Nightforce has a very good reputation for building very high quality and durable tactical rifle scopes, and many of their rifle scopes find use among the military elite. But until recently, Nightforce has not offered any optics beyond their tactical and competition rifle scopes. That all changed in 2013 when Nightforce finally answered the demands of their customers and designed and produced a high end very High Definition spotting scope that is intended to compete with the best of the European spotting scopes that rule the high end spotting scope roost. The TS-82 is available in both angled body and straight body versions, and for our review here we brought in a straight body TS-82 to evaluate and see if Nightforce was able to reach their goal.
The Nightforce TS-82 spotting scope is a full size spotter, it is not a compact or lightweight unit, and so the size is about the same as other quality full size spotting scopes and the weight has some heft to it. It gives an immediate sense of quality and durability. The objective lens is a full 82mm and when this is all added up the weight of just the spotting scope, less a tripod, is over 4 pounds and the length is almost 16″. It is not the largest spotting scope we have used, but the size and weight does need to be considered when a sniper team is traveling long distances and is preparing their load out. The spotting scope comes with the standard array of documentation and manuals and there is a set of lens caps included for protection of the lenses during transportation or when not in use. The lens cap for the objective locks in and has two pinch levers in the middle to release it, which works very well. The cap over the eyepiece just fits over the top and stays in place with friction, but it is short and does not take much to make it fall off. As it is, the eyepiece cap is not that useful. There is no included protective case for the scope body itself, but one may not be needed.
The TS-82 is a straight tube design with either a straight or angled eyepiece, the straight eyepiece is needed for keeping the spotters head and body down low to the ground. Typically the straight eyepiece makes it less comfortable during long periods of observation from the prone position, but that is a small price to pay for sound tactical awareness. It does so happen that the TS-82 with an angled eyepiece could be used because of the flexible mounting ring the scope utilizes, which we will get into later in this review. The tube itself is durably built and covered with a hard rubberized type of armor. The finish is more of a softer powder coating than it is rubber and it gives the impression that it is very durable and we have had no issues with it during out testing. As mentioned before, the scope feels very solid and it seems like it will continue the military grade durability reputation that Nightforce has gained with their rifle scopes. The armorized finish on the spotter is a greyish-green color and is probably firm enough to hold paint if the color needs to be adapted for different areas of operation.
Like all the high end spotting scope tubes of this nature, the TS-82 has a removable eyepiece which does allow different eyepieces to be used. Our sample came to us with the 20-70x magnification eyepiece and there is currently an optional 30-60x. We would prefer the 20x-70x not for the higher top end magnification but for the lower low end magnification. There are times where 20x is needed for the better field of view and light gathering and in certain conditions the 20x is better for picking up bullet trace. Currently there is not an eye piece option available with a reticle in it, but that may change as that feature becomes more popular with tactical teams.
The eyepiece has a rubber ring at the end to provide a softer surface to place your head against when viewing through the scope and toward the front of the eyepiece is the zoom ring. The zoom ring has a rubberized coating on it as well as some raised ‘knobbies’, or protrusions, to help provide a good gripping surface in all weather conditions. The zoom ring itself rotates with a moderate amount of resistance but is very smooth and precise all the way from 20x through 70x. There is a single red line on the scope body that acts as the indicator marking to show the operator what zoom power the eyepiece is set to. That red indicator marking is on the part of the scope tube that is actually angling up which allows for easy viewing, though the numbers on the eyepiece are flat and require the user to raise their head if they want to know what zoom power the scope is set to.
We would like to see a longer eye relief on the scope as it is too short to get the full field of view when wearing any sort of glasses such as shooting, seeing, or sun glasses. The eye relief is only 18mm on the scope and it needs to be about 30mm+ in order to allow glasses. This may seem a trivial matter but when you consider how often a team is wearing sun glasses when deployed in the field, or even for the requirement now at most shooting ranges for eye protection to be worn when up on the firing line, even if you are just spotting, then you will begin to realize this is a desired feature. Since the eye relief is a function of the eyepiece, it could be something that is addressed by the introduction of a new long eye relief eyepiece.
The focus for the TS-82 spotting scope is handled by a single focus ring about midway up the main body of the tube. Many high end spotting scopes have two focus controls, a course focus knob and a fine focus, but the Nightforce only has a single focus control which is fairly large and has similar rubberized knobbies on it as the zoom power ring. The focus control rotates very smooth with just a light amount of force required. The single focus ring does simplify the controls of the scope and prevents having to have any protrusions for a separate fine focus control, and we like it with just the single control. Of course in order for it to work well, the focus capability with the single control needs to be precise enough for exact focusing at all ranges yet it still needs to focus quickly enough to allow for rapidly focusing the image with a change in zoom power or viewing distance. Nightforce seems to have done a good job discovering that balance and the focus control works well.
As was mentioned earlier, the scope body has a rubberized coating on it and is a greyish-green color with no bright markings to detract from the tactical nature of the spotting scope…until you get to the eyepiece where there are lots of white markings including a Nightforce logo. Some subdued markings on the eyepiece would probably compliment the scope a bit better. There is an extendable sunshade on the front of the scope to help when dealing with bright conditions and for helping with concealment of reflective glint from the objective lens. The operator just needs to pull the lens shade forward to extend it.
The mounting configuration for the TS-82 is nice. There is a ring around the scope with a mounting base that is attached to the tripod via the normal standardized tripod mounting screw. The thing that is useful is that this ring allows the scope to be rotated a full 360 degrees within the ring with detents at each 45 degrees. There is a hand tightened lock screw to lock it in place within that ring when the operator has it in the desired position. This capability actually allows the scope to be configured to have the eyepiece favoring the left or right side of the scope or even the bottom so as to allow the spotters head to be even lower providing even a smaller profile. Notice the picture at the bottom of this page, the scope has been rotated to have the eyepiece on the left hand side of the scope. This feature also would allow the use of the angled eyepiece version of the scope and yet still keep the spotters head down low. The spotter would just need to rotate the scope so that the eyepiece is to the side, this may even allow the ability of getting the spotting scope in closer to the shooter and rifle without the spotter having to move closer.
The overall fit and finish of the TS-82 is excellent and very high quality. The markings on the scope indicate it is made in the Czech Republic and we are not sure at what factory, but the quality is very good. The scope appears and feels that it will hold up to rigorous use and all the controls function very well. There are some rubber knobbies on that mounting ring that goes around the scope tube that appear to have no functional use, but the rest of the scope is well thought out with just a few minor things that could be improved that we have already pointed out.
For our tests we used the scope in various conditions from bright sunlit days to cloud covered early mornings. The optical quality on the scope is excellent with a bright, crisp and high contrasting picture from edge to edge. The large 82mm objective lens really seems to help with light gathering in low light conditions and the color contrast is very nice. In terms of optical quality, there is really nothing we could find wrong. All of the lenses are APO fluorite glass and coated for light transmission and high contrast, and it all seems to work very well.
The TS-82 is not a cheap spotting scope and it was designed to compete with the big European spotting scope makers such as Zeiss, Leica, and others. Of course, Nightforce has their reputation built from durable, high quality rifle scopes that many of the Special Operations groups use so their spotting scope needed to be of similar durability. We feel that they have done a very good job with the scope and it should meet the needs of a good many sniper teams and civilian shooters. There are a few nit-picky things we have pointed out that we would like changed, and for tactical use, the longer eye relief eyepiece is of the greater importance. While working on a new eyepiece, a range finding reticle and subdued markings on the eyepiece would also be desirable. But in terms of the overall usefulness and quality of the scope, it is excellent and should be on the short list of high quality spotting scopes when the need arises.