Optolyth Collapsible Spotters

 
Optolyth Collapsible Spotting Scopes
It has been some time since I looked at these spotters, but for some reason I never published a review on them.  I suppose it just fell through the cracks, somehow.

They came up in a recent thread, so I figured I might as well pull up my notes and compile my observations.
The two Optolyth spotters I looked at were the collapsible 25×70 and 15-45×80 models.

 

optolyth1

 

From left to right: Pentax PF65ED, Optolyth 25×70, Nikon Fieldscope 82mm ED, Optolyth 15-45×80.  Please note that the Optolyth spotters are in the extended position.

 

Here is another shot with the Optolyth spotters collapsed:

optolyth1

 

One interesting observation is how beefy the Optolyth eyepieces are compared to the Nikon.  Unfortunately, the eyepieces on the Optolyth scopes are not removable, so I could not inspect them on both sides, but the lenses looked quite a bit bigger than those on the Nikon, and a bit bigger than the ones in the Pentax as well.  I’ll refer to this difference between eyepieces later again when I touch on eye relief.

 

I think I’ll skip the description of the packaging the scopes come in, since noone (including me) particularly cares what the box looks like.  I will however note that the manual included a plot representative of the spectral profile of Optolyth’s Cerulin-Plus coatings.  Since to get the spectral profiles of other coatings I typically have to dig through a bunch of patents (and even then most are hard to get), I really appreciated that.  The plot below shows the reflectivity of one layer of Cerulin-Plus coating.  An interesting aspect of this profile is the double-dipped shape.  Apparently, the coatings were optimized for maximum transmission in the blue region (~420nm) and green-yellow region (~530-580nm).  Whenever you see a company optimize their coatings for the blue colors, you know they were thinking about low light:

coatings

 

Here is another snapshot from the manual that shows the specs for the scopes:

specs

 

There are two 25×70 models, I looked at the one leftmost in the table (BGA/WW).  The XS model is almost identical except the eyepiece can be stored inside the spotter body for transport.  I have never seen the 30×80 model.  I do not think it is currently imported into US.

 

The 25×70 spotter has a field of view of 50m at 1000m (150ft at 1000 yards for the metrically challenged).

 

For comparison the field of view of the other spotters mentioned at the same magnification (25x) is as follows:

  • Nikon Fieldscope I used for this test is 28 meters at 1000 meters (84ft at 1000yards)
  • Optolyth 15-45×80 is ~37m (111 ft at 1000yards).  The number in the picture is quoted at a bit over 15x, I think.  Besides, the numbers on Optolyth’s German website are a touch different.  110-112 ft at 1000 yards seems about right based on my observations.
  • Pentax PF65ED is ~32.5 meters at the same distance with the XF zoom eyepiece (97.5ft at 1000yards).

My observations at the range confirm the differences in the fields of view.  One thing to note, however, is that all this field of view can be pretty hard to use if the eyepiece does not have enough eyerelief to show the full field of view:

  • Optolyth 25×70 has 20mm of eye relief
  • Optolyth 15-45×80 has 20mm of eye relief
  • Nikon Fieldscope 82mm ED has 15.2mm of eye relief.
  • Pentax PF65ED 20-60×65 has 11-15mm of eye relief.

I have tried to use all four scopes with glasses and without glasses (I normally wear contacts).  The three scopes with variable eyepieces have adjustable plastic eyecups, while the 25×70 has a folding rubber eyecup.  With both Optolyth scopes I was comfortably able to get the full field of view with both glasses and contacts (even at 45x with the variable Optolyth).  With the Pentax XF eyepiece that I was using (Pentax offers a bunch of higher end XW eyepieces with 20mm of eyerelief) I was able to get the full field of view up until about 40x when wearing glasses. 

 

Same for the Nikon: after about 35-40x, I could not get a full field of view while wearing glasses.  Moreover, even with glasses out of the picture, the eyepiece of the Nikon made it very difficult to use, since eye position had to be exactly right and the slightest tremor would “kidney bean” the image.  

 

Pentax, although it has less eyerelief on paper, turned out to be a fair bit more forgiving for eye position than the Nikon (that has been my main source of dissatisfaction with Nikon spotters: excellent image quality, but hard to utilize because of the eyepiece design).  Here is where I come back to the comparative size of the eyepieces: Nikon eyepiece looks minuscule compared to the Optolyth eyepieces.  Pentax is somewhere in between.  Higher end Pentax eyepieces are also a bit bulkier.  It is just easier to make a nice long eye relief eyepiece when you have more real estate to work with (Nikon must have come to the same conclusion since at SHOT 2009 the eyepiece on their new EDG spotter was positively humongous compared to the one on the Fieldscope).

 

This is a bit off topic, but here is where a choice of an eyepiece makes a big difference.  For example, with my Pentax spotter, field of view with XW20 eyepiece is 61m (that is at 19.5x) vs 37m for the variable XF at 20x.  Moreover, that field of view comes with longer eye relief.  Looking at some more Pentax eyepieces, the fixed 28x XW eyepiece has wider field of view than the XF eyepiece at 20x.

 

Before I talk about optics, here are a couple of comments on weight:

 

Collapsible Optolyth spotters are fairly light: 20×75 is about 35 oz and 15-45×80 is about 49 oz.  For comparison, the 65mm Pentax with 20-60x XF eyepiece is about 42oz and the 82mm Fieldscope is about 56oz.  If you are looking for the largest objective lens in the lightest and most compact package, 15-45×80 Optolyth has got to be near the top of the list.

 

Now, let’s talk a little about optics.  In a nutshell, I wish that the Optolyth spotters had ED glass in them.  I have already talked about field of view and eye relief, which are very good.  Depth of field is exceptional as well.  Image quality is generally quite good on the Optolyth collapsible spotters, except for one thing: for the same money or less you can buy a Pacific Rim spotter with ED glass, that will be sharper.  With spotters you really see what Extra Low Dispersion glass does for you. On a sunny day, looking at sharply defined objects, you can definitely see chromatic aberration on Optolyth scopes.  Even the appreciably smaller 65mm Pentax could easily hang with the larger German scopes.  Much larger and heavier Nikon delivered superior image quality.

 

As the light sets, Optolyth scopes did much better, comparatively speaking.  They brought more light to the eye than Pentax and Nikon and their configurations are generally more conducive to low light, especially the 15-45×80 when set to 15-18x.  Another point I have to make is that with their wider fields of view, Optolyth spotters tend to collect a little more light than their narrower FOV brethren.  Quite simply, you are looking at more of the scene with the Optolyth, so you get more reflected light in.  With dimmer lighting and, ultimately, bluer overall color gamut, the chromatic fringing so visible in the middle of the day faded away.

When all is said and done, do Optolyth scopes have their place in the market?  I think they do, but with a few caveats.  First of all, collapsible scopes, obviously are not waterproof.  If you are heading into wet environment, this is not a scope for you.  Dust, I think, can be kept out with reasonable care, so those who need a light and packable scope for drier climates would be a more likely audience.  If you are packing light and need a spotter, collapsible spotters are worth a look.  There are not a whole lot of them on the market: Meopta makes one with 75mm objective lens and two eyepieces (30x and 20-60x) and Swarovski has both 75mm and 85mm ones available as a special order.  I have very little mileage with the Meopta and Swarovski collapsible spotters, and I do not know if they utilize ED glass.  Based on my recollection, I think Optolyth can hold its own against similar designs from Meopta and Swarovski.  I am pretty sure Meopta has narrower field of view than Optolyth (not certain of where Swarovski fits).
 
As far as competition from conventionally styled spotting scopes goes, you can get better image quality for the money from better Pacific Rim scopes.  If you want similar or better image quality in challenging lighting conditions, be prepared to deal with a much bulkier package.  Ultimately, a 75mm collapsible spotter weighs about the same as a 60-65mm conventional spotter and takes a fair bit less space at the expense of waterproofing.
 
If you need a scope for primarily range use, go with a more conventional offering.   If you are backpacking through dry country, Optolyth Mini spotters might work for you.  If you are backpacking through wet and soaked country, look at conventional 50mm to 65mm spotters (13-30×50 Nikon Fieldscope is a surprisngly nice little spotter).
 
I live in Southern California where it rains about two weeks per year if we are lucky, so for me, ultimately, these scopes have a lot of appeal.  However, if I had that option, I would improve two things on these Optolyth spotters: add ED glass and make the eyepieces detachable.
 Posted by at 10:36 pm