BARSKA Colorado Waterproof Spotting Scope
This was my first purchase of a Barska product and I'm mystified at how they can produce such high quality at near give-away prices. I've owned optics from Nikon, Leupold, Minolta, Tasco, Simmons, Bushnell and other companies and Barska products are not merely "okay for the price," they surpass scopes costing much more. I was surprised when I received it with both a high-quality hard case and a cloth case--my first impression was that I would have preferred it if the company had foregone the hard case and put the money into the optics, but the padded lock-box turned out to be a bonus and not an add-on sales gimmick, they didn't compromise on the scope quality.
I needed a new spotting scope for rifle and pistol targets and honestly expected little from a zoom scope at this price range--I prefer fixed optics but needed at least 50x power to spot at 500-1000 yards and figured this would be adequate for seeing holes in paper. All I can say is, "Damn." Not only can I spot at 1000 yards, I can zoom in on a power pole a block away from my home and see a crisp, view-filling image of the serial numbers on the transformer box. The focus at 60x is stretching it--the useful magnification is more like 55x--but that's also the case with many pricier scopes...back it off a quarter turn from max power and the image becomes crisp and clear. The light capture doesn't match a $1000 Zeiss or Fujicon, nor is the focus crystal-sharp at maximum power, but how can anyone criticize that in a fifty-buck product? It's rubber-armored, the adjustments have the feel of a quality instrument, there's no chromatic aberration or distortion until about 50x, the ergonomics are excellent, the construction is bullet-proof and the 60mm field of view is generous both on the range and off.
For nature hiking and even star-gazing it's light enough to sling over my shoulder and forget about it, less cumbersome and heavy than high-power binoculars I generally leave at home. It's handy enough to tuck into a knapsack and rewarding enough that it's worthwhile going to the hassle of toting a full-size telescoping tripod on day hikes. I tuck it into my ditty bag for boating on Puget Sound to watch whales, seals, other critters and boat traffic and cheap enough that I don't worry about salt water spray and can hand it off to kids and enjoy watching them get a kick out of it without a lump in my throat. It has survived being dropped, doused with salt water and saturated with spilled beer.
Just to see if it was a fluke I dropped all of $30 on a pair of fixed-power Barska 10x50 binoculars and was equally impressed--they're better than my Nikons.
My experience with both Barska products is that you get way more than you pay for--they're not toys and while not as breath-taking as top Japanese and German optics, they're more than adequate for crisp and clear spotting and recreation. What's more important to me is that they get USED--I don't think twice about tossing them into into a day pack or my van just in case they come in handy, and if they get busted or lost I'll be disappointed but won't shed any tears, I'll just replace them with new Barskas. Next up is a rifle scope--I've looked through one at the range and it's as good or better than my Leupold.
In summary, them Russkies are turning out useful and rewarding gizmos for chump change. Those who say differently don't know optics--apparently they expect to see the rings of Saturn and don't understand the basic physics and limitations of light magnification. I've had the opportunity to use use truly fine scopes and binoculars and once you've seen professional quality you get kinda spoiled and judgemental. That said, I can't call Barskas magnificent but I can say that you're not going to see much more with a $1000 instrument than you'll see with this. I'm not Bill Gates so I have to make do. If you're considering a scope in the under-$150 range this is better than most of 'em and only runs $55--don't give it a second thought, unless you opt for the next one up the line with the prism eyepiece that's handier with the tabletop tripod (I'd look up the model number but if I leave this page I'll loose this message).