The Thinking Behind BINOCULARS TODAY
When Hans Lipperhey invented the telescope in Holland in 1609, could he have foreseen that four hundred years later, several million optical devices such as telescopes and binoculars would be sold per year in the USA alone? Instruments based on his invention have revolutionized the way we look at the world and have shaped scientific and industrial applications in many areas.
This website would like to celebrate the two-eyed version of Lipperhey’s invention: the binocular. There are of course already many good non-commercial websites about binoculars, but many of them describe primarily the history of the binocular and/or exhibit nice collections of historic, even pre-war, instruments (an outstanding example: “Fernglasmuseum.at”, website https://www.fernglasmuseum.at/). On the other hand, websites of a non-commercial nature presenting the CURRENT binocular universe seem rare. This is where BINOCULARS TODAY comes in, presenting the PINACOLLECTION, a private collection of modern binoculars. In their vast majority, the instruments in this collection have been produced during the last 30 years and are representative of modern binocular design, technology and production from about 1990 onwards. The aim is to demonstrate the state of the art of current binocular design and production in the last part of the 20th and in the 21st century up to this day, and to show a representative selection of binoculars that are on the market today. This necessarily means that a number of „clones“ – substiantially identical binoculars produced primarily in China and sold with slightly different external features under many different brand names – have also been included here.
Over the years, worldwide binoculars markets have undergone huge changes. In the first half of the 20th century, a handful of European, American and Japanese companies drove the design and technology of binocular instruments and produced the bulk of them. In the second half between about 1960 and 1990, companies actually producing binoculars seem to have peaked; since then, the number of binocular manufacturers deserving that label has dropped dramatically; outsourcing of parts of the production became the norm, and lately, the production of entire instruments by a small number of Asian companies has soared. Today, only a handful of companies actually produce more than just a few elements of a binocular in Europe; on the American continent, not a single producer seems left who would do more than just the assembly of prefabricated and imported parts. In Asia, you still see a small number of binocular producers in Japan; and then, of course, China! In the last fifteen years or so, a few Chinese manufacturers have gone from producing some cheap lenses and other instrument parts, through producing complete low-price instruments, to now producing the bulk of mid-price instruments and high quality lenses and other parts for European, American and Japanese companies. Today, high quality Chinese binocular telescopes which cost several thousand Euros are being sold under European and US brand names all over the world. The same is true for handheld binoculars: the bulk of the many different brands of binoculars sold today, even those with prices in the upper range of the market, are either in part or entirely manufactured in China. Of the 5.14 million binoculars imported in 2019 into the USA, to name just one country, 4.9 million or 95.3% were imports from China. With many companies in the western optical industry currently slashing budgets and staff, that trend is poised to continue. Instruments on the market today, which carry both a label such as “Designed by Zeiss” on the top, and the word “China” on the bottom, are proof of this development.
BINOCULARS TODAY is host of the PINACOLLECTION, a private collection of modern binoculars, mostly from the last 30 years.
Beside some of the very best premium instruments available today, you will find a very wide range of binoculars of all quality levels, except the lowest quality segment. Produced in more than a dozen countries, over fifty different brands are represented:
APM / Astro Hutech / Blaser / BORG / Bushnell / Canon / Carl Zeiss Jena / Celestron / DDoptics / Docter / Eschenbach / Fujinon / GMC Admiral / GPO / Hartmann / Hawke / Helios / Hensoldt / IOR / Kahles / Kasai / Kenko / Kern / Kite Optics / KOMZ / Kowa / Leica / Leupold / Lunt Engineering / Maven / Meopta / Minolta / Minox / Nikon / Noblex / Oberwerk / Olympus / Omegon / Opticron / Optolyth / Orion / Pentax / Ross / SIG-SAUER / Steiner / Svbony / Swarovski / Swift / Vanguard / Visionking / Vixen / Vortex / William Optics / Zavarius / Zeiss / ZRAK
They come in many different sizes:
20-50×80, 40×80, 30×80, 28×110, 25×100, 20×80, 20×70, 20×65, 20×60, 20×56, 18×70, 16×80, 16×70, 16×56, 16×50, 15×60, 15×56, 15×50, 12×60, 12×50, 12×45, 12×36, 12×32, 12×30, 12×28, 11×45, 10×70, 10×56, 10×54, 10×50, 10×42, 10×40, 10×35, 10×32, 10×30, 10×25, 9×63, 9×45, 8.5×44, 8.5×42, 8×56, 8×54, 8×50, 8×45, 8×44, 8×43, 8×42, 8×40, 8×36, 8×33, 8×32, 8×30, 8×25, 8×22, 8×21, 8×20, 7.5×44, 7×50, 7×42, 7×40, 7×35, 7×30, 7×28, 6.5×32, 6.5×21, 6×30, 6×24, 6×15, 5×25, 5×15, 4×20, 4×10, 3×50, 2.3×40, 2.1×42, 2×54, 1.8×40
Looking at the image erection systems used, the following types are included:
Porro I Reverse
There are marine binoculars (with or without compass), military binoculars (with or without reticle, and with or without laser filters), astronomy binoculars, binoculars for leisure and hiking, for hunting (with or without laser based range measurement), for birding, for twilight or night use, for surveillance; there are opera glasses, compact binoculars, pocket binoculars, large binoculars for mounted use, binoculars with variable magnification, binoculars with image stabilization, binoculars that can be split into two monoculars, binoculars for the observation of the sun, and binocular telescopes with exchangeable eyepieces.
Overall, the collection should give a good impression of the current “state of the art” of worldwide binocular technology and a representative overview of today’s binocular markets.
The binoculars in the collection shall be presented here over the next few years, together with brief descriptions and, in some cases, reviews or at least ratings. So for a long time to come, this will be “work in progress”.
Please contact us in case you would like further information, additional details or if you would like to make comments or observations of your own.
At some point in the future, the PINACOLLECTION will be donated to one or several public institutions active in astronomy, birding / wildlife / nature protection, or to an optics museum.
What You Will Find Here - And What Not
BINOCULARS TODAY tries to give those interested in the subject some overviews of producers and brands of binoculars, the types of instruments available today, how to select and where to buy an instrument, and further “tips, facts and figures”. Moreover, we name certain common misperceptions and errors – a subject which is naturally more controversial than the mere technical data.
In addition, the website lists further information that may be useful: important books, websites and internet forums where more information can be gathered, including sites that provide more sophisticated testing and reviews of binoculars.
This website deals with binocular instruments only – visual observation instruments for use with both eyes. Observation with two eyes has its specific advantages over observation with telescopes or spotting scopes (these have their own specific applications where they have an advantage). Smaller (handheld) instruments tend to be called “binoculars”, the larger ones are sometimes named “binocular telescopes” or even “binoscopes”, esp. when they feature exchangeable eyepieces.
You will NOT find here
- basic information about optics design in general and binocular technology in particular
- information of a historic nature
- information about cleaning, maintaining, servicing or repairing binoculars
- information about using binoculars for specific purposes, e.g. birding or stargazing
For subjects like these, please consult some of the books and websites mentioned under the Tab “Further Information”.
For subjects such as taking photographic pictures using binoculars, “digiscoping” etc., please refer to posts on respective internet forums, blogs, etc.
Non-commercial, Private, Independent; and a Disclaimer
BINOCULARS TODAY is neither a commercial enterprise nor active in any other way in the binoculars commerce or trade.
There are no contracts or agreements or other arrangements of any sort between BINOCULARS TODAY and any producer, seller / reseller or advertiser of binoculars for the provision of fees, advantages or any other form of consideration.
Where BINOCULARS TODAY publishes ratings or reviews of or about instruments, it freely expresses its own independent findings and opinion.
A caveat is appropriate at this stage. Since observation with binoculars does in general not include image recording with a photo camera, but instead objects are being viewed with the human eye, it is virtually impossible to give „objective“ recommendations as to how a specific pair of binoculars will perform when used by a specific person. Of course, most top-of-the-range binoculars will likely satisfy the large majority of users, and the technical quality of a particular device can be described perfectly well, so the type of glass used for the lenses and prisms, the coating applied to the optical surfaces, the material used for the body of the instrument, and many other specifications are of importance when evaluating binoculars. However, whether a specific pair of binoculars will „perform better“ than another one in the hands of an individual is not always easy to predict, since the differences concerning the eye apparatus and face anatomy between different persons are quite significant, and the same holds true for differences in perception (color, structures, etc). Therefore, recommendations or ratings given on this website are at best useful or helpful, but nothing must replace the personal checking and testing of an instrument with one’s own eyes before buying!
In the information section of this website, links on which you can click may lead you to other websites. No guarantee can be given by BINCOLARS TODAY that any of the links will work, that the websites behind the links are safe to visit, and that any information on such other websites is correct.
Information and data are published here in good faith and free of charge. No responsibility can be accepted for any errors and omissions on this website. However, the notification of erroneous data or specifications by readers will be very welcome.