And the weights:
Yup, the 85 is a big mutha: heavier than the Skyline I'm replacing. What struck me most, though, was how much smaller the 65 was. I compared the 65 to the 80-ish sizes of several competitors, and mostly found that there wasn't a lot of difference in size/weight. In this case, though, the 65 is positively diminutive compared to its big brother.
Both scopes had 45 degree eyepieces. Both also can swivel in the "roll" axis to make for easy viewing from the bench. I was surprised by the feel of the scopes when rotating them this way. I've used other scopes where it felt like they were merely sliding inside of a loosened metal band. Both Ares scopes felt extremely smooth, almost like when turning the eyepieces. I doubt it makes any difference whatsoever in its operation, but it surprised me enough to make mention of it here.
Both scopes had slide-on rubber caps for the eyepieces, and those fit pretty well. The one on the 65 came with a retaining loop, while 85's cover did not. The 65 had a snap-in plastic cap for the objective lens, which I much preferred to the press-in rubber cover of the 85.
The eyepieces on both scopes rotated freely, and with a good feel. The focusing mechanism on both scopes was the rubber wheel in the middle of the scope body. Those operated smoothly, with no play. I had seen some scopes that claimed to have both a fast and a fine focusing mechanism, and that sounded like a good idea. However, I had no problems quickly finding the sweet spot with both Ares scopes, at every magnification level. In fact, both scopes required far less refocusing after zooming in or out, than did the old Skyline spotter.
Both scopes have sunshades, which I wasn't in a position to test today. The one on the 65 is so short as to make me wonder why they even bothered. Maybe it does lots more than it would seem. Perhaps I can update that later on.
Both scopes have ED glass. I first heard about ED back when Bob Dole was doing Viagra commercials, so I wasn't sure what it had to do with optics. I gathered from the interweb that ED glass is desirable, and it sure seemed like the optics companies all thought so - they sure upcharged enough for it. Accordingly, you'll understand my disappointment to see how dark the view was through these ED scopes. After some fiddling, I thought I might have found the issue:
Damned Transitions lenses...
Yup, removing the glasses revealed an extremely bright view through both scopes. I was heartened to see that the view stayed fairly bright to the full extent of the magnification range. The 20-60 Skyline was basically unusable above 40x, as it became too dark and lost resolution. The 20-60 Ares stayed bright to about 45X, and didn't darken too badly beyond that. The 65mm Ares maintained its brightness to roughly 38X, and maintained even better brightness beyond that level than did the 85mm scope. Both scopes were vastly brighter than the Skyline at all magnification levels, and both were fully functional (at 200 yards) to their highest magnification.
I'd like to make note here that I had bought a Zeiss Duralyt Field Spotter
(18-45x65) in 2011 in anticipation of packing it on a sheep hunt. I returned it after only 1 afternoon, finding that it couldn't match the brightness of the Skyline spotter, even though it cost 4x as much. Sure, it was much lighter, but who cares how easy it is to carry, if you can't see anything through it? And this is coming from an acknowledged Zeiss fan.
I know I'm comparing my recollection from 2011 with my experience this afternoon, but the Ares scopes are far brighter than the Duralyt was. Perhaps I'm also comparing ED glass vs whatever the Zeiss had at that time. It probably wouldn't be fair to compare a 2017 sports car to a 2011 model. I suppose my point is that things seem to have improved for the buyer.
Resolution with both Ares scopes was great, all the way to the edges. The view was flat (especially for the 65mm), and the edges of images seemed sharp and defined. The colors were good, as well. I'd use terms like "chromatic aberrations", and "fringing" but I have no idea what they mean. I'm not an optics guy. All I can offer is what I noticed with these scopes, compared to others I've used.
I suppose all I can really confirm (and it will likely matter to quite a few people), is that I could
see .22 cal bullet holes at 200 yards with both scopes. They're the small ones near the orange target dot.
I was actually more impressed, though, that I was able to see the three .30 cal holes in the black paper, even before the target was directly in the sun. That would have been impossible with the Skyline spotter. (I'm also impressed that I put 3 holes in the black at 200 yards using iron sights on a Savage 99, but that should probably be a different post.
It was my intention to include photos taken through the scopes, but the iPhone adaptor I ordered didn't show up in the mailbox until I returned from the range. This will have to do for now.
In summary, I was impressed with both scopes. I know they're not at the top end of the scope world, but I found the fit and finish to be better than I was expecting. I think the only thing I was mildly disappointed in were the lens covers on the 85 mm scope - it wouldn't be that big a deal to upgrade them to at least what the 65 has.
When talking value, it would have been ideal to get every like models from every mfgr, and compare them against each other at their respective prices. Obviously, I can't do that. What I can say, is that both scopes are vastly superior to the 20-60x80 Skyline that I paid roughly $350 for in 2008. With the 65 at $600, and the 85 at $800, I feel like I'm getting far more for the $ than I did with the Skyline. And I was perfectly happy with the Skyline. Now, I just see what I've been missing.
I could lament that these scopes are made in China. Of course, I'd be doing it on a computer made in China. Or on a phone made in China. I believe one's gotta spend well north of $1K to even find a spotter not
made in China, and that only gets you over to Japan. Add another $1,500+ if you want one from Europe. And if you want a US made one? I guess you'll have to build your own. In the end, I was replacing a Chinese spotter, so it is what it is.
I view these things more in terms of WHO I'm buying. In this case, I'm buying the CameraLand staff. Let's face it - Doug stands to lose a lot if we all start call-out threads here about the crappy optics he foisted on us. And he's buying the Athlon staff. If he's taking the risk to stock their stuff & promote it, he's putting a couple generations of family business on the line.
The Athlon literature claims they're based in Lenexa, KS, so perhaps some of our Greater KC members can go demand an office tour, & check 'em out. Maybe you can get 'em to take you out for BBQ after.
Finally, I'll be keeping the 65, and returning the 85. (I mean, I'll return it after I throw it off the roof a dozen times for drop testing...
* It does what I want it to do at the range
* It's far smaller and much lighter
* It maintained its brightness better through its magnification range
* It has better lens caps
* It's $200 less
IMHO, the 65 really is a "wow" product.