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Tests to compare scopes in low light

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/17/2011 at 11:28
dr_deerhunter View Drop Down
Optics GrassHopper
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OK, so the new Weaver Extreme scope came in today. So far, it looks great. I still have my friends rifle with the Meopta Meostar R1 on it, and I wanted to do  a little low-light comparison in the moonlight tonight. Any thoughts as to what would be a good way to test and compare? I know I can go out and say, "yep, I can see stuff", but that doesn't really do it justice. I am also going to be comparing the Nikon Monarch binos to his Minox binos.

I know I can't be super-precise and measure light transmission or anything like that, but are there standard tests that you all use when comparing optics to one another?

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/17/2011 at 14:32
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Optics Jedi Knight
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Different people have different perceptions of what can be seen in low light because of the variations in eyesight. Just take one scope and directly compare side by side with another. After several scopes you can make your own rating scale. Others may or may not see the same ratings you assign.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/17/2011 at 16:50
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John Barsness came up with a chart, which I made into a PDF a while back. You can try that. I've set it up @ 25 yards. A couple things to think about:

  1. Let your eyes adjust to the dark for at least 30 minutes before viewing
  2. Try to have a limited but constant amount of light, e.g. a porch light that would illuminate the paper somewhat but not be shining in your eyes.
http://stonetip.com/diagrams/bar_sness_chart.pdf
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/18/2011 at 05:56
Gerry Atric View Drop Down
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I have used this oldie but goodie:
 
 
I had a discussion with an american ages ago regarding "low-light" scopes and we agreed on using this chart when we compared scopes. Alas these files are gone but I found the chart above on the net.
 
Gerry Atric
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/18/2011 at 06:08
MeoptaSurujh View Drop Down
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This old USAF chart is still trusted today by many optics companies as being very reliable for gathering objective test measurements.  Meopta reccomends this chart as well for customers who are interested in serious side-by-side comparisons of quality optics.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/18/2011 at 10:31
Gerry Atric View Drop Down
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Originally posted by MeoptaSurujh MeoptaSurujh wrote:

This old USAF chart is still trusted today by many optics companies as being very reliable for gathering objective test measurements.  Meopta reccomends this chart as well for customers who are interested in serious side-by-side comparisons of quality optics.
 
I know there is a positive and a negative variant of the USAF chart, haven´t figured out when to use the "black one" though .....
 
It´s good to know that I´ve made serious side-by-side comparisons of optics the correct way all my life Wink Maybe I should buy a Meopta, one of the few european optics I´ve never laid my hands on, maybe because they seems scarse on the used market....
 
Gerry Atric
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/18/2011 at 14:12
Jon A View Drop Down
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Here's a better PDF of it:  http://accurateshooter.net/targets/usaf1951.pdf  .  Even better if you have a laser printer--very important if trying to test higher power scopes at close range (though I like doing it at longer ranges). 

While pure resolution on a black and white chart certainly is important and one very large measure of a scope, it's not the only thing that matters.  Colors and contrast matter a lot--especially in low light.   I suggest also trying to look at some actual brown/tawny colored objects strategically placed in the shadows someplace (wooded area is the best).  With some scopes they'll just pop out at you and won't with others.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/20/2011 at 18:01
dr_deerhunter View Drop Down
Optics GrassHopper
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Well, I got outside for a side by side comparison -- didn't have your charts to go by, so I just used objects that were there in the field. I checked the binos and the scopes both at dusk as the sun set between 9:30 and 10:00, then again around 11:00 as the full moon came up in a clear sky.

So here is what I was comparing: binoculars - Minox BL 8x56BR vs Nikon Monarch 10x56.
Scopes - Meopta Meostar R1 3-12x56 vs Weaver Extreme 2.5-10x56

First let me say that these items are not even close in cost comparison. Both the Minox and the Meopta retail for more than twice the going price for the Nikons and the Weaver, so just getting close in quality was going to satisfy me. I'm not going to say I'm not biased, in that I want to think I made a wise purchase, but I am a realist, and I tried to take that into account. So here is my completely untrained, poor-man, cheapskate, layman's review:

At dusk - binoculars - I couldn't tell the difference between the Minox and the Nikons. I looked and looked - objects in the Nikons were slightly larger (10x56 Nikons vs. 8x56 Minox), but as far as light transmission goes, I couldn't make out a difference.

Scopes at dusk - very little difference in light transmission. The Meopta has a noticeably wider field of view and less eye relief, which made it feel like there was more light being transmitted to your eye, but when you compared specifics -- colors of leaves on a mountain a couple of KM away, and looking at the brightness of the sky directly over the hilltops - I couldn't really tell.

By moonlight - binoculars - very close, but to my untrained eye, it seemed like I could see slightly better through the Nikons. There are several man-made objects on the hilltop I was testing them on, and both could clearly peer through what appeared to be darkness to the naked eye, and pick out specifics of the different objects; but in the Nikons, the objects seemed to be just a little more crisp, and easier to identify. It definitely could have been the fact that the Nikons have a little more magnification. When I was facing the full moon, and scanning the field directly underneath -- in other words - if I tilted my head up a little, I would have been looking directly at the moon - there was a noticeable glare in the Nikons. The glare was also there in the Minoxs, but it was worse in the Nikons. I don't know how this would affect functionality in the day. That aside, if I had to choose between the two for night hunting, I'd take the Nikons.

Scopes by moonlight - as far as light transmission goes, I really couldn't tell that much of a difference. I was able to pick out objects with both scopes, although neither of them was as clear and crisp as either of the binoculars. Still, I could find objects and zero in on them. Sometimes I had to go back and forth between the binoculars and the scope to make sure of what I was looking at, but that was basically the same with both scopes. To my untrained eye, it didn't appear that one scope was better than the other in the category of ambient light transmission. Where I really noticed the difference was in other things though.

First, I noticed the Meopta has the reticle on the second focal plane, so the reticle gets bigger when you zoom in on something. Turns out, that is a really nice feature for night hunting. Seems to make illumination unnecessary, because you can actually see the posts in the dark (both scopes have a version of the German #4 reticle). The Weaver has the reticle on the first focal plane, so it stays the same size throughout the zoom. I had to be looking at an object where the moon was glaring off a lighter color to see that reticle, and when I was looking at a darker object, it was invisible. -- So for the implementation of the reticle, the nod goes to Meopta.

Well, that's no problem, because both scopes have an illuminated dot in the center. This feature is implemented MUCH better by Meopta. Meopta's switch has definite movement into place for each level of brightness. It starts off, then you turn it to one (where there is a definite stop), then it turns off (another definite stop), then two, then off, then three, etc. With the Weaver, you turn it on with an audible "click" (Meopta is silent), and then the dial is free spinning to adjust brightness. The Meopta starts off very dim, where you can barely see it. At about 5-6 you start to notice a little glare off the horizontal crosshairs and very noticeable glare as it gets brighter. The Weaver's dimmest setting is about the level of 5-6 on the Meopta, and even at the dimmest setting you notice a little glare off the horizontal cross hairs. Definitely brighter than what you really want for night hunting -- it looked fine at dusk, but too bright at night. Now, it's not so bright that you can't see objects behind it, and it isn't going to ruin your night vision, so I think it is still usable, but if I can figure out a way to dim that light some, I'll do it.  -- illumination: advantage - Meopta

Once again the eye relief issue came up when testing the scopes. When under a bright moonlight, I found myself pulling my hat down over the eye cup on the Weaver, because I was getting glare from the moon at certain angles. I still had to do it a little with the Meopta, but definitely not as much. Now this is a minor issue that occurred when looking through the scopes, but I wasn't shooting. The Weaver is going on my Savage 111 (synthetic stock) in 7mm Rem Mag - it's a light gun with a high power round where I think the eye relief will probably be a good thing so I don't end up with a black eye every time I shoot. The Meopta is on a little European CZ500 chambered for 8mm Mauser, so it doesn't kick like a pissed off mule, and you can afford to put your eye up a little closer to the glass.

The extra field of view on the Meopta is a definite bonus at night. While it didn't make it easier to see a specific object, I was able to orient myself easier when switching my view between the binoculars and the scope. It might would help one get onto his target a little faster, or perhaps keep a pig in view a little better if it were trotting across a field.

Anyway - for the scopes, I think they are about equal in the quality of their glass, and light transmission. It is the other features that make me prefer the Meopta over the Weaver; however, when I factor in the fact that the Weaver was $450 cheaper than the Meopta, I think it is going to be adequate. For the extra $450, I'll be able to pay my hunting fees for the year. I'm not sure I would be willing to pay the extra money for those "extra features", when my primary goal was to get an illuminated scope with good glass on a modest budget. I think I accomplished that. Considering the whole package - scope + binoculars, for less than the amount that my wife cleared me to spend on a scope, I am pleased that I was able to get at least adequate gear without breaking the bank. Where I really think I got the bargain, though is with the binoculars. Those Minox's go for $798 on SWFA, and I got the Nikons off the Samplelist for $250, so I really hit poor-man's gold there.

If I ever get around to killing something, and not just peering through glass at night on an empty hilltop, maybe I'll post a picture.

Waidmanns Heil!
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