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Best mechanically built binoculars today ?

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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 09:57   #1
42za
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Best mechanically built binoculars today ?

Hello All,

I just thought that I would throw this out for discussion.

Which binoculars have the best , most robust MECHANICAL construction today , for the purposes of this question OPTICAL qualities must not be taken into account.

Here are my thoughts:-

NIKON - The WX series must surely lead the pack , but because of their very high price these should not be compared to the "ordinary" binoculars that are readily available , and should be in a class of their own.

SWAROVSKI - The best available today.

LEICA - Almost as good as Swarovski , but let down by their sloppy and flimsy feeling diopter and focusing mechanisms.

NIKON - Pretty good , but behind the previous two.

ZEISS - I cannot comment on these , never having owned any , but their extensive use of plastic does not inspire confidence for long term durability.

KOWA - good but uses too much plastic.

OTHERS - Don't know.

Ok now let the arguments begin

Cheers.
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 10:34   #2
Gijs van Ginkel
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42za, post 1,
Quite a few binoculars built during or around WW-2 would compete for the most robust mechanical construction.
To name some:
- The German U-boat binoculars
- Bausch and Lomb 6x30 and 7x50 military binoculars
But there are quite a few other ones that could be mentioned here.
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 10:51   #3
Gijs van Ginkel
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In addition to my post 2 I can also mention the Zeiss Nighthunters/Design Selection 7x45, 8x56 and 10x56.
Very heavy, but I have tortured one very much when I had to test it and it was amazingly strong and robust. Rather heavy though and not the most attractive with regard to user comfort.
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 11:18   #4
Mark9473
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The most robust that I'm aware of is the 7x40 that used to be made by Carl Zeiss, then Docter, now Noblex:
https://noblex-germany.com/index.php...-ga-binoculars
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 11:48   #5
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42za, unless we strip a few binos to the bone, we can only guess at the robustness and technical excellence of the internal mechanicals for example you make a comment about Leica focus and dioptre. Only a few years ago these pages were regularly the site of arguments concerning the poor performance of the focuser on many Swaro ELs, which thankfully they seem to have cured. The only use of plastics by Zeiss I can think of is for the eyecups and focus wheel (which hardly adds up to 'extensive') and there are differing views concerning the use of metal for eyecups, some people arguing that if a bino is dropped onto the eyecups it is better if they sacrificially break rather than transmit the shock to optical components in the way metal eyecups might.

If higher than average weight is an indicator that material cost corners have not been cut then this probably gives a vote to Meopta for their B1/B1.1 range and to Kowa for their Genesis 44s.

As for Kowa using too much plastic, the Genesis binos at least have metal focus wheels, which is quite rare, I think.

But today most folks want clever mechanical construction not just clunky heavy construction, so the pressure on brands is to keep weight down while providing reliable construction. This is probably not as easy as it sounds.

Lee
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 12:16   #6
temmie
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 42za View Post
Hello All,

I just thought that I would throw this out for discussion.

Which binoculars have the best , most robust MECHANICAL construction today , for the purposes of this question OPTICAL qualities must not be taken into account.

Here are my thoughts:-

NIKON - The WX series must surely lead the pack , but because of their very high price these should not be compared to the "ordinary" binoculars that are readily available , and should be in a class of their own.

SWAROVSKI - The best available today.

LEICA - Almost as good as Swarovski , but let down by their sloppy and flimsy feeling diopter and focusing mechanisms.

NIKON - Pretty good , but behind the previous two.

ZEISS - I cannot comment on these , never having owned any , but their extensive use of plastic does not inspire confidence for long term durability.

KOWA - good but uses too much plastic.

OTHERS - Don't know.

Ok now let the arguments begin

Cheers.
some thoughts:
NIKON: wouldn't the WX be quite vulnerable when dropping because of the enormous weight (and thus more heavy impact touching the ground)?
Wouldn't it have a higher chance being damaged when falling?

SWAROVSKI: Why would the swarovski be top of the bill at the moment? I consider the Swarovision and Noctivid, of the current alpha open bridge designs, to be more vulnerable because of the one-sided attachment of the focus wheel, compared to the 2-sided attachment of e.g. the Zeiss Victory SF.

LEICA: The trinovid (former) is build like a tank. No parts sticking out, heavy, robust, and I know of someone having dropped them to have survived unscathed.

ZEISS: the plastic parts sticking out (like the eyecups or focusser on the previous Victory line) is a weak point. The plastic reinforced body is actually a good thing for me. This discussion has been going on for ages, but that plastic reinforced body is actually stronger than metal, and is part of the current desire of many to get one of those previous generation victories! The quality of attachment of the rubber armour is actually the weakest point in building quality for me (like the Leica ultravid series, and actually also, but probably less, the Swarovski EL / Swarovision suffers from this)

Some NIKON (e.g. monarch) have, IMHO, very good build quality, and one you didn't mention: MEOPTA (e.g. the Meostar).
Some of the cheaper brands are build as good or better than the top priced brands, and cheaper models of the big brands. Just look at this test of a Zeiss Conquest...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qri4RuT7Bk&t=411s
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 12:23   #7
jring
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Hi,

I agree on the CZF EDF aka Doctor/Noblex 7x40.

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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 13:06   #8
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Swarovski is the only brand that I have ever seen (three times) with broken strap lugs.
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 13:53   #9
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We had probably 150 hunters in various camps over a 15 yr period (done with that now). I've seen most every brand, and the majority of models out there up until about 3 years ago, and have owned lots of glass. The two toughest binos that I've ever personally seen, owned, or used are the older Leica Trinovid BA/BN, and the current Meopta Meostar HD. While I love Swaro binocs, my EL's have experienced Swaro's outstanding customer service twice in the past 6 years.
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 14:31   #10
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Robustness and mechanical quality are not quite the same. If one were after ultimate robustness - which I can easily imagine would be the main criterion in the harsh African environment - the choice might well be a military specification device like the Hensoldt 8x30 or the well known East German 7x40 EDF (roof)/DF (porro) or one of its derivatives. I gather Fujinon also offer military specification models which might offer better optical performance.

The top tier binoculars I've handled all seem pretty good to excellent in terms of fit, finish and fineness - I'm sure they would stand up to more abuse than I would ever put them though. I think the Swarovskis feel the closest (this is totally subjective) to the great old classics like the Dialyt 7x42 and 10x40, and Leitz's 10x40 Trinovid, which I had the opportunity to try last weekend and really liked. Meostars I thought also felt very confidence inspiring.

Last but not least - I find the classic porros of the 1960s (Zeiss West etc) beautifully made and a delight to use but would not subject them to hard field use.
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 14:39   #11
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I'd give a shout out to the Fujinon FMTR-SX binoculars 7x50, 10x50, or 8x30. The physical build quality of these is formidable - optically very good too. I also have a pair of Glory (Katsuma) 8x30 IF military binos which are superbly put together, even if not the finest optically - great central sharpness, but rather a curved (though wide) field of view.
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 14:47   #12
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As for mechanics and build quality I would say it's not an issue when choosing between the current alpha models. Also Zeiss SF, with the brand new eye cups, should now be up there as well (from what I've read here).

The SF focus wheel is already as good or better than any competition and the armor and build feels very solid as well. Leica Noctivid and Swaro EL are hard to fault when it comes to build quality and feel. Don't have any complaints what so ever on those in the mechanics and build quality areas.

The only minor complaint would be the diopter settings on the SF and Noctivid. Swaro have a slight edge there I think if being picky about it.
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 15:07   #13
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https://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=276193
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 15:30   #14
Foss
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The Steiners I've owned had rugged construction. IIRC there was a YouTube video showing a guy running over a pair of 7x50s with his truck tire, and they supposedly still worked. YMMV
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 15:49   #15
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Take a look at the allbinos test below. Your question is sort of general, While in the desert overseas, I used a Hensoldt 8X30 DF 12, which I have two of, and a NVA DF porro 7X40. Docter also makes a 7X40, or is it Noblex now? which is a very good glass and probably less prone to have problems than the DF porro, less weight. Being IF helped limit particulate migration, but it still occurred. Being heavy they also had their drawbacks, the NVA went out of collimation, so it all depends what you are doing with the glass. The only civilian glass I saw there were Meopta meostars, Czech troops had some, I would think they are pretty tough.

People want lightweight instruments today, so there is a limit on materials that can be used with out elevated cost.

Perhaps the question is who has the best quality assurance/quality control, most of the big names we all know who they are, including Meopta and a couple of others do well, but many coming out of the east are severely lacking in that department.

https://www.allbinos.com/18.1-binocu...inoculars.html

Andy W.
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 17:34   #16
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Meopta's were designed for the Czech military initially. They are rock solid.
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 19:34   #17
Gijs van Ginkel
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The Swarovski SLC's are very strong and can withstand quite a bit of torture.
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 20:36   #18
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It‘s interesting how different people have different experiences with their instruments.

But first, let‘s agree that what APPEARS rock solid sometimes isn‘t, so only real life experience tells you whether or not a binocular that appears rocksolid in your hand (because of weight, armour etc.) really withstands the roughest climatic and handling challenges.

I have been dropping a few binoculars in my life (no, not what you think, these were all accidents ), and some got knocked against all sorts of obstacles. In addition, when I was younger, I have taken a few binoculars with me to my military service exercises where I was usually wearing them around my neck in all sorts of conditions where they got bumped and knocked around, which wasn‘t always good for their external beauty.

Even very well armoured binoculars may have a weak spot: the central focus wheel, especially if it is not armoured, which is often the case. A strong blow directly against the wheel may make it (or at least the central diopter adjustment, if any) unusable, even if collimation is still intact, and individual focusing binos have a clear advantage here in my view. The focus wheel might also be the most delicate spot of the Meopta MeoStar instruments, which otherwise are indeed very solid in my experience.

In central focus porro binoculars, the bridge may often be the weakest part.

One binocular which I thought was slim, delicate and elegant, but probably not very sturdy, was the famous Leitz Trinovid 10x40, which was the one I used most frequently when at the army. However, this one never let me down and just kept adding serious bruises and dents, with no impairment of the optical and mechanical performance (as it wasn‘t fully waterproof, I once had to have it serviced by Leica, but it is now fully operational again, bruises and dents included).

A seemingly robust binocular with substantial rubber armour like the Steiner Commander 7x50, on the other hand, had its collimation knocked out after a 50cm fall (I had it repaired and still use it a lot).

Binoculars built to military (army, marine etc.) standards are usually designed to tolerate rough treatment better than binoculars for general use, but that does not necessarily mean they will always be more failsafe.

I believe that under extreme circumstances, the most /sturdy and robust binoculars in my collection, which are currently still being produced, are:

- Docter/Noblex 7x40 B/GA (the successor to the famous CZJ 7x40 EDF)
- ZRAK RD-7x40 (a clone of the CZJ 7x40 NVA)

both with individual focus. I would not hesitate to take both to the Arctic Sea, the Sahara or to the Amazonas jungle for extended periods.

However, see the different experience reported by Andy W. (post # 15 above)!!!

Among larger binos, the Fujinon FMT-SX2 (7x50, 10x50), which has been in use in harsh environments for many years, is probably also sturdier than average (it also has individual focus).

fwiw Canip
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 23:14   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Canip View Post
I believe that under extreme circumstances, the most /sturdy and robust binoculars in my collection, which are currently still being produced, are:

- Docter/Noblex 7x40 B/GA (the successor to the famous CZJ 7x40 EDF)
- ZRAK RD-7x40 (a clone of the CZJ 7x40 NVA)

both with individual focus. I would not hesitate to take both to the Arctic Sea, the Sahara or to the Amazonas jungle for extended periods.

However, see the different experience reported by Andy W. (post # 15 above)!!!
Hi,

there are some test procedures on the internet (in german) through which each example of the CZJ EDF had to go after depot maintenance. Here's an english translation...

http://www.eyry.eu/miltec/index.php?...id=184&lang=en

120g acceleration is literally driving nails into the wall.

Post #15 btw. mentions that a CZF 7x40 DF (the predecessor of the EDF) went out of collimation.

Joachim
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Old Tuesday 27th August 2019, 00:03   #20
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Old Tuesday 27th August 2019, 01:19   #21
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Hi Foss (post #14),

The Porro Steiners are an interesting case. In the higher grades they are at least optically adequate if not outstanding
However, in all grades they seem to have a common failing:
- they’re reasonably robust until they’re not
- and once not, often nothing can be done
There are a number of threads on this forum about such failures, including extensive first hand experience by Bill Cook

In terms of shock absorption, the largest mass glass components in binoculars are the prisms
And the choice for manufacturers is whether to:
- rigidly mount the prisms, and risk them chipping or cracking under transferred impact, or
- use a mount that allows some give

The traditional approach with Porros is to use a seat that gives rigid support on 5 sides but allows some give along the optical axis by the use of a spring retaining clip
see both the image of a Leitz Binuxit showing a slot in clip (from Tobias Mennle: http://www.greatestbinoculars.com/al...t/binuxit.html )
and that of Swarovski’s use of a clip with a retaining screw on one end


The Steiner design dates from the mid 1960’s, and was meant to be a lower cost alternative to traditional military binoculars by using innovative technology, combining:
- a rubber covered, polycarbonate (‘makrolon’) housing
- along with glued in place components, including the prisms

The problem with the Steiners is that the glue holds until it shears i.e. an all or nothing response - verses elastic give

The 8x30 version was adopted by the West German military as the Fero-D12, and used from around 1966 to 1972
However, it proved inadequate in service, which while including various routine duties and training activities - notably did not include the extremes of sustained war fighting
(and in Holger Merlitz’s comparative review of the D-12 and it’s contemporaries, it performs the weakest optically: http://www.holgermerlitz.de/zeiss8x30.html )

In contrast, I seem to remember (correctly?) Henry Link recounting that he once dropped a Swarovski Porro 10x40 from a short height onto carpet, causing one of the prisms to unseat
While in one sense an obvious failure, it was easily fixed when serviced


In recent catalogues Steiner refers to a ‘Floating Prism System’, see the attached screen grab. It seems to imply silicon padding (or perhaps just a more flexible silicon glue?) in the prism mount *
However, whether this significantly addresses the fundamental problem is unclear

Steiner Porros are widely used by armed forces e.g. the 2014 purchase of 15,000 units by the British: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/n...e-more-clearly
However, modern military’s seem to increasingly treat binoculars as consumables, rather than gear to be maintained by skilled service technicians
In such circumstances the Steiner’s real strength in military use would be the unit price advantage


John


* there is a cross-section of a Steiner Military-Marine 7x50, however the mount details are unclear
Attached Thumbnails
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Last edited by John A Roberts : Tuesday 27th August 2019 at 04:17.
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Old Tuesday 27th August 2019, 02:17   #22
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"However, modern military’s seem to increasingly treat binoculars as consumables, rather than gear to be maintained by skilled service technicians"

This seems like a parallel to the majority of mid/low-priced glass today.

Andy W.
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Old Tuesday 27th August 2019, 06:27   #23
Canip
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Originally Posted by jring View Post
....
.....
....

Post #15 btw. mentions that a CZF 7x40 DF (the predecessor of the EDF) went out of collimation.

.....
Hi Joachim,

The EDF („Einheits-Doppel-Fernrohr“) was the roof prism model, succeeded by the Docter B/GA.

The DF design (porro) on the other hand was licensed to ZRAK in Sarajewo who made lots of them under the designation RD-7x40 for the Yugoslav army and the Warsaw Pact troops and still makes them today (I just got a civil version recently).

Both the EDF and the DF were „NVA“ (Nationale Volks-Armee“) binoculars.
Canip

Last edited by Canip : Tuesday 27th August 2019 at 06:31.
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Old Tuesday 27th August 2019, 07:28   #24
jring
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Hi Joachim,

The EDF („Einheits-Doppel-Fernrohr“) was the roof prism model, succeeded by the Docter B/GA.

The DF design (porro) on the other hand was licensed to ZRAK in Sarajewo who made lots of them under the designation RD-7x40 for the Yugoslav army and the Warsaw Pact troops and still makes them today (I just got a civil version recently).

Both the EDF and the DF were „NVA“ (Nationale Volks-Armee“) binoculars.
Canip
Hi Canip,

indeed - but the torture test was specified for the EDF. Not sure if the DF as a porro model would be up to it.

Joachim
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Old Tuesday 27th August 2019, 12:31   #25
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The original post says what are the best built binoculars mechanically today, so the older ones might not count.

But the Minolta Mariner? 10x40 black seems very strong. One piece body.
But it is terribly dim, not phase coated and has optical windows.

Low priced 10x25 and 8x21 roof prism binoculars seem strangely robust.
I think small light weight binoculars seem to cope well.
My old Docter 10x25 looks worn out but is still fine.

I have seen many well used military binoculars in charity shops that still work well, but need cleaning.

Not a binocular, but old Broadhurst Clarkson drawtube scopes, ex army, always seem to be fine after perhaps 100 years. Just full of dust. The drawtubes are smooth and glass intact.

Some military photographic lenses are very tough.

To me the British army Steiner binocular purchase makes sense. There is probably a limited time warranty where replacement binoculars are given free. After that replacements are paid for.

B.
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