Advances in High End Optics

264MHC

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My dad and I were looking into purchasing some Fraser gyro-stabilized binoculars for our boat the other day, which best I can tell have used the same technologies for at least 30 years, and are still considered the best of the best for that application. This got me thinking…
As far as rifle scopes go, it seems like the biggest advances have been made in providing higher quality optics to lower price points. Especially in the $1000-$2000 range scopes, the manufacturers seem to always be marketing improved glass, be it HD, ED, Fluorite, better coatings, etc.
So on to my question. Are these “advances” simply bringing technology that’s been around for years to the lower price points? Are there actually any true improvements being made to the highest end optics? For example, would a Schmidt and Bender purchased today show significant improvement over one purchased 20 years ago optically, or has it gone as far as it can go? I’m not talking about improvements in reticles, turrets, ergonomics, features, or size/ form factor, just pure optical quality. This question of course applies to any other top quality scope, be it Swaro, Premier/TT, Hendsolt, Zeiss, etc, just used Schmidt as an example.
I’d be really interested to hear the thoughts of any of the optics experts on this forum or anyone with a lot of experience with these kinds of optics.
Thanks,
Cole
 

Carlos88

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Not an expert by any means but I can say that scopes and binoculars have improved drastically from 20 years ago. The glass is better and the coatings, which are so important, are excellent. Lower end stuff these days beat any Weaver from 20 years ago.

There will be others to chime in with more detail. One bit of advice to the youngest among us is to buy the best you can afford (no free lunches). It took me a long time to be able to afford and ultimately find my last pair of binoculars. Swarovski 10x42 ELs (2020). Man they are the berries.

Next thing I think will happen is using nanotechnology to coat the interior of scopes and binoculars. The blackest black nanotechnology is mind boggling. No reflection of any kind. Look it up on the web. Incredible stuff.

 
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P7M13

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Not an expert, but coatings, reduction in chromatic dispersion, and reduction in production costs and materials have certainly brought significant improvements to the common man.
 

Jmatt

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Don’t know if this answers your question, but whenever someone puts up my 40 year old Leitz(not a misspelling) Trinovids 10 x40, they just say,”wow!” They are incredibly compact, I carry them in my coat pocket, and the clarity is better than most have ever looked through. They apparently used a better type of prism than the current Leica’s. They were my dad’s hawk watching binos and they fell to me when he passed. On Sunday, a guy at my gun club had a pair of Leica’s that were also rangefinders. Maybe not a fair comparison, but they were big and bulky and when I looked through them I said, “huh”, not “wow!”
 

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Capt RB

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We bought the Fujinon which are repackaged Frasier's On a boat stabilized are far better above about 5 power. There are others now however most are coming out of china and are rebranded the various brands so I have no idea how well they will hold up. Besides, being on a f#$%k china crusade I wouldn't recommend anything close to the FP's or FJ's prices. The Nikon's didn't compare at our time of purchase.
 

del2les

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I am not so sure about improved quality vs some of the older higher quality glass, but I do believe CNC machining and optics grinding has kept the price points somewhat in check. I have some old scopes and binos that are very well made, great glass and optically compare to anything made today, but these older optics use zero to almost zero plastics and other cheaper materials in their manufacture. They are tough as nails and have endured decades of heavy hunting and occasional misfortune, but like the old Timex commercials, they keep on ticking.
 
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BallisticsGuy

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Getting higher end product at lower prices is driven largely by advances in production methods and cost-performance optimized materials like new polymers and specialized metal alloys. Materials advances come along in spits and spurts. Coating technology improves as well at an even slower and bumpier pace than machining/production/tooling automation or materials. Production automation seems to follow something like Moore's Law which makes sense since it's dependent on the pace of advances in computation where Moore's Law applies. A rifle scope is not just a telescope. It's a telescope with adjustable internals that's more accurately described as a precision measuring instrument with a telescope wrapped around it. Economies are best gotten by getting rid of the man in the loop first. That way you can lower the price point without having to lower the quality.
 

DMP25-06

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Don’t know if this answers your question, but whenever someone puts up my 40 year old Leitz(not a misspelling) Trinovids 10 x40, they just say,”wow!” They are incredibly compact, I carry them in my coat pocket, and the clarity is better than most have ever looked through. They apparently used a better type of prism than the current Leica’s. They were my dad’s hawk watching binos and they fell to me when he passed. On Sunday, a guy at my gun club had a pair of Leica’s that were also rangefinders. Maybe not a fair comparison, but they were big and bulky and when I looked through them I said, “huh”, not “wow!”

Jmatt ,

The Leitz are the BEST .
No comparison with ANY others !!
I have exactly the same pair that you show in your photo .
21 ounce total weight , if I remember correctly .
Fantastic resolution and optical clarity , edge-to-edge .
They are my most-prized hunting possession .

Mine were a gift from my wife in 1985 .
We are still married , after 51+ years .

DMP25-06
 

Jmatt

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That’s funny. My mom bought those for my dad when he retired right around ‘85. My dad was familiar with the Ernest Leitz brand; he marched past the factory in Germany at the end of the war. Unfortunately, I have used and enjoyed them for almost twice as long as he did. If you ever need yours repaired, Company Seven outside of Washington, DC does excellent work.
 
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264MHC

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Appreciate the replies fellas. Pretty cool stuff. It would be pretty cool to see that blackest black nanotechnology make its way into optics. I could definitely see that making a tangible improvement to anything currently available. But I’m sure that’s probably decades from being implemented into consumer optics, at least those affordable to the average consumer.
 

Ckleeves

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IMO optics have changed by leaps and bounds in the last 20 years. Take a pair of 20 year old swaro EL’s and compare them side by side with a new set of NL’s. Same with a 20 year old NF NXS vs a ZCO or a Tangent.

I think it’s harder to notice the step up then it is to notice the step down if that makes sense. If you have used 30 year old Swaro’s for years then you look thru a new set you might think “these might be better but I can’t really tell” but use the new ones for a year then go back to the 30 year old set. Then you notice the difference!
 

StanleyActual8541

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I listened to a Vortex Podcast about the different price points for their optics. They everything from $200 all the way up 2.5k. What makes the difference in those optics they said , is the quality or glass coatings used. As well as all the internal parts quality. Obviously the manufacturing process and the labor Involved.

there is most definitely a difference. Once you get to those tier 1 optics, that last 10% is a pretty steep curve in regard to cost bw what you get. That’s last bits pretty expensive.
 
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