Kowa Prominar TSN-773

  • Compact and lighter than many in the same class
  • Bright, clear, fringe-free views
  • Efficient, precise focusing thanks to split wheel
  • Comfortable viewing through adjustable eyepiece
  • Excellent for no-frills digiscoping

When I reviewed Kowa’s new flagship TSN-883 scope a few months back, I frankly drooled over it. The 883 edged out my previous favourite scope (the now outdated Kowa TSN-823), both in looks and build and most importantly in absolute performance. Now I have my greedy eyes on the 883’s slightly smaller (also fluorite) stablemate, with a 77mm diameter objective lens – almost appearing as a direct challenge to Leica’s now-ageing APO-Televid 77. And I like what I have seen. Very much.

To all intents and purposes this scope is very like the new and lovely 883, only slightly smaller and lighter (in weight – which is a bit lighter than my usual 823 scope). Lengthwise, this compact beauty is only a centimetre or so longer than the classic TSN-613 of old. It has exactly the same textured metal green body as the 883 and houses the same eyepieces. Its balance is good, its weight is good, its feel is good. I even like the green coloration (unusual in a scope), but I would be very tempted to wrap it up in a protective padded case…

In fact, it shares all the features of the bigger brother, including the efficient, precise and smooth, centrally-placed split focus wheel (for both fast and fine focus) and the push-button lock mechanism which crucially stops the bayonet-fitted eyepiece from falling out. The large, comfortable eyepiece itself is a magnificent piece of equipment, delivering a choice of five twist-and-click soft-rubber eyecup settings to suit your eyes’ needs, and also delivering a first-class image. The image is bright and clear and as close to fringe-free as any scope I have tested, with sharp resolution (pretty much to the edges) and a pleasing, realistic depth of field and good field of view. Beware, though, potential purchasers of the zoom eyepiece, the field of view is inevitably much reduced with this variable lens. I measured the minimum close-focus distance as an impressive 4.5m. While testing the scope, I tried digiscoping with it. The eyecup was a perfect fit for my compact camera’s lens, and it took excellent photos without the need for an adapter.

It is very hard to find fault with this scope – it does what it should very well. If I were being very picky, in side-by-side tests with my existing 823, the 773’s image (unsurprisingly) lacked the brightness of the larger model, and the image is very slightly on the yellow side of absolute neutrality. Make no mistake, though (he says drifting back into positivity, because it is hard not to…) the 773 is bright, pushing the 823 close and making mincemeat of some lesser models. The only slight reservation I have is the question of who this model is aimed at. It is not massively different in size (or indeed performance) from the triumphant 883, yet doesn’t quite deliver all the startling brightness of the big brother. That said, it is lighter in weight and it is less expensive, so if you want a brilliant scope which almost delivers the best a scope can, but is a little less heavy and smaller, this could be the one for you. This is a superb scope, delivering a bright, high-quality image, in a compact package.