Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Exclusive first test of the new Viking 80mm ED scope

Dark and mysterious. The as yet unnamed Viking scope.
Thanks to Tim the Viking we have had a chance to test one of a new range of scopes coming on market this summer. The name and exact price of this new model are yet to be confirmed, but it will be coming in at sub-£1000 with an 80mm and 65mm version. The un-badged pre-production example of the 80mm we have been given to test is a fully specified sample that is identical in terms of build quality and optics as the production models will be.

First impressions are of a slim medium-weight 80mm scope with barrel focusing, slightly matt finish rubber armouring, a sturdy feeling lockable bayonet eyepiece mount and a 25-75x zoom. The important bit is what you see through it however and it does not disappoint here either. The image trough the ED glass is sharp and bright with virtually no fringing and both the contrast and colour fidelity are excellent for a scope of this price. The comfort is also striking, the rounded twist-up eye cup fits the eye nicely and the focusing ring is responsive with no play and just the right amount of smooth damping to be easily controlled.

We are looking forward to getting these in stock as they will be a serious contender for anyone looking to get a high quality scope for less than £1000.

Watch this space for more information on exact price and availability.

Cley Spy

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Tripods and Heads

To get the best out of any telescope you need to have it mounted as steadily as possible, so a good tripod suitable for your requirements is essential. First of all we must look at the anatomy of a tripod. Essentially there are two elements: the legs and the head. Many of the lower cost tripods available (£40-£100) come as a kit of legs and head, when spending a little more you get the option of making your own combination.

The legs are the part that gives the majority of the stability and the weight of the tripod, and here there are two key specifications to consider: the material they are made form and the overall size, both when folded and fully extended.

Carbon fibre is a woven
 material giving strength
 in all directions.
There are two types of material commonly used for legs. Most are made from aluminium alloy, being both light weigh and strong, but if you want the best combination of low weight and maximum rigidity then carbon fibre is the way to go.

The head is the critical interface between the tripod and scope, an inappropriate or poor quality head can spoil a good scope so this is the part to get right. Below are the three main types.

2-way (pan and tilt) and video heads.
The Manfrotto 128 head easily supports
even the heaviest scopes.
Velbon PH-157Q
These are generally the best for use with scopes, having the minimum number of moving parts. The best head we have come across in the last 11 years is the Manfrotto 128 RC2, which gives a beautifully smooth movement and has proved to withstand even the most extreme amount of use and weather conditions unscathed. This type is the best for a scope and is good for wildlife photography with a telephoto lens, especially birds in flight. The Velbon PH-157Q is primarily a 2-way head, both movements controlled with one handle, but the top can be flipped through 90° to allow for portrait format shots.

3-way (pan, tilt and landscape/portrait orientation) heads.
These are designed to be compatible with both scopes and for photography. This type is often lighter than a fluid video head but are usually less controllable. Great for switching between a scope and landscape or macro photography.

Ball heads.
Primarily for photography, these offer the greatest freedom of movement. This quality is desirable for taking photos with wide angle and macro and standard lenses, but can be very awkward for a telescope.

The size of tripod you require depends both on your hight and on where you intend to use it. For general use a three-section leg tripod (one with two clips on each leg) is often the best, but if you want it to fit in a rucksack or a suitcase for travelling abroad then a four-section leg will retract to a smaller size.
When it comes to carrying a scope and tripod together there are a couple of options, a shoulder strap attached to the tripod or one of our Mule Packs, which effectively turns the tripod into a backpack. Having the weight supported on both shoulders makes the scope and tripod seem lighter and leaves you hands completely free for using your binoculars. It can be tempting to carry your kit by the strap on the scopes case with the tripod hanging below, but in our experience this can strip the thread on the foot of the scope which can lead to expensive repairs.

Visit us at Glandford and Cley Marshes to try out our tripods.

Cley Spy

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Cley Spy at Cley Marshes

Here at Cley Spy we have a no pressure approach to selling optics. As an entirely independent company we have no reason to favour any one brand over the others, we just give each individual customer as wider choice of equipment within their budget as possible. All we do is offer expert advice if required and let you take as long as you need to find the one that works for you testing them on real birds 'in the field'. And where better to do this than looking over one of Britain's best known nature reserves at Cley Marshes.

When the Norfolk Wildlife Trust opened their new visitor centre at Cley in 2007, the opportunity came up for us to have a small shop in the old thatched Dick Bagnell-Oakley visitor centre just next door to the new one. From here you get an elevated view over the reed beds, scrapes and pools out to the shingle bank and the sea around a kilometre away. As well as the impressive list of regular species found at Cley we have had a few notable rarities and scarcities seen from the shop including collard pratincole, western sandpiper, red-backed shrike, water pipit, black redstart and Wilson's phalarope amongst the highlights. Cley's coastal freshwater marsh (the product of medieval land drainage) is an unusual habitat nationally and this coupled with its location on the North Sea, makes it an attractive area for regular and vagrant species.
The view from the front windows.

Since we opened here the view has changed a little. In November 2007 a bout of storms and high seas opened up some gaps in the shingle ridge and flooded parts of the reserve with seawater. The marshes soon recovered, but the impact can still be seen in profile of the shingle and the absence of Arkwright’s Café in the beach car park. Another source of interest has been the ongoing construction of the Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm, visible in the distance from the visitor centre. The array of 88 turbines each standing 80m (260ft) tall are impressive enough but the vessels required for such a project are great feats of engineering too. When completed (target date summer 2012) they will produce enough power for 220,000 homes.

As with any other area the best time for finding a rare vagrant bird is in the spring and autumn, but at any time of the year the there is something worth seeing at Cley, not to mention the excellent café in the new centre next door!

Come and visit us at Cley next time you're on the North Norfolk coast, we are open all year seven days a week.