Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Testing tips

In our October issue, we test seven mini-scopes. As always, though, our survey is only intended as a guide, and we strongly recommend that you try as many models as possible before you buy. With that in mind, here are our tips when buying any optics...

  • If you can, ask other birdwatchers if you can try their scopes, and take note of any features you like or dislike.
  • Before you go to buy, make a shortlist of models that you’re interested in, and give your dealer a call to check that they’re available.
  • Make sure the shop you buy from has good viewing facilities, so you can test the scopes yourself. Some retailers hold field days at reserves and birdwatching fairs.
  • Compare all the models on your shortlist thoroughly before trying any suggested by the shopkeeper.
  • If the shopkeeper gets too technical for you, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. If he is particularly enthusiastic about a certain model, remember that profit margins vary, and that it might be one that earns him more money.
  • Try to compare only two models at a time, three at most.
  • Take your time about comparing. Don’t be hurried (good retailers will be happy to give you as long as you need), and make notes as you compare – these will be invaluable if you decide to come back later after thinking things over.
  • Take all factors into account – a superb image is all very well, but the scope also needs to be one that you’re comfortable using.
  • Always test the actual scope you’re buying before taking it home.
  • Check that the box carries an approved importers mark – buying a ‘grey’ import can cause problems if anything goes wrong.

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