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Historical Review of Swift 804 Audubon Binoculars (1 Viewer)

elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
NOTE:
An article by Edward M. Huff and Renze de Vries entitled: "The Inimitable Swift Model 804 Audubon Binoculars: Design and Marking Variations" is attached to Post #15 in three .pdf sections.

Historical Note #1: SP Series, — Post 59
Factoid #1: Tethered Objective Covers — Post 61
Factoid #2: Non-Air-Spaced 804ED — Post 91
Update — Post 103



As a continuation of thread Differences in Swift Audubon mark I, II, III ?, Renze de Vries and I have been investigating the various types of Swift Model #804 binoculars, and their marking variations. This has been aided by somewhat incomplete advertising records provided by Swift, San Jose, some of our own catalogues, as well as information from various collectors.

At this point it appears that Mark II binoculars were Swift's "Premium Quality" series, dating back to the early 1960s. One of the defining aspects to all Mark II models was a 5-element ocular, and three other quality construction characteristics. It does not seem that there were any Mark I Audubons, although there was definitely a Mark I lineup that overlapped in time but met different engineering criteria. We have identified several major design changes during the #804's 40 yr. history, which spanned the period from 1960 to 1999. We plan to publish a full BF report of the various types and marking when it's complete.

It anyone has a published account of the interaction between Swift and so-called "world famous" ornithologists back in the late 1950s or early 1960s, from which the original design evolved, it would be appreciated if you would share it with us. Even if written accounts differ it would be an interesting preface.

Second, although Swift's records are incomplete, we know from eBay sales that 2 or 3 types with blue or gold ribbons on the left cover plate were made. At the moment we are assuming they were produced in the period 1983-84, because they seem to represent a short-lived transition model with most of the characteristics of the earlier body style, and some of the features later to be consolidated into the significantly smaller 804R. ("R" means "revised," incidentally.) The stumper is that some ribbon-marked model have eyecups similar to very early types made before 1983, and the diopter scales are also different on some.

So, if anyone can provide information from old Swift catalogs with pictures and dates it would help us enormously to sort out what actually happened. If you own one of these blue or gold ribbon Audubons that could also be a help in learning more about them.

Please feel free to respond on this thread, or email me or Renze if you would like to contribute. Of course, anything else that might help to make this historical review as complete, accurate, and interesting as possible would also be appreciated.

Many thanks,

Ed Huff (aka Elkcub)
Renze de Vries
 
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jules.b

Well-known member
I have a set of the Audubon 804 mkII with the blue ribbon on prism cover. The eyepieces look like those on the first body design, but the focus knob is like those on the later models - between the body hinges rather than the hinge and bridge.

There are no flaps that I can see on the vinyl for collimation screws. Looking under the objective lens surrounds there appear to be multiple rings. Would these be "eccentric rings".

I do not know how old they are, but judging from the case wear they are quite an old model.
 

elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
jules.b said:
I have a set of the Audubon 804 mkII with the blue ribbon on prism cover. The eyepieces look like those on the first body design, but the focus knob is like those on the later models - between the body hinges rather than the hinge and bridge.

There are no flaps that I can see on the vinyl for collimation screws. Looking under the objective lens surrounds there appear to be multiple rings. Would these be "eccentric rings".

I do not know how old they are, but judging from the case wear they are quite an old model.

Jules,

Thanks for the response. Using Bill Cook's CN picture showing three 804 types (link below), is the eyecup made of rubber like the leftmost type, or is it hard material? One of the things we've uncovered is that (what we believe to be) the very first models actually used a between-the-hinge focusing wheel — but it was silver ribbed metal not rubber.

It would really help if you could attach a few digital pictures of this beauty so we could get a good look at the cover plates, eyepieces, etc. Not to be nosey, but did you buy this specimen on eBay in the last few months? If so, we may have pictures of it.

With regard to alignment adjustment, perhaps we can entice Bill Cook into commenting. My older Audubons (c. 1967) also doesn't have flaps, and I was wondering about the same thing. A picture of it is attached, beside a more recent 804R that preceded the center type in Bill's picture.

Ed
http://www.cloudynights.com/ubbthre...e=y&olderval=&oldertype=&bodyprev=#Post387187
 

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jules.b

Well-known member
Here are a few photos. The eyecups, as you can see, are like those on the left in the Cloudynights forum photo.

They are not an Ebay purchase.
 

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WJC

Well-known member
elkcub said:
Jules,

Thanks for the response. Using Bill Cook's CN picture showing three 804 types (link below), is the eyecup made of rubber like the leftmost type, or is it hard material? One of the things we've uncovered is that (what we believe to be) the very first models actually used a between-the-hinge focusing wheel — but it was silver ribbed metal not rubber.

It would really help if you could attach a few digital pictures of this beauty so we could get a good look at the cover plates, eyepieces, etc. Not to be nosey, but did you buy this specimen on eBay in the last few months? If so, we may have pictures of it.

With regard to alignment adjustment, perhaps we can entice Bill Cook into commenting. My older Audubons (c. 1967) also doesn't have flaps, and I was wondering about the same thing. A picture of it is attached, beside a more recent 804R that preceded the center type in Bill's picture.

Ed
http://www.cloudynights.com/ubbthre...e=y&olderval=&oldertype=&bodyprev=#Post387187

Gentlemen:

Today, I am as busy as a one-armed paper hanger. But, I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Cheers,

Bill
 

elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
jules.b said:
Here are a few photos. The eyecups, as you can see, are like those on the left in the Cloudynights forum photo.

They are not an Ebay purchase.

Great! I'd like to wait for Bill's comments about these designs.

More later,

Ed
 

WJC

Well-known member
elkcub said:
Great! I'd like to wait for Bill's comments about these designs.

More later,

Ed

Hi guys:

I doubt my comments will be of any worth. Since Jules has the bino in his possession, he knows that it has rubber eyecups. Also, be advised that this bino is the little brother to the Swift Commodore—a 7x50 with a VERY wide apparent field of view. This was aided in part by the lenses that were glued to the prism plates just after the last prism surface.

If I can figure out how to post an image on this site, I will show you a hybrid—am 8x40 Bushnell Sportscaster. Note the Jason / Bushnell / early Swift type of focus mechanism.

As for collimation, the one you speak of does have eccentric ring collimation, as did almost all decent binos of that era. The through-the-body screws on the Audubon are a bit out of the ordinary in that they tilt through the body and strike the prism at an angle. I have the Audubon 8.5x44 and 10x50 Audubon (now called the Kestrel) and used them as my primary birding instruments right up to the time I bought my 8x32 SE. However, collimation can be bear. There is not always enough resistance in the springs to hold the prism in place. This causes one to have to tweak more than should be necessary. This, in turn, wears out the threads or causes one side of the thread slot to bread off. That is a real pain. Finding small instrument screws, even in a market the size of Seattle, can be an exercise in futility.

Yes, it CAN take longer to collimate a bino with the eccentric ring method. However, once the job is done, it’s done; there’s no worrying about wimpy springs.

Was this of any value?

Cheers,

Bill Cook, Chief Opticalman, USNR-Ret.
Manager, Precision Instruments & Optics, Captain’s Nautical Supplies, Seattle

P.S. Please compare the NEW Swift Audubon to the photo of the Second Prize in the Night Sky Summer Sweepstakes (page 51). Just thought you would be interested.
 

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elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
Bill,

You bet it's of value. I'd like to ask more specific questions, some based on what you said, and some on what's in old Swift ads. However, my cousin is visiting for the next few days so I'll get back to this thread shortly.

Could you clarify where the eccentric adjustments are made, as per Jules' question in post #2?

Thanks,
-ed
 
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elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
WJC said:
... P.S. Please compare the NEW Swift Audubon to the photo of the Second Prize in the Night Sky Summer Sweepstakes (page 51). Just thought you would be interested.

Bill,

I don't follow what the photo is or have a web site for the "Summer Sweepstakes (page 51)." :h?:
 
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WJC

Well-known member
elkcub said:
Bill,

I don't follow what the photo is or have a web site for the "Summer Sweepstakes (page 51). :h?:

If you did, you would see it has a Vixen label.

Bill
 

elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
WJC said:
If you did, you would see it has a Vixen label.

Bill

Bill,

Would you like to embellish this? Are you saying/suggesting/implying it's the same design or uses the same technology? My brain cells aren't working too well...
 
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elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
jules.b said:
Here are a few photos. The eyecups, as you can see, are like those on the left in the Cloudynights forum photo.

They are not an Ebay purchase.

Jules,

These pictures help. Can we use them in our paper?

I'm also curious about how collimation is done on these and others like them. Inputs from anyone would help.

I thought these ribbon marked binoculars were a transitional type that foreshadowed a return of focusing wheel to between the main hinges. However, based on several variations in eyecups, some of which are rubber and some not, there is a good chance this model was sold concurrently in Europe with the model shown on the left in Bill's photo.

If anyone has information that can clear up this mystery it would be appreciated. Catalogs are best, but they are hard to find.

Many thanks,
Ed
 
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elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
The Inimitable Swift 804 Binoculars

Well, it's been a lot of fun for the last two months, but our paper is now ready for initial distribution. Sorry its taken this long, but I think you'll see why. The 23 pg. document has been compressed from 6.5MB to 1.2MB and has naturally lost some detail in the process. Unfortunately, some folks with an older Acrobat Reader may not be able to open it. Please try to upgrade.

Renze de Vries and I would like to thank the following people specifically for helping in various ways, but we take responsibility for all errors large or small. Henry Link was particularly generous with his time and insight, and has helped a great deal.

1. Steve Carter, Swift Optics, Customer Support, San Jose, CA, USA
2. Greg Short, Swift Optics, Customer Support, San Jose, CA, USA
3. Fan Tao, USA
4. Julian Bosley, Oxford, UK
5. Henry Link, Greensboro, NC
6. Wim de Boer, Technolyt, The Netherlands
7. Bill Cook, Captain’s Nautical Supplies, Seattle, OR, USA

Naturally, any questions, comments or corrections would be appreciated, as the paper can can be revised if necessary.

Hope you enjoy reading it as much as we've enjoyed the challenge of putting it together.

Ed Huff (Elkcub)
PS. The corrected (and final) version can be found on post #15.
Total earlier downloads: Part 1, 56; Part 2, 43; Part 3, 49.
 
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elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
The Inimitable Swift Model 804 Audubon Binoculars: Design and Marking Variations

The corrected version of the paper has been uploaded, and the earlier versions are being deleted to avoid confusion. You would have to look closely to see any difference, but two marking variations have been added, and some of the tentative wording has been strengthened based on feedback from Swift and a few collectors. We've also added a few fieldmark arrows to help identification. It's been an interesting journey.

Again, we would like to thank this somewhat larger list of people for helping in various ways, and hope no one was left out. We still take responsibility for all errors large and small, so let us know if you find any.

1. Steve Carter, Swift Optics, Customer Support, San Jose, CA, USA
2. Greg Short, Swift Optics, Customer Support, San Jose, CA, USA
3. Fan Tao, USA
4. Julian Bosley, Oxford, UK
5. Henry Link, Greensboro, NC
6. Wim de Boer, Technolyt, The Netherlands
7. Bill Cook, Captain’s Nautical Supplies, Seattle, OR, USA
8. Ted Nordhagen, Montana, USA

Happy Holidays,
Ed Huff and Renze de Vries
 

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elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
Availability of 804 Type 4b(2)

:hi: Several people have asked about the availability of Type 4 804s. Although used ones turn up on eBay fairly consistently, I recently learned about three new old stock items in Tacoma, WA. These are not the ED model, but they do have the latest fully multi-coated optics.

Anyone interested can ontact Ed (who is not me) at: [email protected], or call 253-627-4158. He's asking $389, which as I recall was the standard retail price about 1999.

Are they worth the investment? They would be to me if I didn't already own several 804s.

Happy Holidays.
 

Pinewood

New York correspondent
United States
Swift 804 vs. Nikon Porros EII and SE

Elkcub raises the question as to whether old stock of the 804's are worth the price. To answer the question, one has to consider the binocular's performance and what else may be available.

I have been examining a Swift 804 HR/5 glass and I have found it to be very interesting. Comparing it with roof prism glasses would be unfair, and comparing it to the Nikon 8x30 EII and Nikon 8x32SE would also be problematic because the Swift has larger objectives. Optically, its greatest asset, wide FOV, is barely offered in any roof glass, while the close focus and waterproof qualities of a roof are hardly available in a Porro binocular.

However, the Nikon Porros and the old Swift may be compared on the basis of price point with some justification. The EII retails for under $US300 and the SE retails for a little less than $US599. This put the 804, if available, between the two. I have already written about the two Nikons in

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=34701 post #24

The 804 is rather like the EII with Swift having almost as a wide field of view as the EII and substantially the same apparent fields of view. I would put the edge sharpness of the Swift as right between both Nikons. Like the EII the Swift's sharp center is about the same as the SE's field of view.

All three have acceptable eye relief with the SE having the best specs. As I wrote earlier, the SE is well known for giving some users, the kidney bean effect. This not a problem with the other two binoculars.

All three binoculars have good central sharpness. The multicoating on each provides good contrast. I do not think any of them would be lacking in the field, even if a bench test would show some differences.

All three would be considered stiff focussing compared to a roof glass but in these Porros, one is moving the bridge and the oculars, not just some internal lenses. The Swift has the widest focussing knob, making it a bit easier to use.

All three use fold down rubber eyecups, so there is equality in being old fashioned. As I wear eyeglasses, I should point out that the Swift seems to have better suppression of reflection because of strong sidelight entering the oculars. This should be of little importance to those who do not wear specs.

I did not have the opportunity to determine how much advantage the larger exit pupil and higher twilight factor of the Swift translates into greater utility at dusk or penetratrion of shadow on dull days. Today, a very overcast wintry day, the Swift performed very well. I spotted a woodpecker, not very far off but beneath a tree. The glass revealed the red crown of the red bellied woodpecker, which my naked eye missed.

I like the 804 because of its wide view, even with its greater bulk. Swift managed to find a nice compromise in the 44 mm. objectives, between 32 mm and 50 mm. At that price point, even with its bulk, it compares well to either of the two Nikons, the most comparable competition, at the price point. If both a wide FOV and greater twilight factor are important criteria than the Swift has the advantage over both Nikons. The greater exit pupil does make it easier to align the objectives, the oculars and the user' eyes. If the user has no trouble with the SE's kidney bean effect, with its 60º apparent field of view, and if the user requires a flat field, the SE may have the advantage, at a substantially higher price. If the user likes a wide field and has no problem with a 3.75 mm. exit pupil, the EII may be right

Since all binoculars are compromises, and the users have their own criteria, this binocular would be worth investigating, if the vendor has a full refund policy. I always recommend trying a glass out yourself, not taking others' advice.

Happy bird watching,
Arthur Pinewood
 
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elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
Arthur,

Many thanks for a well thought out review. One reason I became so interested in the 804's history is that they are such a fantastic birding binocular. IMO they compare very well with my Nikon E and Swarovski SLC optics — and those were chosen over other top end products. It continues to mystify me why Swift 804 Audubons seem(ed) to be an "also ran," particularly since they are really superior in low-light birding conditions when it matters most. I'll be looking forward to your observations made at dawn or dusk, and perhaps we can continue the discussion.

Happy Holidays
-ed
 
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Pinewood

New York correspondent
United States
elkcub said:
Arthur,

Many thanks for a well thought out review. One reason I became so interested in the 804's history is that they are such a fantastic birding binocular. IMO they compare very well with my Nikon E and Swarovski SLC optics — and those were chosen over other top end products. It continues to mystify me why Swift 804 Audubons seem(ed) to be an "also ran," particularly since they are really superior in low-light birding conditions when it matters most. I'll be looking forward to your observations made at dawn or dusk, and perhaps we can continue the discussion.

Happy Holidays
-ed
Ed,

I am not likely to watch birds at dawn or dusk, but I have been trying to penetrate shadow on cloudy days. I did not see any birds in shadow on this overcast day but I did not instantly recognize a tufted titmouse in the trees, until I used the binocular and the Audubon helped me distinguish the coloring of a female cardinal, also in the trees. The Audubon did not serve me well looking at stars well above the horizon but I have difficulties doing that with an 8x50. However, a unipod helps solve my shakes.


Another bird watcher raised the issue of durability, holding that the Nikons were better built than the Audubons. Certainly, Nikon has a good guarantee. I try to take good care of my optics and the only problem I have encountered involved trauma. Nevertheless, most binoculars should be regarded as suffering from slow, minor deterioration. We should review their conditions with fresh eyes, every few years.

Happy bird watching,
Arthur :egghead:
 
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elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
Pinewood said:
Another bird watcher raised the issue of durability, holding that the Nikons were better built than the Audubons. Certainly, Nikon has a good guarantee. I try to take good care of my optics and the only problem I have encountered involved trauma. Nervtheless, most binoculars should be regarded as suffering from slow, minor deterioration. We should review their conditions with fresh eyes, every few years.

Hi Arthur,

Nah, there is no basis for saying Nikons are built better. I own an 8x30 Mikron, and a 10x35 E. Each required collimation, the latter when brand new.

Since acquiring my 804R Audubons I've been able to bird longer, well into darker conditions. It's most remarkable. In addition, naturalness of viewing is superior than with anything else I own. That part I can't quite explain, but I think you commented on the same phenomenon.

They'll have to pry 'em out of my cold, dead hands. :king:

-ed
 

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