As a birder, hunter or nature observer, you know that it takes time to find that rare, crystal clear image of your subject. Getting that perfect shot as if you were right next to it takes plenty of patience, a bit of luck and absolutely the right optical.
When binoculars simply won’t do for that long distance view, you’ll be amazed at what a spotting scope can offer you.
Spotting scopes have incredible magnification built within a light construction. Much smaller and more portable than a telescope, spotting scopes ensure that your target is never out of reach.
Whether you use it to identify every tiny detail of a prized buck at long range, observe osprey in the winters or chase a waterfall, a spotting scope is sure to deliver.
Over the years, spotting scope technology have vastly improved. Top binocular manufacturers consistently offer the best optical instruments on the market and generally sell their own line of spotting scopes.
The most famous brands that offer the best products on the market are: Swarovski, Leica, Zeiss, Nikon, Kite, Vortex, Vanguard and Kowa. Let’s take an indepth look at the latter…
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Table of Contents
Kowa Spotting Scope Review
Established in 1894, Kowa has produced state of the art optical equipment. It has grown into the fifth largest trading company in Japan and is an active presence throughout Asia, Europe and the Americas.
This multinational Japanese company participates in manufacturing and trading activities in such fields as optical, pharmaceutical, textiles and various consumer products.
In 1952, the electronics and optics division of Kowa commenced the production of their line of high quality spotting instruments. Originally designed for use in shooting events, they were the official spotting scope used at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1962.
Soon after the scopes were discovered by birders and nature lovers and to this day, are one of the most popular optical instrument brands in the world.
Kowa Spotting Scope Series
Kowa offers a wide range of available scopes and six main sizes with 88mm, 82mm, 77mm, 66mm, 60mm and 50mm objective lens diameters. In its entirety, Kowa offers 20 spotting scope models, but most are sold as body only.
For convenience, each size forms part of a series and you can choose either angled or straight body designs.
- Kowa TSN-880 Series
- Kowa TSN-770 Series
- Kowa TSN-660 Series
- Kowa TSN-600 Series
- NEW: TSN-500 Ultra Compact 50mm Series
- NEW: TSN-550 Prominar Fluorite Crystal 55mm Series
The TSN-880 scopes are considered the forerunner of Kowa’s spotting scope line. Known by birders as one of the best birding scopes, they feature a large 88mm objective lens that delivers the most precise light to one’s eye.
Weighing just 53.6 ounces and measuring 13.0-13.5 inches in length, the TSN-880 sports a dual focus mechanism with separate focus knobs and a locking system to hold an eyepiece in place.
The Kowa TSN-880 scopes are accessible in angled and straight configurations. In conjunction with Kowa’s fluorite crystal eyepieces, the Prominar TSN-880 models provide the brightest and sharpest images possible.
Kowa’s Prominar line includes models utilizing pure fluorite crystal to achieve optical components elusive with glass. All TSN-880 scopes are made with Kowa’s heavy metal-free Eco-Glass process.
The TSN-883 scope is the angled version of Kowa’s 88mm objective lens scopes.
With incomparable light throughput and extremely bright images, this scope also comes with Kowa’s signature Prominar XC low-dispersion fluorite glass.
Completely waterproof and fogproof, the TSN-883 has a dual focus knob system for precise focus and a lock system for added security.
The TSN-883 scopes weigh just under 54 ounces and are made with Kowa’s environmentally-friendly Eco-Glass.
Just like the TSN-883, the TSN-884 uses PFC (Pure Fluorite Crystal) glass, which significantly minimizes chromatic aberration.
Essentially, it ensures maximum efficiency in its light gathering to produce a clear visual range that traditional glass lenses cannot obtain at their highest magnifications.
Even a beginner will appreciate the difference between viewing from the Prominar-equipped TSN-884 and a normal scope.
With its lightweight construction and maximum durability thanks to magnesium alloy, the TSN-884’s final result is compact, lightweight, ergonomic and functional. Its design is one which nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts crave.
- Portability and compactness of 60mm scope
- Optical performance of 80mm scope
The TSN-770 series by Kowa are compact, yet feature large, oversized objectives just like a standard full-sized spotting scope.
But despite the large 77mm lens, the TSN-770 scopes are still on the small size at 12.0-12.5 inches long. The series features a dual focus mechanism as well as an eyepiece locking system.
Multi-coated, waterproof and fogproof via nitrogen purging internally, the TSN-770 scopes offer excellent light-throughput and are digiscoping capable with Kowa’s own adapters. As always, the 770 series is made with Kowa’s metal-free Eco Glass process.
The magnesium frame is lighter and more durable and the body of both scopes weigh slightly under 47 ounces.
Compact at 12.5 inches long the 773/774 models feature a focus knob system for precise focusing and an added lock eyepiece.
The advanced lens system of the TSN-773/774 scopes achieve token to zero chromatic aberration. The TSN-773/774 coatings allow for a higher reflectivity than with silver or aluminum glaze. With a rugged, ergonomic and compact design, these scopes are first in class.
Brilliantly designed technical details in these scopes will be appreciated by the most extreme perfectionists.
- Inner Focus System Knob
- Focus range: 16.4 inches and beyond for sharp and consistent viewing
- JIS protection class 7/nitrogen gas to prevent fogging
- Multiple interchangeable eyepieces (20x-60x zoom, 30x wide, and 25x LER)
- Sliding sun shade
- Adapt to 35mm SLR digital and video cameras
- Available with tripod mounting screw
TSN-660 series scopes are another version of a standard medium-sized optical instrument. Compact, lightweight, fully multi-coated and completely waterproof, the TSN-660 series are available in both angled or straight compositions.
Spotting scope enthusiasts can choose between standard glass or the Prominar version with XD fluorite ion glass objective lens.
If you’re looking for a fantastic light-gathering power via a 66mm objective lens, this model may be a great choice for your next spotting scope.
Measured at 12.2 inches long with a construction of magnesium alloy, this rugged and reliable scope can provide a wide angle or a versatile viewing range.
Choose your eyepiece in wide, long eye relief scopes and zoom. No need to worry about fluctuating temperatures — this model comes with a waterproof and fogproof body.
Measured at 12.3 inches in length and made of magnesium alloy, this reliable and durable scope can offer you a wide or versatile viewing angle.
Multi-coated optical surfaces help to consistently max light transmission and sharpness as well as color constancy.
As long as this eyepiece mount is not open, this scope can withstand transitory immersion.
- Compact, lightweight
- Waterproof (to JIS class 7 standards) / Fogproof
- Prominar XD objective lenses
- Magnesium alloy body
- Smooth and coarse-focus knob
- Integrated sunshade
- Rotatable tripod collar
The TSN-600 spotting scopes are extremely compact and come with 60mm objective lenses. Lighter than binoculars, multi-coated and waterproof, these scopes can easily fit into your backpack or carry-on suitcase.
Weighing 25-26 ounces and 11.8 inches in length, the TSN-600 series are available in angled and straight models with standard glass. “Spot on” for beginners, The TSN-600 scopes are adaptable for digiscoping.
The Kowa TSN-601/602 models by Kowa are made with multi-coated lenses and prisms for the brightest images. Their extremely durable carbon fiber bodies are completely waterproof and internally fogproof via nitrogen purging.
The only difference in the two would be that the TSN-601 model is angled and the TSN-602 is a contoured straight scope. Both scopes are completely waterproof and fogproof and weigh in at around 26 ounces and 11.8 inches in length.
The compactness and lightness of the TSN-601/602 models is like no other. As always, made with environment friendly Eco-Glass.
Kowa TSN-550 Prominar Fluorite Crystal 50mm Series
Wouldn’t it be nice to carry a top of the line scope that weighs less than two pounds on your next excursion? You can now have it with the superior Prominar TSN-553 angled and TSN-554 straight spotting scopes from Kowa.
These truly unique spotting scopes from Kowa are the first models smaller than the TSN-880 scopes and feature pure fluoride crystal objective lenses. Always waterproof and nitrogen purged, they feature a close focus of 9.8 inches and a permanent 15-45 x zoom eyepiece.
The fluorite crystal objective lens is multicoated in a polycarbonate body and with an eye relief of 16.5mm at 15x and 16mm at 45x, they’re completely eyeglass-wearer friendly!
Utilizing the ultra low-dispersion Prominar fluorite glass that incredibly eliminates chromatic aberrations (known to cause halos and astigmatism), this scope has everything you want.
Bright and clear high-contrast images are delivered to you by an impressive zoom range which also draws your subject in for more detailed observation.
This lightweight version of the TSN-550 comes with an eyepiece set at a 45 degree angle which allows you to place your head in a comfortable position, whether you’re in a standing, sitting, or lying position.
- 55mm aperture
- 15-45x fixed zoom eyepiece
- Porro prism optical path
- 58mm objective lens filter threads
- Twistable eyecup for use with or without eyewear
- Lightweight polycarbonate chassis
- Oil-resistant KR exterior lens coatings
- Super lightweight at 28 ounces
The straight-through viewing of the TSN-554 scope comes with a 15-45x zoom eyepiece and a 55mm objective lens. These features make finding your target/subject fast and easy. And with ultra low dispersion Prominar glass and fully multi-coated lenses, your journey has never been more focused.
- Multi-coated lenses
- Lightweight polycarbonate chassis
- 1/4 -20 inch or 3/8-16 inch tripod mount
- Two-speed focusing
- Textured zoom collar
- Weight: 28 ounces
TSN-500 Ultra Compact 50mm Series
Tiny scopes with a big name. The TSN-500 is 50mm of ultra compactness and a weight as light as a feather. Besides being lightweight, it features a lower price which may appeal to a broader customer range.
Available in both angled and straight models, the TSN-500 50mm series offer the best of the best in ultra compact scopes!
It features a 45 degree angled viewing body that is sure to be a reliable companion on your next observation or adventure.
With a moderate 50mm lens and fully multi-coated optics, you’ll only see bright, clear and unbelievable high-contrast images. The wide zoom range takes in broad fields of view and draws in subjects for a more precise observation.
- 50mm aperture
- Porro prism optical path
- Fully multi-coated optics
- Powerful 20x-40x fixed zoom eyepiece
- Textured zoom collar
- 55mm objective lens filter threads
- Lightweight polycarbonate chassis
- Nitrogen-filled and waterproof (IPX6-rated)
- Lightweight: 14 ounces
Are you seeking close up views of your next nature sighting? Do you want to see crystal clear, sharp as a knife details? Kowa Optical has done it again–the Kowa TSN-502 spotting scope is so small and light, you’ll be able to carry it anywhere, at anytime.
With a responsive focus wheel and smooth 20-40x twist zoom, it’s easy to operate. Kowa optical technology prides themselves on producing high resolution and clarity.
With this compact optic, you’ll enjoy capturing that special moment — even with your smartphone, using Kowa’s smartphone adapter.
- Polycarbonate body
- Fully multi-coated
- Standard glass objective lens
- Completely waterproof/fogproof
- Exceptional portability and clarity
- Super lightweight: 14 ounces