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Historical Review of Swift 804 Audubon Binoculars (1 Viewer)

SMark

Member
Hello, I’ve just registered on Birdforum and this is my first post. I hope that it will be within the forum rules.

I’ve read with great interest the discussions about the history of the Swift Audubon binoculars and the article by Edward M. Huff and Renze de Vries that tried to build a timeline of the different versions. Why this interest? Because 36 years ago I bought a Swift Audubon 804 Mark II in an optician shop in The Netherlands. During all these years it has been heavily used by me on an almost daily basis (and often mistreated in less ideal circumstances, as can be seen on the photos) for aircraft spotting and bird watching. It even fell on concrete once when the neck strap broke, resulting in some damage to the right hand ocular lense.

I’ve always been very satisfied with the wide field angle, the sharp image and the good performance in dark circumstances. But in the last years this satisfaction slowly faded away because the bridge became more and more unstable and the diopter moves when holding the binos with one hand. This is caused by a crack in the diopter ring. Also the vision became less clear, apparently because of some haze on the inside of the left objective. Furthermore collimation may be needed. For these reasons I was looking for new binoculars, but now that I’ve read on this forum that maintenance and repair by a qualified company in The Netherlands may be possible, I will now first look into that option.

My 804 has manufacturer code J-B56 and serial number 811979 and is of type 3b (gold ribbon), but with a metal (not rubber-coated) focus knob. Another remarkable point is the red text “wide field 8.5°” on the right cover plate instead of “extra wide field” as is present on all the photos that I’ve seen except the one on the right of page 14 of the document by Edward M. Huff and Renze de Vries. It has no “H.R.” on it, just “Audubon”.

The upper parts of the rubber eyecups went missing on my 804 since I kept them always in rolled down position, what caused that these parts broke off after the rubber had dried out.

Ad

It looks well used, but mostly well loved. You will probably find that it will need a good amount of work. Here's one just like it that looks almost unused, for a price that most would consider very good...

http://www.ebay.com/itm/322496721913
 

elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
Hi Ad,

Congratulations on actually having worn out a 1981 Audubon. At this point it would be questionable repairing what you have considering what they sell for on eBay. For example, [see HERE]. Even so, keep in mind that modern coating make a big difference and the HR/5 models are more handy (but perhaps not as durable as the one you have).

Ed
 

Joker9937

Well-known member
This thread and the PDF attached are so interesting and helpful. Thank you for going to the effort. I now have two Audubon versions and they are both great. I have not been at the binocular hunt very long, but long enough to really enjoy all of this info.

One of mine has a little "emblem" that is on the left cover. The emblem has the letters (as I read them) "SCE". I might have missed it and/or this emblem is of no consequence, but I did not see anything about it in the PDF or what I had time to read in the thread. I am still reading it, so maybe I will find something.

I would be curious if anyone knows if it has any meaning in general. If this has been covered, then my post can be deleted. Otherwise, thank you again, for this informative thread. Great stuff!
 

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Joker9937

Well-known member
SCE seems stuck on afterwards.

Maybe a store name?

That was my guess. I was hoping someone would know. They're not unusual otherwise. Neither set has a colored band around the objective, though.

I think this set needs a tweak in collimation, but they're quite usable as they are.
 

WJC

Well-known member
That was my guess. I was hoping someone would know. They're not unusual otherwise. Neither set has a colored band around the objective, though.

I think this set needs a tweak in collimation, but they're quite usable as they are.

Is this Scott? :cat:

Bill
 

elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
Mystery solved.

Ed

PS. As a wild guess, the company used the marker to identify its own equipment, which may have been used to evaluate power line problems.
 

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elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
This thread and the PDF attached are so interesting and helpful. Thank you for going to the effort. I now have two Audubon versions and they are both great. I have not been at the binocular hunt very long, but long enough to really enjoy all of this info.

One of mine has a little "emblem" that is on the left cover. The emblem has the letters (as I read them) "SCE". I might have missed it and/or this emblem is of no consequence, but I did not see anything about it in the PDF or what I had time to read in the thread. I am still reading it, so maybe I will find something.

I would be curious if anyone knows if it has any meaning in general. If this has been covered, then my post can be deleted. Otherwise, thank you again, for this informative thread. Great stuff!

Joker,

Would you mind posting the serial number of this one? So far, the mystery to me is how to classify it, since it has properties of both Type 2 and Type 3 series. The markings themselves strongly indicate US distribution by Swift Instruments, but the location of the focus wheel is similar to the variants made for Swift Pyser, UK.

Thanks,
Ed
 
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Joker9937

Well-known member
Thank you! Impressive sleuthing.

I guess I could have tried googling the initials. I assumed it was something that would have been unique to the binocular and not for whom it was produced. Pretty interesting nonetheless. Thank you.

The serial number is either 26-843572 or 26-843672. That 6 digit isn't perfectly clear in the pic. I will clarify, once I get home today.
 

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WJC

Well-known member
Thank you! Impressive sleuthing.

I guess I could have tried googling the initials. I assumed it was something that would have been unique to the binocular and not for whom it was produced. Pretty interesting nonetheless. Thank you.

The serial number is either 26-843572 or 26-843672. That 6 digit isn't perfectly clear in the pic. I will clarify, once I get home today.

I believe you can see:

— The line across the top of the character is a straight line signifying a “5.”
— There is a space on the left side of the character where one would expect it to be, signifying a “5.”
— The left side of the character is partially curved and partially straight, signifying a “5.”
— In a “6,” seen more clearly, we see the left side has no straight portion at all.

My 0.02 cents. And with that and a buck and a half ... you can buy a Coke.

Bill
 

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elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
So, the first two digits indicate that your SCE binocular was made in 1984. I've reposted your photo below, along with the cover of the 1980 Swift catalog showing a Type 2 with the focus wheel above the top hinge. (Note that it came from Captain's Nautical Supplies, Portland, Oregon — and may still have Bill's latent fingerprints on it.)

On yours, the location of the focus wheel is between the hinges like a Type 3 made for Pyser during that period, but the right cover plate is identical to the markings for the Type 2. The left cover plate, in addition to having the SCE logo, was also stenciled with larger letters and is missing the words 'feather-weight.' My speculation is that Southern California Edison probably placed a special order with Swift, selected the European design, and re-stenciled the left cover plate. We'll never know for sure.

Ed
 

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Joker9937

Well-known member
Bill and Ed, thank you both.

I appreciate the detail. They are nice binos regardless of the customization. Thanks, again.
 

WJC

Well-known member
So, the first two digits indicate that your SCE binocular was made in 1984. I've reposted your photo below, along with the cover of the 1980 Swift catalog showing a Type 2 with the focus wheel above the top hinge. (Note that it came from Captain's Nautical Supplies, Portland, Oregon — and may still have Bill's latent fingerprints on it.)

On yours, the location of the focus wheel is between the hinges like a Type 3 made for Pyser during that period, but the right cover plate is identical to the markings for the Type 2. The left cover plate, in addition to having the SCE logo, was also stenciled with larger letters and is missing the words 'feather-weight.' My speculation is that Southern California Edison probably placed a special order with Swift, selected the European design, and re-stenciled the left cover plate. We'll never know for sure.

Ed

I don't think my fingerprints would be on it. Both stores had the same corporate head, but little else in common. I was embarrassed by some of the things they did there. Their OM wannabe would order a $69 Celestron refractor and then bellyache to Victor that it didn't have the fit, finish, and performance of a Genesis. :cat:

Bill
 
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dozercsx

Active member
Greetings! After 10 years, I figured I'd pick up on this thread where I left off... ;-)

I never posted pictures of my 804 HR/5 type 4b(2) - it's in pretty much the same pristine condition today as it was 10 years ago! For the record, here are a few.

BTW my only "mods" are Eagle tethered objective dust caps, and an Op/Tech USA neoprene strap (I have the originals in the box)

@Elkub, if you're still near Charleston Slough, so am I - I'd love to finish what we almost started 10 years ago! Just message me if you'd like to give this beast a test drive. Yeah, I know we're still under Covid-19 lockdown - but I'm willing to noodle with you on trying to figure something out!

And I checked again tonight - three reflections from the primaries (for those unfamiliar with the 10 year old conversation, 3 reflections from the objective lenses --> cemented, not air-spaced...)
 

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