Pros: Crisp, high resolution views with good colour and contrast throughout most of the 16-48x zoom range. Excellent wide angle eyepiece delivers expansive viewing experience without “tunnel vision” common with budget scopes. Standard 1.25″ astronomy eyepiece mount means compatible with a vast range of third party eyepieces.
Cons: Non-ED version reviewed does suffers slightly from some colour fringing (chromatic aberration) when viewing high contrast subjects, but it’s not as pronounced as I was expecting.
Price: RRP c. €325 (GB£239.99)
Rating: Highly Recommended
With the T650 Olivon delivers a surprisingly high-performance viewing experience at a very attractive price point. I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed using this scope. The image is impressive at lower magnifications, and while it does drop off slightly towards the top of the zoom range, it remains superb up to about 40x and is still very usable at its maximum 48x zoom.
This is easily the best sub €500 scope I’ve ever used; one that makes me keen to see more of what Olivon has to offer. It would make an excellent first scope for the budget-conscious birder or wildlife enthusiast. It would also be a good choice as a second scope for those who own a larger scope, but want something affordable that’s more portable for occasions where carrying a larger scope is impractical.
View Olivon scopes on the Optical Hardware website.
View the Olivon T650 scope on Amazon.co.uk
Olivon T650 Spotting Scope, Full Review
I wasn’t sure what to expect when the folks at Optical Hardware (Olivon’s UK and Ireland distributor) said they were sending out the relatively new T650 spotting scope (released as a replacement for their T64 scope in mid 2014) for review. While the online blurb sounded interesting, at a recommended retail price of under GB£240 for the scope body and 16-48x eyepiece this falls squarely in the budget scope category, and I’ve had mixed experiences with low-cost scopes in the past.
The jury was out on whether the T650 would deliver.
There’s nothing particularly surprising about the T650’s looks. It’s a fairly typical angled spotting scope, with a mount for a removable eyepiece at one end, a larger objective lens at the other and of the rubber-armoured body. There is a built-in pull-out sunshade at the objective end to help prevent glare in sunny conditions.
The scope looks functional rather than striking, and is perhaps a little larger than I’d expected for a 65mm scope (it’s the same length as my Meopta Meostar S2 82HD scope). At a quoted weight of 1.2 kg it is by no means heavy, but neither is it a featherweight. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, as high quality optical components tend to be quite weighty. I tend to view optics that are very lightweight with a healthy dollop of suspicion.
The T650 feels solid, well built and able to stand up to the rigours of life in the field.
Handling and balance
The Olivon T650 attaches to a tripod via a mounting plate on a rotating collar around the middle of the scope body. This collar can be loosened by means of a lug nut on the side, and lets you rotate the scope to your desired viewing angle. This handy feature makes it easier to use your scope comfortably at different angles in confined viewing conditions, like when you’re sitting in a hide or using a car window mount, for example. The mounting plate itself fits directly into the quick-release shoe on Olivon’s own tripod heads. Quick release plates for other tripod manufacturers can be fitted using the standard thread on the bottom of the plate.
The mounting point is well places for the scope’s centre of gravity, and once attached to a tripod the Olivon T650 feels very stable and well balanced. When you loosed the head it doesn’t want to immediately pitch forward or backwards. Of course the exact nature of how it feels and behaves on your tripod will depend on your choice of head, but I tested it on a standard pan-tilt head, a pistol-grip ball head and a gimbal style head and found it very stable and easy to use on all three.
Focus, eyecup and zoom
The single focus knob is situated conveniently towards the back right of the scope, between the mounting collar and the eyepiece. It’s easy to find with your left or right hand while looking through the scope, and rotates smoothly and precisely with comfortable resistance. Achieving perfect focus is quick and easy. While it doesn’t have a separate fine-focus feature, like some other scopes, I never had a problem achieving accurate focus quickly with the single focus control at any zoom level.
The detachable zoom eyepiece eyepiece feels like a very high quality piece of kit. It uses a standard 1.25″ astronomy eyepiece mount, and simply slides into the scope body and is locked in place by rotating the locking ring on the body. It is easy to attach and detach, and locks firmly into place with no sign of slippage during the extended review period. The eyepiece has a twists-up eyering hat seems to be covered in hard rubber, and provides comfortable viewing. Olivon quotes an eye-relief of 18-15mm through the zoom range, which should mean most glasses wearers can achieve a full field of view using the eyepiece without having to remove their eyewear.
As with most zoom scopes rotating a ribbed collar on the eyepiece takes the scope from 16x up to 48x. The zoom action is smooth, fluid and precise throughout the zoom range. As with pretty much every zoom eyepiece you need to slightly adjust the focus after zooming in or out.
While there may not be anything surprising about the way the T650 looks, the same can’t be said about its optical performance. The scope exceeded my expectations from the moment I looked through it.
At lower magnifications the T650 renders an exceptionally bright, high-resolution image that delivers plenty of fine detail, great contrast and accurate colours. What’s more impressive is that the image stays sharp across practically all of the wide-angle field of view, and doesn’t degrade much as you move through the zoom range. It’s superb up to about 40x, after which it starts to deteriorates slightly, but nowhere near as quickly or as markedly as I was expecting. You still get a very usable, bright image with plenty of detail up to the maximum zoom level of 48x.
Field of view
The zoom eyepiece delivers a decent field of view throughout the zoom range too. It’s not as good as the best wide angle zooms out there, but it significantly outperforms any other zoom eyepiece I’ve seen on a sub €500 scope.
Using the scope in the field
In the field the scope performs extremely well. It’s small and light enough not to be cumbersome, the wide field of view makes it easy to find and track subjects, and the high-resolution detail, colour and excellent zoom performance make for a very versatile and enjoyable viewing experience in all sorts of situations.
Chromatic aberration does rear its head if you’re looking at very high contrast subjects — but you have to expect that to some degree with a budget non-ED scope, and the Olivon does a good job of handling it in most situations — or at least of keeping it below the level where it becomes intrusive. I also experienced some glare in particularly challenging light (looking almost directly into the low spring evening sunshine, for example). but the extendible sunshade helped to reduce it, and to be honest glare is an issue with any optics in those kind of conditions.
I was surprised by how well the T650 performed in low light, given that it only has a 65mm objective lens. It’s a testament to the quality of the optics and coatings in the scope body and the excellent zoom eyepiece that the T650 continues to perform as the light fades.
Stay on case
The scope comes with a cordura-style stay-on-case that is very practical and functional. It fits over the scope and zips up to completely protect the scope and eyepiece in transit on or off the tripod. When you want to use your scope you simply unzip the objective end and secure the flap with the velcro fastener, do the same at the eyepiece end and you’re good to go. It’s a simple, no nonsense design that just works — much like the T650 itself.
The only downside of the case design is that it’s such a snug fit over the scope that once the case is on it’s a real struggle to use the built in sunshade.
The Olivon T650 is an outstanding scope for the money. It delivers top-notch views that far exceeded my expectations for a scope costing less than €350. The 16-48x zoom that’s included is an excellent eyepiece, and the fact that the Olivon uses a standard 1.25″ astronomy eyepiece mount means it’s compatible with a vast range of eyepieces — so there’s plenty of scope (pardon the pun) if you’d like something different.
If you’re looking for your first scope, or want a second / backup scope that won’t break the bank the Olivon T650 is certainly well worth a look.
View the Olivon T650 scope on Amazon.co.uk.
Olivon T650 Spotting Scope Vital Statistics
Figures taken from the Olivon Manufacturing website:
Field @ 1000m: 30m-14m
Aperture Field: 30-43 degrees
Eye Relief: 18-15mm
Lens Coat: Multi-coated
Miscellaneous: Soft carry case with shoulder strap
Size: 3.3×4.5x17in (8.5×11.5×43.5cm)
Weight: 1.2kg (2.7lb)
I’d like to thank Optical Hardware for submitting the Olivon T650 for review on Ireland’s Wildlife.
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. 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.