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Bushnell Rangemaster: Vintage Binocular vs. Modern Birds (1 Viewer)

Steve C

Well-known member
cjfrbw,

Thanks for the observations. I concur with your assessments of the Rangemaster. I may need to keep my eyes open for a sample of the second generation Fuji.

I am looking for a good slope shoulder Sears Discoverer 7x35 too. I let a couple go when I was in the waiting for the auction phases of the Rangemasters. They typically are pretty inexpensive. However the next one I will likely hold out for is a good Bushnell Custom. In the interview with David Bushnell I linked in an earlier post, he says the Custom was their top of the line binocular. I have a Custom, but it has "issues". It does not seem to be at the Rangemaster optical level.

Buying used vintage binoculars can be a crap shoot. I have had at least half that needed work. That repair requirement led me to learn how to do most of it myself.
 

Steve C

Well-known member
Fuji Rangemaster

I was fortunate, I think, to get both these in excellent condition at so close to the same time. I've had active searches going for these for several years. A Fuji early IF model just sold prior to these for $168.50 (plus shipping), which I missed by a dollar. I would have bid higher if they were CF. I am now glad I did not get that one, as these wound up costing $134.49 to my door. This Fuji is in mint condition. There are just a few places where there is some very small finish loss, overall condition externally I would rate them 95%. Internally they are pristine. Collimation is spot on. They are nearly identical in overall dimension, but the unadorned Fuji weighs 33 oz. vs. the Tamron’s 38. With a standard modern style rain guard, Bushwhacker #6 Flip ups, and a small strap, the Fuji scales 35.0 oz. to The Tamron’s 40 oz. In the end, they are both large binoculars, but they will affect different people differently due to the radical difference in housing design.

For what it is worth, the serial number is 311170. When the cap on the objective end of the hinge is removed, there is a number 100. It is not threaded for a tripod adapter.

The prisms seem identical in shape and size in both models, 57 mm long, 27 mm wide, and 25 mm high. Again, apparently interchangeable with the Swift Audubon IIc. I have not taken the Fuji apart to the point where I can get a good picture of the prisms, and I may well not. I need to get a different screwdriver from what I have to remove the outer prism plate, all the drivers I have that fit the screw slot width are too thick for the slot. I was initially not going to remove anything, but the focus had really stiffened up, so I took the ocular assembly off, degreased the focus threads, and added some grease. The focus works smoothly now. Once the ocular assembly is off, one needs to unscrew the ocular tube, remove the three outer prism plate screws and lift the plate off, exposing the prisms. This much can usually be done without causing harm.

Like their Tamron relative, they have a very slight amber color bias, but appear neutral in use. Colors are represented true to their tint, whites are white, reds are red, etc. While they may not seem as bright as a modern multi coated glass, their colors are bright and they have very good contrast and very good apparent sharpness. The colors do not appear washed out. Both the outer surface of the ocular and the objective look coated, there is a darker blue tinge to the objective than there is to the ocular. The coatings appear darker in the Tamron. The objective of the Tamron reflects one image of a light bulb, quite blue in tint. The Fuji likewise reflects a single reflection of a light bulb, but the color of the reflection has a definite pinkish tinge that is different from the Tamron. The oculars of both reveal four image reflections of a light bulb, with a pinkish tint to all four reflections in both binoculars. The reflections appear identical. Like the Tamron, the Fuji shows perfectly round exit pupils, speaking of Bak-4 prisms. The Tamron ocular assembly is larger in diameter than Fuji, 50 mm vs. 38 mm in the Fuji, but the Bakelite screw on eye cups of the Fuji flare out to 40 mm. The Tamron has a more massive bridge, some 15 mm thick, compared to 10 mm for the Fuji. The ocular lenses are 25 mm in diameter in both. There appears to be less mass involved in the Fuji body than in the Tamron, these factors likely accounting for the weight difference. There appears to be equal amounts of glass in both. Both objectives expand to the same width. The IPD range on the Fuji is 52-72 mm.

Oddly enough, both of these Rangemasters focus properly for my right eye at a plus 2 diopter setting. Both diopters seem to have equal travel to both plus and minus sides of the focus when set a 0, so it seem unlikely both somehow managed to slip the same amount in the same direction. Typically, my focus is just slightly to minus one diopter for proper focus. I have no idea why this is.

As far as I can tell, Bushnell registered the Rangemaster name on April of 1952. Mr. Bushnell stated his second trip to Japan was in the spring of 1952. It seems likely he told Fuji at that time to make him the best binocular they could make and he’d buy it. Again, as far as I know, the FPO like mine was an early model, superseded by at least 1957 by a later model that had some silver trim on the outside of the body, on the ocular assembly and rings around the objective barrel ends. Search on eBay reveals common ads for Bushnell Rangemaster binoculars that clearly are dated 1957 and they show a silver trimmed binocular. So with that in mind, I assume these were from sometime between late 1952 and 1956. Upon reflection, I wonder if the 3 in the serial number is reference to 1953. If these are from 1953, then they are in stunning condition for being around 60 years old. The case has wear, but little tear. A little shoe polish and it looks much newer. My only nitpick with the case is it is just a little too small. As I mentioned above, there is some finish wear on the metal body parts, but this binocular has not been used very hard. There is no silver oval for inspection by the Japan Telescopes Inspection Institute (JTTI), just an FPO over a logo and a Japan stamped on the cover of the objective end of the center rod. There are no J-B or J-E numbers, so my assumption is that these predate the JTTI period, which, as far as I know, required the use of the J-B and J-E numbers from November 1959 onward. I have no idea when the Fuji model was replaced by the Tamron model.

The Rangemaster was good enough evidently to be purchased in small numbers during Vietnam for use in counter intelligence work. Likely the Fuji, but I don’t know for sure.

The Fuji has a 10*(525’) field. The edges are better than the Tamron and the sweet spot on both binoculars seems about the same 8*, more or less. There is some 14 mm eye relief on the Fuji, a lot better than the Tamron. It seems a simple matter, viewed from the perspective of hindsight, to say it looks like it would have been pretty easy to make the oculars so that the eye glass wearer could get closer to the lens, particularly with the Tamron. The Fuji would be pretty easy to extend the eye cup upward. The eye cups have ample thread to let them have enough for secure purchase by screwing them out a couple of millimeters. It would be best to find, or have a machine shop make a few bushings to place underneath the eye cup so they could be screwed down tightly.

Both seem to focus to the same 12 foot close distance. The Fuji is counterclockwise to infinity, reverse of the Tamron. The Fuji has better apparent depth of field than the Tamron, while I’d give the Tamron a slight edge in brightness.

Field and Edge performance:

I’ll start here because the dominating aspect of the view in both of these is the very wide field and the tremendous depth of these 7x binoculars. Finally, considering width and depth of the field, is the edge performance of the two. Both of these seem to show me a better edge by quite a bit than other equally wide angle vintage porros. The edge of the Fuji is superior to the edge of the Tamron, but the sweet spots on both is about a wash, so there seems to be no practical advantage to the extra degree in the Tamron. It has been said the Fuji is perhaps the best wide angle porro ever produced. I agree with that sentiment. The Tamron I have is only a very small nitpick behind. The feature that really puts the Fuji in front is its superb depth of field. Yes, I realize there should be no difference, but the Fuji is in dead bang, spot on target, in focus from 100’ to infinity. The Tamron is basically there too, but it requires an occasional bump of the focus in the close end that the Fuji seems not to need. The combination of width and depth is the best I have seen for myself with these Rangemasters.

Object and Image Performance:

These are both equally sharp, bright, and possess very good contrast. The color rendition in both is neutral to perhaps ever so slightly cool. There is a fair interest in older Swift vintage porros. I have a few of those myself, and for those familiar with the model 804 Audubon, you have a good idea of the image of these Rangemasters. The balance in the width, depth, resolution, color, and contrast are pretty well balanced. The view is pretty much like you walked up closer to the target. It is relaxing, stress free, and pretty relaxing. They both display what has been widely referred to as a “picture window view”. These look like that, but a bigger window. With both, there is ample optical horsepower to get any detail needed for either an ID, or to just plain enjoy the view. While the colors are not as saturated as a fully equipped modern glass, the image looks, to me anyway, anything but washed out. Colors are rendered through the binocular just as you would see them with the unaided eye if the target was just in front of you. I’m not sensitive to CA, but it seems a non-issue with these.

I really was satisfied at the view I got from these. They are superior to most of my other old porros. The Fuji in particular was a surprise, since there is every indication this binocular is likely sixty years old. Point a gun at me and force me to pick one, I think it would somewhat begrudgingly be the Fuji. Largely because the Fuji is a bit easier to handle and has better apparent depth. Eye relief is not an issue for me with either, but if you wear glasses, the Fuji would probably be the way to go. Heft either of these and you immediately note a solid, substantial, quality feel that bespeaks of a lot of good old fashioned skill. I’m still trying to come to grips with the idea that this Fuji Rangemaster is from the 1950’s! It is enough to make me wonder just what level of improvement we have really achieved. ;)

It always makes me wonder when I hear the statement that a particular binocular… “Blows another away” :eek!:. That always seems like the players in a divorce proceeding trying to make the other side look terrible by saying bad things while justifying their own stance. I personally don’t think there is much that blows anything else away. So while I concede these ancient, single coated binoculars are not at the level of modern multi coated stuff, they are not getting “blown away” by anything. Certainly many viewers will think the modern stuff is better, and that’s fine, even to be expected, I’m just trying to keep things in perspective here. Single coated, decades old, ye gads look at the view! Either one (aside from sheer size) I could easily use as an only binocular, even today. At times, I will do just that too. ;)

I'll post some pictures next, and possibly some dissassembly related things. B :)
 
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cjfrbw

Well-known member
Yup, depth of field is another very nice feature of the Rangemaster. Even with my limited, aged accommodation, I can focus in and out the field with reasonable effectiveness. When viewing the ocean, focus once on infinity, and I can look into the distance and down into the surf to watch the surfers without re-focusing.

IF isn't ideal for bird watching, but seems doable with reasonably strong fingers and practice.
 

perterra

Well-known member
Yup, depth of field is another very nice feature of the Rangemaster. Even with my limited, aged accommodation, I can focus in and out the field with reasonable effectiveness. When viewing the ocean, focus once on infinity, and I can look into the distance and down into the surf to watch the surfers without re-focusing.

IF isn't ideal for bird watching, but seems doable with reasonably strong fingers and practice.

I have the Minox 9.5X42 IF and they work fine for waterfowl, but it's hard to keep up with Bewicks wrens.
 

John Dracon

John Dracon
Steve- good summary of your findings. I have a question for you. When you unscrew the eye cups from the FPO, what is surface of each ocular like?

John
 

John Dracon

John Dracon
Good. Now there is a simple strategy to allow the dedicated eye glass wearer or person using sunglasses to get close to the full FOV of yoiur FPO.

Get one of those plastic templates for drawing circles - normally have a variety of diameters. Then get a piece of 3-M sticky back tape in the rubberized texture, not the grit type. It is usually called anti-slip or something like that. Use the template over the ocular to get the diameter you want, with a smaller circle to match the diameter of the lens itself. Scribe on the backside (paper side with pen or pencil) a ring configuration.

With sharp sissors cut out your ring (two of course), peel off the paper and stick on the flat surface. Now you can presss your FPO against your glasses without fear of marring and enjoy almost the full FOV,

The rings stay stuck but are easily removed without gummy residue staying on the metal. Perhaps you already have used this simple, inexpensive solution.
A 525 FOV is pretty darn impressive, particularly with the FPO.

John
 

John Dracon

John Dracon
Just my opinion(s). When ever I read comments from some of the learned folks on this web site, who are so mesmerized by all the light transmission data and highly magnified resolution tests for certain binoculars, and when their comments strongly suggest they simply haven't looked through the Fuji Rangemaster under discussion, I'm motivated to say, "get yourself a pair and see for yourself."

I have yet to discuss this binocular with anyone who isn't impressed with it, almost to the point of hyperole. It is in the same class as the Nikon SE & EII. That it was crafted 60 years ago gives one pause when making assessments. IMO the Japanese demonstrated they had equaled if not surpassed the Germans in making porros of the highest quality. It is time to give the devil his due.

We can analogize to the Japanese automobiles which jarred Detroit out of its complacency. In the beginning their cars were so-so, but then they became superior.

John
 

Steve C

Well-known member
Well, I've had to do a different photo route, since to my dismay, the version of Adobe Photoshop I have won't install on Windows 8, so I hope this works out ;).

I tend to agree with John's above post. These really are a try them for yourself binocular. I have seen little if anything that balances extreme width of field, very deep field, decent edges, and sharpness as well as either of these Rangemasters. I still think there are a lot of viewers who will prefer the images of modern multicoated views, but I think just about anybody will be in awe of the image of a 60 year old binocular. I've showed it to a couple of people who were pretty impressed.

There are some pictures attached. The binocular for comparison is a Wards ultra Wide angle that weighs 27 oz.

More pictures next post ;)
 

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Steve C

Well-known member
OK, some more comparison photos, this with the Swift Audubon Type IIc, 8.5x, 44. One more with the Wards binocular.
 

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Steve C

Well-known member
OK, a few more, this should do it ;).
 

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John Dracon

John Dracon
Steve - In comment #47 I recommended how to create a mar free surface for eye glass wearers. I assumed (wrongly) that you would find the same surface as the FPO with silver rings. The Silver Ring FPO, which has the same optics as yours, has a ring nut that screws down flush with the serrated ring shown in your pictures. Thus everything stays together, and a broader surface for sticking on the rings is created.

I have a FPO IF binocular that is configured like yours, and I had two ring nuts made out of aluminum stock machined to screw down to level out the surface. But it cost me $50. Pretty expensive ring nuts.

Since my other silver ring FPOs (3) have steel nuts as part of the change in models, that problem doesn't exist with them. Of course yours is no problem for non-eye glass wearers.

Your picture of the Tamron with eye cup removed shows the gap between the ocular and the outside sleeve. When I use mine, I stuff O-rings down in the gap to bring the O-ring slightly above the metal edges. I hope this all makes some sense.

John
 

perterra

Well-known member
Steve - In comment #47 I recommended how to create a mar free surface for eye glass wearers. I assumed (wrongly) that you would find the same surface as the FPO with silver rings. The Silver Ring FPO, which has the same optics as yours, has a ring nut that screws down flush with the serrated ring shown in your pictures. Thus everything stays together, and a broader surface for sticking on the rings is created.

I have a FPO IF binocular that is configured like yours, and I had two ring nuts made out of aluminum stock machined to screw down to level out the surface. But it cost me $50. Pretty expensive ring nuts.

Since my other silver ring FPOs (3) have steel nuts as part of the change in models, that problem doesn't exist with them. Of course yours is no problem for non-eye glass wearers.

Your picture of the Tamron with eye cup removed shows the gap between the ocular and the outside sleeve. When I use mine, I stuff O-rings down in the gap to bring the O-ring slightly above the metal edges. I hope this all makes some sense.

John

Okay, I have read three or four times you discussing the O-rings, seeing that photo it finally clicked. I see what you mean.
 

John Dracon

John Dracon
An O ring can be used on the Fuji to help hold down the loose piece. Or a flat rubber washer(s) can accomplish the same thing. My suggestions are only an improvisation for eye glass wearers who remove the eye cups to get more FOV.
Fuji made shallow eye cups for their binoculars. I have a pair on a Fuji Rangemaster. Looks better of course and one gets about 80% of the FOV which is still pretty good. John
 

Steve C

Well-known member
OK, a couple of self inflicted face slaps here ;). First I have no idea why, but I referenced in several places, in text and photos my Swift Audubon 8.5x, 44 binocular. Somehow or another I incorrectly named it the type IIc :eek!:. It is a Type 1c from 1968.

The second one is that I knew just where John was going with his question. Here is the deal, John referenced it well enough in his follow up, but when the eye cup is removed there is an ocular guard that is held down by just the screwed down eye cup. When the eye cup is removed, there is nothing to hold the cover. An 0-ring or sticky sheet cut out would help, but I think the loss of the guard would be problematic. You can see that in the pictures I attach here. When you look closely you can see some small pins sticking up close to the exposed center section. These small pins fit into place along the serrated edges of the guard. Its is mostly cosmetic on the right side, but those pins serve to provide purchase for the diopter and without the guard, diopter adjustment become difficult at best.

So, if you wish to use this with glasses I would strongly suggest looking for a local machinist to manufacture a threaded bushing. That should be pretty easy. Just imagine a washer with the inside of the doughnut hole threaded to match the exposed ocular threads. Screw that on with the guard in place. Then with everything held down, use your preference of a sticky back cut out or an 0-ring.

I should have made it clear the shroud was attached by only the screwed down eye cup.
 

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henry link

Well-known member
Steve,

I'm still curious about the extent of AR coating in the Fuji Rangemaster. Your photos of the front end appear to show coating on both the front and rear glass to air surfaces of the objective elements. If you remove an eyepiece your should be able to see if some of the internal eyepiece elements and/or the prisms are uncoated. The "Coated Optics" label normally means that some surfaces somewhere in there are uncoated, but perhaps this binocular was made before the standard JTII nomenclature for coatings was adopted.

Henry
 

Steve C

Well-known member
Henry,

The lower (inner) surface of the ocular group appears coated. So do the prisms from what can be seen through the ocular tube, looking through the binocular. I don't have the right screwdriver to properly remove the screws in the prism plate so I can get better access to view the prisms.

I don't know if these photos will show anything worthwhile.
 

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henry link

Well-known member
Thanks Steve,

It would be easier to interpret the reflections if the background were black rather than white, so we could only see the reflections from the glass surfaces, not the light that returns from the white surface. What you're looking for are bright white reflections nestled among the darker blue/purple ones. As for the prisms you'll only need to see the front surface from the objective end and back surface from the eyepiece end to establish whether they are coated.

The right eyepiece seems to show a total of six glass to air reflections. Unless you can tilt the eyepiece and find more that suggests a three group eyepiece, most likely an Erfle. There should also be some small dim reflections coming from the internal surfaces of cemented doublets. If it's a five element Erfle you'll find two cementing reflections, a six element Erfle will have three.

Henry
 

John Dracon

John Dracon
Steve & Henry - Guess I'll add to the confusion. My first Fuji FPO was an IF binocular which exposed the serrated bottom once the eye cup was removed - the kind Steve has. One of the eyepieces showed the beginning of a lens separation of a doublet on the edges, the kind when balsam cement is used. I decided to remove the lens from the ocular and see if I could re-cement the lens.

The top lens cracked as I was pushing it out, rendering it now a monocular. Then I found a genuine Fuji monocular of the same generation and simply screwed out the ocular housing and screwed it in place of the damaged ocular which of course was removed. Now I'm back to an IF binocular. Works fine. No colimation problems.

The reflection of the coatings on the newly installed ocular piece (left side) was a slghtly different hue than the coatings on the right ocular. But since I am right eye dominant, I see the same color saturation in both barrels.

The colors are "darker" when compared to the silver ring Fuji Rangemaster, and for unexplainable reasons, the 3-D images are slightly enhanced with the IF Fuji.

I kept all the pieces including prisms from the salvaged monocular. The prisms are huge and appear to be lightly coated. Now as to the lens present in the ocular housing. There appear to be four lens, one being a distinct doublet (concave and convex cemented together) making five (5) distinct lens. The lens appear to be coated on both sides and several are air spaced by metal rings.

My inventory of Silver Ring Fuji numbers (3) three, and they are identical and a wee bit brighter than the IF Fuji. They also have screwed down rings holding everything together once the eye cups are removed.

Several thoughts come to mind. One - send the lens, prisms, and housing from the monocular to Henry for his analysis. And two - contact Fuji about what the configuration is supposed to be. Fuji still makes binoculars. Surely someone in Japan knows all about this.

Gentlemen - your thoughts.

John
 

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