Dear all:

I need anyone with knowledge on this subject's advice asap.  IWe (my parents, my husband and I) are about to purchase a spotting scope, tripod and accessories.  We'd like to get it all in time to try out before our trip to the Rio Grande.  We are going January 9!  Yippee!

After talking to John Solodar, Paul Bauer and others, (and doing some research) we are thinking of getting a: 

1. Swarovski 80 HD spotting scope 

2. Manfrotto Bogen 458B Neotec Pro Photo Tripod (my father likes the rapid opening and closing mechanism - Paul Bauer had one.  But Solodar said carbon fiber was best for a tripod 'cause it holds steady the best in wind. However, this rapid mechanism can only be found on the Bogen, which is an aluminum tripod, not carbon.  I have found no carbon fiber tripod with this same handy mechanism.  Someone needs to bring these two excellent features together.)

3. Manfrotto 322 RC2 Grip Action Ball Head (my dad likes the ease of that as well.)

With no experience really in using a spotting scope, tripod, etc., I wanted to get anyone's opinion on what you think of these choices versus what you'd purchase - or have purchased.  I know others on the list might be interested in the responses I get, so anyone who wants, I will forward you the responses since this might get touchy to discuss on the list, since it might get seen as endorsing a product.  

Please, we are novices to this.  We could use everyone's advice.  We only got to talk to John S. and Paul B. and a few others in passing on a quick Riverlands trip - but now we have got to make some expensive decisions.

Since it's a big expense, I don't want to go too wrong with this.  I want to make an excellent choice as possible.  Who better to ask than those who use them?  If anyone has tips on how to get deals on these items, that'd be much appreciated. 

If you know where we could look at any of the aforementioned items locally, that'd be exciting.  I also don't know how well this grip action works versus other tripod heads.  Any knowledge on that?  

Any and all advice is very welcome.  We want to act quickly on this as our trip is fast approaching January 9.  So we need to order items, figure out how to use them once we receive them, try them out, etc. all before then.  

If there are other accessories we need to think about, please give advice on that, too.  

Thank you so much,
Chris McClarren

The Audubon Society of Missouri's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
ASM Fall Meeting: September 25-27 at Lake of the Ozarks State Park