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Old Tuesday 1st March 2011, 21:34   #1
Petroc
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Old vs New

Have you noticed how many older, and often experienced, birdwatchers use ancient binoculars, often in poor condition? I met one such elderly gentleman recently and after offering the use of my scope to view a distant flock of Avocet we got to discussing optics. He was using east German Zeiss 8x30 Jenoptem, nearly all the paint had worn away and he was regularly scrubbing at the eye glasses with his pocket handkerchief! He opined that he did'nt need new ones as he could see the birds well enough with the ones he had.
I thought it would be interesting to put his premise to the test as I have a similar binocular, a 30 year old Deltrintem which is used as a "windowsill bin" for grabbing quick views of garden birds.
Yesterday, in very dull light conditions, I spent some time in a hide which is ideal for comparing binoculars as it enjoys views in two directions, north across a marsh to a small village 1200 yards distant and south over an estuary to a boatyard and moorings on the far side.
To represent a modern binocular as favoured by most birdwatchers I used my Nikon HG 8x32, there are no scientific tests employed here, just a general impression of using these two glasses in a typical birding situation. The first thing I noticed was the difference in colour balance, the Zeiss image is yellow with a much reduced contrast while the Nikon gives a magnified image of exactly what my eyes see, secondly the Nikon image is sharp across most of the field while the Zeiss is only really clear over the central 25%.
To test absolute resolution I attempted to read the names on boats moored at 1400 yards, both binoculars could make out one with white lettering on a black background but only the Nikon could read one with red lettering against black. The centre sharpness of the old Zeiss is pretty good and improved greatly when the sun made an occasional appearance, the Nikon was consistently sharp in all light conditions (this demonstrates the importance of testing any potential optics purchase in poor light)
The Nikon focus although fast is always quick and easy to get optimum resolution, the Zeiss needed much "rocking" to find it, depth of field seemed much the same in either glass.
Birds looked better, sharper and "cleaner" at middle to far distance but at close range, particularly in bushes,, the Zeiss image was perfectly acceptable. So in a way the old gent was right, you won't really miss identifying birds with a reasonable older binocular, but I concluded that you do miss out on the pure viewing pleasure that a good quality modern glass offers. The old Zeiss is still a great "garden bin" though, and can be obtained for very little cash, a much better prospect than the typical plastic chainstore offering, and I bet it will still be in service in another 30 years!

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Old Tuesday 1st March 2011, 22:49   #2
John Dracon
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Petroc - If it were well made, it is still servicable. IMO the older one becomes, the less perfection is sought, if you will pardon that generalization. I find myself more and more comfortable with older, quality optics, even though I can afford the best. Simply more conservative, which I believe is mostly a function of age. At the risk of stepping on some toes, some of the optical "obsesstionists" who frequent this website, will never be satisfied, regardless of what is served up to them. But that is OK. I'm all for them because it keeps the ideas and experiences circulating. John


Next a dogmatic statement. I have never found the Zeiss Jenoptem 8x30 to be as good as the post war Zeiss West German 8x30. Almost as good but not quite. Yet it is a very good binocular. In my collection is a Zeiss 1930s 7x50, uncoated of course.
But it has excellent resolution, enough to satisfy the viewer 90% of the time. John
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Old Wednesday 2nd March 2011, 03:52   #3
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I collect old binoculars and love restoring and using them. I walk our dog three times a day which gives me ample time to sample and enjoy their various qualities. I do the same in the summer on the porch at the cottage. I regard them much as I do good older shotguns and ales and scotch - some are better than others but the real pleasure is in the complexities of their variety. True, when I really want to get a good view of something I'll turn to the Nikon 8X32 SE or 10X35 EII but there are many others I really enjoy using just as much.
The 8X30 (1978 or later) Jenoptem is optically a pretty darn good binocular, but I recently got a West German Zeiss 8X30 and yesterday tested it against the Jenoptem, and the West German although made 20 years earlier and not multi-coated is definitely optically better to say nothing of build quality which is the Jenoptem's weakness.
I also recently got a 1926 Zeiss Delactis 8X40 with optics in great condition and the view through this one is superb-widefield and crisp and sharp. With coated optics it would be breathtaking.

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Old Wednesday 2nd March 2011, 04:43   #4
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I only have one good vintage binocular, a Hensoldt DF 8x30, out of the plant in Wetzlar that was bought by Zeiss, and where their binoculars are still made. It's a sweetie, optically very fine, the old coatings excepted. I can get into a groove using it, and yes, it shows the birds serviceably well, and gives a sort of period thrill. Then at some point, out of curiosity, I'll pick up a modern binocular, am overwhelmed by the great brightness and contrast, and vingtage fun is over for a while. But I always get back to it.

I'm 60 yrs. old, maybe I'm weakening. This searching and critiqueing everything does start to wear out at some point. If I make it to 80, somebody on a forum will say they ran into me, an ancient geezer getting by somehow with a beat up old FL, the old fart doesn't know what he's missing.
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Old Wednesday 2nd March 2011, 06:40   #5
John Dracon
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LPT - For whatever reason, I have discovered the older IF binoculars by Bushnell and B&L to be optically better to my eyes than a CF of the same power by the same makers.
Bushnell made an 8x40 IF over fifty years ago that has remarkable optics - wide field and wide sweet spot. I see we agree on the difference between Jena and West German binoculars in the 8x30 persuasion. John
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Old Wednesday 2nd March 2011, 06:53   #6
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LPT - For whatever reason, I have discovered the older IF binoculars by Bushnell and B&L to be optically better to my eyes than a CF of the same power by the same makers.
Bushnell made an 8x40 IF over fifty years ago that has remarkable optics - wide field and wide sweet spot. I see we agree on the difference between Jena and West German binoculars in the 8x30 persuasion. John
I agree, I have a 50 year old 7x35 IF Bushnell Feather light or feather weight that is an IF and it is very nice. A friend has the exact same one in CF and it is not near as nice.

I also have an even older Bushnell Featherlight that is a 6x30 IF and even though the bino itself is a little beat up, the optics are great. And there is no dust or fungus of any kind in it. They really made those IF ones tight.
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Old Wednesday 2nd March 2011, 13:09   #7
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Have you noticed how many older, and often experienced, birdwatchers use ancient binoculars, often in poor condition?....He opined that he didn't need new ones as he could see the birds well enough with the ones he had.
Consider that the birdwatcher in question likely knows his binoculars better than you or I and they function as an extension of his arm. He doesn't need any newer because those are doing a perfectly good job of delivering bird images in the field. And he is probably long past feeling the need to engage in a race of binocular one-upmanship or worrying about a few paint chips. They are tools not decorations to him.
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Old Friday 4th March 2011, 08:41   #8
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Some Old designs are just wonderful,and the new models that the same Brands introduce to replace them are sometimes a step back in performance.This could be less true,or not true at all,with top brands that seem more interested in developing or improving their own designs and are more commited to the trajectory or their product line... That is the difference with brands that sale other manufacturers models,and Brands that design their own...
Generally speaking a Zeiss or Swaro newer model is going to be better than an older one,because it usually represent an evolution in materials and concepts...
the same cant be said about brands like Bushnell,Swift,or many others that have in the past sold extraordinary models,and now have to sale whatever the manufacturers offer them or they can afford to make their own....
My best friend,an expert 80 years old birder,finally upgraded to a pair of Zeiss FL ,after years and years of using cheap binos.He didnt mind using the cheap binos nor he cares about the FL either,as long as a bird is in view..He has seen THOUSANDS of species in 5 continent..and still going strong..
A toast to You ,Bob!
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Old Friday 4th March 2011, 10:43   #9
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As much as we talk about binoculars,
the most important component
is behind the eyepiece
the eye/brain/person


edj
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Old Friday 4th March 2011, 11:28   #10
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Ron, Your post #4 echoes my thoughts exactly. I too have an old, treasured Hensoldt, a 7x42 Dialyt in mint condition with solid leather case. It's a pleasure to use, occasionally, being a superb example of its time (50+ years ago) but can't compete with modern bins. My old Nikon 7x35A is sharp as a razor in the centre, easily equalling a recent SE or HG, but the latter provide a marvellous 'big picture'. If I make it to 80 (an age I first aspired to when I was 34, when making pension/retirement plans, because it was so far-distant, but is now in somewhat greater proximity) I'll be that fat old bloke with an ancient Zeiss Octarem which must weigh a ton, and it doesn't even have autofocus...
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Old Friday 4th March 2011, 12:21   #11
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I am 50-something birder with a pair of nearly 20 year-old Zeiss 10x42 BGAT* as my sole pair of binoculars. Whilst all the rubber coating is intact, and I don’t dry-scrub the lenses with a dirty handkerchief, I sort of recognise myself in the first post in this thread, and can understand why someone might ask why.
Over the last 10 years my birding has occasionally coincided with an optics “field day”, where I have picked up and played with the latest equivalent alpha optics just in case I was missing something. After an admittedly brief, unscientific side-by side comparison (no star test!) I have to-date concluded that to my 50-something eyes the modern optics were probably marginally brighter, slightly more contrasty and possibly “sharper”, but there was nowhere near enough of an improvement to justify the cost. The handling however without exception I find to be inferior in my hands. The modern equivalents seem fatter (e.g. Zeiss FL) and/or longer (e.g. Swarovski EL) and don’t sit nearly as well in my hands (in contrast to the modern Zeiss or Swarovski 8 or 10x 32 roofs which I find a joy to hold). The final deal-breaker for me is the focus wheel, which I have invariably felt to be rough and gritty when compared with the smooth motion of my “ancient” Zeiss.
As for my lens cleaning habits in the field, having tried a number of lens cleaning liquids over the years, and associated lens tissues and microfibre cloths , I have found that the best way to clean a lens in the field if it’s not too dirty, is to use breath and a clean, unused, well-washed cotton handkerchief. Even after the application of the latest wonder fluid at home, I still use a clean cotton handkerchief and a light breath to finish off to get a smear-free finish.
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Old Sunday 13th March 2011, 14:24   #12
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I have many of the Zeiss binoculars of the Jenoptem/Deltrintum type.
I would like to point out that the Jenoptem and Deltrintum are the same optically, and also were sold for around 35 in the late 1980's in high streets all over the country. Although there where cheaper binoculars around, this was Zeiss's budget range, and comparing them to your Nikons may be a touch unfair for this reason alone.
The Early Jenoptem has a rugged little binocular, well built and tough. As coatings slowly improved , mechanical quality suffered, so the last models with the T3M coatings were a touch fragile and prone to collimation loss if dropped.
Also remember a binocular of 10 years old or more will more than likely have haze on the prism surfaces reducing contrast in low light especially.
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Old Sunday 13th March 2011, 15:14   #13
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For reasons I cannot explain, the haze on prism surfaces mentioned above, is found most often on Zeiss porro binoculars, CF & IF alike, rarely on Japanese made binoculars or the old B&L models. The haze is easily removed because it is not like fungus which actually etches the glass surface. A wild guess as to why. The lubricants used by Zeiss goes through a gassification process over the years. Anyone out there in BF land with an explanation?
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Old Sunday 13th March 2011, 17:10   #14
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I t has a lot to do with the felt liner of the binocular case disintegration. The Russian 12x40's always seem spotless and the internals of the case are a thick felt without any padding.
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Old Sunday 13th March 2011, 19:13   #15
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For reasons I cannot explain, the haze on prism surfaces mentioned above, is found most often on Zeiss porro binoculars, CF & IF alike, rarely on Japanese made binoculars or the old B&L models. The haze is easily removed because it is not like fungus which actually etches the glass surface. A wild guess as to why. The lubricants used by Zeiss goes through a gassification process over the years. Anyone out there in BF land with an explanation?
John
My Bushnell Custom 7x35, which was probably made in 1959 due to its lack of a JL code, has no haze. The same is true of my Rochester B&L Zephyr 7x35, which I think dates to around 1970. Both are optically excellent, and though the Zephyr has the slightly narrower field of view of the two, its center-field sharpness and contrast compare to the finest roof-prism bins today.
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Old Sunday 13th March 2011, 20:38   #16
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The Bushnell Customs I bought some years ago did have haze and though not as bad as some, did effect the view. Damp storage is a big factor too.
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Old Monday 14th March 2011, 03:39   #17
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Originally Posted by Petroc View Post
Have you noticed how many older, and often experienced, birdwatchers use ancient binoculars, often in poor condition? I met one such elderly gentleman recently and after offering the use of my scope to view a distant flock of Avocet we got to discussing optics. He was using east German Zeiss 8x30 Jenoptem, nearly all the paint had worn away and he was regularly scrubbing at the eye glasses with his pocket handkerchief! He opined that he did'nt need new ones as he could see the birds well enough with the ones he had.
I thought it would be interesting to put his premise to the test as I have a similar binocular, a 30 year old Deltrintem which is used as a "windowsill bin" for grabbing quick views of garden birds.
Yesterday, in very dull light conditions, I spent some time in a hide which is ideal for comparing binoculars as it enjoys views in two directions, north across a marsh to a small village 1200 yards distant and south over an estuary to a boatyard and moorings on the far side.
To represent a modern binocular as favoured by most birdwatchers I used my Nikon HG 8x32, there are no scientific tests employed here, just a general impression of using these two glasses in a typical birding situation. The first thing I noticed was the difference in colour balance, the Zeiss image is yellow with a much reduced contrast while the Nikon gives a magnified image of exactly what my eyes see, secondly the Nikon image is sharp across most of the field while the Zeiss is only really clear over the central 25%.
To test absolute resolution I attempted to read the names on boats moored at 1400 yards, both binoculars could make out one with white lettering on a black background but only the Nikon could read one with red lettering against black. The centre sharpness of the old Zeiss is pretty good and improved greatly when the sun made an occasional appearance, the Nikon was consistently sharp in all light conditions (this demonstrates the importance of testing any potential optics purchase in poor light)
The Nikon focus although fast is always quick and easy to get optimum resolution, the Zeiss needed much "rocking" to find it, depth of field seemed much the same in either glass.
Birds looked better, sharper and "cleaner" at middle to far distance but at close range, particularly in bushes,, the Zeiss image was perfectly acceptable. So in a way the old gent was right, you won't really miss identifying birds with a reasonable older binocular, but I concluded that you do miss out on the pure viewing pleasure that a good quality modern glass offers. The old Zeiss is still a great "garden bin" though, and can be obtained for very little cash, a much better prospect than the typical plastic chainstore offering, and I bet it will still be in service in another 30 years!

Petroc.
Hi Petroc,

I really enjoyed your post, and particularly the believable conclusions that you obtained after making natural comparisons under realistic conditions. I read it three times and may do so again.

Thanks,
Ed
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Old Monday 14th March 2011, 14:24   #18
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Hi Petroc,
I agree with Ed. Your method usually the way I compare (as opposed to test) binoculars. You said it very well! I will use it as a model in the future.
Bob
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Old Tuesday 15th March 2011, 19:13   #19
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Petroc,

Your comparison between old high quality porros vs. newer high quality roofs somewhat matches my own experience with my first sample 501xxx 8x32 SE and the 8x32 LX except for the fact that both have field flatteners so there was not a huge difference in edge performance.

I really liked my SE but when I looked through the LX for the first time, the better contrast and color saturation knocked my socks off (which was kind of cold being it was winter :-).

Fortunately, I found the LX on the used market for close to the same price as a new SE, so price wasn't an obstacle the way it would be in moving from a 8x30 Deltrintem to a 8x32 FL.

For me, the trade offs weren't worth the better color and contrast. The too fast focuser (less than 1/2 turn from cf to infinity) made the view looked quite compressed (2-D) compared to the SE, and it also played havoc with my focus accommodation (I had to set and reset the right diopter at various distances).

The SE is also much easier for me to hold steady since I couldn't get a good grip on the narrow LX with my big mitts.

I found myself wishing that Nikon would upgrade the SE with the its latest coatings and glass technology. So I bought a newer production 505 8x32 SE, and though the coatings were improved over the older SE, the view still didn't match the eye popping color saturation and high contrast of the LX. That told me that while Nikon could have made the two equals in that regard, it preferred to put its latest coatings and glass technology into its roof designs.

Even so, I have been sufficiently impressed with the view through my "old" porros (SE, EII, 804 Audubon) that even if hit the lottery tomorrow, I might still be reluctant to pay $2K for an alpha roof.

The small steps up in performance the alphas offer over my porros does not seem equal to the giant leap in prices. I also prefer the better 3-D effect that porros provide.

Plus, there are an increasing number of affordable priced roofs that offer optical quality almost as good as alphas. Since there's really not much more alphas can do to improve the view, in the future, the differences btwn the Chinese EDs and the alphas will be mainly in terms of build quality.

Holger Merlitz called the Zeiss 8x30 porros the "mother of most classic 8x30 Porro binoculars" (Saddam has gone, but his rhetoric lives on). If you haven't read his review of seven classic 8x30s, here is the Web page:

http://www.holgermerlitz.de/seven8x30.html

If there were a way to retrofit old porros with the latest AR coatings, I wouldn't give roofs another thought since I'm a fair weather birder and don't rely much on WPing. I only like internal focusing because it helps keep out dust, pollen, and fungus from getting inside the bin. It's a nice feature to have when you are considering the longevity of the bin regardless if you "bird" in the rain.

From what I've been told from an optics maven, adding new coatings would require re-figuring the lenses, which would be a costly upgrade. Plus, who could make such upgrades?

Brock

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Old Tuesday 15th March 2011, 19:19   #20
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Ron, Congratulations! on your 60th year on the planet.

If I make it to 80 myself, and if I can still see and walk, somebody on BF might see an ancient geezer getting by somehow with a beat up old EII or SE, and say the old fart doesn't know what he's missing.

But I will take comfort in the fact that young whipper snapper never lived in the Age of the Porrosaurus and doesn't know what he's missing!

Brock

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Old Tuesday 15th March 2011, 23:14   #21
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Some very interesting responses arising from this post, it would seem that many of us enjoy using older binoculars, I think it must be the combination of metal and leather as in old Leica M and Rollieflex cameras exuding that "olde world" quality sometimes missing in modern glasses.
I still enjoy using my old Dialyt 8x30B for that reason, the optics can't match a modern binocular but they are so nice to hold and are built to exquisite standards.
I have never considered the Deltrintem/Jenoptem 8x30s to be high quality glasses what with their wobbly bridge and the tendency to fog up at the merest hint of British drizzle, but in the UK they were cheap, easily available and sold in huge numbers, they are not in the same league as the SE or E11 but neither are they in the same price range, a friend recently bought a mint example from a charity shop for the princely sum of 5.
Perhaps the Nikon E11 enables us to "have our cake and eat it", retro styling and brilliant up to date optics.( I must remember to keep looking in those charity shops!!!)

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Old Wednesday 16th March 2011, 16:27   #22
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Originally Posted by Petroc View Post
Some very interesting responses arising from this post, it would seem that many of us enjoy using older binoculars, I think it must be the combination of metal and leather as in old Leica M and Rollieflex cameras exuding that "olde world" quality sometimes missing in modern glasses.
I still enjoy using my old Dialyt 8x30B for that reason, the optics can't match a modern binocular but they are so nice to hold and are built to exquisite standards.
I have never considered the Deltrintem/Jenoptem 8x30s to be high quality glasses what with their wobbly bridge and the tendency to fog up at the merest hint of British drizzle, but in the UK they were cheap, easily available and sold in huge numbers, they are not in the same league as the SE or E11 but neither are they in the same price range, a friend recently bought a mint example from a charity shop for the princely sum of 5.
Perhaps the Nikon E11 enables us to "have our cake and eat it", retro styling and brilliant up to date optics.( I must remember to keep looking in those charity shops!!!)

Petroc.
I have never seen rock in the focusing mechanism of any Zeiss apart from the Japanese copies of the 70-80's.
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Old Sunday 20th March 2011, 22:57   #23
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Waiting for the tide to come in at Parkgate this morning (Spring High Tide, River Dee) along with a couple of hundred other birdwatchers, allowed an opportunity to conduct an impromptu count of 'who was toting what', old and new. It soon became clear that compact scopes were popular, usually Opticron but also the small Nikon models, while at the high end there were quite a few Carl Zeiss as well as plenty of old Kowa models. Although roof binoculars easily outnumbered porros, I was surprised just how many old porros were being used, and quite happily and successfully, despite many of them not seeming (to my eyes) to be ideally suited to the occasion. Perhaps more surprising was the common use of tiny compact roofs, usually carried by women, which were probably quite sensible if one is going to be standing around for three hours waiting for birds to show up. Most men were happy to be burdened with tripods, haversacks, hats, gloves, anoraks, camping chairs and thermos flasks, quite apart from their weather-protected spotting scopes plus dingle-dangles, and medium to large binoculars with rainguards. I saw no Nikon SEs (I'm taking mine tomorrow!) and I think my Nikon HG was the only one there, although there was another Zeiss 10x40BGAT like mine. There were the usual exotica such as Swarovski, Leica and Zeiss, but few high end Nikons. Despite the onset of rain for a while, old porro users carried on undeterred, although often having to wipe rain or misting from the optics, whereas the inclement weather didn't seem to bother the roofers much. Many of the roofs I couldn't identify, understandably, since there are so many 'makes' these days, mostly sourced from China and, judging by the size, were 8x32 or thereabouts. So, the porro may not be dead, but the ubiquitous roof marches inexorably on to world domination...
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Old Monday 21st March 2011, 18:22   #24
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Parkgate again today, hoping for a higher tide, but it wasn't to be (not much, anyway). This time there must have been 300 birdwatchers so, while they were looking at birdlife, I amused myself looking at their binoculars (I'm not much good as a birdwatcher, but I soon recognise a Zeiss 7x42 BGAT when I catch a glimpse of one). My weapon of choice was a superb Nikon 10x42SE which performed beautifully all morning: it really is a joy to behold and use, but I don't think anyone else knew or cared: "just another old porro"? I don't expect genuine 'twitchers' to be interested in any binocular per se, because their whole attention is on the birds and the bin is merely a means to an end, whereas I'm a binocular enthusiast who goes birdwatching because I see lots of binoculars, and birds. So, went the day well? Well, there were definitely several of the ubiquitous Zeiss 8x30, an Optolyth Alpin, more than a few Opticron porros (and countless scopes of that make) as well as a Swift large porro (not Audubon) and an old Bausch & Lomb big bin (12x?). Even a Prinz was there (from Dixon's: remember them?) as well as a Boots Pacer, if I'm not mistaken, and a Tasco or two. These may not hold a candle to a Swarovision, but their owners seemed quite content: they're only here for the birds after all, so why not? I didn't spend all my time identifying binoculars; I saw some birds too, like a Peregrine, an extremely graceful Heron, a host of Black-tailed Godwits, a lovely Little Egret, and a Short-eared Owl being chased away by Black-headed Gulls. As for my Nikon 10x42SE, it is Superior both by name and by nature, a superb porro in a sea of roofs: I know that, and as John Keats would have put it, "That is all ye know... and all ye need to know".
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Old Monday 21st March 2011, 20:52   #25
Robert Wallace
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Halifax West Yorkshire
Posts: 534
[quote=Petroc;2076377]Have you noticed how many older, and often experienced, birdwatchers use ancient binoculars, often in poor condition? I met one such elderly gentleman recently and after offering the use of my scope to view a distant flock of Avocet we got to discussing optics. He was using east German Zeiss 8x30 Jenoptem, nearly all the paint had worn away and he was regularly scrubbing at the eye glasses with his pocket handkerchief! He opined that he did'nt need new ones as he could see the birds well enough with the ones he had.

My first so-called "alpha" binoculars purchased 25 years ago were the Zeiss 10x40 BGT* which were guarenteed for 30 years. I proudly explained to my dear wife that they would last until I reached "three score and ten" in other words a lifetime. Some years later I added a pair of Zeiss 7x42 BGT*P justified in the Pelican edition of "Watching Birds" by James Fisher /Jim Flegg they advise readers to consider becoming the proud owner of two pairs of binoculars, each suited to your precise needs.
I still enjoy using these binoculars and I am convinced that they more than adequate for my birdwatching abilities.
I also like the look and feel of my old Zeiss 10x40s, they are more asthetically pleasing than many newer models.
Having said all that I use the Nikon 8x32 HG (originally purchased for my wife but following major surgery on her spinal cord uses some 8x20s) as my default binocular. The big advantage of the modern roof prism is their water proofness. This was illustrated to me last September when I walked from Cley Coast Guards to Blakeney Point on a fine sunny day but with a strong northerly wind Force 6 gusting 8 and my binoculars were soaked with sea spray, but so what? With my Zeisses I would have been keeping them out of the spray.
Incidently my first decent birding binoculars were the East German Zeiss 10x50 Dekarems which after an outing in pouring rain required the internal surface of the objective lenses cleaning.
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