Manfrotto recently introduced two new revolutionary tripod heads- the Nitrotech N8 and N12. They are indentical in appearance and size, however the N8 ($450) is rated for up to 17.6 lbs., and the N12 ($600) is rated for up to 26.5 lbs.
What makes the Nitrotech revolutionary is they have a “Variable Continuous Counterbalance System”. They’re not the first heads on the market with this feature, but they’re by far the most-affordable- especially so considering their relatively-high payload capacities. What is “continuous counterbalance”? Higher-quality video heads, such as the Oberwerk 5000, use counterbalance springs to compensate for off-balance loads, however they typically are not adjustable. So while these counterbalance springs do reduce the amount of friction required to hold a binocular at any tilt angle, considerable friction is still required to prevent the head from drifting.
The Nitrotech, utilizing a nitrogen-charged piston to variably-counterbalance the load on the head as it moves off-axis (tilts forward or backward), allows for precise counterbalance adjustment, requiring only a minimal amount of friction to prevent the head from drifting, regardless of the amount of tilt.
We tested the N8 and N12 with our new XL Series Binocular Telescopes, and found that the N8’s counterbalance actually works a little better than the N12 for the weight range of our BT-82XL and BT-100XL binoculars. With the relatively-light load of the magnesium-alloy XL binoculars, the counterbalance on the N12 needs to be set near its lower limit, which makes makes dialing in counterbalance and friction, and minimizing backlash, a little “fussier” than the N8, which is operating in the mid-range of its counterbalance setting with these binoculars. For this reason, we’ve decided to offer the lower-cost N8 as an option for the Oberwerk TR3 hardwood tripod for the XL Series. It’s still a substantial $330 upgrade over the very-capable Oberwerk 5000 head- but once you’ve experienced the ability to maneuver your binocular to any position with one finger- and have it hold position when you let go- you might feel that it’s money well-spent. Besides that, like the XL binoculars, the Nitrotech has an attractive hi-tech look- and the red-anodized accents nicely-match the red-anodized trim on the XL-ED models.
For the last three years, we’ve been working on an updated replacement for our BT-80-45 that was discontinued in 2010. Inspired by the iconic Bj100-iC “Galaxy” from now-defunct Miyauchi, as well as the sleek Kowa Highlander, our goal of the XL-Series was highest-possible optical performance (“to excel”) with the lowest-possible weight (Xtra-Light). After testing eight or so prototypes over the last two years (some were actually 3-D printed), we finally achieved that goal, and the BT-82XL and BT-82XL-ED were approved for production. Around that time, our engineer surprised us with a 100mm ED prototype using the same body, which was tested and found to be optically-fantastic, but quite objective-heavy. With two simple modifications (magnesium alloy objective tubes and an offset mount foot), the balance issues were solved, and the BT-100XL-ED was also approved for production.
A few new colors were tested until we were down to two- a bad-ass “Big Eyes” Gray and a lustrous “Luna Pearl” White. We couldn’t agree on a favorite, so for now, all models will be available in your choice of these two colors. The first production models were received and tweaked to perfection just 2 days before heading for New York to introduce them at NEAF 2018 (Northeast Astronomy Forum- the largest astronomy expo in the world).
For the technically-minded- what we now have is a combination of highest-possible optical performance using FK-61 ED doublet objectives, in a all-magnesium alloy 10.5 lb. 45° BT-82XL-ED (fl=450mm) and 12.5 lb. 45° BT-100XL-ED (fl=560mm) binocular telescope, at prices far below comparable models from APM. The prisms have a clear aperture of 24mm, which means the 82XL can operate as low as 19x, and the 100XL as low as 25x. These models also have an effective aperture that is very close to the actual objective size, with just enough baffling to eliminate the less-than-optimal performance delivered from the outer-most edge of all objective lenses. The IPD range is the widest of any binocular ever produced- from 50mm to 80mm, which means even the smallest child can view through both eyepieces. The handle is a industry-standard Picatinny rail, so can be used to mount a variety of finder-scopes and laser pointers, including our new Deluxe Multi-Reticle Finder.
While magnifications as low as 19x and 25x can be used, the XL Series is supplied with the finest eyepieces we’ve ever offered- a 70° 14mm pair that delivers 32x in the 82XL and 40x in the 100XL. The views are so spectacular that you may not need any other eyepieces. But with their ED objectives, chromatic aberration is so minimal that magnifications up to 75x can be used in the 82XL-ED, and up to 94x in the 100XL-ED!
We also offer a non-ED model, the BT-82XL, that offers remarkably-good performance, with minimal chromatic aberration up to 56x magnification- at a most-affordable price. For the home-with-a-view, the BT-82XL mounted on one of our gorgeous hardwood tripods, is well-under $2000. Not only is it absolutely beautiful, and highly-portable at just over 20 lbs. for the entire setup, it will optically out-perform anything else on the market anywhere near its relatively-low price- especially so the $2500 Skyhawk 9600.
The Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF), held at Rockland Community College in Suffern, NY, on Apr. 21st and 22nd, is the world’s largest astronomy & space expo. Oberwerk will have a large display, featuring all of our products, including our new line of made-in-Dayton TR3 hardwood tripods. We’ll also be introducing our all-new XL-Series Binocular Telescopes! Stop by and see us, or stay tuned to this website for more info…
I was recently asked “what’s different about your brand- what sets Oberwerk apart from the competition?” Well, there are a number of unique and important things that make us different- but just one that I want to talk about right now.
If you’re considering buying a binocular, ours or another brand, you probably have some questions- especially so if you’re looking at one of our Long-Range Observation binoculars or our Binocular Telescopes. The fact is I spend much of my day on the phone answering questions and answering questions by email. The first thing I do in the morning is respond to the email questions that came in the previous night. When I think a question/answer might be interesting or informative to others, I’ll post them on our Email Questions/Answers Archive. I wear a wireless headset so I can take customer calls while I’m checking/testing binoculars that are to be shipped that day, or building our TR3 hardwood tripods. I’ve heard countless times “you’re the only company I can contact and get thoughtful and knowledgeable answers to my questions.”
So when I was recently asked “what makes us different”, it struck me that there really is no other binocular retailer I can think of that you can call and speak instantly with, or email and get a timely reply from, someone that is truly knowledgeable about their products, as well as the competition’s. Someone that’s lived and breathed binoculars for the last twenty years. Someone that’s not a salesperson or an order-taker. But your business is selling binoculars- right? True, but I don’t consider myself a “sales type” at all, I’ve never read a book on how to close a sale. But what I do pretty well is answer customer’s questions, explaining technical things in a way people can understand. I believe that our products are such a unique value, that as long as I can impart enough knowledge to a customer, they’ll come to that conclusion on their own- without any arm-twisting on my part. Sometimes our product isn’t the best solution, and I’ll be the first to say so. Sometimes I have to set realistic expectations- “no, you can’t read a license plate 3 miles away“, “yes, you can see the rings of Saturn, but it’s still a very small object in the field of view“, because 1) nobody likes dealing with returns and 2) we want everyone to be thrilled with their purchase. They’ll tell their friends and relatives, and they’ll want one too, and so on- until everyone on the planet has heard of Oberwerk.
Any questions? Feel free to call me at 937-640-1040 (9-5 EDT) or email to [email protected]
Congratulations to Donna T. of New Jersey, winner of the Oberwerk BT-100-45 Giveaway Contest! Donna’s name was randomly drawn by our advertising agency from a list of contest entries collected from early December through Jan. 31st. Donna won a one-of-a-kind prototype “Big Eyes” Gray BT-100-45 binocular telescope and fork mount, as well as a one-of-a-kind Slate Gray Maple TR3 hardwood tripod. The production “Big Eyes” Gray is a shade lighter than the prototype, while Slate Gray finish is only available on the poplar tripod (not maple). We wish Donna and her husband Steve many enjoyable nights of stargazing with their great new astro-gear!
The Miami Valley Astronomical Society, Oberwerk, and Warped Wing Brewery collaborated and held a “Warped Astronomy” night on 9/28/2017, which combined two of our favorite things- astronomy and beer! Well over 100 people showed up, and were treated to views of the sun using a solar filter-equipped BT-100-45, followed by fabulous views of the moon (BT-70-45 at 32x), and everybody’s favorite- Saturn (BT-100-45 at 75x)! Inside the brewery, roaming MVAS members did “table talks” on various astronomy topics, while attendees sampled Warped Wing’s brews. A great time was had by all, pretty sure we’ll do this again!
Prototype high-gloss white BT-100-45 on TR3 walnut tripod
Trying to grab a photo off the hydrogen-alpha scope
Wowed by the iPad view
Totality in Russellville, KY
iPhone captures images from the BT-100-45
A bigger bite...
The sun returns...
Approaching 4th contact
While Dayton, Ohio would see 89% coverage of the sun during the Great American Eclipse, the crew from Oberwerk headed south in order to experience totality. Linda and Rick were near Gatlinburg, TN, while Kevin and Jane headed for western Kentucky. Hopkinsville, KY was declared the best place in the Midwest to observe the eclipse, but we elected to avoid the crowds and chose Russellville- about 30 miles to the east, and also on the center line (2 minutes 29 seconds of totality). In order to avoid crazy-high hotel rates, we stayed in Louisville, KY on Sunday- which was far enough from the band of totality to still have normal-price rooms available (not to mention downtown Louisville’s 4th Street Live is always a great time).
Our plan was to arrive in Russellville early Monday morning and then scope out the town for the best place to observe. But first we had to stop at the Russellville Walmart Supercenter to purchase chairs, since we had forgotten to load them in Dayton. Upon exiting the Walmart (8am), we noticed that the perimeter of the huge parking lot was lined with cars, and some people were setting up telescopes in the lawn area surrounding the parking lot. We immediately realized that we had found our spot- so we grabbed one of the last available perimeter parking spots and set up.
We brought an Oberwerk BT-100-45 for visual observation (prototype high-gloss white with Oberwerk-USA TR3 walnut tripod), and an Oberwerk 20-60×82 Sport ED Spotting Scope with Novagrade Tablet Adapter, to capture images and video on an iPad Pro. Both were equipped with Thousand Oaks solar filters. We also brought our Coronado PST, with Denkmeier 60mm upgrade, for hydrogen-alpha views of the sun while waiting for the eclipse to begin. It was a hot day, but the skies couldn’t have been more perfect. While waiting, we had dozens of people stop by checking out our gear, and it was great fun watching people gasp when they saw the BT-100-45’s incredible view of the eclipsing sun! The iPad, Novagrade-mounted to the Sport ED spotting scope, was also very popular, as groups of people could all see the view from the 10″ screen. We estimate there were between 200 and 300 people hanging out at the Walmart parking lot, everyone we met was very friendly and excited to be there.
When totality arrived, the crowd cheered- and it was truly awesome! We were concerned that the Walmart floodlights would turn on, but they remained off, even though most streetlights off in the distance were on (Thanks Walmart management!). When the eclipse ended, we packed up and headed for home- us, and millions of others. Needless to say, the return trip was miserably-slow (we arrived at 12:30am). But we all agree- it was certainly worth it!
The Great American Eclipse, the first total eclipse in the USA in 100 years, occurs Aug. 21st. Hopefully you already have solar filters for your binocular and/or telescope, as we (and most other astronomy vendors) sold out some time ago. If you are using one of our Novagrade smartphone or tablet adapters to photograph or video this event, here’s a tip that will improve the quality of what you capture. When using a solar filter, the image of the sun is relatively-dark compared to the ambient light around the adapter. The camera will adjust exposure based on the filtered sun, but this will make reflections from ambient light very apparent. The solution is to seal off the gap between the phone or tablet and the adapter. Just two strips of electrical tape is all that is needed (see picture above of the Novagrade tablet adapter mounted on the Oberwerk 20-60×82 Sport ED Spotting Scope with Thousand Oaks S-4000 solar filter).
The 47th Annual Apollo Rendezvous is one of the noted annual gatherings of amateur astronomers in the Midwest. Each year, amateur astronomers join with friends and colleagues from around the world at the birthplace of aviation, Dayton, Ohio.
Saturday kicks off at 9:00 AM, at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, with presentations scheduled throughout the day, including- “Robots in Space – The Exploration of Our Solar System” and “Recent Adventures with Hubble Space Telescope” -G. Fritz Benedict, Senior Research Scientist with McDonald Observatory. “23 Years of Amateur Astronomy” -Charlie Warren, managing editor of Amateur Astronomy Magazine. “Clear Skies – Forecasting the Final Frontier” -Tara Hastings, Meteorologist with WDTN Channel 2 News.
The day continues with vendors, planetarium shows, door prizes and raffles. Weather permitting, the evening will wind down with a BBQ and star-gazing at John Bryan State Park Observatory.