Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review
August 1, 2012

Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

Over the past several years, I have been itching to get a good compact spotting scope for several reasons.  My primary reason is to support my shooting endeavors and my secondary reason is to support my hunting adventures.  Some of the criteria I have for my selection is quality, size, weight and cost with cost always seeming to take the lead.  Last year I reviewed the Bushnell Elite Tactical 4.5-30x50 Scope and have been extremely pleased with the scope so I decided to research further into one of the Bushnell Elite Spotting Scopes.  After searching on the internet, I found some information that seemed to reinforce my positive opinion of this spotting scope.  The first piece of information was that back in 2008, Bushnell was already manufacturing this scope and was awarded a government contract to provide a military version of this spotting scope to be used by multi-national forces around the globe (see press release for details).  The second piece of information was related to the Bushnell's RainGuard® coating.  It seems that Bushnell has granted Zeiss some type of license agreements for the use of Bushnell's patents relating to the RainGuard® coatings (see press release for details).  Although I don't know more details around these two pieces of information, these combined with my experience with the Elite Tactical rifle scope were just enough to make me think this Bushnell spotting scope has the potential for great quality and value.  Since value implies price, don't let the suggested retail price of $702 scare you off.  The current online (street) price for this spotting scope ranges from about $450 to $500.  So if this spotting scope has great quality, at this street price it could be a great value.

 

During my reviews I like to compare my results to the manufacturer's claims where possible so the following text in colored italics was taken directly from the Bushnell website on 7/22/12 and gives an Overview, Key Features, and Specifications for the Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope.  The , and are my way to keep up with details that I have covered in this review with either photos, commentary or both.  I may also add commentary after these marks as necessary to explain some items if needed.

Overview

  • Experience wonderful detail in a compact size.
  • Our 60mm and 70mm scopes feature PC-3® phase- corrected BaK-4 roof prisms with fully multi-coated optics for extra-sharp, extra-bright and brilliant color resolution at the longest ranges.
  • Utilizing the latest Bushnell® technology these scopes deliver a clear, bright image regardless of weather conditions.
  • Ideal for traveling, birders, backpackers and big-game hunters, the compact Elite® spotting scopes offer full-featured performance in an easy to handle, 100% waterproof/fogproof/shockproof package

Key Features

  • PC-3® Phase Coating A chemical coating applied to the prisms to enhance resolution and contrast for the brightest and clearest images possible.
  • BaK-4 prisms Barium crown (BaK-4) glass is the higher quality glass yielding brighter images and high edge-to-edge sharpness.
  • RainGuard® HD A patented, permanent, water-repellent coating causes moisture from rain, snow, sleet and condensation to bead up and scatter less light, so you get a clear, bright view when other optics would be rendered useless. View Site
  • 100% waterproof/fogproof
  • Rubber armored
  • Zoom eyepiece
  • Protective case

Specifications

  • Weight: 26.5 Ounces and about 30.4 ounces with lens caps and case included
  • Lens Coating: Fully Multi
  • Length 12.2 inches with the focus piece all the way in and it measured 13.25" with the lens caps installed
  • Close Focus: 30 feet
  • RainGuard® HD: Yes
  • Exit Pupil: 4@15x 1.3@45x 
  • Magnification: 15-45x zoom
  • Prism Glass: BaK-4
  • Water/Fog Proof: Yes
  • Objective: 60 mm
  • Other Eyepieces Available: Yes I was not able to find any other eyepieces at the Bushnell website for this spotting scope.
  • Eye Relief: ~22mm at 15x, ~14mm at 45x
  • Model: 781548P
  • Field of View (ft @ 1000 yards): 125@15x, 65@45x
  • MSRP: $701.95 Online prices range from approximately $450 to $500

Like all the other Bushnell Elite products, the 15-45x60 Elite Spotting Scope comes in their simple yet stylish Elite black box.

Figure 1
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

The ends of the box were marked with what Bushnell considers to be significant features such as armored spotting scope, RainGuard® and phase coated prisms (PC-3), along with the model number "78-1548P".

Figure 2
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

The only other markings on the box were the UPC code and some trademark information along with "Made in Japan".

Figure 3
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

When you remove the lid, you see that the spotting scope is securely wrapped and packed inside a foam box liner.

Figure 4
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

The photo below shows the contents removed from the box.  The contents were the spotting scope inside the case, Instruction Manual and registration card.  The Instruction Manual is generic in nature and with a single page in English talks about features of most spotting scopes.

Figure 5
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

After removing the case, the actual spotting scope was packaged inside the case as shown below.

Figure 6
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

After removing the spotting scope, you now have a good look at each side of the scope.  The first items to notice are the lens caps on each end.  The objective end has a flexible rubber flip lens cap.  The eyepiece end has a plastic cup style cover.  You will also notice the gold metallic lettering "ELITE" on both sides of the scope.

Figure 7
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

The spotting scope has a rubber textured sleeve that surrounds the body of the scope and is identified as their rubber armor coating.  Between the combination of the armor coating and lens caps, the metallic surfaces of the spotting scope are well protected from scratches.  With the caps installed, the scope measures 13.25" in length.

Figure 8
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

The spotting scope weighed in at 26.2 ounces with the objective lens flip cap included and 30.35 ounces with the case and eyepiece lens cap (cup) included.

Figure 9                                                                  Figure 10      
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review   Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

The eyepiece cap is made from some type of rigid plastic that fits securely over the eyepiece.  When the cap is in place, it will not fall off due to gravity if the scope is turned with the eyepiece down.

Figure 11                                        Figure 12                                        Figure 13
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review   Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review   Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

With the caps removed, the spotting scope measures 12.2" in length which matched the specification length.  In reality, you should consider it to be 14.2" for a total packed length which includes the lens caps and the scope inside the soft case. 

Figure 14
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

Throughout this review, you will see the spotting scope installed on a small tripod.  The tripod does NOT come with the spotting scope.  You should be able to find a decent tripod for less than $30.  The hardest part will be deciding on which height tripod you may need for your circumstances.  Clearly for bench shooting, a bench style tripod would be desired, but for hunting, you may want to consider something that allows a greater range of adjustability.  Since the eyepiece looks directly through the spotting scope, you are going to want your head more vertical (not tilted forward) which may make some people want a slightly taller bench tripod.  My guess is that in the end you will probably get two tripods, one for the bench and the other for the field.

Figure 15
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

The body has a sleek look with about a 1.75" diameter at the mid section (mount area) and the scope is comfortable to use freehand when scoping at the lowest power.  Everything about the spotting scope gives you an impression of simple quality.

Figure 16
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

On the eyepiece end, you have a focus ring and power ring.  Both of these were initially firm to turn, but over time have gotten easier to adjust.  The eyepiece does not include a cup style rubber piece.  Instead, it has a flat rubber ring/face.  The tripod mount is marked with a simple "15-45x60" for identification.

Figure 17
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

These next two photos show details of the eyepiece power ring along with the total travel of fast focus adjustment.  Approximately 90 degrees of rotation can zoom you from15x to 45x power and slightly over 1/2 turn of the focus ring allows you the full range of focusing capability.  Both of these rings have their own rubber nonslip surface for making adjustments.  The eyepiece is not removable so what you see is what you get.

Figure 18                                                               Figure 19
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review   Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

The lower surface of the tripod mount has the model number "78-1548P", "Made In Japan" (which is a good thing), "BL" enclosed in a circle which I believe relates this optic back to Bausch & Lomb, and another set of letters "AU0028" which I believe is the serial number for this scope.

Figure 20
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

The objective lens is 60mm in diameter and the outside diameter is 2.82" (71mm).  The 60mm objective produces an exit pupil diameter of 4mm at 15x and 1.33mm at 45x which says you will get 1/3 of the light going to your eye at 45x than at 15x.  This reduction of light at higher powers is common with all spotting scopes and accounts for the reason images typically look slightly darker at higher powers.

Figure 21
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

I don't have any way to verify what types of coatings and glass are used in the spotting scope so I have to take Bushnell's word on it.  Bushnell states they are "PC-3® phase- corrected BaK-4 roof prisms with fully multi-coated optics for extra-sharp, extra-bright and brilliant color resolution at the longest ranges" and this "waterproof/fogproof" spotting scope also features their patented "RainGuard® HD" coating.  Below explains in more detail what Bushnell is saying about these features.

  • PC-3® Phase Corrected: This chemical coating is applied to the prisms to enhance resolution and contrast for the brightest and clearest images possible.
  • BaK-4 Roof Prisms: Most optical prisms are made from borosilicate (BK-7) glass or barium crown (BaK-4) glass. BaK-4 is the higher quality glass yielding brighter images and high edge-to-edge sharpness.  The roof prisms overlap closely, allowing the objective lenses to line up directly with the eyepiece. The result is a slim, streamlined shape in which the lenses and the prisms (that magnify and correct the image) are in a straight line. 
  • Coated Optics: Coatings on lens surfaces reduce light loss and glare due to reflection, resulting in a brighter, higher-contrast image with reduced eyestrain. All Bushnell® spotting scope lenses are coated with a microscopic film of magnesium fluoride. More coating layers on more lens surfaces lead to better light transmission.
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics: Multiple coating layers on all air to glass surfaces
  • Waterproof/Fogproof:  The scope is sealed with O-rings and nitrogen-purged for waterproof and fogproof protection. These models are able to withstand complete immersion and remain dry inside.
  • RainGuard® HD: Bushnell's patented, hydrophobic (water-repellent) coating on which condensation from rain, fog or snow forms in much smaller droplets than on standard coatings. Smaller droplets scatter less light which results in increased light transmission and a clearer image.  Bushnell actually has a webpage dedicated to explaining their RainGuard® HD coating which can be found here.

Figure 22
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

The list of features above identifies what goes into their optical system and it does sound impressive.  The real question to be answered is how does this spotting scope perform when looking through your eye.  One of the first things you usually notice when looking through a spotting scope is the eye relief.  Eye relief becomes even more apparent if you wear glasses like myself.  In these next four photos, I have tried to show the eye relief that allows a full field of view when using glasses and with your bare eye.  Since the rubber ring of the eyepiece is 34mm in diameter, this gave me something to use as a scale for determining eye relief distances in these photos.  At 15x power, the eye relief measured about 22mm and it was easy to see the full field of view with my glasses.

Figure 23 - Power at 15x, Eye Relief 22mm
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

As I zoomed from 15x to higher powers, the eye relief reduced and I found that at 20x the eye relief had reduced to about 17mm which required me to push my glasses firmly on my face to see the full field of view.  At 45x I had to turn my head to the left and then press down on my glasses so they pushed closer to my eye.  I was able to barely get a full field of view and as long as you have a sturdy tripod doing this is not too much of an issue.  I'm sure I would not want to spend hours glassing a hill side at 45x.  Fortunately, searching for game is usually done at lower powers like 15x so this is not too much of a problem.  I was able to achieve a very good focus (although not perfect) looing through the scope with my glasses removed, but this may not be possible for you depending on your eyeglass prescription needed to correct your vision.

Figure 24 - Power at 20x, Eye Relief 17mm
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

Without glasses, the eye relief on the spotting scope was comfortable at all ranges of power from 15x to 45x.  Although the eye relief is very manageable without glasses, a little more would always be welcomed.

Figure 25 - Power at 15x, Eye Relief 22mm
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

Figure 26 - Power at 45x, Eye Relief 14mm
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

In these next photos I have tried to capture examples of images at various distances.  As always, photos never do scopes justice.  Between trying to get the two lens systems in line and then getting both of them in focus, it is extremely difficult to get quality images representing what you see with your eyes.  Also, the exposure setting on a camera can bias the brightness of the photo.  Anyway, these are my photo attempts.  My overall impression looking through the spotting scope was "Wow".

I show photos at 15x, 30x and 45x powers for 34, 76 and 146 yards.  As I indicated, I have a very positive impression looking through the spotting scope at 15x power for any distance.  The image is bright, sharp and has great color.  There is a little color change at the outside edge, but nothing I would consider as an indication of low quality.  As I zoomed in to 30x and 45x, slight focus adjustments were required.  The image was still sharp, but the brightness seemed to drop slightly.  The drop in brightness is expected and typical due to the total amount of light reaching your eye being reduced (1.3mm exit pupil diameter at 45x).

Figure 27 - 15x at 34 yards
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

Figure 28 - 30x at 34 yards
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

Figure 29 - 45x at 34 yards
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

Make sure you click on some of these photos looking at the mailbox.  The brick detail is great.  Keep in mind that the trees in the background are about 125 yards away and are outside the focus area for the mailbox at 76 yards.  Also remember that you will never be able to zoom in looking through the spotting scope like you can with these photos, so the the sharp details you see in the photos seem even more sharp with your eyes through the scope.

Figure 30 - 15x at 76 yards
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

Figure 31 - 30x at 76 yards
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

Figure 32 - 45x at 76 yards
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

Figure 33 - 15x at 146 yards
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

Figure 34 - 30x at 146 yards
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

Figure 35 - 45x at 146 yards
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

The soft case is shown in these next photos.

Figure 36
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

Maybe I'm a sucker for a little flair, but I like the "ELITE" gold lettering sewn into the side of the case.

Figure 37
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

The case has a hole in the bottom to allow it to be used while mounted on a tripod.

Figure 38
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

The case also includes a simple belt loop for carrying the spotting scope in the field.

Figure 39
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

The interior padding of the case is minimal, but I feel it is sufficient for protecting the spotting scope from damage under normal use situations like being stuffed in a pack or hanging from a belt loop or pack while maneuvering through thick brush.

Figure 40
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

Figure 41
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

The case can unzip from around the spotting scope while on a tripod.  Remember, it does not come with a tripod.

Figure 42
Bushnell Elite 15-45x60mm Spotting Scope Review

The last thing to consider about the Bushnell ELITE Spotting Scope is that during 2012 it comes with Bushnell's 100% Money Back Bulletproof Guarantee.  See the link for more details, but Bushnell states "If, for any reason, you’re not completely satisfied with your Bushnell product, return it—no questions asked for a full refund of the purchase price."  Now that seems like a good deal.

 

Bottom Line:

I'm just as impressed with the Bushnell Elite15-45x60 Spotting Scope as I was with the Elite Rifle Scope I reviewed last year.  The optics seem great and this spotting scope has a good compact size and shape and also seems relatively light-weight.  The crispness and brightness of the image along with the great color makes me believe Bushnell has done a good job with the glass and coatings and makes me understand their award of the military contract back in 2008.   At a street price as low as $450, this spotting scope appears to deliver value based on my opinion of the optics.   The case and objective lens cover are simple and nicely done, but I feel that the cup style objective cap could use something to keep it attached to the body of the scope.  The one thing you should consider closely is your eye relief needs.  My measurements show the eye relief to range from about 22mm at 15x to 14mm at 45x.  For those who wear glasses, you may struggle getting a full field of view at 45x.  In my case, I was able to achieve a decent focus with my glasses removed, but I'm not sure this would work for everyone.  If you wear contact lenses or don't need glasses, I think you will find the eye relief adequate for your needs.


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