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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/19/2012 at 11:22
Klamath View Drop Down
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Every once and awhile it can be useful to back up a step and take a look at how things once were.  The other day I was surfing the bay in a 7x35 binocular search and found there were dozens of old porros from the golden era of Japanese porro production.  Back in the days of the Japan Telescope Inspection Institute, when all the binoculars were actually inspected and received a little golden sticker.  We were reaping rewards from that process such as few of us likely appreciated.
 
Anyway, my curiosity got the best of me, and I bought one.  Now everybody will roll on the floor laughing at me here, but of all things it's a....T.... a Ta... a Tasco!  There I said it.  A Tasco Model 400 International, 7x35 with a 604' (11.5*) fov.  That is an apparent fov of just a speck over 80*.  Now the first thing I noticed when I unboxed it was that this thing is a hefty, solid, built like a tank, double handful of prisms.  It just stands up and says "I am a quality binocular".  So I just sit there for a minute or two.  This thing is a Tasco for Pete's sakes!  So I finish looking it over for glitches, there were none I could see, other than a couple of scratches on the leatherette.  It said it had been used, but not abused.  OK, that was a start at least.
 
So I step out the door of the reloading/optics shop for a closer look.  I quickly set up the focus and checked collimation on a nearby power line, good... it's spot on.  So I start looking things over.  Huh, this is a Tasco?  Holy cow, this thing is pretty darn good!  Its better than pretty good in fact.  It is good enough that I will use it hunting or for anything else as a primary instrument and won't ever get the notion I really should have brought along something better, even if I could have.
 
Is there something better?  Don't fool yourself, yes there is something better.  The present day expansion of quality in roof prism binoculars is real, and that is a fact.  These old vintage porros are not quite that good, but they need offer no apologies either.  Sadly, there are also a lot of garbage porros out there that were cheap then and worthless now.  But instruments like this Tasco back in their day weren't particularly cheap.  They were not terrifically expensive either, but they weren't cheap.  They are quality today too.  Back in the day, Tasco and other companies with sullied reputations in today's reality, were actually quality optical companies with "production standards".  Tasco, imagine that!  Each one of the several hundred Japanese Optical firms stamped the hinge of the binocular with their designated mark.  J-B ### for the completed binocular and J-E ### for the metalwork.  Often as not there is just the J-B ###.  They then got the little oval JTII sticker.
 
This has been an interesting re-educational process for me.  In the process, I have gathered up maybe a dozen old porro binoculars.  Several Tasco, Jason, Binolux, Montgomery Wards, Sears, Canon, Carl Zeiss, Sans and Streriffe, Mastercraft, Holiday, and Swift.  Mostly I am interested in the Extra an Ultra Wide Angle B&L style 7x35 porros.  What I found was the Japanese porros were likely on the verge of greatness.  However mass marketing hysteria led to the JTII demise and ultimate elimination of across the board standards.  One of these old porros with state of the art glass and full modern broadband multi coatings would really stand up and sing.  They probably won't win a best of seven series in a presidential debate, but they won't get swept either.
 
These things today are pretty inexpensive.  I have spent no more than maybe $30.00 shipped.  Some have come out of collimation, so expect that.  In the process, I have learned how to take these old binoculars apart for cleaning and have been able to recollimate all but a couple.  That alone has been worth the small expense.
 
So if you don't wear glasses, and get bored, surf the bay and try a couple of these.  These older Ultra Wide Angle have NO eye relief, none.  I don't wear glasses and I have to take the eye cups off to get as close to the ocular lens as I can.  You can see the progression of the field seeming to expand as you get closer and closer to the oculars.  NOTHING on the market today is wide angle.  Eyeglass wearers probably can't get close enough to merge the images.  They are not real good for cold weather, as fogging gets to be a problem with little to no eye relief.  The focus grease will probably be a little stiff by now too, so the work a lot better when warm.  But re greasing the focus mechanism is no big chore either.
 
I have found several I will keep with the intent that they will get frequent use.  A Swift Audubon 8.5x44 from 1968, which WILL PUSH AN ALPHA, that one cost me $30.00.  A Swift Apollo 8x30 w/ 446' fov (this was a serious rebuild project that will also push the alpha) a Sans & Steriffe Viking 8x30 with a 525' fov, the Tasco 400 at 604', a Montgomery Wards with 620' fov.  I have several others at 578' fov from which I will keep one or two as well.
 
So depending on the level of interest shown in the subject I have lots of stuff I can add as needed.


Edited by Klamath - February/19/2012 at 11:28
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/19/2012 at 13:38
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I bought a Tasco 400 International about four years ago on eBay!!  Mint Condition.  I paid $10 plus $10 postage!!!  Roll on Floor Laughing
 
 
 7X35, just like yours!!  I love 'em!!  Very nice!!  Hardly ever been used.  Case and all. 
 
 
Great review!! 
 
 
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/19/2012 at 13:53
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I am fascinated by these binoculars as well.  I think I will start looking for my own steal on the Tascos.  I love my old Jena 8X30 mc.  A fine instrument. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/19/2012 at 14:27
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Steve,
 
I have approx. 20 Porro prism binoculars; quite a few are older, discontinued, made in Japan models that are built like a tank and are always ALOT of fun to use both daytime & nighttime.
There have also been several other Porro prism binoculars that I have given away, for one reason or another.
 
Thanks for sharing with us about your collection of vintage Porro binos. Thunbs Up
 
Stan
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/19/2012 at 16:02
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Originally posted by Bitterroot Bulls Bitterroot Bulls wrote:

I am fascinated by these binoculars as well.  I think I will start looking for my own steal on the Tascos.  I love my old Jena 8X30 mc.  A fine instrument. 
I have both a fully coated one from 1976 and a later multicoated one from 1986 that looks brand new. 
 
I wish I had done this when Son of Ed did.  His was a bargain.  There are still deals to be had, but $20-30/ per binocular with some shipping is getting to be the norm.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/19/2012 at 16:13
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Originally posted by Bird Watcher Bird Watcher wrote:

Steve,
 
I have approx. 20 Porro prism binoculars; quite a few are older, discontinued, made in Japan models that are built like a tank and are always ALOT of fun to use both daytime & nighttime.
There have also been several other Porro prism binoculars that I have given away, for one reason or another.
 
Thanks for sharing with us about your collection of vintage Porro binos. Thunbs Up
 
Stan
The very first binocular I bought back in the days when I was a college junior was a Swift Nighthawk 8x40 porro with a 500' fov.  I still have that binocular, and several years ago I had it rebuilt.  Looking back I find out I never should have been able to get the extreme level of use out of a fragile old porro that I got out of that one Big Smile.
 
We took the marketters spiel about "roof prism superiority" hook, line, and sinker back in the day. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, I'm just as bad as anybody else.  Our modern roofs are wonderful, and I'll always have two or three.  I have gotten to the point where the current level of image performance is getting about as good as average human eyes can use.  While I recognize the superioroty of a modern alpha (sorry, but the superiority level is not enough to get over $2k out of me for one binocular) over the likes of the ZEN, Theron, Caldera,...etc mid price stuff, I somehow have the idea when I see the Prime HD, I'll maybe be done looking.  These old porros are a good way to keep up and expand the old optics hobby. 
 
Yeah, I'll always keep looking at the new roofs, but pretty soon we will see digital zoom stuff in hand held optics we won't hardly fathom now.  Kind of like the modern smartphone compared to the old fashioned bag type cell phones.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/24/2012 at 15:08
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There are a few good wide angle porros of this era, Swift Audobon, Saratoga, but not the Apollo.
The Tasco 400 is OK has low index prisms making a shadow toward the field stops.
The Carl Zeiss Jena models ,8x30 7x50 and 10x50 are all goodies, but go for stupid money on ebay.
All the above have bugger all eye relief, will most likely need cleaning to get the best out of them.
I collect binoculars and have many,but these are a few worth mentioning.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/24/2012 at 15:37
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Originally posted by Simon Spiers Simon Spiers wrote:

I collect binoculars and have many
 
Simon,
 
How close to 300 binoculars are you?
 
Stan
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/24/2012 at 17:06
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Originally posted by Simon Spiers Simon Spiers wrote:

There are a few good wide angle porros of this era, Swift Audobon, Saratoga, but not the Apollo.
The Tasco 400 is OK has low index prisms making a shadow toward the field stops.
The Carl Zeiss Jena models ,8x30 7x50 and 10x50 are all goodies, but go for stupid money on ebay.
All the above have bugger all eye relief, will most likely need cleaning to get the best out of them.
I collect binoculars and have many,but these are a few worth mentioning.
Simon,
 
Good to see you here on OT, welcome.  I would almost wager the money I have in the binocular that one look in my Swift Apollo MK II 8x30 and you'd change your tune.  It is remarkably like a small version of the Audubon type 4, physically as well as optically.
 
Nicholas Crista said he'd never seen a Apollo like this one and was pretty surprised at what he saw when he got into it.  He thought mine must have been a special edition and if I was smart I'd hang onto it.
 
I would like to see a good example of one of the golden age Japanese Porros with modern high quality glass and coatings as applicipacable to the design.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/24/2012 at 17:20
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Originally posted by Klamath Klamath wrote:

I would like to see a good example of one of the golden age Japanese Porros with modern high quality glass and coatings as applicipacable to the design.
Steve,
 
Nikon 'was' manufacturing the very best center focus Porro prism binocular until they discontinued it.
Here's a comment from a seller on ebay.
"The Nikon Premier SE 12x50 was designed to be the most optically advanced Porro Prism binocular in the world. According to Bettter View Desired, the highly regarded source for critical optics evaluation, the Nikon SE "exceeds the theoretical limit of resolution". Quite simply the SE has the best resolution of any binocular available. The cost of making such a fine optic became cost prohibitve and is no longer made. The MSRP was $1466 and could be bought retail (when still available) for around $800"
 
 
Stan. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/24/2012 at 17:47
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Stan:
 
The Nikon SE is still in production, probably in small batches, and is available at several
sources, here in the US. 
The Ebay seller was correct in quoting the review on the great Nikon porro, they are very
good, and ranked among the very best, and that includes any of the current new roofs
from Nikon and the other alpha brands.  I have both the 8x32 and the 10x42 SE, and they
will be keepers. 
These are not vintage porros, but a current classic design.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/24/2012 at 19:43
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Originally posted by NDhunter NDhunter wrote:

The Nikon SE is still in production, probably in small batches, and is available at several sources, here in the US. 
  
These are not vintage porros, but a current classic design.
 
I hear different stories from different sources.
Even SWFA does not list them on their website.
 
I know that they are not vintage, but, not everyone stocks them, and I keep hearing stories about their discontinuation.
Still, I don't think there is any better center focus technologly out there, in a Porro prism binocular.
 
Stan
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/24/2012 at 20:22
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Originally posted by Bird Watcher Bird Watcher wrote:

Originally posted by Klamath Klamath wrote:

I would like to see a good example of one of the golden age Japanese Porros with modern high quality glass and coatings as applicable to the design.
Steve,
 
Nikon 'was' manufacturing the very best center focus Porro prism binocular until they discontinued it.
Here's a comment from a seller on ebay.
"The Nikon Premier SE 12x50 was designed to be the most optically advanced Porro Prism binocular in the world. According to Bettter View Desired, the highly regarded source for critical optics evaluation, the Nikon SE "exceeds the theoretical limit of resolution". Quite simply the SE has the best resolution of any binocular available. The cost of making such a fine optic became cost prohibitve and is no longer made. The MSRP was $1466 and could be bought retail (when still available) for around $800"
 
 
Stan. 
I'm like Jerry here.  I think the 8x32 SE is certainly in the discussion someplace (depending on who's making the list) to make the list of all time great binoculars.  I also do not regard them as vintage either.  My strictly narrow, even personal idea of vintage Japanese porros coincides with the life span of the Japan Telescope Inspection Service and those binoculars bearing their little yellow stickers.  Certainly I think the Carl Zeiss Jenna and some others of German lineage as vintage as well.
 
I tend to disagree that it is expensive to make a porro like the SE, or to fully modernize a Swift Holiday or Tasco 400 or many other Japanese porros.  It would be if the design had a goal to increase the eye relief.  That gets into eye piece designs that are certainly neither simple nor are they inexpensive.  The basic "Vintage Porro Prism Binocular Design" I should think is no secret.  The engineering work is done.  What I mean I wanted to see is one of those old porros with no changes to the design (apologies to eye glass wearers), just modern quality glass and state of the art broadband coatings.  I realize that they will carry edge softness due to the fact that the eye piece designs are likely stretched to and even somewhat past any reasonable design limit in these grand old Extra-Ultra Wide Angle porros.  Only some of the softness around the field stop can be attributed to Simon's post about low indexing prisms (mostly Bk-7).  The thing is that these fields are wide enough that the edge really becomes a non issue.
 
Designers decided to go roof when it became apparent that phase correction was on the way and that could tout the, compact size, better waterproofing, and more rugged design of the roof.  I think the engineers simply got tired of the old porro and saw more money ahead in roof prisms.  Not to mention the fact of a whole new set of engineering issues , more interesting  unknown work ahead with the roof.  Ramp up the marketing, end of story.  I think you won't see more 8x32 SE's (in great numbers anyway) simply because they would simply cut the sales of the EDG.  That's why we don't see them, not because they are too expensive.  That and the fact the "Optics Marketing and Binocular Re-educational Program" has reaped its rewards.


Edited by Klamath - February/24/2012 at 20:28
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/25/2012 at 15:21
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Originally posted by Bird Watcher Bird Watcher wrote:

Originally posted by Simon Spiers Simon Spiers wrote:

I collect binoculars and have many
 
Simon,
 
How close to 300 binoculars are you?
 
Stan

300 is in the rear view mirror Stan!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/07/2012 at 14:50
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One thing that people forget, or perhaps don't quite realize, is that during the 1950's-1980's most of the familiar brands of binoculars (Tasco, Swift, Sans & Streiffe, Jason, Binolux, Wards, Sears, United, Bushnell, Kalimar, Compass, Selsi and others) were simply acting as distributors for products that were manufactured by others. In some cases, a single brand was buying from a bunch of different manufacturers. Just to give an example in doing research for www.miniaturebinoculars.com  I discovered that those small binoculars (6x15, 7x18, etc) manufactured by Seiwa Kogaku (JB93) were sold or distributed as Binolux, Carton, Compass, Cosmica, Empire, Gold Cup, Greencat, Hoya, Jason, Kaliamar, King, Look, Olympic, Optix, Orion, Petlux, Raiya, Scope, Sears, Selsi, Simor, SUI, Telsar, Vista, Yamatar, and Yashika. And I suspect the list is really several times as long as what I can document so far, because I add more each week. Plus keep in mind I was not even looking at the larger binoculars, where the same thing was occurring. Omori Sogo Kogaku did exactly the same, and had just as long a list of brands they were sold or distributed as, and so did Tochihara & Akebono optical companies. Even Asahi (Pentax) made binoculars for others, and particularly Bushnell early on. So during the period of Japanese manufacture, the quality of a particular pair of binoculars doesn't really have nearly so much to do with the brand name that was marked on them as it did the JB manufacturer's code of which company actually made them, and a brand's quality could be all over the place. depending on who they were buying what models from. Of course the brands are still engaged in contract manufacturing, but with China the product is much more built to a specification and a price point for the brand reseller, so that an economy brand now tends to have a more reliably economy quality level.

Mark
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very informative.......thanks vintagefan
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/16/2012 at 22:42
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I have a pair of Spindler & Hoyer 8X45 binos from Gottingen, Germany.  Probably 1960s maybe.  Virtually impossible to find Internet photos of them to post here.  Really nice binoculars from the mid-sixties. 
 
If anybody knows anything about Spindler & Hoyer, I would be interested to hear any news.  I know that they quit making optics about forty years ago and concentrated on scientific instruments and lasers, etc.  I understand that they were absorbed by the LINOS Group a few years ago.     
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/31/2012 at 15:31
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Hey, Vintage Guys!  Look what I found just now on eBay!!   2 more days to go!!
 
 
 
 
 
 
A Tasco model 116!   One of the old Good Ones of the 100 series.  7x 35    551 FOV.     $20 on eBay so far.....
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/31/2012 at 23:02
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I have one of those too.  All those old Tasco vintage porros are pretty decent.  I have maybe six different Tascos of that vintage.  The 116 is right there with them.
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Some of the other nice Japanese porros are the Yashica 10x50 models, but the best of the never heard of range includes the wonderful Mirador birding binocular(see my site below).
Also the Nipon Kogaku (Nikon) models, although more expensive are a great choice.
Then the Swifts, most of the range are good, Saratoga Sport King, Audubon, Skipper......
Cool


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Greetings to all on this forum - hope you are still monitoring it.

Just came across this forum a couple of months ago, it rekindled my interest in vintage porro-prism binos.

Glad to see there are other like-minded "vintage bino fans" out there!

Klamath - agree with your comment in your original post from 19 February 2012:
"What I found was the Japanese porros were likely on the verge of greatness."   

   I too have collected some vintage binos, including several Japanese ones from the Japan Telescope Inspection Institute (JTII) "golden era".     

We own several vintage porro-prism binos, all with their original leather cases & accessories:

- Stesco 7x35 - made in France, vintage early 1960s
Have been in our family since new, just received them back from a complete professional restoration.

- Consort 7x35 - Japan(manufacturer: JB4 Toei Kogaku Co. Ltd.)

- Manon 10x50 - Japan (manufacturer: JB191: Seiwa Optical Co., Ltd.)

- KMart 7x50 - Japan (manufacturer: JB133 Kamakura Koki Co. Ltd.)

All are of high quality construction, materials and optics and would cost a small fortune to duplicate today, especially if made in Japan, Germany/Europe. I have have learned to do the needed maintanenance, lubrication, optics cleaning and collimation to keep them in good working order.

   The quality standards imposed by the JTII on its Japanese manufacturers resulted in a very high quality of optics for the consumer which we took for granted at the time.

   Despite the unarguable brightness, light transmission and clarity advantages of the modern binos we own, I find I still turn to our vintage "black pebble grain / all metal / leather case" binoculars to take on a trip, a hike, etc. There is, to me, something inherently more satisfying in holding these in my hand and using them - and I don't feel I am giving up much in the way of image quality.

   I also find our vintage binos, both French and Japanese, are typically easier on the eyes than some of the newer binos I have used.
I have never experienced eye strain after prolonged use of our vintage binos, but I have with some modern binos - almost as if the image is too bright for long-term use.

It's difficult to define this "non eye-straining" quality of the vintage binos, nothing to do with collimation issues, exit pupil size or anything else I can quantify.

Some of you may have noticed this too and I would be curious to hear your feedback and impressions.

I look forward to continuing this discussion on this forum!

All the best      
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I have a couple of vintage porros that surely do possess the nice bright, easy on the eye view.  In fact two of them, the Bushnell Rangemaster, the early Fuji Photo Optical, needs not back down from just about anything we can buy today.  As far as I can tell it came off the Fuji line in late 1952.  Just single coated, but fully coated, everything has coating.  I was really not prepared for the view I saw.  It needs to be seen to be believed.  

The same thing applies to the Baush & Lomb Zephyr.  Mine is a rarer 8x30 model.  It had to go off for cleaning, but it needs not take backseat even to the lauded Nikon 8x32 SE.  It has a serial number that puts it being made in 1951. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/03/2014 at 11:12
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Of the vintage binos I own, the best one optically is probably the Manon 10x50, though I suspect it may fall a little short of your Bausch & Lomb Rangemaster and Zephyr and Fuji binoculars.

Specs on these Manon 10x50:
-5.5 degree field
-288 ft field of view at 1000 yds.
-marked JB191 & JE17.

my assessement:
Very sharp focus out to approx 80%+ of image, very slight softeness at edge of image beyond that point. Good control of chromatic aberration too, which I was pleasantly surprised at considering the age of these binos. Optically compare very favorably with some of the US Army Issue M22 7x50 Fujinon and US issue and German army issue Steiner binoculars I have used during a 24 year career.   


The coating on the objective lens of this Manon bino puzzles me though, hope you may have some insight.

It is not the typical light bluish-purple MgF2 of that era which all our other vintage binos have.

Looking at the objective lens surface, I see a distinct yellowish gold tint, more metallic gold than amber, but also reflects an undertone of light purple when reflecting natural light. Have not seen this in any other vintage binos I have run across.
   
The ocular lenses, however, appear to be MGF2 coated, definitely not the same coating as the objective side.

I do have a question on dating a binocular by serial number - what reference documents do you use? I would like to do this for the ones we own.

I am looking at a few possible Swift 8.5 x44 Audubon binos, a bino I have always liked when borrowing from friends but never owned. will post on this forum if I manage to buy one at a decent price.


All the best     
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Optics Master
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I don't think that dating will prove very rewarding.  Most of those companies are long gone and it seems so are whatever historical references they may have been able to produce.  There may have been some realistic expectations from dating by serial number when the company was active and the information was available.  Some, notably Swift had the year of manufacture as the first two digits of the serial number.  Swift has a historical and collectors following, so information there is easier to get.

There was a "Fully Amber Coated" phase some manufacturers went through.  I do not know, nor have I been able to find out just what amber coating was.
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