Swarovski CT Extendable Spotting Scopes
by Robby Denning
If you’re on a budget like me, you probably look in wonder at the high-end HD spotting scopes made by Swarovski and just dream. While these scopes are incredible tools for a mule deer hunter, their retail price is around $3,000 leaving me to covet in the dust. I’ve always believed you should buy the best optics you can afford, but I must admit that there are optics that I can’t afford! All is not lost, though. You can experience near HD quality at around half the price in a great optic made by a great name: Swarovski.
The CT is an extendable spotting scope (like the old sea captains used) in which the sections of the barrel slide inside each other when collapsed. This allows for a roof prism design, and a lighter more compact spotting scope than the traditional porro prism designs. While not not well known in North America, the CT desing is popular in Europe.
A guide in the Alps shown using a version of the CT scope photo courtesy of Rob Lancelloti, Swarovski Opik
There are two CT scopes available: The CTC 30x75 (comes with fixed eyepiece) and the CTS 85 (requires you buy an eyepiece). For this review, I’ll focus on the 30x75 as that is what I have and it is much cheaper than the CTS 85.
I know our local dealer personally, and he let me take a gently used CTC 30x75 spotting scope outside of the shop for a day along with a used Swarovski 20-60x 65mm spotting scope. I scouted some winter range east of town for a few hours with these scopes.
Side by side, the CTC 30x75 was clearer and brighter at the same power than the 20-60x 65 scope. The 75mm objective lens also had a noticeably wider field of view. The CTC, at 44 ounces, is 10 ounces lighter and four inches shorter, so I would consider it lightweight for the great viewing experience it provides. I've used lighter scopes from other manufacturers, but none came even close to what the CT delivers.
As with most things in life, there are trade-offs. Obviously, with a fixed 30 power, I can’t zoom in like a variable scope can, but I find anything above 40 power difficult to get steady in real hunting conditions, so I’m only really giving up about 10 power.
The dealer told me that due to the collapsing nature of the CT design, they are not sold as waterproof. This concerned me, so I called Swarovski directly. They said while the CT scopes are not waterproof, one of their biggest U.S. markets for the line is Alaskan guides. It doesn’t get much wetter than Alaska, so I forked over the $500.
I’ve had my CTC 30x75 since 2004 and all these years later can still attest that it is a great scope for the money. It has ridden a thousand miles in a saddle bag and backpack and been used nearly that many days. It has great edge-to-edge clarity and is usable almost to the end of legal shooting light at reasonable distances.
I have had minor fogging problems twice the first few years (I hunt the nasty snowstorms on purpose, so my optics get wet a lot.) Both times, I was able to defog the scope in less than five minutes by warming it with body heat or direct sunlight. Because I now know to wipe the inner tube off with a handkerchief before sliding the scope together, I’ve never fogged the scope again.
If you are interested in the CTC 30x75, shop ahead. They are a special order item so your dealer will need some time to get one. Checking the internet, I found several dealers who could get them and found two scopes for less than $1,000 new. I also found a used one for around $600. As Swarovski has a lifetime warranty, I wouldn’t be afraid to purchase a used one again. I did strip out my mounting threads once (my fault by not getting the scope down tight) and sure enough, Swarovski fixed it for free once I paid the postage.