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Old Thursday 17th May 2012, 05:30   #1
John Dracon
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Bushnell Rangemaster 7x35 comparisons

FanTao's website mentions the Bushnell Rangemaster 7x35 binocular. He lists at least five (5) variations of this wide angle piece, which some folks consider the finest binocular of this kind ever crafted. Currently, I have three variations in my collection: (1) the FPO (IF) made in the late 1950s, featuring ultraviolet filters with high index prisms and a 10 degree FOV with 14 MM of ER (2) the FPO later silver trim version (CF) with 10 degree FOV featuring standard coatings with 14 MM of ER, (3) and the Tamron "Custom" (CF) style made in the late 1960s with high index prisms and a 11 degree FOV and 12-13 MM of ER, also featuring ultraviolet filters.

Each of these pieces has what I call their own idiosyncracies. With the growing interest of some Bird Forum users in wide field binoculars, I thought I would give my assessments of some of the features which make these binoculars truly unique.

Unlike the inexpensive wide angle binoculars so prevalent in the past, these models are anything but inexpensive in terms of construction and optics. I believe that the Japanese Bushnell Rangemaster is the finest example of wide angle binoculars ever produced, rivaling those Zeiss icons, the 15x60 B and the 8x30B. That these are 50-60 years old, and yet still completely functional, speaks to their superior construction, which could be characterized as robust.

The oculars measure 15/16 " across or 23.81 MM. What we call the "sweet spot" is huge, estimated to be at least 70% of the field. And while the edges are "soft", things are still recognizable. The FPO, or Fuji designed binoculars
claim a FOV of 525' at 1,000 yards; the Tamrons claim a FOV of 578'. Those extra feet are less distinct.

One thing distinguishes these three models. The three dimensional effect is very pronounced, much more than in today's alpha porros. Interestingly, the FPO preceding the silver ring model, has ultraviolet filters. The silver ring model does not. Yet the later model, the Tamron, restores the ultraviolet filters. Why? Anyone's guess.

All three models are a handful, with the Tamron weighing in at 38 oz. I have extra large hands so the heft helps steady the view. One would need a very wide neck strap to have any comfort carrying these all day long.

All models have baffles behind the objective lens. It is the eye cups where significant differences exist, at least for me since I am a dedicated eye glass wearer and the 14 MM of ER is not adequate. I habitually remove the eye cups of models like this.

The FPO eye cup once removed (unscrewed) reveals a problem. The adjustment ring for the right ocular (or both if the model is IF) is no longer secured because is sits on a nub with serrations milled into the bottom portion. One must use the old rubber band or O ring on top to keep things together.

The silver ring FPO does not present this problem. Once the eye cup is removed, there is a metal ring which screws down and keeps everything together. The 3M sticky back rings can be pressed around the ocular glass on a flat surface, and the full view with eye glasses on can be gained.

The Tamron eyecup removal creates another problem - how to keep the metal edge from etching the eye glasses. Left in it gives the eyeglass wearer perhaps 75% of the view.

I estimate that close focus in the three models is about 12-15 feet. Not great but still useful.

I concur with FanTao's preference - the second generation FPOm but only because the untraviolet filters produce a warmer image, which I personally prefer. All three models possess superb optics. Compared to the alphas of today, they are very competitive and where portability is not an issue, very useful.

One last feature, the cases. The FPO comes with a so-so leather case. The silver ring FPO comes with the best binocular case I have ever seen. It is beautifully crafted of highly polished split leather. All leather straps are of the highest quality. The Tamron Custom is in the characteristic artificial leather case which houses all the Custom line. It is functional and protective.

If you have the opportunity to purchase one of these Rangemasters in good condition, I strongly recommend you do so.

John
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Old Thursday 17th May 2012, 14:42   #2
steve@37n84w
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Thanks for the run down on the various Rangemasters. I'm a big fan of high quality vintage porros but have yet to acquire any of the Rangemaster series. Thanks to your post I've now got a better idea of which variation would suit my needs.

The optical quality of many of the vintage Japanese porros is simply amazing. I've got three alpha roofs, over ten premium porros of recent/current production; however, the sharpest binocular I own is a Nikon 9x35 7.3* J Pat. Some of the vintage Canon porros are very sharp also but Nikon was a step ahead in the quality of their coatings giving them the better overall image.

Thanks again for the Rangemaster specs, they will be helpful when I'm surfing the "bay". I'm particularly interested in the IF version of the Rangemaster as I don't consider IF a liability in a wide angle binocular, especially considering the ruggedness of a well made IF porro.

Steve
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Old Thursday 17th May 2012, 15:46   #3
John Dracon
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Steve - when I purchased my FPO Rangemaster years ago, it was IF. Like you, I find IF not a problem. Actually, in some of these older IF models, I find less "debris" inside them, and the collimation is usually spot on. Unfortunately, the FPO had fungus growing in the right ocular. In disasembling the eye piece, I managed to fracture the top lens, and the piece is now a monocular. But I have to say that the view is comparable to the 8x32 SE without sharp edges. The extra wide field is beguiling. There is a Rangemaster on EBay now. Good luck in your search.
John
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Old Thursday 17th May 2012, 16:01   #4
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John,

I would like to thank you as well for chiming in on this model and its variations. Like Steve I have yet to own one despite owning countless other vintage EWA porros. I did briefly own a model that is reportedly similar to one of the variations of the Rangemaster...the Jason Venture 4000. It had a 12 degree field of view and Bak-4 prisms. Not multicoated but in every other way I thought it was entirely comparable with modern porros. Excellent apparent sharpness, very good apparent brightness and a very wide sweet spot.

I ended up selling them despite all of these benefits. Why? Well, the eyecup design was not of the style where you could readily remove part of it to obtain more eye relief. So, I was left only seeing about 2/3rds the field of view. That is one issue I simply cannot tolerate so off they went. Still, an excellent binocular.

Out of the vintage EWA porros that I still have in my selection I tend to prefer using the Sears Discoverer 7x50 (block body style). I removed the eyecups completely and can now see the full 10 degree field of view. It is a superb image. The field of view is wide compared to anything today. The apparent sharpness is as good as anything I have gotten my hands on plus the sweet spot is wide as well. I would call the apparent brightness as good as or better than any of the other vintage porros I have owned thanks to the huge 50 mm objectives. The lack of multicoatings on the lenses does give the image lower contrast levels than comparable current models but other than that I have no complaints.

I just love looking through those.
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Old Friday 18th May 2012, 03:45   #5
John Dracon
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Steve & Frank - I decided to measure the lens in the FPO eyepiece that is no longer functional. It of course is of the Erfle design with one doublet and three other lens air spaced by metal cups. Interestingly, the diameters vary thus: 25 mm; 29.5 mm; 30 mm (the doublet); and 28 mm. The Japanese were capable of matching anything the German could produce after WW2, as long as they were porros. Obviously, the European makers couldn't compete in the porro market and concentrated on the roof designs, with the Japanese catching up slowly in the roof market. Fuji and Nikon still dominate in their porros.

As I have said before, superior coatings have improved many models, but the inherent advantages of the older porros such as the Bushnell Rangemaster will subbornly remain as real classics.

John
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Old Friday 18th May 2012, 13:48   #6
steve@37n84w
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I've got the Rangemaster currently listed on ebay on my watch list. I'll probably end up getting it, I've always found it hard to resist a nice porro.

Steve
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Old Sunday 20th May 2012, 07:25   #7
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There is also one for sale on the Goodwill site.
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Old Thursday 31st July 2014, 06:08   #8
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This Rangemaster completed its auction a few hours ago. It's a rare version, but I was still shocked at the $1,571 winning bid. I guess somebody out there really loves his Rangemasters!

http://www.ebay.com/itm/BUSHNELL-Ran...item233df25a72
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Old Thursday 31st July 2014, 11:57   #9
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I was amazed too! Of course, to reach that price two bidders must really like their Rangemasters, especially as that Rangemaster needs its objectives re-cemented - an operation not without hazard.

I am yet to find a finer wide angle glass then the Rangemaster but I've not tried a SARD Mk43.

Graham
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Old Sunday 19th February 2017, 08:15   #10
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They come up for a lot less now, just picked up an nice Tamron, really spoils you with the field of view, my other bins are like looking down a dark tunnel now!! The case and straps however are not in great shape, any suggestions on replacements... It's not a "normal" size!

Cheers

PEterW
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