As mentioned previously, I was very impressed with the performance of the new Leica scopes at the BIrd Fair, particularly the new wide angle 25-50 zoom eyepiece. After some deliberation, I decided to get the 65mm version, which arrived at the beginning of the month.
Some years back, I had tried out several of the smaller scopes, and one that had impressed was the Swarovski. At the time, this had the 45x eyepiece fitted, which I did not realise when I first looked through-the image was so bright, and the field so large I assumed that a 30x was fitted. This got me thinking that perhaps a smaller telescope would suit me now that I was spending so much time with photography-walking with an 80mm class scope on a tripod with pan and tilt heads can be awkward, with various bits sticking out and bumping into legs and thighs. Add a camera and lens and the weight starts to be an issue too. The first step to weight reduction took place earlier in the year when I removed the Gitzo pan-tilt head and replaced it with a BH-55 ball head and this proved to be very comfortable when walking with the tripod over a shoulder. Used primarily for photography, the ball head has been quite good with a scope, though the handling technique is rather different.
The first test of the scope was late one evening, when I had a quick look at a Blackbird in the Rowan at the bottom of the garden. Strongly backlit, there was a lot of detail present, with the fine rictal feathers around the bill being easy to see. I did note some purple fringing around twigs against the bright grey sky, but most of this was eliminated when I took my glasses off. I would always expect some fringing due to diffraction effects.
The first proper day out at Cley was not ideal, being bright and sunny, so not really testing for any optical device. I did note however that observing from the north hide at mid-day, never a good idea due to the strong backlighting (usually a case of guess the silhouette) was quite good, with feather detail in such things as female Teal being easy to see. In fact I never had a problem at all with any of the birds.
At Amwell, I was able to compare it with the older Leica 82mm scope with the original 20-60x zoom. I found that there was little or no difference in resolution, to be expected as substantially higher magnifications would be required to take full advantage of the aperture. It was noted on a Hobby perched at 250m that detail was more obvious in the 65mm scope suggesting improved micro contrast, and that the image was significantly clearer and brighter at equivalent magnifications. In fact I was able to discern leg colour, claws and the eye of a perched Hobby some 700m away. Everyone also commented on the significantly improved filed of view- 2.5 degrees at 25x and a whopping 1.5 degrees at 50x.
The filed of view proved to be of immense benefit on the sea watch at Titchwell, where perched in the dunes I was able to see the shoreline and a lot of sky at 25x, and even at 50x, the shoreline and horizon was visible. Here I was able to compare with a Kowa 823 and 20-60x zoom, which was limited mainly by it's small field-zooming in to 60x and the approximate one degree field hindered observations. The dull grey light should in theory have been a problem for the smaller scope, but again there was little in it. As with the older Leica comparison, the image remained clearer and brighter in he 65mm Televid.
I did encounter one major problem though. The rubber coating seemed to be very attractive to sand, and this also collected inside the extended lens shield where the raised lip at the front made removal rather difficult. There is also a suggestion that the lens coatings may, like the older scopes be sensitive to salt water. The hand book does suggest using a filter, so this may be something to be wary of.