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Monthly Archives: November 2005

30 Nov

It’s no surprise that the number of people asking about telescopes has taken a sharp increase of late. After all, telescopes comprise one of the biggest gift categories we have here at

The big seller this year under $100 is no surprise, either. The Bushnell 3″ reflector continues to move out here by the truckload. It’s an OpticsPlanet exclusive. Where else can you buy a mostly metal telescope at such a low price?

114mm reflectors such as the Tasco Galaxsee, though, tend to be the bread and butter scope for beginners, with similar models from Meade and Celestron vying …

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25 Nov

I had a nice day on Thanksgiving at my sister’s place in suburban Chicago. She has a wonderful garden and they love to feed the birds. I hadn’t been there 5 minutes when I saw a Cooper’s hawk strafe the bird feeders. (I had seen this same bird earlier this year and it was a Cooper – it is large even for a Cooper.)

Later in the afternoon, I noticed a sparrow doing a peculiar kick below the feeder. Only one bird does that and I have seen it many times. It was a Fox Sparrow and a beauty – …

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23 Nov

I was doing my laps (walking) around the complex on my lunch break yesterday, doing my best to work up my cardiovascular levels, when I picked up a very faint noise amid the roar of traffic. At first I thought I was imagining things – too long in the big city and all that sort of thing – but then I heard it again. Since I used to be a birding tour guide at a sanctuary in central Nebraska for years, I knew exactly what the sound was. It is not a sound you ever forget.

I promise, there is …

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19 Nov

I had another chance to examine the new Leica D-Lux 2 and once again, I have visions of a D-Lux 2 sitting in my purse, waiting for me to put it to work at a moment’s notice. It isn’t just the all the new slick features that appeals to me, it’s also the “feel” that you get with any high end camera. The Dlux-2 just seems to exude luxury and snob appeal in a way that only a Leica can. Nothing like that little red Leica ball to make an optics addict like me swoon.…

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15 Nov

Just about the time the trees are first bare of leaves, the number of inquiries we get on telescopes here at starts to increase at, uh, an astronomical rate. Holiday shopping for many people involves a telescope. Since these are rather complicated instruments, I have written a couple of articles to help customers sift through the maze of technical detail. For customers about to buy a new telescope, How to choose the right telescope reviews some of the basics. For customers who just received a new telescope as a gift and are overwhelmed with indecipherable instruction manuals, I offer …

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14 Nov

It’s nice to know some of the great classics in birding binoculars are still around and still being made without any compromise in quality. I recently had a chance to test the Swift Audubon 820ED on both birds and stars this last week and I was very pleased. The ED of the “still made in Japan” 820ED makes the standard 820 even better. Resolution in the ED version was about as good as I have seen in an 8x bino and will compare favorably with any premium grade roof prism. Stars were crisp pinpoints of light and Mars showed itself …

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10 Nov

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating a compact binocular for astronomy, though many people are surprised at just how much a little 8×20 compact can see from a dark site. As it happens, I was testing a few binos on stars last night, and was getting a little annoyed at some of the flare I was getting with a couple of mid-priced models, so to be sure it wasn’t some wired atmospheric phenomenon, I grabbed my baby Leica Ultravid 8×20 and turned it on Mars. I am here to report that the atmosphere was just fine (though a bit …

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09 Nov

I received some samples of the new Swift UltraLite 8×42 929B roof prism and the Swift UltraLite 8×42 961G porro to test today, and my initial impressions of both were favorable. These are some of the latest products being made in China for Swift and they are tribute to how well Chinese optics can be made. I’m not going to say I like them as much as the Japanese made Swift Audubon 828HHS roof or the Japanese made Swift Audubon 820, but the new UltraLites are a bargain, considering the price.…

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04 Nov

I watched a Kestrel hunting across the expressway at the airport the other day. From my office, I could see that it was a beautiful male and quite possibly the same one I have been seeing all summer, though we do get some migrating through here this time of year, so can’t say for sure.

I can definitely say he was fun to watch, though. Kestrels are such amazing acrobats. This one darted across a runway, then flew up straight and began to do its characteristic hovering. It then folded its wings, dove and bottomed out in a long glide …

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03 Nov

I revisited the Kowa BD42 C3 binocular today at lunch and decided to retest it against a formidable opponent, the Nikon Premier LX 8×42. I am happy to report that the Kowa acquitted itself nicely against this superb Nikon.

The LX was only a touch sharper on the test chart. In fact, I really had to work hard to see any difference between the two, but in the end, I leaned toward the Nikon in the end for its slightly better edge sharpness. Remarkably, image brightness between the two was a dead even draw. I suspect this is a result …

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