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Monday, May 19, 2008

Black Beauty

I'm back from a long weekend in Cañon City, Colorado, where the annual Colorado Field Ornithologists convention was held this year. We're going to have a colossal convention bird list when the dust settles, including lots of rare bird highlights (e.g. Gray-cheeked Thrush, Bay-breasted Warbler...) and impressive high counts of certain species (e.g. over 100 Blackpoll Warblers, thousands of Red-necked Phalaropes...) I shot nearly 20 gigs of pics, and saw 126 species over the weekend. I co-led a photography trip with Richard Crossley, co-author of The Shorebird Guide and our keynote speaker, which was another great weekend highlight. But more about the birds later...
We were fortunate to have Jeff Bouton represent Leica Sport Optics at our convention this year, giving folks the opportunity to try their optics and to have questions answered about binoculars, spotting scopes, and digiscoping. It turns out that Jeff had a special package waiting for him when he arrived at the hotel- Leica had shipped him the new 82mm APO-Televid spotting scope. Long touted, this was the first one to see the light of day in North America. They should be hitting the shelves this fall, but we were the first to get to check out this black beauty!!
Jeff also got the new Leica digiscoping adapter, a necessary upgrade since the revolutionary wide-angle 25-50x zoom eyepiece has a larger diameter than the current crop of Televids. The new adapter is pretty cool, attaching with a compressing collar that will not only fit these eyepieces but also the eyepieces in use now. It has a built-in cable release bracket that adjusts to work on most point-and-shoots, and the cable release swings out of the way when not wanted or needed.
The whole Televid line has been redesigned from the ground up. The objective lenses are larger, with 65 and 82mm models replacing the current 62 and 77mm models. Despite the larger apertures, the scopes are more compact and lighter than their predecessors. They feature the hydrophobic AquaDura coating on external glass surfaces, a built-in Manfrotto quick-release plate, and now have black rubber armor similar to their binoculars instead of the familiar hard silver finish of the current Televids.
I got to try out the new beast and was stunned by how wide the field of view stayed throughout the zoom's range. I've long been an exclusive user of Leica's fixed, wide-angle eyepieces, and when I glimpse through someone else's zoom (Leica or otherwise), I feel like I'm experiencing tunnel vision. This wide-angle zoom sets a new standard for spotting scope eyepieces. Not only is it more comfortable to view birds through a wide-angle eyepiece, but finding birds and staying on moving targets is much easier with all of that optical room. Having a wide-angle eyepiece also minimizes or even eliminates vignetting for many point-and-shoot cameras when digiscoping- this rig is going to set a new standard in that department, too, I believe. Thanks for debuting the new scope at our CFO convention, Jeff!!

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