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IHMSA News Feature Article
Published in The IHMSA News, the Official Publication of The International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association
Published monthly except November/December - January/February
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Alpenís Affordable 80MM Spotter Gets Even Better
By Todd Spotti
     Iíve written about Alpenís super-sized 80mm spotting scope (Model #788) in the past and have found it to be a top notch performer. Couple that with its very reasonable price tag (generally around $365 or so on the internet), and you definitely have a ďBest BuyĒ. Yes, there are other 80mm scopes that are less expensive, but their quality and performance doesnít come anywhere close to Alpenís, and are marginal at best for use when conditions are overcast or less than optimum.

Upgrades in the eyepiece of the new Alpen 788 provide increased resolution and brightness

      Recently I was visiting the Alpen plant, and the owner/president showed me the latest version of their 788, which is a 2006 midyear product that is just starting to be introduced into the marketplace. The most significant change is the new and improved eyepiece. For one, the glass lens is a little over 15% larger than the old modelís which translates into a brighter image. Additionally, the new eyepiece housing measures a whopping 2.25 inches across. Twist the collar around the eye piece to the left, and it rotates up and out about an inch to form a very effective lens shade which blocks out any side light from degrading the image. This is a feature that one sometimes sees on binoculars, but Iíve never seen this before on a spotting scope. This is a good idea.
     The really big news however, is whatís inside the new eyepiece. For one, the design is more sophisticated, and as such uses more lens elements than what was found in the older model. The result is a definitely higher quality image.
     Itís a more refined image as well. This comes from the fact that higher quality BaK-4 glass (the best) is used versus BaK-7 glass. Additionally, the lens elements in the new eyepiece are also multicoated. All this translates into a significantly impressive image. Seeing the results of these improvements made me realize how much we consumers focus our attention solely on the objective lens, and tend to take the eyepiece for granted - a big mistake.
     One of my favorite scope evaluation targets is this big, high power electrical transmission tower that sits just adjacent to a golf course near my home. Thanks to a new Leupold laser rangefinder, I was able to determine that the tower is located exactly 300 yards away from my back yard. I like using the tower because itís a complex structure with a lot of interesting features that can be used to determine the practical resolution of an optical product.
     While I was scanning the tower at 20X, I hit the jackpot. Sitting on one of steel cross beams near the very top, was a magnificent red tailed hawk. The red tail is the largest of the hawks in the U.S. and typically has a body length of around 20 inches and wing span of as much as 56 inches. He was just sitting there, cooling it, and surveying the country-side while looking for an evening meal of field mouse, lizard, or perhaps spotted dove. I immediately cranked up the magnification of the 20-60 zoom to around 45X. I then noticed some side to side looseness in the zoom mechanism and later found out that this is just a normal characteristic of this particular design. Anyway, when I did so, this majestic bird filled approximately 60% of the eyepiece and the resolution and vividness of the colors were absolutely remarkable. Just to see what would happen, I then cranked up the zoom to the max at 60X. The resolution predictably dropped off , but the brightness, while somewhat dimmer, was still very acceptable unlike many other brands at this power. I then backed off slightly to 50X. Resolution and brightness immediately jumped back into the exceptional category. I was amazed to see every fine detail on the hawk that there was to see - everything, and without exception. It was like looking at it in a zoo from just a few feet away. Just as important as the resolution I was getting, was the color fidelity. It was dead on perfect. No tinting, no color aberration, no fringing, nothing but true and correct color.
     The bird was sitting face on to me and I could see its buff colored downy chest feathers with small, elongated brown spots speckling its front. I could even see the small white markings which resembled eyebrows above each of the alert eyes against the brown background of its face and head. Every once in awhile, the wind up there in the tower would ruffle its chest feathers allowing me to see their edges clearly. Similarly, when the hawk would preen itself, I could actually see the central shaft of the larger feathers and even the individual side branching spines on single feathers. To be honest, I really didnít think this was possible at that distance.
     Probably the most definitive demonstration of the Alpenís resolving power was when I was able to clearly see the very tip of the red tail's three very impressive front talons gripping the light gray painted cross beam that it was perched on. What a fascinating experience it was to see this very impressive creature in such fine detail. This was truly exceptional performance from the Alpen.
     The bottom line here is that if you want a high quality, water proof, 80mm spotter at a reasonable price, you should definitely first look at the 06 mid year, Alpen Model 788 with the new eyepiece. (Remember, itís the one with the 2.25Ē eyepiece housing.) If you do, thereís a good chance you probably wonít look at anything else.
Good luck and good shooting, Todd

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Warning: All technical data mentioned, especially handloading, reflect the limited experience of individuals using specific tools, products, equipment and components under specific conditions and circumstances not necessarily reported in the article or on this web site and over which IHMSA, The Los Angeles Silhouette Club (LASC), this web site or the author has no control. The above has no control over the condition of your firearms or your methods, components, tools, techniques or circumstances and disclaims all and any responsibility for any person using any data mentioned. Always consult recognized reloading manuals.