Finally got off my arse the other day and went to see the Northern Harrier in Norfolk. Here's my best efforts.
The light was shit and it was windy as hell making it impossible for someone of my dubious photographic ability to hold the damn thing steady, I really am getting sick of the whole camera thing I'm shit at it! Mind you my stuff is better than the crap Robin and Pheasant pics Towel and Jack took whilst my back was turned, fuckin camera saboteurs!
Despite the terrible pics you can see how distinctive this thing is. The most notable thing being the dark oily upperpart tone with rusty covert patches ( I didn't get a shot showing the uppers tho) but the peachy belly with limited streaking confined to the breast band and axillaries and the hooded effect were all obvious enough too.
After the Harrier we went to Cley seeing a Rough leg en route and the septic Wigeon. The rest of the lads went to see the Shorelarks on the beach whilst I went to look at Scopes at Cley Spy.
I was surprised that the Cley Spy shop at Cley visitor centre has none of the top scopes in stock and you have to go to the other shop in Glandford where you can look at no birds and one Oak tree, it is a very nice Oak and to be fair probably offers a good subject to test how the scopes resolve detail with it's gnarly bark.
Anyway once there I got the Kowa 883 20-60, new Zeiss 85 20-75, Leica 82 and the Swarovski HD 80 both with 25-50's all lined up. The first thing which struck me was the yellow cast on the Zeiss funny thing is I have a 65 Zeiss and have never noticed it. Later I compared it to Jacks Swaro 65 and it's definitely there, in isolation you don't notice it but it's really obvious in direct comparison.
Anyway back to the big uns. The other 3 are all pretty neutral in colour with the Kowa being the warmest. All 4 of them showed some colour fringing when looking at branches etc against the sky but I've never used a scope that didn't show this and don't notice it unless I specifically look for it. The Kowa seemed brighter than the others with the Swaro a close second and the Leica third, the colour cast on the Zeiss made it look the dullest.
When I looked at the Zeiss at the bird fair I couldn't get it sharp and commented on turdborem about this but nobody else had experienced it so I was looking forward to trying it again. Well I still can't get it sharp sorry but this scope is a bit crap, so is the Leica to be honest with a washed out image and very fiddly focus due to no depth of field. The problem is the depth of field, it's too narrow, even at the low end they are much narrower than the Swaro and Kowa, but wind on some mag and you'll spend more time fiddling with the focus trying to get a sharp image than looking at the bird.
I reckon you can get caught up in the minutiae of optics performance and lose sight of the bigger picture. A scope has to be comfortable to use and the Swaro and Kowa are just that. They both have large ocular lenses with good eye relief and the Swaro in particular has a massive depth of field which means it is in focus with no fiddling back and forth on the focus wheel.
I then tried the 30x Wide lenses on the Swaro and Kowa and Zeiss (although the Zeiss lens was second hand) the Leica don't do one and so as it was pretty dull and very fiddly to get sharp I handed it back to be packed away.
The Zeiss still had a massive yellow cast and although brighter and much easier to get sharp than the zoom it has a very narrow eyecup which is much less comfortable that the others so I handed that back leaving just the Kowa and Swaro to fight it out. To be fair it's not much of a fight with the 30's on as the extra 8mm of the Kowa really comes into play and it gives the Swaro a bloody nose. It's a gorgeous piece of kit sharp as a tack unbelievably bright and I prefer the focus wheel position as it allows you to steady the scope whilst focusing with one finger.
So the Kowa wins does it? Er no actually if I was buying one with a zoom the Swaro wins hands down, it's bright and sharp maybe only a percent or two behind the Kowa in this respect but the extra depth of field making it much more user friendly and the huge ocular making it just feel right from the off. Then again although I've got used to a zoom I really like the 30 wide on the Kowa.......decision decisions!