Opticron HR 66 GA ED/45
Luton-based Opticron is currently upgrading its top-end telescopes. Under the maxim ‘smaller, lighter and sharper’ and said to offer a host of improvements over preceding models, the new HR ED scopes were launched in April and seem set to take the viewing experience to the next level in terms of quality mid-range performance.
Manufactured in Japan, the redesigned scopes feature a new lightweight magnesium body, complete with a large footprint tripod adapter with 180° rotation – +/- 90° either side of the vertical mid-point, click-stopping in five positions. The body is nitrogen filled and protected with textured natural rubber armour which, Opticron says, is highly durable.
There is a new retractable rubber-covered lens hood with an integrated rubber objective lens cap. The attachment ring of the latter fits into a recessed channel in the distal end of the scope’s body, between the main body armour and the lens hood, thus remaining unobtrusive and flush with the body. Although it can be removed or replaced it is of solid and sturdy assembly, not a tawdry, ephemeral ‘clip-on’ accessory, the likes of which are now appearing on a number of binoculars and some scopes currently on the market.
I took to the field armed with the new HR 66 GA ED/45, the ‘45’ suffix denoting the angled-bodied version of this model, and was pleasantly surprised to discover just how good it was. Weighing in at 1,278 g, the body struck me as a little heavy for the size of the scope, although it did not feel particularly weighty when carried in the field. Opticron’s top-of-the-range eyepiece, the SDL zoom, is easy to connect and locked into position with a collar thread attachment. I found that the centrally positioned, rubber-armoured focus wheel turned freely and offered smooth and positive focusing from infinity down to 5 m.
Like Opticron’s fixed magnification eyepieces, the zoom eyepiece is compatible with other scopes in the range and, when fitted to the 66 mm model, delivers a magnification range from 18x to 54x. This range increases from 24x to 72x when connected to the larger 80 mm model. Using the zoom is simple enough with, I discovered, approximately 120° rotation between the high and low magnification settings. However, extending the rotating eye-cup to the optimum position for eye relief at all magnifications takes a little time; for my eyes the halfway point between the two extremes of extension appeared to be the only position at which I could obtain a full field of view at both highest and lowest magnification settings. The eye-cup does not click-lock in any extended position but its twist-out mechanics are such that it did not move appreciably from its setting during prolonged field use.
Redesigned and reconfigured optical systems for this telescope feature a high-definition five-element apochromatic objective lens with two separate ED elements, as well as multi-coating. I discovered this translates to commendable field imagery in terms of optical clarity, definition and colour replication across a variety of habitats and viewing conditions.
Although difficult to attain at the highest magnification, image sharpness is excellent across the full range of magnification, with uniform edge-to-edge crispness and no peripheral loss of definition. A little curvature of field is evident at the edges, and chromatic aberration, though present in a broad periphery, is largely unnoticeable. There appears to be no discernible colour cast, although the image appears very ‘cold’, conforming to my previous experience of Opticron products. When watching water birds on a bright day there was no glare from sunlight reflected off the water’s surface. Neither could I detect any flare when viewing near the sun, while both contrast and colour replication were more than acceptable.
As a mid-range scope I can’t fault this product. It is a smart, well-built and well-presented piece of equipment, which purchasers of small- to medium-sized scopes should seriously consider before possibly paying double the price for a big-ticket item. Opticron devotees will be pleased to learn that the angled-bodied versions in this range are now the same price as their straight-bodied counterparts; previously they had attracted a £50 premium.
Price: £649 (body); £229 (SDL zoom eyepiece)