As a target shooter I am always looking at equipment related to my sport and passion. This is something I think we all do, look for new gear which will make our lives easier, or improve on existing equipment whilst not hurting the budget. As a result of some net surfing I discovered Vortex USA, a company which has been manufacturing binoculars for sometime and which is now entering the and rifle scope market, Vortex are also producing a range of spotting scopes.http://www.vortexoptics.com/
Shortly after a Vortex Skyline 20-60 x 80 spotting scope (Model SKL-80S) arrived by post. The spotting scope is water proof and has nitrogen purged optics to prevent internal fogging of the lenses, it is also equipped with fully coated optics. Also included with the SKL-80S was a table-top tripod, eyepiece cap, objective lens cap & view-through carry case. A most impressive discovery was a full lifetime warranty.
Exert from the Vortex optics Website;
The VIP warranty is a Very Important Promise to you ... because you are a very important person to us. Each Vortex product is built to last, and unconditionally guaranteed with our commitment to your absolute satisfaction.
You can count on service under our VIP warranty ... it is:
VIP warranty works for you
At Vortex Optics, we want you to use and enjoy your optics with complete confidence ... that's why our warranty is so straightforward. Rest assured that if any Vortex Optics product should ever require service, Vortex will repair or replace the product absolutely free — no matter what the cause!
• No warranty card to fill out.
• No time limit on our promise.
• No restrictions on coverage ... even if you transfer ownership of the product.
Equipped with the SKL-80S I set off to the Deep creek range at Batemans Bay for the NSW Benchrest Fly Championships on the Queens birthday long weekend to see how it performed and compare it to other spotting scopes at the range. We were greeted on Saturday by wet and windy conditions for the 200 metre rimfire event. Many shooters at the range were using various brands of spotting scopes.
The Skyline easily resolved .22 bullet holes at 200 metres and provided a sharp and clear picture. The fact is that virtually all the spotting scopes on the range could achieve this at 200 metres at least to some degree, made this a relatively easy task particularly as due to the rain and overcast conditions mirage was virtually zero.
That said, an immediate quality assessment based on clarity and sharpness placed the Skyline in a class ahead of scopes such as;
Tasco 20-60 X 60 ($159*)
Bushnell 20-60 x 60 ($179*)
Leupold 15-45 x 50 ($460*)
Acuter 20-60 x 60 ($389*)
Further to this the resolution at the 200 metre range was comparable to the;
Kowa TSN820 20-60 x 80 ($1,974*)
Leica Televid 77 20-60 x 77 ($3,242*)
Zeiss 20-60 x 85 T FL Diascope ($3,733*)
Sunday morning would provide the opportunity to compare the Vortex to the other spotting scopes on the bench line at 500 metres. The weather again provided a perfect “seeing day” with cloud cover and cool conditions meaning that mirage was again virtually non existent.
Vortex Skyline SKL-80S on the bench line, 500 metre targets can be seen in the distance.
The Vortex Skyline was set up and provided a clear crisp picture at 500 metres, the Skyline was able to easily resolve bullet holes in targets from 6mm to 30 cal all day. In fact the Skyline was able to discern two bullets cutting a single oval shaped hole in targets at this longer distance, no mean achievement and a feat many others including the Kowa TSN820 could not match.
From a clarity and picture quality perspective the Kowa and Leica did not have any noticeable advantage over the Skyline in my view, this was a comment repeated by many shooters present on the day. It must be remembered that mirage was minimal and clarity was easily identified.
The Zeiss 20-60 x 85 as expected proved to be the best optics on the range but this came as no surprise especially with a price tag of some $3700. The small things such as a dual focus system incorporating course and fine focus adjustments and a much longer eye relief and a larger 85mm objective lens were noticeable differences between the Skyline and the Zeiss.
There is no doubt that the Zeiss is a cut above the rest including the Vortex Skyline but at the price of the Zeiss you would be a very upset owner if it was not. Is the difference worth the dollar difference between the two? Considering the purchase price of the Vortex Skyline SKL-80S is in total, equal to the last three figures in the price of the Zeiss. I do not think that anyone beyond the most fastidious buyer would look past the Skyline.
Some issues I found with the Skyline which whilst not of major concern were noticed include the eye relief which is fairly short at 18 -19 mm and takes a little getting used to. The lack of a coarse and fine focus adjustment was also not a major factor, but one cannot expect too much from a Spotting scope which is so reasonably priced. The table top tripod is a bit light for the SKL-80S but again with the money you are paying purchasing a quality tripod is no hardship, Vortex even have a range of tripods to choose from should you wish to take that road.
One interesting feature in the tripod mounting system, was a mounting collar that lets you rotate the scope body to virtually any angle you prefer, this would be of particular interest to NRA full bore and F class shooters and hunters wanting to set up for long range varmiting.
The Skyline SKL-80S is not the top of the Vortex range but with a price tag of about $700 is far and away the leader in the value for dollar market. It provided clear crisp picture quality and was able to resolve bullets holes at 500 metres at a standard which approached the level of the best in the field. This testing was done in ideal viewing conditions, further testing under more trying conditions will be interesting but will not lower the level already established. For anyone interested I will be continuing to review the performance of the Skyline at the Stan Dunn range Leeton the weekend of 4th & 5th August and at the Pro Cal Fly shoot at Majura range Canberra on the weekend of 22nd & 23rd September. I will be interested to see how the scope copes with increased mirage effects and less than ideal conditions.
At this point I would like to point out that, I am at this time in no way connected to either Vortex Optics USA nor Antony Goyen their Australian distributor in anyway, nor have I received any inducement, payment or promise of payment for this review.
Further information on Vortex Optics may be obtained from the Vortex Australia website
*All prices obtained via general retail listing in published advertisements by various retailers throughout Australia. Prices are included only to give a general value of quoted optics.
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