BIRDWATCHING OPTICS THROUGH THE DECADES
1986: Porro prism binoculars dominated Bird Watching magazine’s first issue, Optolyth Alpins being particularly popular. Leitz Trinovids, at £380, were pretty much the most expensive of the new roof prisms. Plenty of familiar names, such as Opticron and Kowa, were present, with the former’s Elite binoculars and the latter’s TSN-77 scope getting lots of plaudits. And, with the Cold War still on, you could get high-quality products from Zeiss (West), and Carl Zeiss Jena, the East German half of the business – the latter were much cheaper than their western counterparts. 1991: Bushnell’s Spacemaster spotting scope featured heavily in optics adds in the late 1980s and early 1990s, anda survey in British Birds at this time found it was used by one in eight British birdwatchers.
1993: For the first time, Bird Watching reviewed Swarovski optics – their SLC bins impressed us mightily, and although they’d have set you back £659, that was described as cheaper than their competitors.
1999: Swarovski’s EL binoculars were launched. Their innovative open-hinge design set a major trend in the market, although birders still argue about their pros and cons. Do they offer better grip and a steadier view?
2000: Leica launched its Trinovid BN binoculars, lauded for their close focus performance.