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Old Monday 14th December 2009, 21:10   #1
ksbird/foxranch
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Columbia Malheur 10x32 Flourite

Another birthday just passed, so I am an even older "old man" (61 yo) than before. One thing did brighten the day though, a very nice pair of binoculars, the Columbia Malheur 10x32. Columbia is the brand name for a sportswear company specializing in backwoods/camping/mountaineering etc. I think this is the company marketing these bins. There is a generally accepted limit of $200 on most birthday gifts so I assume these are very reasonably priced.

The carton and inner box both say the design uses fluorite APO objective lens and they seem to show there may be a field flattener right behind it. The rest of the design is typical for small roofers. I will comment on their ease of use when I add to this post.

I wanted a smallish, waterproof, 10x, to carry in my pocket. I have great 8x bins of this type, but the Zeiss Diafun 10x I was using seems a touch too large (although very light weight). The Prostaff 10x25 I normally carry is not really useful at dawn and dusk. There is still snow in the tall pasture grass and there were a few days near zero F (-17C) last week, with another such day tomorrow. If any farm animals are not in the barns by nightfall, you could lose them, so finding them at dusk is imperative.

I compared these bins to a wide range of others; 10x30 Zeiss Diaphun, Stellar 10x35 porro (JB4), a no-name 10x35 (JB133), Hertel & Reuss 10x35, Nikon 10x35 (2 models, the Mikron and the E), Prostaff 10x25, and the Leupold 10x30. The Prostaff, Leupold, Diaphun and Malheur are waterproof. The 10x35 porros are all large in the hand although the H&Rs are really lightweight with magnesium bodies. The Leopold is also very heavy, although I carried it in my pocket for 2 years, it isn't convenient. The Diaphuns are smaller than the Leupold and the 10x35s but larger than the Malheur, which is only slightly larger than the Prostaff.

The images on all of these bins is excellent so the competition is tough. Had I stretched this further to the 10x40 Baigish, 10x40 Agfa and 10x40 Habicht, the Malheur would have looked average at best. But in the group I chose for comparisons it was at least as sharp as any of the others. The Malheur's contrast is almost as vivid as the Diaphun & Nikon E, as good as the Leupold or Prostaff and slightly better than the rest of the group. The color correction was better than any of them, and this obviously contributes to the high ratings I gave them for sharpness and contrast.

While the Malheur FOV is obviously wider than the Leupold and Prostaff, and slightly wider than the Diaphun it is about equal to the Nikon E. The other 10x35 porros seem to have enormous FsOV by comparison. The H&Rs and Mikrons seem to have FsOV that are obviously wider and the 2 JBs should be classed as either Superwides or Ultrawides, so they provide a spaceview image. But I deemed the Malheur's FOV to be "wide enough" for my use since it was replacing 2 other bins with smaller FsOV. The edge-to-edge sharpness is quite surprising. Since my neighbor 500m/550yds away on the next hill west from my ranch, is a great viewing target, I can determine that the sharp part of the FOV on the Malheur extends about 75% across the FOV. Only the Nikon E had a slightly wider "sharp" FOV % (the 8 tall [and now barren] trees stretching along the upper ridge of my neighbor's hilltop property allow me to compare real distances for sharpness across the FOV). In reality, the Nikon E's sharp portion of its FOV is not much larger than the Malheur.

The color trueness of the view is quite neutral in the Malheur. The Leupold was the "brownest" "or possibly "yellowest", the H&R was the next "brown/yellowest" image, then the Stellar and Mikron were very slightly yellow/brown, the Prostaff seems the most neutral, with truest color. Then the Malheur came a close second to the Prostaff. The Nikon E seemed a tiny bit greenish, image-wise. The JB133 bin was the "coolest" image due to a slightly blue/violet coloration. With snow the slightly yellowish added color works fine. With vegetation the extra blue tone is good. The neutral color rendition of the Malheur and Prostaff work all the time.

I am not a roofer fan. In winter I'll use the Malheur for pocket carry and in spring/summer/autumn for events my wife will use them. They are very sharp with excellent correction for CA. I'll talk about how they are to use (although I already like the clamshell hard case, and hate the lens covers). These bins are made in China and while the performance is high, the cost is incredibly low.

Columbia is a very large company, making gear for outdoor activities. Their distribution is huge, so these bins will be in thousands of stores this year. With this volume, prices will drop and discounting will bring the price lower. Look for Celestron, major department/retail store chains and places like Bass Pro Shops to carry this model bin, putting even more pressure on the prices to drop. Close-outs through mail order sellers could make these less than $100 eventually. A non-waterproof 10x32 fluorite porro with the same objectives and flattened system, could be even cheaper and better (w/wider FOV). 10x30/32 is a great size for kids, and quite easy to handle. I generally use porros for everything and anything, but this is one roofer I will enjoy using any time I can.
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Old Monday 14th December 2009, 23:19   #2
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These I suppose, http://www.krugeroptical.com/malheur_binoculars.asp

Sharp looking bin with nice case and strap. ~$220 at opticaplanet.com. Co-branding with Columbia makes it a nice value too.

happy holidays,
Rick
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Old Tuesday 15th December 2009, 05:02   #3
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Very nice review, including some rather unusual binoculars, thank you. It looks like we are now getting with the next wave from China, and to paraphrase, "95% the performance of a Zen-Ray for half the cost"!.
http://www.adorama.com/PRO842.html

Looking forward to the second half of the story.
Happy Birthday,
Ron
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Old Tuesday 15th December 2009, 18:38   #4
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Thanks for the write up, ksbird.

You don't find the 5.5 degree FOV to be too narrow?

There are already a thread or too about Kruger Optical on the forum. We even had a Kruger VP on here at one point.

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=146389

The bins were supposed to arrive earlier in the year but, reading between the lines, there seems to be some extra time needed to get the "bugs" out.'

The Pro Optic bin's that Ron points to has specs (the FOV!) as large as the Kruger and the enclosure does look like the Kruger bins too - a sort of "more compact" looking (I don't know if it is any shorter) version of the current Chinese EDs. So we probably have a new OEM in the market.

Pro Optic seem to be another generic photographic/optical brand more like Promaster or "Winchester" than Zen Ray. I haven't found their web site yet.

http://www.adorama.com/catalog.tpl?o...nd=Pro%20Optic

The 8x42 and 10x42 seem to be the only bins in their line up but both at $200.
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Old Tuesday 15th December 2009, 19:23   #5
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10x32 Malheur pt 2

This binocular seems to need a break-in period before the lubricants in the focusing system smooth out and allow both sides to focus "together". There was a bizarre bit of play in the left side, while the right side focus was stiff. It was easy to compensate for by finding the correct diopter setting and then focusing the right eye, which went past proper focus on the left eye. Then backing up a touch to refocus the left eye worked, because the focus didn't change in the right eye. Now that the two sides have smoothed out their focus stiffness/looseness, things work better, but it was disconcerting for a while. I hope this pattern doesn't reemerge when I start patrolling the ranch with these in my pocket during very cold periods (like tonight at 5pm, when the temp is forecast to be 19F or -7C). It is but one of my complaints about using what is an optically fine bin.

The objective lens covers are useless. The case is excellent and so I will probably buy 2 slip-over lens caps or even small push button camera lens covers, and then keep them in the case when I put the strap/w/bins around my neck. The strap is adequate. Columbia makes a big deal about the breathe-ability of the strap, but in winter it just feels abrasive. The eye lens covers are reasonable, and the side that is not split keeps the cover from being lost, since it stays on the neck strap. The split eyeholes on soft rubber are pointless. The straps come out of the split eyeholes instantly so the objective lens covers (or anything else) pretending to be held by these eyeholes would get lost instantly. The objective lens covers were so loose they fell off by themselves. Making buyers unhappy with badly designed accessories, will not enhance sales. Use firm fitting, CHEAP,slip-on lens caps and let the buyer lose them. I have slip-on Nikon lens covers I've had for 10 years, so it is possible to keep them, if you have a regimen when you use the binoculars.

I am obviously in the camp that does not like zippy focus. This binocular has a 4 ft minimum focus distance, so the focus wheel goes around more than once from maximum close to maximum distant focus, but in the range of 20 yds/m to infinity the focus wheel only moves about 1/5 turn. The focus wheel turns very easily (perhaps too easily for my taste) and since the depth of field is very shallow, it is possible to go back and forth out of focus one way or the other a few times before you hit sharp focus. In the cold I'm either wearing gloves or my fingers are cold and a bit stiffer than normal, so getting to "best focus" is sometimes a chore. It isn't particularly difficult, but I need to slow down my focusing to a real crawl to make sure I don't go past focus (on the 3rd or 4th pass).

The bins are very light and so once focused, I can easily hold them in one hand for extended periods and they don't seem to jitter much if I just rest my hand against my head. I can't even do this properly with the Diaphuns because their shape doesn't let me position my hand to do this.

I luck out in one way because full open these Malheurs are exactly the correct interpuppilary distance for my eyes. No need to fuss there. The 2 rotate-to-raise eyecups are at the best distance to reduce blackout areas. But the eyecups themselves are pretty cheesy. They stay in position somewhat, even though I always touch my eyelids to the plastic, but they do not lock into position by any means. One eyecup extends out about 1/10 inch further than the other, and they don't even look straight when fully extended. If I try to extend the eyecups slightly less than fully, so I look through the bins without touching my eyelids to the eyecups, the eyecups flop around a bit and become even less straight. If I find a way to replace these eyecups, I will definitely do it, although the replacements would have to fold down or something, because the bins only fit the clamshell case with the eyecups screwed down fully now.

The grip surface is excellent, which helps with stiff cold fingers, or gloves. Image-wise the glare from a bright light source off-axis is good. There is also not much flare. Dawn is late this time of year and the sun rises right behind a house on the next ridge hill east. I was able to get sharp detail in this "maximum shadow condition" looking into that neighbor's backyard chicken coop, watching his rooster strut around announcing dawn. The multicoatings must be decent, and what baffling it is possible to build into such a small bin, must be working.

So to sum up; this is a decent bin, especially for the price. Since there is no Celestron Ultima 10x32 porro, or such, to compete with these bins, They seem the best in this price range. They can produce sharp images, with very low CA, a decent FOV, in a package that is very small and light weight. They have poor depth of field, the focuser drove me crazy for a while, the eyecups are cheesy, and the objective lens covers stink. The clamshell case is excellent (sort of a larger version of the one I got with my Sony W-1 camera a while back). The strap is average, the grip surface is good. I don't know if they are immersible, but I would trust them in the rain (they have a rain-shedding coating on the lenses too). I like them, but don't see how the badly done bits couldn't have been improved for a small amount of money. So I'm only about 75% satisfied with these bins and that rates a B- overall score from me.
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Old Wednesday 16th December 2009, 03:19   #6
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Malheur FOV pt 3

I have rechecked the FOV on the 10x32 Malheur. If it was only a "center-view" designed optical system, then the narrow FOV would bother me/ But since it is a very sharp FOV across 75% of the field and then reasonably sharp, right to the edge it isn't really a problem (although I thought it was when I was looking at these bins to buy myself). So the spec stating the FOV was narrow, was only considered after I looked through the bins, and then it wasn't a big problem. The FOV IS narrow. But the "Sharp" FOV is not narrow. This is the same effect seen in the high end Nikon 7.2 vs 9.3 degree 7x models of porros. The Sharp FOV is about the same on each model (Nikon) but the fuzzy FOV is obviously larger on the 9.3 degree model. A 5 degree FOV on a 10x bin is the same in my opinion, as the 7.5 degree FOV on a 7x bin. I know that sounds like reverse logic, but I'm just describing what seems to be the case. In any case the Malheur 10x32 I reviewed, seems very useful, almost edge-to-edge, and so the narrower FOV does not SEEM to a problem, even if it is obvious when compared to bins with nearly twice the FOV width.
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Old Wednesday 16th December 2009, 04:42   #7
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I notice from the specs given that this Malheur 10 x 32 is about an inch shorter than my Nikon 10 x 32 LX L (Roof Prism). The LX L has a stated FOV of 342' @ 1000 yards, about 50' more than the Malheur, which probably is due to the difference in the designs of the eyepieces they use.

Would it be wrong to assume, because of their differences in length, that the focal lengths of the Malheur's objectives are shorter than the Nikon's? Say f3.7 or so (+ or -) to f4?

Query: With focal lengths this short, does the fact that the Malheur's objectives use Flourite really make any difference and if so, how does it make a difference? If it can obviously improve an inexpensive 10 x 32 binocular, which is a format notoriously difficult to make with a quality view and which is usually sold only in top of the line binoculars, why isn't it generally used in all binoculars? Judging from the price of the Malheurs, it can't be from the cost of the material.
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Old Friday 18th December 2009, 20:50   #8
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Cesar, thanks for making your point about the Malheur's size. These are really tiny bins in my hands. I'm 6'5" tall and was surprised when I first tried to use them. If there is some new kind of roof prism developed by Kruger for this bin, then the focal length wouldn't have to be shorter, but I really think it is. This might account for what seems to be its shallow FOV (thus making focusing an exacting function, not just a generally in-focus-over-a-range proposition). When it is in correct focus this bin is very sharp, but getting to that exact place requires attention since the focus wheel moves the focusing lenses so quickly.

Since I think you are right that the objective lens focal ratio is small/short, then the fluorite lens would make a really huge difference when the light is being bent into a cone. I have some really fine flint/crown lens telescopes with focal rations of f14.4 to F20, and they are pretty color free. But in large lens telescopes for wide field viewing, the color fringing gets substantial at F5 no matter how high-quality the flint/crown glass, or design is, unless the lenses incorporate ED or fluorite elements. I think you get less color problems with fluorite or ED lenses at shorter focal ratios. From this point of view, the use of a fluorite objective lens may well keep the design shorter, and make the binoculars smaller. The weight seems comparable to other 10x32 roofer bins, so they are easy to hold and use. But maybe the idea was to make a quality bin that was as small as possible, for greater convenience in the outdoors. If so, they succeeded. (This could clearly have been a mass-market design consideration, to sell thousands more bins.)

I don't know whether it is easy to make batch after batch of ED glass with exactly the same optical characteristics. At least growing synthesized fluorite crystals you get the same characteristics each time. In a design of this tiny size, there might not be room for adjustments, which might be required if the design used an ED objective lens system. So maybe to make this design work, AND produce big quantities (to get the cost of manufacture down) the designers were forced to use fluorite in the objective lens design.

Columbia Sportswear is a giant company. I have been away from the consumer products business for over 5 years now, but I'm sure Columbia might have been able to risk the money to commit to a contract to make many thousands of these binoculars. So then the manufacturer would be able to count on a big economy of scale. Even if a product like this was a flop in terms of market acceptance (the focus was too fussy, etc.) or the cost of making them skyrocketed, Columbia could easily dispose of large quantities of these bids through its VERY large distribution network. So for them it could be a winner, but was unlikely to cost them enough money to be a concern (corporate-think-wise).

Nikon has used ED glass for quite some time (which is why we likely see different subtle-change versions of their high end products like the SE series). For them a risk on something new and cheap would require committing significant corporate resources. They don't like taking such significant risks, whereas to Columbia, the Malheur series doesn't look like a significant risk at all. It's a matter of corporate size.

Also the Chinese maker of the Columbia Malheur is likely to have a clause in the agreement requiring them to take back, and either fix of replace every single badly made Malheur. So this reduces Columbia's risk further. In the volume of product Columbia would consider "low", there would easily be thousands of units involved and so the Chinese maker is likely being careful about production. Getting thousands of units of Anything returned is a nightmare, so the producer is going to be careful. Conversely, Columbia can always pay its bills, so the producer has low risk financially. New niche companies (I won't mention names but consider the newer ED lens bin marketers), could have financial problems if even one model they import does badly.

It's easy to imagine a textbook case. Let's say there is a new fuel cell that is highly efficient and runs on little butane or propane bottles of the size (but maybe not the shape) of the butane bottles used to fill lighters. Maybe some laptop company wants to have computers with smaller batteries, one for controlling the gas/fuel-cell supply and another for temporary management of the system if you run out of gas, and allows you to use a small adapter to run off house/or/car current and charge the batteries even if there is no gas. To Legend or Dell it would require a significant financial risk to develop this system and sell it and manage it. But if Exxon/Shell/and/BP wanted to sell these butane/or/propane bottles at every gas station in the world, along with a nice laptop, the cost of making this whole project work would look trivial to them. Same project, different scale of risk. A risk that could threaten the corporate financial viability of Legend or Dell, would just look like a cheap way for the energy companies to sell more gas at a higher profit margin further integrating themselves into people's daily lives.

Columbia wants to totally outfit anyone going out into the outdoors for work or play. Nikon wants to make high quality optical products. Their views of the scale of the market are radically different. But compared to Exxon/or/BP Columbia looks tiny, so if this fuel cell battery system I imagined is used to make electrically operated infrared-heating underwear, then it is easy for the Exxon/BP/Shell ConglomCo group, while it may present great financial risk to a company even the size of Columbia. SO, making great bins at low prices is easier when a huge marketer is involved. The Zeiss bins for the German military are actually reasonably priced for the quality level they needed to achieve. The Malheur may not be that good or that rugged, but they show what can be done if the maker is a huge company with a very large market view.

The Malheur 10x32 is a binocular worth trying. When the refurbs are under $100 it will force a big market change, it's that good. And the Malheur II might consider the feedback from the market and get even better for about the same price, because big marketing companies understand the psychology of product/market lifespan.
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Old Saturday 19th December 2009, 14:49   #9
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Thanks for taking the time to respond in detail. Much appreciated! I wasn't aware that Nikon was using ED glass for a while now. Maybe that's why I enjoy their view so much. I have two LX L's, 2 SE's and 3 E II's. The Malheur, while economical seems like a very useful and handy binocular to have around as a back up loaner or Car binocular.
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Old Saturday 19th December 2009, 15:10   #10
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I think you can be pretty sure there are no CaF2 elements in this binocular. Marketers love to play fast and loose with the term "Fluorite". Even minimal ED glass has a little CaF2 in the mix which opens the door for them. Frank D tested this same company's so called "Fluorite" spotting scope with a green laser and found there was no fluorite crystal element, just glass.

The only Nikon binoculars with ED glass are the new EDG series, but Nikon has used one form or another of ED glass in its Fieldscopes for over 25 years.
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Old Tuesday 22nd December 2009, 20:24   #11
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I am not sure why the simple green-laser test used by other people who post on this forum was unable to detect the Fluorite glass (or "ED glass" depending on your definition) used in the Kruger/Malheur optics. But Mark Thomas, the president and chief optical engineer at Kruger Optical provided this quote:

"For the Malheur series to be well color corrected, the glass used is an FK5 glass."

In conversation, Mark and I discussed why this FK element was useful in producing much better than normal correction/convergence in the blue/violet wavelengths (which is not a typical approach to optical design, but produces spectacular improved PERCEIVED sharpness). He also said that this glass FK element helped his system of lenses in the Malheur 10x32 bin to produce somewhat better than normal color correction in the red wavelengths as well. Correcting the color convergence at the upper and lower thresholds of visibility DOES produce a remarkable improvement in overall sharpness. Mark Thomas may not have the traditional view of how to make a sharp lens system (that I got used to working with Nikon and Mamiya products) judging sharpness by what is in the yellow/green wavelengths. But when you actually look through these Malheur binoculars, you will see that improved color correction/convergence at the upper and lower limit of visible light wavelengths DOES in fact create a perception of dramatically improved sharpness overall.

I am familiar with the testing done by the company that makes the glass. Chemical analysis is done on each batch before and after production. No FK glass made by a company other than Schott will be identical to Schott N-FK5 but I believe Mark Thomas has developed a system of lenses that dramatically improves color correction in the blue/violet region (with some benefits in the red/infrared regions as well), but might not improve dispersion in the green wavelengths. He used a glass type similar to FK5 that allowed him to vastly improve the color fidelity (and in my opinion, improving the color correction in the blue/violet region has a dramatic effect on the perceived sharpness the viewer experiences).

In my testing, the Malheur was obviously sharper than the Diaphun 10x30 which is more than 2x-3x the price and as sharp or sharper than the Nikon 10x35 E which would be 2x the price if you could find any today. Now that I have learned that the design goal of the Malheur 10x32 was to make the blue/violet wavelengths color correction equal to the normal green/yellow region wavelengths, what I saw as superior sharpness may have been better correction/convergence in the blue wavelengths (but that IS another component of perceived sharpness).

In any case, the "better view" these small bins provide is obvious once you get used to the way it focuses (very quickly), and also, it took me a while to get used to a very small binocular. This is the first truly small roof prism binocular I have ever liked. I have always preferred reverse porro binoculars in this size and magnification. But this binocular is so good that I was very surprised and pleased. It clearly does used Fluorite Crown glass, and not a fluorite crystal lens, and I stand corrected.

I'm not sure why FK5 doesn't register using the green laser test. Sorry that was the only test run by people to determine if a glass was an FK type. In a telescope with only 2 elements, using a variety of eyepieces FK5 is not well liked because telescopes are a very basic lens system, and must be usable with a variety of eyepiece designs. But I think some of Kruger's type of FK5 glass has important color correction properties for a 7-10 element design when an optical engineer focused only on binoculars. The point has often been made here that with a binocular design, all 5-10 lens or even prism elements can be used to achieve better color correction, and sharpnes, over the entire visible wavelengths from UV to IR.

That's what sharpness is all about. Early optical designs corrected well for yellow/green wavelengths and so a chart with finer and finer lines could be read more easily and "better" with simple 2 element flint/crown lens systems. But now these tests should be made tougher with blue lines on yellow and/or green backgrounds and red lines on green and/or yellow backgrounds, as well as green lines on yellow backgrounds, instead of simply black lines on white. This was the whole point of phase correcting coatings on roof prisms as well. If the blues don't focus as well as the green or yellow wavelengths, then the image won't really be sharp, if sharpness is defined as "sharp in the red and infrared wavelengths, sharp in the yellows and green wavelengths, and sharp in the blue/violet wavelengths". ONLY then can a binocular be truly sharp, no matter what you are looking at.

Even Steiner adjusts their color correction and coating properties for different versions of their very similar-looking 8x30 binoculars, whether the binocular is used with blue sky and blue water backgrounds, brown and green vegetation backgrounds, or city/gray backgrounds. It surprises some people looking at Steiner 8x30 binoculars that the difference in price is about 3x between Steiner's basic, general-purpose 8x30 model used from sporting event grandstands, or other non-demanding uses, and the Steiner 8x30 binocular using the same basic chassis, but designed for sharpness across an ultra-wide band of wavelengths. Those binoculars might all look similar on the outside, but the cost of making a binocular sharp in the blues and reds as well as in the greens and yellows is substantial vs one sharp mostly in the middle greens/yellows.

The skies in Kansas this time of year are often gray (4-5 out of 7 days). While I was in the photo/telescope/binocular business myself, I learned that gray skies, allow a greater amount of blue light to pass through and overcast skies block some of the reds and infrared wavelengths. Perhaps, because I am testing a binocular in times when there is more blue light, the skies themselves are gray, the forests around my ranch are brown/gray in color and the fields are dull tan/gray, these binoculars seem to be so sharp, and yet so inexpensive (while being conveniently-sized and easy to use with only one hand).

Admittedly the word 'glass" should have been inserted on the carton materials right after the word "Fluorite", so I wouldn't have been confused about that fact. But since FK5 is in fact, a fluorite type glass, used to be part of a lens system, for the purpose of substantially improving the sharpness (color correction/convergence) in the blue/violet region, I won't criticize Kruger Optical too much for missing that omission when they checked the packaging produced in China. None of this changes the fact that the Malheur 10x32 binocular is the best binocular of its type (10x, roof prism, very small size) I've seen for even twice the price.
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Old Wednesday 23rd December 2009, 00:13   #12
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ksbird/foxranch,

Thanks for confirming that there is no Fluorite element in these binoculars. The green laser test indicates only whether a lens is CaF2 crystal or glass of any type including fluor-crown glass. If the laser beam is visible as it passes through the lens it's glass, not Fluorite. The test can't distinguish one glass type from another.

Calling FK5 "Fluorite" is a particularly egregious misuse of the term. The characteristics of FK5 are very far from Fluorite. It doesn't really even qualify as a true ED glass. Its Abbe# is 70.4, not that different from plain vanilla BK7 (64.2). I had assumed these binoculars used some minimal ED type like FK52 (81.8) or its Chinese equivalent.

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Old Wednesday 23rd December 2009, 03:59   #13
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I guess there is something I don't understand about how Mark Thomas and the Malheur 10x32 binocular. How can he be so much smarter than other optical designers that he is able to design of a system of binocular lenses in the Malheur 10x32, such that the performance is obviously better (in my own head-to-head comparisons) than the 10x30 Diaphun from Zeiss (which got good reviews but at almost 3x the price) and is better than the Leupold Katmai (50% more expensive) (Cabelas still has some Katmais I was able to take out of the store for comparisons) AND the Malheur 10x32 really does qualify as an APO design (see further on that)? I loaned my pair out to a friend who has the Vortex Fury to compare and he felt the Malheurs were obviously better, and he was going to try the Hawke Frontier but will buy the Malheurs instead.

If the design is somewhat unique in the Kruger Malheur 10x32 and pretty inexpensive, then how does Mark Thomas coax this kind of performance out of "plain vanilla"? Why use FK5 glass at all when BK7 is so much cheaper? I'm not an optical physicist, but according to Schott the color correction capability of FK5 at 460 nm is almost identical to that of FK51A, so if you were attempting to use smart thinking and used inexpensive FK5 to improve the convergence at 460 nm (blue to violet color wavelengths), you'd do very well with FK5, while saving the consumer a bunch of money. That way you could have typically good color correction at the center wavelength of 575 nm (yellow-green) and also have very good color correction in the blues which is extremely atypical. I'm surprised this isn't normal optical thinking, but it seems like Kruger challenged the problem of APO color correction (wider visible band, multi-frequency color correction), differently than other mid-price makers had tried.

Pure Fluorite CaFl works better at 460nm and so does Lithosil-Q according to Schott, but FK5 works better than almost any other glass in the blue range, while working as well as BK7 at 575nm. BK7 may be plain vanilla glass but it is optically excellent and should be used in more binoculars because it is optically superior to BAK4 (although requiring larger prisms to pass the normal binocular objective light cone properly). So in this case plain vanilla BK7 is optically excellent except in the blue/violet range, where FK5 excels. And the FK5 lens is only one component of a multi lens binocular system, whose total image would need to have color correction at more than one wavelength to be considered an APO design. On that definition there isn't the same problem the word Fluorite causes.

I was trying to figure out why this little Malheur binocular performed so well. It was obviously better optically than any other small 10x binocular I had seen costing less than $400. Now it seems that the only thing it had going for it, was the ingenuity of the designer, Mark Thomas, who happens to be the President of Kruger Optical. Mark was actually willing to take my telephone call complaining about his packaging's omission of the word "glass" after the word "Fluorite". I chided him on the mistaken use of the word "Fluorite" by the Chinese packaging maker and the tech people from the Chinese binocular assembler.

He apologized that this typo error had slipped through, but he didn't realize how much impact this kind of descriptive verbiage could have on most consumers. He assumed the final decision on purchasing the Malheur 10x32 binocular would come when consumers looked through the binocular and saw that the results were excellent, and, much better than its competitors. I suggested that the misuse of the word "Fluorite" would create confusion in the consumer's mind and impact Kruger's credibility. Credibility is something all the Kruger people take very seriously, as Mark is a well respected optics physicist with more than a dozen optics patents in his name.

But if a binocular lens system design has excellent color correction in the blue/violet wavelengths, the yellow-green wavelengths and very good correction in the red wavelengths, it really is an APO design, as stated. If this is achieved with cellophane and spit becomes inconsequential (as long as you correctly tell people that cellophane and spit were used). The proof is in the "pudding" (or in this case The Imaging). The Malheur 10x32 binoculars are shockingly good compared to anything in this size/price range of roofer.

Roof prism designs can only have a reasonable approximation of good color sharpness anyway, because they would need an infinite number of phase correction layers to fix the out of phase color focus problem (when matched to humanity's infinitely variable frequencies of the eye's 3 or 4 color sensitivity peaks). Since that can't happen, it might be a really good idea if an optical designer matched the frequencies of the phase coating transmission peaks to the frequencies of the lens sytem's most perfect color correction/convergence frequencies, to get the maximum bang for the buck out of a binocular lens system (it is the image created by the entire system of lenses that we use to judge a binocular by optically). Kruger seems to have raised itself above the competition, not by using some new or rare material, or by finding a cheaper Chinese assembler, but by design ingenuity.

If some other people get the chance to look at a pair of Malheur 10x32 binoculars, perhaps they can add their opinions. I'll be down at Cabelas checking the high end bins to see how much better (if at all) their products are in the 10x32 range under $600. Now that I understand that Kruger has only their chief designer's unique ideas on how to achieve excellent APO results with "plain vanilla" materials, I look forward to more of their products. Making more out of less is a special talent, as it makes good things more affordable to more people.

Due to my own preferences, I hope one of these new Kruger products is a CF porro design bin, that is waterproof, and comparable in weight to roofers (which can only ever achieve compromises in color correction sharpness due to a problem porros don't have). The Nikon SE series needs some competition as the world's best imaging CF binocular, and a waterproof CF bin with an imaging capability as good as the Nikon SEs would seriously set the optics market on its ear. It might even turn around the silly idea that overly expensive roofers have to be better than porro designs, when the only thing roofers have as a real advantage is how easy it is to waterproof them.
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Old Wednesday 23rd December 2009, 12:49   #14
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ksbird/foxranch,

I think your reply indicates some confusion on the subject of color correction. Most of your questions are answered in "Telescope Optics" by Rutten and van Venrooij, particularly the sections in Chapter 21 that deal with designing refractor objectives.

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Old Wednesday 23rd December 2009, 18:02   #15
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Originally Posted by henry link View Post
ksbird/foxranch,

Thanks for confirming that there is no Fluorite element in these binoculars. The green laser test indicates only whether a lens is CaF2 crystal or glass of any type including fluor-crown glass. If the laser beam is visible as it passes through the lens it's glass, not Fluorite. The test can't distinguish one glass type from another.

Calling FK5 "Fluorite" is a particularly egregious misuse of the term. The characteristics of FK5 are very far from Fluorite. It doesn't really even qualify as a true ED glass. Its Abbe# is 70.4, not that different from plain vanilla BK7 (64.2). I had assumed these binoculars used some minimal ED type like FK52 (81.8) or its Chinese equivalent.

Henry
similar tactics was used by Celestron in their "fluorite" spotting scope to give unsuspected consumers the impression that the glasses use calcium fluorite crystal, whereas it does not even qualify as ED glass.

On the other hand, Kowa is very honest about the glasses they use. When I went to a birding show, one of the Kowa representatives was there. I asked him how well the 77mm Kowa fluorite spotting scope works. He corrected me that only 88mm version has fluorite crystal. The 77mm uses conventional ED glass only.
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Old Tuesday 29th December 2009, 16:50   #16
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...that he is able to design of a system of binocular lenses in the Malheur 10x32, such that the performance is obviously better (in my own head-to-head comparisons) than the 10x30 Diaphun from Zeiss (which got good reviews but at almost 3x the price)
I was an inexperienced binofan when I got to see those Zeiss small size models, might have been 8x30. They were dim and in no way worth even the low end Zeiss price.

Malheur, by the way, is a birding area in the middle of dry ranchland in Oregon. Never been there.
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Old Sunday 10th January 2010, 03:10   #17
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I exchanged emails with the owners of Kruger Optical, and they agreed that the Chinese marketing blab, using words like "Fluorite" and "APO" were beyond the pale, and not noticed by Kruger's chief optical engineer, who assumed all "Marketing BLAB, was filtered thru the "cynicism algorythm". But their only real option about a bin-in-production was to make a change in the packaging/marketing materials. So they don't say "Fluorite" when it should say "Fluorite FK5 glass", etc. This could cause them to consider the cost of being totally honest, vs the cost of continuing to sell a product that has marketing verbiage they know the market misunderstands.

For myself. I still want to say that the Kruger Optical, Malheur 10x32 is a very nice bin. It's half the size of the the Zeiss 10x30 Diaphun, and really useful as a very sharp tool. Okay, ... it's not an APO design although Mark Thomas wanted to make substantial CA corrections in the violet range. I have used this bin and been happy with it as-is, but perhaps the ad materials overstated the blab side of the equation. Using it is the true test, and it is a very nice bin (considering I dislike roofers because if the phase/color un-sharpness that would require an infinite number of phase coatings to correct for the infinite number of color un-sharpnesses that occur with roofers).

I'll see what others have to offer in this price range at CES. Maybe someone who has the Malheur 10x32 and others in this size/price range will comment too The Malheur 10x32 is very nice as roofer bins go. But I look forward to other Kruger design to see their next direction. If you can get the Malheur 10x32 for a reasonable price, it would be a good deal considering the flux in the marketplace.

Although the marketing materials were overstated, the proof is "in the pudding", and I continue to like the Malheur 10x32 in spite of the mis-statements that might have been printed by Kruger's Chinese suppliers. Something to keep in mind as we make China our normal, current, resource for bins.
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Old Sunday 10th January 2010, 03:54   #18
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So KO are outsourcing their marketing too

Hmmm, I find that a little hard to believe. I think this is more likely to be US marketing droids at KO who don't quite know what their talking about. The Chinese manufacturers will print what you want them to print on the box.
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Old Sunday 10th January 2010, 19:41   #19
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I'm not sure that the misleading labels in the Malheur 10x32 came about because the top people at Kruger don't know what they are talking about. Mark Thomas is an experienced optical engineer, with over a dozen optics patents to his name (you could contact Kruger to get patent numbers and/or dates of issuance). He also manages the business side too (although managing a company is all new to Mark and Kim Thomas). Now that Chinese companies are able to make any kind of optics products to spec, Mark can get his own designs turned into products he thinks he can sell.

Dan Callen (formerly of Bushnell) is the Sales and Marketing Manager. He is very busy on the road, visiting customers like Optics Planet. This tends to orphan the editing of company literature normally done by high-level marketing directors or product manager people. When I worked as a Marketing Director for a home audio company in the 70s I actually directed the engineering and manufacturing staff to design loudspeakers that would allow the marketing materials to look "honest and salable", at a certain price point. All the cost-benefit features were listed in terms of priority, so that, when needed, the quality features could be reudced to make the price point.

If the engineering staff made "really cool" products on their own, no one knew how to sell the item, or who was the target market, or how sales training would be done on the retail level. A good Marketing Director should be getting feedback from the retail distribution about what products are missing, or need upgrading, to sell to consumers who are either too confused to buy a company's product, or won't buy any of the company's products because the consumer's needs are not being met. Either way, the consumer walks out the door, or buys a competitor's product in the same store, even though the consumer walked in asking about "your-company's" product in the first place. There will always be "lost sales", but when the number of lost sales is high and you (as Marketing Director) find out why, you make product changes, or the company folds.

I'm sure Mark Thomas can design great optical products (although choosing what features to incorporate for a given price point may be a skill he is learning on the job). I am not saying this is the case for Mark Thomas, but many consumer product design engineers I've spoken too (and/or tried to direct to do certain jobs) think consumers are stupid, say that consumers are stupid, and feel explanations to consumers are impossible because of the previous 2 factors. So they say, "Why bother with huge explanations for the 6 truly knowledgeable consumers out of a million who will audition this product, read the literature. Just say the words the consumer is used to hearing" (and then hope the consumer liked the product when they heard it [this was for loudspeakers]). This often comes about because the design engineers have been scapegoated when a design requested by a salesman or large retailer bombs because "Joe Consumer" won't buy it, or it fails to kep working during the warranty period because the consumer was using it inappropriately.

Salesmen on the other hand are EXTREMELY price conscious. Retailers are constantly telling them that "if only the price could be shaved a little bit more", the sale would be made. Manufacturer's salesmen expect the retailer to know what and how that retailer's customer base will buy ie; that if the price was a bit lower, the retailer would sell allot of the items, because the Retailer would know how to push the consumer's buttons correctly. When engineers and salesmen drive the designs of consumer products, they want retailers to have the simplest possible "handles" to use when selling.

Getting back to the Malheur 10x32. The binocular works well. Mark Thomas made a design and when he tested it, it seemed to perform optically, the way he hoped it would. To meet the "sales terms" criteria, there was glass containing Calcium Fluorite in the design, so somewhere in the lens system there was some Fluorite. No point in confusing consumers more than needed. If the consumer wants Fluorite, then there is in fact, glass containing Fluorite in the Malheur 10x32 binocular. This would be the way a USA optics company's sales manager might think, but it's also the way a Chinese optics manufacturer (who wants to sell his product to the USA company) would also present things.

The experts on this forum have pointed out that the FK5 Fluorite glass used in the design wasn't an effective type of fluorite glass in the visible spectrum. So using this glass was unlikely to be a hugely important factor in the design (supposedly there to help reduce violet fringing). But I think the use of "currently H-O-T descriptive terms" in marketing materials is simply an attempt to be part of "a trend", especially if the product (the MAlheur 10x32) is optically excellent for the money. If salepeople in retail stores learn most of their sales presentation from what is printed on the box, or what is printed in a simple one page brochure, then keeping the language simple, and using trendy words is common.

Also, companies often copy each other's marketing successes (although I'm not claiming Kruger did this, 98% of all the companies I've looked at do it). If a certain product sells well, and the brochures are singled out by a retailer as a factor in these high sales, other companies will take a product apart, and then when they make their own version of this product, they will use the same language that was in the brochure for the successful product. I would suggest that there are a number of optical products on the market, that perform quite well for their price, incorporate FK5 glass and use brochures and packaging materials with words like "ED glass" or "Fluorite glass". Since "Fluorite glass" carries allot more weight with retailers/consumers now-a-days, that is the term the Malheur 10x32 should have used in its packaging materials.

One very reputable optics company I know of, used to say their design "used Fluorite and various types of glass" to produce the excellent results they achieved (it was an excellent product). Notice how the word "Fluorite" stands alone, not directly stating that it may be pure calcium fluoride being used, or perhaps only a type of glass with Fluorite added. This allows the consumer to supply the interpretation they want.

Kruger won't use the word "Fluorite" any more in their literature or marketing materials unless the lens used is pure calcium fluoride. It's quite easy now-a-days, to ask a Chinese supplier to incorporate Fluorite into a design and to supply a sample of their chosen lens material, so you can grind a few lenses with it. It's also quite easy to assume that consumers want the simplest possible descriptive terms to be presented to them, so they will try looking through a pair of binoculars based on what they've read about it. I don't find it as "egrigious" as others that Kruger wanted consumers to look through the Malheur 10x32 because it's a pretty good binocular, but Kruger may have used terms that other manufacturers (using FK5 glass) use when they describe their comparable products.

Kruger (Mark Thomas) believes that their 10x32 Malheur binocular works well for an item retailing at $219 (especially when compared to competitively priced roof prism binoculars), and I have to agree with that. What experience Kruger seems to lack, is how to convince the public that wants to look through a binocular, that their 10x32 is worth auditioning, without misleading people who buy products by mail-order relying on written specs and info.

Now Kruger can only change the marketing materials and packaging used with the Malheur series. Whatever the reason that a marketing mistake was made using verbiage that was inappropriate, the product still worked well. ALL the people at Kruger that I've communicated with (Mark and Kim Thomas and Dan Callen), feel that Mark Thomas is an excellent optical engineer, and they are all confident that he has produced some really excellent optical designs in the product mix they have now and he will be producing more excellent optical designs in future. They are trying to learn about the marketing/consumer aspects of selling consumer products as quickly as possible.
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Old Sunday 19th December 2010, 01:15   #20
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Since CameraLandNY has bought all the Kruger Columbia Malheurs and are selling the 10x32 Malheurs for $109.99 I am wondering if anyone has bought any of these since ksbird/foxranch reported on these about a year ago. Any updated reports ??

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread....hlight=malheur
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Old Sunday 19th December 2010, 14:16   #21
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It seems that the price reduction was already anticipated in Ksbird/foxranch article on the Malheurs..very accurately too...The Malheur Scope is selling for peanuts too..I think FrankD reviewed one of the scopes,and was not very impressed....
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Old Monday 20th December 2010, 15:09   #22
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8X42 looks very interesting, 20mm ER and 370 ft / 1000 yd

125mm... very small for 8x42.

new optical design ?

---------------

ksbird/foxranch, what can you say about distorsion and field curvature it this 10x32 ?

Last edited by mmx_4 : Monday 20th December 2010 at 21:51.
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