Nowadays when most people are wearing similar clothes and shoes, driving similar cars, there are many who want to stand out. One way to stand out from the crowd and get others to notice you is by owning a pair of vintage binoculars. When you find yourself in a crowded room full of people and you want to leave an impression, vintage binoculars are a right way to do it. You could stand in a simple bird observatory or in a prestigious lodge on a main event– the effect would be the same, with vintage binoculars you would get noticed.
When you decide to buy a vintage binocular, it’s not because of its performance, but because of a style and to feel special. Of course there are other ways to stand out, like buying yourself a vintage car. But there is a big difference between vintage cars and vintage binoculars, because vintage cars are no longer produced and are therefore harder to find. Vintage binoculars, on the other hand, are still being manufactured, so you can buy a brand new pair of vintage binoculars that were made based on design plans that are 50 or 60 years old. With cars, there was a step up in the development, and the design changed radically throughout the years while with binoculars and their optical design, you can see there was some progress made, but a 50 years old design still works perfectly. Many vintage binoculars feature old design combine with modern coating on lenses.
In general there are three groups of vintage binoculars. In the first group there are binoculars the production of which never stopped and their style did not change much, except for some improvements. One of those, for example, is Swarovski Habicht that has been produced since 1949.
In the second group are binoculars that were stopped being produced at some point but are now, due to demand, being made once again. One of those is Leica Trinovid.
In the last, third group are limited series vintage binoculars. Their numbers are limited and once they are sold out, it is impossible to get a new one. One of those is a classic from Carl Zeiss – Zeiss Dialyt.
One thing that all vintage binoculars have in common is that they are all made in Europe. The only exception is Nikon which mostly produces binoculars in Japan. You will also have to dig a bit deeper in your pocket to get vintage binoculars as you would for a regular pair because they can get quite expensive.
There is one more way to get vintage binoculars beside buying new ones. If you don’t have a problem with second hand equipment you could buy used ones. It is still possible to service 50+ years old binoculars and you can also get spare parts for them.
- style, not just performance
- new binoculars based on old design plans
- made in Europe
- still possible to service
1. Swarovski Habicht
Swarovski Habicht binoculars were first made in 1949. New models of Porro-prism binoculars are a mixture of old-classic design and new modern improvements. Habicht binoculars have a simple optical design and provide a colourful and sharp image which is also extremely bright. They do well in low light conditions thanks to the high light transmission rate (up to 96 %). They are splash proof. Because of a magnesium alloy they are one of the most lightweight binoculars in their category, so they are ideal for taking on excursions.
You can choose between three magnification levels: 7x, 8x and 10x. All editions are available in black leather armor with metal parts. Editions 7x and 10x are also available in green rubber armor.
- Swarovski Habicht 7×42 can produce bright images even in poor light conditions. Black leather armour is perfect for every hunting enthusiast.
- Swarovski Habicht 8×30 are a popular size of binoculars and are also the smallest in the series. They’re very compact, lightweight and suitable for outdoors observations. It has a traditional design and offers an excellent field of view.
- Swarovski Habicht 10×40 is suitable for observations in large open areas, where we can observe mountains even in low light.
- Swarovski Habicht 7×42 GA binoculars feature a sturdy rubber armoring. Green rubber protects against impacts and provides a secure grip. 42 mm lenses do well in low light conditions. It’s best seller for hunters.
- Swarovski Habicht 10×40 GA is very suitable if you want a classic design and protection against abrasion and impacts.
Models that are armoured in green rubber are more durable and resistant than black leather models. They are also heavier.
All models come with a padded fabric case and a wide strap. There is no doubt that with Habicht you will always look chic.
These binoculars were first produced in 1960 ‘ by Carl Zeiss Jena under a different name – NVA DF. These military binoculars were made for the East German army “NVA”. After German reunification, Carl Zeiss Jena was taken over by Bernhard Docter. Optics Docter then converted this military binoculars into a civilian version. In 2016 Noblex bought Docter Optics and then in 2018 they renamed Docter to Noblex.
Noblex binoculars went through some changes over the years. Because of different optical glass, the yellow tint of the earlier model is gone. The image was improved over the years with the use of a different anti-reflection coatings.
At this moment Noblex 7×40 B/GA is one the most robust, durable and tough model designed for everyday use. It has a metal body and heavy, black rubber armoring that provides slip-free grip. It’s very resilient, water and dust proof, so it’s perfect for any working environment.
- Noblex 10×42 B/GA has the same design as Noblex 7×40 B/GA. Is highly durable and great for open areas observations. Eventhough it has 10x magnification is still lightweight enough for easy handling.
3. Zeiss Dialyt 8×56 GA T* (Final Edition)
This model was first produced in 1968 ‘ and until this day it has preserved its classic and robust design. Dialyt offers very good image brightness and excellent contrast and resolution. It boasts great performance, especially in the evening and early morning. These binoculars are not water resistant nor filled with nitrogen. Because of a Abbe-Koenig prisms they have better light transmission rate and have a longer design. They’re one of the most traditional hunting binoculars and for the longest time they have been the best low light binoculars on the market.
Now, in 2019, Zeiss is offering the final edition of Dialyt 8×56 which is limited to 250 units. Each binoculars have the number engraved and you also get a certificate. They come in a high-quality leather case with comfortable neoprene strap. In addition you get a nice wooden box to store everything. Zeiss Dialyt really has a timeless design, so it is no wonder that it has been popular for decades and it is an item every collector must have.
4. Leica Trinovid
In 1958 Leitz started their very successful line named Trinovid. With this line they introduced three major novelties: a compact design, precise inner focus mechanism and an excellent optical performance. Trinovid are premium entry-level binoculars.
Because of great acceptance of Trinovid series among Leica enthusiasts, Leica introduced new old models in 2017 to satisfy their fans. The new models feature the same prisms that were used in the 1958 model and new state-of-the-art coatings on lenses. The armouring is resilient, very durable and can be obtained in three variations (rubber armour with black details, leather with black details and leather with silver details). They are one of the lightest binoculars in their class and available in two magnifications.
- Leica Trinovid 8×40 binoculars have an aluminium housing and are designed to attract attention. They can be describe as all-round binoculars.
- Leica Trinovid 10×40 has a generous eye-relief and is suitable for daily use and also for experienced birdwatchers and hunters.
Both models are fog-proof and waterproof up to 5 m. New models are not yet available on the market but are excpected to be available soon.
You can also get a new modern Leica Trinovid HD. Right now there are 1. and 3. generation available on the market. If you are one of Leica fans there is no doubt that Leica Trinovid must be in your collection.
5. Nikon E II
Nikon E II binoculars are classic Porro-prism binoculars suitable for daily use. Series E launched in 1978 and was substituted by the E II models in 1999. These are binoculars with one of the widest fields of view on the market and are built from magnesium alloy. They have multiple anti-reflective coatings and are splashproof. Since they are lightweight they are easy to hold in hands, while leather armour provides a good grip. These binoculars can also be mounted on a tripod. If you own a pair of Nikon E II binoculars you can use them for birdwatching or hiking. There are two models available in the Series E II.
- Nikon E II 8×30 are old-fashioned but quality binoculars with modern lens coatings and good light transmission rate. They are perfect for a trip or safari, or simply observing birds and nature.
- Nikon E II 10×35 are traditionally designed Porro prism binoculars with an extraordinarily wide field of view, even with the 10x magnification. Rugged leather armouring makes them suitable for hiking and wildlife observation.
Nikon E II binoculars are one of the last representatives of the Porro-prism design still available on the market. There are also the only vintage binoculars the production process of which takes place in Japan. If you decide to purchase them you will get them along with a soft case, a strap and two caps.
6. Zeiss 20×60 T* S
Zeiss 20×60 are still considered one of the best image stabilized binoculars in the world and they have a special place in binoculars industry. Their perfect German design, highest quality materials, image stabilization, premium lens coatings and high performance optical glass are what makes Zeiss 20×60 worth your money. They are a luxury optic that come in an aluminium case with a neoprene strap and rainguard.
Mechanical image stabilization function is one of the best features of these binoculars. They provides steady and instant focus on long distance views, no batteries are required. Zeiss 20×60 are a perfect pair of binoculars for all users who observe objects at extremely long distances. These binoculars really are one of a kind, but many people find them too expensive.
The conclusion that can be drawn is that some vintage binoculars are, even after 50 years, still very popular among binoculars enthusiasts. Their popularity is rising because some are considered as highly collectible items. For those binoculars that are still being produced there is no fear that they will stop being manufactured. Some vintage binoculars are even more expensive than modern binoculars since they are considered collectible and trending items. It’s quite interesting to think what will happen when digital binoculars start to dominate the market. There are not just vintage binoculars that may start to disappear, the same might happen to the ones that feature a modern design. Is it possible that both types will gradually become forgotten? Will maybe the vintage binoculars survive? Is it possible that in the future there will only be vintage binoculars next to the digital ones?
- very popular
- collectible items
- more expensive tham modern binoculars
- still produced
- digital, modern or vintage binoculars. Who will dominate the market in the future?
This review wasn’t sponsored and is unbiased however the article features affiliated links to Optics-trade. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.