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Japan made refractors from the '80 era

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#26 starman876

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 03:25 PM

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.

Even the old Nihon Seiko building was not that large.  Most of these shops were small.    These were not factories.  even if you visit Cumberland optics in MD that building is not that large.    Optics manufacturing  depending on the amount of sales is generally pretty small considering we are not talking about sales in the millions of units. 



#27 Joe Cepleur

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 03:52 PM

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


That page is dated 2005 and is exactly what I would imagine, small shops with all the necessary equipment hiring local people.

I have heard that lenses were literally ground at home, and can believe that, because the equipment needed is simpler. Of course, I don't know enough about test equipment, but from what I have seen in the basement of a friend who makes optics, even that could be minimal. Lots of tradesmen buy tools. These would be accessible for a home-based business.

#28 Joe Cepleur

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 04:36 PM

So... What happened in the 1980s? When the old-timers retired or left for new homes among the stars, perhaps many of the small shops closed, but some were purchased by larger companies that needed them? Does anyone know? (Or, will the answer be in Terra's article.)

#29 Terra Nova

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 05:27 PM

So... What happened in the 1980s? When the old-timers retired or left for new homes among the stars, perhaps many of the small shops closed, but some were purchased by larger companies that needed them? Does anyone know? (Or, will the answer be in Terra's article.)

The article I posted just deals with WWII, well before Unitron and nothing about telescopes. Japan was heavily industrialized prior to WWII tho. Throughout the 1930s they reinvested a significant percentage of their GDP on industrialization, modernizing and building new factories, and also in modernization of their transportation system, both railroads and ports, and they had a large maritime merchant marine for shipping. Of course by the end of the war our B29s and submarines had taken care of both, (manufacturing and transportation).


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#30 CHASLX200

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 05:53 PM

So... What happened in the 1980s? When the old-timers retired or left for new homes among the stars, perhaps many of the small shops closed, but some were purchased by larger companies that needed them? Does anyone know? (Or, will the answer be in Terra's article.)

Everything got kinda boring in the 80's with Celestron other than the Vixen stuff they sold. The SCT never changed much other than the no end war with Meade and the big C trying to beat each other with the Super C8 vs the LX2 or 3 and on and on. Meade had no real fracts to offer other than the blue tube 80mm fracts around 1986. It was AP that got the ball rolling on the higher end fracts as Taks were for rich peeps with that dream 150mm OTA on a dream NJP-160 mount that cost as much as a house back in them days. Sure is diff today.



#31 Joe Cepleur

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 07:15 PM

This thread is supposed to be about, "Japan made refractors from the '80 era," touting how fine they were. It sounds as though after World War II, Japan's excellent military optics industry was redirected toward selling telescopes (and binoculars) to the American export market. This saved it, and brought about decades of the many fine brands appearing in this forum. When the old-timers retired in and after the 1970s, most of this industry died, leaving just a few players. The notables were Vixen (including Vixens branded for Celestron) and Takahashi. Even some larger companies making great optics left the market. There were also whatever companies milked the remnants of the industry to build junk for department stores.

If that is even remotely correct, it's an unattractive story, but it would explain why so many classics are older than the 1980s.

OP, which telescopes of the 1980s prompted you to start this thread?

#32 Bomber Bob

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 07:58 PM

Kenko:  Current astro-stuff include the Sky Explorer refractors & reflectors (made by SYNTA); and, the Sky Memo tripod-topper EQ motorized tracking platform (for cameras / imagers).

 

Mizar:  Currently, the LTH Series of scopes.  Not sure which PRC maker supplies them.

 

Astro:  Not sure if AO is still in the game.

 

Remember:  The late 1970s Recession coupled with Inflation made Japanese imports expensive.  Best I can tell, these 3 Classic Brands shifted to a Pacific Market in the 1980s, so we don't see as many -- EXCEPT for the Celestron (Vixen) & Meade (MIzar) scopes.

 

What did the Japanese do different to make their optics better than the competition.

 

Low Prices + Consistent Quality.  (Same as their cars.)


Edited by Bomber Bob, 18 February 2024 - 08:52 AM.

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#33 Joe Cepleur

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 12:43 AM

So, essentially, for those of us in the United States, Japanese telescope manufacturing died in the 1980s. The only exceptions were Takahashi and maybe the occasional specialty brand, such as Japan Special Optics (if I have their decade right). Production moved to China, away from small hand-crafters and (from what I have heard that may be inaccurate) on to computerized glass grinding machines.

Geez; the classics really *are* classics!

#34 Kasmos

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 03:16 AM

China didn't really come on board until the mid to late 90s.

 

Other than making scopes for Meade, Mizar didn't appear to be marketed to the US market.

Same with Kenko.

Around the mid 80s it seems like Towa was somehow connected with Tanzutsu or they took over Towa's customers.

Carton was still making scopes at least thru 85 but were never a big player here.

APL was swallowed up by Vixen in the 70s who then came on strong in the mid 80's.

I believe SYW and their connection with Mayflowers didn't go past the early 80s.

DK seemed to be one of the last survivors.

 

Probably because of their high prices and changing market preferences, good small achromats were loosing ground.

Maybe some of it was due to the transition between the Boomers (who witnessed the Space Race), followed by Gen X?

 

If you use the catalogs on the Japanese Retro Museum as a guide it looks like most of them were fading out by the late 80s

 

https://yumarin7.sak...CsiryouN2F.html


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#35 CHASLX200

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 07:01 AM

China didn't really come on board until the mid to late 90s.

 

Other than making scopes for Meade, Mizar didn't appear to be marketed to the US market.

Same with Kenko.

Around the mid 80s it seems like Towa was somehow connected with Tanzutsu or they took over Towa's customers.

Carton was still making scopes at least thru 85 but were never a big player here.

APL was swallowed up by Vixen in the 70s who then came on strong in the mid 80's.

I believe SYW and their connection with Mayflowers didn't go past the early 80s.

DK seemed to be one of the last survivors.

 

Probably because of their high prices and changing market preferences, good small achromats were loosing ground.

Maybe some of it was due to the transition between the Boomers (who witnessed the Space Race), followed by Gen X?

 

If you use the catalogs on the Japanese Retro Museum as a guide it looks like most of them were fading out by the late 80s

 

https://yumarin7.sak...CsiryouN2F.html

1997 was the year it all came falling down and Celestron stiffed us with the pretty bad China stuff.



#36 Bomber Bob

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 09:01 AM

To supplement Chris's excellent post:

 

- Mizar & Kenko (& Pentax - J Series) first switched from their original Japanese sources to DK (Japan).  Mizar switched again to Taiwan (either as a partner, or subsidiary).  Both wound up sourcing from SYNTA / LPI.  Probably in the mid to late 1990s.  Tough to determine without serial numbers.  So, I look at color-schemes & styles.

 

- Best I can tell, ASTRO didn't switch to DK, or any other cheaper source.  And, they're gone now.

 

- Meade also dropped Mizar (Japan), and sourced from Taiwan - but that may have been "Mizar" un-branded.

 

Overall, a Sad Era for those of us who grew up with the 1960s & 1970s Golden Age Imports.  OTOH, some of those 1980s scopes are fantastic instruments.  And, you can get them cheap!

 

[Since I was BUSY learning to fly during the '80s, discovering these ASTROs, Kenkos, Mizars, Taks, & Vixens has been great fun.]


Edited by Bomber Bob, 18 February 2024 - 09:07 AM.

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#37 CHASLX200

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 09:08 AM

To supplement Chris's excellent post:

 

- Mizar & Kenko (& Pentax - J Series) first switched from their original Japanese sources to DK (Japan).  Mizar switched again to Taiwan (either as a partner, or subsidiary).  Both wound up sourcing from SYNTA / LPI.  Probably in the mid to late 1990s.  Tough to determine without serial numbers.  So, I look at color-schemes & styles.

 

- Best I can tell, ASTRO didn't switch to DK, or any other cheaper source.  And, they're gone now.

 

- Meade also dropped Mizar (Japan), and sourced from Taiwan - but that may have been "Mizar" un-branded.

 

Overall, a Sad Era for those of us who grew up with the 1960s & 1970s Golden Age Imports.  OTOH, some of those 1980s scopes are fantastic instruments.  And, you can get them cheap!

 

[Since I was BUSY learning to fly during the '80s, discovering these ASTROs, Kenkos, Mizars, Taks, & Vixens has been great fun.]

After the mid 90's it really went downhill.



#38 starman876

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 09:34 AM

When the war effort started in Japan they had to rely on the cottage industry for building small parts.   Japan had no room for building new industrial complexes so they cottage industry did well.  Japan was very heavily bombed to get rid of the cottage industry because the intel showed how heavily the Japan war effort depended on the cottage industry.    After the war the US had to get Japan back on its feet.    The cottage industry came back , but only until the bigger industries got back on its feet.  I took a while to get Japan to become independent again and become a major player in the world economics.   The cottage industry did not do well after this rebuilding  because major industries was were all the money was spent for rebuilding including the new buildings  for other suppliers of goods.  



#39 Terra Nova

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 11:20 AM

And don’t forget the all pervasive Towa! And also (Z). They were both still quite active in making you garden-variety, department store telescopes in the ‘80s. Both sub-par in comparison with those above.


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#40 Terra Nova

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 11:31 AM

Really tho, if we are talking about the 1980s, that was the time of the Halley’s Comet Craze. Almost all the makers took a hit in quality when they not only upped production but also put out re-designed, cheaper alternative products. It wasn’t just Japan. It happened here too! And another factor to remember if we are talking about the 1980s, there was a pretty good recession going on. It strongly effected the US which was reeling from both de-industrialization and de-unionization. AND there were fuel shortages and inflation. So people in the major markets (like here in the US) had less money to spend and with less disposable income, there was less money to spend on hobbies. The market responded to that. All of these factors worked to bring about changes in telescopes and their quality. We always want to remember those good old days, but by the 1980s they really weren’t so good and it really had been starting to slide in many ways since 1970. The grass always seems greener in the past, but I get tired of lamenting it. Things then weren’t nearly so rosey as we want to remember them. I think we have it pretty good right now!


Edited by Terra Nova, 18 February 2024 - 11:32 AM.

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#41 Dave Novoselsky

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 11:44 AM

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.

Really?  Having done my Masters thesis in History on warship design before I turned to the dark side and went to law school albeit retaining a lifelong interest and research in warship design, I am startled to hear that “many US Navy ships used pre-war Japanese optics during the war against.” I don’t claim to be omniscient and may have missed that information but given the current availability of information on WW II naval vessels, including observation binoculars and optical fire control systems, I have not found any instance where the US Navy used Japanese optics.

 

Pre war Japanese naval vessels used Japanese sourced optics in their fire control and observation systems. In fact pre war Japanese surface combat tactics emphasized mass night torpedo attacks and to facilitate that mounted numerous giant binoculars on their ships, now considered some of the finest night optics in the world and superior to those used by the US and British navy and rated even higher than the renowned Zeiss naval binoculars used by the Kreigsmarine.  The Japanese naval optics were built by Canon and Nikon, optics makers unknown outside Japan at the time but later the source of the optics that became so well regarded worldwide in camera and telescope lenses.

 

So I would really like to see the reference to use of Japanese optics in naval vessels built outside Japan prior to WW II. Japan built warships for export in small numbers before the war for Thailand and a handful for China.  They would have had Japanese sourced optics but I have not seen any reference to use of Japanese optics in any other naval vessels until I read your note.


Edited by Dave Novoselsky, 18 February 2024 - 12:12 PM.

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#42 Dave Novoselsky

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 11:50 AM

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.

In the pre war through the 1950s Japan developed a number of copies of the Leica and Zeiss 35mm cameras, both the camera bodies and lenses which were interchangeable with their German counterparts.  They are avidly collected today and were in many instances as optically superb as their German cousins.


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#43 Dave Novoselsky

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 11:55 AM

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.

Owned one of their scopes. Optically as good as the other Japanese maker who left the refractor market, Pentax.  Even harder to find today than the Holy Grail Pentax.



#44 Dave Novoselsky

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 11:57 AM

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.gif

I have heard similar statements as to the fabled Zeiss APQ.



#45 Dave Novoselsky

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 12:07 PM

Kenko:  Current astro-stuff include the Sky Explorer refractors & reflectors (made by SYNTA); and, the Sky Memo tripod-topper EQ motorized tracking platform (for cameras / imagers).

 

 

 

Low Prices + Consistent Quality.  (Same as their cars.)

Isn’t Kenko involved in the Borg product line?  I know they are owned or at least distributed by TomyTec but I am not sure who produces Borg.  If you know please advise


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#46 Dave Novoselsky

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 12:09 PM

So, essentially, for those of us in the United States, Japanese telescope manufacturing died in the 1980s. The only exceptions were Takahashi and maybe the occasional specialty brand, such as Japan Special Optics (if I have their decade right). Production moved to China, away from small hand-crafters and (from what I have heard that may be inaccurate) on to computerized glass grinding machines.

Geez; the classics really *are* classics!

Vixen?  A few of their scopes still say “Made in Japan”


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#47 Bomber Bob

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 01:13 PM

Isn’t Kenko involved in the Borg product line?  I know they are owned or at least distributed by TomyTec but I am not sure who produces Borg.  If you know please advise

Dave, AFAIK, TomyTec & Borg are united (some BORG OTAs have TomyTec, and / or OASIS Studios on the label or tube); KENKO is / was a partner - but my info on corporate acquisitions & mergers may be out-of-date.  No Doubt that Borg & Kenko use a common hardware supplier; but, so did Kenko, Mizar, & Pentax during the 1980s, yet all 3 were distinct companies & brands at that time.


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#48 Bomber Bob

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 01:20 PM

Vixen?  A few of their scopes still say “Made in Japan”

Yes, and Vixen marks them by country.  An A80M is a Japan product, while an A80Mf is China -- the lower-case suffix is the key character.


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#49 Dave Novoselsky

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 01:32 PM

Yep, I never could figure out who, what, or how when it came to Borg.  When I first started out in amateur astronomy and acquired my first Borg, they were all white tube and labeled “Oasis Studios” on the dew shield, from my baby Borg to my ill fated 125 ED (not unfortunately the Pentax optic version.) My current trio, the 55 and 90 FL say Borg on the dew shield, are all black, while the long focal length 55 achromat (?) is labeled and sold as “ MOEBIUS” with the notion under that label, “Kenko X Borg”.  And as the final part of the label stew, the helical focuser is labeled “Oasis” and is clearly a Borg focuser!

Kinda like Churchill’s description of Russia, a mystery wrapped in an enigma etc.  Good luck unwrapping this knot.


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#50 Bomber Bob

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 01:37 PM

Yep!  FYI:  Kenko's KDS 63x800 refractor uses a BORG helical focuser.  Loved it -- smooth operator!




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