Chris Redlich gets ‘up close’ with the Leupold Santiam
It wasn’t until I first hunted the Southern Alps of New Zealand in 2016 that I really understood the importance of a quality spotting scope. With a beautiful trophy chamois as a prize on my wall it was clear if I hadn’t been able to assess that buck through the eyes of a premium spotting scope in bad weather, we may well have called off the stalk. A good set of binoculars is certainly a ‘must’ for target finding but for closer inspection of your once-in-a-lifetime trophy, a spotting scope is vital.
My association with Leupold extends to almost quarter of a century when I bought my first Gold Ring scope (the first of many). At a NIOA promotional day towards the end of last year, I was fortune to lay my hands on a Leupold’s SX-5 Santiam HD 27-55×80 spotting scope and was more than eager to take a closer look. The Santiam line-up is Leupold’s flagship range of optics and the SX-5 27-55×80 is the largest spotting scope in that stable.
Measuring 380mm and weighing just on 1.9kg isn’t unusual for a spotting scope with 80mm objective and although it’s bulkier than my own spotter with 65mm lens, the increased field of view from the big lens is a definite advantage when glassing and, despite its dimensions, the Santiam can still be tucked away nicely in most hunting day packs.
The SX-5 is available with a straight eyepiece but our test version is the ‘angle’ option with the eyepiece sitting at 45 degrees to the body axis. To break things down, from back to front the variable zoom dial has a large surface area with a corrugated grip pattern that’s firm yet easy to turn from 27x right round to the maximum 55x magnification. Additionally, the over-sized eyepiece has a twist-up eyecup adjustable to 17mm, providing comfortable eye relief for those wearing glasses.
For sharpening the view of all images at any range the full circumference, fast-focus wheel sitting forward of the eyepiece also has a large corrugated grip pattern for easy adjustment. Increasing the Santiam’s versatility is its ability to fully rotate the angle eyepiece, enabling the shooter to optimise the view of their chosen target from awkward positions.
This is done by simply slackening the small thumb lock dial on the right and allowing the scope body to fully rotate via the integrated tripod mount to the desired angle and, once achieved, tighten again. I find this feature particularly handy when shooting from a bench as it allows me to view my shots by simply leaning and looking without having to be directly behind or above the spotter.
For firm attachment to a tripod the SX-5 integral blade-style mount has a standard ¼-20 UNF thread for universal fastening to most camera and spotting scope tripods. Leupold have tripods specifically to suit the Santiam spotter, though it’s worth noting NIOA are now sole distributors of Spartan Precision Equipment who also have several tripod options in their range.
At the business end is a large scratch-resistant 80mm high definition objective lens which, combined with Leupold’s proven Twilight Max HD coating, allows ample light transmission for clear and high-resolution images through to last light. Furthermore, on low magnification this gives the operator a highly impressive 40m field of view at 1000m. Additional to the objective is an extendable ‘sunshade’ which helps reduce image washout from peripheral glare in bright conditions.
Being both waterproof and fogproof, the SX-5 Santiam features a lightweight yet rugged rubberised armour which provides maximum protection in the harshest conditions and also comes supplied with a removable neoprene soft-skin cover.
During field use I was impressed to say the least at how clear the images were of surrounding countryside through the entire magnification range – the SX-5 Santiam HD spotter designed and manufactured in the US is high quality glass well worthy of consideration. Distributed and backed by NIOA’s after-sales service, the SX-5 is covered by Leupold’s lifetime guarantee. Contact your local dealer for price and availability. More at www.nioa.com.au