I have been using an ATS 65 HD 20-60X spotting scope now for most of the last decade for my Big Bore Silhouette and other long-range shooting activities and its performance, as would be expected by its cost, has been exceptional.
Optical perfection is expensive and it a Law of Diminishing Returns in this area when squeezing the last 5% of performance out of the STR 80 HD lenses may double the cost.
There are plenty of spotting scopes available that will do a satisfactory job, in most cases, that are significantly less costly than Swarovski spotting scopes, but will fall short when the limits are being pushed.
I have made up a camera adapter for my ATS 65 and have taken digital photos through the scope at 60X magnification and they are of excellent resolution and contrast.
I thought that the ATS 65 was the company’s top of the line model until the sample STR 80 HD arrived for review. This spotting scope has taken another technological step by incorporating an illuminated reticle in the scope while maintaining the high level of optical quality.
As can be seen in the comparison photo, the STR 80 HD is a fairly large scope, and quite bulky thanks to the reticle electronics housing, but is very well balanced and best used off a tripod. It weighs around 2kg and is around 45cm long so is still reasonably portable.
The test sample has a straight 25-50X eyepiece and going by the catalogue specifications, and angled eyepiece option is not available in this model. The novel feature of the STR 80 HD is its MRAD crosshair reticle that is somewhat more complicated than a scoped reticle.
It is designed to allow target size to be calculated at any distance but musty be used in conjunction with a rangefinder so that the distance can be accurately incorporated into the Swarovski’s reticle measurements.
The MRAD reticle is set in the first focal plane of the scope’s optical system, so that the angles subtended by the reticle graduations remain constant, independent of the STR 80’s magnification setting. With image moving scopes that have range graduating reticles, accurate subtensions are only available at a specific power setting on the scope.
The STR 80 HD reticle illumination switch is located on the rear of the unit above the eyepiece and has day and night settings that can be varied for brightness. The day settings obviously illuminate the reticle to a higher level of brightness, while the night settings are at a lower level appropriate for the background conditions.
There is a reticle focussing adjustment on the left side of the eyepiece housing that allows the reticle to be focuses for individual eyesight requirements. As luck would have it, the reticle was sharp and clear as received, so no further adjustments were required.
Both the eyepiece and the objective lenses have captive covers. The eyepiece cover is a conventional rubber cap while the front lens has a clever arrangement that allows the large front cap to be disengaged from the sunshield and parked on top or underneath the objective lens, held in place by two elastic straps.
No documents were supplied with the STR 80 HD test scope, but I was able to download a manual and other information off the Swarovski web site.
There is too much information to include here, so for those interested, it can be downloaded at: http://subtensions.swarovskioptik.com/. For those unfamiliar with MRAD measurements, they do a similar job to minute of angle (MoA) units when it comes to range measurement and angular dispersion.
An MRAD is an acronym for milliradian, and is an angular measurement which is defined as a thousandth of the radian (0.001 radian), meaning that a full circle of 360 ° corresponds to approximately 6283 milliradians.
Mil adjustment is commonly used in the mechanic adjustment of scope sights in tactical applications and shooting sports, where sight adjustment using mils is particularly useful together with metric units when shooting at regular distances such as 100m or 300m.
With one click of a sight adjustment of 0.1 MRAD will move the point of impact exactly 1cm at 100m and 3cm at 300m respectively. This is technically more accurate that MoA, where 1 MoA nominally 1 inch at 100 yards while in reality 1 MoA at that distance equals 1.047 inches.
The clever front lens cover remains captive to the scope without getting in the way.
While this is a small error, it will increase the more the sight is adjusted or the longer the shooting distance. In long range shooting (i.e. 1000m and above) MRAD reticles can provide more precise shot corrections.
The optical performance of the STR 80 HD is up to Swarovski’s usual very high standards. At maximum magnification, the image is absolutely sharp right out to the edges of the field.
I have attended a couple of Swarovski technical seminars in days gone by, and as well as the obvious ballistically-based uses for spotting scopes in this part of the world, a major driver of premium optical quality, particularly in Europe, is bird watching where image clarity for small and sometimes distant object is at a premium.
While the average target shooter may not get the benefit of the MRAD reticle in the STR 80 HD as the range and target size is predetermined, it would obviously have a very useful place for trophy hunters in the shooting world, and professionals who need to measure the size of distant objects that may not otherwise be accessible.
The Swarovski STR 80 is in a class by itself in design and performance and can handle just about any long-range spotting operation, but if you have a tight budget, don’t bother.
Swarovski STR 80 HD Spotting Scope Video Review
|Swarovski STR 80 HD Specifications|
|Objective lens diameter||80mm|
|Field of view||42-27m at 1000m|
|Minimum focus distance||5.8m|
|Exit pupil diameter||3.2 – 1.6mm|
|Reticle||Illuminated MRAD (Miliradian)|