STEINER Optics (STEINER-Optik in German) is a popular German optical equipment manufacturer that develops optical devices, mainly binoculars, riflescopes, and spotting scopes for military, marine, and adventure purposes. The Headquarter of the company is located in the German town of Bayreuth in Northern Bavaria, Germany. According to Ranker.com, STEINER Optics currently ranks 6th in the list of best binocular brands, after Zeiss, Swarovski and Leica Camera. This position is the result of world-class German Engineering and decades of consistent hard work. STEINER has always striven to produce excellent products with no compromise on quality in the material selection and manufacturing processes. The current goal for the company is to become the market leader in the manufacturing of optical devices, especially Binoculars which is their best-selling product.
STEINER Optics was founded as a one-man workshop by Karl STEINER, soon after the Second World War in 1947 when Germany still faced destroyed infrastructures and a fallen economy. The idea behind the venture was to create top-quality optical devices that would be robust, durable and highly functional, and that no other manufacturer would ever come close to developing the like of, even after the world returns to its pre-war state. The passion for unparalleled optical perfection led STEINER Optics from a standalone hardscrabble workshop to a 50-worker factory in less than six years. The quick success did not come in the way of innovation and dedication and a small start-up rose from the ruins of Germany and went on to become one of the largest optical equipment icons in the world.
STEINER Optics deals in a variety of optical products that includes binoculars and spotting scopes for hunting, marine, outdoor and military purposes. The company also manufactures a range of battle sights and optoelectronic equipment, such as lasers and imaging systems with thermal, night-vision and infrared viewing capabilities. While all of their products have been quite popular among the masses, binoculars have sustained their main focus since the year 1955 when the company changed their focus from the production of Steinette Camera, their first-ever product. The change was due to a consistent demand for high-grade binoculars that would suit all types of armed conflicts and reconnaissance missions.
They signed their first reported major contract of army service binoculars with the West German Bundeswehr, to whom they supplied the STEINER 8x30 between 1966 and 1972. In 1973, the geniuses behind the continued success of the company came up with the idea of introducing pressurized Nitrogen gas into the sealed optical cavity inside each barrel of the binoculars for the first time to effectively fog-proof them. Before this, both armed personnel and adventurers complained of moisture contamination inside the binocular cavities that would often deposit as fog on the surface of lenses, hinder the optical view through the binocular and create a possibility of fungus and mould development. The innovation of purging greatly solved the ‘fog’ issue and soon many optical manufacturers followed the lead of STEINER Optics in adopting this feature.
STEINER Optics has become a household name for most optical devices and is usually the first choice of experts and beginners alike because of their rich history. In 1989, they received an order of 72,000 military-grade binoculars from the US Army which they delivered in record time and thus started the era of continuous collaboration with various armed divisions. Out of all the binoculars sold annually, more than 10% go to armed forces around the world, including the US Army, French Navy, and the Indian Army. The company has evolved into one of the largest employers in Europe in the field of Sports Optics with a little over 500 employees.
In 2012, STEINER Optics expanded into the United States after they acquired Laser Devices, Inc., now known as STEINER eOptics, a manufacturer of military-grade aiming lasers and tactical flashlights. After acquiring another optics manufacturer in 2015, known as the Sensor Technology Systems in the US, STEINER has captured a substantial market share globally in the domain of optics, optoelectronic equipment, and laser devices for both the military, law enforcement, and commercial markets.
Since many of their optical products are designed and developed in Germany, their devices usually come with “Germany” and “Made in Germany” branding to continually remind the users of the origin and “premium quality” of their devices, although it might not be true for all of their devices. To find out which devices are German-branded, continue reading this article.
Berretta Holding Group
In 2008, STEINER Optics became a member of the Berretta Holding Group, the world’s oldest weapons manufacturer. The Italian holding company has both direct and indirect stakes in 32 different firms that deal in weapons and military equipment. The giant weapons group came into being in the 16th century as “Pietro Beretta Gun Factory”, a manufacturer of arquebus gun barrels, which in 1571, famously equipped the Venetian fleet in the Battle of Lepanto. Since 1650, Berretta has provided arms and weaponry for all major European wars. Current members of the group include Berretta, Benelli, Franchi, Uberti, Stoeger, Chapuis Armes, and Sako to name a few. The group also has numerous weapons distributors around the world, including South America, Russia, Australia, and China, which ensure an adequate supply of arms and provide a one-stop-shop for warranty claims and repairs. Along with several weapons developers, Beretta holding has two optics manufacturers on its list of brands, STEINER and Burris.
Burris Optics, founded in 1971 by Dan Burris, mainly deals in the design and manufacturing of rifle scopes for hunting and tactical purposes, and battle sights, although, they do have a few binocular and scoping products on their shelf. Apart from designing products with their branding, they are also an official distributor of STEINER Optics binoculars and scoping devices in the US. Burris was acquired by the Beretta Holding group in 2002, long before STEINER Optics.
Bayreuth Production Facility
The main manufacturing facility of STEINER Optics is located within their headquarter building in the town of Bayreuth, Bavaria. Since the company’s inception in the aftermath of the Second World War, STEINER’s main production facility has remained in Bayreuth and what started as a small workshop with a powerful goal turned out to be one of the best optics manufacturers worldwide. The manufacturing facilities are located on the ground floor of the factory building and include the research and development section, which is an integral part of every continuously evolving industry. This section is responsible for coming up with new designs for their product range as well as conducting research into developing the capability of world-class optical features.
Manufacturing of device housings and optical components, such as lenses and prisms is carried out on the manufacturing floor with the help of computer-programmed machinery and robotic handling equipment. After the lenses are ground and polished, they are first taken through a 9-stage computer-guided cleaning process which is followed by a quick inspection by an on-site expert who uses a small hand-held monocular to check the prisms for minute cracks or blemishes. The next stop is the coating process section, where several nano-coatings are applied to the surface of lenses. All coatings comprise pioneered formulations of rare earth elements and minerals that enhance the incident light entering the objective lens so that the observer can have radiant views with brighter details and higher contrast levels. Glass and coatings that are used for optical devices at STEINER Optics are proprietary.
The use of state-of-the-art manufacturing methods ensures that only the best quality products make their way to the customers, which brings us to the Quality Control department. STEINER Optics employs a series of quality checks, including the use of Kulger Interferometer to check the geometry and radius of curvature for every batch of lenses. All lenses are then visually inspected against bright light by trained eyes for the presence of impurities, micro-bubbles, and cracks. After all glass components have passed through 460 highly sophisticated manufacturing and inspection procedures, the nano-coated lenses and prisms make their way towards the assembly department where they are gathered and sorted for assembly and fabrication processes.
STEINER binocular products are either available in the unbreakable Makrolon polycarbonate material or magnesium alloys which are behind the infamous robustness and durability of their devices. Prisms for both roof and porro prism binoculars are glued to the housing, using an in-house developed adhesive, which enables STEINER binoculars to be shock-resistant against accidental falls. After the optical devices start to take their final shape, they are sent for the most important stage of the manufacturing process, Nitrogen-purging.
STEINER Optics is the pioneer in effectively fog-proofing all of their optical devices for high optical performance and improved longevity. Their proprietary purging system, called the STEINER Nitrogen-Pressure-System, ensures that no optical device experiences moisture condensation, even after continuous use in humid weather conditions. The system pressurizes device housings with Nitrogen under 14-psi pressure, along with trace amounts of Helium. The use of high-quality rubber gaskets makes sure that the functionality of STEINER devices remains intact under temperature fluctuations between -40 °C and +80 °C. All devices are subjected to hyperbaric testing which can detect even the slightest Helium leakage. If the seals are found to be ineffective, the binoculars are disassembled and the process is repeated. The two-way valve design enables the binoculars to be serviced easily even after several years of usage.
After successful manufacturing, binoculars are inspected by optical experts against their resolution and intended use with the help of collimation tests. This test is followed by other quality control measures, such as folding tests for binocular hinge-mechanism, vibration and shock testing, water, and temperature resistance. Devices that do not pass any of the tests are sent back to the manufacturing stage where they are dismantled and necessary steps are taken to resolve the underlying issues.
The remaining areas of the business, such as Marketing, Sales, and Management departments are located on floors above the factory in the multi-story building. A service department is also present on the ground floor that provides after-sales services, like repairs and warranty claims. Distributors from around the world also send malfunctioning devices to the Bayreuth factory for repairs and replacements.
Which STEINER products are manufactured in Germany?
Usually, premium products above the price-tag of 500 Euros are manufactured in Germany. With the use of expensive machinery and complex quality control mechanisms, products made in Germany carry the highest quality. They are also branded with the marking “Made in Germany” to let consumers know their products come from a superior production facility. These include the specialized Porro and Roof Prism binoculars, marine binoculars, rifle-scopes that are specifically designed for military purposes, including the highly sophisticated battle-sights for military rifles.
STEINER Optics generally outsource the manufacturing of products that cost lower than 500 Euros to a few manufacturing facilities outside Germany. Outsourced products include entry-level roof prism binoculars which are affordable and especially targeted towards beginners with no prior experience. By outsourcing some products, STEINER ensures that the manufacturing processes are streamlined and only the products that require extensive fabrication and quality assurance measures are developed in-house.
Which Products are made in the US?
STEINER Optics has the largest presence of any European optics manufacturer in the US. The designing of the hunting ‘Ranger’ rifle scopes is carried out by STEINER engineers in Germany, but their manufacturing process is done by Burris, an optics manufacturer in the US and a recognized member of the Beretta Holding Group. Their eOptics division in Monterey, California is responsible for the manufacturing of military-grade aiming lasers and tactical flashlight modules, which are readily sold out to the US Army. Their Sensor Systems Division in Greeley, Colorado deals in the manufacturing of military-grade imaging systems, such as night-vision and thermal-capable goggles and heads-up displays, especially for Law Enforcement Agencies and Homeland security departments.
Binoculars have remained an important companion for soldiers and travellers for years but due to the continuous development and research into their design and manufacturing methods, they have become accessible and affordable to purchase for almost everyone. Affordability and ease of use have made it possible for these optical devices to be taken along for camping, hiking, boating, and hunting adventures to the point that a trip without a pair of binoculars seems incomplete.
The increase in demand of binoculars over the last two decades from enthusiasts around the world has prompted all optics manufacturers to take necessary measures to improve and streamline the manufacturing and supply chain operations for catering to the needs of customers from all spheres of life. STEINER Optics, one of the largest optics manufacturers, faced a similar situation in the last decade. While the ordinary solution is to install additional machinery, employ more workers, and partner with more distribution services, but doing this also requires considerable effort and time, which could potentially affect the ongoing operations.
To counter this problem, STEINER Optics decided to carry on with the manufacturing of their mid-range and premium line of products that cost above 500 Euros at their Bayreuth manufacturing facility. These include the specialized Porro-prism and Roof-prism binoculars for tactical, hunting and adventurous activities, and high-profile rifle scopes. The manufacturing of entry-level binoculars that do not require complex manufacturing mechanisms and rigorous quality control checks are outsourced to vendors outside Germany. They are still sold under the “STEINER” trademark but do not possess the “Made in Germany” branding that other sophisticated devices feature. However, all binoculars and other optical equipment are sent to Bayreuth for after-sales servicing.
STEINER Optics’ current market share is the outcome of 70 years of continuous struggle and adherence to outstanding manufacturing methods, quality materials, and unparalleled inspection measures for all of their products. While experts who have been in this field are quite familiar with all varieties of STEINER products, first-time customers often get confused while deciding which product is best for their needs. For this, STEINER Optics Inc. has included a quick online tool on its website which can guide anyone with no prior experience of optical devices to the right product. So, what is stopping you?
Transcription of the Video
Welcome to this Optics Trade debate. Today, we are going to discuss a common question, which is: Where are Steiner Binoculars made?
Steiner has been around since 1947 and up to around 1955, they only manufactured cameras. Then, they completely stopped manufacturing cameras and began producing binoculars. In 1972, they also began manufacturing for the German army. Now, they are making products for many armies, including the American one, and they are one of the biggest producers of professional binoculars in the world. They have established a stronghold in the whole professional sector: police, military, all the services for rescuing people in the sea, and so on. The same goes for marine binoculars: they have dominated the market, as they do not have any competition in the top quality when it comes to the marine binoculars. Their headquarters are located in Bayreuth in Germany, in northern Bavaria.
Most other German manufacturers are in Wetzlar, but not Steiner – they are the only optics factory in Bayreuth and probably the only ones in Bavaria. They have a huge factory of around 800 employees. We have a whole factory tour written about it, so please check it out. We also have an article about where Steiner binoculars are made. In their production facilities, they do everything from development, research, grinding and coating of class, production of housings from Makrolon – a material that Steiner uses extensively through its entire range – packing, and shipping around the world. So they do everything in-house for the binoculars that are made in Germany.
There is a small mystery around what is made in Germany and what is not, as, since 2008, they have been a part of the Baretta group – 60+ companies. Inside of this group they also acquired e-optics in the U.S. They also have some production facilities in the U.S., and their riflescopes, the Ranger series, are also produced there. We know that all their binoculars with the Porro prism, even those really affordable ones, are still made in Germany. With the roof prism it is a bit different because honestly speaking when you are buying a compact binocular for 200 €, it is hard to expect that it is made in Germany. They are not open about it, but we presume that they do outsource some binoculars.
With every Steiner binocular, you are able to expect the Steiner warranty – they will not let you down. The housing and the rubberized parts have become legendary with Steiner. On the more expensive models, there is a 30-year warranty, and on the more affordable ones, there is a 10 years warranty. Honestly speaking, whatever is above 500 € is for certain made in Germany. This is it, if you find the video useful, leave a like, or a comment. See you in our next video. Goodbye.
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