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I want a telescope

- but not an astronomical one

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Tim Stevens25/02/2021 17:23:33
1405 forum posts


As this lockdown runs into the better weather (again) I find myself staring out of my windows (again). My view extends to about 4 miles away along the English-Welsh border, and I need something steadier than binoculars, so I think a telescope on a stand would be very handy.

Most of the auction-style adverts are for gazing at the heavens, but I suspect their magnification is much too high for me. Perhaps something with zoom from 10x to 30x - does that make sense?

I need advice, then, on what to look for, and where to look. And can I get anything useful under, say £100 ?

Many thanks
Regards, Tim

Grindstone Cowboy25/02/2021 17:30:07
558 forum posts
49 photos

Lidl / Aldi sometimes do pretty cheap spotting scopes, which I think would be optically OK for peering at the border, but can be a bit off-putting as the eyepiece is at an angle to the direction you are looking. You get used to it though.


pgk pgk25/02/2021 17:34:21
2073 forum posts
290 photos

If it's only for terrestrial work then consider binoculars on a stand or perhaps a spotting scope and camera tripod or an astronomical scope with an inverting lens.

If planning on sitting comfortably then probably a zoom spotting scope on a table stand might suit. Plenty of all these options on ebay for a price guide.

You're going to need something pretty beefy to see the young ladies 4 miles away.....


Tim Stevens25/02/2021 17:37:34
1405 forum posts

Aha- pgk pgk - perhaps you don't realise that we have one or two exceptionally beefy damsels around here.

Cheers, Tim

Swarf, Mostly!25/02/2021 17:52:20
570 forum posts
47 photos

Hi there, Tim,

I seem to remember that astronomical telescopes give an inverted image.

Best regards,

Swarf, Mostly!

Tim Stevens25/02/2021 17:54:47
1405 forum posts

Hello Swarf mostly

Yes, my understanding too, and that is a very good reason for a non-astro model. Is there a name for the style I want?

Cheers, Tim

Frances IoM25/02/2021 17:57:35
1065 forum posts
27 photos
my Russian spotting telescope goes upto 24x which is considerably more than I can handle without a stand.

In my flat in Peel which looks out as far as the Mountains of Mourne and as far as the Mull of Kintyre I have a considerably larger scope with prism + better optics - you need a very stable tripod with weight balanced mounting (home made) but I can read the names of ships certainly at 2 or 3 miles off shore and on good days even further.

This cost me about ?60 15 years ago from the local photographic shop - if you go this way make sure you can get an adaptor to allow attaching a camera - if I had the money I would go for a binocular system - if you are into bird spotting then a much lower magnification will suffice and be more usable and hand held would be near essential unless you have a local watering hole you can set up a tripoded scope on - if your horizon is just 4 miles then I suspect 24x will be the most needed.

If I can round to it attaching a hi definition PiCamera with a C mount it would make using the scope much easier and allow better photo opportunities -

Edited By Frances IoM on 25/02/2021 17:59:53

Edited By Frances IoM on 25/02/2021 18:20:59

Michael Gilligan25/02/2021 18:01:01
17641 forum posts
810 photos
Posted by Tim Stevens on 25/02/2021 17:54:47:


Is there a name for the style I want?



Spotting Scope is a good general description

Mine has a 45° prism, which can be very convenient



These are the modern versions:

[no idea how the quality compares]

... also worth looking at the Kowa products.

Edited By Michael Gilligan on 25/02/2021 18:26:05

MC Black25/02/2021 18:17:48
155 forum posts

Suggest binoculars with an adaptor on a tripod.

I have a zoom binocular which I use on a “cam cane” - an extendable walking stick with a ball head. There’s a rubber cup attached to the bottom of the adaptor so that’s excellent when I’m out but if stationary a tripos has to be favourite.

With a zoom feature, one can easily find the “target” with lower magnification and then zoom in for higher.


Tom Sheppard25/02/2021 18:34:27
27 forum posts

With old cameras costing pence these days, you might find a cheap SLR with a decently long telephoto, the advantage being a relatively wide aperture, so a fairly bright image.

Tom Sheppard25/02/2021 18:38:33
27 forum posts

Seems on my local marketplace, a 500 mm can be found for about £30.

Edited By Tom Sheppard on 25/02/2021 18:39:39

Mick B125/02/2021 18:47:43
1857 forum posts
92 photos

A long telescope is easier to hold steady at a magnification of 20x upward for exactly the same reason a rifle is easier to shoot accurately than a pistol - length of support base. That's why the old deerstalkers and WW1 - WW2 snipers used 3 or 4 draw-telescopes with a stick for support. I sometimes take a WW2 military Scout Regiment or 1920 Negretti & Zambra 'MacLeod' telescope on walks.

However antique stalking telescopes by Ross, N&Z, Broadhurst Clarkson etc. tend to go for higher prices in nice condition.

Edited By Mick B1 on 25/02/2021 18:49:53

peak425/02/2021 19:20:57
1373 forum posts
157 photos

A "Spotting Scope" is probably the most common term that I'm aware of in the UK.
You very much get what you pay for in terms of optical quality, but since your main use seems to be indoors, you might save some brass by looking at older second hand non-weather sealed scopes.

Again, for indoor home use, size/portability may be less important, and a larger size does make for brighter more relaxing viewing.

My weather resistant 80mm one is an Opticron, which oddly I normally leave at home due to its size.
I also have a couple of older Kowa models which Jane and I use from bird hides.

The latter are noticeably better optical quality, and feature Fluorite Crystal front lenses rather than glass, though being older models aren't waterproof.
I do have a couple of smaller ones for holiday use, but nothing like as good a quality; had they been my only scopes, I could well have been put off the whole idea of owning one at all, whereas I just accept the convenience for travel use.

Prime eyepieces seem to offer better quality than zooms, certainly cheaper zooms anyway, though I do prefer a zoom eyepiece for convenience. The actual zoom eyepiece is often matched to the size of the front element as the overall magnification can vary.

If you're thinking 30x zoom, in the cheaper ranges anyway, maybe look for something with more magnification as many zoom eyepieces will perform better at the less extreme magnifications.

My own scopes are all straight, unlike Michael's 45° prism one; I prefer straight through for home and bird hide use, as I'd normally be sitting down.
The angled ones though really do come into their own when outdoors with a tripod; on the one hand the tripod doesn't need to be as tall to get the scope to eye level, but also you don't crick your neck when looking high into trees.

BirdForum is worth a read for reviews to give you some ideas.

With care you shouldn't need to spend a fortune, if you go second hand, and if you don't like one or want to upgrade, you should be able to cover your costs by selling it on (maybe even make a small profit)


Steviegtr25/02/2021 19:28:10
1969 forum posts
268 photos

Shame you did not live near me in LEEDS. I bought the Aldi complete setup. £24.99. I only bought it for the tripod to use in garage. You could have taken the telescope for free. Amazing how good they are for the money. It has not even been taken out of it's bag. Brother in law bought one as well. Had a look through it & could not believe how good it was.


peak425/02/2021 19:36:39
1373 forum posts
157 photos

Just to follow on from my previous post, "Observation Binoculars" with a tripod mount are another possibility worthy of consideration.
They tend to start at 16 or 20x with wide front elements, so nice and bright to look through.
Zoom and binoculars don't really go very well together in terms of quality, and might lead to disappointment.

Apologies if I'm saying something obvious next;
For either binos, or a scope, it's obviously preferable to view before buying, particularly if you wear spectacles.
This is due to the pupil to eyepiece distance (eye relief) which with some kit can be problematic.
I wear specs, so need eyepieces which will work ok that far away from my eyes.

On the one hand I need my specs to find the bird in the first place, but also have quite pronounced astigmatism, so I need this correcting before using binoculars. It's less a problem with a scope as I'm only using the one eye, so they are not fighting each other to get a clear image.


Edited By peak4 on 25/02/2021 19:49:19

peak425/02/2021 19:45:44
1373 forum posts
157 photos
Posted by Steviegtr on 25/02/2021 19:28:10:

Shame you did not live near me in LEEDS. I bought the Aldi complete setup. £24.99. I only bought it for the tripod to use in garage. You could have taken the telescope for free. Amazing how good they are for the money. It has not even been taken out of it's bag. Brother in law bought one as well. Had a look through it & could not believe how good it was.


When I was working, I kept one of those (or maybe Lidl's) in the back of the BT van for use during lunchbreaks whilst I was out and about, also a pair of the cheap binos.
Like the 10x50 binoculars, the scopes come up fairly regularly, but I found you really do need to try several different ones in the shop to get something good.
From memory, they tend to arrive in the shops in the spring.
If you do select carefully, they are spectacular value for money, but if not, you might end up with headache in ½ hour's viewing.
I keep a pair of the binoculars under the seat of the Disco now, rather than leaving expensive ones around.

For prolonged viewing though I would prefer to spend a bit more, but fortunately, I've been able to do so over the years. Pretty much everything I normally use along those lines has been bought second hand when a bargain was spotted.


Mick B125/02/2021 19:54:09
1857 forum posts
92 photos
Posted by peak4 on 25/02/2021 19:36:39:

Apologies if I'm saying something obvious next;
For either binos, or a scope, it's obviously preferable to view before buying, particularly if you wear spectacles.
This is due to the pupil to eyepiece distance which with some kit can be problematic.
I wear specs, so need eyepieces which will work ok that far away from my eyes.


Absolutely, and it isn't just eye-relief. Colour contrast is perceived differently by different eyesights in ways that may be neurological as much as purely optical. It's worth looking through several scopes and choosing the one that reveals a detail to you that you could still see with other instruments, but didn't previously notice because it was inconspicuous.

Howard Lewis25/02/2021 20:01:57
4662 forum posts
10 photos

It is difficult to handhold 10 x mag steady for for more than a short while.

As the magnification goes up so does the need for a steady tripod to support the optics

Hence the nice big concrete bases used by the O S for trig points.

So if you go for a 20,-45 spotting scope, you will need a substantial tripod to support it unless you could rest a small tripod, with all ,legs retracted, on a firm table.

Could you construct a support that will bolt to the table of the Mill, or the Lathe, for a firm base, so that you could look out of the door or a window?> 150 Kg of iron won't wave much in the breeze.


Howard Lewis25/02/2021 20:17:14
4662 forum posts
10 photos


As the magnification increases, so the field of view decreases,A set of 16 x 50 binos claim a field of view of 163 feet at 1,000 yards., so at 45 x the field of view at 1,000 yds will be about 58 feet..

At 4 miles, (7,000 yards ) to make the maths easy, the field of view will be about 406 feet.


Tim Stevens25/02/2021 20:42:21
1405 forum posts

As a toe-in-the-water exercise, while we are verboten to go al fresco, I have ordered a 'Magnification15-45x Zoom Spotting Scope Monocular Telescope & Tripod' from a base in Leicestershire but a chinese address, at 34 of her majesty's pounds. I am not expecting it to be just what I need, but it is cheaper to try something like this, than tour the country hoping to find a 'just-right' purchase. I will report on progress.

Thanks for all your comments. I was particularly impressed by one of you who said: 'I sometimes take a WW2 military Scout Regiment ... on walks'. Especially as they must all be at least 90 by now.

Regards, Tim

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