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The vintage binocular discussion thread.

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#1 Glassthrower

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 09:30 AM

I am creating this thread with the intent of giving us bino-geeks a place to discuss vintage binoculars. Lately, I have been cruising various auction sites (the usual big site and a few smaller "secret" auction sites) and I have seen many vintage binoculars up for sale. Most of them are older, 1970's, Japanese binoculars with unknown brand names. Many of these brands are almost impossible to find specs or reviews on. Extensive Googling may result in some vaguely useful info, but I usually end up sending a PM to someone here at CN to get some "expert" advice on these older binoculars.

So in keeping with the "maintained" thread tradition (ala Craig Simmons ABMM thread), I am attempting to give a regular place to discuss older, discontinued, vintage binoculars - without cluttering up the main bino forum with a procession of vintage bino threads. Hopefully this is not too forward of me ... if it is, someone PM me and slap me around for doing it.

Ok, with all of that out of the way, let me ask a question and see if anyone out there can help me.

1) How good/bad are Yashica binoculars? This particular model is "7X50 Field 7.1 Y-no 8469" ... This is a typical older porro model - black pebble-ized covering, leather carrying case, and the usual 1970's features. Are these any good?

2) There are two vintage pairs of US Army binoculars up for sale right now. One is a Bausch and Lomb and the other is unknown, except for the Army imprint. Both appear to be OLD. Since posting the auction link is verboten in this forum, anyone wishing to see them can PM me for the link. Again, I would like to ask - are these good for anything other than collector's value? Can they be used to good effect for stargazing?

Thanks and clear dark skies...

MikeG

#2 brentwood

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 11:02 AM

Good idea on the thread as I buy all my binocs from pawn shops & junk stores. The Yashica 7x50 sound like the typical ones sold in the 60s & 70s. They all seem to have that 7.1 deg field. All the ones Ive seen have been fairly low quality. I see them all the time for $29.99.
The Bausch & Lomb however is a different thing altogether. These are optically very good to excellent, however the coatings, even if in good shape, are not as good as today's. A side by side comparison with say a recent Fujinon will show a brighter image in the Fujinon, but the resolution is just as good. You really have to make sure however that the insides are clear of dust as this will really cut down on the contrast.
For years on our trips to Seattle, I used to call in on a small optical repair shop in Belltown and chat with the owner there. He said that the "GI glass ", as he called it, was the best set of binocs ever made.

#3 Glassthrower

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 11:26 AM

Brentwood -

Unfortunately, the Army binocs up for auction right now has already exceeded my budget for used glass. The auction is for TWO pairs of Army binocs. One is the B&L and the other is an unknown manufacturer, but of the same vintage - WWII or possibly Korea. If anyone wants the link, PM me, as I am not in the bidding.

I had a hunch about the Yashica, although they do make good SLR cameras....right? These department-store/catalog binos from the 60's/70's are all very similar in appearance : typically a 7x35 standard porro body, many have IF focusing, the same type of carrying cases/straps, etc. Most claim to be "fully coated", some are "triple tested" (usually Japanese origin), and most have very wide FOV's.

Edge sharpness on most are mediocre or worse, but some uncommon specimens have been reported to show excellent edge performance and resolution. Finding the good ones amongst the vast sea of used binos for sale is the challenge - hence this thread.

Clear dark two-eyed skies...

MikeG

#4 milt

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 12:14 PM

Hi Mike,

I'm sure this link has been posted before, but just to get it into your thread:

http://home.europa.c...pe/binotele.htm

Scroll down to 'BINOCULARS' and there begins a wealth of information. For example, the link to Japanese manufacturer codes enabled me to identify the manufacturer of a 45 yr. old 7x50 marketed under the Tower name.

#5 microbes

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 12:41 PM

I'm sure this link has been posted before, but just to get it into your thread



I hadn't seen it. Very interesting link.

Couldn't find anything on my 16X50 Sheryl Binoculars, but....

#6 EdZ

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 01:14 PM

The site to which Milt provided a link, Peter Abraham's webite - The History of the Binocular and the Telescope - has been linked from our "Links to Web" for over two years now.

edz

#7 refractory

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 03:29 PM

As many of you know I'm interested in the many binos produced in Occupied Japan. Lots of these show up on the auction sites. I have no idea what the quality of the various brands are, though some of them survived and are now powerhouses. What were immediate postwar optics and coatings like, compared to the models produced after we got out of Japan? I know that IF was the standard (its actually rather rare to see center focus from these years).

The external material on these binos seems to be weak around the area near the objectives- anyone know why?

Jess Tauber

#8 chris charen

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 05:44 PM

Hi - I tend to collect / sell the older Japanese binos. I keep the ones in excellent condition. My current collection numbers about 14 - among them:
3x 'Yashica'-7X50s - all 7.1 FOV
1x 'Goodwood Hilkinson'- 7x 50 Wide angle - 9.5 FOV
2X 'Ashai Pentax'- 10x50 5.5 FOV [and 1x 8x30]
1X 'Greenkat'- 8x40 Wide angle - 10 FOV
1X 'Ross' brand - 8x30 and 12x50 [the x50s are 680 grms.]
1x 'Horizon'- 15x80 I.F. Bak4 4.5 [?] FOV
1x 'Sportmaster'- 11x80 4.4 FOV
The 3x 7x50 Yashica binos [circa 1970s.] are among the best optics I have seen in binoculars [that's why I have 3!].
They have the classic design and 'coated' optics. They have almost clear edge to edge view, they display no ghosting, internal reflections or CA and stars are pinpoint.
Second best would be the Ashai Pentax. They came with the original mild 'gold' coatings but display almost as good optics as the Yashicas.
The 'Sportmaster' 11x80s are sharp to edge and 'light weight' and I use as hand held. The 'Horizon'15x80s are tripod mounted and have mild CA but stunning on dark skies- pinpoint images.
Other Japanese binos I have had [mostly 7x50s - occasionally 16x20 and 20x50] are 'Maskat', 'Super Optics' and 'Super Zeniths'.
I still come across Japanes binos that I heave never heard of - there were 100s of post war factories productng mostly good to excellent optics.
As a side issue and for comparison I have just acquired a 'Nixon' 10x50 Action [Chinese] bino - brief impresion is that the optics and similar to the Ashai's. Plus a new 'Pentax' 20x60 PCF II [I assume they are Japanese sourced ?] which display optics as good as the Yashicas - but obviously narrow FOV -2.2 and some very mild CA on day time objects [like TV ariels [ but they are amazing considering they are 20x.
[I must admit these are the only binos that I cannot see my face reflected in from the lens !] My Meade 9x63s are have 'good' optics, esp. in dark skies.
The Yashica I would highly recommend - I am surprised that some others have had ones with inferior optics. One issue obviously is obtaining ones that are mildew free and without lens / prism deterioation.
The later Chinese multi coated / broadband optics are 'superior' at reducing ghosting / reflection supression - esp. on bright objects but the post war [esp. the 60s, 70s, and 80,s] Japanese binos do have excellent optics / quality build and are are well worth seeking out.

#9 Pinewood

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Posted 23 July 2006 - 05:54 AM

MikeG,

I have a number of WWII binoculars: 6x30 and 7x50. They were all well made , their optics were excellent but the Germans had a few superior models: Porro II and the highly desirable Zeiss 8x60 binoculars. After 1942, all the American military binoculars were single coated on some of the surfaces.
My favorite manufacturers were Nash-Kelvinator, Universal Camera, and Square D or Sard. Nash cars became Rambler and my family had a Kelvinator refrigerator. Both Universal and Sard were made in New York City.
The problem is condition as the cost of collimation and cleaning by a good tech is not cheap.
Of the 6x30 models, the Army M13A1 is very well designed and robust, while the Wollensak M5 [CORRECTION] is a right dog. In any case, I am writing of binoculars which are more than sixty years old and multicoating makes these binoculars obsolete.

Clear skies,
Arthur

#10 Glassthrower

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Posted 23 July 2006 - 10:19 AM

Charen -

That's quite a collection of vintage glass you have there. I'm envious. I think the Yashica binos you have are exactly the same as the pair I am watching. If the price remains reasonable when the end of bidding comes up, I will bid on them and try to snag'em. I'm looking for a pair of good handheld 7-8x binos with sharp optics, preferably vintage. I doubt I could afford a pair of SHARP binoculars at today's prices...or what I mean is, I am only willing to spend so much on a hand-held binocular because I do not want the expense biting into my GIANT binocular upgrade fund. (which is my first passion)

BTW, do those Yashica binocs have a tripod adapter socket? I notice that most of these old Japanese-made binos lack a threaded socket.

Arthur -

I sent the auction link to you. Good luck.

Thanks and clear dark skies...

MikeG

#11 brentwood

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Posted 23 July 2006 - 02:18 PM

Charen, I could be wrong about the quality of the Yashica 7x50s. I had assumed, maybe incorrectly that all 7x50, 7.1deg fields were all the same. I will check a bit more carefully the next time I come across some Yashicas.

#12 chris charen

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Posted 23 July 2006 - 08:04 PM

Hi - my 3x Yashicas they do not have a tripod adaptor socket I guess when they made them they thought 7x50s would not be tripod mounted. It is only my larger ones [80mm] that have the tripod adaptor Definetly try to bid on one - just make sure that it is mildew free as possible as cleaning / collmiating can be expensive and you can end up paying 2x-3x times the cost of the actuall binos. Long term Humidity is not good for them.
One of my test I use with binos is on those hi power 'orange' sodium vapour 'free way' lamps at night, my Yashicas disply no internal reflections / ghostings - the only other binos do this and show no reflections are my Pentax 20x60 PWF 11. I'am not sure why 30 + year old binos do this compared to the multicoated binos of today, I guess it was the overall quality of the glass and prisms along with good quality control.

#13 Littlegreenman

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 12:25 AM

I think this is a worthwhile subject, and worth it to have a thread. A comment already made above is that the lack of modern coatings limits most binoculars prior to?? 1950's. Coatings have continued to improve since then.
I've had or looked through a few pairs of Nikon Nippon Kogaku binoculars from the around the 1960's. In fact, a nice pair of 7x50's were barely beat out by a 1980-95 era Zeiss 7-50's.

I've also had several pairs of a brand of 1960's era binocs-Japanese imported-that were very easy on the eyes. They may not have had the flatest field and definitely showed more reflections, but there was a comfort level that just massaged the eyes. (I'm keeping the brand names secret until I snatch up a bunch before I pump up the value and sell them at an enormous profit. :tonofbricks: )

This comfort level is lacking in a lot of otherwise modern binocs I've had. I don't know why that is or what factor is responsible for this: level of polish quality, collimation,
or can it be depth of in-focus. In any case the eyes don't have to work hard like a lot of more modern binocs do.


Littlegreenman
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Celestron 6.5x44 ED
Nikon Prostar 7x50
Zeiss Binoctar 7x50
Mayflower 7x50 Japan, 1960's
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Orion 25x100 (Japan)
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#14 DJB

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 02:55 AM

Hi Authur,

I also have an M13A1, and there were many similar model designations. It is a little jewel with 8.5* and built like a tank, as they say.

Mine is in fine shape, coatings and all. The IF is as smooth as butter. FYI.

Best regards,
Dave.

#15 Pinewood

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 05:30 AM

Littlegreenman,

I actually have an M13. I had another but I traded it for a CZJ 8x30 Deltrintem.

Clear skies,
Arthur

#16 Glassthrower

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 01:55 PM

I've also had several pairs of a brand of 1960's era binocs-Japanese imported-that were very easy on the eyes. They may not have had the flatest field and definitely showed more reflections, but there was a comfort level that just massaged the eyes. (I'm keeping the brand names secret until I snatch up a bunch before I pump up the value and sell them at an enormous profit.


You can PM me the brand name and I'll keep the secret safe! ;) Or at least until I find a pair to bid on.

My attraction to these vintage binos is somewhat illogical. I already own a good, sharp, 8x42 binocular that serves me well for both day and night use. But I am drawn to these older handheld glasses for reasons I cannot fully explain. There is something quaint yet brilliant about the design of these older binoculars. Of course, I could use another handheld bino for my own birding use and the wife can have the pair I am using now. We often birdwatch together, and swapping the binos back and forth is a pain - I wear glasses, she does not. So the eyecups are constantly being rolled up and back down. But I have a feeling that once I buy myself another handheld glass, the obsession will not stop there. The best part is, these vintage binocs are CHEAP....mostly. A pair of binoculars with comparable optics on today's market, new, would cost 10x what a used pair of vintage binos goes for on most auction sites. Of course, the buyer must beware when buying optics sight unseen from vendors who know little (or nothing) about optics.

Ok, I'm rambling now....clear dark skies...

MikeG

#17 Pinewood

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 02:03 PM

Of course, the buyer must beware when buying optics sight unseen from vendors who know little (or nothing) about optics.


MikeG,

The vendors sometime, know far more than they will admit.

Clear skies,
Arthur

#18 Glassthrower

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 02:08 PM

The vendors sometime, know far more than they will admit.


Good point. Feigning ignorance is a classic way to avoid responsibility or liability. Purchasing used optics sight unseen is not for everybody and there is much trial and error involved...and risk. But the potential payoffs are nice when a good deal comes through.

Clear dark skies...

MikeG

#19 chris charen

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 03:48 PM

Collecting old Japanese binos also has some emotional attachemnt for me. My Father brought a new pair of Yashica 7x50's in Singapore in the mid 1960's when he was in the Air Force and we both used it extensively whilst I was growing up, even then I was impressed with there quality. When he passed away he left them to me - unfortunetly they met with an accident and were left unworkable.
I started collecting Yashicas / Japanese binos first as a hobby but also as a connection to my past.
My Yashicas and my Ashai Pentax also have that particular pleasant 'scent' that new binos do not have.
The cases are high quailty leather and they come with that little desiccant bag for moisture.
Sorry for rambling - mean while I am bidding on a pair of 12x50 Yashica's ! all my Yashicas are 7x50s so hopefully will have one more for my collection.

#20 Dog Star

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 05:10 PM

I have to agree with Littlegreenman's observation about some of the old binoculars when he says 'This comfort level is lacking in a lot of otherwise modern binocs I've had. I don't know why that is or what factor ....In any case the eyes don't have to work hard like a lot of more modern binocs do.'

I've got a few 'vintage' binoculars and I too find them very easy and comfortable to look through. In particular I have a Tamaya 7x50 which is fully single coated and is extremely relaxing to use (but very heavy). The objective elements appear to have edge-blackening and the objective tubes are lined with anti-reflection ribbing. I've been lucky enough to own some high-end modern binoculars but few of them have provided the viewing comfort I've experienced with some of these old models. It doesn't seem to be a simple matter of collimation or eye-relief. Curious isn't it ?

#21 Littlegreenman

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 10:17 PM

...I'm keeping the brand names secret until I snatch up a bunch before I pump up the value and sell them at an enormous profit. ...


Okay, I'll fess up. The brand is Mayflower. Mayflower imported Japanese scopes and binoculars. I've had 10x50's, a bunch of 7x50's, I think 8x40's, a few 7x35, and a few 6x30. I think.
Average price paid about $35. But, about 1/3 were broken or majorly defective, so the average price paid for an acceptable pair was about $47.

The 10x50, 8x40 and some of the 7x50's were very good. Lacking modern coatings they suffered when the moon was out or from nearby suburban lights. They don't have as flat a field as many modern binocs, but it isn't bothersome.
Some of the 7x50's were not as great, but not bad at all. There were several versions of 7x50's.
In daylight, they were all high quality, some softness toward the edge. But nice color and 3-D quality.

The smaller binocs were not as impressive. Maybe the lack of coatings on the smaller binocs shows up is less light throughput?
I sold off all 'em except a pair of 7x50's with nice, large prisms, and a pair of knock arounds I keep in the car. I think I'm close to breaking even on the whole project.

Conclusion: Mayflower was looking out for quality.
Salient comments: Assumptions of what was a good binocular in those days were different; exit pupil issues had not been beaten to death yet. So, you won't find 8x42 or other 'modern' sizing. Vintage binoculars over 50mm are much less common.

Question: anyone ever tried Stellar brand or Manon?

Littlegreenman
(What? No wisecracks? I'm slacking off.)

Celestron 6.5x44 ED
Nikon Prostar 7x50
Zeiss Binoctar 7x50
Mayflower 7x50 Japan, 1960's
Stellarvue 15x63
Celestron 11x80 (Japan)
Orion 25x100 (Japan)
Majestic Tripod
Charles Funk P-mount
1965 Ford Mustang Pony car (wrecked)
1975 Lancia Beta Coupe (sold)
& 1979 VW Rabbit (I spilled a gallon of olive oil on the back seat helping a friend move...)

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#22 Littlegreenman

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 10:18 PM

...of 7x50 Mayflower

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#23 Littlegreenman

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 10:19 PM

Bwa-la!

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#24 brentwood

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 12:08 AM

I've seen Manon, but not the Mayflower. Who are they actually made by according to the JBL(?) code. I think the list is on the Europa website (never quite figured that site out) Interesting to see that some of the early 'Bushnell' Custom models were made by Fujinon.

#25 DJB

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 03:35 AM

Hi MikeG,

Getting back to your question earlier on. Some Japanese binocs mnfg. in the 60s era had a tripod socket thread. Some did not; for instance, I machined one in a rather favourite and heavy 7x50 Binolux (center obj. post, of course).

A few had the 1/4" adapter offset on one main objective tube, generally on the righthand side while holding in an observing position.

Moreover, I've never seen a WWII MIL spec binocular with a thread incorporated into the body. They were handheld, not mounted, for the most part.

Now, the really big battleship special devices were already designed to be mounted on the deck of the ship.

Just my thoughts for your information.

Best regards,
Dave.


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