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A device that's used in observation must score highly in at least three key areas to be considered truly useful. A portable, durable and optically clear fieldscope will soon become an indispensable tool for the twitcher, astronomer and nosey neighbour alike! I myself fall into the former two categories (but that's only because of the subpoena, prohibiting me from the third). No, Not really of course, but whatever your monoculous needs, the ES by Opticron is a great place to start.
Setting itself apart from the competition, the ES manages to unite the big three together under a price tag that, whilst cannot be considered cheap, is certainly commensurate to it's quality. At just shy of £400 there's no denying the ES is a substantial outlay, but, with Opticrons triple lens design and their F-type multi coatings you can be sure it's a worthwhile one.
Made from a combination of aluminium and a Lexan like polycarbonate the body of the ES is not only strong but lightweight to, at just under 1.5kg (1484g) the whole scope weighs about the same as a bag of sugar. A tactile rubber 'armour' covers the body and ensures the scope will remain undamaged in all but the most forceful of accidents and although I've never dropped mine, I feel reassured by its presence.
At 390mm the scope is easily transported from A to B and when it's bantam weight is taken into consideration it makes an excellent scope for travelling with, fitting easily into any backpack or holdall.
So the ES is portable, it's also durable, but the criteria of arch importance for a fieldscope is the clarity of its optics. While the ES does suffer from mild chromatic abberation (a faint purplish glow around the observed object) and at higher magnifications views become slightly less crisp, less well defined, when we consider the scope within the context of its price bracket it can still be considered a strong performer. With excellent colour rendition (once you get used to the CA) and a range of eyepieces to choose from you'd have to spend considerably more to find a better fieldscope.
With a pleasingly responsive focusing knob, a portably sleek profile and an optical system that performs well within the arena of its price range, the ES 80 is an excellent choice for anyone who needs to cover long distances with their eyes.
I'm a keen birdwatcher and am lucky enough to live near the Wirral coast with its lovely beaches, fantastic wildlife, and Cheshire's own island, Hilbre. The main optical item birdwatchers use is, of course, a pair of binoculars. For sea watchers, hoping to see skuas, terns, seals, and (occasionally!) cetaceans, a telescope is a must, however.
Animals observed during sea watching can be up to a mile away. To have any chance of identifying what's in the view, and to get as good a look as possible, a large telescope is recommended. In other words, for observing from the shore, aperture is king!
A scope with an objective lens of at least 80mm will give the best possible light gathering and magnification capability. There is a downside to this; a big telescope needs a sturdy tripod which means weight. If you're going to be walking a long distance during the day, a telescope as light as possible is desirable. If you pick one that's too heavy, and carry it all day on your back, you could end up walking a bit like the Hunchback of Notre Dame!
I chose the "Opticron ES 80 GA SD/45" telescope (as an aside, I just love the imaginative names that optical equipment manufacturers give to their products!) as a good compromise between price, size and weight.
First impressions of this scope are positive. It looks bulky but quite futuristic. The dark grey colouration makes it appear quite high tech. I purchased a wide angle zoom eyepiece to go with the scope giving magnifications of 20-60x. The total price for this was £550. This is a mid range scope, there are more capable, expensive scopes on the market ranging up to £1500 (far more than I was prepared to pay).
Optically, the ES 80 GA is a capable performer. The 80mm aperture gives a superb light gathering ability which means that it's able to resolve details on far away objects even in poor light. The scope is waterproof so can be exposed to the elements (although a cover or bag to transport it in is advisable). The focus control is well placed on top of the scope and moves easily (but not too freely that you cannot control it).
With the 20-60x eyepiece, the wide angle view is impressive. Looking through the scope is like looking into another, magnified world (narrow angle eyepieces give a view that akin to looking through a tube).
The view at lower magnifications is bright and clear and an amazing amount of detail is apparent. The view is slightly 'soft', however. Higher magnifications reveal the scope's weakness. The view becomes even softer, duller, and 'muddy'. The extreme end of the zoom should therefore only be used in emergencies.
The other weakness of the scope is chromatic aberration. This is very apparent when there are areas of high contrast in the view. This shows as purple edges to objects and is not only distracting, but hides detail in what you're trying to see. The amount of chromatic aberration is acceptable in a scope of this price range, however. More expensive scopes use "extra low dispersion" lenses which reduce colour fringing to an absolute minimum. These lenses are complex to manufacture, and can double the price of a telescope in which they're used.
I've owned this scope for two years now, and have used it in many different places and weather conditions. It is reasonably priced (it's currently available for £282 without an eyepiece from Warehouse Express), and reasonably capable and can be recommended to the buyer who wants a mid range telescope of this size.
I have since compared it to the more expensive Leica and Swarovski products and it suffers by comparison. These top end scopes give, what can only be described as a perfect view. If you're looking to buy a telescope, make sure you don't want or need the more expensive versions before purchasing this one.