The Gen 2 version of the Athlon Cronus spotting scope G2 comes with much anticipation, particularly given how well Athlon Optics have fared in many of our recent optics reviews. Is the latest Athlon Cronus spotting scope a true upgrade from the previous version or simply a redesign without real benefit to the consumer?
For this review, we’ll go over all the changes they made in the Athlon Cronus G2 spotting scope including any updates we liked and didn’t like.
Check out our MASSIVE SPOTTING SCOPE REVIEW where we lined up 19 of the best spotting scopes we could find and put them to the test. All side by side with volunteer testers, no brand loyalties (at least as much as humanly possible), many lighting conditions, and 14 guys ranking these things. What an awesome project to put together! This review is a product of over 2 years of work, research, and testing. You don’t want to miss this!
Dive into the details on every one of the spotting scopes in the review above by becoming a Backwoods Pursuit Member (TOTALLY FREE) and you can download the data we used to put together this review.
Athlon Optics: Quality Budget-Friendly Optics
If you’ve followed us over the years and seen any of our other reviews involving Athlon Optics, you probably know that we are huge fans of the value you get from Athlon. Given how well the Gen 1 version of this Athlon Cronus spotting scope fared vs. the competition when compared to other similar scopes on the market, we were stoked to get our hands on this Gen 2 version of the Athlon Cronus 20-60×86 mm spotting scope.
One thing has been consistently evident during our testing of pretty much all Athlon Optics products: You get a TON OF VALUE FOR YOUR MONEY. Are they the best optics on the market? No, they aren’t, so don’t expect that. They are, however, one of the best values you are going to find, while still providing you with exceptional performance that nearly always punches WAY above their respective price point.
Combine that with the incredible No-Fault Athlon Lifetime Warranty, and it’s no wonder there is an “Athlon Uprising” in the optics world.
The Testing: UHD Athlon cronus Gen 2 Spotting scope Review
During the testing we did for this Athlon Cronus Gen 2 spotting scope review, we had the distinct opportunity to put this Cronus G2 20-60×86 mm spotting scope next to other spotting scopes that were much more expensive. To say we were impressed would be an understatement!
Looking for a binoculars? Check out our MASSIVE 26 BINOCULAR REVIEW where we put 26 of the best binoculars side by side!
Throughout our testing, we had this Athlon Cronus G2 20-60×86 spotting scope next to the likes of the Tract Kowa TSN 88 mm, the Tract Toric UHD 80 mm, and the Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85 mm spotting scope. Now, you might say, “Why would you compare those spotting scopes to the Athlon Cronus G2 spotting scope? Those are all much more expensive,” and you would be right. However, the simple fact is that this Athlon Cronus Gen 2 spotting scope is good enough to compete with much more expensive spotting scopes, so we put it next to optics that were much more expensive to really get a feel for its performance and value.
The Specs: Athlon Cronus G2 Spotting Scope
The Athlon Cronus UHD G2 spotting scope impressed us optically, but let’s look at some of the specs.
You’ll notice that a couple of specs changed significantly from the Gen 1 version of the Cronus spotting scope to the Gen 2, namely the weight going up to a whopping 73.5 oz. While most of the changes we saw were good ones, the increase in weight was one we didn’t like to see.
UHD Glass: Athlon Cronus Spotting Scope Review
The Athlon Cronus Gen 2 spotting scope does not feature pure fluorite glass, but given the price point that was never even a consideration, however, the amount of performance that Athlon Optics has gotten from their UHD glass, Bak4 Prisms, and Apochromatic lens system is nothing short of phenomenal. We’ll get into more of those details below, but their design pushed the limits in edge-to-edge clarity, low light performance, color contrast, and image resolution all at a price point that is extremely affordable.
The Eyepiece: Athlon Cronus G2 Spotting Scope Review
The update to the Athlon Cronus Gen 2 20-60×86 spotting scope features a new eye piece complete with a fantastic 4-position eye cup that operates nice and smooth allowing you to easily take advantage of the 18-20mm of eye relief.
The focus mechanism is also very smooth and easily moves from 20x to 60x, without too much resistance. If you’ve experienced a zoom mechanism that is too stiff, you know that this can cause the optic to move when you go to zoom in the spotter, which is frustrating. The focus mechanism is super smooth, doesn’t have any play, and is a nice speed to bring objects into focus, but not too fast when it comes time to fine focus.
The eye piece is not removable, so there aren’t other eye piece options. You are stuck with the eyepiece it comes with. I’m sure this saved some expense in the manufacturing and also helps keep dust and moisture out.
I was hoping the newer model would have a wide angle eyepiece. If there was one change I wanted them to make it would have been this one as the absence of a wide angle eyepiece can make you feel like you are looking through a tunnel.
Another thing we noticed in the Athlon Cronus G2 spotting scope is that the new eye box isn’t quite as forgiving as others like the Tract Toric UHD and the Kowa TSN 88A that we tested it next to. It’s not likely something you would notice if they weren’t side by side, but because we had that luxury, we did note that the Athlon Cronus G2 spotting scope is a bit more sensitive to the placement of your face to the eye box. While it’s not a huge deal, it can make longer glassing sessions not as comfortable.
Magnification Range & Exit Pupil – 20-60x86
The magnification range of the Athlon Cronus Gen2 spotting scope is a nice wide range of 20-60x. While this is by no means odd, you will notice in the statistics below how the lower magnification affects the exit pupil size.
To demonstrate how the exit pupil is affected by the combination of objective size and magnification, let’s take a look at the calculation: Exit Pupil = Objective size / magnification:
- ATHLON CRONUS G2 – Minimum Zoom: = 86mm / 20x = 4.30mm exit pupil
- ATHLON CRONUS G2 – Maximum Zoom: = 86mm / 60x = 1.43mm exit pupil
- TRACT TORIC UHD – Minimum Zoom: = 80mm / 27x = 2.96mm exit pupil
- TRACT TORIC UHD – Maximum Zoom: =80mm / 55x = 1.45mm exit pupil
- KOWA TSN 88 – Minimum Zoom: = 88mm / 25x = 3.52mm exit pupil
- KOWA TSN 88 – Maximum Zoom: = 88mm / 60x = 1.46mm exit pupil
As you can see, when you are at maximum magnification, the exit pupil size shrinks to less than half of what it is at minimum magnification, so less light can be let into the image. What is also interesting is that the Athlon Cronus G2 has the largest exit pupil size at minimum magnification due to its large objective and lower minimum magnification. This is one of the factors that helps its low light performance. Of course, that’s not the only factor, but a larger objective allows for a larger exit pupil, which allows for more light to enter the optic.
Barrel Focus System: Athlon Cronus G2 Spotting Scope Review
The Gen 2 version of the Athlon Cronus spotting scope made a big change in going away from the dual focus system. I don’t know the reason for this behind the scene, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was disappointed, as I loved the dual focus system the Gen 1 model featured. That said, the new barrel focus setup is super nice, and it rivals some of the best barrel focus mechanisms out there.
You might ask why it’s a big deal that they went away from the dual focus system, and that would be a fair question. What we’ve found over the course of testing many, many spotting scopes side by side, is that every single spotting scope with a barrel focus is a bit more difficult to fine focus as a barrel focus introduces vibration into the optic more than the dual focus setup. This is negated if you have a nice stable tripod, but let’s face it, most of us are trying to save weight wherever we can, and that includes your tripod.
If you set up a spotting scope with a barrel focus and a spotting scope with a dual focus side by side on a lightweight tripod and start glassing, you’ll really notice how much of a difference it makes to have the dual focus system.
Weight & Body Construction – Athlon Cronus G2 Spotting Scope Review
The body of the Athlon Cronus G2 spotting scope is made up of 100% magnesium alloy making it extremely durable. I wish I could say that this shaved some weight on this spotting scope, but the Gen 2 model is actually substantially heavier than the Gen 1 model, at least in part due to the Apochromatic lens system. Part of that extra weight is the nice rubber armor on this Gen 2 version, which is a welcomed addition.
Image Clarity/Low Light Performance – Athlon Cronus Gen 2 Spotting Scope Review
Although a picture with a phone while digiscoping never seems to do the actual image quality justice, the picture above is at roughly 800 yards at 20x with the Athlon Cronus G2 spotting scope. As you can see, it gives you excellent color contrast, a nice bright image, and excellent image resolution.
During this Athlon Cronus G2 spotting scope review, we tested its low light performance next to the Tract Toric and Kowa TSN 88A to see just how well it would stack up against more expensive spotting scopes. To our surprise, it out-performed the Tract Toric in low light as it was able to maintain its resolution just a little bit longer as light faded. The larger 86mm objective most certainly has something to do with this, particularly given that the Tract Toric has a smaller 80mm objective. Even so, we were impressed.
Next to the Kowa TSN 88A, the Athlon Cronus fell behind as light faded, but that’s no surprise given the larger 88mm objective of the Kowa and the pure fluorite crystal that Kowa uses, not to mention the price tag of over three times as much. Still, it was a fun test to do, and we were thoroughly impressed with how close this Athlon Cronus G2 spotting scope came given the insanely low price tag.
Edge-to-Edge Clarity – Athlon Cronus G2 Spotting Scope Review
The Athlon Cronus G2 spotting scope surprised us again with the amazing edge-to-edge clarity it provided. Again it performs WAY above its price point. It gives you a nice, crisp image throughout nearly the entire field of view with only the very outer edges losing any resolution. It was markedly better than the Tract Toric UHD in this area which is extremely impressive.
Chromatic Aberration – Athlon Cronus G2 Spotting Scope Review
Chromatic aberration is something that we expected to see with the Athlon Cronus G2 spotting scope, and we did note some. This was notable around the edges of dark images, like the head of a Canadian Goose where the edge wasn’t quite as sharp and presented a little bit of that fuzziness round the edges. It certainly was less than we expected, and to be fair we had it next to the Kowa TSN 88 which is about as perfect as you can get in chromatic aberration.
Field of View – Athlon Cronus G2 Spotting Scope Review
The field of view is an area where the Athlon Cronus G2 spotting scope was a bit of a disappointment. This is instantly noticeable when you look through it at its lowest magnification (20x) where it FEELS like you have a very small field of view due to the lack of a wide angle eyepiece. As you can see from the numbers below, the actual field of view is significantly smaller than other spotting scopes which have a 60x top end magnification, and it feels like you are looking through a tunnel. This is especially noticeable when you have it next to a spotting scope with a wide angle eyepiece.
As you can see below, even at 25x both the Kowa TSN 88, Swarovski ATX, and Meopta Meostar have a larger field of view at 25x and 30x than the Athlon Cronus G2 spotting scope has at 20x. As you know, the lower the magnification is, the larger the field of view should be, which further demonstrates how small the field of view is on the Cronus G2. Interestingly, though, it does have a much larger field of view at 60x when compared to the Zeiss Conquest Gavia, but the Gavia still has a larger field of view (69ft) at its lowest magnification (30x) than the Athlon Cronus G2 (60ft) at 20x.
It is interesting that the Athlon Cronus G2 spotting scope does have a larger field of view at its highest magnification (60x) than the Maven S1A, Sig Oscar, and Leupold Santiam which all have a high end magnification of 55x, with a field of view of 105 feet vs the 111 feet at 60x of the Athlon. This is a definite win for the Athlon Cronus G2 spotting scope!
Here are the stats of the field of view @1000 yards for the Athlon Cronus G2 Spotting Scope vs. the others that we’ve tested:
- Athlon Cronus G2 (20-60x): 60 ft-111 ft
- Kowa TSN 88/773 (25-60x): 76 ft-138 ft
- Swarovski ATX 85 (25-60x): 68 ft-124 ft
- Meopta Meostar WA (30-60x): 68.8 ft-146 ft
- Zeiss Conquest Gavia (30-60x): 69ft – 99 ft
- Tract Toric UHD (27-55x): 73ft – 105 ft
- Maven S1A (27-55x): 83.3 ft-115.2 ft
- Sig Oscar8 (27-55x): 73 ft-105 ft
- Leupold Santium SX-5 (27-55x): 73 ft-105 ft
Keep in mind that each of these have slightly different low and high magnifications, so take that into consideration, but these are the manufacturer specs on each of them. Generally, the lower the magnification the bigger field of view, and the higher the magnification the smaller field of view.
What We liked: Athlon Cronus G2 Spotting Scope Review
The Athlon Cronus G2 spotting scope is extremely impressive for its price point. What is even more impressive is that Athlon Optics was able to reduce the price down to roughly $999 (at the time of this writing) making this hands down the best spotting scope under $1000 we have ever tested, and it wasn’t even particularly close.
Sure, you won’t get some of the elite optical performance that you would if you spent a lot more money, but DANG! this is a good value and a good performer.
The new rubber armor is awesome, and the new barrel focus system is silky smooth, along with the new eyepiece and Arca direct foot.
Optically, you get top-notch edge-to-edge clarity, excellent image resolution, incredible low light performance, and an overall image that far out-paces its price point.
WHAT WE LIKED:
- Edge-to-edge clarity
- Image resolution
- Low light performance
- Smooth zoom mechanism
- Build quality
- Excellent warranty
- Best value/performance ratio we’ve found
What We Didn’t Like: Athlon Cronus G2 Spotting Scope Review
There are always compromises to be made when you are talking about value vs. performance, and the Athlon Cronus certainly made some compromises to get the excellent optical performance. Some of our biggest complaints are the narrow field of view, unforgiving eye box, added weight, and moving away from the dual focus system.
For some people, one or more of these things might be a deal breaker, but that’s up to you to decide.
WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE:
- Narrow field of view
- Eye box not forgiving
- Weight (73.4 oz)
- No more dual focus
athlon Lifetime Warranty
Athlon Optics offer a lifetime warranty that is as good as there is. No fault, no questions asked, and they stand behind their products. Over the years of testing Athlon Optics, I’ve tested out the warranty a time or two, and it’s been nothing but a good experience.
How The Athlon Cronus G2 Spotting Scope Ranked
Low Light Performance
Edge to Edge Clarity
Conclusion – Athlon Cronus G2 Spotting Scope Review
The changes and updates to the Athlon Cronus Gen 2 spotting scope mostly improved its optical performance and overall functionality. There are a few changes we aren’t fond of, like the added weight and going away from the dual focus system, but those things are offset by the incredible price reduction especially when everything else seems to be increasing in price these days.
The fact that this spotting scope is even in the same ballpark as many that are much more expensive is flat out impressive. If you want a quality optic that performs like you spent twice as much, certainly give the Athlon Cronus G2 spotting scope a good hard look. It is an impressive optic at an extremely reasonable price.
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