Every once in a while I am surprised. We all know and love our "own" brands. You know how it is, once you become accustomed to one particular brand of product, you tend to stay with them and seldom look into anything else. I am a died in the wool Kowa fan where spotting scopes are concerned. I have used their TS-611 as a NRA High Power competitor and have even taken one through a sniper course. Prior to that, I used an old Bausch & Lomb spotting scope that had been in production, as best I can tell, as far back as the 1920s. As a result, I seldom pay attention to the ever growing field of spotting telescopes on the market. There are some very high quality spotters out there and part of my negligence is a result of me not wanting to find something so interesting that I have to buy it. My current glass works fine and the budget doesn't allow multiple toys in the same category.
Today I was tempted away from this rut. Luckily for my bank account, I am getting old enough that my days of low crawling are numbered -- but I can see a definite advantage to the product for which this article is titled. The Meopta TGA-75 Extendible Telescope is as intriguing as it is unique. When I first opened the box I wondered if a mistake was made. It appeared as though someone had sent me a shipping container for an small artillery shell, for within the box I found an olive drab, fully armor rubberized container with a long cap at one end and a short cap at the other. Interesting. I popped the longer end off and discovered the ocular end of a spotting scope. Cool. The long cap is made so that you can screw in a number of eyepieces and still close the cover. At objective end, another soft rubber cap snaps in place. Seems pretty protected overall. Connecting both caps and running through molded channels, is a black nylon carry strap. You can literally sling this entire package over your shoulder and go run, ala M72 LAW Rocket Launcher. Again, pretty cool idea. Particularly for everyday use. No carry case needed. Just sling it and hit the woods.
After removing the ocular cover I installed a 20-60x H75 Eyepiece. This is the same eyepiece that fits the popular HA-75 and HS-75 series spotting scopes from Meopta. Also available is a fixed 30x eyepiece. I would like to see a fixed 25x LER (Long Eye Relief) eyepiece developed for these scopes as they would go nicely on the firing line for High Power competition. The eyepiece screws into the telescoping rear body of the scope. Yep. I said Telescoping. The "Extendible" name means just that. The scope is fashioned after a good old telescope of yon where you slid one part of its body into the other for storage, circa Horatio Hornblower. Which makes for a fairly compact scope considering its large 75mm objective. In its transport mode, with caps in place, the overall length of the spotting scope is 13.5". Once you remove the caps and extend the ocular body to full length, the TGA-75 measures 14.5" without the eyepiece and 17.6" overall, ready to view. Collapsing the ocular body into the objective end, and removing the eye piece gives you an overall length of 9.6". Pretty small considering the total aperture!
The Objective body has a pad milled into it to receive two types of tripod heads. The small 1/4" standard size threaded hole fits typical camera tripod mounts found across America. Also provided is a 3/8" threaded hole for larger mounts. The carry strap is fully adjustable for length and it is used to retain the ocular and objective covers. In the carry configuration, the strap serves to secure the covers. Pulling the ocular cover along the strap frees it for removal to clear the eyepiece. I like this feature very much. As much as I love my Kowa, retaining the lens covers means slipping them into a pocket or pack so as not to lose them. With the TGA-75 you simply pop the covers off and forget them.
Focusing the TGA-75 is simple. The large focus ring, covered with a serrated black rubber surface, turns easily and fine focus is a snap. The H75 variable eyepiece also has a rubber covered focus ring. It's a bit stiffer to operate but this is a good thing. You will not accidentally knock it out of your chosen magnification. A special note on the eyepiece. For 2003 it appears that Meopta is planning to add a mil-dot reticle to its eyepieces. Good news for those of us who like to shoot at unknown distances.
Optical clarity is excellent. Again, I am continually surprised at what is being produced in countries that, up until the fall of the Iron Curtain, I never gave a second thought. Meopta is located in the Czech Republic. They have been producing optical devices for something like 70 years, so it should be no surprise that they are capable of turning out excellent glass. I was equally surprised one day when a customer called me from New Zealand and mentioned that he has long hunted over a Meopta riflescope, of which he had nothing but praise. Surprises all around I guess. Times, they are a changing.
To test out the ability of this scope to resolve tiny objects I put it to a rather challenging test. 200 yards away, through the woods, my neighbor's house sits nestled in a stand of trees. Between us is a wood lot, loads of small vegetation, vines, scrub and more trees. I can just make his windows out from my back yard but the house itself is hidden from view. With the scope set at 20x I aimed for the one window I could see. Only a few panes were visible through the vegetation and I thought it would be a good test to see if I could see detail. Before you think me a voyeur, I was not trying to see into his house. The sun was such that there was some very interesting reflections on the glass and at the angle I was viewing, there was no way to see inside. What I was going for was the reflections. Could I determine what I was seeing reflected in the glass? Distortion in the window pane stretched the objects out vertically but without effort I was able to see that the reflection was of a child sized red and yellow toy car sitting somewhere in the back yard, hidden from my view! It took me a second to realize what the odd shaped object was, but there it was, a Fisher Price car. My kid had one when he was a rug rat! Test passed.
I then looked closely at the window frame. Striations in the paint, chips and water staining were all readily apparent. So far so good. I cranked the eyepiece up to 60x. I do not expect much from variables at high power. The images typically darken dramatically. This has been the case with every piece of glass I have ever looked into, whether it is Swarovski or Leupold. Spotting scopes or varmint scopes. They all darken, relatively speaking, when compared to their image at lower power. The Meopta was no exception. Its the price we pay for trying to wring out tons of magnification from a fixed objective size. I am happy to report however, that the TGA-75 was still quite able to resolve the image into a recognizable picture. The 75mm objective definitely has an advantage over smaller glass. As a side note, I will say right now that I highly dislike the trend rifle scope makers are leaning toward with massive objectives. Its downright silly and makes an otherwise good rifle into a boat anchor. However, spotting scopes can use all the aperture they can get, within reason. Being a standalone item I do not mind a mid sized to medium large spotting scope so long as the weight is kept reasonable. All of the Meopta line, the 70mm Hermes 1, the 75mm HA-75 and HS-75 and now the TGA-75, happily, are not overly large. The TGA-75 is rather long when extended, but very compact when collapsed.
A few final statistics on the TGA-75. Field of view at 20x is 3.1 meters at 100 yards. Or roughly 10 feet. At 60x, the field of view is 1.6 meters, roughly 5 feet. Eye relief is 15mm and the minimum observable distance is 6 meters. Just under 20 feet. The scope can be adjusted from -5 to +5 diopters and it weighs 1150 grams. Now I am going to have to dig out my conversion table. That's 41 ounces. About the weight of a loaded handgun.
The Meopta TGA-75 should be available as this article hits the web. IOR-Valdada is the current importer and they have set the retail price at $699 for the fixed 30x eyepiece equipped scope or $749 with the 20-60x variable. Naturally a bit of shopping around will find you this scope for less. Figure about $620 to $700 for the variable, which seems like a good ball park. For further specs and info go to www.valdada.com, 970-879-2983