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What was Opticron thinking?

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Old Tuesday 21st November 2017, 17:03   #1
Upland
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What was Opticron thinking?

I recently purchased a pair of Traveller ED 8x32 as I've been looking for a nice pair of mid sized binoculars and these have had good reviews. When I received them I noticed the optics were great. Nice big sweet spot, sharp, bright and very little CA. Unfortunately the rest of the binocular seemed to scream Made in China, where they are assembled of Japanese components. The first things I noticed was the hinge was very loose, the eyecups had play in them when extended and the focus wheel was quite stiff. I was also very disappointed in the finish. There is no texture on the barrels for grip in wet weather, and a very visible raised seam on the outside of the barrels that makes them look like a $50 pair rather than $429. In comparison my Cabela's Guide 8x32s, which are made in Japan, have a very nice finish with a barely noticeable seam on the inside of the barrels. They also have a tight hinge, secure eyecups, a smooth focusing knob and locking diopter. So even though the Travellers had great Optics I returned them.

A couple weeks later when they went on sale for a great price I decided to try them again since I have heard that binoculars made in China can have great differences in build quality within the same model. When the new pair came the hinge was tighter, eyecups more stable and the focusing much smoother. I was very happy that I had ordered a new pair until I tried to adjust the diopter and it did not change the focus in the right barrel at all! So back they went.

My purpose here is not to slam Opticron but I can't figure out why they switched the production of their upper tier mid sized model to China. No doubt to keep costs down but I would have gladly paid an extra $100 for a pair made in Japan with better build quality and an attractive, practical finish like my Cabela's. If Cabela's can have theirs made for a retail price of $249 and sell them for much less I have to think Opticron could charge a little more and keep their production in Japan. It's a shame because the optics in the Traveller are superb. I have been hesitant to post this since I know Opticron is a quality company but sending an email to customer service , even at good companies, usually results in a nice reply such as: Thank you for letting us know your concerns and we are sorry to hear that you were disappointed in our product. We will forward on your email to the appropriate department. Slam me if you will for posting this but my hope is that someone with pull at Opticron will see it and maybe change will result. I also know that many others have had a much more favorable experience with these and I'm very happy that theirs are working out.
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Old Tuesday 21st November 2017, 18:57   #2
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I'm quite sure there very good economic reasons for Opticron, Vortex and probably others to move some or all of the manufacturing and/or assembly for certain models from Japan to China. Providing there is no compromise in materials and QC there is no fundamental reason why there would be any drop in quality as a consequence. I suppose it's early days, and I guess there might have been some teething problems. I've passed on some comments to Pete myself about the Traveller ED and other models. I hope they take note.

David

Last edited by typo : Tuesday 21st November 2017 at 19:00.
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Old Tuesday 21st November 2017, 20:53   #3
Upland
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Yes I mentioned it was surely for economic reasons in my post. I would think if production is switching to China the companies putting there name on the binoculars would want to have a quality control employee checking to make sure the products coming out of the factory were to their standards. I have handled many Chinese binoculars and most have had either build or optics shortcomings. I do believe that Chinese products can be built well though. The GPO binos I tried were of great quality and retailed for $359. I'd bet they have someone checking each pair before they're sold.

I suppose one of the reasons we may be seeing so much production moving to China is that the Japanese manufacturers themselves are moving their assembly operations to China. In this case a brand like Opticron would no longer be able to have their products made in Japan. However if this is the case that would be all the more reason to keep a careful eye on what is being sold to consumers especially with new models.
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Old Tuesday 21st November 2017, 22:22   #4
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Originally Posted by Upland View Post
I recently purchased a pair of Traveller ED 8x32 as I've been looking for a nice pair of mid sized binoculars and these have had good reviews. When I received them I noticed the optics were great. Nice big sweet spot, sharp, bright and very little CA. Unfortunately the rest of the binocular seemed to scream Made in China, where they are assembled of Japanese components. The first things I noticed was the hinge was very loose, the eyecups had play in them when extended and the focus wheel was quite stiff. I was also very disappointed in the finish. There is no texture on the barrels for grip in wet weather, and a very visible raised seam on the outside of the barrels that makes them look like a $50 pair rather than $429. In comparison my Cabela's Guide 8x32s, which are made in Japan, have a very nice finish with a barely noticeable seam on the inside of the barrels. They also have a tight hinge, secure eyecups, a smooth focusing knob and locking diopter. So even though the Travellers had great Optics I returned them.

A couple weeks later when they went on sale for a great price I decided to try them again since I have heard that binoculars made in China can have great differences in build quality within the same model. When the new pair came the hinge was tighter, eyecups more stable and the focusing much smoother. I was very happy that I had ordered a new pair until I tried to adjust the diopter and it did not change the focus in the right barrel at all! So back they went.

My purpose here is not to slam Opticron but I can't figure out why they switched the production of their upper tier mid sized model to China. No doubt to keep costs down but I would have gladly paid an extra $100 for a pair made in Japan with better build quality and an attractive, practical finish like my Cabela's. If Cabela's can have theirs made for a retail price of $249 and sell them for much less I have to think Opticron could charge a little more and keep their production in Japan. It's a shame because the optics in the Traveller are superb. I have been hesitant to post this since I know Opticron is a quality company but sending an email to customer service , even at good companies, usually results in a nice reply such as: Thank you for letting us know your concerns and we are sorry to hear that you were disappointed in our product. We will forward on your email to the appropriate department. Slam me if you will for posting this but my hope is that someone with pull at Opticron will see it and maybe change will result. I also know that many others have had a much more favorable experience with these and I'm very happy that theirs are working out.
Most companies place a high priority on staying in business, and loosening QC can be a part of that. When the original TASCO was going under, I bought their Fujinon U.B.M.M. collimator. The collimation standards had been loosened by about 25%. Most of the binos being reviewed, cheered, compared, tested, contrasted, etc. these days are from companies with a relatively short track record. Many were unheard of just 9 years ago, when I left the business—except regionally. Like Typo, I don’t think you should be too harsh on Opticron and throw the baby out with the wash. Complain? Yes. Send inferior products back? Yes. But remember, graduates from the Eloe E. P. Marshbanger school of semi-realistic optical talkery often have many more words than they have experience and try hard to convince folks that for an unreasonably low price you can own a Zeiss killer.

There was a time when “made in Japan” was a code for garbage. Many of us have lived through that and have seen them (thank you, Mr. Deming) become a powerhouse of precision ... if you have the money and will shake loose of some of it. The same is true with China. If you have the money, they have the product.

Today, we continue to see questions about the BEST _____ BINOCULAR, when in any size, weight, magnification, or performance (within the realm any mortal can see), there might be 3 dozen or more on the market.

We seek simple answers to complicated questions, when most of the problems encountered can be solved by simply digging a little deeper into the pocket.

Just a thought,

Bill
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Last edited by WJC : Tuesday 21st November 2017 at 23:21.
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Old Wednesday 22nd November 2017, 03:00   #5
Upland
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Well if simply digging deeper into the pocket was the only way to go then all well and good. However my Cabela's Guide 8x32s cost a fraction of the cost of the Opticrons and are of much better quality. I used to believe you get what you pay for and that is often the case. Not so in this case. I think some companies simply believe that their customers will pay for a name and rest on their laurels. I'm happy to keep my money in my pocket and wait for a product that truly deserves spending it.
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Old Wednesday 22nd November 2017, 06:09   #6
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I should point out that Opticron has been around since 1970, but only ventured into the US fairly recently.

A couple more things to consider. Two companies have told me that they have been getting frustrated by Kamakura Japan's increasing timelines for product development and production. Seems that a couple of large customers have been dominating their production capacity (Zeiss, Nikon?). It could be that shipping parts of the process to their Chinese subsidiary or another OEM might be at least just a pragmatic decision to get hold of stock?

I've never see the Cabela's Guide so don't know how it compares with the Opticron, but I'm supposing there are notable differences. I'm not sure of it's original cost but it's been discounted for a while and is no longer available. Does that mean discontinued? It might be a coincidence, but is it possible that the Opticron has superceded the Guide in terms of design licensing? From what I've read there has also been some degree of upgrade. The addition of ED glass, I suspect some tinkering with the ER and perhaps a switch from an aluminium chassis to polycarbonate which would all add to significant regular tooling costs, and I don't imagine the fluctuating Pound has helped.

Just pointing out that there might be other stuff going on which has been putting pressure on time lines and pricing that we don't immediately appreciate. I just think they need to take extra care that the quality of their products isn't compromised by subcontracting parts of the process.

David

Last edited by typo : Wednesday 22nd November 2017 at 06:32.
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Old Wednesday 22nd November 2017, 10:48   #7
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Yes I agree there probably are other factors involved. Hopefully companies will start doing a better job of QC.

The Guide and Traveller ED are very different designs. The Natura ED seems to be an updated Guide/Mojave with ED glass. These are also now being made in China so that has scared me off given my experience with the Traveller. Leupold had also come out with a new Pro Guide 4 8x32 that also looks like the same design with ED glass. The Mojave was made in Japan, not sure about the new model. Perhaps there is a updated Cabela's Guide with ED glass in the future as well. Hopefully still made in Japan! For now I'm happy with the Guide and hoping perhaps Nikon will start making the HG in 8x32. I really liked the Traveller optically but unfortunately the build quality left a lot to be desired.
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Old Wednesday 22nd November 2017, 12:25   #8
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@Upland: It's disappointing to hear that you've seen two examples of this binocular that didn't meet your expectations.

We do 100% inbound QC at our main warehouse* in the UK on all our BGA models (and either batch checking or full inbound QC on all other models), regardless of where they are built so it is highly unusual for a faulty dioptre to have passed through the checking process.

Your comments are noted (as were typo's comments) and have been passed on to the owner of the business.

As you've mentioned, this has been a very successful model for us and so far has much, much lower return for repair rate than other models that have sold at this price point and above.

* This is where we import all our production to. Shipments are then made to either dealers or distributors or to our US warehouse as necessary.
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Old Wednesday 22nd November 2017, 23:40   #9
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Thanks Pete. Hoping the Travellers I received were an aberration. I'll take you at your word that they were. I've heard very good things about Opticron and hope I didn't offend but I was hoping you would take notice and pass on the information even with the typos��

Perhaps you can give us some insight as to why production of your higher end binos have been moved to China. I seem to recall that previously Opticron used the fact that some Models were made in Japan as a marketing tool?
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Old Thursday 23rd November 2017, 06:03   #10
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Thanks Pete. Hoping the Travellers I received were an aberration. I'll take you at your word that they were. I've heard very good things about Opticron and hope I didn't offend but I was hoping you would take notice and pass on the information even with the typos��
Hi Upland!

I think you'll find Pete was saying he would pass on Typo's comments (post 6) as well rather than commenting on your grammar!

Chris
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Old Thursday 23rd November 2017, 09:03   #11
typo
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Hi Upland!

I think you'll find Pete was saying he would pass on Typo's comments (post 6) as well rather than commenting on your grammar!

Chris
I'm not so sure??

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Old Thursday 23rd November 2017, 09:31   #12
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I've edited my post to make it clear I meant David/typo's comments not any errors!

The production base for the Traveller ED was determined by our need to acheive a certain price point. The sub-contractor is one we've used for years so we have confidence in their production quality.

HTH

Cheers, Pete
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