Love your spotting scope eyepiece, but wish the objective lens was better? Swap it out! Learn more in this Swarovski ATX 65 review.
Spotting scopes offer a lot of value and utility. They’re valued by naturalists, bird watchers, hunters, target shooters, and even surveillance and security specialists. However, some people find that they love the eyepiece of their scope but wish their objective lens was a little bit better. With a modular objective lens, you can swap out and improve your experience. Or, why not use a modular objective lens to build your spotting scope with a different eyepiece? That’s a great way to get the magnification and performance that you want. While many manufacturers are offering modular objective lenses, few can match the reputation that Swarovski enjoys. The company also offers several different lens choices. In this Swarovski ATX 65 review, we’ll walk you through what this lens provides and help you decide if it’s the right one for your needs.
First up in our Swarovski ATX 65 review is an overview of what you get for the price. It’s pretty simple, actually:
- A single modular objective lens
- 65mm of light gathering capabilities, which is great for daylight spotting
- Swarodur, Swaroclean, and Swarotop coatings
- Waterproof and fog-proof construction
The body of the Swarovski ATX 65 modular objective lens is made to match the body of the eyepiece. It features the same magnesium material and uses the same color, and is designed to mate perfectly without any hassle.
Like the company’s other objective lens offerings, this one is nitrogen purged, so there is no concern about temperature or elevation changes causing problems. The O-ring seals the unit and makes it both waterproof and fog-proof.
The lens is the big draw here. It measures 65mm and is rated for excellent use during daylight hours. Note that if you want to use your scope at dusk or dawn, you’ll want the 95mm modular objective lens (sold separately).
The lens features high-contrast coatings that create an ultra-sharp image with true-to-life colors. The exterior of the lens has been specially treated with Swaroclean to create a nonstick surface that helps to repel dirt, dust, and smudges. However, there is a cleaning cloth included so you can easily wipe your lens free of anything that might mar the view.
Usability with this modular objective lens is very high. It features a built-in tripod mount on the bottom, so it can attach directly to most models. Also, all you need to do is turn the eyepiece and modular objective lens so that the mounting areas match, put them together, and then twist until they lock in place (you’ll hear an audible click).
Other Modular Options
Swarovski offers several different modular options, all of which are designed to work together to help you build the ideal spotting scope for your needs. You’ll find the 95mm modular objective lens, as mentioned, and an 85mm option. However, there are also several modular eyepieces, including angled and straight options to suit your usage needs. Note that with the angled eyepiece, the unit turns to accommodate different viewing angles. That is not true of the straight eyepiece, which is fixed.
What Is a Modular Setup?
In a nutshell, a modular objective lens mates to a modular ocular lens to create a full spotting scope. The objective lens cannot be used on its own – you must have an ocular lens to pair with it.
Why Consider a Modular Setup?
Given the fact that you can purchase a full spotting scope with ease, what would make someone decide to go the modular route? There are several different reasons that this might make sense, including the following:
- Customization: One thing that many scope buyers learn is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Any fixed scope is going to come with some sort of tradeoff. By going the modular route, you minimize those tradeoffs (although you cannot eliminate them).
- Unique Functionality: Another reason that people go the modular route is to achieve unique functionality that’s not available with a pre-built spotting scope.
- Upgrade: For some, the decision to go modular has more to do with upgrading their existing scope by pairing a more capable objective lens with an ocular lens and eyepiece that they love.
How Do You Combine Modular Units?
While every manufacturer has its system, Swarovski’s is among the simplest. The objective lens housing and ocular lens housing have matching mounting points. Simply put them together so that the locking tabs and mounting grooves match, twist, and they will lock into place. Then you can use them together.
With that being said, you do want to pay attention to the system in question. Swarovski offers three different modular systems. These are the ATX, the STX, and the BTX platforms. While they are different lines, most components play well together.
For instance, you can mate the BTX with ATX/STX objective lenses. There is also an available magnification extender that works with all three of the platforms. Note that, while there are numerous differences between the ATX/STX ocular lens and the BTX platform, the primary one is that the BTX offers two ocular lenses and a nose bridge support – it works something like the full-face viewing offered by submarine periscopes.
Is a Modular Setup Better?
There’s no way to determine if a fixed spotting scope is better than a modular setup. It all comes down to what you want to do with yours. For instance, if you want to bird watch and explore digiscoping, then a modular setup might be best so that you can swap between straight and angled eyepieces. However, if you want to use your setup strictly for viewing bullet holes in a metal target at 1,000 yards with the spotting scope mounted to a tripod, a fixed (straight) spotting scope might be the better choice.
Is a Spotting Scope Better Than Binoculars?
Spotting scopes are better than binoculars in some situations, but not in all of them. Your usage needs will determine which one is better for you. There are quite a few differences between binoculars and spotting scopes, so let’s explore those to help you make an informed decision.
- Size: Size is one of the major factors to consider here. You’ll find that spotting scopes are longer, wider, taller, and heavier than binoculars. That does mean they are more challenging to transport. It also means they’re a little harder to use. The greater size and weight means that most people use spotting scopes with tripods. They’re not great for using on the go.
- Power: Another major difference between spotting scopes and binoculars is in power. Binoculars tend to be low to medium-powered. Spotting scopes are medium to high-powered. What this means is that they’re better for different things. For instance, if you need to see something in the near or medium distance, binoculars are better. If you’re going to be doing long-distance viewing, then a spotting scope is the way to go.
- Durability: Intended use has a lot to do with how durable something is. You’ll find that binoculars can hold up to more abuse than spotting scopes simply because the manufacturer assumes that you’ll be using them while in motion. They’re designed to handle those types of rigors and can cope with being dropped or bumped against trees or rocks a few times. Spotting scopes, on the other hand, are not quite so durable. Some models do feature rubber armor to help make them a little more resistant to wear and tear, they’re not designed to the same specifications as a good pair of binoculars.
- Accuracy: When accuracy matters, such as in hunting, target shooting, and even photography, spotting scopes are the way to go. Because they are designed for stationary use, they offer superb clarity, excellent sharpness, true to life color reproduction, and a lot more that make them superior to binoculars.
So, to sum up, binoculars are great if you need little to moderate magnification, intend to be active while using them, and don’t need a lot of accuracy. A spotting scope is the better option when accuracy counts, when you need true long-range viewing capabilities, and the size/weight won’t be an issue.
Frequently Asked Questions about Modular Spotting Scopes
With some of the basic information out of the way, it is time to turn our attention to some of the frequently asked questions about modular objective lenses and spotting scopes.
Do All Modular Objective Lenses Work with All Ocular Lenses?
No, that is not the case. Most of Swarovski’s ATX/STX lenses work with BTX bases, and all ATX/STX objective lenses and ocular lenses work together. However, that does not necessarily apply to other manufacturers and their offerings. If you decide to go the modular route, verify beforehand what lenses are compatible.
Do Modular Lenses Come with Other Components?
In most cases, modular lenses are sold on their own. This allows the most flexibility when creating a modular spotting scope to fit your needs. For instance, you can buy exactly the objective lens and ocular lens that you want, rather than buying multiple components that may not fit your needs.
What Are the Benefits of the BTX Ocular Lens?
There are several benefits to the BTX ocular lens when compared to the ATX/STX, but they may not apply to you. For instance, the dual lenses mean that you can use both eyes rather than one. The nose support also gives you a more comfortable usage experience. The binocular setup also maximizes your natural vision system, provides truer colors, and offers other benefits.
With that being said, the BTX eyepiece is significantly larger than any of the ATX/STX eyepieces, which means that it is also heavier and that it will take up more room in your pack. There’s also the fact that for some people, dual lenses might be overkill. Consider your needs first, your budget, and then determine if an ATX/STX or BTX is the better decision for you personally.
How Do I Care for My Spotting Scope?
Caring for your spotting scope is surprisingly simple, with just a few basic rules to follow. The fact that it is sealed with an O-ring against moisture and dust is also a plus.
Wipe It Down: Before using it and then when you’re finished, wipe the lens down thoroughly. Use a microfiber cloth for the objective lens, and then use a soft, clean cloth to clean the magnesium body. The same applies to the ocular lens and its housing.
For Serious Soiling: Try as you might, you may find that your spotting scope gets dirtier than what you can clean with a quick wipe down. In this case, follow these steps:
- Wipe off any loose dirt with a microfiber cloth or using a specialized cleaning kit to avoid scratches.
- Use a cotton swab and lens cleaner to clean the lens.
- Use a dry microfiber cloth to dry your lens.
- Use compressed air to blow dust from the crevices of the scope body.
Store It Safely: Make sure to store your spotting scope carefully. If you have two modular pieces, then you’ll need to break the scope down and store each piece in its respective box. If you purchased both lenses as a whole unit, you can store them in the same box they shipped in. Keeping your scope in the case when not in use helps alleviate the potential for damage.
In the end, this Swarovski ATX 65 review shows that modular lenses can help you customize your scope to get exactly the level of performance you need. We’ve also addressed some of the more frequently asked questions, and provided additional guidance so you can make an informed purchase.