Last month, the popular Italian website binomania.it interviewed Oberwerk’s Kevin Busarow about the new XL Series binocular telescopes. This month, Binomania publishes their first review of the BT-100XL-ED, comparing it to the finest binoculars on the market. Note that it’s in Italian, but there is a Translate option on the right side of the webpage. The consensus? “In summary- I end this review confirming that the Oberwerk BT-100XL-ED is a quality product, has optics that rival the best (and more expensive) competition, is compact, lightweight, and perfectly adapted to terrestrial observations as well as those astronomical.” We couldn’t agree more!
In 2013, Oberwerk’s Kevin Busarow was trained in “Tail of the Arc” binocular collimation (alignment) on a Navy Mark V collimator by retired Navy Opticalman Cory Suddarth, of Suddarth Optical Repair. Shortly after returning from training in Oklahoma, Kevin built a working collimator from a surplus spy plane camera lens. The other necessary component- an auxiliary telescope- was supplied by Cory, with an extra-tall rhomboid prism for getting a direct view of the collimator image over the top of the larger binoculars that Oberwerk typically sells.
In August of 2018, when an ultra-rare genuine Navy Mark V collimator was put on the market by an optics collector in San Diego, Cory notified Kevin- and he jumped on it! With it’s massive 5-foot-long iron rail and solid copper housing, it was a beauty! Rather than risk trying to ship such a large, heavy, delicate, and irreplaceable piece of equipment, Kevin bought a one-way ticket to San Diego, rented a station wagon, and drove it back to Dayton, Ohio. Oberwerk has always been proud to say we’re the only binocular retailer on the planet (that we know of) with an in-house collimator- and now we have two at our disposal!
The odds are you had not heard of Oberwerk before you found our website. If so, you’ll probably be quite surprised to learn that for the last two decades, Oberwerk has been the world’s leading supplier of high-power binoculars. How can this be? Let’s start by defining “high-power”. There are a number of binocular brands that offer models that have as much as 25x magnification. But there aren’t many that go beyond 25x. Let’s also immediately eliminate all (yes, ALL- as in “no exceptions”) “zoom” binoculars from the mix, as NONE of them are high-quality optical instruments. “But doesn’t the Spion 20-140×70 ‘Military Zoom’ binocular operate at 140x”? Sorry, that’s marketing hype- it’s a plastic POS (piece of crap), overpriced even at $139. By the way, no military has EVER deployed any zoom binocular, from any manufacturer- and for good reason. The lowest-price high-power binocular on market is the small but mighty Oberwerk BT-70-45, capable of up to 48x magnification, starting around $1200 with mount.
For long-range observation, the world’s militaries deploy Oberwerk 25/40×100 Long-Range Observation binoculars, which have huge 100mm (4″) triplet objectives and built-in 25x and 40x eyepieces on rotating turrets. Amateur astronomers around the world have made the Oberwerk BT-100-45 binocular telescope, which uses industry-standard 1.25″ telescope eyepieces to deliver excellent image quality up to 75x, one of the most popular choices for serious binocular astronomy. For the home-with-a-view, the ultimate instrument to enhance a great view has been either the 25/40×100 or BT-100-45.
Over the years, Oberwerk has sold over five thousand 25/40×100 Long-Range Observation binoculars and binocular telescopes. That’s more high-power binoculars than all the binocular brands you’ve heard of have sold- combined! Even we think that’s pretty remarkable! By the way, I can personally vouch for that because I was there- every single one of those was set up, thoroughly tested, and aligned-to-perfection by me. In fact I’ve done this for every Oberwerk binocular that has ever shipped, not just the high-power models.
In 2018, after surpassing the 5000 milestone, Oberwerk announced the revolutionary XL Series binocular telescopes. Three years in development, the XL Series, with ED objectives, 45-degree viewing, 1.25″ focusers, and ultra-light magnesium-alloy construction, delivers even higher image quality at extreme magnifications. With our new XL Series, which start as low as $1395, not only will Oberwerk continue to dominate the high-power binocular market, we’ll no longer be the brand you never heard of.
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!
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!