Kowa 88mm Spotting Scope Top-Rated

Spotting Scope ReviewIn 2008 the Cornell Ornithology Lab conducted ScopeQuest, a detailed comparison test of 36 spotting scopes. Optics (ranging in price from $220.00 to $4500.00) were viewed side-by-side and rated according to sharpness, color fidelity, edge-to-edge focus, brightness, distortion, and general optical quality. The testing team also considered ease of handling/focus, and eye relief (scopes with longer eye relief are better for eyeglass wearers). Two of the finest spotting scopes AccurateShooter.com has used, the Zeiss Diascope 85 T FL, and the Swarovski APS 80 HD, performed very well as expected, and ended up near the top of the list. The TeleVue-85 APO, a very large refractor, received the highest ratings for image quality (both at 20X and 60X), but lost points for easy of use and general “feel”. The overall winner among the 36 spotting scopes tested was the Kowa TSN-883 Prominar, a new-generation spotter with a huge 88mm objective, dual focusing knobs, and spectacular flourite glass. The results of Cornell’s spotting scope test are found on the LivingBird.org website. Click the link below for a charrt ranking all 36 scopes according to their overall ratings.

CLICK HERE for Spotting Scope Test Summary (.pdf file)

Kowa TSN-883 Prominar
CLICK HERE for large photo of Kowa TSN-883 on Tripod.

Ken Rosenberg, summarizing the findings of Cornell’s ScopeQuest testers, named the Kowa TSN-883 the big winner. Rosenberg writes: “Fifteen models competed in the most expensive category, including 12 conventional zoom scopes and three astronomy “cross-overs”[.] Among the conventional scopes, the surprising (to us) and virtually unanimous top-of-the-line ranking went to the Kowa TSN-883 Prominar. In side-by-side comparisons with Swarovski, Leica, Zeiss, and Nikon, both Kowa scopes provided a slightly, but noticeably, brighter and crisper image at 60x than any other scope. The three-dimensional detail visible … with these scopes, even in dim light, is simply phenomenal.”

Swarovski ATS Spotting ScopeRosenberg also gave high praise to the Swarovski ATS 65 HD, noting that it was much lighter and compact than the Kowa 883, while offering nearly the image quality. Rosenberg concludes: “For birders willing to take the plunge for the very best optics at whatever cost, the top choices, in my view, are either the Kowa 883/884 or 773/774 or the Swarovski HD 80mm or 65mm scopes. Any of these top scopes will give you years of pure birding pleasure. Although the larger Kowa offers the brightest, sharpest image available from a conventional zoom scope under the toughest birding conditions, the small Swarovski still delivers the best image per ounce of any scope.”

More Products Worth Considering
The Cornell Test did NOT include some premium spotting scopes, including Pentax’s top-of-the-line PF-100ED, or the new Leica 82mm Televid APO HD. The big Leica APO is considered by many experts to be the new benchmark for spotting scope quality. However, it is enormously expensive. The 82mm Leica APO HD retails for $3200 for the body only. That’s nearly $900 more than the Kowa TSN-883 Prominar body only.

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