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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Swift Neptune Binoculars (1 Viewer)

chartwell99

Well-known member
As best as I can tell, the names of the various Swift binoculars refect their intended use. For example, Swift Audubon - birding, Swift Skipper - boating, Swift Holiday - all purpose observation, Swift Saratoga - horse racing, etc. The Swift Neptune, arguably one of the two best Swift binoculars ever made, therefore, remains a mystery as the binocular is neither waterproof and, with a 7 x 35 configuration, is not a nautical glass. Does anyone know the origin of the name?
 

rdmadison

Well-known member
I'm reviving this thread because a student just returned a pair if Neptune Mark II's I had loaned her this semester. They are indeed magnificent, although not to be a daily birding binocular since I stay out in the rain. These are the polished, wheel-focus version:
425 ft/1000yds, Model 802, ser. no. 12-630091. Exit pupil is round and bright to the edge. Close focus is around 18 feet--good enough for general birding if not for feeders.

Does this seem early to you for a "Mark II" designation? In 1963 I'm guessing Swift's nautical market was perceived as being more important than the birding market, and hence the name for this next-level optic. I'll have to back to see when the first Audubon came out . . .
 

John Dracon

John Dracon
I can't speak to the name Neptune Mark II, i.e, why it was named that, but I had one in the 1970s and it was an excellent glass. Its build was not robust, but the wide field image was very, very good, and it did not have that extra bulk that one sees with 7x35 wide angle binoculars. It had a magnesium chassis. I managed to chip a prism by dropping it on a concrete floor. Can't recall what I did with it. I have been unsuccessful over the years in finding another one in good condition.
John

John
 

elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
It's interesting to note that the 7x35 Model 802 Neptune was in the company lineup from the late 1950s (then Swift & Anderson), all the way through 1988 and very likely up to 1990 (under Swift Instruments). This was the better part of 40 yrs., almost as long as the venerable 804 Swift Audubon. My own 802 is a mint 1988 version that I snagged on eBay for $49.95 three years ago. :)

The 7x35 Neptune was the cover picture for Swift's 1959 guide for binocular selection, and overall the best rated configuration (beating the Audubon). It's fascinating that they distinguished four types of hunting situations (count 'em), whereas, birding and "night use" are single categories. That gives some idea of how they perceived the market.

It appears, incidentally, that the Neptune was essentially a scaled down, or "baby," Audubon. The one shown on the cover looks to have the same construction as the Type-0 Audubon. My own has all the features of the Type 2 Audubons of the 1980s, including the tripod mount.

I'm tempted to write a short ('cause I don't have that much information) history of the Neptune. Do you folks have any pictures to share? Historically it was a real sleeper in the Swift lineup.

Ed
 

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chartwell99

Well-known member
It's interesting to note that the 7x35 Model 802 Neptune was in the company lineup from the late 1950s (then Swift & Anderson), all the way through 1988 and very likely up to 1990 (under Swift Instruments). This was the better part of 40 yrs., almost as long as the venerable 804 Swift Audubon.

It appears, incidentally, that the Neptune was essentially a scaled down, or "baby," Audubon. The one shown on the cover looks to have the same construction as the Type-0 Audubon. My own has all the features of the Type 2 Audubons of the 1980s, including the tripod mount.
Ed

Ed - The earlier versions (late 50's, early 60's) of the Neptune actually bear little resemblance externally to the Audubons, and strike me more as dead ringer clones of the Bausch & Lomb 7 x 35 Rochester Zephyrs, but at a fraction of the weight of the B & L binocular (the "Zephyr" designation being something of a misnomer) and with much brighter and crisper images.
 

elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
Ed - The earlier versions (late 50's, early 60's) of the Neptune actually bear little resemblance externally to the Audubons, and strike me more as dead ringer clones of the Bausch & Lomb 7 x 35 Rochester Zephyrs, but at a fraction of the weight of the B & L binocular (the "Zephyr" designation being something of a misnomer) and with much brighter and crisper images.

Chartwell,

Here are pictures of the 1959 and 1969 Audubons and Neptunes. I believe you are referring to the the early ones sold in 1959 by Swift & Anderson (with the "super light magnesium" body). They do resemble Zephyr clones, but they also bear a great deal of resemblance to each other. The pictures don't retain scale, but I maintain that the Neptunes are nearly Audubon miniatures. I perceive my 1988 Neptune to be a baby version of the early 1980s Type 2 Audubon.

Unfortunately, not many people have experienced the original Type-0 Audubon. They were truly beautifully made instruments with fantastic optics, and clearly very expensive to manufacture. I often wonder how they would compare with the B&L Zephyr.

Regards,
Ed
 

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rdmadison

Well-known member
804/802

I presume these '59 and '69 are all BaK4? (I don't suppose you're lucky enough to have examples of all four?)

Both wheel and cylinder versions, too, eh? I would love to try a pair of early 804's with the wheel . . .

If I could stop buying binoculars maybe I could afford a camera that would take decent close-ups. As far as I can tell, my Neptune MkII look just like your ad for the wheeled version.
 

chartwell99

Well-known member
Chartwell,

Here are pictures of the 1959 and 1969 Audubons and Neptunes. I believe you are referring to the the early ones sold in 1959 by Swift & Anderson (with the "super light magnesium" body). They do resemble Zephyr clones, but they also bear a great deal of resemblance to each other. The pictures don't retain scale, but I maintain that the Neptunes are nearly Audubon miniatures. I perceive my 1988 Neptune to be a baby version of the early 1980s Type 2 Audubon.

Unfortunately, not many people have experienced the original Type-0 Audubon. They were truly beautifully made instruments with fantastic optics, and clearly very expensive to manufacture. I often wonder how they would compare with the B&L Zephyr.

Regards,
Ed

Ed,

Here are some shots of my Neptune (sadly, sold as redundant of my B & L Discoverer which I think it much resembles).
 

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elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
I presume these '59 and '69 are all BaK4? (I don't suppose you're lucky enough to have examples of all four?)

Both wheel and cylinder versions, too, eh? I would love to try a pair of early 804's with the wheel . . .

If I could stop buying binoculars maybe I could afford a camera that would take decent close-ups. As far as I can tell, my Neptune MkII look just like your ad for the wheeled version.

As far as I know, all Neptune models had BaK4 prisms. I own '59 and '69 Audubons, but not their Neptune siblings. The one Neptune I do own is shown below. (I still can't believe my good fortune in buying them for $49.95 on eBay, when the sale price was marked $149.95. Somebody made a mistake. :)) I also don't own a matching type 2 Audubon from the early 80s, just a type 4 804R from later in the decade.

Tom, did you retain the s/n of your Neptune? Too bad you sold them. :(

Ed
 

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elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
Ed,

Here are some shots of my Neptune (sadly, sold as redundant of my B & L Discoverer which I think it much resembles).

Tom,

I believe this is your 1955 Neptune (left). At the time I don't think there were yet any Audubons to compare it with. I do agree, of course, that it resembles the B&L, which was the original basis of the "American style" body design. It seems that the "Neptune" may even be more venerable than the 804, although it didn't evolve past my 1988 version.

On right, see a picture of Renze's 804 Type 0b, probably sold in the late 50s or early 60s. Swift made a big thing about the ornamental facets on the eyepiece and focus wheel, but the body construction appears to be very similar (to me ;)). Note that the eyepiece tube is extruded from the prism cover and not welded to it. That's a tipoff of the early models.

Regards,
Ed
 

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ronh

Well-known member
A good 7x35 will give about a 4 magnitude boost over the naked eye, in the dimmest star that can be seen. Neptune the planet is 8th magnitude, two magnitudes dimmer than naked eye visibility, even in a pristeen dark sky. But with the "Neptune", the planet could be easily rooted out of the stellar background. Neptune spotting was all the rage in 1963.

OK, OK. Neptune does sound cool. Deep dark and mysterious things could be seen through one?

The best old Swifts are something though. My mother in law has one. I forget the name but it's a 7x35, widefield with mongo BAK-4 prisms, and fully coated. It gives a very nice view.
Ron
 

ronh

Well-known member
Ed,
Now that you mention it, I remember now, that's it, the "Holiday". Focuser as tight and smooth as anybody could want, huge comfortable eye lenses and just right eye relief. On my last visit I cleaned about 50 years of gunk off the lenses, and expectantly took it out of the freezing air conditioning into the Mississippi steam they call air. Things were looking pretty dismal, until I realized it had just fogged up inside. After about 30 minutes' warm up, it was clear. A very nice binocular!
Ron
 

BobinKy

Well-known member
I love reading threads about classic binoculars. Particularly threads that show advertisements or literature of a classic bino's heyday. It makes me want to turn the calendar pages back to a time when porro binoculars and short wave radios offered up adventures. Back to a time when Swift and Hallicrafters ruled our imagination.
 
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Howard220

Well-known member
I love reading threads about classic binoculars. Particularly threads that show advertisements or literature of a classic bino's heyday. It makes me want to turn the calendar pages back to a time when porro binoculars and short wave radios offered up adventures. Back to a time when Swift and Hallicrafters ruled our imagination.


You and me both. It was the Swift Neptune I wanted for my birthday in the mid-70's, but my then girlfriend opted to buy me B&L Zephyr 7x35's. I sold them 10 years later to buy my current Swift 804R's.

E.F. Johnson, Hammarlund, National, Hallicrafters, R.L. Drake... all with the delicious glow and aroma of vacuum tubes. Ahhh, how I miss the days of those wonderful radios.

Howard
 

BobinKy

Well-known member
You and me both. It was the Swift Neptune I wanted for my birthday in the mid-70's, but my then girlfriend opted to buy me B&L Zephyr 7x35's. I sold them 10 years later to buy my current Swift 804R's.

E.F. Johnson, Hammarlund, National, Hallicrafters, R.L. Drake... all with the delicious glow and aroma of vacuum tubes. Ahhh, how I miss the days of those wonderful radios.

Howard

Here are a couple "off-topic" shortwave radio links. Sorry guys, but nostalgia can be contagious. :)



The glow of vacuum radio tubes. (YouTube video)

and

Western Historic Radio Museum (Classic advertisements, photos, lots of radio stuff)



We will now return your set to its regular scheduled programming.

...Bob
 
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rdmadison

Well-known member
Zephyr vs. Neptune

Just performed a comparison test on the 1951 B&L Zephyr 7x,35 and the 1963 Swift Neptune Mark II 7x,35. Although the body shapes are far from identical, they share basic ergonomics, both feeling more svelt than the Triton. Both are a joy to hold and use. The Swift is light; the B&L is remarkably light. The B&L is noticeably but not significantly brighter and sharper on the moons of Jupiter and Uranus; both present about the same picture of the Andromeda galaxy (fuzz). The B&L has about a half-power advantage in magnification over the Swift (measured in moon diameter). The Swift fov is eight degrees, versus the seven degrees of the B&L.

Neither is a patch on the 1965 Swift Commodore Mark II 7x,50 for light gathering or resolution. Of course, you couldn't wear the latter around your neck very long at all, while the Zephyr may be the lightest-bodied metal porro I've handled. I really need to weigh these.

The Zephyr has a 36mm objective (measured), something Swift apparently didn't get onto until the 825R. The Neptune is a true 35mm. By calculation at 7.5x the exit pupil of the Zephyr is only .2mm less than the Neptune's 5mm, a difference I can't see by looking. Those crafty buggers from Rochester! Is it better to advertise a 7.5x,36 or have the hottest 7x,35 around for decades? I wonder if the 7.5x Osprey was another late response to the Zephyr?
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
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