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Nice things from old binoculars that most new ones don't have (1 Viewer)

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
The other day I was using a classic binocular (a 7x42 Swarovski Habicht) when I realised (once again) how old designs sometimes have great lessons to teach. In this case, about inexpensive improvements to the everyday usability of binoculars.

Contemporary binoculars are usually preferred for the “overall package” they offer, and for good reason! They may not have the build quality of many classics, nor are they designed to withstand the pass of time or severe field use, but for a reasonable 200 - 500 $/€ (even less in some cases) you can have very good optical performance (that surpasses in some areas classical devices) and you can enjoy things like waterproofness, comfortable twist-up eyecups with multiple positions, a comfy and resistant rubber armour and a nice neoprene strap that makes hauling your gear an easy chore, together with tethered objective covers if you like that sort of thing.

But then, when you use classic binoculars you sometimes find simple, even innocent, elements that make the everyday use very pleasurable. I’ll name a few, but I’m sure other forum members with more experience will be able to recognise more.

- IPD index. This is such a silly thing, but so useful. Easy to find in Porro prism binoculars. Essential if you usually use your binoculars together with other people or like to share them. But even if you don’t, a quick glance reassures you that the IPD is correct before putting them to your eyes. My IPD is around 68 mm (depending on binocular and watching distance, but 68 usually does the trick), my partner's IPD is 60. Knowing this and having a little index makes exchanging binoculars a breeze.

- Focus distance index. I know some current binoculars have something like this, namely the HG series by Minox (an indication of distance from close to infinity in the focus wheel, picture from birdwatching.com) or the DDOptics Pirschler Gen 3, that has a mark (both in bright colour and tactile mark, see picture) when the focus is at 50 m, which will make it sharp to infinity. I wonder if the little vertical mark on the focus wheel of the Swarovski EL serves the same purpose. On my 8x32 I’d say it’s set to a bit beyond 50 m. Anyway, this is something you don’t see that often and is a simple and easy way to prepare your focus wheel even before you lift it.
If you look at the first picture attached you can see both of these simple features on a classic design (Swarovski Habicht): IPD Index and focus distance index.

- Easy strap attachment. Again, maybe not relevant for everybody, especially if you don’t usually take take your strap off your binoculars. In my case, this is something I do almost everyday. I find the strap is annoying and gets in the middle when I’m at home looking from my window, or at night watching the stars, or many times taking a walk when I don’t want the binoculars hanging and simply put them in my pocket (or the case I wear on my belt). The buckles or quick release system of a harness help with this, but I just don't feel like wearing a harness very often (especially for something like a 8x30 or 8x32). So I find myself in the tedious process of doing and undoing the strap attaching thingy very often. Some old models have this simple button system, like the Leica Trinovid BA/BN or the Habicht (see picture) that takes 1 second to do and undo. Whenever I use those models wonder why can't all binoculars be like that. Naturally, this system usually implies there’s no way to shorten or lengthen the strap, but Swarovski came around this with the LCS strap, that shares this simple and fast button attachment system with an easy and fast way to shorten/lengthen the strap (the Field Pro system also does this, although it uses a proprietary connector to attach it only to FP models; I just find it over-engineered in a complicated way for something a lug does jus perfectly).

These are things that in many cases could be very easily incorporated to new models. For example, in open hinge binoculars, the IPD index could be easily printed on the rear side of the front hinge (see last picture).

What other features from classical/old binoculars do you miss in contemporary ones? (I wish binocular designers are reading this ;) )
 

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A2GG

Beth
Supporter
United States
The IPD index is helpful and I've always wished I had it on every roof I've owned.
I really like the distance scale on the minox HG. Would be another great feature on the higher end binos.
 

Mono

Hi!
Staff member
Supporter
Europe
The couple of bins I have had with an IPD scale, the scale has not had any sort of indexing mark. Just slacken the screw and you could freely move it.
 

[email protected]

Well-known member
Supporter
That is one thing I really like about Porros is most have an IPD scale. it is really helpful. IF focusing usually has scales also, so you know where to set it for different distances.
 

willisoften

Well-known member
United Kingdom
The couple of bins I have had with an IPD scale, the scale has not had any sort of indexing mark. Just slacken the screw and you could freely move it.

Very late to the party here but the lack of an indexing mark often indicates a Chinese copy of better known binoculars. However lots of Dollonds seem to have an impressed mark so faint it’s pointless, a few others it’s a tiny dot of paint which probably was over zealously polished clean off.
I believe Komz also shipped kits of parts to Chinese assemblers and these aren’t exactly fakes but not exactly Russian either these almost never have an IPD index.
 

Pinewood

New York correspondent
United States
Hello Yarelli,

On old camera lenses, one could use the depth of field scale to determine the hyperlocal distance: the setting which allows everything in focus from infinity to a nearer desired distance. This may be the inspiration for Pirschler's mark.

Stay safe,
Arthur
 

dorubird

Active member
Romania
Focusing scales (like Minox HG focus scale) can also be used to make approximate measurements to estimate actual distances. Like a rudimentary "mechanical" rangefinder instead of a laser one ;)
 
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willisoften

Well-known member
United Kingdom
I had a pair of Tasco?, binoculars which where OK and graduated on 5mtr increments out to about 30mtrs at which point there were two dots possibly in place of or what was left of an infinity symbol. Unfortunately those binoculars sleeps with the fishes, in Lough Erne.
 

Sebzwo

Well-known member
Robustness, precision metal parts and focussing, repairability. Functional instrument flavor. Made in traditional countries with manufacturers brand "hand writing" and -for today- non-standard prism systems.
 

John A Roberts

Well-known member
Australia
And in line with Sebzwo’s observations . . . Simplicity

Compare:
• a classic Carl Zeiss Jenoptem 8x30 (with a bit over 60 parts, as the two halves of the main body are still assembled), and
• a current Maven B2 x45 (with 169 parts, not including the rain guard and objective covers)

The first is from from Ant1 at Cloudy Nights: https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/540120-service-manual-for-zeiss-jenoptem-10x50w/
(unfortunately, the image is no longer attached to the post)

The second is from Todd McLellan at Popular Mechanics: https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gadgets/a28239744/things-come-apart-binoculars/


John
 

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Tringa45

Well-known member
Europe
And in line with Sebzwo’s observations . . . Simplicity

Compare:
• a classic Carl Zeiss Jenoptem 8x30 (with a bit over 60 parts, as the two halves of the main body are still assembled), and
• a current Maven B2 x45 (with 169 parts, not including the rain guard and objective covers)

The first is from from Ant1 at Cloudy Nights: https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/540120-service-manual-for-zeiss-jenoptem-10x50w/
(unfortunately, the image is no longer attached to the post)

The second is from Todd McLellan at Popular Mechanics: https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gadgets/a28239744/things-come-apart-binoculars/


John
Ah, John, but there are so many who would believe that a binocular with 169 parts just has to be better than one with only 60 parts ;).

John
 

Hermann

Well-known member
The other day I was using a classic binocular (a 7x42 Swarovski Habicht) when I realised (once again) how old designs sometimes have great lessons to teach. In this case, about inexpensive improvements to the everyday usability of binoculars.

Contemporary binoculars are usually preferred for the “overall package” they offer, and for good reason! They may not have the build quality of many classics, nor are they designed to withstand the pass of time or severe field use, but for a reasonable 200 - 500 $/€ (even less in some cases) you can have very good optical performance (that surpasses in some areas classical devices) and you can enjoy things like waterproofness, comfortable twist-up eyecups with multiple positions, a comfy and resistant rubber armour and a nice neoprene strap that makes hauling your gear an easy chore, together with tethered objective covers if you like that sort of thing.
Agreed. But with modern binoculars you also often have more things that can (and do) go wrong - faulty focusers for instance. These were unheard of in the times of traditional porros designs
But then, when you use classic binoculars you sometimes find simple, even innocent, elements that make the everyday use very pleasurable. I’ll name a few, but I’m sure other forum members with more experience will be able to recognise more.

- IPD index. <snip>

- Focus distance index. <snip>

- Easy strap attachment. <snip>
Agreed. These very useful features were somehow "lost" over the years. The good ol' Zeiss Dialyts still had them, by the way. So it's not they can't be incorporated in roof prism designs ...

Hermann
 

Stephen Prower

Well-known member
Yarrelli

Nice things from old binoculars ...

Simplicity.

I am not mechanical. Here's a job I wouldn't think of venturing to undertake on a modern roof binocular.

I have spent a bit of time these last few days with a pot of damping grease and a pot of red bicycle bearing grease attempting to restore good focussing action to a couple of 1970s Zeiss-pattern Porros.

In the spirit of 'suck it and see', I set about achieving a satisfactory balance of amount of damping and figure of viscosity by the method of (1) building up smears of damping grease on the threads of the screw of the focussing wheel until the damping seemed to be sufficient, and then (2) building up applications of bearing grease on the threads of focusser screw to achieve also a satisfactory 'weight' of action.

I was successful*.

A poster mentioned on another thread that he ran the focusser of his binocular on lubricant of a different viscosity in summer and winter.

I don't think I shall go that far!

But it's a nice thing to know that if need be I can.


Stephen


* In fact, to complete the story, the amount of grease that I applied to the threads of the focussing screw was, as far as I could see, non-critical. I was already though pretty happy with action of the focusser following just the application of damping grease to the screw of the wheel
 
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John A Roberts

Well-known member
Australia
An Integral Tripod Mounting Point

Although not necessarily present on old binoculars - what is increasingly absent from new ones -
is an integral feature that allows the convenient mounting of the binocular on a tripod

With many old Porro prisms this was not a problem, as the exposed axle readily lent itself to the use of a simple clamp
e.g. see the image of Nikon’s better version. In contrast, with roof prism binoculars what’s needed is an integral recess,
located on the front on the bridge

The Swarovski SLC series does this in an elegant way: the cap over the front of the axle is removed to expose the recess;
a stud is fitted and secured in the recess, and; then the adaptor slips over the stud and is secured by moving a lever
See the illustrations in the instruction sheet

I recently vented about Swarovski failing to making a similar provision on their premium EL, EL Range and NL lines,
see post #7 at: https://www.birdforum.net/threads/3-tripod-adapters-for-the-nl-pure.403184/#post-4174517

Though of course Swarovski is not alone in this regard. The same applies with both the Leica NV and UV lines and the Zeiss SF and HT ones
( . . . maybe the three manufacturers held a secret conference on this? o_O)

While the lack of such a provision on x42 binoculars is irritating, on x50 and larger ones it’s a major failing


John
 

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Sterngucker

Well-known member
An Integral Tripod Mounting Point

Although not necessarily present on old binoculars - what is increasingly absent from new ones -
is an integrated point to allow the convenient mounting of the binocular on a tripod

With many old Porro prisms this was not a problem, as the exposed axle readily lent itself to the use of a simple clamp
e.g. see the image of Nikon’s better version. In contrast, with roof prism binoculars what’s needed is an integral recess,
located on the front on the bridge

The Swarovski SLC series does this in an elegant way: the cap over the front of the axle is removed to expose the recess;
a stud is fitted and secured in the recess, and; then the adaptor slips over the stud and is secured by moving a lever
See the illustrations in the instruction sheet

I recently vented about Swarovski failing to making a similar provision on their premium EL, EL Range and NL lines,
see post #7 at: https://www.birdforum.net/threads/3-tripod-adapters-for-the-nl-pure.403184/#post-4174517

Though of course Swarovski is not alone in this regard. The same applies with both the Leica NV and UV lines and the Zeiss SF and HT ones
( . . . maybe the three manufacturers held a secret conference on this? o_O)

While the lack of such a provision on x42 binoculars is irritating, on x50 and larger ones it’s a major failing


John
It's a shame that the Nikon one cannot be used on the GA Habichts because of the ridge-like structure of the rubber armoring on the shaft. I am after getting the Berlebach wooden one for this reason.

As to the other one you mentioned, there are also some very good third-party ones along similar lines like the one from Outdoorsmans.
 

tenex

reality-based
While the lack of such a provision on x42 binoculars is irritating, on x50 and larger ones it’s a major failing
How would you suggest this be implemented on open-bridge designs, which most of those you mention are (EL,NL,NV,SF)? To me it's just one of their drawbacks.
 

John A Roberts

Well-known member
Australia
Hi tenex,

Firstly, it seems that Zeiss/Leica/Swaro have all deliberately chosen not to include an integral mounting feature in their premium lines;
so intention rather than incapability

As you indicate, the question is then: Just how much would the various minimum bridge designs need to be modified to add the capability?
And at least with various Swarovski and Zeiss models, the answer is: Not at all, or very little!

The Outdoorsmans company offers a variety of add-on adaptors, see at: https://outdoorsmans.com/collections/studs-adapters
The products seem to be both workable and durable - there doesn’t seem to be complaints on the net about them failing

They offer:
a) Customer screw in studs for:
• the Swarovski EL, EL Range and NL (plus their own stud for the SLC), and
• the newer Zeiss RF (a replacement battery cover)

b) Factory fitted studs for:
• the Zeiss SF and HT

c) And also:
• a customer screw in stud for the Meopta B1 series, and
• a customer screw on cap with stud for various Leica lines

So in terms of what modifications would be needed for the Big 3 to have included a mounting stud capability in their current designs?
• With some, perhaps none at all; though they might have lengthened the bridge by 1/10” (around 3 mm) to ensure a much more secure fit, and
• With others it might have been as simple as redesigning the mechanism in the area to include the additional capability


John
 

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