Kowa 554 mini-review

USMC_JA

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I recently picked up a Kowa TSN-554 15-45x55 spotter and had my first opportunity to take it to the range this past weekend. I paired it with a compact, carbon fiber Sirui table top tripod that the boys over at Cameraland sold me for a really nice price. At one member's suggestion/encouragement (hint wjm308), I thought I'd share my experiences with y'all.

I was shooting on a 100 yard range from 0900-1200. It was an overcast and relatively dark day with off and on drizzle. I don't own any of the German big dogs, so I cannot give you any ultimate comparisons vis-a-vis extreme high end optics. But the Kowa easily and very clearly outclassed my Mk5 3.6, AMG, and NXS 2.5-10x42 rifle scopes. Just exceptionally bright and crisp (for lack of a better descriptor) image quality. Going back and forth demonstrated the undeniable superiority of the Kowa glass. When looking through the other scopes, the image brightness was essentially what I saw with my Mk1Mod1 (post-PRK) eyeball....maybe a hair brighter. Not so the Kowa. The image was noticeably brighter than I could see with the naked eye. Edge to edge clarity is as you would expect...perfect. I'm not really sensitive to CA, and with the overcast sky, I'm not going to be able to tell you much on that point.

Hidden bonus: the Kowa's fine focus knob is a fantastic little feature that I had not really appreciated until I used it a bit.

The only downside I can note so far is that the field of view was a bit tighter than I expected at max magnification. But even then, it was perfectly usable. And I'm guessing that high quality glass with a larger objective will likely beat the 554 in low light conditions. By how much? I cannot say. But I can say it will likley come with a size/weight penalty.

I'm really looking forward to more range/outdoor time with this thing. The footprint and weight of the carbon fiber tripod/554 combo is also worth noting. Very compact and lightweight. Adding them to my range bag or pack is a non-issue. The capability versus weight trade off is, frankly, a no brainer.

To sum it up a bit differently, the real sweet spot for this spotter is the weight/footprint/performance ratio. It is simply going to be difficult to beat in that regard.
 
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Steel head

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They’re excellent at seeing trace and the detail you can see at distance is amazing.

Firts Time I looked through one was at a 100 yard range and I was kinda meh.

Then I got to use my buddy’s 883 out in the woods shooting steel.
WOW!
 
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hereinaz

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I love my 553 Prominar. Glass is amazing and it is nothing to throw it in the pack.
 

wjm308

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The 553/554 biggest appeal is portability, sounds like the scope is super bright even with a 55mm objective. I know many opt for much larger objectives but I think I'd have more difficulty hiking that into the field. I keep debating between a set of 18x56 binos and the Kowa 553/4 spotter, the binos would be easier on the eye for extended viewing but the spotter has the flexibility of increasing magnification. Thank you for taking time to writeup the review USMC_JA, greatly appreciated and you've made my decision that much harder now (I was leaning toward the binos but now I'm not so sure).
 

Steel head

Stylish Ninja
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The 553/554 biggest appeal is portability, sounds like the scope is super bright even with a 55mm objective. I know many opt for much larger objectives but I think I'd have more difficulty hiking that into the field. I keep debating between a set of 18x56 binos and the Kowa 553/4 spotter, the binos would be easier on the eye for extended viewing but the spotter has the flexibility of increasing magnification. Thank you for taking time to writeup the review USMC_JA, greatly appreciated and you've made my decision that much harder now (I was leaning toward the binos but now I'm not so sure).
I’d hate to have to hump around a 883.
It’s not small.
Someday I’d like to look through the 553 as a comparison.
 

wjm308

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I’d hate to have to hump around a 883.
It’s not small.
Someday I’d like to look through the 553 as a comparison.
I've never hunted with a spotter, always my binos (8x and 10x) and my riflescope but don't like to scan with the riflescope as a safety precaution. I wonder how many opportunities I miss because I simply don't "see" them. My guess is the main advantage of the larger objective would be low light, but would also be curious to see side by side in daylight conditions to see if there are any other advantages, I would think the smaller objective scope would actually have increased DOF.
 
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