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New Swarovski ATM 80 HD review

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  • New Swarovski ATM 80 HD review

    Swarovski ATM 80 HD + 25-50x W eyepiece

    For the past few weeks I have been lucky enough to use the new Swarovski ATM 80 HD coupled with the new 25-50x W eyepiece. By way of a simple review, there’s no point beating about the bush, this new telescope/eyepiece combination from Swarovski is simply superb. Alongside Leica, Swarovski have recently made upgrades to their optical equipment spurred on by both Zeiss and Kowa. Though these upgrades may to some seem like subtle changes to already very good ‘scopes and eyepieces, on the ‘ATM’ Swarovski have improved the body, making it from magnesium, and by improving the glass and coating they have improved the light-gathering qualities compared with the ATS. Furthermore, the ‘W’ eyepiece is totally new, and offers a more limited range in zoom, but a big improvement in the optical quality and angle of view.

    [For more technical details visit here http://www.swarovskioptik.com/en/products/48 - for the body; and here http://www.swarovskioptik.com/en/products/18 - for the eyepiece.]

    The only cosmetic difference anybody might notice on the body is that the sliding objective lens-hood is black, otherwise it is the same sensitive and smooth ‘helical-’ (barrel-) focussing (the only one of the ‘big four’ to use this method of focus). It still has the small device to help with the aim (on the angled scope); the eyepiece still has a bayonet mount that clicks in nicely and smoothly; handily, Swarovski have made the ‘foot’ of the ‘scope the same size as the attachment that fixes it to the head of many Swarovski/Manfrotto tripods, so their is no chance of it (annoyingly) coming loose.

    It is hard to judge any improvement to the body without using an eyepiece on it, and the new 25-50x W eyepiece is amazing. The eye-relief (diameter of the lens) is large, no doubt in order to allow for the fantastic angle of view, which is significantly greater than the Kowa 883 – hence th ‘W’ on it’s name. This large eye-relief initially meant that it took a short while for me to find the perfect placement of my eye, in order to cut out some dark crescental ‘shadows’ I was getting, but I got used to this quickly and there were no further problems.

    Optically, all of the top telescopes are excellent, and the ATM 80HD is, as you would expect, superb. The most significant feature of the 25-50x W is the wide angle of view. This is extremely impressive (e.g. at 25x it is greater than the Kowa at 20x and at 50x it is equal to 38x on the Kowa; in many circumstances (especially seawatching and when digiscoping) I found this an enormous benefit. I got so used to it that I found looking through other zooms sometimes a touch restricting.

    Through the ‘scope, the image is clear and crisp from edge-to-edge, with no distortion of straight lines; at the extreme edge, there is sometimes a very slight colour fringe on dark objects against a bright background, but I have to say that for most of the time this is not noticeable at all (only visible if you really looks for it). As you zoom up, there is a need to slightly re-adjust the focus, but I find this with all ‘scopes, and the depth of field is good – whilst seawatching, the focus was from c.300m to the horizon. The image is almost imperceptibly on the warm side, and looking east across the North Sea, with the sun glinting in the early morning there was no internal reflection at all.

    In summary, optically there is very little to choose between all of the top telescopes, for many it will boil down to personal preference. The one significant advantage to the set-up I have tested is the angle of view that will benefit most birders in their general birding. For those that digiscope, they will find they do not have to zoom in so much to get rid of the vignetting (black circling round the image). I can highly recommend this set-up, but if you find the price too steep for you at the moment, you might seriously starting by getting the new eyepiece.

    Brian Small – August 2009

    [From time to time, I will add to this review some images I have taken through the ‘scope and ‘W’ eyepiece. Here is the first, an unmanipulated image of a Common Tern at Minsmere in July http://surfbirds.com/albums/showphot...334/ppuser/411 - with work these could be vastly improved, but I wanted to show the image without sharpening, etc..]

  • #2
    making it from magnesium
    So if you set fire to it, it'll burn away with fierce white heat . . .

    Oh, and don't spill any vinegar on it, or it'll dissolve

    Comment


    • #3
      Here's another image of the Common Tern, but on this you can see a strange pinky orange worm-like protuberance at the base of the bill. What does anyone think this is?

      http://surfbirds.com/albums/showphot...335/ppuser/411

      Brian S

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      • #4
        could be a water droplet reflecting the colour of the bill,

        Im looking forward to looking through all of the big scopes at the birdfair, i do have another question, but will post that seperately.
        sigpic

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        • #5
          could be a water droplet reflecting the colour of the bill
          Yes, agree.

          I do have another question, but will post that seperately.
          Yeah, where on earth can a person get hold of enough money to get one of these things!!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by MichaelF View Post
            Yes, agree.


            Yeah, where on earth can a person get hold of enough money to get one of these things!!
            Hi Brian / Michael

            thanks for the review

            I guess, like a few others, the price of some scopes puts me right off given that there is an almost imperceptible difference in quality between the best. It's suprising that the market can take these large increases in price but it obviously can. Most birders I know are as tight as anything and hang onto their gear for ages. Is it the grey pound?

            I'm using an old ED78 (£400 bargain from WExpress!) that performs fantastically still but dread the day I have to replace it for something that's four times the price and hardly performs better, if at all.

            F.
            OBC John Peel Awesomeness
            The little things they make me so happy, all I want to do is live by the sea...

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            • #7
              Don't think it is a water droplet.

              Brian S
              Attached Files

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              • #8
                Maybe a part of the tongue.

                JanJ

                Comment


                • #9
                  Interesting review. As has been said, there is so little now between the top-end 'scopes that individual reviews and side-be-side comparisons are becoming less meaningfull. Individuals' eyesight, most of the time, cannot appreciate the subtle differences in colour caste, etc. We are now getting into a game where the price of a new 'scope is equivalent to having your eyes "improved" at a private hospital (cataracts, macular degeneration, etc) - this is something which I am currently considering.

                  Brian's digiscoped shots of the tern are encouraging - they are good, and with better light could have been excellent. I have had a little "fiddle":






                  I cannot determine what that "thing" is beneath the bill; maybe it is a "Punk Bird" with a pierced lower mandible!

                  Colin

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Brian S View Post
                    Don't think it is a water droplet.

                    Brian S
                    Still looks OK for a water drop to me, the pattern of refraction is what you'd expect for a drop in that position.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MichaelF View Post
                      So if you set fire to it, it'll burn away with fierce white heat . . .

                      Oh, and don't spill any vinegar on it, or it'll dissolve
                      I have to agree wholeheartedly with your "tongue in cheek" comments Michael. You would think that when optical products of this degree of sophistification are being discussed then the terminology would be correct (I presume that like me, you were a naughty lad who nicked yards of magnesium ribbon from the chemistry lab and set it alight for "entertainment purposes", in much the same way that we took slugs of pure potassium or sodium metal from the paraffin-filled jar and put them down the sink and then turned the tap on ).

                      The metallic body of this new 'scope is a magnesium alloy (no details are ever revealed but I suspect it is a magnesium-aluminium alloy), presumably the same one used in top-end Pro camera bodies these days. I have just been to the Swaro website and note that it talks only of the new "Magnesium technology".

                      I also note that it states that the lenses are "Flouride-containing HD lenses" - utter bull...., which other manufacturers also use to hoodwink their customers. "Flourite" (calcium fluoride - CaF2) is a naturally occurring mineral which can be ground to create a lens of very low dispersion; it is not an an easy task since fluorite is very soft (hardness 4 on Moh's scale) and has perfect octagonal cleavage which means that the slightest knock and it break (cleaves) internally. This can be redressed by melting CaF2 and reducing its crystalline state to that of a glass (non-bonded ions of calcium and flourine) which does not cleave along planes of weakness. I think that the current method is to mix CaF2 with refined SiO2 (Quartz) to produce a hybrid glass of "high definition" and "low dispersion".

                      "Flouride" is what occurs in toothpaste and London's tap water .

                      Colin

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        you were a naughty lad who nicked yards of magnesium ribbon from the chemistry lab ...
                        Yep, been there, done that!

                        Someone I know had a fluorite lens crack in cold weather, the low temperature was enough to make it cleave. He got it replaced under the guarantee, but was "scopeless" for longer than he liked.

                        Maybe one of these ultra-rich birders could buy a couple of the scopes to obtain metal samples for analysis? Actually, I'll bet the other competing scope manufacturers are doing that right now.

                        Worth adding on the acid solubility point, that seabird poop is also corrosive enough to dissolve magnesium . . . don't take your new swaro scope to a seabird colony!
                        Last edited by MichaelF; August 12th, 2009, 04:17 PM.

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                        • #13
                          So did they give you a free one??..or at least heavily discounted??

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by shearwater2002 View Post
                            So did they give you a free one??..or at least heavily discounted??
                            Hi Shearwater.

                            If this is directed at me (as reviewer), the answer is 'no', I still have my Kowa 883.

                            Brian S

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                            • #15
                              Agree with Jan, this is the bird's tongue:



                              If it was "out" for a short time then that is not a problem, if it was permanently like this then the bird has a problem (swallowed fishing line, etc).

                              Colin

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