Nikon Fieldscope ED50 Review

Nikon Fieldscope ED50 -- as reviewed in Bird Watching magazine

The Nikon Fieldscope ED50 Review — as featured in Bird Watching Magazine’s April edition

Pros: tiny size, lightweight, outstanding performance and image quality. Amazingly packable — ideal travel scope or second scope for birding and wildlife watching situations where you need to keep down the bulk.

Cons: pearlescent green perhaps not the most flattering of colours for a scope (go for black), low light performance not as good as full size scopes (but does better than expected), eyepiece tested sometimes lacked a bit of “reach”. Shame the included neoprene carry case can’t stay on the scope in use.

Price: c. €490 (GB£417.99) (body only)
Value: Excellent
Rating: Highly Recommended

I loved the portability and convenience of the ED50 — it’s a great little scope for travel, or for toting around with a lightweight tripod or monopod when a full-size scope isn’t an option. Great optics and excellent ergonomics mean that this miniature marvel punches well above its weight — meaning you’ll rarely feel you’re missing out by not having a full-size scope to hand. All in all a superb effort from Nikon.

View the Nikon Fieldscope ED50 on the Nikon UK website — full review below.

    

Full Review: Nikon Fieldscope ED50

(This review featured in the April 2013 edition of Bird Watching — the UK’s best-selling birding magazine)

Spotting scopes are an undeniable boon in a wide range of birding situations. Whether you’re scanning waders on extensive mudflats, watching passing seabirds from your favourite headland perch, or simply looking for more “reach” than your binoculars can deliver, a scope can be an indispensable birding tool.

But there are times when lugging a full size scope around is undesirable, impractical or just plain impossible. When your day’s birding involves trekking a long way cross-country, or when you’re travelling abroad, carrying a full size scope and tripod often isn’t viable.

The Nikon Fieldscope ED50 solves that problem beautifully. It’s tiny — and yet manages to pack enough optical punch to put some bigger scopes to shame.

When the test unit arrived the tiny size of the scope body was the second thing I noticed. The first was the fact that it was finished in a shiny pearlescent green. Ewww! Luckily it’s also available in black… a far more attractive proposition.

When you first mount it on a tripod there’s no getting around the fact that the ED50 looks more like a toy than a serious piece of optical kit. On the plus side though, its small size meand it’s remarkably stable, even on a lightweight tripod like the Vanguard Alta + I was using. It’s also surprisingly robust. As you’d expect from Nikon it feels solid and well made despite its tiny size, and is fully waterproof and nitrogen purged — so it’s ready for whatever the elements throw at it.

Any notion that this scope is a toy evaporate the moment you look through it. The view is bright, crisp and clear — far better than I was expecting given the scope’s diminutive stature.

The ED50 accepts a full size Nikon screw-mount eyepiece… so you have a good selection to choose from, and if you already use a compatible Nikon scope (Fieldscope II, III, EDIII or ED82) then you can interchange eyepieces… which is always a bonus. Do bear in mind though that the smaller objective / focal length of the ED50 will affect the characteristics of the eyepiece in terms of both magnification and field of view. The fixed magnification 30x / 38x wide angle eyepiece Nikon sent me, for example, becomes a 20x wide angle when mounted on the ED50.

The eyepiece combines well with the ED (extra low dispersion) glass in the objective lens to deliver a lovely sharp, high contrast image, with good colour fidelity, surprisingly good brightness and a wide field of view. There’s no sign of chromatic aberration (colour fringing) in normal use and resolution is excellent, revealing plenty of fine detail (the ED glass doing its thing).

Focusing is achieved through a simple focus knob in front of the eyepiece, and as you’d expect from Nikon it is smooth, fluid and accurate… no issues there. The close focus was quite impressive in scope terms, and I found I could comfortably focus on objects around 3 metres away — although I suspect this will vary depending on the eyepiece used.

At times I craved the extra reach a zoom or higher magnifications fixed eyepiece would give me, but for most general birding the 20x wide was more than up to the task. If I was buying an ED50 I think I’d pair it with a 30x fixed wide angle, or a (decent) wide zoom eyepiece for maximum flexibility.

The best thing about the ED50 by far was carrying it around. That’s not to detract from its optical qualities, which were undeniably top notch for such a small scope — it’s just that the novelty of carrying a scope around with no fatigue, no aching shoulders and no need for fancy scope carriers was hard to beat. I’d find myself taking the ED50 with me on occasions when a larger scope would have stayed in the car, or even at home, and because the little Nikon punches well above its weight in terms of optical performance I rarely felt I was missing out on a better view.

In terms of travelling, the ED50 would disappear into luggage — or even hand luggage — and would hardly make a dent in your baggage allowance. Team it up with a lightweight compact tripod (or even a small monopod), and you have everything you need for a fantastic birding holiday, with plenty of room left for your other essentials.

The negatives? Well apart from the colour (choose black… trust me), there’s no getting around the fact that a 50mm objective lens doesn’t collect as much light as a 60+mm or 80+mm objective. To be honest though Nikon has done a remarkable job of maximising transmission on the ED50. The image never felt “dark”, and the scope performed much better than I thought it would in low light, and remained usable well into dusk.

One area where I think Nikon did miss a beat is with the padded neoprene and nylon carry case that comes with the ED50. It’s a perfectly serviceable case, but I can’t for the life of me work out why they didn’t make it a useable stay-on case. As it is the case stays on the scope while it’s mounted on a tripod, but you have to unzip / unclip it and remove it completely before you can use the scope. That’s a shame.

When all said and done I was very impressed with the ED50. It’s an extremely versatile little scope that delivers superb image quality in an extremely compact package. It would make an ideal travel scope or second lightweight scope for when your involves a bit of a hike. It’s so good, in fact, that I’d even suggest it would make an excellent main scope if you’re looking for maximum flexibility in a portable, lightweight package.

Fact File

Close Focus: c. 3m (depending on eyepiece?)

Dimensions: 207mm x 71mm

Weight: 470g (body only)

RRP: £417.99 (Nikon Online Store)

    

Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank the team at Nikon UK for submitting the Fieldscope ED50 for review on the Ireland’s Wildlife website.

NB. Ireland’s Wildlife has no specific affiliation to any optics or gear manufacturer and all reviews on the site are completely independent and objective. Reviews are carried out by a select team of experienced birders and wildlife watchers, and all gear is tested in Ireland under field conditions.

If you’re an optics or gear manufacturer and would like to submit your wildlife related product for review on the site please drop us a line using the contact form and we can take things from there.

About Calvin Jones

Calvin Jones is a freelance writer, author, birder and lifelong wildlife enthusiast. He is founder and managing editor of IrelandsWildlife.com. He is also the tour leader and wildlife guide on our West Cork based Discover Wildlife tours.
Calvin is also co-author of bestselling digital marketing titles and offers digital business consulting services and training through Digital Marketing Success

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  1. […] everything is pretty much the same as a standard scope. The design is reminiscent of the legendary Nikon ED50 fieldscope I reviewed some time back — and that’s no bad […]

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