binsI would be very surprised if readers of this blog have been worrying about the fate of my binoculars since I dropped them on the concrete outside a motel at Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, on 23 June.

A few days later (28 June to be precise) I took them into Hawkins in Northampton to see whether they could fix them or not.

Now I was worried that they might not be able to fix them for two reasons.  First, I’d have to pay a lot of money for a replacement, and second, they were my 18th birthday present from my parents and are of considerable sentimental value to me (37 years later).

How can you be sentimental about a pair of binoculars? I don’t know, but I know I am.

I have seen every one of the species of bird that I have ever seen through those binoculars and they are a part of my life and a part of my birding. So, I was relieved when Hawkins told me they could fix them, and it would probably take a couple of weeks and cost less than £250.

I got them back on Friday – yes, that’s a bit longer than two weeks (in fact it is 10 weeks to the day) – and they tried to charge me a little bit more than £250 but we soon sorted that out.  Would I recommend Hawkins to you – I’d think twice, quite honestly.

They haven’t done a quick job but they have done a good job.  Most of the optics have been replaced and so, to be honest, they are now, optically, as good as new rather than, in the moment before they hit the concrete in New Mexico, as good as old.

And if, when I waked into the shop, worried that my binoculars were essentially dead, I had been told that I could have a new pair, optically better, but basically the same, for £250 then I would have said ‘yes’ on the spot.

They carry the signs of wear that mark them out as mine, but I am now wondering whether they are the same binoculars or whether they are really a new pair.  And if so, do I need to start a new life list with them?



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30 Replies to “Binoculars”

  1. I don’t remember Trigger having this angst with his broom!
    More seriously I think that giving anything a new lease of life is always a good thing to do, the throw away society is one of the more environmentally damaging facets of modern life.

    1. And at £250 for a more or less complete set of new optics, a lot cheaper than buying a new pair. If the glass only costs that much I conclude that the tubes (or possibly the badge?) must constitute the majority of the cost of a new pair – amazing! Still, at 37 years old they have surely paid back the initial purchase price.

  2. Start a new list. It’s a rule of life – especially for people whose 18th birthday was 37 years ago. I strongly suspect you will enjoy comparing its evolution and contents with old list, which will of course be safely archived. You could even blog about the comparison and we could collectively muse on what that means, if anything at all, about the state of our avifauna or your prowess as a birder (also avaiabletime, money … we could go on. And on.)

  3. A metaphor for re-focusing maybe?

    • Do we really have 6 years to turn things around?
    o If so are the low level analyses of the myriad individual issues going to provide timely solutions?
    • Would a higher level perspective across the board (ecologically, economically and societally) serve us better?
    o Are “we the people” getting the message, enough of us to influence the decision makers?
    o Is Geldof right to be angry about his generation letting down his considerable efforts to fix a particular catastrophy?
    o Could he (and Brittany) be roused to bring the current state of play to the attention of “we the public”? No need for money just hearts and minds?
    • Should the clever people hop off their intellectual perch and listen for once to the swarm, even in their (the swarms) silence?

  4. Mark, I have been thinking about your binoculars, as I have a similar, albeit only ‘middle aged’ pair. I did comment, when you were in America, that I had been very pleased with repairs to my binoculars undertaken by Zeiss ( at their workshops in Welwyn Garden City) and I would recommend them to anyone with Zeiss bins requiring repair or service.

    1. Trevor – it’s very sweet of you to keep my binoculars in mind. You can stop worrying about them now!

    2. Bought a pair of Zeiss for my Dad on his retirement 25 years or so ago and noticed on a recent visit they were at least out of alignment – they’d been dropped. He was afraid of the cost; so taking lifetime (mine) responsibility for them, I said I’d get them repaired. Downloaded the form from the Zeiss UK website and sent them off, waiting for the repair estimate. Didn’t come. Instead about 2 weeks later, the glasses turned up as good as new; optically perfect, new eyecups and the black bits touched up where they were scratched. Looked for the invoice, you know what’s coming next…invoice listed work done and then said FOC. Best service ever? My Dad was even pleased about the tough up paint – I don’t think he was sentimental about any of the scratches, although others might value the scars of battle.

      1. “others might value the scars of battle”
        I would! Re-finishing the wear marks would be a heinous crime akin to rewriting history – like sanding and de-coking a favourite pipe in for repair of the stem.

  5. Mark, of course I’ve been worrying about your binoculars – as you’ll recall I was relieved you weren’t tempted by any new birds after you dropped them, though when you say you’ve seen every bird through them are there not one or two you only saw with the naked eye ?

    They are, of course, the same binoculars just as the Victory is still the Victory even if every scrap of its original timber has been converted into trinkets like cigarette boxes. Incidentally, about 10 years ago FC in the Dean narrowly saved the nation from humiliation – the Royal navy were on the verge of carrying out repairs on the Victory using FRENCH Oak (which, at the top end in quality terms merges from the stunning into the unbelievable – they are great foresters !)

    Having said that, a new list when one gets to our sort of age can be rejuvenating – when did you last see a Hawfinch or a lesser Spotted Woodpecker ? A new list would provide new inspiration – and ensure you saw another Turtle Dove before they go the same way as Martha.

    1. Roderick – thank you. I believe you are referring to rose-coloured starlings which I first saw one May day in the south of France while my hands were full of a bee-eater from whose brachial vein I was taking a blood sample. But I have seen ‘fawn yawns’ since through my bins and also, in Northants, a fine adult around the corner from where my bro-in-law lives.

      Hawfinch and less spot were both a few years ago – but in Northants too. I am thinking about that new list…

  6. Mark, I am pleased to see I am not alone when it comes to using something other than highly marketed and expensive binos. Whenever I am asked why I don’t get L…. or S….. or whatever, I now have a stock answer ” I can’t really afford the time to polish the red dot”.

  7. Mark, many years ago I was left a small legacy by a favourite aunt, just enough to buy my first pair of binoculars from Hawkins of Northampton. I reluctantly changed them for a modern pair of Leica Ultravids a few years ago. I dropped these last year and damaged the eyepieces and took them to the Leica tech guys at the Bird Fair. They could do nothing but took my name and email address and within a few days I received instructions and a return label to send them to Germany. Returned in six weeks, repaired and fully serviced with absolutely no charge (there is a thirty year warranty but this was accidental damage). The only thing that Leica regrettably (as they put it) couldn’t do was extend the warranty from the date of the repair!

    I have heard similar stories from other binocular manufacturers. Considering the age of your bins I think you have many more years of use and good value for the price you paid.

  8. Brittany knows what I’m talking about.

    Pity Cameron, Merkel and Obama were at the G something or other talking about money at the time.

    Mr Clegg, who was there, didn’t even answer the questions posed on the Martin Harper (rspb) blog as he said he would as far as I can tell.

    My creative juices run dry (like the Punjab) on this forum. I’m off to talk to the kids!!

  9. 1. Just a thought:(ex Sherwoods) – Binoculars vs Field Glasses

    “Whether bird watching, or star gazing, a decent pair of binoculars always comes in handy. Some people are unaware that there are two different types of binoculars; prismatic binoculars and field glasses. Although the two terms are frequently used interchangeably, there are some fundamental differences:

    Prismatic Binoculars 
    Prismatic binoculars are the most popular type of binoculars as they offer greater magnification in a compact package. However, the inclusion of internal prisms makes them less robust than field glasses. As the title suggests, they use a set of prisms within each tube which reflect light as it passes though, allowing a greater path length to show. This creates higher magnification, thus allowing the binoculars to be shorter and the separation of the objective lenses to be wider.

    Field Glasses
    Field glasses have no internal prisms that can be knocked out of alignment so their main advantage is that they are durable, making them a good choice for combative outdoor pursuits. They use both the objective lens (the large lens which captures light initially) and a second lens inside each tube, which inverts and reverses the image to make it appear the right way up. However, field glasses can only magnify an image by five times at best. The increase in size and weight needed to increase their top end magnification would make them far too impractical to use”

    2. You will all recall the old story:

    “I’ve had this yard broom for forty years – it’s had four new handles and five heads!“

    3 As to “do I need to start a new life list with them?”

    We all need to honestly review (write it down) our personal ‘business plan’ at least annually – even if you then throw it away (the paper that is)!

    Each morning I usually say to myself (?) “Today Matthew I’m gonna be an abstract artist (or farmer, or poet, or author, or scientist or even ‘a pain’ to Mark et al..

    Sometimes I can be a farmer and a pain on the same day !

    1. Trimbush – I can’t comment on the farming but yes, you will be glad to know, you can be a pain! I find your comments on here an interesting mixture of completely irritating and rather charming. I would be happy if people thought that of me.

  10. Many of us can only afford a second hand pair of binoculars if we want a good pair that suits us. There is nothing wrong with second hand if they come from a good dealer. Ffordes often have good second hand equipment.

  11. Don’t lets get too weapy on Mark’s behalf – those 10X40Bs were a complete revolution at the time Mark got them, undisputedly the best birding binos in the world – and, just like with the top models today, you could buy a car with a valid MOt for less ! And on the basis of a even more battered pair of 10X40s (a previous owner (vandal00 had scratched the eyepiece lenses Mark’s still be pretty competitive today.

  12. Mark, six or seven years ago I pulled out of a lay-by somewhere in Sussex. I’d stopped to check a roadside warbler, as you do. There followed a sliding sound followed by a crunching sound then a popping one. My bins (Opticrons) had been left by their stupid owner on the bonnet. Amazingly they were repaired in a week for £85!

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