Oberwerk 20X80 and Oberwerk 12X60 Binocular Review
Let me state, first, that I have no undisclosed interest in Oberwerk Corporation or its products and every binocular mentioned in this review article was purchased through normal channels.
In February 2003, I happened upon a website, bigbinoculars.com, that detailed literally scores of relatively low-cost binoculars distributed by Oberwerk Corporation in Xenia, Ohio. I commend Oberwerk for their very detailed, colorful and picturesque showcasing of their binocular products which range from 40mm to 150mm in objective diameters. I called up Kevin Busarow, president of Oberwerk, on his toll free number and received plenty of helpful/informative information.
I had become use to 5 plus pound 20X80 binoculars from companies such as Celestron or Orion and, while many of these binoculars had tested out superbly, I still could not hand hold them for quick “look-see.” I had never come across a “handholdable” pair of 20X80 binoculars and was intrigued that such a pair was available, albeit, Kevin informed me these 20X80s were not fully multicoated and that I would need to wait several weeks longer in order to get the “Fully-Broadband-Multicoated Version.” Not wanting to wait, I decided to purchase the 20X80s for $149, plus UPS ground shipping, with the understanding that I could trade these in for the upgraded coated version, later on. Wow, I thought! Just 3.6 pounds of weight for hand holdable 20X 80’s!
The Oberwerk 20X80’s arrived within a few days of the receipt of my personal check payment to Kevin. They were securely packed with lots and lots of foam peanuts for protection during shipment by UPS Ground. In looking down the objective ends of these binoculars, I could tell that at least one(1) internal binocular surface was lacking multicoating as it rendered a white colored reflection from bright objects.
Knowing that I would be up in the Sierra Nevada mountains along side Interstate 80 within the next few days, I took along the 20X80’s in the hope of getting in some quality-time viewing of various celestial objects. Below, please find the summary report of my experience as a written emailing back to Kevin Busarow of Oberwerk.
To: “Kevin Busarow”
Sent: Sunday, March 09, 2003 1:33 AM
Subject: Wonderful 6000’ Views with 20X80 Oberwerks(Non-FMC)
Hi Kevin: I happened to be up in the Sierra Nevadas, very near Highway 80, with my wife and two snowboarding boys on Friday night, March 7th, between 8:15pm and 8:40pm, and got a chance to use the 20x80 Lightweight Oberwerks, mounted onto an Orion Paragon Standard tripod, under magnitude 5 plus skies in 35 degree temperatures from the darker section of Boreal Ski Resort Parking Lot. The views of seven different celestial objects were just wonderful!
Here is a quick summary(for future article)
1.) Double Cluster in Perseus: Scores of stars seen in both clusters with several Red Giants visible.
2.) Orion Nebula: Trapezium resolved into four stars with bluish color seen in the nebula and even a bit of arc detail noticed. M43, companion Nebula, also viewed with discernible nebulosity.
3.) Crescent Moon: Multitude of craters viewed. An approximately 6th magnitude star clearly seen about ½ degree away form the moon, nearest the eastern dark/shaded side. No lunar ghosting detected!
4.) M45, Pleiades Cluster: Approximately 80 stars viewed - all crisply seen! No distortion of star images seen even at the edges of this open cluster.
5.) Saturn: Rings clearly seen with blackness of outer space seen between the rings and body of the planet.
6.) Jupiter: Moons of Jupiter and two(2) main equatorial belts clearly views.
7.) M44, Beehive Cluster: About 100 stars viewed - all crisply resolved with no distortion in any stellar members seen.
Looking forward to the pair of 20X80’s(Lightweights) with truly full multicoatings!
As you can tell, the Non-FMC, but hand holdable 20X80s performed very nicely in the relatively dark skies at Boreal Ski Resort! I had ample opportunity to continue evaluating these Non-FMCs at my home in suburban San Ramon, CA, as I usually observed with them, hand held, without a tripod. I got a lot of “mileage” from these very nice binoculars, but, curiosity got the better of me, and, in June, I put in my order to Kevin Busarow for a pair of his recently arrived FMC, hand holdable, 20X80 binoculars that arrived a few days later packed to perfection in a foam-protected cardboard box via UPS Ground. Here is their pertinent description from Oberwerk’s data sheet:
Oberwerk Lightweight 20X80mm Fully Broadband Multicoated
Low-reflection broadband multicoating used on every air-to-glass surface, including prisms-an Oberwerk-exclusive feature not found on any competitor’s 20X80mm. Light loss due to reflection and scattering is minimized, providing the highest level of light transmission possible. New “slow-focus” provides precise focus control that won’t drift. All Oberwerk binoculars have rugged rubber-armored metal bodies, all-glass lenses, BAK4 prisms, right ocular diopter adjustment, fold-down eyecups, brass ¼-20 tripod adapter socket, caps and strap. A hard case, for the ultimate in protection, is also included. A remarkable buy at only $199.95(plus shipping).
Objective size: 80mm
Optic coating: Fully broadband multicoated
Field of view: 3.5 degree
Exit pupil diameter: 4mm
Exit pupil distance: 13mm
Minimum focus distance: 25m
Weight: 3.6 lbs
Upon opening the box and examining the binoculars, I was extremely pleased with the beautiful greenish tint to both these binoculars’ objectives and eyepieces and the total lack of any “whitish” bright-light reflections! The caps for both objective and eyepiece end were made of black flexible plastic and came off with just the right amount of effort. The cover over the ¼-20 tripod mounting socket was easy to remove and screw back on. These binoculars came with a nice Oberwerk strap and the case was also quite nice.
I waited a few days for the weather to clear and for the night sky around my relatively light polluted city of San Ramon, CA, to allow me to see all stars in the Little Dipper asterism, albeit, using averted vision on the dimmest of these 7 stars.
“Hand holdable” was my decision of choice for the testing mode on these lightweight FMC 20X80mm Oberwerks, rather than using a tripod, as I often prefer to use them for a quick look-see into the night sky before turning attention to my Odyssey 13.1 inch reflector, Televue 102mm apochromatic refractor, or Orion 100mm Astroview achromat refractor.
In deciding on a testing criteria when looking at various celestial objects using the FMC 20X80’s, I decided to employ a “Viewing Score” which rated the ease of visibility of the object from an “Easy = 10” to an “Extremely Difficult = 0” for these objects. I also provided “Comments” for each object viewed.
To test out my thoughts that the new FMC 20X80’s had better light transmission that the older Non-FMC 20X80’s, I did a comparison between these two binoculars on the planetary nebula, M27, the Dumbbell or Hourglass Nebula and clearly saw a brighter object when viewing with the new FMC binoculars.
So whether or not you are using these new FMC 20X80 Oberwerk binoculars on a tripod or hand held, you absolutely cannot lose as the stars, planets and nebulae will be bright, crisp and lovely to your eyes! For example M6(Butterfly Open Cluster) and M7(Lovely Open Cluster/Southern-most Messier object) truly can both be seen as marvelous multitudes of stellar beacons with these excellent binoculars! Furthermore, if deploying a tripod, such “details” as the four stars in M42’s Orion Trapezium and the two(2) main belts on Jupiter can easily be seen with these 20X80 Oberwerks. However, in my opinion, the greatest testimony to these fine instrument is the pinpoint sharpness of the stellar images from the center of the field of view out to 75% of the way toward the field edge! Quite marvelous, considering the apparent field of the eyepieces in the Oberwerk Lightweight 20X80’s is 70 degrees!
A word about the Oberwerk Lightweight 20X80’s and their Hand Holdability. I have fairly large, and fairly steady arms which, in my opinion, make it rather easy to hand hold the Oberwerks for up to about 4 minutes. I don’t even have much of a problem with these 3.6 pounders when looking nearly overhead for brief periods of time. Of course, fine details such as the two(2) main belts of Jupiter are revealed only when using these binoculars mounted onto a sturdy photo tripod.
Before I forget, I also ordered from Kevin Busarow a pair of 12X60 Oberwerk FMC Mini-Giants, which also arrived in June 2003, with impeccable packing, and in perfect condition. Here is their pertinent description from Oberwerk’s data sheet:
Not only do you get big 60mm objectives - you get the same highest-quality BAK4 prisms that are found in much more expensive models. Objectives have highest quality green/purple broadband multi-coatings. (In essence, a nice buy for $109, plus shipping.)
Objective size: 60mm
Magnification: 12X(Other 60mm models 9X, 15X, 20X)
Optic coating: Combination fully-multi-coated
Field of view: 12X(5.7 degrees)
Exit pupil diameter: 4.6mm
Exit pupil distance: 14mm
Minimum focus: 15m
Weight: 2.6 lbs
As with the 20X80 Oberwerks, these 12X60 Oberwerks offered the same wonderful greenish tint to both binocular objectives and eyepieces with the total lack of any “whitish” bright-light reflections! Again, caps for both objective and eyepiece end were made of black flexible plastic and came off with just the right amount of effort. The cover over the ¼-20 tripod mounting socket was easy to remove and screw back on. These binoculars came with a nice Oberwerk strap and the case was also quite nice.
Once again, I decided to employ a “Viewing Score” which rated the ease of visibility of the object from an “Easy =10” to an “Extremely Difficult = 0 for these objects. I also provided “Comments” for each object viewed.
Overall, the Oberwerk 12X60’s were an excellent pair of binoculars for most hand holdable viewing except on galaxies - especially those in suburban skies. Edge sharpness on these 12X60’s was just a wee bit worse than with the 20X80s - almost not worth mentioning. I was especially impressed with the 12X60 Oberwerk binoculars in showing both M6(Butterfly Open Cluster) and M7(Lovely Open Cluster/Southern-most Messier object) with great sharpness and clarity within the very same field of view!
In Summary: Both the Oberwerk Lightweight 20X80 Fully Broadband Multi-coated and the Oberwerk 12X60 Fully Multicoated Mini-Giants are tremendous binoculars considering their high quality performance on many celestial objects and also are equally tremendous binoculars considering their attractive low prices.
Wing(1st name) Eng(last name)
San Ramon, CA
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