What birder doesn’t love to travel, be it thousands of miles searching out the rare or exotic or just a few miles to see something new, what is not so great is carrying that huge spotting scope with you, try fitting one of the big boys in your luggage and you may be looking at extra fees, well over the years Opticron have designed small travel scopes just for you, the Mighty Midgets have been great, but is their latest version the MM4 up to much?
Opticron MM4 Travel Scope – Review
Opening the huge box that arrived on my doorstep I was pleased to see that the majority was packaging to protect the gear in transit, the scope itself was packaged in a small cardboard box, and when I say small I mean under a foot long. The two eyepieces Opticron had also sent – the SDL v2 Zoom and the HDF T Zoom – were in their own small boxes. My first thoughts were “is this really going to be able to compete with much larger scopes?”. I guess time would tell.
First and foremost here are the technical specifications, taken direct from the Opticron website, as I know some people will want to know these important details:
Specifications 50 ED 50 ED/45 60 ED 60 ED/45
Product Code 41225 41226 41227 41228
OG dia (mm) 50 50 60 60
Min Focus (m) 2.5 2.5 3.5 3.5
Length (mm) 205 205 260 260
Weight (g) 615 619 720 729
Price £ inc. £329 £329 £429 £429
• Super-compact ED “extra low dispersion glass” objective
• High contrast FMC optical system
• Close focus to 2.5m (50mm), 3.5m (60mm)
• Removable rubber objective lens cover
• Telephotoadapter option
• 30 year guarantee
SDL v2 Zoom Eyepiece:
5-group, 8-element ‘super’ zoom, the SDLv2 offers superior cross-field definition with exceptional viewing comfort. Waterproof and fitted with a rotating eyecup. Supplied in soft padded case. 10 year guarantee.
Eyepiece Code 40936M
Magnification (50) 12-36x
Magnification (60) 15-45x
Price £ inc. VAT £299
HDF T Zoom Eyepiece:
High definition eyepieces with long eye relief. Fixed magnification models are wide angle (except 40861). Models marked (*) feature alloy twist type retractable eyecup. 10 year guarantee.
Eyepiece Code 40862M*
Magnification (50) 12-36x
Magnification (60) 15-45x
Price £ inc. VAT £199
In the few weeks I have had access to the MM4 I’ve been pretty impressed, firstly by the lack of added weight in my backpack, I’ve not really noticed it, and if I, with a bad back, do not notice the difference then the scales at an airport aren’t going to have too much issue with the 619 grams of weight.
But what is more important the ‘scope and eyepieces are impressive optically too, the zoom facilities, of both eyepieces, are extremely useful, but as with all zooms you do lose quite a bit of light at the highest magnifications, and stability becomes an issue so you will need a tripod. I’ve been able to pick out the subtle eye ring of a winter plumage Little Ringed plover at distance.
As you might imagine the light gathering in a small scope like this (50mm aperture) is never going to match that of larger aperture spotting scopes (80mm versions etc.), but as with most modern optics there isn’t much to fault, the image is crisp and clear. At low zooms the light is perfect, the higher you zoom the less light you have but it is still excellent quality.
While not hugely important in many ways I like the look and feel of the scope, the black rubber armour feels tough, and helps to make hand holding possible (especially when combined with the light weight). The only issue with the design I found, and it is a minor one, is when an eyepiece is attached the shape changes and the scope becomes a little top heavy.
This doesn’t in anyway distract from the use of the scope mind you it is purely a practical, when carrying in a bag it becomes quite tall (I think that’s the right term). For travelling taking the eyepiece off and attaching in the field, might have been easier.
Opticron sent me two eyepieces to try out with the MM4 the SDL v2 Zoom and the HDF T Zoom and I can honestly say I struggled to see much difference optically. Looking at the specifications the SDL v2 is heavier, and larger, but is waterproof and comes with a nice padded case, the HDF fits better and is lighter, but no mention of waterproofing. The eye relief on the SDL v2 is longer, and there is a larger opening in the end you are looking through, but unless comparing directly you are unlikely to notice.
I actually think the HDF looks better on the scope, it seems to fit tighter having a narrower base, but looks should never be the deciding factor. My advice would be to try out both, see what you think and choose the eyepiece that suits you better.
Let’s be clear the MM4 is not here to compete with the big boys of Swaro or Leica, optically it is great, but the smaller size will always mean less light, however if isn’t meant to compete with these spotting scopes, what the MM4 is designed for is travel (or those like me who are looking to have a scope but not carry one). The light weight nature, small size and good optics are ideal to throw in a suitcase if you are off on holiday or sit easily in a backpack but not take up large amounts of room or weigh you down.