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A Users Quartes of Vintage Swift's (1 Viewer)

Steve C

Well-known member
A Users Quartet of Vintage Swift Porros

Lately I have acquired a stash of vintage porro binoculars. I have spent a lot of time in the past several weeks using them as much as I could manufacture opportunity for. I decided to start comments here with these Swift binoculars. One of these is the very first binocular I ever bought, more years ago than I care to think about. So the presentation here is of four different Swift models I have. These are all good enough, even today with advanced in glass and coatings that I feel no disadvantage if I were to be placed in the situation to finish out my days with these. There are certainly better modern binoculars, but these will still do.

The compact:

This one is an Eaglet model 731. It is a7x25 reverse porro with a stated 400’ fov. I have a thread here in the Swift sub forum comparing it to the B&L 7x26 Custom. Truth be told, there is not a significant difference. The Swift does indeed appear to have a wider view, even to casual observation. The B&L I would agree is a little bit brighter and has a smaller feel. The Eaglet is a rather boxy, almost unique design that for me is easier to hold. That is probably because it is bigger than the B&L by a little. I got this on from eBay three years or so ago. While the optics and body were in nearly pristine shape, the hinge and focus grease had fossilized and the binocular was almost impossible to use. I paid about $10.00 for this. A picture twin has been floating around eBay for a starting price of $150. It went unbid through one sales cycle and is nearly through another cycle, and is also unbid at $140.00. This went to Nicholas Crista for service checkup and a re lube. This bears the standard Swift J-B 56 code.

The Mid Size:

This is a recent acquisition. It is another eBay purchase. It is a Swift Apollo 8x30 MK II, with a 446’ fov. Its round exit pupils proclaim it has Bak-4 prisms. It has the J-B 56 code, but bears no model number. It looks precisely what one would expect to see in a smaller version of its larger 804 H/R 5 type 4a cousin to look like. This came from England and was never sold here. The white bordered, blue stripe sets it off. Nicholas Crista figures prominently again here, as he literally snatched success from the jaws of failure with his work on this binocular. I can’t say what drew me to the single picture the seller displayed of this binocular. I called Nicholas and he looked the auction up and we talked about it over the phone. I wanted to be sure he had what he needed to service the binocular. He said he thought it looked like a special edition and he had never seen one like it. So the price was decent and I bought it. The seller is a prominent optics seller and has an extremely high 99+% rating.

When I opened the box I was pretty stunned. It was not the clear, fungus free, collimated binocular in the advertisement. It was unusable. So I boxed it up, called Nicholas and sent it off. He had to take the whole binocular apart. The inside of the body needed a thorough cleaning as did every single glass surface. The prism mountings needed work, and the prisms had to be reglued. He had to make some new focus parts. He emailed me a repair estimate, and I called him back and told him to go ahead, and sent him a check.

He called back a few days later told me it was done and he’d mailed it back. He said when he first looked at it he thought it was a goner, but he said it cleaned up very nicely. He said sometimes we get lucky, and we were both lucky here. He said it looked like somebody had dropped it in water, got the binocular full, and then hung it in a damp closet and forgot about for a long while. He had never seen one of these before and was surprised at how well it was made. He said I was lucky because I came out with a top quality, smaller Swift binocular, there can’t be very many of this particular Apollo, Particularly here in the US. How common this one is in England he had no idea. He had seen Apollo branded Swift 8x30, but with a 7.5* fov and different interior than this one. He said he was lucky to have been able to see something from Swift he was unfamiliar with and was happy he was able to restore it. This one also has no serial number, so its timeline is unclear.

At any rate, this is an outstanding little binocular. Not only does it look like a small 804, it feels like a small 804. It also has an image very 804 like in its presentation. Not as bright, or as sharp, but it also has less glass. The dof is nice, but not quite 804 level. It cost more than I anticipated, but I am happy with this. The seller ultimately refunded half of the total cost.

The full size:

This is the Nighthawk model 771. I have two of these. One is the one I bought in 1968. I finally wore this one out by about 1992. It never failed me; I probably can’t say I never failed it. Anyway, I lost track of this one for a while. When I found it again I figured I had to see if I could get it fixed up. About that time I saw another just like it on eBay that I figured may be less expensive that the repair, so I bought it. Well, it was severely damaged in shipping so they both went to Nicholas. That was my first experience with him and I became aware of him here. The first one has a J-B 19 code. It may be J-B 191, but the final digit is not distinctly#1, nor spaced quite correctly to be 191, but the possibility remains. Every other Swift I have seen has the J-B 56. Every one that is except for the second one, a Nighthawk Mark I, which has no J-B or J-E codes that I can find. They both have advertised 499’ fov and are listed as fully coated. The MK I has a 1978 serial number. I tend to think the older one received whatever upgrades the MK I had. I do remember Nicholas had to replace both ocular and both objective lenses on my original. Again, while I own technically superior 8x glass, this is one I still can take out and use and not get the notion I should have brought something better. The 76* afov is expansive enough the effects of a very wide angle view start to become apparent. I never found that out for a long time. When I bought it, the instructions said eye glass wearers needed the eye cups rolled down and non eye glass wearers needed them up. I did not use glasses, left the eye cups up, and used them quite happily for a couple of decades. It took awhile to figure I could see more of the fov with the eye cups off. The edge appears better with no eye cup and a wider view.

These are outclassed some by the Apollo, and the Bk-7 prisms are evident in the squared off EP corners. The edges are indeed somewhat soft, but the resolution and contrast are quite decent. It has a bit of a reddish color bias.

The large size:

This one is an Audubon 804 type 1c from 1968. It is fully coated, with Bak-4 prisms, and a 445’ fov. It has twist up metal eye cups. The body shows some honest use, but the optics quite frankly, are stunning. I have had a couple of type 4 model 804 H/R 5 Audubon’s, but they didn’t seem to affect me the way this binocular does. I have set the focus up just once. For views from 100 feet to infinity, I have yet needed to touch the focus. This thing is huge. I had forgotten how big they are and was reminded why I didn’t get one back in my earlier days. The Nighthawk is big enough, but it is small beside this one. I wasn’t big into non portable gear then. Featherweight, …hah, what a laugh! Marketers have no shame. I got a suitable case and this one now serves as my pickup binocular.

I would be quite happy if the last magnified view I am ever to see in this life, should be delivered with this binocular. Like the other binoculars in this post, I have other glass that is probably technically superior. Swift has always been adept at getting the best out of the overall view in their binoculars. Neither this Audubon, nor its smaller relative, the Apollo, will likely win a best of seven Presidential Debate series with more modern counterparts, but neither one will likely get swept either. Whatever optical needs, save for real wet conditions, I could satisfy, at least at a basic level with these four models.
 

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Steve C

Well-known member
Here are some Apollo shots.

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Steve C

Well-known member
Some Nighthawk shots.
 

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Steve C

Well-known member
Some Eaglet shots.
 

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rdmadison

Well-known member
These are all very nice, and the Apollo story is enlightening. If I were going to be covetous (moi?) it would have to be for the '68 Audubon. They are amazing compared to anything else of its decade. A Holiday isn't a patch on it.
 

Highway Dog

Well-known member
I find that Apollo very attractive! Makes me wish I could find one.
Thanks for the pictures and the story!
Rob.
 

elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
(Steve C)...The full size:

This is the Nighthawk model 771. I have two of these. One is the one I bought in 1968. I finally wore this one out by about 1992. It never failed me; I probably can’t say I never failed it. Anyway, I lost track of this one for a while. When I found it again I figured I had to see if I could get it fixed up. About that time I saw another just like it on eBay that I figured may be less expensive that the repair, so I bought it. Well, it was severely damaged in shipping so they both went to Nicholas. That was my first experience with him and I became aware of him here. The first one has a J-B 19 code. It may be J-B 191, but the final digit is not distinctly#1, nor spaced quite correctly to be 191, but the possibility remains. Every other Swift I have seen has the J-B 56. Every one that is except for the second one, a Nighthawk Mark I, which has no J-B or J-E codes that I can find. They both have advertised 499’ fov and are listed as fully coated. The MK I has a 1978 serial number. I tend to think the older one received whatever upgrades the MK I had. I do remember Nicholas had to replace both ocular and both objective lenses on my original. Again, while I own technically superior 8x glass, this is one I still can take out and use and not get the notion I should have brought something better. The 76* afov is expansive enough the effects of a very wide angle view start to become apparent. I never found that out for a long time. When I bought it, the instructions said eye glass wearers needed the eye cups rolled down and non eye glass wearers needed them up. I did not use glasses, left the eye cups up, and used them quite happily for a couple of decades. It took awhile to figure I could see more of the fov with the eye cups off. The edge appears better with no eye cup and a wider view.

These are outclassed some by the Apollo, and the Bk-7 prisms are evident in the squared off EP corners. The edges are indeed somewhat soft, but the resolution and contrast are quite decent. It has a bit of a reddish color bias.

Nice writeup, Steve. Very interesting. :t:

I have a 7x35 Fully-Coated Model 770 Nighthawk with an amazing 576' FOV, or 77º AFOV. It was probably made in 1974 by JL B191 and also has BK7 prisms, which produce a squared EP. Nicolas fixed it up to perfection.

Eye relief is fairly small but I still like to use it occasionally just for the super wide view. It took me a while getting used to it not standing upright on its own two objectives, but that gives it character. This is also one of the few binoculars with an inset prism cover.

Might want to keep an eye out for this model for your collection.

Ed
 

Steve C

Well-known member
These are all very nice, and the Apollo story is enlightening. If I were going to be covetous (moi?) it would have to be for the '68 Audubon. They are amazing compared to anything else of its decade. A Holiday isn't a patch on it.
Interesting you mention the Holiday. That is one Swift I'm going to get in my next go around. I may have just gotten its identical twin in a Binolux 7x35. It is J-B 56 and everything from the strap mounts to the tripod adapter cast into the frame are Swift. The fov is advertised as 578', but actually measured 600'. I'm not sure how that image compares yet to the Audubon. It is pretty close, but my gremlins were back when I opened this one up. There was not an internal or external screw that was not either shaken completely out, they were all at least seriously loose. The objective retaining rings were loose and the eccentric collimation rings had obviously shifted. Some of the prism plate mounting screws were rattling loose in the binocular, as well as some small set scrws that apparently serve to fine tilt the prism angles. I had to dissassemble the whole thing to get to all of the screws. I can't quite get it into collimation with the eccentric collimation rings.

Ed,

I am looking (not real seriously, but looking) for a Nighthawk 7x35. It is interesting to note however, I have seen a couple of Nighthawk dead ringers lately. Look at the Jason Sportscaster in FrankD's flicker page. There is also a Wards EWA 7x35 on sale on eBay right now that is a Nighthawk clone too. Recently on eBay, a fellow sold an 8x40 Jason Sportscaster that was a ringer for the Nighthawk too.
 

rdmadison

Well-known member
Steve,

The Holidays I refer to are of an earlier era, I think, than your era. Mine are pre-60 and 1967. Your JL B56, out there at 600', is leagues ahead of what my Holidays post:
Holiday1 (578' claimed; 11°) 446'; 8.5° (50")
Holiday2 (578' claimed; 11°) 428'; 8.2° (48")
My figures may be off a little because they are measured at 28' and extrapolated, but ye gads what a failure to come up to spec. Same thing with the Sport King: no where near the advertised. These are 60's instruments, but with the 1960 Audubon giving a better-than advertised 8.2 degrees at 8.5X, the latter is simply superior to the Holidays. Of course, everything changed around 1970. Only the names drifted over.
 

elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
Interesting you mention the Holiday. That is one Swift I'm going to get in my next go around. I may have just gotten its identical twin in a Binolux 7x35. It is J-B 56 and everything from the strap mounts to the tripod adapter cast into the frame are Swift. The fov is advertised as 578', but actually measured 600'. I'm not sure how that image compares yet to the Audubon. It is pretty close, but my gremlins were back when I opened this one up. There was not an internal or external screw that was not either shaken completely out, they were all at least seriously loose. The objective retaining rings were loose and the eccentric collimation rings had obviously shifted. Some of the prism plate mounting screws were rattling loose in the binocular, as well as some small set scrws that apparently serve to fine tilt the prism angles. I had to dissassemble the whole thing to get to all of the screws. I can't quite get it into collimation with the eccentric collimation rings.

Ed,

I am looking (not real seriously, but looking) for a Nighthawk 7x35. It is interesting to note however, I have seen a couple of Nighthawk dead ringers lately. Look at the Jason Sportscaster in FrankD's flicker page. There is also a Wards EWA 7x35 on sale on eBay right now that is a Nighthawk clone too. Recently on eBay, a fellow sold an 8x40 Jason Sportscaster that was a ringer for the Nighthawk too.

Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if the Japanese manufacturers routinely sold the same models under different brand names. I've come across that even with Hiyoshi Kogaku, JL B-56.

My one "Holiday" experience was tainted by the use of BK7 prisms and a great deal of vignetting. :(

Ed
 

Steve C

Well-known member
Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if the Japanese manufacturers routinely sold the same models under different brand names. I've come across that even with Hiyoshi Kogaku, JL B-56.

My one "Holiday" experience was tainted by the use of BK7 prisms and a great deal of vignetting. :(

Ed

I tend to think that too. I have wondered if maybe Binolux did not get over production runs from maker X model y and have a Binolux label put on it. Some other brands too. A lot of those old porros look really similar.
 

Simon S

Well-known member
Here is my latest addition to the Swift stable, a mint although broken 804.
Does anyone know were I can get the right focus arm from?
It is far to good to scrap.
 

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elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
Hmmm. Looks like a late model 1c, circa 1970. But do the objective bumpers match?

I'd ask Nicolas Crista. He might have such parts.

Ed
 

Simon S

Well-known member
Thanks for the info on the Panoramic, but I have a friend attempting the repair first.
I have the Apollo MK1 & 2 and neither of mine perform well. I suspect there are good and bad.
 

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