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planet15

binoculars quality - vintage vs modern

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Hello all

I have been looking into the sky with a small bino in 1975 trying to see Jupiter and Saturn ... etc, but frustrated with no success. It is quite natural that I could not see much as my bino was 7x35, and I was a wee boy. I gave up the hobby for all those years, and recently I am drawn to this astronomy again.

Looking at eBays and Amazon, I see a lot of different makes and sizes of different binos to choose from. I am wondering whether it is better to go for new Binoculars which are current models, or would it better to go for used vintages ones from eBay dating back from anytime between 40s and 80s.

I wonder what would be the advantages and disadvantages between the old and new, and what would be technical improvements for modern ones (especially in terms of optical quality), if there are any. Many thanks for your thoughts and advice.

Regards.

Jay

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Hi Jay,

I'm no expert on binos by any means. But the gap between today's improved coatings and the optical quality of glass over vintage kit will be a large 1. Even for a small investment you can get quality gear for a small outlay For example, i've used 3 different pairs of these:- http://www.7dayshop.com/7dayshop-10x50-sport-series-binoculars-ref-7day10x50?backUrl=L2NhdGFsb2dzZWFyY2gvcmVzdWx0L2luZGV4Lz9xPWJpbm9jdWxhcnMjcD0x

They are very consistent, and i've been able to pick out Jupiter's 4 moons when it's near opposition. The surprisingly good coatings for a cheap pair show up star clusters very well, even the Orion nebula looks very intensely green on a nice clear night, with lots of shape and detail. Excellent for daytime and Lunar viewing also. But if you want to really get at the Jovian moons and a good look at the rings of Saturn, a small refractor or reflector is needed. Jupiter's moons will show up nicely in larger binos like 15x70, for a pair that size you will be looking at £60-70 plus a decent tripod to keep them steady. For a smaller pair of top quality, well over £100 will be the cost. If your thinking of budgeting that high, definitely go for a small, quick to set up and easy to carry scope.

Baz.

PS. Welcome to SGL. :)

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Thank you Baz for your welcome and info. :)

So the new Binoculars have improved a lot in optical qualities recently. Would they be far better than even - say the objects of envy in the 70s - 90s the Nikon, Pentax, Minolta, Olympus, and the Russian ones? I recall these were quite expensive for students at the time, but they were very good - used to give crisp, clear contrasty images, but with heavier built casings.

Actually I was thinking of getting an Olympus DPS-1 for general use, and Celestron 15x70 for night sky watching. But in ebay there were many old binos going for as cheap as £3 - £10 which looked OK.

I would go for a 150mm refractor or 10" Dobsonian reflector later on, if I can get a room cleared for my caving in the house, but that is likely to be materialised around the end of this year. cheers.

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If you can find a pair of older good quality binos that have been well looked after, and are specifically made for low light viewing, they should be able to keep up with that 7dayshop pair. Birding binos aren't always made for night time. Be aware of that if you intend to use the 10x50s for a quick hand-held run out at night. I'm sure 1 of the more knowledgeable members will be able to help more.

1 of my friends has a pair of Skymasters, i've looked through them a few times at Jupiter, and they show the moons superbly anytime the planet is clearly visible. The crescent Venus was a wonder too. Certainly the most popular choice for astronomy with a tripod or a nice solid wall to lean on.

Excellent choices for a scope to get started with too. If just observing is your preference, a 10" dob is the way to go. If photography is of future interest, start with the refractor on a strong EQ mount, then maybe pick up a reflector for choice of targets later on.

Baz.

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I'm sure others will contribute....

I started out in the 60's with a pair of GreenKat 10 x 50 - at the time they worked very well for me....

I later went for a pair of Celestron 15 x 80 (for comet seeking) and again they were very good.

My current pair of 10 x 50 are a s/h pair of Ziess Dekarem which although older than me work very well.

I'm sure the coatings may have improved over the years, but I'm not sure that optical quality has followed the same route.

Back in the 80's the binos EVERYBODY wanted were the Fujinon's - they probably still want them today!

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The good binoculars are better now than they were 40 years ago.

The budget binoculars are merely different in their shortcomings now as compared to 40 years ago.

If a 10x50 cannot pick out the Galilean moons of Jupiter, there is something seriously wrong with it: this should not be a difficult feat for a WW2 vintage 6x30!

Stuff like "BaK4 prisms" and "fully multicoated" are overrated for budget binoculars. See here for the reasons why.

Main problems wiht buying old binoclars are, in no particualr order: damage, fakes, and fungus (in the optics). See here for how to check it over.

I concur with Merlin66: my late father's Zeiss Dekarem 10x50 were far better, optically and mechanically, than any of today's budget offerings.

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Thanks for posting this question - I've had a range of binoculars over the years and I've not been able to reach any sensible conclusions about old v new. I've currently got an old (belonged to my grandfather) Zeiss 8x30 pair which are lovely and crisp and in good condition but don't gather a great deal of light, a pair of Bresser-branded 10x50 from Aldi or Lidl which set me back £10 and have excellent coatings and decent enough optics, a pair of old comet hunter Celestron 11x80s that weigh a ton and are great if you find a dark enough sky but their coatings are clearly not up to modern standards. I'll have to keep trying things out, which is difficult when every clear night makes me want to get the scope out rather than the binoculars.

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I posted a quick test between my 40 years ok CZJ 10x50 and a new pair of Trinovid 8x42 here last month.

Absolute no comparison, but on the other hand the Trinovid was rated in a recent extensive test on a birding site as tier 1.

I am happy I upgraded, was as well disappointed from the views of my old Bino's and for that reason never considered them as a worthy observation instrument in the last few years.

With the Trinovid I happily leave my scope behind for short sessions.

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Thank you all for your inputs. :)

I have ordered a Celestron 15 x 70 for new bin, and just bought Mark Scheffel 10 x 50 from 1970s and Nikon Kokaku 7 x 50 from 1940s for vintage. I will do some testing, and come back with simple comparison reviews on these from a newbie's point of view once the Celestron arrives.

For Olympus DPS-1, I feel that they will be discontinuing that model, and keep bringing out new models, as all these giants names do with their products, and newer models will always be slightly improved version somehow to previous ones, and will be cheaper too. cheers.

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A quick glance on outside views with these bins through the upstairs windows proves that the Nikon is the winner. It is actually NIPPON KOGAKU Nikon 7 x 50, and it is in well used condition, and there is a big ding on the lens barrel and also on the one of the front lens shade. It is surprise that the lens itself is intact,as the whole body is made of heavy steel, and it must have been quite strong knock to make such a large dings on them.

However, the views outside is both Scheffel and Nikon are sharp, I could read all the writings on the noticeboard about 400 metres away in the car park from me. Without bins I could not tell if there are any writings on it, it just looks tiny square.

But the Nikon is giving a lot contrasty, colourful and more pleasing images than the Scheffel. I am quite surprised that optics from 1940s can give this high quality images.

From the kitchen, through the window, I was hunting for the wee monkey puzzle tree I planted last summer, and it is about 4 inches tall. I cannot even tell if it is there with bare eyes, but both bins picked them up clear and sharp. Again the Nikon's image is far superior to the Scheffel's. I can even count how many leaves are on the stem, and confirmed that the tree is doing very well in the corner of the garden about 50 yards away.

Having said that, the Scheffel's optic is also very sharp, but the contrast and colour is just not match of that of the Nikon.

It would be interesting to see how the Celstron 15x70 would compare with these, but not sure if it is fair or right way to compare different size and spec of optics in the bins. cheers.

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Hello all

I have been looking into the sky with a small bino in 1975 trying to see Jupiter and Saturn ... etc, but frustrated with no success. It is quite natural that I could not see much as my bino was 7x35, and I was a wee boy. I gave up the hobby for all those years, and recently I am drawn to this astronomy again.

Looking at eBays and Amazon, I see a lot of different makes and sizes of different binos to choose from. I am wondering whether it is better to go for new Binoculars which are current models, or would it better to go for used vintages ones from eBay dating back from anytime between 40s and 80s.

I wonder what would be the advantages and disadvantages between the old and new, and what would be technical improvements for modern ones (especially in terms of optical quality), if there are any. Many thanks for your thoughts and advice.

Regards.

Jay

Old vs New. Lets look at some examples:

2012 Ford Focus or Ford Model T

The Hubble Space Telescope or Galileos scope

Sniper Rifle or Bow and Arrow

Speed boat or one of titanic's life boats

Hand grenade or a rock as used by Neanderthals

Dentists drills with anesthetic or a hammer and chisel without pain relief

I could go on but I prefer newer stuff.

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I posted a quick test between my 40 years ok CZJ 10x50 and a new pair of Trinovid 8x42 here last month.

Absolute no comparison

This review compares top-end 1980's bins with high-end 2000's bins. http://www.holgermer.../swaro7x42.html

I think those both reinforce what I wrote earlier:

The good binoculars are better now than they were 40 years ago.
Old vs New. Lets look at some examples:
Interesting, but let's try some astro kit:

1975 Tasco GEM-mounted refractor vs 2012 Tasco GEM-mounted refractor

1980s Beacon Hill Mk1 GEM vs Synta EQ3-2 GEM

I also could go on... :smiley:

Edited by tetenterre

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It really depends on the quality of the item you are talking about.

If you compare a top tier item from now and 40 years ago, the modern one always win. After all they are charging a lot for those improvement.

If you compare a bottom tier the it's more complex. You get a mix of technology trickle down from the top vs new ways to cut corners.

A cheap pair of binocular from 50 years ago would be made from metal with glass for optics. Nowadays, both can be made from plastic which allowed significant reduction in cost and quality.

At the other end of the spectrum. Fancy ED glass and coatings didn't exist 50 years ago, so even old top end models will struggle to match a good modern midrange ones.

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I suppose it all depends on each item how well they are made, but I was wondering if there is general trait on the vintage and modern binoculars. By the way, the Celestron 15 x 0 has arrived today - it was a bit slow, took about a week since ordering, and WOW ... I was impressed with this bin.

The optics were so sharp, I could read all the writings on the boards hundreds yard away - small writings none of other bins can show, Nikon, Scheffel ... none of them was able to show, but this Celestron was, with that large 70mm front lens and 15x magnification - it was so bright and clear. Colours and contrasts were good as well.

But at night, the sky is covered with thick clouds, and there are heavy rains and winds. I looked at the weather forecast web site, and there is no clear nights for next few days. Is it worth going for telescopes?

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Thank you~

Yup, this Celestron is a good pair, and I do like it. The forecast is a bit hopeful tomorrow night for this area, so we will see. :)

Sounds like you got a good pair (there is some variance). Have fun and clear skies!

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... sorry the forecast here is reasonable from 9pm till about midnight tonight.

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A pair that costs £100 today will be better than apair that cost £400 thirty years ago. No question.

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I still have the first pair of bins I was given by my dad, a 10x50 'Miranda' with 'gold coated optics' (whatever that is). I got them sometime in the late 80's. When I compared them to a 10x42 opticron bino made sometime in the mid naughties a few years ago it was staggering just how dim and soft the old Miranda's looked in comparison. These are both fairly inexpensive chinese made binoculars. I don't know how the old high end binoculars compare to cheaper contemporary makes but i would expect the newer ones should be brighter though not perhaps sharper.

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Most of the time I use a Wray Nine (9X60 Porro made either in London or Paris about 1965). It's slightly out of collimation but gives a good bright image and on galaxies and clusters easily outperforms a Lidl/Bresser Chinese 10X50 that cost £10 about three years ago. The Wray, which has coated optics, would have cost about £35 when new, equivalent to about £400 today. It gives a good wide field, but eye relief is poor by today's standards - Hugh.

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One problem is that "cheap" is a very vague term. There are cheap Lidl (Bresser) 10x50 which go for next to nothing and can be pretty decent should you get yourself a collimated pair. For the same money there are awful ruby-coated junk bins sold in various toy stores (sometimes even with zoom EPs). I had a look through my uncle's 8x30 Zeiss bins from the late 1950s and while the coatings were not as good as modern ones (bar the dreaded ruby coatings), the image was very sharp. A modern Zeiss would no doubt beat the old one, but the old one would still give many cheap ones a run for their money.

The optical figure of the glass used is generally more important than the precise glass used. There is no particular reason why a BAK-4 prism of a given optical quality should be significantly more expensive than a BK-7 one. The real cost lies in getting the optical figure right (i.e., going from λ/4 to λ/8 or better).

Maybe the biggest improvement has been in the mid-price range, i.e. the range where people do build up to a specification, rather than down to a price, but (well) below the premium brands. I think a lot of the innovation pioneered by top brands has trickled down there, rather than to the "bottom dwelling" ones ;)

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This evening, the sky was clear. I looked through front window, but the street lights and the passing cars light were just too bright, and could not see any stars at all. Through the window facing back garden, I could see some stars in the sky. I grabbed the Celestron 15 x 70, and saw the first light through it, and it was quite good. I went out to the back garden, and watched stars for about 15 minutes. The brightest star was in the South, and it was moving towards to North West - With the bin, it became really bright and large, but my hand was not steady enough to hold the bin, and the star was jumping up and down - I need a tripod. I am thinking what I saw was the Jupiter as it was so bright and large, and with the bin I saw 3 or 4 very faint small stars around it very close to the bight star (maybe they are the moons of the Jupiter?) , but not sure. When I came in, I was so frozen, I had to go near to heater to warm me up, but now I am thinking of getting telescopes. No I shouldn't. Yes, I should. No ....

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