Pros: Detailed, bright image for a smaller scope, which stays sharp right to the edge of the field of view. Dual focus knobs make for quick and accurate focusing at any magnification. Robust aluminium body is lightweight yet feels as if it’s made to last. Compact contemporary design. Unusual 17-50x wide-angle zoom range works very well in most situations.
Cons: Slight image degradation as you get to the upper reaches of the zoom (common to most mid-range zoom eyepieces at this and often much higher price points). Chromatic aberration noticeable in some conditions, although it isn’t generally an issue in the field.
Price: c. €450
Rating: Highly Recommended
The Kite SP65 is the new entry-level scope from the Belgian manufacturer, and is the first Kite scope I’ve tried. While it’s entry level for Kite, the build and performance of this compact scope is much more in the mid-range, and it will tick a lot of boxes for wildlife watchers and birders looking for performance and portability on a tight budget.
View the Kite SP65 on the Kite Optics Website.
Kite SP65 17-50x Spotting Scope Full Review
I’ve been impressed with several of the binoculars Kite Optics have sent in for review over recent years. So much so that I use a pair of Kite Lynx HD 8×30 as my personal travel binocular in any situation where carrying full-size bins wouldn’t work. So when the UK and Ireland Distributor got in touch to ask if I’d like to try out their new 65mm entry-level scope I was keen to see how well it would perform.
The SP65 arrived in a very smart Kite branded red and black box. Inside was a relatively compact scope body with the eyepiece attached. In terms of overall design aesthetic, the SP65 looks like you’d expect an angled spotting scope to look. The housing is aluminium, rather than the pricier magnesium alloy employed in more expensive scopes, but it feels both light and robust. A smooth, black rubber armour covers the scope body. It is both tactile and offers plenty of grip, while also doing a great job of protecting the protecting the scope from minor knocks.
Balance and handling
With its 65mm objective, at just 35cm long and weighing in at 1.25 kg, the SP65 is a compact scope that’s easy to transport and carry in the field. Its comparatively small size also means you can use it on a lighter tripod while retaining the stability so crucial to effective viewing spotting scope use, making for an overall package that’s very portable..
The 45 degree angled 17-50x eyepiece is the only configuration of the SP65 Kite currently offers. Angled eyepieces are generally preferred by birders, as they offer versatility in a wider range of viewing situations, and mean you don’t have to have a tripod that gets your scope up to your eye level (handy for taller observers). However, if you prefer a straight-through viewing experience, you’re out of luck.
The metal mounting plate on the base of the SP65 is modelled on the standard Manfrotto mounting plate, so if you use a Manfrotto tripod/head it saves you the trouble of attaching a separate quick-release plate to your scope. Other than that, there’s nothing particularly special about the mounting system. The foot is well positioned at the scope’s centre of gravity, and is attached to the scope body via a rotating metal collar that allows you to position the scope at the most comfortable viewing angle in different situations (in a hide, or from a car-window, for example). There are six click-stop positions on the rotation ring, but you are also free to select any position between the stops. A knurled locking nut on the side of the ring locks the scope securely in place at the desired viewing angle.
Focus and Zoom
The Kite SP65 sports a dual focus knob on the top of the scope, as featured on many other brands and models. The rear knob provides coarse focus to quickly dial in a sharp image at low magnifications, or to rapidly get close to sharp focus at higher magnifications. The front knob offers slower fine-focus to fine-tune the image for perfect clarity. Both focus knobs turn effortlessly and are a joy to use.
As with most scopes, the zoom mechanism on the SP65 is built into the eyepiece. The zoom ring is large and grippy, and turns smoothly and precisely throughout its zoom range. It offers just enough resistance to prevent the set zoom level from slipping when in use.
Overall, the build quality and mechanical precision of the scope give it a quality feel that belies its entry-level price tag.
Eyepiece attachment and eye relief
The 17-50x eyepiece provided with the SP65 attaches to the scope body via a screw thread. Once in position, the eyepiece can be rotated to position the zoom scale in your preferred position before locking it off with a secondary locking ring at the base of the eyepiece… a nice touch you don’t see often.
The twist out eyecup is large and rubber coated for comfort — it has three click stop positions and offers a quoted eye-relief of 18mm.
As you’d expect with any contemporary spotting scope, the Kite SP65 is sealed and nitrogen purged, making it fully waterproof and dustproof, and resistant to internal fogging.
Image Brightness, Resolution and Colour
The view through the Kite SP65 is very impressive, given its price point. The scope delivers a crisp, bright image with lots of fine detail at lower zoom levels, and while the image darkens a little and loses some detail as you crank that zoom up towards the maximum of 50x (as you’d expect), compared to other scopes I’ve tested at this price point the Kite performs superbly, delivering a very useable, clear image throughout the zoom range. Contrast is pretty good too, although I couldn’t help feeling the image could handle a little more. It lacks that contrasty “pop” that makes the image through top-tier scopes sing.
Colours appear neutral to my eyes, with no colour bias. What you see through the scope is pretty much as you see it with the naked eye — which is ideal.
Field of view
The 17-50x eyepiece on the SP65 delivers an acceptably wide field of view at its respective extremes (47m/1000m at 17x, 25m/1000m at 50x), which is far better than you usually see from zoom eyepieces bundled with scopes at this price point, and compares favourably with wide angle zooms from class-leading alpha brands.
While the field of view is impressive, perhaps the stand-out features of the view through the Kite SP-65 is the edge-to-edge sharpness. There’s simply no discernable softening at the periphery of the field of view. While you generally concentrate on what’s at the centre of the field when observing wildlife, soft edges can be distracting, especially if you do a lot of scanning with your scope. That’s not an issue with the Kite SP65: the view is pin sharp to the edge of the field from 17x-50x.
For a smaller scope at this price-point that’s outstanding.
The Kite SP65 comes bundled with the excellent 17-50x wide angle zoom eyepiece (already attached to the scope in the box) and a kite-branded cleaning cloth and objective and eyepiece lens covers. There is no stay-on cover included, however Kite also produces an excellent optional neoprene stay-on cover which they also supplied with the review unit, and which I highly recommend to protect your optics in the field.
The Kite SP65 is covered by Kite’s comprehensive 30-Year optics warranty. This is not quite as good as the “No-fault / replace for any reason” lifetime warranties being offered by some manufacturers over recent years, but is one of the longest standard warranties covering manufacturing defects and faults you’re likely to find in the European optics market.
I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the Kite SP65. It’s a solidly constructed scope with plenty of optical pedigree and a well thought out design that makes it a joy to use in the field. It’s wide field of view and edge-to-edge clarity is particularly impressive for a scope at this price point. If you’re looking for your first serious birding and wildlife scope, or want to upgrade from an entry level scope to something more capable, I’d have no hesitation in recommending the SP65. It’s an exceptional scope for the money.
Taken from the Kite Optics website:
|Objective lens diameter (mm)||65|
|Exit pupil (mm)||3.9 – 1.3|
|Min. focus (m)||3.4|
|Field of view (m)||47-25|
|Field of view (degrees)||2.7 – 1.45|
|eye relief (mm)||18|
|objective filter thread||NC|
|functional temperature||-25 °C / 55 °C|
|Recommended price €||€ 470|
|Recommended price £||£ 429|
I’d like to thank Kite Optics for submitting the SP65 17-50x spotting scope for review on Ireland’s Wildlife.
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