Zeiss Oberkochen 8x30 non B porro review
The Zeiss West 8x30s are legendary, classic porros. They were probably built from 1954 and 1971 (non-B) and from 1958 to 1978 (B) and withstanding the wonderful build quality they are normally unusuable without a service, as ALL of them seem to be foggy. Most of them: VERY foggy. So a professional cleaning and recollimation must be figured into the equation (about 200 Euro).
After two bad samples I finally got a serviced one for a reasonable price. Here is what I saw:
They are incredibly small and unique in their size and shape (although the Nikon E2 seems to copy them) - simply beautiful, and honestly: this is their main appeal.
The build quality is exceptional. Only the diopter adjustment is far too loose and needs some gaffer tape to be held in position. I have disassembled another sample and compared to the Binuxit 8x30 - the Zeiss West is a very complex, I might say complicated construction, quite awesome and a contrast to the simple, more efficient, much older Binuxit design. I assume the Zeiss cost a fortune and would cost a fortune if manufactured like this today in Germany. There are rubber seals at the objectiv cell and at the oculars, the whole thing seems to be as waterproof as a porro might be. One could guess this would be one cause of the fogging but on the other hand my Habicht 8x30 from 1961 is sealed well too, but chrystal clear. The blackening of the tubes is very impressive! The eyecups are totally useless, keep the eye way too far from the ocular even if you press the bino into your face very hard, and their shiny black plastic reflects too much light back into the ocular. I´m almost getting used to that after the optical engineers have worked their magic they leave the design of the eyecups to the apprentices. Same in the Habicht 8x30, the Binuxit, the Nikon SE...
Contrast and sharpness
It is a very sharp binocular even at open pupil, and extremely sharp in sunlight, with good contrast as long as flare and ghosting are not present - which is very often the case although I use them with sunshades. It´s quite a lot of flare. The Habicht and even more so the Binuxit seem to be better in this respect, which surprised me.
Ease of view
Here is the Achilles heel: Ease of view is not good at all. Eye relief is only 9mm, the shortest I have encountered. As the exit pupil should fall into the
viewer´s pupil, distance from the eye surface to the ocular lens becomes tiny. I immediately took off the eyecups and built my own rubber foam pads, so I can use the bino with best possible comfort. BUT: I cannot get the easy out-of-the-open-window kind of view I expect from a great binocular. Both the Habicht 8x30 and the Binuxit 8x30 from the same period have a lovely, easy view. The Zeiss is very sharp, but strains the eye more, although collimation is perfect. I agree with others that the Binuxit is a far better glass.
It would be interesting to compare to the second, rare B Version of this bino in a serviced state, but then a brand new Nikon 8x30 E2 is cheaper...
Field of view
I cannot get a full field of view with the eyecups on the ocular no matter how hard I press towards my eyes. Without eyecups, the field of view becomes impressive, slightly more than with my Habicht 8x30 (136m), but less than with the Binuxit (150m). Edge performance is decent, a bit better than in my new Habicht 8x30, but of course far from a Nikon SE.
Colours and brightness
It´s a high contrast image but with the yellowish cast in the image that one expects from the period, clean optics or not - in fact very similar to my 1961 Habicht! This would suggest that - apart from the magenta coatings - it is either aged canada balm or aged glass, not only the fog that turns the image yellow. But they are much less yellow as the uncleaned samples I had.
The image is as expected very dark (using a modern glass in comparison is a real shock with regards to brightness), but it ressembles other high contrast glasses which often look a bit dark as the Nikon 8x32 SE and even the Swaro 8x42 SLC W B. I haven´t found a good explanation of this yet. The Binuxit 8x30 looks way brighter, less yellow.
Compared to modern binos
As expected, my Habicht 8x30 (2009) is in a completely different league... from a pragmatic point of view there is no need to fool around with old binoculars. But yes, it´s fun.
- Most beautiful 8x30 ever built
- Feels very solid and nice
- Very small
- Unease of view
- Extremely short eye relief
- Collector´s item, not a user´s binocular. I enjoy using my old Habicht and the Binuxit...
- Overpriced. Much more expensive than the Habichts and Binuxits from the same period, as the Oberkochens surely need cleaning and recollimation.
I´m very curious about the last B-Version of these binos with 130 meters FOV, I saw two of them turn up on ebay within a year so I might get some one day and have them serviced. I would not go for the common B version, as 110 meter FOV are not enough.
But then, no 8x32 modern roof looks even half as good as the Zeiss Oberkochen 8x30... Really, people would buy porros if they looked that cool. Wouldn´t they?
What others say
https://www.flickr.com/photos/binocwpg/6329313798/ - here the benefits of the Binuxit against the Zeiss West are discussed.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/binocwpg/5475154223/in/photostream by the same author about two Zeiss West samples.