Vanguard Endeavor HD 65A Spotting Scope Review

Vanguard Endeavor HD 65APros: As with its 82mm sibling we reviewed here, this is a smart, modern-looking scope. Very solid and extremely compact. Image is very bright and sharp from 15x to around 30x. Wide central sweet spot, with some softening towards the field edges. Dual focus controls make fine-focus quick and easy.

Cons: This scope uses the same eyepiece as the 82A model, and suffers identical image degradation as you zoom beyond the mid-range. Stay on case sometimes rides up beneath the fine focus adjustment and interferes with smooth operation (easy to fix though). Zoom eyepiece is a little stiff at first, but eases with use.

Price: RRP GB£449 (c.€588) body + 15-45x zoom eyepiece kit — although available at much lower prices if you shop around (GB£349 on Amazon.co.uk at time of writing with free delivery).

Accessories: Stay-on case, objective lens cover, eyepiece lens cover, microfibre cleaning cloth

Value: Excellent (especially if you shop around, and look for Vanguard mail-in rebate offers)

Rating: Recommended

After spending a bit of time getting to know the Vanguard Endeavor 65A I have to say I’ve grown to appreciate this little scopes merits. I love the compact form factor and the solid magnesium alloy construction makes it a robust little scope. While it can’t compete with top tier scopes, it does offer a sharp, clear view through the lower two thirds of the zoom range, making it a very useful little instrument. 

Teamed up with the fantastic Vanguard Veo 235AP travel tripod (full review of that on the way), it makes for an impressively portable and capable mid-range birding and wildlife set-up.

View the Vanguard Endeavor HD Spotting Scope range on the Vanguard UK website.

You can buy the Vanguard Endeavor HD from Wex Photographic or from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

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Vanguard Endeavor HD 65A Spotting Scope: Full Review

Having reviewed the full-size Endeavor HD 82A scope some time ago, which is surprisingly compact for an 82mm spotting scope, I was looking forward to spending a bit of time with its more diminutive sibling, the 65A. Having the opportunity to pair up this compact mid-range scope with the new Vanguard VEO 235AP pan-head travel tripod was the icing on the cake.

First impressions

Veo 235AP Travel Tripod in use

The fully extended Veo 235AP supporting the Vanguard Endeavor HD 65mm scope.

When you first lay your eyes on the Endeavor HD it looks like a quality scope. Its compact size, sleek lines and solid build make for a scope that gives an excellent all-round first impression.

Like its larger sibling, the 65mm version features a solid magnesium alloy chassis, and sports less rubber armouring than is typical on contemporary scopes. Much of the anodised metal body is exposed, with rubber armour only featuring towards the back end of the scope near the eyepiece. It gives the vanguard a refreshingly different, contemporary look.

The eyepiece included with the scope is identical to the one for the Endeavor HD 82mm, and connects to the scope via a locking bayonet style fitting. The eyepiece feels as robust and well made as the scope itself.

Balance and Handling

The Endeavor’s compact size and relatively low weight (c. 1.4kg) makes this an easy scope to carry and use.  In the field the balance and handling characteristics will depend a lot on your choice of tripod and head. That of course a question of personal preference.

The key thing is that the scope’s mounting plate is aligned with its centre of gravity, so that when you position it centrally the scope isn’t inclined to tilt unduly of its own accord. The Endeavor’s mounting plate fits the bill nicely, and the scope feels secure and well balanced on the tripod.

Putting the Vanguard Endeavor HD 65A Spotting Scope through its paces

Putting the Vanguard Endeavor HD 65A Spotting Scope through its paces at the local lake

As with most mid- to high-end scopes today, the mounting plate on the Vanguard is attached to an adjustable collar that allows you to rotate the scope through 360°, allowing you to view from any angle. With an angled scope like the one reviewed here (where the eyepiece is positioned at 45° from the body of the scope) that makes it easy to view comfortably from any angle… a boon in the cramped confines of a car, or when viewing from a bird hide.

Focus is smooth quick and precise. Vanguard has chosen a dual focus wheel in the centre of the scope towards the rear, just forward of the eyepiece. The larger rear knob offers fast focus, and the smaller forward fine-focus knob lets you tune in the fine detail. It’s a system employed by a number of manufacturers, most notably the high-end Japanese scope manufacturer Kowa. It’s a system that works well, although if, like me, you’re used to a single focus knob or a focus collar on the body of your scope you have to remind yourself there are two options when it comes to focussing the Vanguard.

The zoom eyepiece attaches to the scope via a bayonet mount. It clicks into place and an O-ring seal makes the coupling watertight. It has a comfortable, rubber-coated, twist-up eye-cup that works well, and offers plenty of eye-relief, so the scope should suit most people who wear glasses. The zoom ring on the eyepiece moves smoothly, and while I found it a bit stiff at first it eases considerably the more you use it.

Naturally, as you’d expect from a scope of this calibre, the Endeavor HD 65A is sealed and nitrogen purged, making it waterproof, dust-proof and fogproof.

Overall I really liked the form factor and handling of the scope. It’s certainly much easier to manage in the field than a larger scope, especially if you’re planning on walking any distance, but just how much performance do you sacrifice by opting for a smaller, lighter instrument?

Optical Performance

Vanguard Endeavor 65A Spotting Scope Review

Estuaries, like the one in Rosscarbery, Co. Cork, are a perfect place to test the capabilities of a spotting scope.

Unsurprisingly the Endeavor HD 65A shares its key optical characteristics with its big brother the 85A. It sports the same ED glass in the objective lens elements to minimise chromatic aberration (colour fringing), the same phase-corrected prisms and the same suite of proprietary Vanguard coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces.

The result: a very bright, sharp image with excellent colour and detail throughout the lower two thirds of the zoom range. Some softening is evident towards the edge of the fairly wide field of view (48-23m / 1000m)… but nothing beyond what you’d expect in a scope at this price point. All in all it’s a capable scope that performs very well from 15x to about 35x.

As you crank the zoom beyond 35x the story changes. Edges become fuzzier, and noticeably darker. Resolution drops off markedly, and you have to hunt for focus, even with the fine-focus knob. It’s just about usable, at a push, in good light, but you’d be hard pressed to pick out fine plumage detail at 45x for a distant ID.

To be fair to Vanguard here I’d like to point out that it’s a trait common to most zoom eyepieces. Very few zooms maintain performance at higher zoom levels (of those I’ve tried only the expensive high end Swarovski and Meopta wide angle zoom eyepieces, and the astonishingly capable eyepiece that comes with the Olivon T650 spotting scope, manage to achieve it). I’d love to try this scope with a fixed 25x or 30x wide angle eyepiece, but alas Vanguard don’t make one. Something to perhaps consider as an option in the future, as I feel it would make for a more compelling birding and wildlife-watching combination.

For most birding and wildlife watching scenarios the lower 15x-35x zoom range is ideal, so in practice there’s little need to crank things up beyond that.

Performance in the field

The Vanguard Endeavor HD 65A was a pleasure to carry and use in the field — especially when combined with the astonishingly compact and lightweight Veo 235AP tripod. It made for a very portable yet generally very capable combination. There were few situations where I missed having a bigger scope with me, mostly as the light started to fade in the evening, but there were plenty more situations when I was glad of the lighter scope/tripod combination.

Another thing worth remembering is that when you have a lightweight scope / tripod combination you’re much more likely to carry it in situations where a larger scope would be more cumbersome. A smaller, less capable scope you actually have with you is going to deliver infinitely better views than the large high-performance scope you’ve left at home or in the car.

Low light performance is the one key area where a smaller scope is going to struggle to compete with larger competition, all other things being equal, but remember too that you’re typically talking about lower magnification with a 65mm scope, which counteracts the perceived difference in brightness.

In real world situations the Endeavor HD 65A is a bright little scope, and performs very well as the light fades at lower zoom levels, comparing favourably with it’s larger sibling. Obviously if you match the magnification (i.e. set both scopes to c.30x) then the 82mm scope is noticeably brighter in sub-optimal viewing conditions, but the 65mm scope holds its own surprisingly well.

Accessories

The Vanguard Endeavor HD 65A with included stay-on case

The Vanguard Endeavor HD 65A comes with a very functioal stay-on case included.

As well as the 15-45x zoom eyepiece we’ve already covered the Endeavor HD comes with a very good stay-on case to protect the scope while in transit and use. It slips over the scope snugly and fastens with Velcro at the objective end and with a secure zip at the eyepiece end. It has a flap for access to the dual focus wheel, a tethered eyepiece cover that’s secured with a press-stud, and a tethered objective cover that simply slips over the objective end of the scope. In use this often slips off when you’re carrying the scope, so it would have been better to include some way of fixing it in place (Velcro or a press-stud fastener would be ideal).

The only other minor criticisms are that the case has a tendency sometimes to ride up the scope body, potentially interfering with the smooth operation of the focus wheel (very easily remedied), and it can also make using the built in sunshade more fiddly to use.

Also included is a high-quality Vanguard-branded microfibre cleaning cloth that is as good as anything I’ve seen from any optics manufacturer.

Conclusions

The Vanguard Endeavor HD 65A sports many high-end features you’d normally only find in more expensive top-tier scopes, and offers them at a mid-range price point. If you shop around and take advantage of Vanguard’s frequent mail-in-rebate promotions it can represents extremely good value.

Inevitably there are compromises to bring a scope with this suite of features to market at this price point. As I’ve pointed out before, due to the higher magnifications involved scopes tend to be a lot less forgiving than binoculars, so on balance I’d applaud Vanguard for producing a solid performer in the Endeavor HD 65A that will meet your needs in most birding and wildlife scenarios.

As I mentioned with the 85A I think the zoom eyepiece lets the scope down a bit. If Vanguard offered a fixed magnification wide angle eyepiece as an option instead (25x or 30x would be ideal) it would be onto a winner. Even so, if you’re shopping for a compact yet capable scope for wildlife and birding with a mid-range budget then this is certainly an option for your short-list.

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Vanguard Endeavor HD Vital Statistics

From the Vanguard UK website:

WARRANTY Applicable by national law
BODY MATERIAL Magnesium alloy
DIAMETER OF OBJECTIVES 65mm
DIMENSIONS (L X W) 345 x 180 mm
EYE CUP Twist out
EYE RELIEF (MM) 19.0 ~ 20.0
FIELD OF VIEWM@1000M 48 ~ 23
FOCUS SYSTEM Center focus
LENS COATING Fully multi coated
NEAR FOCUS (M) 4.50 ~ 5.50
OCULAR ADJUSTMENT ± 0
PHASE COATING YES
POWER 15 ~ 45
PRISM TYPE BaK4 prism
RELATIVE BRIGHTNESS 18.7~2
TWILIGHT FACTOR 31.2~54
VIEW ANGLE 2.7 ~ 1.3
WATERPROOF Yes

Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank Vanguard UK for submitting the Endeavor HD 65A for review on Ireland’s Wildlife.

NB. While we often work in partnership with brands, Ireland’s Wildlife has no specific affiliation to individual optics or gear manufacturers. All reviews on the site are completely independent and objective and represent the genuine views of the reviewer using the product under field conditions. If you’re an optics or gear manufacturer and would like to submit your 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

Comments

  1. Hello Calvin, I found you’re a gifted writer. HD spotting scope is really better than any other. Vanguard Endeavor HD 65A is one of the best Spotting Scope. I like your review and thanks for sharing with us.

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