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Matt:

Before buying, I strongly recommend visiting http://www.allaboutoptics.com/ 
and learning a few basics about optics. I also recommend that you try 
different scopes in the field before spending big bucks on a Zeiss or other 
high end scope. A high end scope should be a lifetime purchase.

There are three ways to try out scopes:

(1) Go out with birders who have the brands you are interested in and use 
them in the field. If possible, go out with a group in which several brands 
are represented and persuade the group to spend a little time making 
comparisons. Most scope owners that I have birded with are interested in and 
will welcome scope comparisons.

(2) Buy a scope from an outfit that lets you try it out. Both ABA Sales and 
Eagle Optics (www.eagleoptics.com) will let you send optical equipment back. 
There is a restocking charge if you don't buy anything. However, the 
restocking charge may be waived if you exchange for another brand of equal 
or greater value. Talk to the sales person about the specifics of the 
restocking policy before you order.

When the scope arrives, (a) perform various tests in the field. I have 
published two articles in Birding magazine, which describe some of the 
standard tests. If you want to read them, email me, and I will send them to 
you. (If several people want to read them, I would be glad to let Patrick 
post them with my other articles on www.mobirds.org).

Remember: A WORLD CLASS SCOPE ON A MEDIOCRE TRIPOD IS A MEDIOCRE SCOPE!

(b) If possible, take your new scope out on field trips with other birders 
who have other brands and compare it to theirs.

(3) Go to a store like Cabelas or Bass Pro that stocks several of the top 
brands and make comparisons in the store. Compare the Zeiss scope to the 
Swarovski 80 mm and the Leica 77 mm. You can mount the scopes on tripods and 
focus on distant objects in the store. THIS METHOD IS FAR INFERIOR TO TRYING 
THE SCOPE OUT IN THE FIELD, but it is better than no tryout.

If you have specific questions, post them to the list. The list has many 
knowledgeable subscribers who like to answer questions about optics and many 
other subscribers who will be interested in the answers.

BTW, although the Zeiss image tends to lose resolution at the outermost 
edges, in my personal opinion it is comparable in quality to the Swarovski. 
If I were buying a new high end scope, I would have difficulty deciding 
between those two. I personally think the Leica is over-priced, but it is 
still a very nice scope and part of what you may be paying for with the 
Leica is its excellent warranty. Kowa pioneered large objective lens scopes, 
but I have been disappointed with their 82 mm model. The differences between 
the former two and the latter two brands are the difference between "very, 
very good" and "very good."

(I have not looked at Nikon's new 82 mm scope and don't know anything about 
it. There was a time when Nikon's 78mm scope was optically the best on the 
market, but it did not sell because it cost a fortune and was not 
waterproof. The Nikon Fieldscope III is probably the best 60 mm scope. The 
new Nikon 82 mm could be a great scope, although I suspect I would have 
heard more about it if it were really as good as the others. The Pentax 
large diameter scope is very good, but it is very large and weighs a ton.)

Good luck!

Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri
[log in to unmask] 

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