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Kahles vs. Docter vs. Bynolyt

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Old Wednesday 18th December 2013, 21:20   #1
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Kahles vs. Docter vs. Bynolyt

I've managed to try quite a lot of the binoculars brands that are regularly discussed on the forum, but I've been curious about quite a few others that get an occasional mention that I've never seen in optics shops or birding shows here in the UK. I've been fortunate to be able to borrow representative models from three of them for a couple of weeks to play with. Made in Austria, Germany and Japan, and the best the companies currently or previously offered, I thought they might provide an interesting comparison to post here. I'm also putting individual reports in the review section.

Kahles 8x42

For those unfamiliar with the name, Kahles is an Austrian company with a long history. It was founded in 1896 but was sold to Swarovski in the 1970s though still operates independently. It's probably better known in hunting circles for their high quality rifle scopes but they also produce a single range of binoculars as 8x32, 8x42 and 10x42. Their website seems a bit thin on information but it seems the range was updated in around 2012 with improved transmission, reduced weight and 'oliphobic' objective coatings and it's this latest version I've been trying.

FOV 110/1000m
Close focus 2.05m*
Eye relief 19mm
IPD 58/72mm
Length 145mm
Weight 674g
*= my estimate

Docter B/CF 8x42

This name is probably a more familiar name to forum members. It was founded by Bernhard Docter out of the embers of Zeiss Jena after reunification and now part of Analytik Jena. This is the former top of the range model which appears to be still widely available.

FOV 131/1000m
Close focus 3m
Eye relief 16mm
IPD 56/72mm
Length 139mm
Weight 860g

Bynolyt Albatross II SHR 8.5x45 ED

I believe this is the 'in-house' brand from Technolyt in the Netherlands. They offer a wide range of binoculars and this is their top model. Unlike the other two tested here it features ED glass. The SHR in the name apparently refers to a 60 layer dielectric prism coating. It also boasts hard, hydrophobic plasma coated objectives. This model is made in Japan.

FOV 123/1000m
Close focus 2m
Eye relief 18mm
IPD 56/76mm *
Length 140mm (156mm*)
Weight 940g
*= my estimate

All three of these models are (or were) the best these companies offer and were priced in the upper mid range, though there are discounts on the discontinued Docter in particular. They are all very good but differ widely in the choices made in their optical and physical design. Perhaps good examples of what the less prestigious manufacturers from Austria, Germany and Japan can offer.

Although no where near the top of my priorities I think it's worth commenting on these models looks because they are strikingly different. The Kahles looks almost elegant to me with the tapering barrels, subtle mouldings and deep green colour. The Docter rather industrial with it's stubby design, bold patterning and utilitarian grey. I'd call the Bynolyt bland if it wasn't for a surfeit of information applied to the body which I personally don't think enhance it's looks.

Handling

The Bynolyt is unsurprisingly a bit larger than the others being an x45, but at 940g it's definitely the heaviest of the group. Obviously users differ in what they can comfortably handle but I personally think this one is a candidate for a harness rather than hanging round the neck. The Docter is listed as 860g but it was just over 800g on my kitchen scales, and I thought more manageable. It's about 18mm shorter than the Bynolyt but the girth on the barrels is pretty much the same. Neither were a problem with my medium sized hands, but I found the tapered design of the Kahles the most comfortable to hold, and at 674g it was easily the lightest.

The Bynolyt also has the widest eye cups. Although comfortable in the eye socket at my 64mm IPD it was a bit of squeeze to get them past my nose and was more comfortable to twist the eye cups in a bit and rest them against my brow. The ER is listed as 18mm but it seemed a little less available. The eye cups on the Doctor were a more comfortable fit but came up a bit short for me. It's ER is listed as 16mm which seemed right. The Kahles has the smallest eye cup width and they did not extend enough to sit in my eye sockets. Both needed a form of eyebrow positioning (MOLCET) which I found worked well. There is an alternative winged eye cup supplied for the Kahles which might work for some but I found them a little uncomfortable to use. The ER is listed at 19mm which seemed right.

The Kahles focus was very stiff out of the box. Over the course of two weeks it has improved a lot, but still stiff enough to slow focussing time but I imagine it might improve further with use. The close focus was 2.06m (better than specified). From there to 8m was 0.8 turns and another 0.3 turns to infinity. This was the slowest of three both in gearing and use, but is still higher geared than many binoculars I've tried. The right eyepiece dioptre adjustment is only just stiff enough to resist accidental movement.

The Docter's focus is on the stiff side as well but easier than the Kahles. It needed 0.5 turns from the 2.95m close focus to 8m and another 0.2 turns to infinity. With the turning resistance there was little overshoot. The central dioptre has a small lever adjustment and click-stop mechanism would normally judge as having adequate resistance, but because of the position and stiffness of the focus there was occasional accidental repositioning.

The Bynolyt focus by contrast is very fast and light and although easy to overshoot, it's finger tip operation means it's not a problem. There was just a little free play on the focus, but I'd still consider it the nicest of the three to use. The close focus was 2m with 0.5 turns to 8m and a further 0.15 turns to infinity. The right eyepiece dioptre adjustment had good resistance.

All of these had one shortcoming or another on handling. In the hope that the Kahles focus would improve with use it came closest to my personal taste.

View

The Bynolyt often gives the impression of having the widest view even though it's beaten on both actual and fractionally the apparent by the Docter. The sweet spot is almost edge to edge. Looking closely there is a slight field curvature and a hint of softening at the edges but those who prefer a flat FOV shouldn't be too disappointed. There is some pincushion but it's definitely on the low side. I was getting just a hint of the rolling ball effect but not enough to discourage me. I've definitely seen worse. Not quite a flat field design, but close.

The Kahles with it's narrower view was a little sharper at the edges than the Bynolyt and again had low field curvature. I suppose technically a flatish view, but at barely over 50 AFOV I don't think it really counts. It really did not appear as narrow as other 110m view models I've tried. Of the three, the Docter has easily the most field curvature but still can be focussed out to fairly sharp edges. I found a number of situations, particularly when viewing from an elevated position, the greater perceived DOF gave the Docter an advantage, and others where the Kahles and particularly the Bynolyt's flatter view appeared more useful. The Kahles and Docter had what I would call normal levels of pincushion.

I should mention my eyes have little accommodation these days and particularly younger users will see a greater DOF and a higher proportion of the view in focus than I do. In lower powered binoculars I often favour designs with field curvature for closer work where I feel it can give the impression of a greater depth of field. No right or wrong, just personal preference.

All three have very good colour rendition. No apparent dulling of blue skies or red berries or any obvious colour bias. Of the three I suspect the Kahles may have a little higher blue to red ratio than the others, as cream colours look marginally whiter than the other two.

Sharpness

This is the aspect that excited me the most about these three. Sharpness is the first thing I look for when I pick up a binocular and naturally expectations escalate with price. Unfortunately it's proved not to be the most reliable indicator and I didn't have any great expectations with these three. Judging by eye, all three binoculars are very sharp indeed, sharper than most mid priced models I've tried and probably better than at least some Zeiss FL and Swarovski ELSV samples I've used as well. I haven't been able to do any direct comparisons with top league models, but in the past when I've compared second tier models from the big three makes to their top models there is a detectable difference in sharpness. I'd suggest all three of these models are sharper than the Conquest HD, Trinovid HD and by a distance, the Swarovski CLs I've tried.

There is absolutely nothing I can distinguish between the three of them either on apparent resolution. It's come as a big surprised how good they are in light of comparably priced models I've tried before. Of course I don't know how representative these ones are.

Occasionally I get the impression that one or another fractionally has more contrast than the other two. I'd guess this is down to small transmission variation in different parts of the spectrum, but they were really indistinguishable in detail using charts or other test I've used before for contrast. I've checked this out at different times of day and weather conditions and it seems like the colour temperature of the illuminating light does make a some difference on apparent contrast, but overall I'd declare it a dead heat. Of course the extra 0.5x does give the Bynolyt a small advantage on detail and I've allowed for that, but in practice it's often cancelled out by more evident hand shake.

In full aperture boosting the Bynolyt was 4.87arcseconds, the Docter 4.42 , and the Kahles 5.56. Stopping down the objective to 20mm they all gave 6.27 arcseconds with the Docter subjectively the winner by a nose. These numbers, particularly the stopped down one, won't mean much to most people. The full aperture figures are fine but nothing special but I haven't found this value corresponds at all well to apparent sharpness in use. It's the stopped down number that I consider represent resolution performance in peak viewing conditions. I'd call an arcsecond value of less than 7 as excellent and I'm sure even between 7 and 9 the average user would still find very sharp. These results equal the best results I've measured for any binocular and the most critical regions of the objectives are probably close to optically perfect. The worst result I've measured so far is 14 but I'm sure I've picked up a few binoculars that would exceed that.

I suppose some on the forum might consider me particularly fussy on sharpness. If a binocular 's effective resolution limiting is worse than that of the eye, the consequence on detail is the same as reducing magnification. Different users will have different thresholds of acceptability but I don't believe anyone could be dissatisfied with any of these.

It was a big surprise to get such similar, excellent results. I think it would be normal to see bigger differences in three samples of the same apha model. Perhaps a coincidence, I don't imagine they were cherry picked, or maybe these aspiring brands are trying that little bit harder.

CA

I've tried these pairs in the range of light conditions as a dreary December in the UK allows, and most of the time I found them all pretty much trouble free, but, on few occasions when the light was very conducive to seeing CA, quite big differences were evident. The Bynolyt with it's ED glass was easily the best of the three with only a trace of CA at the edges. The other two needed quite careful positioning of the eyes to avoid seeing some fringing even in the centre of the view. Under these conditions, at best, about 60% of the Docter view was reasonably CA free but only about 40% for the Kahles. Even that isn't bad in the spectrum of binos I've tested, but some might have issues with these two. It appears that individuals are very different in their sensitivity or attitude to CA. From various accounts some apparently can't see it at all and some are hostile to even a trace. I find it very much depends on the light and contrast conditions at the time. I found them acceptable.

Glare

We've been plagued by dull weather since I received these binoculars, but I used the 10 minutes or so of sunshine we had to look for glare and flare. All appeared very good. At angles close to the sun you can get arcs of flare at the edges with all of them, particularly when my eye strayed to the edge of the exit pupil, but a slight repositioning of the eye solved the problem if you really need to get that close to the sun. Perhaps the Bynolyt was a little better than the other two but I'd say they all behaved very well. I really haven't been able to find conditions so far where I can detect a loss of contrast in the centre.

Low light testing

To be honest I found it difficult to find conditions where I could distinguish anything between them. In fading light, colours diminished and detail faded at the same rate to my eyes. I suspect the transmission at 550 and 500nm are very similar. However in some situations when I suspect the residual light was rather warm shifted, the Kahles had a small advantage appearing slightly brighter and revealing a little more detail and the Docter perhaps trailed a little but there wasn't much between them. Perhaps there are some differences at either ends of the transmission spectrum.

Summary

All of these models retail for significantly less than the top models from Zeiss, Swarovski, Leica and Nikon and cost savings are evident in all the designs, including the sophistication of the optical configuration, mechanical components or the materials used. However, there has obviously been no compromise in the quality of the lenses used in the samples I've borrowed which I think is particularly laudable. In my opinion all of these are sharper than the last two Swarovski ELSV 8.5x42 and more than one Zeiss FL I've tried, though of course those have other merits to consider.

I don't think I can declare a winner from the three. Buyers will have their own attitudes to ergonomics, weight, styling, FOV/AFOV, field flatness, CA etc. and weigh up the variations quite differently and arrive at their own conclusions. I'd admit by the end I was reaching to pick up the Kahles most often in spite of the stiff focus, narrower view and CA. I'm sure others would make different choices.

I've been generously allowed to hang on to these binoculars for a few more days to help answer any questions that might arise.

David
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Old Wednesday 18th December 2013, 22:37   #2
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Trying to compare resolution with other models, based on memory, is impossible.
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Old Wednesday 18th December 2013, 22:47   #3
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Trying to compare resolution with other models, based on memory, is impossible.
James,

I haven't. I know how various samples of the other models mentioned compare to each other and binos I own which I used for comparison as well. The resolution testing results benchmark their performance.

David
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Old Thursday 19th December 2013, 06:52   #4
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David,

Eagle Optics has 2 Kahles binoculars listed (while they last) if you want to check out their specifications. The 8x32 and 8x42.

http://www.eagleoptics.com/binocular...8x42-binocular

I have two of the 8x32s. One is an older version made before 2006 I was told by the Kahles rep in the USA. I got the other one in 2012 and although it's body looks the same it is clearly an upgrade of the older one. It is lighter in weight, you can feel the difference. It has a new magnesium body. It has a somewhat wider FOV. It has obviously different coatings on the lenses, a longer eye cup by 3 mm and a wider ocular by 2mm. It also handles veiling glare better than the old one. I reported on this binocular in the Eagle Optics website.

I note that the SN is located in the same place on the binocular that Swarovski places theirs and it seems to have a similar formula to determine when it was manufactured.

I found out later that Kahles binoculars are actually made in Japan. I think Gijs wrote about that if my memory is correct. There was some discussion about that in this Forum.

Allbinos gave the 8x32 a good review which corresponds largely with mine on Eagle Optics, although my ultimate conclusion was that the FOV is somewhat wider than Allbinos determined it to be. I judged it to be the same as the Swarovski 8x30SLC and the Nikon 8x32 HGL both of which I own.

I think it is an excellent binocular and mine has an exceptionally smooth focus wheel. It reminds me of the Nikon HGL in it's smoothness although it does not focus as fast.

Allbinos also reviewed the 8x42 but it was not as good a review as the one they gave the 8x32.

Bob

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Old Thursday 19th December 2013, 07:39   #5
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Bob,

I've looked through some of the older posts, and the consensus seems to be that Kahles binoculars were made in Japan a while back, and some uncertainty whether they still are. gulf1263 thinks they made in Europe now.
http://www.birdforum.net/showpost.ph...8&postcount=18

For a binocular that otherwise appears put together extremely well, the focus stiffness seemed odd. Glad to hear it can be better.

From the date the Allbinos report for 8x42 was pre-upgrade, and I think they dropped the camo version at the same time, so likely the 8x32 was as well.

David
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Old Thursday 19th December 2013, 08:28   #6
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David

Brilliant post David, need to read it again in detail. A great window onto kit I have heard about but never encountered.

Thanks for putting this together.

Lee
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Old Thursday 19th December 2013, 09:02   #7
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Lee,

Thanks for the kind words.

A couple of details that got missed from the main report:

Sorry Lars (), all three have an anticlockwise focus from close to distance. I also put them in the freezer for 30 minutes. The Bynolyt focus still turned easily but developed an audible click on change of direction. No idea what, if any significance that might have. The Docter and Kahles were notably stiffer.

David
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Old Thursday 19th December 2013, 09:42   #8
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Bob,

I've looked through some of the older posts, and the consensus seems to be that Kahles binoculars were made in Japan a while back, and some uncertainty whether they still are. gulf1263 thinks they made in Europe now.
http://www.birdforum.net/showpost.ph...8&postcount=18

For a binocular that otherwise appears put together extremely well, the focus stiffness seemed odd. Glad to hear it can be better.

From the date the Allbinos report for 8x42 was pre-upgrade, and I think they dropped the camo version at the same time, so likely the 8x32 was as well.

David
I was not sure myself, so I called Kahles in Austria.
They still have the 8x32, 8 and 10x42 in production.
I got the same talk as Mike gave over the Conquest when I asked for the origin.

Jan
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Old Thursday 19th December 2013, 12:28   #9
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I'm not suggesting that it means anything in terms of country of origin but looking closely at the detail of the finishing on the metalwork and plastic/rubber mouldings the Kahles is a more refined than the Docter and the Bynolyt third.

There is also some small difference in the reflectivity from the surface of the objective. The Kahles is the lowest (greenish), followed by the Bynolyt (purple) and the Docter (purple).

David
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Old Thursday 19th December 2013, 13:36   #10
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David,

I would offer a sincere thanks for taking the time to share your comparison of these three, often overlooked models. I have to admit that I have never tried a Bynolyt but have seen them referenced on a few occasions. I have handled one Docter model several years ago and had an opportunity to try a Kahles (8x32) out once as well. It is refreshing to see someone else take on the challenge of reviewing some of the other lesser known models. I applaud you for it.
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Old Thursday 19th December 2013, 15:16   #11
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Bob,

I've looked through some of the older posts, and the consensus seems to be that Kahles binoculars were made in Japan a while back, and some uncertainty whether they still are. gulf1263 thinks they made in Europe now.
Hi David,

thanks for your effort. Nice write-up.

The question about "where it's made" depends on one's point of view. At such facilities like Kamakura and Light in Japan they offer options as follow. First, buy ready-made bins, hand-me-down designed by us and we will also put your sticker and corporate design for you on it. The companies with lots and often changing models use to go this way. Next, give us your needed specifications and we'll build the bin along your wishes. Third, we can do the same not only for ready-made binoculars but also for optical parts. This gives you the opportunity for assembling in your home country and you can put your beloved sticker "Made in Homeland" on it.


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Old Thursday 19th December 2013, 15:40   #12
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Bob,

I've looked through some of the older posts, and the consensus seems to be that Kahles binoculars were made in Japan a while back, and some uncertainty whether they still are. gulf1263 thinks they made in Europe now.
http://www.birdforum.net/showpost.ph...8&postcount=18

For a binocular that otherwise appears put together extremely well, the focus stiffness seemed odd. Glad to hear it can be better.

From the date the Allbinos report for 8x42 was pre-upgrade, and I think they dropped the camo version at the same time, so likely the 8x32 was as well.

David
David,

Allbinos reviewed the 8x32 on 2011-05-02. It was a camo version. The 10x42 was reviewed on 2010-03-27. It is Gray.

Mine is the Green version: SN 11183001X. The box it came in has a white sticker on it saying "Made in Austria" along with the following info:

20012
K8x32 Loden
The UPC code
The Serial Number (see above)

The Top Cover on new Box and along one side of it simply says KAHLES, gegr. 1898, AUSTRIA.

Wir setzen Standards. Seit 1898.

The other side of the box has this translated into English.

Address in Austria, phone # and email address is also on the box. www.kahles.at

The new instruction booklet with warranty information does not have a date on it and it only lists the 8x42 and 10x42 on it's cover.

It is possible that Gulf 1263 is correct.

Bob

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Old Thursday 19th December 2013, 16:54   #13
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Steve,

All I can comment is that though the Kahles might a relatively simple design it appears to have been made with more refined components than the three Japanese made models I have to hand. Next time I see a Kowa Prominar I'll take a closer look.

Bob,

The box labelling is the same as yours but this doesn't have the 'Made in Austria' sticker. In this one the serial number starts 11308xxxx.

Personally I'm not bothered where it's built as long as the glass is good. It is in this case.

David
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Old Thursday 19th December 2013, 17:07   #14
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All I can comment is that though the Kahles might a relatively simple design it appears to have been made with more refined components than the three Japanese made models I have to hand. Next time I see a Kowa Prominar I'll take a closer look.
Regarding built quality the Japan made Prominar bins are certainly above average coming from Kamakura and Co. and perhaps close to the peak they are capable at those facilities.
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Old Thursday 19th December 2013, 18:23   #15
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Sorry Frank, I missed your post earlier. Thanks for the comments.

Steve,

Who know's who does what, but I'd guess that the parent company had a guiding hand. Pure speculation of course.

David
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Old Saturday 21st December 2013, 10:15   #16
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David, Thank you for taking the time and trouble to review these and for the individual reviews you placed in the Equipment Section ; very interesting and a nice opportunity to consider something a little different. Best wishes,
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Old Saturday 21st December 2013, 11:50   #17
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David, Thank you for taking the time and trouble to review these and for the individual reviews you placed in the Equipment Section ; very interesting and a nice opportunity to consider something a little different. Best wishes,
Samandag, Appreciate the comments!

I was curious to see what else was available between between the Vortex Viper/Monarch 7/Opticron/ZenRay/Hawke and the Kowa/Razor HD and up categories. Models like the Conquest HD and some others are good, but the samples I've tried didn't quite do it for me on sharpness. These three don't tick all the boxes but they certainly got my juices flowing.

David
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Old Saturday 21st December 2013, 13:08   #18
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A nice Vanguard HD then David ...

Or a trip next year to a trade fair in Poland to see what's new !

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Old Saturday 21st December 2013, 17:28   #19
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A nice Vanguard HD then David ...

Or a trip next year to a trade fair in Poland to see what's new !

Best wishes,
Poland ??? I can't find anything that doesn't have a camouflage dress code.

Is that a new Vanguard model?

David
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