Wednesday, 20 February 2019

In faint praise of the Nickel Supra telescope

My first telescope was a Nickel Supra. It was draw-pull, had a zoom magnification between 15-60x and came in a tube-shaped leather carrying case. In 1977, when I handed over my £100 to the sales assistant at Vic Oddens (London Bridge) and was handed the optic, I couldn't have been prouder.

It was shit.

That might be a bit unfair, as all scopes back then suffer in comparison to what we are spoilt with today. When I purchased the Nickel Supra it seemed to be a choice between that and a Hertel and Reuss. Both were of a similar standard and same price bracket, but the Nickel Supra just shaded it for me as it looked sleeker and sounded modern. Scope ownership amongst the majority of birders boiled down to either possessing a Nickel/Hertel or an older, more ancient brass draw-pull, as likely to have been a relic from the 1939-45 war.

All of these scopes necessitated having to pull out the tubes (normally a collapsable set of three) and rest the unwieldy contraption on a wall, fence or mate's shoulder, so as to steady the thing to have enough chance of looking through it with any confidence of it being worth the while doing so. Nobody owned tripods. The image was not bright. The image was also not that sharp. They fogged up and seized up in the rain and cold. And still we thought we were the bee's-knee's in owning them.

Another hardship that was endured was having to - if there were no walls, fences or mates nearby - lie down on the grass/in the mud, and try to balance said scope on a folded knee. This induced arthritis, the onset of piles and resulted in getting your clothing wet and dirty. Crusty old sea watchers were known to have taken this position and never get up again. The ensuing shake and wobble was enough to render the exercise pointless. At x15 the light was just about workable. At 60x it was akin to looking through a milk bottle that had been held over a naked flame for an hour.

My friend Dave had purchased a cheaper telescope from a local camera shop. It was enormous, one of the budget astronomy scopes. We christened it 'The Cormorant' as it approached that species in size, shape and colour. In all honesty it was as good as the Nickel. His wife made him a carrying case from the leg of an old pair of denim jeans.

Yes kids, this is how we used to bird and look in the late 1970s.

There's more of this stuff to come...

4 comments:

Arjun Dutta said...

The birding was better though haha...

Paul James said...

My first scope too Steve. Wasn't it nicknamed the Nickel 'Bullworker' on account of the fact that you needed a muscular physique just to pull the draw tubes out!

Steve Gale said...

Higher numbers, certainly Arjun

Steve Gale said...

On a cold, damp day they did size up. I'd hate to use one now Paul!