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Swarovski AT 80 ? January, Kent UK

I am conducting a series of amateur trials to test out the Swarovski AT 80

Swarovski AT 80 ? January, Kent UKI am conducting a series of amateur trials to test out the Swarovski AT 80 High Definition scope supplied by the manufacturer. I made this choice having compared it to a number of other higher price bracket scopes at the British Birdwatching Fair. It seemed to me then to be the clearest, sharpest and most colour true scope on offer with the least amount of distortion at the edge of the image. It is quite large and heavier than scopes I have used in the past but it simply seemed superior to what else was on offer to me then. I was aware that the day I tested it out was bright and warm but without heat haze or mist. In fact ideal UK conditions. So, it seemed a good idea to use it and report over the course of a year how I have found it ? a sort of on-going field trial.The first opportunity I had to test it out was in the second week of January. I took it to Pegwell Bay in Kent ? my nearest reserve and a great place at any time of year. I arrived at high tide on a very murky morning ? shortly after settling into the hide it started to rain heavily which, after 20 minutes turned to fine drizzle ? not ideal birding conditions and a real test for the scope.The scope is 100% better than the one I am used to ? a rather battered Kowa TS11. I am not used to such clarity nor such a large image that makes using a zoom much better as one can still find small areas at a distance. Distant loafing gulls could be distinguished, as could the many waders roosting in a shingle spit waiting for the tide to turn sufficiently to start to feed.It was excellent watching waders flying across the marsh`s edge looking for water shallow enough to land in? first the curlews and godwit, then the shanks and knot and finally the dunlin as the tide receded. I found that I could scan through the flocks and always see a large enough image to ID the birds but take in a lot at the same time. Despite the gloom the scope coped well and I had enough light and always a sharper image than I anticipated. It wasn`t perfect ? but I reckon it was as good as one could get in such weather.A grey seal had hauled up on the bank of a channel more than half a mile away and I could still see his whiskers!When the rain stopped I took a short walk out of the hide to look at the scrub back from the mudflats and enjoyed a small flock of twite and a larger flock of linnets all crystal clear against the lightening grey sky.A walk back to the car park was rewarded with a closely passing ring-tailed harrier, which I could follow with the scope pretty smoothly. Were there any negative aspects? Well, not with the optics. I did find the Swarovski tripod to be very heavy and the seating of the plate not entirely solid? this struck me as odd as two products from the one manufacturer should marry well ? maybe I have not put them together as I should but there were no instructions to follow so I`ll ask the helpful man at Swarovski UK. He has already agreed to send out a case as I am used to having one to protect the scope. Having a focus ring around the body of the scope means that a stay on case is not practical which is a shame. I found this a little stiff (but then it is new) and not as easy to use as a top mounted focus wheel. The varying of the zoom is smooth but also a little stiff too. I am used to a fluid head and very light tripod and this is not one. I will get used to it and it is good and will definitely come into its own on sea-watches. Talking of which I had a quick squint at the sea from North Foreland cliffs and have little to report ? I think the scope is probable brilliant for sea watching but the cupboard was virtually bare; just a few great-crested grebes flying by way out to sea ? I shall report further when I get a good sea-watching day.

Fatbirder

4th July 2014