Sightron SII 20-60x63mm Multi-Purpose Spotting Scope Kit
By Rocky Hays
I have to admit that when Guns and Shooting Online Managing Editor Chuck Hawks handed me this Sightron SII Spotting Scope Kit for review, my first thought was of the $700 price tag (2009 MSRP). I can buy a nice rifle for that amount of money. However, after testing and using the SII scope every day and night for 3 weeks, I would be willing to trade one of my guns for it.
I decided to Keep It Stupid Simple: I collected a group of Guns and Shooting Online staff members along with their spotting scopes. These included a Celestron 25x50mm fixed power spotter, a 25 year old Simmons 25x50mm fixed power, a new 20-60x60mm Simmons zoom spotter and a 20-60x60mm from an unmentionable company that shall remain unnamed. We shot a .17 HMR target rifle at 200 yards, producing tiny bullet holes in a target far away. Then, we set all the scopes on the shooting bench and had each person judge each scope for brightness and clarity. Admittedly, we were comparing three mid-level scopes and one bad one to the five-star Sightron SII, but the SII easily and unanimously won the contest, with favorable comments all around.
At this point, what else could I do for testing? I brought the scope home, mounted it on a sturdy tripod and started watching the birds and squirrels run around my back yard. (Eugene, Oregon is a city full of interesting wildlife, including deer, wild turkeys, raccoons, opossums, squirrels and many species of birds. At night, the moon was on the wane (thus producing shadows that accentuated the mountains and valleys), so for the next couple of nights I viewed the moon as it disappeared into shadow; these were the best views of the moon I had ever seen.
When the moon was gone, I began watching Jupiter. Using the SII I was able to see Jupiter's four main moons and, during periods of good seeing, five separate cloud bands on the planet's surface. At some point, I figured out that turning the variable eyepiece back to 55 power gained noticeable brightness (compared to the full 60x) with no loss of clarity.
I then compared the fixed 25 power eyepiece to the variable eyepiece. I set the variable to what I estimated to be 25 power and switched back and forth between the fixed 25 and the variable; I could not see any real difference. A more accurate comparison would be to use two identical SII scopes, one with a fixed 25 power eyepiece and one with a variable set at 25 power. (Unlike the slip-in, slip-out eyepieces of an astronomical telescope that are designed for rapid replacement, these screw on and off and are slower to interchange.)
I was so impressed with the SII's performance at night that I decided to take the SII out of town to a Star Party, where there were five astronomical telescopes and people who knew the night sky. With their help, I was able to view the Andromeda Galaxy, several Messier objects and both stars of a binary star system. Some of the owners of much larger astronomical telescopes remarked that this little Sightron SII spotting scope was amazing. That is a real compliment, considering that they had thousands of dollars invested in their telescope systems.
The SII Multi-Purpose Spotting Scope Kit includes the scope, which is provided with a retractable sunshade and fully multi-coated optics, a 20-60x variable eyepiece, 25x wide angle eyepiece for glassing at long range, table top tripod mount, vehicle window mount and a trick Cordura case. The eyepieces are fully multi-coated and a T-mount and T-rings are available accessories for outdoor photography. Here are the SII Spotting Scope Kit specifications:
The table top tripod is the best spotting scope tripod I have ever used. It is aluminum and stainless steel, with a few plastic bushings at friction points. When folded, it is less than 14 long; unfolded, the feet provide a 16 diameter footprint, making it very stable.
The tripod has a height adjustment of 3, which puts the eyepiece between 13½ and 16½ above the table top. It has micro-adjustable windage and elevation knobs. We all know the routine of using a scope at 200 yards or more: set the scope so it is close to being aligned on the target and then tap it right or left, up or down, until it is approximately centered and figure thats close enough. With this micro-adjustable tripod, just aim the scope (as in the first step above), then simply use the 1 knobs to precisely fine-tune the scope onto the target.
The vehicle window mount is nearly all aluminum. It has locking swivel and elevation adjustments without micro-adjusts. Micro-adjustments would be too slow when viewing wildlife from a vehicle, as time is usually of the essence. The window mount also has a quick-detach plate that allows the scope to be removed, then quickly replaced, leaving the mount attached to the window. The window can be raised to within 2 of the top (fully closed position) with the mount in place.
The quick-detach system is fast, secure and works great. Unfortunately, the detachable adapter plate does not fit on the table top tripod. If you switch the scope from the window mount to the table top, the adapter must be removed. It would be nice if both mounts used the quick detachable system.
When the Kit arrived, the scope was packed in a padded, form-fitted, Cordura case. When I got to the range, everyone wanted to see the scope, so I had to remove it from the case. It was then I discovered that the scope only comes out, and goes in, one way. The case has zippers, Velcro flaps, snaps, D-rings, swivel hooks, plastic loops, detachable shoulder strap and Velcro pouch to hold the unused eyepiece. It took me awhile to figure out how to use these sundry fasteners.
The objective lens cover unzips 355 degrees, and then a snap holds it out of the way. The lens cap can still be used and has a lanyard that attaches to a ring on the case. There is a Velcro flap over the focus knob and another strip of Velcro holds it out of the way when open. There is another Velcro flap over the tripod mount. The case unzips at the eyepiece and the swivel hooks attach to the D-ring, which pulls the case completely away from the eyepiece. This is the best thought-out case for anything I have ever seen. The bottom line is that there is no need to remove the scope from its case to use every function and option.
If you are a hunter, target shooter, bird watcher, or moon gazer, you definitely need a good spotting scope. A good scope is as important as your gun, your ammo and reloading equipment. It is a "must have" item. I have owned four spotting scopes, each one a little better than its predecessor. I have learned that buying inexpensive optics means inferior optics. If the Sightron SII had been available when I bought my first spotting scope, I would still have it and I would not have wasted my money on the four previous scopes. I cannot say enough in praise of the Sightron SII--I really like it! Visit the Sightron website at www.sightron.com to see their complete line of high quality riflescopes, spotting scopes and binoculars.
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