Initially sceptical, Chris Parkin finds he is won over by a draw-tube spotter after having the Meopta TGA 75 on test
When I was sent the Meopta TGA 75 draw tube spotting scope, I wondered if this model really had much of an application today. In the field when hunting I always rely on binoculars. I picture a draw scope being used by a mountainous hill stalker positioned over a chasm-like valley with the scope clamped on one knee to verify the position of a stag before sliding it closed and starting the stalk. But I couldn’t have been more wrong about the capabilities of what I was sent.
A draw scope does pretty much what is says. A ‘telescopic’ tube in two (or sometimes three) sections opens and closes to allow the objective and ocular bodies to spread far apart and create maximum focal length for the lenses to work within. The design is simple and an evolution of the telescopes first created by Galileo and refined by Kepler before compact prismatic bodies became the accepted norm. Picture Nelson seeing ‘no ships’ and you aren’t far from its origins, but what this design does allow is a very compact, lightweight unit that paradoxically extends into an easily supported tube when sitting or rested, for magnified intense viewing of distant objects.
At 325mm long and 1,555 grams, the TGA in its rubber armoured jacket is easily stored in a bag or slung over a shoulder on its 17mm-wide nylon webbing strap. When you want to use it, slacken the strap through the eyelets on the two rubber end caps (these remain otherwise tightly in place), slot them off and gently draw the ocular body from the wider objective body. Extending to 450mm, the downside of a draw scope is illustrated by the sucking noise you hear as the vacuum inside the tube draws in air to fill the increasing volume as the length increases. This is no fault of the scope, it’s an inherent factor of the design and one to think about as if you do get things very wet or, worse still, immersed. It’s best to have a wipe around the water shedding, but not air-tight seals which are described as ‘weatherproof’ before opening it and sucking in moisture. On closing, it will obviously blow it all away from the seals. This also precludes the ability of the optic to be charged with inert gas, but I find Meopta to be very honest in its promises, and it claims 86-90 per cent light transmission from this scope’s otherwise fully coated lenses.
Anyway, those are the downsides, what are the advantages? Well, the scope came with a 20-60x magnification eyepiece that screws into the tube, a 30x eyepiece is also available and, having less internal glass, is likely even brighter. The eye cup has a fold-down rim to suit those wearing spectacles or not, and if you do wish to mount it on a tripod, a standard ¼” threaded aluminium foot fastens it securely. Magnification and focus are controlled by rubberised ribbed rings around the matt black anodised aluminium body, and settings are easily found and maintained to suit your needs of close inspection, or maximised field of view, which the 75mm objective lens provides.
The overall diameter of the tube peaks at 90mm but a fair percentage of this is the very tough rubber armoured jacket. It overhangs the critical points where water ingress may occur and I got the scope pretty wet a few times during testing just from the rain but never saw a hint of water ingress. Solid grip is assured by the ribbed texture and the dark green rubber really adds a sense of durability to the item. I’m always very conscious of damaging loan items but the TGA’s build ‘feel’ reassured me.
So after being initially sceptical, what were my conclusions? I loved it! 15mm of eye relief on the ocular lens was a deciding factor in that it allowed the scope to be not only used from a seated or standing position and rested, but also from prone, which I wasn’t expecting. I usually choose angled eyepieces for this reason, which a draw scope precludes, but spotting fall of shot lying down with the TGA rested on a rucksack was no problem at all in terms of getting full sight picture, even if a stiff neck is an unfortunate side effect when prone. Where the scope came into its own though was in the field. Using it at 20x magnification standing, scanning large areas of crop for hares was no problem at all with one elbow resting onto the abdomen. Sitting or leaning against a tree with the scope rested on one knee allowed all 60x magnification to be used effectively. The exit pupil never seemed critical in diameter so you didn’t feel as if you were likely to lose sight picture, and the image provided was the next advantage – frankly, it was stunning! Making everything physically larger and simpler makes engineering tolerances less critical, but as they are still maintained by Meopta, everything just gets a little sharper, that’s one of the subtleties of this seemingly old-fashioned concept.
Fine focus was easily achieved regardless of magnification setting, and the image provided was very flat with no barrel distortion or colour shift visible to the eye. With the centre of the image focused, sometime the edges seem to be not only milky but fuzzy too on cheaper optics, but that wasn’t the case here. Image quality was razor-sharp right to the edges, allowing the whole field of view to remain accessible and trustworthy, especially noticeable when watching hares running at full pelt 300 yards away. Scanning undergrowth allowed all the greens to show their different shades, and the browns and darker black colourings of their ear tips wiggling above the crop of peas were crisp to view. Focus is rated down to six metres but I had clear image with 20x at five metres.
As the light faded magnification was logically lowered to retain the brightest picture, but I certainly never felt the image quality suffered or went grainy. When carrying, the rubber armour was inclined to cling to your coat and not bounce, which made the weight seem to disappear and, although carrying binos too, I never felt over-equipped. To be honest, I had just ordered a new spotting scope for myself with a short body/angled eyepiece/prismatic tube and the TGA draw scope really made me question my reasoning for doing so, I liked it that much. The quality and solidity of the mechanical design paled into insignificance when I accepted the fact the eye relief and image quality are what separated this scope from other straight eyepiece units I have used.
I really, really will miss this when it goes back, and were my needs more directed towards hill stalking I would have changed my mind and bought it; it was so much more versatile than I ever expected it to be. You can even add a photo adaptor to attach a DSLR camera to convert the TGA 75 into an 800mm lens.
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