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Vintage Swift Saratoga MkI 8X40 Binocular

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Old Tuesday 22nd May 2018, 19:02   #1
JerryK
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Vintage Swift Saratoga MkI 8X40 Binocular

This is my first post, though I've lurked around on and off- I inherited a pair of Swift Saratoga MkI 8X40 Binoculars from my father-in-law. They're in quite good condition; very good I'd say. It's other markings are: J B56, Serial # 753441, and says on body, "Fully Coated", & 488ft at 100yds. It comes with a nearly pristine black leather hard case.

I'm assuming they were made in late 50s or 60s. I've compared them with my Eagle Optics Ranger ED 10X42. The Rangers are quite a bit brighter to my eye, but the eyepieces of the Swift seem to be hand polished to a higher degree because sometimes I can get what I call faint central circle in the eyepiece of the Ranger HD. I assume that's because it's machine ground? The eyepiece of my (Japanese Made) Celestron Ultima 7X50 is similar in being largely free of that faint central 'ring'.

I can see they've got a BAK 7 prism by the faint rectangle appearing in the eyepiece as seen in the photos.

Overall, the Swift's are surprisingly good!
Jerry
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Old Tuesday 22nd May 2018, 21:44   #2
Binastro
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Hi Jerry,
Maybe 1975.
It does seem to have a squared off exit pupil.
Claimed field is 9.3 degrees, but it would need to be measured.

Your self portrait in the eyepiece is reasonably good.
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Old Wednesday 23rd May 2018, 04:17   #3
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Hi Jerry,

Welcome to Birdforum (the talking part ).

Your binoculars were indeed made in 1975 as indicated by the first two digits of the serial number.

I've attached a picture of your Model 801 from Swift's 1975 catalog, where you can see that it's one of four Mark I "Wide Angle" offerings. At that time the MSRP was $106.95 compared to the Model 804 Audubon's price of $149.95. Mechanically it's built every bit as well as the Audubon, and I think it's the best of the Mark I's for typical birding applications.

Enjoy it.

Ed
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Old Thursday 24th May 2018, 14:02   #4
JerryK
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You both are very kind to respond! I didn't realize the Mark I was produced at such a late date; I thought the Mark II was made in the 70s. Your information have enlightened me greatly! I should've mentioned the focus wheel is stiff and pivots are also stiff. My wife and I starting getting into birding and using compact bushnell and nikons. My father-in-law must have purchased it for a concert or Canadian fair or maybe plays at Stratford, Ontario. They would meet with friends in Canada, especially at the time. Yes, it seems substantially built. It's heavy in the hand. I shall print out the catalog attachment and include that with the binoculars, thank you! I haven't used it yet, I'll have to take it for a birding outing.
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Old Thursday 24th May 2018, 15:05   #5
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I should send a photo of the complete binocular kit; The case with the Made in Japan and Inspection stickers still looking pristine, binoculars, user pamphlet. Oh, and here's a view through the 40mm objective. Perhaps it's useful knowing how much it cost; I assume it might be worth the same amount. I was thinking of putting it up for sale as we have at least other 5 binoculars (as seen in the photo-might be another one somewhere), some with the more modern coatings and ED glass. Will have to take it out in the field though.

Thank you again for your knowledgable replies!

Jerry

Eagle Optics Ranger ED 10 X 42
Burgess Optical 10 X 42
Celestron Ultima 7 X 50
Nikon compact 10X 25
Bushnell compact 8 X 25
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Old Thursday 24th May 2018, 19:21   #6
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Yes, I'm certain it's got the Bak 7 prisms. Didn't see the self portrait; hope my crossed eyes didn't show up well though!
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Old Thursday 24th May 2018, 21:38   #7
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Mark I, II, III, and IV constituted a strange category system for Swift Instruments. Basically, Mark II products were the best of the Porro-prism models, and Mark I was somewhat lower quality and cost for example, using Bk-7 prisms. Still, the Mark 1 models were perfectly good instruments. At this point, your 801 probably needs a good cleaning and tune-up, as would most vintage instruments.

Ed
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Old Thursday 24th May 2018, 21:42   #8
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Bottom photo left eyepiece, Post 1.
If it had multicoating I don't think the reflection would be so visible.
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Old Friday 25th May 2018, 22:32   #9
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Elkcub and others have much more knowledge of Swift products than I do, but a well executed wide field 8x40 is still a very useful device for birding, especially if you don't use glasses/spectacles with your binoculars. The lower light transmission will be less of an issue in sunny conditions, and a wide field of view can be a real advantage in quite a few situations. It should be a very useful complement to your 10x42; more so (for birding anyway) than a compact 8x25, or a 7x50.

I have to say the build quality of the Swift binoculars from that era I've seen has impressed me, and cases of that type are not really made today. It probably would benefit from a clean-up and especially regreasing/relubrication, but the 7x35 I have is so clean internally I've found myself keeping hold of it.
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Old Thursday 31st May 2018, 15:58   #10
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I'm very grateful for your expert information. I checked the interior for mold, but it seems clear to me. I gave the lenses a cleaning. I wonder at the moniker, "Fully Coated". I figure that means both sides of optics are coated? Our modern binos say, "Fully Multi-coated". In any case, my wife and I went birding over the weekend with the Saratoga MkI. We compared it with our modern glass.Our conclusion is the modern optics we have are superior; brighter, sharper around the edges, less CA in general. Our binoculars also have much better close focus that we enjoy for wildflowers and butterflies. With our glasses on, there appears a light grayish halo in the Saratoga FOV; taking out glasses off with eyes nearer the EPs, it disappears. I assume that is some stray light that in a better pair would be baffled or otherwise eliminated. We both concluded, while an adequate pair for general use they are going for sale in the our father's estate sale. Now if I come across a Swift Sea Wolf....
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Old Thursday 31st May 2018, 16:09   #11
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Oh forgot to mention the mechanicals. The hinges are some what stiff like a i might expect new pair of binoculars may be. Focus wheel nice and smooth. Felt fairly balanced in the hand, albeit heavy like a brass bodied thing. Heavier than my 7X50. We both have become spoiled however at how our lighter, more compact roof prism styles. Much better to carry and handle IOHO compared to the Swift.
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Old Thursday 13th September 2018, 03:17   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JerryK View Post
Yes, I'm certain it's got the Bak 7 prisms. Didn't see the self portrait; hope my crossed eyes didn't show up well though!
Bk7 or BaK4; not Bak7. In the BaK types, Schott goes directly from BaK6 to BaK50, with nothing between. Many folks new to optics see only one or two kinds of "optical glass." Currently, Schott produces 120 kinds. Then, there is Ohara, Hoya, Lytkarino, and others. And unlike what so many people say, BaK4 IS NOT a better glass. It's just different and is used for a different purpose.

Cheers,

Bill
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Last edited by WJC : Thursday 13th September 2018 at 22:09.
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Old Sunday 16th September 2018, 07:42   #13
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Nice to see this bino, it was Troubadoris's first bino back in the early-mid 1970s. Not waterproof, which was something we didn't understand so they (and my Audubons) regularly fogged up due to us trekking over the moors and coasts of Yorkshire in the rain.

Lee
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