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#12388847 - 11/10/17 Spotting Scope Review  
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Per the other thread, I'm posting my thoughts on the Athlon Ares scopes.

I had owned a Vortex Skyline 20-60x80 scope since 2008-ish, and it was used 95% of the time at my local (200 yards max) shooting range. I did take it on western packhorse hunts twice, and left it with the guide after last month's goat hunt. In the search to replace it, I was quickly overwhelmed by way too many models from way too many optics companies. There seemed to be no objective way to sort them from one another, apart from price. Internet reviews were few, far between, and hardly thorough. There are plenty of worthless YouTube reviews where guys play background music while reading a company's product literature. It seems one can find out crap-tons of information about binoculars, but spotters are a damned wilderness.

After chatting with Doug 'n his crew from CamerLandNY, I ordered-in the 20-60x85 and 15-45x65 scopes to check 'em out. I figure he has a far better pulse on the industry than I ever will, and I suppose I trust him: I've sent more $ to CameraLand over than the years than to some of the bursar's offices at my kids' universities. sick

As usual, I got a much better deal than I expected. The package arrived in 2 days. I was impressed with the packaging: If one of these gets damaged in transit, some serious schidt went down.


[Linked Image]


[Linked Image]


Cases are included, though I didn't get them out and play with them. They look to be pretty standard.


[Linked Image]


The reason I ordered both was to see whether the 65mm could hang with the 85mm for my purposes. Again, it'll be at the range 90+% of the time, so if the less expensive model can do the job, then so much the better. Granted, size/weight isn't a factor for range work, but with the goat hunt still fresh in my mind (I'm still breathing heavy), better portability would definitely be another plus.

The size difference was immediately obvious:


[Linked Image]


[Linked Image]


Side-by-side:


[Linked Image]


(cont.)

CMG 300 BP

#12388967 - 11/10/17 Re: Spotting Scope Review [Re: Folically_Challenged]  
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And the weights:


[Linked Image]


[Linked Image]


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:


[Linked Image]


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.


[Linked Image]



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. grin)

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... laugh )
* 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.

FC


Last edited by Folically_Challenged; 11/10/17. Reason: address sunshades, particularly the short-assed one on the 65mm
#12389018 - 11/10/17 Re: Spotting Scope Review [Re: Folically_Challenged]  
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A most excellent review, thanks for taking the time! I believe you have swayed me toward a smaller version. Now I'll need to decide between the Athlon and the Hawke, as the Hawke Endurance ED 8x32 binos I just bought from Cameraland are very impressive.


Would you experience immensely righteous fulfillment if I conceded to your condescending suspicions? -Northern Dave, 21st Century philosopher
#12389028 - 11/10/17 Re: Spotting Scope Review [Re: Folically_Challenged]  
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Check the weight on the Hawke 65 - it purportedly was chunky.

Or, get both, & give the low-down.

FC

#12389106 - 11/10/17 Re: Spotting Scope Review [Re: Folically_Challenged]  
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Excellent write up!

Everything else being the same, larger objective lens generally translates into better resolution. As a range spotter size doesn't matter, but in the field the 80mm+ spotters are a pain to me even when spotting from the truck.

Also,apparently magnification sells so the manufacturers seem to be in a race for higher magnification. Once beyond about 45x on most spotters I've looked through resolution begins to fall off, and mirage, available light, and shake all become an issue. Larger objective lens seem to handle higher magnification better. My buddy has a 65mm Swaro ATS with the 20-60x eyepeice and 45x is about as high a magnification that's useful under most conditions--both at the range and in the field. For looking at critters I MUCH prefer a 15-45x eyepiece, it's just more useful.

At less than 48 ozs (with lens covers no less) the 65mm Athlon is interesting.

I wonder what Athlon CS and warranty is like.





Casey

Not being married to any particular political party sure makes it a lot easier to look at the world more objectively...
Having said that, MAGA.
Alpha

#12389212 - 11/10/17 Re: Spotting Scope Review [Re: Folically_Challenged]  
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Great write up! I just have one question, are you sure that you didn't have your Transitions on when evaluating the Zeiss?


Originally Posted by 5sdad
Back when I was a kid we had to eat Tide out of a box.

#12389228 - 11/10/17 Re: Spotting Scope Review [Re: kingston]  
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Originally Posted by kingston
Great write up! I just have one question, are you sure that you didn't have your Transitions on when evaluating the Zeiss?



Yup. That was apples-apples. I'd guess it was a size issue: 65mm Zeiss vs 80mm Vortex. With like glass/coatings, perhaps there's "no replacement for displacement."

FWIW, I don't think I was the only one underwhelmed by that spotter. I don't see them talked about much anymore.

FC

#12389239 - 11/10/17 Re: Spotting Scope Review [Re: alpinecrick]  
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Originally Posted by alpinecrick
I wonder what Athlon CS and warranty is like.


They claim a lifetime warranty. Of course, everyone will wonder what, "lifetime" means when the company's only been in existence a couple years.

They talk a good game in this cringe-worthy video. I'll bet she's an actual employee, because her acting is... not convincing.

Anyway, I threw-in with them, figuring CameLand saw enough credibility to take them on. Plus, I get the feeling a lot of spotters go down that production line, & they've probably got things pretty well figured out.

FC

#12394158 - 11/13/17 Re: Spotting Scope Review [Re: Folically_Challenged]  
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Thanks for the extensive review. I am sure the members here appreciate you taking the time, as did I.

If we can answer any questions for anyone please feel free to reach out to us, that's what we are here for.


Doug @ Camera Land

[email protected]
http://www.cameralandny.com
516-217-1000

Thanks for the support.
#12394378 - 11/13/17 Re: Spotting Scope Review [Re: Folically_Challenged]  
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You guys need to quit plugging them Hawke products, or the freakin price will start goin up!!!! It would be nice to have a ace in the hole that didn't break the bank for awhile.







Take care, Willie


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Bravo

#12394505 - 11/13/17 Re: Spotting Scope Review [Re: Folically_Challenged]  
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Thanks for the review FC. I've been thinking of replacing my old Bushnell spotter and you just put Athlon on the map for me. Especially because you could see 22 size holes at 200 yards. That's what I was looking for.


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#12399316 - 11/15/17 Re: Spotting Scope Review [Re: Folically_Challenged]  
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OK, we got back the Ares 20-60x85 ED spotter so if someone wants a great deal on it, just $699.99, please let us know.
Basically it's in new condition. Was shipped with the 15-45x65 ED, checked out, reviewed and sent back to us when he kept the smaller one.


Doug @ Camera Land

[email protected]
http://www.cameralandny.com
516-217-1000

Thanks for the support.
#12400221 - 11/15/17 Re: Spotting Scope Review [Re: Folically_Challenged]  
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Big difference in the size of the two scopes!

Nice review, FC.


Deep State Operative and Fluoride sales representative...........
#12400451 - 11/16/17 Re: Spotting Scope Review [Re: gr8fuldoug]  
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Originally Posted by gr8fuldoug
Was shipped with the 15-45x65 ED, checked out, reviewed and sent back to us when he kept the smaller one.



If my range offered longer shots, I'd have kept the 20-60x80. It's an awfully nice package, in its own right.

FC

#12401054 - 11/16/17 Re: Spotting Scope Review [Re: Folically_Challenged]  
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But did you drop-test it.....

Last edited by OrangeDiablo; 11/16/17.
#12401212 - 11/16/17 Re: Spotting Scope Review [Re: Folically_Challenged]  
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Thanks for the thoughtful, detailed review. It is fairly rare to get a candid comparison that is so well written and informative.

These choices seem like awfully good values.

Personally, I recently upgraded from a Leupold small 25x50 spotting scope to a Leica Televid 65mm with 25-50x WW ASPH zoom eyepiece.

Much heavier and more costly, but my Dad started me using his Leica equipment maybe 70 years ago (!) and I have always loved it above all others, even when I worked in the industry in Japan!

(We pioneered the first close couple devices, the heart of all digital cameras and cell phones there.) Now my sons keep asking me for my old 35mm film Leica equipment. wink

Norm


Norman Solberg
Worked on deals all over, lately for 25 years in Japan, now solely on trusts in the US, currently the 3rd greatest tax haven. NRA Life Member for 50 years, Endowment (2014), Patron (2016).
#12405908 - 11/18/17 Re: Spotting Scope Review [Re: Folically_Challenged]  
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Originally Posted by Folically_Challenged

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.
FC


In 2002 I had a Burris Sig 8x32x44 scope on a Ruger #1 223.
I could see the holes in the target at the 200 yard range on a dark day.

Lately, because of glaucoma damage, optics look 4X as expensive with my left eye compared to my right.


There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self. -Ernest Hemingway
The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.-- Edward John Phelps
#12408862 - 11/19/17 Re: Spotting Scope Review [Re: gr8fuldoug]  
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Originally Posted by gr8fuldoug
OK, we got back the Ares 20-60x85 ED spotter so if someone wants a great deal on it, just $699.99, please let us know.
Basically it's in new condition. Was shipped with the 15-45x65 ED, checked out, reviewed and sent back to us when he kept the smaller one.

Does it come with a sherpa? smile

FC - very good review!


If you take the time it takes, it takes less time.
--Pat Parelli

American by birth; Alaskan by choice.
--ironbender
#12409327 - 11/20/17 Re: Spotting Scope Review [Re: ironbender]  
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Originally Posted by ironbender
Originally Posted by gr8fuldoug
OK, we got back the Ares 20-60x85 ED spotter so if someone wants a great deal on it, just $699.99, please let us know.
Basically it's in new condition. Was shipped with the 15-45x65 ED, checked out, reviewed and sent back to us when he kept the smaller one.

Does it come with a sherpa? smile


It does if you have teenage children smile


Doug @ Camera Land

[email protected]
http://www.cameralandny.com
516-217-1000

Thanks for the support.

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