Just had the new Celestron Regal 80 ED spotting scope come through, so I thought I would grab one off the shelf and put it through its paces. For the selling price of just under $600, this is most expensive 80mm Celestron spotting scope yet and represents Celestron’s bid into the serious, conventional style 80mm spotting scope under $1000 market. The question, of course, is how does it compare to the competition, that being an 80mm Bushnell Elite spotting scope and the 80mm Brunton Eterna? The Bushnell Elite spotting scope and the 80mm Brunton Eterna are as good as it gets under $1000, but they will run another $200-250, compared to the Celestron. That’s a serious savings if you go with the Celestron Regal, but only if the Regal can hang in there in terms of performance. Some of that price difference reflects the fact that the Regal is made in China, compared to Japan for the Elite and the Eterna, but if country of origin is not an issue for you, the Regal is a great value, based on my test.
First, the features. The Regal includes all the features you could want in a spotting scope – a rotating tripod collar, the ability to use many different eyepieces, an extendable sunshield, dual focusing, a twist up eyecup on the eyepiece and you even get an SLR camera adapter which allows you to connect an SLR camera body directly to the eyepiece via an optional t-ring. You also get a form fitting zippered carrying case, though not a case you can view through in the field. Weight and length are about average for an 80mm spotting scope with a zoom eyepiece, but, as always, it is a big mistake to put a scope this large on anything but a good tripod. I ran my test using a Bogen 055XDB, 128RC
Next, the optics. In a word, excellent, especially given the price. I have no hesitation stacking the Regal up against other 80mm scopes under $1000. Resolution, contrast and image brightness were all excellent and in the same class as the Elite and Eterna. In fact, I rated image brightness as even better than the Elite. Color correction was also excellent, all the way up to 60x and, as icing on the cake, edge sharpness was also excellent with little or no distortion. The Celestron Regal 80ED is, like the big Elite and Eterna, a legitimate 300 yard target spotting scope.
Okay, it gets even better. One of my biggest complaints about scopes in this price range is the zoom eyepiece, especially in terms of eye relief, since I wear glasses when I use a spotting scope. A good example of a zoom eyepiece limiting performance n an otherwise worthy spotting scope is the zoom eyepiece on the Celestron Ultima 80ED. The Ultima 80ED spotting scope does not live up to its potential because Celestron uses the same cheap zoom eyepiece as on the much cheaper Ultima models without ED.
Celestron did not make this mistake on the Celestron Regal 80ED, though. Far from it. The Regal uses a completely new design and it is a dandy. Remarkably, the eye relief on the Regal zoom eyepiece remained constant throughout its range and a very comfy 20mm. With its large 25mm diameter lens, this zoom eyepiece can also be used to good effect for digiscoping and, if you don’t like zoom eyepieces, you can also use any standard 1.25″ telescope eyepiece, any brand, in the Celestron Regal 80ED. The collet style eyepiece lock allows you to change eyepieces in an instant. That’s a great feature in terms of versatility and not the norm with most spotting scope models. This is the best spotting scope zoom eyepiece I have tested at this price. Well done, Celestron.
Are there negatives to the Celestron Regal 80ED? Yes, but there will always be some issues at this price. Biggest negative on this sample I tested was the rough and tough focusing when using coarse focus. It required a lot of effort and was not consistent in smoothness. There were high spots and rough spots throughout the range. Not a good feature if you are trying to get on target, fast, as when birding. Of course, this could have been just this one sample, but it should be noted. Fine focus, though, posed no issues.
In a similar fashion, overall construction did not live up to the quality of the more expensive Bushnell Elite or Brunton Eterna. For instance, as good as the eyepiece is optically, it is no $500 eyepiece in terms of mechanics. You won’t mistake it for a Swarovski in terms of construction; I could hear the optical elements shift in the body at times. The body on the Celestron Regal 80ED was certainly adequate, but you won’t mistake it for the body on a $1000 scope, either. Still, Celestron’s No Fault Lifetime Warranty is tough to beat, should there be problems in the future. That’s a warranty not equaled by too many other players in the spotting scope market, these days.
So, my take on the new Celestron Regal 80ED spotting scope? I regard the Celestron Regal 80ED to be a best buy in its price range, especially if optics are your main concern and optics are what it is all about on a spotting scope. In fact, I am going to vote it as my choice for a spotting scope in its price range in our new Brilliance Awards program.