I am a sucker for a small scope – why carry a big one if a small one does the job? This Chinese-made, non-ED Celestron is even smaller than my Nikon ED50, despite having a larger objective lens. At £200 it’s not expensive.
Verdict: It’s a budget scope, so don’t expect top-end performance.
• Price: £199.99
• Magnification: 9-27x
• Objective diameter: 56mm
• Exit pupil: 6.2-2mm
• Field of view (m@1,000 m): 73-32
• Close focus: 3m
• Eye relief: 15mm
• Size: 208x127x68mm.
• Weight: 590g
• RRP: £199.99
• Warranty: limited lifetime
• Accessories: padded nylon case (not stay-on), with belt loop and shoulder strap. Rubber objective cover with hole for tethering. Rubber eyepiece cover (too loose) with hole for tethering.
The Hummingbird seems very well made and is good to handle. It is waterproof, nitrogen-filled and armoured so should cope with some wet, humid and rough stuff. It is light enough to be used hand-held (though I wouldn’t recommend it) but can of course be attached to a tripod. There is no rotating collar or lens hood and it is front-heavy, but none of these are major issues.
The focusing ring wraps around the scope’s barrel, is 1½ fingers wide, and moves very smoothly, against moderate resistance, about 1½ turns anti-clockwise towards infinity. This can feel like a lot of focus travel. Zooming is via a single finger-wide ring on the eyepiece – which again, moves very smoothly with moderate resistance. A small, raised triangle gives you an idea of the magnification it is set at.
The only other moving bit is the twist up/down rubber-ended eyecup. Its movement is smooth and quite light with no click-stopped intermediate positions. I was concerned that it wouldn’t stay in place when extended but there wasn’t a problem. This little Hummingbird has 15mm of eye-relief, which should be enough for glasses-wearers. Overall, the build quality is very good.
At 9x the view is good – sharp enough, bright enough, with no distracting edge softness and easy enough to focus. At low magnification, the viewing circle has a crisp margin with a thin yellow edge – but not enough to be a problem. On close subjects – a Migrant Hawker about five metres away – the view was very good. At 27x that dragonfly still looked good but softer, with a bit of off-centre colour-fringing and a bit of edge softness in a viewing circle that doesn’t have a crisp margin. You need to refocus when you change magnification.
Most scope viewing is more distant and at 27x, on a Great Crested Grebe about 250m away, I found this scope tricky to use. Focusing was not easy and the image was not very sharp. But pull the magnification back a bit – to about 2/3 of the way up the range, and the image is more usable. My experience was similar at about 25m.
Brightness was good at 9x and pretty good at 27x. For a low light test I tried it out in the 20 minutes before sunset on a heavily overcast day, with light rain blowing in the wind. Its performance was pretty good, though as above, not so good at 27x, especially at range. Once again, things improved when I dropped the magnification a bit.
To minimise chromatic aberration (colour-fringing) make sure your eye is correctly positioned over the eyepiece – this can make quite a difference. 9x gave a good view of an aerial Buzzard, with an occasional tad of colour fringing – and the view wasn’t too bad at 27x. The field of view is not particularly wide – so find your subject at 9x and then zoom in. Close-focus is quoted as a very credible 3 metres. At 9x I measured it as just a bit closer than that, and at 27x at more like 2.65 metres.
Its build quality is very good, and its portability is wonderful. At low magnification its optical performance is good. Mostly, I’d suggest avoiding the very top end of the zoom range. Pull the magnification back a bit, take care with the focus (especially at greater distances) and you can get usable views. It would be interesting to see what extra punch the better glass of the ED version delivers.