Spotting Scope Review: Kowa Prominar ED TSN880

kowa prominarFor an 88mm scope, this Kowa is remarkably small. At just over 13 inches without the eyepiece, it’s very compact. The scope is also relatively light, at 53.6 ounces, due to the use of Magnesium alloy for the scope body. With the eyepiece installed, the scope is 16 inches long and weighs 65 ounces. The small size and weight of the Kowa means that it’s possible to use a lighter and more compact tripod, which is a nice option to have.

Optical Qualities

The bright, ultra-sharp image is the most impressive quality of the Prominar ED. The image is distortion free, and can be owed to the superior quality of glass used by Kowa. The objective lens of the ED uses Pure Fluorite Crystal, which contributes to the claimed 99%+ light transmission. After looking through the scope, I don’t doubt the truth in that claim.

The Kowa is focused through two focus controls along the same axis. The large knob is for coarse adjustments, and the small knob is for fine tuning for achieving the remarkably sharp image this scope is capable of. It’s a good system for focusing, and I got used to it pretty quickly.

The Kowa Prominar ED is designed to function in all weather conditions. To help achieve this aim, the body is nitrogen-purged and fully sealed with a waterproof housing. I wouldn’t test this without need, but it’s nice to know that rain won’t be a problem. One quality to make note of, particularly if you are hard on your scopes, is that the ED does not have a rubber armor coating. This keeps weight down, but renders the scope more vulnerable to impacts and vibrations. Padded covers are available from Kowa, however.

Field Test and Range Results

The first time I used the Kowa, I compared it to a Pentax PF100-ED, a highly respected scope in its own right. In comparison, I was very impressed by the Kowa’s optical clarity, particularly at the lower powers. I have a pile of logs I keep near a garden shed about 150 yards away from my house, for the rural Washington state winters. I pointed the Kowa at them, focusing on the end of one of the logs. I could see the growth rings, and easily count them, with both scopes. However, the Kowa was unquestionably clearer. The difference in quality is hard to describe, but it is significant. It’s like the difference between a hazy day and a clear day in the city.

I’ve taken to using the Kowa at the range these last few weeks. In as many different weather conditions as possible, and alongside as many scopes as I could get my hands on, I tested the Kowa Prominar ED to see how it measured up. The Kowa out-performed every scope I compared it to, and excelled in every weather condition. From counting the bullet holes in targets hundreds of yards down range, to reading the small details on eye charts at range, the Kowa consistently outperformed its testing partners.

Overall Assessment

The Kowa is excellent in every way. It’s the best I’ve ever looked through, bar none. But you pay for that quality. The question is, is the Kowa Prominar ED 88mm really worth almost $1000 more than the Pentax PF100? That’s for you to decide, but for me the question is a resounding yes. I decided it was worth the price, and purchased one. I now use it in every situation I can, and I love its unmatched clarity and the ease of use that comes with its design.

Check the current price of the Kowa