It was not that long ago that most people would have said that 50mm
spotting scopes were as dead as a door nail. The big trend was for larger and
larger objectives. 80mmís was even getting to be ho hum. Now, 50mm compact
spotting scopes optimized for use in the field are coming on strong.
These are spotters that are much smaller and lighter than standard and
would be used instead of a pair of binoculars to glass an area while on a hunt.
These new spotters, when equipped with a variable power lens, have a significant
advantage in that, like binoculars, they offer a wide field of view at low
magnifications. However, unlike binoculars, when needed they can zoom in with
much higher magnifications to pick up details like "How many points are on that
deerís antlers". To keep this new class of spotters as light as possible,
smaller lenses are necessary. Indeed, itís the size of the objective that in
most cases, will dictate the size of the whole scope.
The particular scope in question here is the Leupold Golden Ring
15-30X. While not as small as the smallest of this new class of spotters, it
never the less is quite small, especially when compared to the big 80mm scopes
that we so often see on the firing line. Itís approximately 11 inches long, and
more importantly, weighs only 21.5 ounces. This has a lot of appeal to me as my
shooting bag tends to get very heavy with all of the stuff that I apparently
feel I need to haul to the range.
A natural question about performance will immediately arise about any
50mm scope. "Can it do the job?" In answering this question, I need to make a
couple of points right up front. Small size does not = small capabilities and
heavy does not = high quality. Like all Leupold Golden Ring products, this is a
premium quality product that produces premium results. Consequently, I only have
one word for the image that I saw in this spotter - brilliant. I donít know how
the Leupold engineers did it, but image brightness in this little scope is
better than what Iíve seen in an economy, and in even in a medium priced 80mm
product. Iím not joking.
For instance, when you look at a white object, you see white. You
donít see white with a yellow tint, or gray tint, or any other kind of tint.
What you get is pure, unadulterated, clear, bright white. You also get a very
crisp, sharply defined picture all the way across the lens. Colors were true and
vivid and the objects in the image were extremely well defined.
Indeed, when I ran my little resolution evaluation, the compact 50mm
easily discerned the smallest line on the chart (9 point) at 50 yards when I had
things cranked up to 30 power. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find that
there was hardly any difference in brightness between 15 and thirty power. On
most scopes, when you start increasing the magnification, itís like someone is
turning down the lights. Not this time.
This little jewel is made tough for field use. Itís constructed from a
rubber armored carbon fiber (not plastic), is water proofed , and multi coated
(naturally). Three additional things about the scope also appealed to me. One -
the eye relief was a very nice 17 mmís at all powers, so people who wear glasses
(like me) can see the whole image without having to smash an eyeball directly
against the lens.
The second is the fact that the focus knob is at least an inch and a
quarter in diameter and not one of these itsy bitsy little things that are so
often found on spotting scopes. Come on you scope designers! Most of us donít
have dainty little skinny fingers. We have fingers that are, well, robust. (Iíd
never say fat.) Do as Leupold did, and give us focusing knobs we can actually
grip - with gloves even!
The third is that the field of view is a nice wide 13.6 feet at 15X
and nearly 9 feet at 30X. With that kind of a field of view, thereís little
chance your spotter will be looking at one target while youíre shooting on
another - a not uncommon situation when the FOV is too narrow.
Lastly, the scope comes with a padded case that can be attached to
your belt like a holster when you take it to the field and a quick detach carry
strap. An adapter is also provided to mount the scope on any standard tripod.
This is one nifty scope with first class performance characteristics in a small,
light weight package that will do a first class job both in the field and at the