Attention: This was originally written/published on 2008-03-25 for another blog which I retired and am in the process of restructuring/redesigning. I wanted to post this review here for archival purposes. Additional notes/edits made to review where required (i.e. price and contact information).
A spotting scope is an important piece of equipment for the avid shooter, whether recreational or competitive. Like all other optics, you often get what you pay for as far as quality is concerned.
High Power Rifle competition shooters have specific needs when it comes to spotting scopes. The primary characteristics of a good spotting scope for the High Power shooter is something with good clarity to read mirage and something that can be used while in position (standing, kneeling, sitting, or prone). While not critical, long eye relief and good field of view can be other desired criteria in picking out a spotting scope for High Power Rifle competitions, whether it is Across the Course or long-range (Palma, F-Class, etc).
Go to any CMP or NRA High Power Rifle match and you will see a good variation of spotting scopes on the firing line. But the most common scope on the line will be a Kowa (TSN, 661, or 821 series). You will also see a few Bushnells and maybe the occasional Leica or Swarovski.
But in the past several months, the Konuspot 80 has started to make more frequent appearances at matches. There has been a buzz in the High Power community about the Konuspot 80 and the surprisingly clarity in the scopes. Many respected and experienced shooters have stated how the Konus spotting scope is actually very adequate for High Power competition. When it comes to recommending equipment, if experienced and respected shooters give a good recommendation on a specific product, it goes a long way.
Jim Owens was probably the first well known High Power shooter to recommend the Konuspot 80.
While good worth of mouth goes a long way, that doesn’t mean immediate success. That’s when price comes in. The 2007 price for the Konuspot 80 topped out at around $175 on the Internet. The current price is $225. $225 is very inexpensive when it comes to spotting scopes.
Note: At the time of this review repost (2010-06-10), B&H Photo and Video has the Konuspot 80 for $169. Go to the B&H Photo product catalog and add the item to the cart to see the reduced pricing.
Thus, when word spread of a $200 spotting scope suitable for High Power, many budget minded and novice High Power shooters shelled out the money for the Konuspot 80.
I have always been intrigued by the Konuspot 80. I currently use a Kowa 821M with a 27x long eye relief eyepiece. That combo alone retails for about $900 from a reputable dealer. While it can be debated whether or not it’s the best scope for High Power, there is no doubt that it’s probably the most commonly used spotting scope in High Power. It offers good optical performance, long eye relief, an angled body with a rotating locking collar mount, and is extremely durable.
As most experienced shooters understand, you can’t expect too much from cheap optics and $225 for a spotting scope is cheap. I have looked through some of the $200 and under spotting scopes from the Bushnell Sentry to the Leupold Wind River and they all have exhibited lackluster and often horrid optical quality.
That said, how can one expect the $225 Konuspot 80 to be any different?
This has always been part of the intrigue, so I went about acquiring a Konuspot 80 to do an independent study. I eventually acquired a brand new Konuspot 80 spotting scope.
The Konuspot 80 is made by Konus Optical & Sport Systems. Konus is an Italian company headquartered in Verona (Italy) with a Stateside headquarters in Miami (Florida). Their product line includes a wide range of optics including rifle scopes, binoculars, and spotting scopes as well as astronomy telescopes. For the most part, Konus hasn’t been a very well known company in the shooting community. Even the California based Alpen Optics is more widely known.
I spoke to a Konus representative at the 2008 SHOT Show and was told that the Konuspot 80 is manufactured in China. This does explain the low cost of the Konuspot 80 scope.
The current retail box contains the Konuspot 80 (model 7120) spotting scope body which has an 80mm objective lens, a rotating locking collar mount, and angled body. The eyepiece is detachable and has a 20-60x zoom. The scope comes with a small table tripod with a quick release mount and a soft carrying case which will hold both the spotting scope and the tripod. Finally, the scope also includes a camera adapter designed for attaching a still camera for digiscoping.
On paper, that’s not bad for $225. But the real question is how good is the image?
I took it to my club’s shooting facility and tested it out on official NRA SR targets at 200 meters and was amazed at the clarity and field of view. The image was very crisp and spotting 22 caliber bullet holes was just as easy as with the Kowa 821. The field of view of the Konuspot 80 is very wide at 20x. Adjusting the zoom, I found the field of view at 40x to be equivalent to the field of view of the Kowa 821 with 27x fixed. But the clarity of the image from 20x to around 40x of the scope is surprisingly excellent. Very crisp.
I did notice that the image did have a yellowish tint to it. You could tell that the color of objects were slightly off-white so to speak. Discussing this issue with my friend Todd Spotti who reviews a lot of sporting optics revealed that this is caused by impurities in the glass. Although, this issue did not affect image clarity in my testing at 200 meters.
The next step to testing this scope is trying it out at 600 yards to read mirage. Mirage is the primary indicator for wind speed changes for a High Power Rifle competitor. In order to see and read the mirage, you need a good scope.
I was able to take the Konuspot 80 with me to an Across the Course match at Camp Pendleton MCB. While I scored for a shooter on the 600 yard line, I took the opportunity to use both my Kowa 821M and the Konuspot 80. The weather was nearly ideal having rained the night before and clearing up, leaving a very cool, bright (no clouds) day with very crisp air. I was very surprised to be able to read the text printed on the target board at 600 yards (“MR-1 600 yard target”) with the Konuspot 80 at around 45x zoom. As far as picking up mirage, since the weather was very cool, there was little mirage to be seen. The Kowa 821M was able to display the mirage, while the Konuspot 80 had quite a bit of difficultly showing any of the mirage waves coming off the ground at the various distances.
In a local Across the Course match at a nearby club, I was able to test out the scope yet again while I was running the line as the RSO. At 300 yards, it was possible to distinguish bullet holes, but it took quite a few seconds to be able to pick out the actual holes visually, and that was on a clean target. On the 600 yard line, the performance was more than decent, and mirage was easily visible considering the weather was quite warm that day.
So optically, this spotting scope does quite well considering the price.
The next issue is durability. The Konuspot 80 is very lightweight. While a lightweight scope is a positive quality, the weight of the Konuspot actually reveals the lesser quality build of the scope. In terms of weight, the Konuspot 80 with eyepiece weighs 2.85 lbs and the Kowa 821M with 27x eyepiece weighs 3.80 lbs. Both scopes are nearly the same in length. This goes to show that there is less bulk in the body construction that will help the scope survive the wear and tear of regular use. I have personally dropped my Kowa 821 onto concrete from short heights a few times with no ill effect. While I have not conducted a drop test with the Konuspot 80, I do not have much faith that the scope will be able to handle such a shock.
The only other issue I have with the scope is the eye relief. The scope is usable while wearing glasses at the 20x power on the eyepiece, but with the magnification cranked up, the operator needs to remove any glasses or eye protection to get close to the eyepiece.
As far as the included tabletop tripod, it’s barely usable for general range use. Any wind will keep the scope rocking.
After all is said and done, I have no problem recommending this scope to anyone who cannot afford to spend more than $300 on a spotting scope for position shooting. The Konuspot 80 is a great bang for the buck spotting scope for very budget minded shooters.