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Spotting Scope Comparisons

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Old 01-18-2018, 10:32 AM
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Fork Horn
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I decided it was time to upgrade my spotting scope. I'd had a Redfield for years and then went to the Leupold 12-40 Gold Ring. I wasn't sure which spotting scope I wanted, but after reading several reviews I narrowed it down to the Swarovski STX 65 and the Cabelas Instinct Euro HD 20-70 X 82. The Swarovski sells for $2,298 and the Cabelas was on sale for $1799.99. I ordered the Swarovski and the Cabelas Instinct HD. I spoke with Cabelas and they said I could order the two and keep whichever one I liked best and send the other back.

Over the course of about 2 weeks or so I took all four out at different times of the day, etc. to compare them. Here are my opinions on the differences between the 4.

The Redfield: For someone on a tight budget this scope is actually pretty good. It's relatively small and packs into a day pack quite easily. Optics were quite clear, but of course not compared to the Swarovski or the Cabela's Euro. All in all, it was all right. Low light performance was marginal with the 60 mm objective lens. It performs best at a lower power (20 to 25).

The Leupold 12-40 Gold Ring HD: I've had this scope for a few years now. It's a quality scope, but quite frankly it's not significantly better than the Redfield (to my eye). Again, with the 60 mm objective lens, low light capabilities are ok but not great. I've always had trouble focusing this scope...it's very touchy and I've had to get it exactly on or it's not quite sharp enough.

The Swarovski vs. the Cabela's Euro HD: This is where I struggled a bit making a decision. The Cabelas has the 82 mm objective lens and the Swarovski has the 65 mm objective lens. I was expecting the Cabela's to be significantly better in low light, but that wasn't the case. The two were nearly identical in low light..both were very, very good. As far as clarity/sharpness goes both were excellent, but to my eye I found the Swarovski just a bit better. The Swarovski is a smaller scope than the Cabelas..It would be easier to pack although neither are small. I found the focusing on the Cabelas to be a bit more sensitive than the Swarovski.. Like my Leupold, I had to get it exactly on for a crisp clear view. The Swarovski seemed to focus easier for me. After taking them out and comparing them several times I finally decided on the Swarovski even though it was about $500 more. I found a group of deer about 400 yards away with 4 bucks in the group and with the Swarovski I could clearly count the tines with no problem. With the Cabelas I could count the tines, but it was a bit more difficult. That pretty much sold me on the Swarovski.

Obviously, I didn't expect the Redfield or the Leupold to compare well with the Swarovski and the Cabela's Euro. As everyone knows, with optics you definitely get what you pay for but not everyone can afford a top end spotting scope. I couldn't when I bought the Redfield and later the Leupold....the money just wasn't there.

What I did find is that with all spotting scopes you are going to have some distortion on certain days and especially at higher powers. None of these scopes will eliminate that problem. On days that are warm you are going to have "heat waves" to deal with. Same with the glare off of snow at times.
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Old 01-18-2018, 05:19 PM
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There is nothing like a side by side comparison in real world situations to make a true judgement on what is best. No surprise that Swarovski won but great to hear someone who doesn’t have an agenda do the comparison!
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Old 01-18-2018, 08:44 PM
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Originally Posted by glasser View Post
There is nothing like a side by side comparison in real world situations to make a true judgement on what is best. No surprise that Swarovski won but great to hear someone who doesn’t have an agenda do the comparison!
I was really hoping the Cabela's HD would be equal to the Swarovski as it would have saved me about $500, but it wasn't quite there...close, but not quite. I actually asked one of the customer reps at Cabelas which scope had the higher quality glass and he said Swarovski, which did surprise me a bit. When not on sale, the Cableas Instinct HD is priced higher than the Swarovski. I considered looking at the Swarovski 80, which is another $600 or so more than the 65, but I'd seen both in a sporting goods store and felt the 80 was a bit overpriced. The Swarovski 65 should do everything I want a spotting scope to do.

I spend many, many hours here in Montana glassing. A quality spotting scope will not only be less tiring to use, but will save a lot of walking as well. Many years ago I saw a buck walk into coulee about 2 miles away...looked like a very nice buck so I grabbed my rifle and backpack and headed out on a stalk. When I got within rifle range I could see it was a younger buck. If I'd had a better spotting scope it would have saved me not only 4 miles of walking, but a morning I could have spent hunting somewhere else...
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Old 02-07-2018, 01:51 PM
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Your distortion at higher power may just be spotting scope movement. I had guys tell they could see their heart beat on 36 power rifle scope when their finger was on the trigger. You should have better resale value should you want to sell your scope with the swaro. Would have been neat to see if the 80mm swaro blew the cabelas model away. I am amazed at what my leica 70mm can see in low light. Congrats on your new spotter and may you get many years of use from it.
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