HR ED Fieldscope Reviews
Binomania - March 2015
Opticron HR 80 GA ED
Links to external website
Birdwatch Magazine - April 2011
Tools Of The Trade
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Richard Bonser - July 2010
I’ll admit, I have been an ‘optics snob’ for the past decade. I’ve followed the crowds of the optics elite, armed with a top end pair of binoculars and telescope. And so when Opticron employee Chris Galvin offered me the chance to trial the HR66 ED fieldscope, I politely accepted with intentions to compare it to my Swarovski ATM 65 HD. A tall order indeed...
For those who don’t know me, I’m not one of these birder types who goes home with polished optics. My scopes regularly get bashed against styles and sodden whilst seawatching in inclement weather and one even rolled off the roof of a car and onto the asphalt of an Egyptian road. So priority number one was the HR66 ED needed to be durable!
Only a couple of days after being entrusted with it, I headed off to County Clare for my annual pilgrimage to watch seabirds. In driving rain and gale force westerly winds, the HR66 ED passed its first test with flying colours; even in the most appalling weather conditions, it was watertight. The objective lens remained in excellent condition despite more than regular cleaning, unlike some models where salt spray and lens cloths have eroded the protective coating on objective lenses. Similarly, in the hot environments of the Moroccan Sahara and the windswept Atlantic islands of the Azores and Madeira, I have had no issues with my new scope.
So, secondly, what about the optical quality? It was immediately obvious that the HR66 ED was a high quality scope, and that Opticron had done a good job in producing a crystal clear image. I was given a fixed 20x wide angle lens along with an 18-54x SDL zoom. Inevitably the clarity of the fixed lens was superior to the zoom, but only slightly, and this is the case whatever scope you have. Testament to the build quality, at 54x magnification in good light, focusing was exact. Naturally in poorer light conditions (for example when looking at roosting gulls on a November evening), exact focusing with the upper magnifications of the zoom faded away but this is an inevitable consequence of any zoom eyepiece and its light gathering capacities.
My good friend John Archer has helped trial the scope with me, and we’ve occasionally stood side by side over directly comparing the HR66 ED with the Swarovski ATM 65 HD. Given the price differential being upwards of £1000, my immediate reaction would have been to presume a noticeable difference. But there really isn’t, particularly in good light where there is no difference in image quality. The HR66 also benefits in having a ‘traditional’ feel - with a user friendly focusing wheel and at just over a bag of sugar in weight and being less than a ruler in length, there’s no real weight to lug about and it fits nicely into your hand luggage for foreign travel.
The large diameter of the eyepiece also comes into its own; it gives the HR66 ED a really robust feel as well as being excellent for digiscoping (at least with my trusty Samsung NV3).
But did I have any issues? In all honesty, just the eye release on the eyepiece tended to loosen and slip now and again. But with only this extremely minor issue in 12 months of good use, it really is an endorsement of Opticron and their HR66 ED product.
Prior to being the proud user of Opticron’s HR66 ED, it would have taken a lot for me to even consider using a different scope. However I have been immensely impressed with the clarity, sturdiness and overall quality of the HR66 ED and would thoroughly recommend it to any birdwatcher looking for a competitively priced, high quality scope. I’d go as far to say that for what you get in terms of quality to price ratio, this may well be the market leader. Another successful job Opticron!
Richard Bonser has been birding for over twenty years and currently sits on the rarity committees for Kent and Greater London; he is also the Inner London bird recorder and a committee member of the Ornithological Society for the Middle East.
He writes a monthly news column for Birdwatch magazine and his articles and photographs have also appeared in Birding World and Dutch Birding. Richard’s passion for birding in the Western Palearctic has seen him accumulate an enviable list including some rarely seen species, while he maintains a passion for spending time on his local patch in Central London.
Richard Bonser - May 2011 (update)
Now that those long winter days are past, spring light brings a whole new meaning to the HR66 ED. Not that I’m saying that it struggled with the winter gloom – it didn’t, and even on the gloomiest mid December day, functioned on a par with its more expensive competitors. The snow over Christmas forced many birds into more urban areas, and despite the glare from the increased albedo, image quality did not suffer from burnout. In layman’s terms, the whiteness of the snow didn’t affect the clarity of the image – another major strength and tick for the HR66 ED!
A lot of my birding is spent looking at The Thames, and though most of the time is spent using the trusted eyepiece over muddied waters, any hint of action is easy to focus on or zoom into using this scope. Just the other week, a small dark duck flew by on the far side of the river; immediately switching to the HR66 ED brought into focus a smart male Mandarin – capturing the vivid colours, and ensuring good views of this first record for the site in over 25 years!
In an earlier review, I wrote about the build quality and exceptional value for money. My opinions have not changed on this count, but more field usage has not taken its toll on the optical quality. Despite the odd bash against a style, the HR66 ED remains optically as fine as it did when I received it. What’s more, the casing is both waterproof and protects the internal optics from the usual wear and tear of field use.
To conclude this quick update, I’m still finding theHR66 ED a pleasure to use – the lightweight build perfectly suitable for walks, or occasionally, cycles along The Thames. And even for my travels abroad, Opticron have designed a scope that is fit for purpose and is exceptionally good value for what you get. A lot can happen in a year or two, but the HR66 ED hasn’t aged at all... and still remains a high quality, affordable fieldscope.
Steve Young - June 2009
Review published in Outdoor Photography magazine June 2009
Many readers of OP will have an interest in birds, most of those will own binoculars and probably a small percentage will also use a telescope. But as well as their “made for purpose” use of watching birds from a distance, many models of telescope can also be converted into a telephoto lens by use of a photo-adapter.
This has become very popular amongst birders and is known as digiscoping, but this usually refers to a compact camera being used. But it is also possible to use a digital SLR in the same way and I tested this system using my Nikon D300 and the Opticron HR66 telescope, plus the photo-adapter 40125.
Firstly, used simply as a telescope this is an excellent model and will not let you down, the optics providing a sharp, clear, bright image in a compactly designed body. Colour rendition is excellent and field of view very good with the 18x-54x zoom eyepiece, with full field of view even for spectacle wearers thanks to the rotating eyecup. (It should be mentioned that the telescope is available as an angled and straight version; I found the straight version easier to use as a lens than the angled, other users may differ)
But, how does the telescope perform as a telephoto lens? The first thing you have to remember is that this is not an auto focus lens; once the camera is attached via the photo adapter and T-mount all AF camera functions are lost and only manual focus is possible. The telescope becomes the equivalent of an 800mm f12 lens when used on a full frame digital camera, or a film body. Add to this the magnification factor of many digital bodies, such as my D300’s 1.5x, and the focal length is effectively increased to a 1200mm f12 lens.
But this power and high magnification also leads to problems of camera shake and it is possible that users may have to upgrade to a sturdier tripod. Using a high ISO setting of at least 400 is recommended as this will enable a faster shutter speed to be used to reduce the shake. The aperture is fixed at f12; I say aperture, but in effect there is no effective aperture ring or dial, so all exposure adjustments are via the shutter dial.
When looking through the “lens” it is a relatively dark image when compared to a photographic lens and focusing is critical at this high magnification, but with practice and patience good results are possible. I was surprised at how quickly I adjusted to manually focusing again and the memories came flooding back of years gone by with an old 600mm lens trying to focus on fast flying birds…lots of wasted film! But with no film to worry about now I could just concentrate on the birds and the focusing
I was pleasantly surprised by the results as I checked the camera screen; images looked sharp with good colour reproduction, but they would need to be looked at more carefully later at home. I needn’t have worried as what looked good on the camera still looked good on my laptop and only my usual minor adjustments in Photoshop needed to be done.
I tested on both dull and sunny days, using ISO400-800 settings and although there were lots of blurred images (there always are anyway…!) there were plenty of good ones, including flight shots.
If you own a telescope then the addition of a photo-adapter will not break the bank and will add a telephoto lens to your kit; if you have an interest in bird photography and use a mid-range zoom then buying a telescope that is suitable to use as a lens may be a far cheaper alternative than paying thousands for a 500mm lens.
|D300 attached to telescope: By using photo-adapter model 40215 that fits to the telescope body and then to the camera via a T-mount, it is possible to convert the telescope to a powerful 800mm manual focus lens.||Little Grebe: This Little Grebe was photographed at a distance of about twenty metres, shooting at 1/1000th second on ISO 800, using a Nikon D300 and the Opticron HR66 telescope.|
|Common Tern: Flight shots are more difficult but with practice, patience and a little luck with the wing position good results can be obtained. Although taken on a dull day with a shutter speed of 1/800th second the Common Tern has a good level of sharpness.||Common Sandpiper: This shot was taken at my local nature reserve at a difficult angle through the hide’s side window. I had to balance the scope and camera on the ledge as it was too awkward an angle for a tripod to be used. I took a quick series of six shots as the Common Sandpiper walked past the window shooting at 1/640th second on ISO800. Considering the balancing act I had to perform and having to support the set up on a ledge instead of a tripod the results were very impressive.|
|Grey Heron: Taken at a distance of about one hundred metres, this Grey Heron liked to stay hidden…|
Steve Young has been a professional photographer for sixteen years, specialising in birds and has become one of the UK is best known bird photographers.
He writes a regular monthly column for Birdwatch and Outdoor Photography magazines and has written two books on bird photography.
His images have been used in countless books and magazines worldwide.