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Is it practical to use Televue NP101is as a spotting scope for terrestrial purpose while on travel?

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#1 Spectrum805

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Posted 27 February 2021 - 04:30 PM

I have a Televue NP101is which up till now has been used exclusively on a GEM for stargazing.  I am thinking about using it for terrestrial applications while on car travel, such as for scenery or (near car) bird watching on the road side.  I am thinking of setting up a Alt-Az mount on heavy-duty photographic tripod (such as Gitzo series 5 tripod that only weighs 6-7 Lbs but can carry 88Lbs of equipment).  How long does it take to set up Televue Gibraltar HD5 or HD4, or Stellavue M2C onto a photographic tripod if I have to remove a ballhead first, then put on the telescope, putting in eyepiece, and balancing it?  Can the process be realistically be completed in 3-5 minutes?  Do these two types of Alt-Az mount work well on carbon fiber photographic tripod? 

 

I am think of more like stopping the car on road side at a scenery spot, quickly set up the telescope, viewing and resting for 10-15 minutes, then move on to the next location.  In such an operation mode, if it takes 10 minutes to set up the equipment, it's just not going to happen unless I am traveling solo.  Co-travellers typically would not have the patience to wait for someone to set up a telescope in 10 minutes, and do so repeatedly at each location.  So I want to find an equipment configuration that make is fast enough to be practical.  For that purpose, I am even thinking about a heavy-duty photographic gimbal mount, some of those can be as light as 2.4Lbs but can handle 50Lbs of equipment, so can live on the tripod for other tasks such as photography or birding with binoculars, or short distance hiking, and perhaps save 2 minutes of removing a photographic tripod head to mount a more astronomically oriented Alt-Az mount for terrestrial view.  I already posted the question of what's wrong with using photographic gimbal head on telescope in the "Mount" forum.  The question more suited for this "Refractor" forum is how to best configure a 4" APO refractor for quick and casual road side scenery views.  Are there some general reasons why people sticks to spotting scope for terrestrial applications instead of using a APO refractor they might already have?  FOV-wise, nothing can beat a Televue NP101is, with a 31mm Nagler will give 4.5 degree FOV at 17.5x, with a 21mm Ethos will give a 4 degree FOV at 25x.  Such a FOV would be unheard of with spotting scope.  So my goal is to understand what are the hurdles to make it practical for casual terrestrial use.

 

Thanks!

 

Haibo


Edited by Spectrum805, 27 February 2021 - 04:31 PM.


#2 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 27 February 2021 - 04:39 PM

You view will be reversed with a standard diagonal, and inverted straight through, which may or may not affect birdwatching, but could be a challenge if you try to read a distant sign, unless you purchase an expensive 2 inch erecting prism.


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#3 gwlee

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Posted 27 February 2021 - 04:43 PM

I have used an NP101 on a Gibraltar for that purpose. It worked fine, but a bit large and not as rugged as a spotting scope, so I was careful to only use it in benign environments.

 

I am using a smaller, lighter, and less expensive 72mm f6 ED doublet with a 2” Baader 90* AMICI prism for that purpose now. The AMICI prism gives a correct image. I keep a UA DwarfStar mount on a photo tripod with leg length marked and set. Prism and EP are stored in the scope. Attaching scope to mount takes about two minutes. Don’t think a larger scope with larger, but similar mount would take any longer.  If I used a spotting scope more, I would buy a true spotting scope, but it works fine in benign environments. 

For the way you say you plan to use the scope (viewing roadside scenery), I prefer a binocular that can be used handheld or tripod mounted. My AT72ED2 gives a 4* FOV at 16x with a 27mm Panoptic, which is my favorite terrestrial configuration for this scope. My 10x50 binocular provides a 6.5* FOV at 10x, but using two eyes allows me to more details than I can with one eye at 16x, and the overall viewing experience is more comfortable. 
 

Suggest setting up your NP101 and existing tripod and your 15x56 binocular side by side at a scenic overlook to see which you like better before getting another mount for your NP101. For long range terrestrial viewing with my refractor I usually prefer 16x, and the seeing rarely supports more than 24x. 


Edited by gwlee, 27 February 2021 - 06:00 PM.

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#4 Gastrol

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Posted 27 February 2021 - 04:46 PM

I would just get the right tool for the job.....a spotting scope.    You can even use some of your EP’s, depending on the make of the spotting scope.


Edited by Gastrol, 27 February 2021 - 04:46 PM.

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#5 Alan French

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Posted 27 February 2021 - 05:03 PM

If you don't mind the set up and take down, it will be absolutely fabulous for viewing scenery and birds. If you sit or stand behind the scope and look down into the eyepiece in a standard star diagonal, the image will be right side up and mirror reversed. I do terrestrial viewing with a smaller astronomical telescope so often I am used to the reversed view, and I always move my correct-image spotting scope the wrong way. (The reversed view is not an issue, unless you're trying to read a sign - I've never been tempted or interested.)

 

Some of the high end spotting scopes are excellent, but not quite in the same category as a quality astronomical telescope. Off course, if you want to wander around in the field with a scope, the small size and ruggedness of a dedicated spotter is preferred. 

 

Hawks perched on the radio tower across from the Winter Star Party site and there were a fair number of telescopes, even large Dobs, checking them out during the day. 

 

Clear skies, Alan


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#6 Erik Bakker

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Posted 27 February 2021 - 05:16 PM

Great scope but a bit big as a terrestrial spotting scope while on travel. But if you’re after the unique views it is capable of, well worth it while travelling by car.


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#7 TomK1

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Posted 27 February 2021 - 05:24 PM

Are there some general reasons why people sticks to spotting scope for terrestrial applications instead of using a APO refractor they might already have?    Yes, as stated above it is the right tool for the right job.    I have an older angled 82mm Meopta wa 30 xto 60x nitrogen filled spotting scope on a locking mount attached to a manfrotto tripod.   Set up is a minute.   Wonderful views.   Easy to zoom and easy to focus as an object moves.  No hassle.  Expensive but well worth it.  I carry the parts in a small climbing backpack. For terrestrial/birding, my spotting scope was one of my best purchases.  Although, it's lousy for astronomy.   Hence my Genesis SDF and Pronto refractors. 

 

My spotting scope handles the rigors from handling in any environment.  I would never subject my astronomical refractors and eyepieces to such conditions.  Once I tried using the pronto/ telepod head/ tripod for birding.   Never again.   

 

From  their current web site:  The MeoPro® 80 HD offers high-definition benchmark performance and affordability. Built to our legendary quality standards this newest MeoPro spotter is the perfect optic for observing nature at extended distances.

The large 80mm HD Fluoride objective lens element delivers incredible resolution, brightness and vivid color while eliminating chromatic aberrations (CA) or color fringing in challenging conditions. An integrated 20x – 60x eyepiece reels in distant subjects with incredibly clarity and superb edge-to-edge sharpness. The CentricDriveTM  mid-body focus control is easy to use even with gloved hands and its angled compact, rubber armored magnesium chassis is waterproof, fogproof and built to last a lifetime in the field.

 

I know others on this site use their refractors for terrestrial viewing.  To each their own.  


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#8 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 27 February 2021 - 05:45 PM

I have used a 102mm f/10 Vixen refractor for terrestrial.  It gave great views from a cliff over a large lake, equipped with a 45 degree erecting diagonal and 20 mm eyepiece.  But, for terrestrial viewing, especially in daytime, the magnification that can be effectively used is extremely limited by ground level seeing.

 

Also, using that scope for terrestrial viewing wasn't super rewarding because of the hassle of setup and take down of the scope and substantial mount.  A dedicated spotter would have worked as well, and been much quicker and less trouble to set up and take down.


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#9 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 27 February 2021 - 05:46 PM

Haibo:

 

I have an NP-101.. In my mind, it's just too big and heavy (12lbs) to serve as a quick look, car travel scope. Even with the softcase, getting it out and setup, it's an operation. It takes a real mount so that's another hassle.

 

Instead, I use my William Optics 80 mm F/7 Mergez ll FD.  It's much handier, mounts nicely on a photo tripod and during the day, gives up very little to the NP-101 optically.  One nice thing about the 80 mm is that it's less demanding on eyepieces.. 

 

One the big advantages of an astroscope over a spotting scope is the field of view, 80 mm spotters typically are around 2 degrees, with its 2 inch focuser, the 80 mm will do a binocular like 4.75 degrees, I've had spotting scopes, I have one now but I rarely use them, the 80 mm app is just so much more versatile.

 

Like Alan, I use a star diagonal for terrestrial.. It's more natural since it doesn't require any change from astronomy and I've talked to the birds and they say that as long as they don't have to hang upside down, they're OK if they're looking left instead of right.

 

This photo was taken at the Canyon de Chelly.  It was a half mile walk to the over look. It was easy with the 80 mm mounted sidesaddle on a Bogan 3040, I wouldn't have done it with the NP-101.

 

5504986-Canyon de Chelley Francis.jpg
 
Jon

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#10 Alan French

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Posted 27 February 2021 - 05:54 PM

Jon makes some good points. Something smaller and lighter would be quicker and easier to set up, especially if you have impatient co-travelers.

 

Clear skies, Alan


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#11 stomias

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Posted 27 February 2021 - 06:42 PM

Shoot....My SV 102ED was great above Flathead Lake Montana!!!

DSC 6876 copy
 
 
Day AND night!
DSC 7294 copy

 


Edited by stomias, 27 February 2021 - 06:46 PM.

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#12 Gastrol

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Posted 27 February 2021 - 07:31 PM

The OP also mentioned hiking with his scope.  I regularly hike down to the local park with my 65mm spotting scope and monopod for bird watching.  
My ES82*/14mm gives me 28X mag which is about perfect for me.   I absolutely do not need a larger scope than this when hiking, in fact I’m in the market for a 50mm spotter.   
I used to use my TV Pronto for terrestrial use but it was too heavy and cumbersome as a carry around spotter.
 

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#13 Spikey131

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Posted 27 February 2021 - 07:51 PM

The NP101 is the best spotting scope in the world.......until you need to carry it somewhere.

 

If you can work out the logistics, you will be very happy.


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#14 gwlee

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Posted 27 February 2021 - 08:34 PM

 

Like Alan, I use a star diagonal for terrestrial.. It's more natural since it doesn't require any change from astronomy and I've talked to the birds and they say that as long as they don't have to hang upside down, they're OK if they're looking left instead of right.

 

 

Jon,

 

I also find pointing the scope at birds with a star diagonal natural because I do more astronomical viewing than bird watching, and I agree the birds have never complained. However, I find star diagonals suck for some terrestrial viewing tasks that I do.

 

For example, drawing a diagram of a long distance terrestrial view. All the important features that I see in the scope must be drawn as a reverse image. Invariably, the mental gymnastics required results in me putting some important feature on the wrong side of the drawing. With an AMICI in the scope, I simply draw what I see, which requires no left/translation and results in fewer mistakes. 

 

Sometimes, I need to estimate the angular relationships between several objects and estimate the distances between the objects (similar to estimating position angle and separation of multiple stars), then make calculations based on these estimates, which is a nightmare when everything I see in the scope is bassackwards. With an AMICI, which readily, available, the work is faster, much easier, and more accurate. And, when I point the scope at birds, the birds don’t complain about an AMICI either. 
 

Here’s how I see it:

Just because something can be done the hard way isn’t a good reason to do it the hard way. I doubt anyone would buy a spotting scope today with a reversed image because it’s an obvious drawback. I certainly wouldn’t, and I doubt you would either. Neither do I want to deal with a reversed image when I using an astronomical telescope as a terrestrial spotting scope, and I don’t need to because high quality AMICI prisms are available, so I don’t.

 

I think we agree that an astronomical telescope makes a better spotting scope than a spotting scope makes an astronomical telescope, and I believe that a good AMICI makes an astronomical telescope an even better spotting scope. 


Edited by gwlee, 27 February 2021 - 08:40 PM.

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#15 gwlee

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Posted 27 February 2021 - 08:54 PM

Are there some general reasons why people sticks to spotting scope for terrestrial applications instead of using a APO refractor they might already have?    Yes, as stated above it is the right tool for the right job.    I have an older angled 82mm Meopta wa 30 xto 60x nitrogen filled spotting scope on a locking mount attached to a manfrotto tripod.   Set up is a minute.   Wonderful views.   Easy to zoom and easy to focus as an object moves.  No hassle.  Expensive but well worth it.  I carry the parts in a small climbing backpack. For terrestrial/birding, my spotting scope was one of my best purchases.  Although, it's lousy for astronomy.   Hence my Genesis SDF and Pronto refractors. 

 

My spotting scope handles the rigors from handling in any environment.  I would never subject my astronomical refractors and eyepieces to such conditions.  Once I tried using the pronto/ telepod head/ tripod for birding.   Never again.   

 

From  their current web site:  The MeoPro® 80 HD offers high-definition benchmark performance and affordability. Built to our legendary quality standards this newest MeoPro spotter is the perfect optic for observing nature at extended distances.

The large 80mm HD Fluoride objective lens element delivers incredible resolution, brightness and vivid color while eliminating chromatic aberrations (CA) or color fringing in challenging conditions. An integrated 20x – 60x eyepiece reels in distant subjects with incredibly clarity and superb edge-to-edge sharpness. The CentricDriveTM  mid-body focus control is easy to use even with gloved hands and its angled compact, rubber armored magnesium chassis is waterproof, fogproof and built to last a lifetime in the field.

 

I know others on this site use their refractors for terrestrial viewing.  To each their own.  

A person who needs to use a spotting scope a lot, especially in adverse conditions such as rain, snow, and blowing dust that can quickly damage an astronomical refractor will probably be better served by a true spotting scope.

 

An astronomer who does a little terrestrial viewing in a benign environment and only wants to own one scope will probably find a small astronomical scope is the right tool for the job. 


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#16 gwlee

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Posted 27 February 2021 - 09:58 PM

At one time, I did a lot of spotting in harsh conditions using  a Kowa 80mm spotting scope that was mounted a light aluminum photo tripod with a photo head. These days, I use my 72mm f6 ED doublet on the same mount as a spotting scope occasionally. The 72mm scope itself weighs a bit more than the 80mm Kowa, but setup time is the same, very fast. It’s very easy to take in the car, and I will occasionally hike 1-2 miles with it if sufficiently motivated. The OTA  goes in a hiking daypack, and the tripod sits on my shoulder. All together, it weighs about 14#. 

 

When I had an NP101 on a Gibraltar mount, set up took a bit longer, and I thought the scope was larger than a spotter needs to be, so I wouldn’t recommend buying it for spotting, nor would I recommend spending $1,500 for a mount/tripod to turn it into a spotter, but I would use it in benign conditions if I still owned it and didn’t have anything more suitable. Same goes for the 92mm f6.7 refractor that I have now. With its DM4 mount on a wooden surveyor’s tripod it weighs about 29#. Either would be useable from a parked car at a scenic over look, but I think my 72mm f6 ED doublet is a much better suited for this purpose. 


Edited by gwlee, 27 February 2021 - 10:04 PM.

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#17 bobhen

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Posted 28 February 2021 - 08:11 AM

Possible, of course. Practical, probably not.

 

Many years ago I took a TV Genesis on a plane out west. I rented a car, traveled to a dark New Mexico site and did some observing. When I got back, the Genesis was out of collimation - so there’s that. 

 

In addition, I would hate to have my multi-thousand dollar telescope damaged by the rougher circumstances that can occur during travel.

 

After my TV experience I used a fine but much less expensive 80mm refactor, which was great during the day but left me a little wanting when I used the scope at night for astronomy.

 

I ended up using a very inexpensive 102mm F5 achromatic refractor for air and travel to dark sky locations. What made the 102 F5 achromat perfect for “my” needs...

 

1. Stopped down to 60-80mm for daytime spotting and using 25-60x color is greatly reduced and not an issue. The lens on my example, and from reviews of others, is very sharp. Daytime seeing is bright but turbulent so large aperture and high powers are not usually useful or needed.

 

2. The 102 F5 was, and still is, very inexpensive so not a multi-thousand dollar loss if damaged. Even some cosmetic damage is not a worry, as it is with a more expensive telescope.

 

3. The 102 F5 is very compact and lightweight, I took my OTA and a tripod and an alt/az mount all on a plane in the overhead compartment along with a week’s worth of clothes.

 

4. The scope is rugged and I never had an issue with collimation.

 

The 102mm F5 can use a variety of accessories: 2" eyepieces, 2" diagonals, optical finders, red dot finders, etc.  

 

5. At night the light gathering capability of 102mm over 80mm was greatly appreciated.

 

A 102mm fast ED refactor might be a consideration but would become redundant at home with your TV 101.

 

Hope this helps with your decision.

 

Bob


Edited by bobhen, 28 February 2021 - 08:12 AM.

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#18 Spectrum805

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Posted 28 February 2021 - 11:53 PM

 

Shoot....My SV 102ED was great above Flathead Lake Montana!!!

 
 
 
Day AND night!
 

 

 

Stomias,  Your set up looks great!  I had a similar experience looking down from an ocean side cliff at a beach hundreds of yards away, with waves after waves of ocean water crashing toward the beach in a very wide FOV of a 80mm APO telescope operating at 22x mag.  It's this kind of mesmerizing view that motivated me to think about potentially using astronomical telescope for terrestrial uses, since I would already be carrying the same telescope for stargazing anyway. 

 

I would like to thank all the people who kindly replied and shared their valuable experiences and perspectives.   When I synthesized these opinions in my head, I come to the conclusion a Televue NP101is would be too large for road side view (it would be practical if I am already settled at the final destination of the day in a semi-stationary environment). So I will concentrate on using my Orion ED80T-CF 80mm f6 APO instead (the one that gave me the view cited above, ~8Lbs when a 2" diagonal and a 13mm Ethos eyepiece is added) to construct a more portable "road-side on vacation" solution that include a photographic gimbal mount attached to a heavy-duty photographic tripod, to be shared between (1) My camera with 70-200mmf2.8 zoom and 2x teleconverter (2) My 15x56 binoculars on central screw tripod holder (3) this 80mm APO telescope at 37x mag.  If (2) is satisfying enough, the (3) would not be need.  If I come across anything particularly exciting, the swapping (2) for (3) would only be an additional minute since both are on interchangeable arca swiss plates.

 

Thanks!

 

Haibo


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#19 Spectrum805

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Posted 28 February 2021 - 11:57 PM

The OP also mentioned hiking with his scope.  I regularly hike down to the local park with my 65mm spotting scope and monopod for bird watching.  
My ES82*/14mm gives me 28X mag which is about perfect for me.   I absolutely do not need a larger scope than this when hiking, in fact I’m in the market for a 50mm spotter.   
I used to use my TV Pronto for terrestrial use but it was too heavy and cumbersome as a carry around spotter.
 

What held the ES eyepiece in place behind the 60mm spotting scope?  Was there a fastening mechanism similar to the "set-screw-on-compression-ring" in a telescope star diagonal?  Thanks!



#20 Gastrol

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Posted 01 March 2021 - 12:25 AM

What held the ES eyepiece in place behind the 60mm spotting scope?  Was there a fastening mechanism similar to the "set-screw-on-compression-ring" in a telescope star diagonal?  Thanks!

Pentax spotting scopes use standard 1.25” twist lock receivers, therefore no “astro adapter” needed to use any 1.25” astro eyepiece.   I think Pentax is the only make with this feature and the primary reason why I chose Pentax spotters.

 

Edit:   Celestron Regal ED spotting scopes also have 1.25” eyepiece mounts.


Edited by Gastrol, 01 March 2021 - 09:00 AM.

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#21 25585

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Posted 01 March 2021 - 04:50 AM

The APM roof 2" Amici RACI diagonal is excellent with my Genesis, terrestrial & astro.


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#22 ButterFly

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 06:08 AM

Stomias,  Your set up looks great!  I had a similar experience looking down from an ocean side cliff at a beach hundreds of yards away, with waves after waves of ocean water crashing toward the beach in a very wide FOV of a 80mm APO telescope operating at 22x mag.  It's this kind of mesmerizing view that motivated me to think about potentially using astronomical telescope for terrestrial uses, since I would already be carrying the same telescope for stargazing anyway. 

 

I would like to thank all the people who kindly replied and shared their valuable experiences and perspectives.   When I synthesized these opinions in my head, I come to the conclusion a Televue NP101is would be too large for road side view (it would be practical if I am already settled at the final destination of the day in a semi-stationary environment). So I will concentrate on using my Orion ED80T-CF 80mm f6 APO instead (the one that gave me the view cited above, ~8Lbs when a 2" diagonal and a 13mm Ethos eyepiece is added) to construct a more portable "road-side on vacation" solution that include a photographic gimbal mount attached to a heavy-duty photographic tripod, to be shared between (1) My camera with 70-200mmf2.8 zoom and 2x teleconverter (2) My 15x56 binoculars on central screw tripod holder (3) this 80mm APO telescope at 37x mag.  If (2) is satisfying enough, the (3) would not be need.  If I come across anything particularly exciting, the swapping (2) for (3) would only be an additional minute since both are on interchangeable arca swiss plates.

 

Thanks!

 

Haibo

 

I use an 80mm f/6 as well during the day.  I like it a lot.  Tripod, quick release plate, eyepiece.  #2 scouting for #3 is ideal, though I prefer my 16x70s on a monopod during the day.  For daytime use, the tripod doesn't need to be able to handle a lot of magnification.  That can severely reduce weight if hiking is involved.  Harmonized plates are always the way to go.

 

A 41 Pan sounds right up your alley.  The 21 Ethos is my most used fixed focal length eyepiece during the day.  It's distortion when panning is not distracting.  The 31 Nagler and I don't play well together in the daytime.  My most used is the Baader zoom.  Zooming is a very lovely feature of spotters that can and should be retained.  The 41 Pan takes in everything and can be gorgeous on the right road.

 

The right road being the most important thing really.  Whale watching off the Big Sur with an 80mm only is ludicrous to me.  Of course I would want the 120mm ready to swap out on the tripod.  Bringing it along to enjoy the buttercups in bloom on the side of a highway is a bit much.  But if I stumble across an eyrie with fledglings with the 80mm, the 120 may come out the next time.  The right focal length for the job given your eyepieces comes from the presumed targets for ride.  It's a guessing game unless you have been there before.


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