I have a Kahles Helia KX sitting on top of my Browning A-Bolt 7Mag in my safe right now. I have Zeiss Conquests sitting on 2 of my other rifles. I never said a Conquest was on par with Kahles. I said ZEISS was on par with Kahles. I said for a budget minded person, the Conquest was better than the VX-III. Conquests are not $300 scopes. And if they are, then Leupolds under the VX-IV are also. I owned a VX-III 3.5-10x50 and had it on 2 different guns. Was it a good scope? Certainly. I'll never take that away from it. Was it a $600 scope? Ehhhh, maybe... The only reason I don't own it anymore is b/c it got stolen, along with the rifle it was attached to... Was I going to replace that scope for $500-600....No. I didn't have the cash at the time. Only reason I had the Leupy in the first place is b/c it was a combo package with my first A-Bolt II 7Mag that I bought as a combo (very slightly used) for $800. Pulled the Leupy, put it on my .17 HMR, and put an original Bausch & Lomb Elite 3000 Firefly 3-9x50. That Browing and Bauch got stolen at the same time the .17 and Leupy got jacked. Along with a custom built Rem 7 .308 ($4,500) and a brand new Beretta Xtrema2. Yeah, they hit me for a good chunk...
Just b/c you're a Leupold fanboy doesn't mean you have to be a, as you call it, "brand snob" and put down everyone else's products. Hmmm, tables turned on that comment, huh?
I have looked through more than my fair share of scopes, and there are very few scopes out there that I will call out-right crap. As for what a cheap scope is, a cheap scope is there for budget individuals. Is a $100 scope gonna compete with a NF? Hell no. It wasn't designed to. It was designed for low-budget applications.
Conquest series scopes are Zeiss' "budget" line. They are not a Diavari, and never will be. This is a well-known fact. However, for the money, you will be hard-pressed to find a Scope as crisp, clear, with as high-quality lens coating as the Conquest line.
Am I a Zeiss fan? Yep. But I'm also a fan of Kahles, Nightforce, Konus, Simmons, Nitrex, and Swarovski. Not all of those are high-end brands. Konus is very cheap, but for a $400 scope, the M-30 is hard to beat for budget long-range shooting. Simmons and Nitrex are cheap. Is Simmons good glass? No, but for a $150 scope the Whitetail Classic is pretty tall in its category. Nitrex is also hard to beat in the $300 scope category.
The reason I'm pointing out all these scopes specifically, is just to make my point. That just b/c it's not a Leupold, doesn't mean it's crap. EVERY scope has it's place. It might just not always be on YOUR guns.