Gear Guy

SX-1 Ventana.     Photo: Courtesy of Leupold

Q:

The Best Affordable Spotting Scopes: Leupold SX-1 Ventana

I really want to see birds and other animals up close. What are the most powerful binoculars I can get?

A:For spotting rare avian species, the SX-1 scope simply gives you the most bird for the buck. Leupold, based in Beaverton, Oregon, was founded by a German optical genius. It delivers high-quality optics with a relatively low price tag. This scope has a magnification of 15x to 45x (compare that to your puny 10x binocs). Its objective lens (the front one) is a healthy 60 millimeters, which means it lets in a lot of light for early evening viewing. It's also digital-camera compatible.

You can get the SX-1 in either straight or angled format (an angled one is easier for people to walk up to and peer in, but the optical difference is negligible except to the experts). A weight of 1.9 pounds and a street price of around $230 makes it a good addition on treks where you really want to see stuff close up.

The SX-1 is designed for nature watching, not hunting in particular, though I do appreciate the Amazon reviewer who (fatuously, we hope) praised this scope as one he “used at 500-yard range to see all aspect of man-sized targets.” The most dangerous game, indeed.

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