic spotters work O.K. at sometimes very low prices.

There are numerous other spotting scopes, clones of some of the ones above and ones from Bushnell, Opticron etc. etc. Top quality Leica, Swarovski, Zeiss, Pentax, Nikon and Kowa etc.
We are completely spoiled for choice nowadays. Consider secondhand as well as new. There are less problems with spotting scopes than with used binoculars.
And always test the scope you intend buying before purchase if you can. Scopes vary in quality even if they look identical.
Regards, David.
brian livesey
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Post by brian livesey »

You said, Mike, that you can't get the two images in a binocular to merge. If, like me, you wear specs and get double vision without them, there is a DIY remedy.
I get double vision at the centre of the field due to a muscle having relaxed in the right eye; the condition is permanent.
It meant that I couldn't use binoculars without specs, but this restricted the field-of-view, as I couldn't get close up to the eyepieces.
I have several pairs of spare specs, so I took the lenses from a pair and cut them down with a junior hacksaw, finishing off with a file. I made them the right size to fit over the binocular eye-lenses with rubber rings to keep the specs lenses in place - problem solved.
I've since done this mod with the 10X50's and 20X60's :D .
Last edited by brian livesey on Tue Aug 17, 2010 9:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
brian
David Frydman
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What is a spotting scope?

Post by David Frydman »

Hello Mike,
Unfortunately your letter and others posted that day haven't yet arrived, but we live in hope.
The letters here frequently go through the experimental POST OFFICE BLACK HOLE and arrive after wandering the Universe for one to six of our weeks. The idea is eventually every letter box in the Universe is connected to their black hole and all letters will be delivered without human intervention. Some of the postmarks I get are clearly Martian.
I hope I eventually get your photos.
regards, David.
nealeh
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What is a spotting scope?

Post by nealeh »

Would you be able to give some kind of price indicator for these various spotting scopes. I'm guessing a massive range!
Cheers,
--
Neale
Insanity is hereditary, you get it from your children
David Frydman
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Post by David Frydman »

Spotting scopes vary from £20 to £2,500 for Kowa, Leica, Swarovski and Zeiss to £4,500 for the Questar. However, I bought my Questar from an ex WD auction for £250. They clearly thought it was faulty. The eyepieces had been dismantled and wrongly reassembled.
Sherwoods had last week the Celestron 102mm wideview for £95 delivered, and generally an Acuter costs £70 to £200. £100 to £150 should get you a good scope. The Daily Mail 20x to 60x 60mm cost me around £20 to £30, I can't remember.
Regards, David.
brian livesey
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Post by brian livesey »

I have the CELESTRON "Wideview", 100mm, refractor and I use a BAADER Semi-Apo filter to help deal with the Chromatism inherent in short-focus doublet objectives.
brian
mike a feist
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Post by mike a feist »

Re problems with binoculars and non-stereo vision. I have heard similar ideas to counteract astigmatism, ie using lenses from old glasses.
I know that everyone has one dominant eye.....just point to an object in the distance as in the old parallax demonstration for obviously you cannot line up both eyes only the dominant one. As a child I had two operations to correct a squint and the last visit to the optician it was pointed that I still had a very slight one. If one eye is very dominant the other is more or less ignored it becomes a "lazy eye" - or maybe it is the other way round. In the past at least you must remember children wearing glasses with one eye lense plastered up to make the lazy eye less lazy! Interestingly the colours in the lazy eye are much more vivid on certain objects like the Moon if I deliberately use it.
Some binoculars I find ok to use and others not. My 8 x 56 seem fine but I have had a number of good-make binoculars (especially roof-prism) which I could not get on with and took back to the shop.
I do not use my glasses to observe but general turn down the eyecups anymay.
Another point re. not being able to get the two images to come together, is that some people's eyes are so close together that two optical trains cannot be physically brought close enough together or may pinch the nose it attempted. (Mainly in women and children - my wife Sandra could not use some of the binoculars that I bought for just this reason.)
Of couse, using one eye, does away with these problems although I did once look through a spotting scope which had such a large rubber eyepiece that my nose got in the way!
Choosing suitable binoculars or even monoculars and spotting scopes (let alone the huge range of astronomical telescopes) is fraught with problems and points to consider........basical you must try then first or get agreement that you can return them is unsuitable........and also do insist that you are given the actual one that you looked through and not another in a nice unopened box. Note David's comment on the Yukon spotters variability. maf
mike a feist
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Post by mike a feist »

A question re filters generally. Obviously most filters used for astronomy screw in to the 1.25 eyepiece, and obviously you cannot use these if you have spotting scopes with integral eyepieces. However there is a large thread in the front, which holds the objective lens retaining rings ...obviously 50mm, 60mm etc. Are any filters available that could be screw fitted therein. Just a though. maf
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