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Too many times, we receive the inquiries asking the question: there are so many binoculars models you carry, and what are the right products for me (my shop, my market, my business plan, etc.)? This is the question you need to find the right answer to by yourself because we are not the retailer - you are. It is you that sell the binoculars with your logo or brand on and offer the pre-sales and after-sales services - so, without knowing the needs of your market or your customers as a retailer, you could not do a successful business.
However, as a manufacturer and supplier of binoculars that has been in business since 1998, we do have amassed a lot of sales data and info on all the binoculars models we carry now and we discontinued. We know what binoculars are perennial winners, what binoculars are "applauded, but not drawing audiences", what binoculars have short-life span - suddenly popular, then little attention paid in a year or two, what binoculars never get much attention, but sell pretty well consistently for a long time.
What makes the differences? They can't be explained with just quality and price which people talk about a lot in all forums - quality and price mean differently to different levels of users like binofans and the novice users who know little about the optics, to different areas like North America and South America, to different genders and ages and to different niche markets. We study the entire issue for a long time and finally boil it down to one point: cost performance or best bang for the buck - this is it that makes all the differences.
Then, how the cost performance is calculated? What factors decide that a certain binoculars model has higher cost performance than another? Based on our long time experiences and piles of sales data, we do work out a viable formula. To use this formula to get the cost performance ratio, there are 3 steps:
Among all the optical components, objectives lens assemblies leave the greatest impact on the final optical quality. In term of production cost, objectives lens cost is also much more than any other parts and components of a binoculars. Some may not agree, but, who can think of a part or a component of a binoculars that is more important than objectives lens?
So, we get the preliminary performance ratio by calculating how many milimeters of binoculars ojectives lens an user's 1$ can buy. C=your retail price + shipping cost+ tax+whatever other costs - this means that you can fine-tune your retail price to increase PP.
Objective size/light gathering: the bigger the objective size, the much more light through and brighter you will see. For example, a 100mm objectives lens gather 4 times more than a 50mm one. For a manufacturer, a 100mm binoculars usually takes 5 or 6 times more efforts, at least 10 times costs more than a 50mm binoculars. The most popular objective size of the binoculars is 50mm - this is the baseline for the tuning:
Objective size/magnification: the bigger the objective size, the greater the magnification and clearer you will see. The typical magnification for a 100mm binoculars is 25x, for a 50mm is 7x. Tuning:
Magnification flexibility: some binoculars are designed with the flexibility of dual power or multi-power, such as the binoculars with 1.25" focuser that accepts all 1.25" eyepieces, the spotting scopes and the unique binoculars like 8/10x42, 25/40x100.
magnification flexibility: +0.2
Number of elements of objective lens: most of the objective lens are 2 elements cemented together. To some of the binoculars, a third element is added to minimize the color fringing and chromatic abberation - then, some of the binoculars with triplets objetives lens are sometimes termed as "semi-apo". The third element is 30-50% increase for the production cost of whole objectives assemblies, but, the improvement is great, especially for amateur astronomers.
triplets objectives: +0.3
ED: If the third element added is made of ED (extra-low dispersion) glass, the binoculars is usually termed as "APO or ED triplets". Theoretically, ED reduces the color abberration to an almost non-existent degree, but, most of the human eyes can hardly discern the differences between the ED and normal triplets. And, the biggest down side of ED is that ED glass costs 4 to 5 times more than the standard glass.
APO Objectives with ED elements: +0.1
Field flattener lens: some objective lens are ground in a way to lower the pincushion and barrel distortion and improve the edge sharpness. It's 20% cost increase for the whole objective assemblies and to the trained eyes, the difference is obvious.
Objectives with field flattener lens: +0.2
Bak4 and Bk7 prism: Bak4 costs a little more than Bk7 prism, but improves a lot.
Oversize prism: A binoculars with overize prism usually have wider FOV - or more precisly, have FOV that is equal or close to the theoretical spec. published. And, yes, this means that most of the practical specs. are lower than the published ones. For oversize prisms, the mountings are usually designed in a shock-resistent way to make the prisms stay put and so the binoculars is not easily out of collimation. The binoculars with oversize prism can unexceptionally be categorized as "higher end". It costs a lot more than normal-size prism, but it also improves a lot.
Oversize prism: +0.2
Two eys Vs. one eye: people have two eyes and will mostly prefer two eyes viewing. For one-tube scopes like spotting scopes, since there is no such issue as "collimation" and very time-consuming optical components "pairing"in the production process, it's easier to align optical components and achieve better optical performance - and so, there is still room for one-tube instruments.
One eye viewing scopes (telescope, spotting scope, monocular): -0.2
Broadband fully mulit-coated: Broadband fully multi-coated is now much more popular than 4 or 5 years before and the cost has been substantially lower down. The improvement of fully broadband multi-coating is quite impressive. It's now a standard feature for any serious optics.
fully broadband multi-coating: +0.3
Phase coating: Phase coating is a dielectric coating applied on the roof surfaces of roof prism binoculars to correct the interference. The product cost for phase coating is reasonable, but, the difference between a phase-coating and no-phase-coating can hardly be found by human eyes.
Phase coating: +0.1
Waterproof: The word "waterproof" for binoculars is abused. The truth is that most of the binoculars are not really waterproof. To make a binoculars really waterproof, the whole design and the materials used must be optimized for waterproof performance and it costs much more than the ordinary "N2 gas purged" waterproof everywhere. However, a really waterproof binoculars has much longer durability than an ordinary waterproof one. It's cheap to make a binoculars "ordinary waterproof" and the advantage of it over the non-waterproof one is that it could survive 2 or 3 times raining or accidently drops into water.
Ordinary waterproof: +0.05
Really waterproof: +0.3
Portability: People do care about the weight.
Compact below 1000 grams: +0.4
Handholdable 1000 -2500 grams: +0.2
Heavy 2.6 to 5 kgs -0.2
Cumbersome 5.1-20 kgs -0.4
Unique-looking: Most of the binoculars look more or less the same. They either originate from the same models that can be dated surprisingly back to World War II, or the manufacturers copy the design from others or copy each other. As a retailer, it could be difficult for you to try to explain the differences to your customers because there are little difference among all these "clones". Unique-looking or identity is one of the key elements for long life span of a binoculars.
Brand recognition: We put your brand/logo on the binoculars, but, please be aware of the fact that people tend to pay more for the same binoculars with a well-known brand and still feel well worth it. It's a long-term plan to build up and popularize a brand - so, the longer you are in business and do the business well, the more well-known your brand is. There are a number of ways to know the popularity of a brand and the most direct one could be google search results - the numbers (how many) and placements (rank). The non-internet marketing is also important because the online sales is only less than 10% of the total even in USA. It shouldn't be difficult for you to set up a system according to your areas or your targetted user communities to track down the well know brands and find out how far your brand is behind.
well-known brand (in successful business for more than 10 years): +0.3
fair to middling brand (in business for more than 3 years): +0.1
Finally, you get the magical P - the number that signify the cost performance of a binoculars. The bigger the P is, the better the cost performance is. Based on our more than 10 years experiences and the sales data on more than 500 models, the better the cost performance is, the higher the sales volume is and the longer the product life is.
According to this formula, some of the products like spotting scope, telescope and monocular get very low P number. However, if you specialize in the products like spotting scopes, you can think of more factors that you think are important to your niche market to add to this formular. The same applies to miliatry binoculars - usually for government tenders.
To us who is a manufacturer and supplier of the binocualrs since 1998, this formmular is more than 95% correct to us and we find 2 100% correct rules:
All the perennial winners have a p number that is bigger than 2.5.
All the instant losers or short-life binoculars have a P number that is smaller than 0.5.
1. The market demand is changing and so the formula will evolve accordingly. For examples, 4 or 5 years ago, fully multi-coated was a feature only for "top of the line", but now it's a standard feature for any serious optics. In the next 4 to 5 years, ED might become a common feature and affordable, but now, few ED have high cost performance. So, with the developement of the binoculars business, new factors will be added and the weight attached to each factor will be adjusted.
2. There are very important factors that are not included in this formula and they are crucial to the final quality of the binoculars such as intensive production process and extensive production processs. Intensive production process covers the factors like low-speed grinding of glass, meticulous quality check starting from the parts to the final QA by well-trained and higher-paid workers, etc.. Only manufacturers know these factors and with them, the formula was not workable. However, the bigger the size is, the more intensive the production process is and that's why bigger objective size gets a high points boost . Also, if it is really waterproof, the binoculars process is always very intensive and that's why more weight is added to the factor "really waterproof".
3. The formula doesn't suit junk products. What are the junk products? Here are some features:
1) Ultra low prices, even lower than an honest manufacturer's production cost.
2) Highly exggerated specifications like zoom 20-100x70.
3) Ruby coating.
4. The consumers binoculars today have not improved much compared with the ones more than 70 year ago. Binoculars seem immune to the up-to-date developements of science and technology. 10 years ago, we saw the several major players in this business and 10 years later, we still see the same, no new risers - the only difference is that we actually see less of them and one or two of them shrank in business size. For the last 5 or 6 years, binoculars market growth is stagnant, if not declining. However, it's in human beings instinct to see far and the "see far" part still can't be replaced by any other products. What about "see far" with different electronic add-ons to better suit the needs of specific markets? A few attempts have been made like digiscoping, bino-cameras which are either in very primitive stage or with unaffordable prices. However, binoculars need breakthrough in design and technology and creativity will be a significant factor added to this formular in the near future.