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F15Rules

Three nice vintage quality binoculars reviewed

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I've recently acquired 3 really nice pairs of vintage binoculars as follows:

  • Pentax Model 571 8x30
  • Greenkat Japan 7x50
  • Tento Russian 7x50

All porro prism binoculars and all purchased on ebay. :laugh:

I expected the Pentax and Tentos to be decent as Pentax have the name and I've owned a superb pair of 20x60 Tentos: the real surprise pair were the Greenkat's. They cost me £7 plus £2.80 postage!! Came complete with nice original case and straps but no lens covers. They are in really nice condition and supposedly have a 7.1 degree field.

The Tentos are also 7x50 and were on a buy it now at £60 plus £4 postage (I put in a fairly cheeky offer which was accepted!). These don't specify the exact field but are just slightly narrower than the Greenkat's. They came with 4 lens caps and the original leather case. In very good condition with really nice coatings on the objectives. The magnification is supposed to be x7 like the Greenkat's although next to the latter the Tento's do seem to be a little higher mag, maybe x8.

Finally, the little Pentax 8x30's (and they are small). No strap, but original case and endcaps and these really look like new. Cost me about £39 all in. These are branded just "Pentax", not "Asahi Pentax" like a lot of older Pentax bins. 

Over the past couple of nights I was able to check all three pairs out on the following objects:

Pleiades

M42/Rigel/Betelgeuse

Arcturus

Dubhe/Mizar in Ursa Major

Praesepe in Cancer

Capella

Jupiter

The Moon

First, the Greenkat 7x50s

Very sharp stellar points out to about 70% of the field (around the same or better than Zeiss Jenoptems). Very sharp on axis, nice dark background apart from when the moon was nearby. Collimation seems spot on, and the centre focuser and right diopter are smooth and rotate without fuss and allow both my eyes to focus nicely to a merged single image. Quite lightweight and small compared to the Tentos. Coloured stars came across nicely. Jupiter focused down to a nice sharp ball with a couple of satellites seen. Well controlled CA on the moon, just a slight yellow rim at the edge. 

Honestly, for £7 what more could you ask for? Note: I've owned a couple of Greenkat scopes in the past and really rated them...so I had hopes for the bins, but they are better than I could have expected at the price.

Second, Tento 7x50. Sometimes called the "poor man's Zeiss Jenoptems", these Russian Zomz built bins have their own cult following and I must say I'm now a fully paid up member! When I read some reviews stating that this model was the best binocular ever made by Zomz (and they make/made a fair few different ones), I thought I must buy and try a pair. They arrived in great condition with that "Russian smell" which is like Marmite...

On all the above objects the Tentos blew the Greenkat's out of the water. They are simply superb. The real shock to me was how sharp they are out to about 80% plus of the field of view, tolerably so to 90%. This is WAY better edge of field performance than my 20x60 Tentos, and every bit as good on axis. The sharpness of these bins is scary, it really is. The contrast is excellent (bear in mind these are only x7 magnification, so sky background will never be really dark in a semi urban location). The other two areas that are striking are colour rendition and the build quality. Stellar colours are beautiful and white stars like Rigel are...well, white!

Previous Russian bins I've had were quite industrial with stiff or loose focusing wheels, bits of glue/grease residue etc: always good optics but not comparable to Zeiss etc on build qualty. Now, these aren't of Zeiss build, but are much closer and functionally excellent. I have owned two pairs of Zeiss Jenoptems and good though they were, these Tentos are better. And there is no yellow cast that you sometimes find on Russki  glass.  A Revelation.

All of the objects viewed looked great through the Tento's. The moon at first quarter was stunning, with a jet black terminator and razor sharp between light and dark sides of the terminator. Jupiter had zero flare, and faithful colour, with no banding of course at x7 but a tight round finely focused ball of light with attendant satellites in train. The Pleiades showed a sea of fainter stars behind the main 7-10 primary bluish/white members. The small long chain of stars extending away from the main cluster was much better defined with direct vision than the Greenkat's could manage.

Last but not least, the little Pentax 8x30s. These are a bit better than the Greenkat's but a fair bit behind the Tento's. Their smaller size obviously means that objects are less bright, but field edge sharpness is good out to about 75%. Their small size and light weight make them ideal grab and go bins and they have excellent build quality. These would give the Jenoptem 8x30s a good run for their money but are smaller and lighter. 

Summary and verdict

First: Tento 7x50 - fully deserving of the praise they receive in various forums. A great astro binocular for the price of a single half decent scope eyepiece, but a complete observing system in it's own right. Very hand holdable for extended periods, especially when seated. If you can only afford around £50 for a single set of astro binoculars, look for a pair of these on the bay.

Second: Pentax 8x30. Although small for astro use, they show more than you might think and are brilliant for keeping in the car for impromptu views and of course for nature watching too. Highly recommended.

Third: Greenkat 7x50s. These are a nice, well made, very useable pair of binoculars. Quite small compared to the Tento's and lightweight, they are comfortable to use for extended periods. There is no disgrace in coming third to the quality units above and these offer fabulous value for money on the used market. You could cart a pair of these anywhere and not worry about them getting damaged at that cost!

I'll post up some pictures over the weekend :-).

Why not see what you can find on the bay for not too much cash?

Dave

Edited by F15Rules
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Great review Dave :smiley:

I too have owned a pair of the 20x60 Tento's and they were excellent both optically and in terms of build. I seem to recall RikM buying them from me for a song a few star parties back - lucky Rik !

I'm currently on the look out for a pair of the Komz 8x30's as birding binoculars because my other half has appropriated my Zeiss Jenoptems :rolleyes2:

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Dave, 

a lovely little write up on some unusual bins, thanks for going to the trouble to do this 

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Cheers guys :laugh:

John, the Komz and Zomz are both nice at 8x30 and they do seem to go for not a lot of money on ebay, around £15-£20 often plus a bit for postage. I do think they are up there with jenoptems, although some pairs do seem to have a bit of a yellowish cast - apparently these are military spec glasses as the yellow is supposed to improve sharpness and definition in haze and desert terrain etc.

Jules, it's a fun diversion to check out ebay for various binoculars. I must admit that I do prefer the older leatherette covered style bins versus the modern ubiquitous rubberised coatings, although there is no denying that modern coatings are often excellent.

Dave

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Dave,

I have the Tento 20x60 & it is definitely one of my favorite binoculars.  like-button.jpg

My only complaint is the lack of close focus.

Stan

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Dave,

I have the Tento 20x60 & it is definitely one of my favorite binoculars. like-button.jpg

My only complaint is the lack of close focus.

Stan

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Hi Stan, yes, the 20x60 are superb with excellent contrast at x20 mag.

Regarding lack of close focus, not a problem as the closest object I'd normally look at (Luna) is a quarter of a million miles away! :-)

Edited by F15Rules

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A great review Dave, something that I would not normally pay too much attention to but you report keep me captivated.

Alan

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Again, thanks guys for your kind remarks.

Here are some pics of the binos as promised..happy to answer any questions if I can:).

Note the approximate weight of each binocular: Pentax 8x30 500g, Greenkat 7x50 800g, Tento 7x50 1000g.

Dave

post-4043-0-07367400-1425232739_thumb.jp

post-4043-0-92642800-1425232817_thumb.jp

post-4043-0-60977300-1425232855_thumb.jp

post-4043-0-00011100-1425232889_thumb.jp

post-4043-0-34482200-1425232918_thumb.jp

post-4043-0-70225100-1425232945_thumb.jp

post-4043-0-97831500-1425232974_thumb.jp

post-4043-0-44492000-1425233013_thumb.jp

post-4043-0-81481200-1425233049_thumb.jp

post-4043-0-14859900-1425233088_thumb.jp

post-4043-0-43880300-1425233117_thumb.jp

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great review - thank you

can I ask what sort of eye relief you find with old binos, esp the Tentos

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Hi Littleskink

I'd estimate the Tentos to be c12-14mm eye relief..I don't wear glasses to observe but I do find that if I turn the eyecups down or even remove them the view is easier to take in and looks quite a bit wider.

The more I use the 7x50s the more I love them and really think they have a sharper radial view than equivalent Zeiss Jenoptems.

Hope that helps.

Regards

Dave

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Very nice review. These older bins can be really superb. They often lack the large FOV of the modern ones, but then the modern ones often show a lot of astigmatism in the outer 50%. In real terms, the good FOV might not differ that much, and on-axis, the oldies might even be a touch sharper

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Thanks Michael. Couldn't agree more..what's the point of a wide fov if half of the stars look like seagulls?

The older bins are often surprisingly light in weight too.. Great though modern BA8 10x50s are, for example, they do weigh a ton compared to Tento 50mm's.

Dave

Edited by F15Rules

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I have to agree about the excellent quality of some older binocs. My sister, who is a "pro" wildlife conservation bod, still uses the Zeiss 8x30 that she has had since the early 1970s. Really lovely glass! BK7 prisms, rudimentary (by today's over-hyped standards) coatings, and crisp, crisp images almost to the edge, with faithful colour rendition. Did I mention how crisp the image is? :grin:

Edited by BinocularSky

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Hi,

I have a pair of Greenkats too, but 10X50. I notice yours have a little cross-head screw on the front of the central bar. Is that where I would screw a tripod mount? If so, what size mount would I need?

Many thanks!

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Hi Ben-Dingo:-)

No, on these old binos you would need a clamp fitting which goes around the central bar..I'll try to find you a link when I'm on my laptop rather than my phone. I have an Opticron one which is excellent, cost around £15 (more than the bins, lol!).

Dave

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Hi Dave,

Brilliant, thanks! My GKs were £30 on eBay (feeling slightly ripped off now!) and are really good for the money.

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Ben-dingo & Dave,

No, on these old binos you would need a clamp fitting which goes around the central bar..I'll try to find you a link when I'm on my laptop rather than my phone. I have an Opticron one which is excellent, cost around £15 (more than the bins, lol!).
 

Opticron Hinge Clamp

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There you go Ben-dingo, Steve has beaten me go it!:-). Thanks, Steve.

This is the clamp I have and it's excellent, holds the bins rock solid on my Ravelli tripod and trigger grip.

Dave

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Super piece Dave. A well written, enjoyable read.

 It reminds me to go visit my dad down the coast and borrow his old Carl Zeiss (Oberkochen) 10x50's (around 1970 vintage?). From memory they were stubby, easy to use, super sharp bincs. You know that feeling you get as soon as you look through a quality pair of bincs, you just straight away, without needing to think, go "oh yeah, these are good".

A bit beaten up cosmetically, but optics are A-Ok. Still can't believe he got them for £0.00 . He's long moved on to a pair of fancy schmancy Minox roof prism's for his birding, so the Zeiss are on a shelf in his man-cave(my mum's words  :smiley:  ).

Andy.

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