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Armour: Advantages and disadvantages (1 Viewer)

Hermann

Well-known member
Germany
Some posts in the recent thread on the armour used by Swarovski in their roofs argued more manufacturers might contemplate making binoculars without any armour. One of the ideas put forward was to increase the stability of the body by increasing the wall thickness of the housing making any armour superfluous. (E.g. Problem with green coating of EL SV 8x32)

This got me thinking: What are the advantages (and functions) of armouring binoculars? And what are its disadvantages?

I came up with the following points in favour of armouring binoculars:
  1. Mechanical protection: Armour protects the binoculars from knocks and abrasion if they come into contact with some hard surface, e.g. rocks in the mountains. This is perhaps the most obvious function of armour, and armour does protect binoculars pretty well as long as it is well-made.
  2. Protection in cold climates: Armour also protects your hands in cold climates. Bare metal (or metal covered with thin leatherette) is a very efficient heat sink, even if you wear gloves.
  3. Noise reduction: An armoured binocular is "quieter", for instance when it moves on the chest against the zipper or buttons of a jacket or the straps of a backpack.
  4. Well-made armour makes it easier to hold the binoculars securely when they're wet, e.g. in the rain or on a boat. That's the reason why e.g. the "classic" Zeiss Dialyts, the rubber-armoured green Habicht 7x42 and 10x42 and the military Hensoldt models have heavily ribbed rubber armour.
I think these four points are the reason why (most) military binoculars are quite heavily armoured. (Not all of them, a famous example is the 8x60 blc (Unbenanntes Dokument)). I also think all four aspects are equally important in the field, especially if you are a "hardcore birder".

Disadvantages:
  1. Weight: Armour may increase the weight of binoculars quite significantly. In the case of the Habicht 7x42 the armour weighs ~70gr. That's quite a lot. (Maybe the additional weight is the reason why most modern armours are so thin.)
  2. Aesthetics: Some people prefer the "classic" look of an unarmoured binocular like e.g. the Habicht 7x42 with leatherette covering, or indeed the Leica Retrovids. Such binoculars look "nice".
  3. Repairs: An armoured binocular is arguably more difficult to repair than an unarmoured one because any repairs involve two additional steps (getting the armour off and putting (new) armour on the binocular). If the armour is really tough (think the Leica BA/BN series with their polyurethane (?) armour) this may increase the cost of any repairs.
Final thoughts:
  • I personally like both, armoured and unarmoured, "classic" binoculars. Let's face it, the Habicht 7x42 (leatherette finish) looks nicer than the green, rubber-armoured version. However, on birding trips I'd always take armoured binoculars if I have a choice.
  • I'd personally like all manufacturers to use some thicker, tougher armour, even if that increases the weight a bit. Many manufacturers only seem to go through the motions when it comes to armouring their binoculars. I've handled binoculars where you could literally tear off the armour with your fingernails.
  • I know this is the binocular forum, however, I think the same applies to scopes. Scopes often get knocked around in the field quite a bit, and buying a protective stay-on case for your scope shouldn't really be necessary. The only scope with some tough armour I can think of is the Zeiss Dialyt 18-45x65, a scope aimed at the hunting market and for a variety of reasons not that attractive for birders.
Hermann
 
A quite interesting thing is that highly contrasting armour types may yet be very satisfying haptically.

I really enjoy using the Leica Ultravids, with smooth boring grey armour, most out of my binoculars.

My favourite however is on the Swarovski CTS drawscope, curved and deeply recessed along the barrel, a tactile treat.
 

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I am a 100% fan of armour on optics. The amount of times I have dinged kit off of rails and rocks...I shudder to think what would happen if there was not a buffer between the metal and impactor.

Note: My old hawke 85ed was unarmoured and lived in a stay on case. By the time I replaced the Hawke, the third case was a sorry little specimen indeed.
 
I don't really care much about armor or not. In part no doubt to fact that even with armor, I'm going to be careful with my optical kit. I also realize there are pros, field-biologists, hunters, and military, for whom binos are just a tool around your neck which gets little 'love'. I've owned UV's in BL and HD+ versions and the only downside of BL was they were colder on bitter winter days. Haptics were actually nicer in BL wrapping (lighter, great feel in-hand...).

Waterproofing, yes... I'd be in heaven with Retro build but 100% waterproof/sealed.
 
Some posts in the recent thread on the armour used by Swarovski in their roofs argued more manufacturers might contemplate making binoculars without any armour. One of the ideas put forward was to increase the stability of the body by increasing the wall thickness of the housing making any armour superfluous. (E.g. Problem with green coating of EL SV 8x32)

This got me thinking: What are the advantages (and functions) of armouring binoculars? And what are its disadvantages?

I came up with the following points in favour of armouring binoculars:
  1. Mechanical protection: Armour protects the binoculars from knocks and abrasion if they come into contact with some hard surface, e.g. rocks in the mountains. This is perhaps the most obvious function of armour, and armour does protect binoculars pretty well as long as it is well-made.
  2. Protection in cold climates: Armour also protects your hands in cold climates. Bare metal (or metal covered with thin leatherette) is a very efficient heat sink, even if you wear gloves.
  3. Noise reduction: An armoured binocular is "quieter", for instance when it moves on the chest against the zipper or buttons of a jacket or the straps of a backpack.
  4. Well-made armour makes it easier to hold the binoculars securely when they're wet, e.g. in the rain or on a boat. That's the reason why e.g. the "classic" Zeiss Dialyts, the rubber-armoured green Habicht 7x42 and 10x42 and the military Hensoldt models have heavily ribbed rubber armour.
I think these four points are the reason why (most) military binoculars are quite heavily armoured. (Not all of them, a famous example is the 8x60 blc (Unbenanntes Dokument)). I also think all four aspects are equally important in the field, especially if you are a "hardcore birder".

Disadvantages:
  1. Weight: Armour may increase the weight of binoculars quite significantly. In the case of the Habicht 7x42 the armour weighs ~70gr. That's quite a lot. (Maybe the additional weight is the reason why most modern armours are so thin.)
  2. Aesthetics: Some people prefer the "classic" look of an unarmoured binocular like e.g. the Habicht 7x42 with leatherette covering, or indeed the Leica Retrovids. Such binoculars look "nice".
  3. Repairs: An armoured binocular is arguably more difficult to repair than an unarmoured one because any repairs involve two additional steps (getting the armour off and putting (new) armour on the binocular). If the armour is really tough (think the Leica BA/BN series with their polyurethane (?) armour) this may increase the cost of any repairs.
Final thoughts:
  • I personally like both, armoured and unarmoured, "classic" binoculars. Let's face it, the Habicht 7x42 (leatherette finish) looks nicer than the green, rubber-armoured version. However, on birding trips I'd always take armoured binoculars if I have a choice.
  • I'd personally like all manufacturers to use some thicker, tougher armour, even if that increases the weight a bit. Many manufacturers only seem to go through the motions when it comes to armouring their binoculars. I've handled binoculars where you could literally tear off the armour with your fingernails.
  • I know this is the binocular forum, however, I think the same applies to scopes. Scopes often get knocked around in the field quite a bit, and buying a protective stay-on case for your scope shouldn't really be necessary. The only scope with some tough armour I can think of is the Zeiss Dialyt 18-45x65, a scope aimed at the hunting market and for a variety of reasons not that attractive for birders.
Hermann
Great list!

Thanks for mention scope armoring. I really don't like having to use scope stay-on cases although I use them. Always in my way. When I bought my Meopta S2 the case was shipped separately so I went on my birding trip without it since I had NEVER really needed a case. I set up at the Dauphin Island airport(VERY small airport!) and it was pretty breezy. A gust of wind ...scope and tripod tipped over and scope landed on the asphalt. A pretty good gash but Meopta stuff IS tough and it has never missed a beat. But the cover was but on it when it came home! LOL!
 
Some posts in the recent thread on the armour used by Swarovski in their roofs argued more manufacturers might contemplate making binoculars without any armour. One of the ideas put forward was to increase the stability of the body by increasing the wall thickness of the housing making any armour superfluous. (E.g. Problem with green coating of EL SV 8x32)

This got me thinking: What are the advantages (and functions) of armouring binoculars? And what are its disadvantages?

I came up with the following points in favour of armouring binoculars:
  1. Mechanical protection: Armour protects the binoculars from knocks and abrasion if they come into contact with some hard surface, e.g. rocks in the mountains. This is perhaps the most obvious function of armour, and armour does protect binoculars pretty well as long as it is well-made.
  2. Protection in cold climates: Armour also protects your hands in cold climates. Bare metal (or metal covered with thin leatherette) is a very efficient heat sink, even if you wear gloves.
  3. Noise reduction: An armoured binocular is "quieter", for instance when it moves on the chest against the zipper or buttons of a jacket or the straps of a backpack.
  4. Well-made armour makes it easier to hold the binoculars securely when they're wet, e.g. in the rain or on a boat. That's the reason why e.g. the "classic" Zeiss Dialyts, the rubber-armoured green Habicht 7x42 and 10x42 and the military Hensoldt models have heavily ribbed rubber armour.
I think these four points are the reason why (most) military binoculars are quite heavily armoured. (Not all of them, a famous example is the 8x60 blc (Unbenanntes Dokument)). I also think all four aspects are equally important in the field, especially if you are a "hardcore birder".

Disadvantages:
  1. Weight: Armour may increase the weight of binoculars quite significantly. In the case of the Habicht 7x42 the armour weighs ~70gr. That's quite a lot. (Maybe the additional weight is the reason why most modern armours are so thin.)
  2. Aesthetics: Some people prefer the "classic" look of an unarmoured binocular like e.g. the Habicht 7x42 with leatherette covering, or indeed the Leica Retrovids. Such binoculars look "nice".
  3. Repairs: An armoured binocular is arguably more difficult to repair than an unarmoured one because any repairs involve two additional steps (getting the armour off and putting (new) armour on the binocular). If the armour is really tough (think the Leica BA/BN series with their polyurethane (?) armour) this may increase the cost of any repairs.
Final thoughts:
  • I personally like both, armoured and unarmoured, "classic" binoculars. Let's face it, the Habicht 7x42 (leatherette finish) looks nicer than the green, rubber-armoured version. However, on birding trips I'd always take armoured binoculars if I have a choice.
  • I'd personally like all manufacturers to use some thicker, tougher armour, even if that increases the weight a bit. Many manufacturers only seem to go through the motions when it comes to armouring their binoculars. I've handled binoculars where you could literally tear off the armour with your fingernails.
  • I know this is the binocular forum, however, I think the same applies to scopes. Scopes often get knocked around in the field quite a bit, and buying a protective stay-on case for your scope shouldn't really be necessary. The only scope with some tough armour I can think of is the Zeiss Dialyt 18-45x65, a scope aimed at the hunting market and for a variety of reasons not that attractive for birders.
Hermann
Excellent synopsis Herman, covers all the pros and cons. I’d ad that going back to a bicarbonate plastic with a very robust rubber or some durable composite armor, similar to the Zeiss FL would cover most bases.
 
I just found out what the covering from 80's and earlier was called "Vulcanite". e.g. on my Nikon E porros. It's got grip but no absorption in knocks and bumps.
 
Excellent synopsis Herman, covers all the pros and cons. I’d ad that going back to a bicarbonate plastic with a very robust rubber or some durable composite armor, similar to the Zeiss FL would cover most bases.
Excellent synopsis indeed. I prefer armouring on my binoculars, especially when hiking and own(ed) Zeiss FL, Habicht GA and as a matter of fact also the heavy armoured Zeiss Fieldscope. But i also like and own beautiful unarmed binoculars like the Leitz 7x35 B and small Leica Ultravids.
 

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