Kowa TSN-501 and TSN-502 Review: Lots of Power in a Small Package

Spotting scope, though an invaluable item for birding, hunting, or viewing distant objects, sometimes may cause you enough trouble if it weighs too much. As you might generally anticipate, the better the optical quality, the more the weight. So, this portability issue will create trouble for you from time to time, restricting you from availing yourself of the highest potential of a spotting scope. However, the Kowa TSN-500 series can be a panacea for you if you are looking for a versatile spotting scope, providing you the ultimate freedom of portability.

Series Overview

Kowa TSN-500 Series is one of the most ultra-compact and lightweight spotting scopes available on the market. There are two different scopes (TSN-501 and TSN-502) available under this series. The 501 model has an angled eyepiece. The 502 does not feature an angled body. Note that angled spotting scopes are often more preferred than the straight counterparts since they can be used with a shorter tripod, and for glassing up the steep terrain efficiently, and are usually more comfortable to use. On the contrary, you will be getting a straight scope with TSN-502. Straight scopes are more preferred over the angled one because they can be easier for an inexperienced person to use and when looking down severe downhill angles.

There aren’t that many high quality 50mm compact spotting scopes out there and the Kowa is fantastic, but it would certainly make sense to have a look at some competitors such as the Celestron Hummingbird 7-22x50mm ED Micro Spotter or the Leupold Gold Ring Compact 15-30 x 50mm.

Each of the models of this series features a 50mm objective lens and is less than 10 inches long. So, you will never have to worry about stuffing it into a backpack. You may think that a larger objective lens will always deliver better optical quality at higher magnifications. But, the situation is really tricky. A good quality 50mm objective lens can suffice for all your casual needs for hiking, trekking, and even target shooting. The crux of the matter is that it all depends on your requirement. The Kowa TSN-500 series is not built for long-distance professional target shooting, but for providing extra portability at an amazing price tag. With this spotting scope series, you will get 20X-40X times magnification. Don’t get disappointed with the number related to the magnification. Indeed, they provide a fabulous optical quality.

As it has been mentioned earlier, they are extremely lightweight, weighing on average 400g (14 oz.). Featuring great build quality coupled with amazing optical performance, the Kowa TSN-501 and Kowa TSN-502 series ultra-compact scopes can be your great companion everywhere you go. The minimum focusing distance for spotting scope of this series is just 2.5m (8.2 feet) given you an incredible opportunity to observe small birds and insects really close-up. This specific feature can also be of great utility if you want to take photos with a camera or phone (known as digiscoping). They also have a responsive focus wheel with a 20-40X twist zoom wheel.

Although these scopes provide superior performance, they are made in China – it’s not an issue, but some people don’t like the fact. To be pragmatic, though the multi-coated optics and porro prism of the 500 series are great for the size and price, will not provide state-of-the-art optical quality if you need to do serious long range spotting. But, they are enough to take your breath away in this affordable price range.

The TSN-501 and TSN-502 are the two products of this series and they’re both very popular being ultra-lightweight and compact. They differ essentially only in body shape – angled vs straight.

Kowa TSN-501 with Angled Eyepiece

The generous 50mm objective lens, along with multi-coated optics, will create brilliant high-contrast and sharp images. The chassis is made of polycarbonate materials which ensure an excellent build quality. Unsurprisingly, the TSN-501 comes with a nitrogen filled and waterproof (IPX6-rated) porro prism body, so you will never have to worry during adverse weather conditions. Altogether, you can get it for yourself if you are looking for unmatched portability, wide zoom range, precise observation, and better optical quality within an affordable price range.

Kowa TSN-502 with Straight Body

The TSN-502 model will also give you the same level of flexibility in a straight-bodied package. A crystal clear and sharp image with a vivid detail is always guaranteed with this spotting scope. TSN-502 is completely waterproof and fog proof and offers a fully multi-coated glass just like its counterpart. The main advantage of using these spotting scopes is they are super lightweight, weighing only 14 oz.

Final Verdict:

If you need great power or distance, the TSN-500 series may not be the spotting scope for you. But, they offer significantly better optical quality and all-around performance with ultra-portability compared to many products in the same price range. Do not expect ED glass or flourite glass in this portable entry-level spotting scope. But the optical quality won’t disappoint you in the shorter spotting range. In fact, what you will get in this series is a great-value product with an amazing price tag.