Kendric C. Smith

1. My first scope in 1991 was a Celestron C90 with a 30 mm (33x) 0.965" eyepiece; Bogen Professional Tripod 3221 (because it would go up to my height of 6' 8"), and a Bogen 3126 Fluid Head (not in picture).

I bought this because it would do everything, a bad move. The eyepieces are only held in by a thumb screw, and when you throw it over your shoulder to hike, there is a great probability of the eyepiece falling out (it happened but wasn't lost, but the screw was). Also, it was very heavy.

I bought an adapter so that I could mount a camera on it (Pentax K1000). I took some pretty good pictures of birds, but the focus on the scope does not allow a very fine focus, so many of my pictures were a little out of focus. Remember, this scope does everything.

Nevertheless, it is a good scope. At 90 mm it brings in a lot of light. It is now sitting in the living room trained on the tree that our Merlin named Merlie uses every year from about October 20 to March 20 (14 years so far, 2005). You can check out his web site at: Merlie's Web Site

2. I then bought a lighter scope and tripod (1992): Bausch & Lomb "Elite"Zoom 15x-45x 60mm. The tripod and fluid head was a Velbon Vel-flo 9 PH 368 Tripod and Mount. It worked very well, and was light and compact.

I got tired of carrying a scope, however, because I always had to have it set very low for short people, including my wife. This meant that I was always bending way over. It did not have a 45 degree eyepiece. So, I stopped carrying it, and gave this responsibility to my wife. I bought a pair of 15x Cannon stabilized binoculars for me to use as my "scope".

3. The 15x Cannon stabilized binoculars were fine, except that due to their short depth of focus they were of little value for finding small birds flitting about in a near tree. As a consequence I started carrying TWO pairs of binoculars; the Cannons and my old 8x Leicas. The combination worked fine. I remember the strange looks that I got when I stopped in the middle of a jungle in Costa Rica to change the batteries in my Cannon.

4. This combination of binoculars worked for a number of years until I read a review about the new Swarovski HD scopes. The reviewer was ecstatic, so I decided to look into it. I had my chance on a local bird trip when one person had the new scope. We all looked through the scope, and were greatly impressed. On the next local bird trip, there were FIVE Swarovski scopes, including mine.

5. I bought the Swarovski 65 mm HD with a 45 degree eyepiece with 20-60x zoom (~2,5 lbs). I bought a Manrfotto Basic Tripod 3001BN (3.7 lbs, $99) and a Manfrotto Grip Action Ball Head #3265 (1.9 lbs, $91). This head features a joystick grip that will move into any position when it is squeezed. It is really a nice head, but I had to take it off my scope because other people did not know that they had to squeeze the trigger to move the scope, and just tried to grab the scope and force it; not to good for the mount. I had a professional bird guide say the same thing; he had to leave is Ball Head home.

Also, the ball head is not very good for hiking, since it has a tendency to move when thrown over your shoulder, and then the scope bongs you in the back. Other than that, it works really well.

So, I took the tripod head off of the tripod for my Celestron C90 (see above), to mount my Swarovski scope, and put the Ball Head on the Celestron 90 (see above).

Of course, I had to buy an adapter for the Swarovski scope so that it would fit on the old tripod head, and this added more weight. Finally, after a year or so all this weight got to me.

6. A guy in our bird class had the same scope, but he had the Swarovski tripod head (FH101; 1.25 lb)(see picture above), and a new Magnesium/Fiber tripod. The whole thing was very light, compared to mine. I decided what the heck, it is only money. I checked with Eagle Optics (which I highly recommend, having bought a lot of stuff from them) and found to my surprise that the new tripods weigh slightly more than my old aluminum tube tripod, so I kept my old tripod and just bought the Swarovski tripod head ($259). The old Bogen 3126 Fluid Head is stashed in the garage.

Just replacing the tripod head took off over one pound from my scope and tripod, and what a difference one pound makes. It is almost fun to carry a scope now (well maybe that is a little exaggerated).