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features to date older binoculars

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#1 adowns

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Posted 15 March 2019 - 06:28 AM

Binocular appearance and features have changed since WWII.  Here are a few questions...

 

- What are the approximate dates when these features appeared? 

- How do they correlate with the quality of the instrument?

 

• Plastic neck strap replaced leather neck strap
• Multi-colors for name, field of view, coating info on prism covers
• Amber and other color lens coatings besides purplish-blue
• Broad color slash on one prism cover
• Hard binocular case replaced by a bag
• Rubber armor coating
• Zip focus or insta focus replaced wheel focus

 

Maybe you can think of other cosmetic changes.



#2 adowns

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 08:15 AM

Binocular appearance and features have changed since WWII.  Here are a few questions...

 

- What are the approximate dates when these features appeared? 

- How do they correlate with the quality of the instrument?

 

• Plastic neck strap replaced leather neck strap
• Multi-colors for name, field of view, coating info on prism covers
• Amber and other color lens coatings besides purplish-blue
• Broad color slash on one prism cover
• Hard binocular case replaced by a bag
• Rubber armor coating
• Zip focus or insta focus replaced wheel focus

 

Maybe you can think of other cosmetic changes.

 No replies so I will give my own take on my list of features. Dates are wild guesses. 

 

• Plastic neck strap replaced leather neck strap – I think leather neck straps disappeared around 1955.  Since all manufacturers use plastic or fabric straps it can’t be used as a selection factor.
• Multi-colors for name, field of view, coating info on prism covers – Began maybe 1960.  “Tasco style”.  The quality manufacturers stuck with white lettering.  This could be used to separate the high-end instruments from the mass market ones, at least for later binoculars.
• Amber and other color lens coatings besides purplish-blue  -  About 1965. Advances in technology of coatings changed the colors.  But the more bizarre colors (e.g. ruby lenses) probably cater to a less sophisticated buyer.
• Broad color slash on one prism cover  -  About 1970.  An attention getting device for binoculars in a retail display.  The first one picked up is more likely to be the one sold. Again, absent from high-end binoculars.
• Hard binocular case replaced by a bag - A more recent change. Maybe 2000.  Some expensive models may still have a hard case.  There are degrees of bags. Some just a flimsy sack, others are padded soft cases.  If the manufacturer is cutting costs to the bone by providing only the flimsiest of containers, then he has already probably taken shortcuts in the optics, mechanical construction, and testing.  You could probably do worse than selecting or rejecting an instrument just on the basis of its case.
• Rubber armor coating  -  Another more recent change. Maybe 2005.  Copying the “military look”,  made to appeal to hunters.  This could also reduce warranty costs by protecting against rough handling.  Almost all binoculars are rubber coated now. The higher end units seem to have thinner, more graceful, less bulbous rubber on their bodies.  “You can’t be too rich or too thin” as the saying goes.
• Zip focus or insta focus or maybe even NO focus, replaced wheel focus,  -  About 1990.  A trademark of low-end binoculars.


Edited by adowns, 16 March 2019 - 08:21 AM.


#3 shredder1656

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 10:19 AM

Thanks for posting this. I consider it helpful. I've snagged a few binos lately that this helps me with getting a ballpark age.

Thanks.

#4 brentwood

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 10:25 AM

I can't give a date to all these features, but I do use them to sort out the junk from the good stuff when checking the 'trap lines' around town. 

For some bizarre reason, many places will set their binoculars with the objectives pointing out, towards the customer, so you can't tell what they are, if you can't recognise them. 

I then look for the plastic straps  etc. 



#5 MartinPond

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 09:28 PM

"-----------------

Amber and other color lens coatings besides purplish-blue  -  About 1965. Advances in technology of coatings changed the colors.  But the more bizarre colors (e.g. ruby lenses) probably cater to a less sophisticated buyer.

----------------- "

No.   This is for color-correction through haze, mainly for hunters, boaters, birders, etc.

It appears mainly in more expensive makes, not cheap binoculars for less sophisticated buyers.

Do you believe many of the Bushnell Customs were unsophisticated?

The best was in the "Golden Gate" lines, and was double or triple coating..

If you don't understand this, check out camera multi-coatings around the same time.

 

 

You can find rubber armor back to ~1990.

Great thing about it: it 'blooms' a lot...looks frosty. A little boot polish and frost is all gone.

 

 

"Rapid Focus" was patented in 1970.

It did debut in some extra-wide binoculars, but its use really

boomed after 1987--1990, when the patent expired.

Makers made weird variants, though.

They all had the long-spiral track though....very hard to make that non-sloppy.

So...yeah....it went into cheaper things.

Still, some very expensive extra-wide binocs were given the fast-focus treatment..

....great glass but crummy chassi and thunky focuser.  

Tasco has a very tight fast focuser...but as grease hardens it gets hard to move.

 

 

When straps went to plastic, the better binocs went to fabric-core plastic...

....super lasting.


Edited by MartinPond, 16 March 2019 - 09:31 PM.


#6 Crusty99

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 11:27 PM

Interesting topic. Any suggested brands for boot polish to get rid of the frost on rubber armor?



#7 MartinPond

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Posted 17 March 2019 - 01:19 AM

Interesting topic. Any suggested brands for boot polish to get rid of the frost on rubber armor?

I started out with WD40, since it leaves mineral oil behind,

but to make the resistance more permanent, I used a little Dexter beeswax/oil

boot poilish (clear).  Products that waterproof leather winter boots are good.

LL Bean "Boot Guard" looks pretty safe, since they wouldn't want early 

warrantee returns.

 

Polishes for dress shoes, and especially saddle polishes with

"neatsfoot oil" can stiffen and shorten the life of leather....and rubber.



#8 MartinPond

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Posted 17 March 2019 - 01:28 AM

Dating features:

 

----bakelite (hard plastic) eyecups run ~1946 to ~1960 in many Japanese bins.

 

---"made in occupied Japan" covers 1947 to about 1949

---There is overlap with the JB and JE numbers that signify the JTII years,

   ~1948----1960 (about....and beyond)

 

Certain model names, like Bushnell Ensign or Swift Aerolite, signify when 

   economic pressure forced cheaper materials and production stamps with

   Korea and Hong Kong.   Lates 70s and onward (some not all models).

 

Many things about Japanese binocular bodies changed little....more by make than by year.

 

There are many US regional department store names on binoculars....

...that pins down their maximum year, since all those stores are gone.

  A premium store had the best quality binoculars.   


Edited by MartinPond, 17 March 2019 - 01:38 AM.


#9 adowns

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Posted 17 March 2019 - 05:53 AM

Dating features:

 

----bakelite (hard plastic) eyecups run ~1946 to ~1960 in many Japanese bins.

 

---"made in occupied Japan" covers 1947 to about 1949

---There is overlap with the JB and JE numbers that signify the JTII years,

   ~1948----1960 (about....and beyond)

 

Certain model names, like Bushnell Ensign or Swift Aerolite, signify when 

   economic pressure forced cheaper materials and production stamps with

   Korea and Hong Kong.   Lates 70s and onward (some not all models).

 

Many things about Japanese binocular bodies changed little....more by make than by year.

 

There are many US regional department store names on binoculars....

...that pins down their maximum year, since all those stores are gone.

  A premium store had the best quality binoculars.   

Good info. Thank you MartinPond.



#10 asphericalaberration

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Posted 17 March 2019 - 11:50 AM

Model names/numbers (or lack thereof)? Early on, some brands apparently didn't anticipate the need to distinguish bins with similar features or changes over time. For example, I have early Tasco and Shrine Manon where the prism covers give only technical data, no sub-branding. Tasco 7x35 500' Feather Weight (white/red/yellow printing, hard bakelite eyecaps, no model number).

 

What about serial numbers? Both of the above have SNs printed into the prism covers, which are largely absent after some unknown date. For some brands, SNs could be exact time markers.

 

Magnesium bodies as a prism-cover feature?

 

When did Bushnell use thumb-focusing under the right eyepiece? I've got a 7x35 11* Banner with that version of Insta-Focus. ?Mid-80s?. Optically pretty good, but the lopsided focusing forces tend to mis-align the oculars. Bushnell sure liked gimmick focusers. Part of their success, unfortunately.


Edited by asphericalaberration, 17 March 2019 - 06:06 PM.


#11 adowns

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Posted 17 March 2019 - 05:06 PM

What about serial numbers? Both of the above have SNs printed into the prism covers, which are largely absent after some unknown date. For some brands, SNs could be exact time markers.

Here are links to the only serial number lists I have seen.

 

Bausch & Lomb    http://www.binocular..._prod_list.html

 

Zeiss    http://www.europa.co...pe/zeissbin.txt



#12 MartinPond

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Posted 17 March 2019 - 08:55 PM

No serial numbers to speak of...
   I suspect the way they used large interconnected networks
     to build the binoculars in Japan  made traceability tough.

 

Brands like Tasco and Bushnell cover the 50s through today....
   so no special clues there.

 

Magnesium bodies go from the mid-50s to mid-60s.

Really hard to work on without cracking when corroded.

 

Ah....the Wide Banners with the rotating focus ring.
That occured in a corresponding Sears model too...
I think maybe  mid 60s to mid 70s...expensive to make.
Very smooth and good for a fast focus. The little
finger arm often broke off..

 

Ancient Japan (1940s through 48):

  Ruby, 

 

Early (1946---1960)  high-quality lenses in:

Stellar, Skyline, Ofuna, Wuest, Super-Power, Sunscope, Kendon,

   Mayflower, Mirador, etc..

 

Here is a 1946--~1955 brand mostly made by Nippon Kogaku (Nikon):  Valor

 

But...there are hundreds of brands, and some appear/disappear.

 

Japanese binoculars with the branding "Oshman's" are a good example of how

a tycoon's sporting goods store in Texas can use premium payments and

extra QC to carry binocs a cut above in quality.  Their 7x35//11-degree looks like

an x-wide Tasco outside, but the focuser arms are more solid, the EP polishing is extra-fine,

   and the view is a bit more amazing.  Their best was from about 1955 to 1970..

They got sucked up into more famous names at shopping malls and went down with

them later.   Corporate heritage supposedly landed them into Dick's Sports

today, but Dick's has a lot of chintzy semi-famous versions, like  "by pentax" bins that

not-very-pentax at all....

 

Eyepiece design from 1948 onward didn't change much:

   2,1 precision glass Aspheric up to 70deg afov, usually 2,1,2 Konig for wider.

 Very early pocket executive/spy widefields have awesome Erfles in them.

 

 

Brands covering 1950s------1980s with extra quality:

  Selsi, Tower, Golden Gate, Scope(mid 60s on),  


Edited by MartinPond, 17 March 2019 - 11:26 PM.


#13 asphericalaberration

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Posted 18 March 2019 - 01:28 PM

Patent and trademark data. Many historical brands and model names are (or were) trademarks, and the USPTO database will give reliable first-use and last-renewal dates.

 

Example: David Bushnell's TM application for RANGEMASTER Reg. No. 0573477 filed 21 April 1952 gives an (?estimated?) first-use date of 01 Jan 1950. Last renewed 21 Apr 1973. It fell out of use some time after that, expired 24 Jan 1994.

 

Another: INSTA-FOCUS Reg. No. 0854131 filed 15 Aug 1967, first-use in commerce 21 July 1967, still a live mark. Chances are, all rocker-focus bins post-date 1967 (unless some were sold sooner without that mark). Probably patents in this area too, not quickly finding a pat no.

 

Another: MANON Reg. No. 0803048 to MIURA TRADING CO., LTD. The US app filed 14 July 1964 was based on Japan Reg. No. 407661 dated 23 Jan 1952. US use predates the US app, but Miura clearly wanted to protect this mark here in the mid-1960s and was still maintaining it (?but not for bins?) late as 1986.  FWIW, "Manon" is three syllables in Japanese, "Mah-Noh-Nn."


Edited by asphericalaberration, 18 March 2019 - 02:23 PM.



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