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Japan made refractors from the '80 era

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#1 grif 678

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Posted 16 February 2024 - 01:34 PM

Japan made scopes have always had a greater optical quality than others. The Vixen achromats they made were close to being apo in performance, according to many owners. What did the Japanese do different to make their optics better than the competition.


Edited by grif 678, 16 February 2024 - 05:59 PM.

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#2 Astrojensen

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Posted 16 February 2024 - 01:36 PM

Japan made scopes have always had a greater optical quality than others.

Zeiss, Lichtenknecker and Jaegers would like to have a word with you. 

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark


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#3 Jim Davis

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Posted 16 February 2024 - 01:41 PM

Japan made scopes have always had a greater optical quality than others. The Vixen achromats they made were close to being achro in performance, according to many owners. What did the Japanese do different to make their optics better than the competition.

Japan had a long history of making great optics. Strange thing is many US Navy ships in WWII used pre-war Japanese optics during the war against them.



#4 apfever

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Posted 16 February 2024 - 01:45 PM

Quality Control for one thing. I was in Japan for a few years in the 60's. During this time they were exploding onto the market with world class commercial optics in their cameras, binos, telescopes, and more. This was a time when the Japan inspection sticker really meant something. The government was aware of the importance of the optics to their economy and instigated the inspections. I'm not sure when it started, but the inspections went well into the 80's with various changes in the sticker designs.  We came back state side with a lot of binoculars and camera equipment. 


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#5 gstrumol

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Posted 16 February 2024 - 02:24 PM

It's because they quickly took to heart Peter Drucker's management principles while America was slow to.

 

Peter Drucker quote: "Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for."

 

BTW: I think the OP meant to say "... were close to being APO in performance".


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#6 starman876

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Posted 16 February 2024 - 02:33 PM

I find it interesting that the Japanese were thought by Germans how to make decent optics.   They even imitated the labels of the German makers to a degree.


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#7 Terra Nova

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Posted 16 February 2024 - 03:14 PM

Zeiss, Lichtenknecker and Jaegers would like to have a word with you. 

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark

Edmund, A. clark and Sons, Tinsley, and a few others want a piece of this rumble! :lol:


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#8 Kasmos

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Posted 16 February 2024 - 03:24 PM

Edmund, A. clark and Sons, Tinsley, and a few others want a piece of this rumble! lol.gif

The OP is talking 1980s



#9 grif 678

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Posted 16 February 2024 - 06:00 PM

It's because they quickly took to heart Peter Drucker's management principles while America was slow to.

 

Peter Drucker quote: "Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for."

 

BTW: I think the OP meant to say "... were close to being APO in performance".

Yes, that is what I meant, I went back and changed it


Edited by grif 678, 16 February 2024 - 06:00 PM.

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#10 BFaucett

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Posted 16 February 2024 - 06:23 PM

It's because they quickly took to heart Peter Drucker's management principles while America was slow to.

 

Peter Drucker quote: "Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for."

 

BTW: I think the OP meant to say "... were close to being APO in performance".

 

W. Edwards Deming

 

William Edwards Deming (October 14, 1900 – December 20, 1993) was an American business theorist, composer, economist, industrial engineer, management consultant, statistician, and writer. Educated initially as an electrical engineer and later specializing in mathematical physics, he helped develop the sampling techniques still used by the United States Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He is also known as the father of the quality movement and was hugely influential in post-WWII Japan, credited with revolutionizing Japan's industry and making it one of the most dominant economies in the world. He is best known for his theories of management.

https://en.wikipedia..._Edwards_Deming

 

 

Deming Prize

https://en.wikipedia...ki/Deming_Prize

 

Cheers! Bob F. smile.gif


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#11 Kitfox

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Posted 16 February 2024 - 06:24 PM

This is about the time Nikon went ED, then left our hobby forever…they really did a fine job with their own glass. Rare air.



#12 Joe Cepleur

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 05:43 AM

The OP asks specifically about Japanese optics during the 1980s. Into the 1970s, optical crafting was a cottage industry. Lens makers (and, I presume also, mirror makers) worked from home, delivering finished optics to the manufacturers. This made for a resilient industry. After World War II, the talent that had made that optics for all the gun sights was dispersed, waiting at home to be handed pitch and glass to continue working.

Recently, I read somewhere on this forum that the demise of Unitron in the 1970s was driven not by the rise of the Schmidt-Cassegrain or any other loss of popularity, but simply by the retirement of all the then elderly lens makers. Unitron simply was unable to substitute another source, yet apparently others succeeded. So, implicit in this question is knowing what system of crafting replaced the cottage industry and its history. Was it home-based, or newly installed production lines at factories? What rose to replace the retirees among those companies that continued the tradition of making fine optics?

Edited by Joe Cepleur, 17 February 2024 - 05:44 AM.


#13 Mark9473

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 06:02 AM

I had a Vixen 90 mm f/14.4 achromat as my only telescope from 1989 until 2005. I was very much aware it did not have "apo performance"; the contrast-robbing purple haze at high magnifications on Jupiter could not be ignored.


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#14 Terra Nova

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 07:42 AM

The OP is talking 1980s

Sorry I guess I took the opening statement literally: "Japan made scopes have always had a greater optical quality than others."

 

Those dammed absolute qualifiers have always been a problem for me! :lol:


Edited by Terra Nova, 17 February 2024 - 07:48 AM.

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#15 Terra Nova

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 07:58 AM

I had a Vixen 90 mm f/14.4 achromat as my only telescope from 1989 until 2005. I was very much aware it did not have "apo performance"; the contrast-robbing purple haze at high magnifications on Jupiter could not be ignored.

Once you get to 80mm and above, the purple is pretty hard to ignore in crown/flint Fraunhofer achromats even at F12 and above once one has accustomed themselves to using apos, even when the optics are otherwise quite sharp. One learns to simply forgive or overlook it. It's particularly glaring after cataract surgery.


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#16 starman876

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 09:02 AM

The OP asks specifically about Japanese optics during the 1980s. Into the 1970s, optical crafting was a cottage industry. Lens makers (and, I presume also, mirror makers) worked from home, delivering finished optics to the manufacturers. This made for a resilient industry. After World War II, the talent that had made that optics for all the gun sights was dispersed, waiting at home to be handed pitch and glass to continue working.

Recently, I read somewhere on this forum that the demise of Unitron in the 1970s was driven not by the rise of the Schmidt-Cassegrain or any other loss of popularity, but simply by the retirement of all the then elderly lens makers. Unitron simply was unable to substitute another source, yet apparently others succeeded. So, implicit in this question is knowing what system of crafting replaced the cottage industry and its history. Was it home-based, or newly installed production lines at factories? What rose to replace the retirees among those companies that continued the tradition of making fine optics?

was not only the lens makers thar were no longer available. Nihon Seiko the supplier of Unitrons also stopped manufacturing of Unitrons.  There was a short try to provide ED scopes by Nihon Seiko , but I think because they were using another companies glass it was cost prohibitive   and they could not compete. It also appeared that the mount suppliers also vanished.  If you closely look a the mounts it appears as though they were also sourced from a cottage industry.  They may have looked nice finished once the paint was stripped off one could see these were not precision made parts.  Underneath the paint was a lot of putty to smooth things out.   So now a whole new product line had to be sourced.   Considering Nihon Seiko did not make any of the parts the company was doomed.   


Edited by starman876, 17 February 2024 - 09:02 AM.

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#17 Bomber Bob

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 09:19 AM

Edmund, A. clark and Sons, Tinsley, and a few others want a piece of this rumble! lol.gif

The glass in Edmund's RKE eyepieces is superb.  If ESC is the maker, I'm impressed.  And, they work well in just about every scope type - can't say that about other brands / makers.

 

Besides Vixen, MIZAR, KENKO, & ASTRO slugged it out during the 1980s for the astrographic reflector market.  Kenko & Mizar also competed in the fluorite refractor segment - but not for nearly as long as Takahashi.  Wish I'd known about Mizar decades ago!   Vixen did very well, partnering with Celestron & Orion.  Mizar went with Meade, and their blue-tube scopes are great, but they didn't catch on nearly as well.  Kenko went the Dept Store route, providing scopes under the Bausch & Lomb / Bushnell label.  Too bad.

 

Original / Maker Branded Japanese Classics:

 

Kenko KDS 63 F13 S33 - RESTORE Mizar Tripod Bushnell SA Drive (LS FL).jpg Kenko GS-540 Restore S15 - 6x30 Finder (LS FL).jpg

Mizar Comet 1st Set Up S09 - AR-1 FULL LS.jpg Mizar GT-80S Restore S73 - COMPLETE (RS CU).jpg

 

All 4 are excellent to outstanding, and I didn't discover them until my 50s...  Missed so many great views!


Edited by Bomber Bob, 17 February 2024 - 09:31 AM.

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#18 Joe Cepleur

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 10:34 AM

So, is it correct to say that, when the cottage industries died, the larger corporations took over and moved production into... factories? automated machinery? What happened?

#19 Terra Nova

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 10:39 AM

The glass in Edmund's RKE eyepieces is superb.  If ESC is the maker, I'm impressed.  And, they work well in just about every scope type - can't say that about other brands / makers.

 

Besides Vixen, MIZAR, KENKO, & ASTRO slugged it out during the 1980s for the astrographic reflector market.  Kenko & Mizar also competed in the fluorite refractor segment - but not for nearly as long as Takahashi.  Wish I'd known about Mizar decades ago!   Vixen did very well, partnering with Celestron & Orion.  Mizar went with Meade, and their blue-tube scopes are great, but they didn't catch on nearly as well.  Kenko went the Dept Store route, providing scopes under the Bausch & Lomb / Bushnell label.  Too bad.

 

Original / Maker Branded Japanese Classics:

 

attachicon.gif Kenko KDS 63 F13 S33 - RESTORE Mizar Tripod Bushnell SA Drive (LS FL).jpgattachicon.gif Kenko GS-540 Restore S15 - 6x30 Finder (LS FL).jpg

attachicon.gif Mizar Comet 1st Set Up S09 - AR-1 FULL LS.jpgattachicon.gif Mizar GT-80S Restore S73 - COMPLETE (RS CU).jpg

 

All 4 are excellent to outstanding, and I didn't discover them until my 50s...  Missed so many great views!

Good point JW! And the last in the series of Edmund 4” F15 refractors was the red and beigish-tan one that I believe was designed by David Rank (or so I’ve been told), and according to some, the best of the lot. I think those were available into the ‘80s.

 

Like this one: https://www.cloudyni...tor/?p=10765449

 

and

 

 https://www.cloudyni...tor/?p=10764375


Edited by Terra Nova, 17 February 2024 - 10:42 AM.

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#20 CHASLX200

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 10:47 AM

There was not much choice in the early 80's. The C8 in 1971 started to make Unitron sales go down in the 70's and by around 1983 with them cheap and crude blue Dobs Unitron rolled over for good. Plus the prices for a U got crazy around 1978 on.  So they were out and for the save we had Vixen that replaced the junk 60 and 80mm F15 Fracts with small eyepieces on real mounts like the Polaris and SP mounts around 1984 at faster speeds.  Then came AP later in the 80's and the Tak's were so pricey in the mid 80's only rich peeps could buy em.

 

Just so much has changed since 1970.  Unitron and old school EQ mounted Newts were killed off by 1983.


Edited by CHASLX200, 17 February 2024 - 10:48 AM.

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#21 Joe Cepleur

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 10:55 AM

If you closely look a the mounts it appears as though they were also sourced from a cottage industry. They may have looked nice finished once the paint was stripped off one could see these were not precision made parts. Underneath the paint was a lot of putty to smooth things out.

Like a pretty car with too much Bondo under a fresh paint job! What an astonishing thought about the gap between appearance and performance. This suggests that the mounts that work better may not necessarily be designed better, but may simply be cast and machined better inside, where the craftsmanship cannot be seen.

Somehow, I can imagine legions of lens crafters pushing glass at home, but the notion of armies of skilled (or not-so-skilled) laborers pouring molten metal in their back yards truly surprises me. It would follow that all the castings were likely made in these small foundries.

What about other parts? Perhaps the tubes were rolled in factories with big machinery. Wooden tripod legs could have been made in home shops.

Was the entire industry built this way? How was it organized? Were the crafters in the employment of particular manufacturers, or were they free agents building for whomever wanted their wares?

Could have been a mix. I understand (correctly?), for example, that University Optics eyepieces were the output of a single artisan who delivered his wares for sale at higher prices in the West. But even then, if he ground glass, who cast his barrels?

The organization of the Japanese optics industry has long been a topic of fascination for me. How this older system really worked in its heyday is relevant to how it transitioned into whatever happened in the 1980s.

Amazing to think that so many of our favorite classics are hand-crafted objects!

Edited by Joe Cepleur, 17 February 2024 - 10:56 AM.


#22 Joe Cepleur

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 11:06 AM

Thinking about my last post, it makes the most sense that there would have been a mix of sources. Optics may have been mostly ground at home, but nothing would have stopped small businesses from building foundries, wood shops, or machine shops, so that both cottage industries and small businesses could have been competing simultaneously.

Does anyone know the actual history? If the small businesses were eaten by larger companies, that could have been the beginning of the corporate era of the 1980s.

Edited by Joe Cepleur, 17 February 2024 - 11:07 AM.


#23 starman876

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 12:23 PM

So, is it correct to say that, when the cottage industries died, the larger corporations took over and moved production into... factories? automated machinery? What happened?

Most of the cottage industries in Japan were suppliers to the war effort in the 40's.    when the war ended these cottage industries slowly vanished until all of the people that ran them died or retired.  Only the big boys like, pentax, Nikon, Canon, Tak and a few others kept producing quality optics.    


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#24 Terra Nova

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 01:57 PM

This is a fascinating article about homeland labor, industry, and economy in Japan during WWII, (actually it was a lecture given at Duke Univ.). It’s long but I found it very interesting and I thought some of you might too:

 

https://today.duke.e...ecture0321.html


Edited by Terra Nova, 17 February 2024 - 02:26 PM.

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#25 Kasmos

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 02:28 PM

Thinking about my last post, it makes the most sense that there would have been a mix of sources. Optics may have been mostly ground at home, but nothing would have stopped small businesses from building foundries, wood shops, or machine shops, so that both cottage industries and small businesses could have been competing simultaneously.

Does anyone know the actual history? If the small businesses were eaten by larger companies, that could have been the beginning of the corporate era of the 1980s.

I kind of question whether they were working at home but instead were probably working in small shops similar to the link below.

 

I'm not sure how old theses photos are of DK's works but it's probably a good glimpse of how many of the makers operated.

http://www.daiichiko...ojyougazou.html

 

If you copy or open each image in a new tab you can view them at a larger scale.


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