Some may have noticed that recently I was looking for a Nickel or Optolyth spotting scope and eventually I ended up with a 30X80 Optolyth. I have access to some forestry which has a big hill in the middle from which it is possible to spy along some forest edge and also a lot of clear fell so I thought it might be fun to sit up there and have a look. I didn't want to spend a fortune and my theory was that with these scopes being rather old so it was likely that they wouldn't lose much more money over time so if I didn't like it I could sell for about what I paid.

I've had the Optolyth out a few times now and it must be said that for 30 or 40 year old glass it works very well indeed. It took me a while to get used to the focus, which unlike more modern single turn type focus wheels requires multiple turns to focus from near to far, and also to get into having so much magnification and such a narrow field of view. At first I couldn't get it to focus and couldn't find what I was looking for but it didn't take long to get over that stage.

The 30X80 Optolyth is a two draw scope but even with that it doesn't open out to be anywhere near as long as something like the Gray's so it took me a little while to find ways of supporting it. I have had it mounted on a tripod and this works very well but it is tricky to get the eyepiece at exactly the right height so I would say that a tripod is only really useful in a fixed position on level ground and when viewing objects that will all be at a similar angle from the viewers position. I have also tried using the telescope standing with my normal shooting sticks and this works quite well and is certainly good enough for casual observation however it is difficult to get entirely steady. Having seen stalkers on the hill lie down and use their telescopes I gave that a try and have found that if I can get reasonable support for my back then it is a simple matter to lie back and pull my legs up to rest the telescope on my knee. This seems to give viewing almost as steady as from the tripod and most ground has a suitable area to lie with back support. Again it took a little while to work all this out.

It also took me a while to get a feel for where I needed to position my eye to get a good view and I've found that I actually need to press my eye right into the eye cup on the scope in order to get a view of the full field. This viewing is also very sensitive to bright light from the side and I've found it unnatural, but necessary, to close the other eye. I get the best view if I look through the telescope with my left eye and hold my right hand about 2 inches in front of my right eye so allowing me to keep it open but blocking the view in much the same way as some target shooters do but this approach is often not practical as the hand is needed to steady the telescope. I can't make it work with both eyes open, as I would often do with the rifle scope, though it also works well with my right eye closed but this feels a bit unnatural and results in a less good "sight picture."

In terms of performance it must be understood that I don't have anything similar to compare with but I will give my general opinion. In decent light the telescope produces good images and, in truth, better than I expected for 30+ year old glass that needs a good clean and service. However in lower light conditions the scope quickly runs out of light, though again it is actually better than I had expected. In areas of high contrast where there is a bright area close by an area of deep shadow then the telescope is not very good at letting you see into the shadow, though my eyesight must be a factor in this as well. As an example I was watching the edge of some forestry at just over 1900 yards and while I could have easily seen any deer out beyond the shade of the trees I doubt if I could have seen a deer in the shade. On the other hand off the tripod and in reasonable light I can read car number plates and street names at 900ish yards and can make out individual bricks on a large chimney at 2055 yards.

I suspect that the glass could do with a good clean and so may send the telescope off to have this done at some point in the coming year. At the minute I'm impressed with the performance when you consider that these scopes usually sell in the 200 - 300 range and it is my intention to continue using it for some spying when stalking and also for wildlife watching and similar for which it seems well suited. I wouldn't want the scope any shorter as getting a decent position to steady it may become a problem so for this reason the 30X80 might make a better stalking scope than the smaller objective single draw Optolyth scopes. I also don't think I'd want much more magnification as getting it steady would be a problem and you'd need a much bigger objective to let enough light in.

About a week back I was out stalking in lovely weather (remember lovely weather?) with a bright sun and I spent a nice hour sitting on top of a hill in the sun spying into all the likely areas. I didn't see any deer but enjoyed the chance to lie back and take in the view and given this I think the scope is a success but that it takes some getting used to and probably has limited application for many stalkers.