Kowa TSN-883 Spotting Scope
The TSN-880 series is the larger of the two newest scope lines from Kowa. We've
reviewed scopes before. We've reviewed Kowa scopes before. We've never seen anything
like this scope before! We received the angled fluorite model TSN-883 ("Prominar",
for those of you familiar with Kowa terminology) for review from Kowa along with
the TSN-773. These are 88- and 77-mm objective lens size scopes respectively. The
TSN-773 will be reviewed in another article. First impressions mean a lot in this
game, and the new TSN-883 makes a big one - the view through this optic is breath-taking
and unbelievably bright and crisp. In short, we really liked it.
Physically, the TSN-883 is a very compact 13.5 inches long (without eyepiece) and
weighs in at just over 3 lbs (53.6 oz.). For an objective this size, that weight
is impressive - it's actually lighter than some 77-to-82-mm scopes on the market,
thanks to its magnesium alloy casing. The body is fully sealed, nitrogen-purged
and completely waterproof. So are the eyepieces! The eyepieces lock in place, with
a push-button release mechanism. The lens hood pulls straight out, and as always,
we recommend using it, if only to protect the objective lens from potential damage
by scratching or whatever. Beyond a shallow double groove on the hood, the TSN-883
has no device to enable sighting.
When we reviewed the new Kowa scopes, we pulled out the best instruments from other
manufacturers that we had in stock. While we won't tell you what the competitor
models were (we still have friends at those companies…), we will say right
out that the 883 and 773 blew away everything else in their class. By that we mean,
these are simply the finest spotting scopes we’ve seen yet. It was a revelation
in the field. The degree of detail visible was simply astounding with characteristics
of feather wear so clear you would think you were staring at a museum specimen.
The image brightness and clarity were riveting. We tried hard to find things wrong
with these scopes, and it was really difficult to do. The image stays razor sharp
right to the very edge of the field. There is no zone of blurriness, no distortion,
no image-bending - nothing. We did note that at the very edge of the field on a
bright, high contrast object, there was the slightest hint of color-fringing. So
what? The effect is very minor, and very difficult to detect unless you’re
looking specifically for it. It’s unlikely to affect a user in any way. Like
we said, we had to work hard for this! The colors were absolutely true with no detectable
bias. In failing light, the image was remarkably bright at 60x, delivering detail
that wasn't even visible in other high end scope models we compared it to. The image
quality is so high that it is difficult to write about without sounding like we're
The objective lens on the TSN-883 is pure fluorite crystal. For those of you who
care (and you should!), the lenses are made of environmentally friendly eco-glass
and are fully multi-coated with Kowa’s proprietary coatings. Kowa claims 99%
or higher light transmission. We don’t have the equipment to quantitate that,
but we saw no evidence with which to dispute that claim.
The minimum close focus on the TSN-883 is 16.5 feet, which is about average
for a modern high-powered scope. If it's closer than that, we recommend using your
binoculars! Another distinctive feature of this scope is the dual focusing mechanism.
While not unique to the new Kowas, this mechanism was particularly well-executed
on these scopes. The mechanism has two knobs in sequence, a larger knob nearer the
eyepiece for rapid 'rough' focus, and a smaller knob for finer focus. This scope
goes from minimum close focus to infinity in just two full turns of the rough focus
knob. The mechanism was very smooth on both. In our field trials, we noted that
when focusing, the image never moves, in marked contrast to those scopes that use
a helical-wheel focus mechanism, where it is impossible to adjust the focus without
causing the image to tremble.
Like most scopes nowadays, the TSN-883 can use a selection of different eyepieces.
With Kowa having just released a series of new eyepieces to fit their old scope
lines, this subject is foremost in many Kowa users' minds. Through the use of adaptors,
older Kowa eyepieces can be used on both the 880 and 770 scope lines. We received
the 25x long eye relief, the 30x wide-angle and 20-60x zoom eyepieces, and were
very impressed with them. They all have a very respectable field of view with the
20-60x zoom eyepiece coming in at 115 feet (20x) at 1000 yards, the 30x wide-angle
with 125 feet at 1000 yards, and the 25x long eye relief eyepiece with 110 feet
at 1000 yards. These eyepieces offer 17-16.5 mm of eye relief for the zoom, and
20 and 32 mm for the 30x wide-angle and 25x long eye relief eyepieces respectively.
The eyepieces also feature twist-up eyecups with detents for the zoom and 30x wide-angle
eyepieces. The 25x long eye relief eyepiece has a pliable rubber cup. The 30x wide-angle
eyepiece has five independent settings for the eyecup (the zoom lens only has four).
The eyepieces even come in individual drawstring leather protective pouches. We
did find one slight problem with these eyepieces: the eyecup has an annoying tendency
to come unscrewed when you're trying to adjust it. This arises from the fact that
the digiscoping adaptor is designed to fit in the place occupied by the eyecup.
Kowa has consistently been one of the most accommodating manufacturers in terms
of how their scopes adapt for digiscoping. The TSN-883 continues this, at an additional
cost. The adaptor must be purchased separately. The base component of the digiscoping
adaptors is the TSN-DA10, which attaches to the eyepieces (instead of the scope
body) by screwing onto the threads for the eyecup (see above). All previous Kowa
digiscoping attachments will fit the DA10. Like the other accessories, the DA10
was not available at the time of this review, so we cannot discuss its properties.
The tripod mounting foot has a removable bushing that allows the user to select
between 1/4-20" and 3/8" mounting screws, a refinement we've not seen
before. This property gives the user more choices among tripods. The tripod mounting
foot sits on a rotating collar, held in place by a set-screw. When loosened, the
scope rotates freely in either direction, with 6 click-stops pre-set in the most
logical positions for field use.
The products are so new that none of the accessories are available for review yet,
so we can't say much about the case (these are expected to ship in January, 2007).
We hope the case is nice because there is no armoring on the scope body, and you
will want to protect this investment. Which segues neatly into a discussion of price…
If you want one of these babies, be prepared to lay out about $2100 for the TSN-883
body (MSRP of $2250) and $540 for the 20-60x zoom eyepiece, and $315 for either
the 30x wide-angle or 25x long eye relief eyepieces. All we can say is the price
is in accord with the performance.
Trying to sum up the TSN-883 scope for those who haven’t had the pleasure
of looking through it is a difficult task. To understand what we’re talking
about, you have to experience it. Looking through this scope in the field will change
your opinion about what kind of brightness, resolution and clarity of image are
possible in a spotting scope. This is, without qualification, the finest scope we
have reviewed to date. Looking through it will change people’s minds about
whatever they own (can you say “scope envy”?). Certainly, the most demanding
consumers, professionals, and those who can afford the “best of the best”
are going to buy one. As the Kowa 880 scopes become widely available, we look forward
to others showing them off in the field and hearing just what we hear, “Wow,
Kowa TSN-883 Spotting
Scope - current price and availability