Throughout history, Germany has remained the one country in Europe with the most scientific innovations in virtually every field, be it sport optics, nano-technology, artificial intelligence, or renewable energy. German manufacturing is the prime example of excellence and superior quality, which is why the most popular sport optics brands, such as Zeiss, Leica, Steiner, and others are all stationed in Germany, except for Swarovski Optik which is based in Austria.
There has been an extensive technological advancement in optics since the Second World War and German makers have remained at the forefront. The vast number of premium riflescopes, binoculars, and spotting scopes from German optics brands available today is the result of years of dedication and continuous innovation.
Superiority in Optics Production
The key component in optical instruments is glass, which play s an important role in shaping the optical performance of the instrument. Since Germany is ahead of everyone in glass and optics production, manufacturers are even known to supply raw glass material to optics brands in other countries. As a result, the optics industry has played an important role and remains a crucial part of the German economy.
Consistent quality and excellent performance of German optical products over the years have enabled them to capture a large market share. More people now associate German products with “highest quality” than ever, and fans from all over the world buy German products without hesitation. Many brands take advantage of this belief and sell binoculars outsourced from other countries under German branding.
Most people are unaware of this reality and continue to buy those products without proper questioning. Even some well-established brands have started to follow this business trend. Affordable series of binoculars that are produced in factories in Japan, China, and Vietnam are sold under German branding. The prime reason for outsourcing the production of cheap and affordable binoculars is to cut production, material, labour costs. By keeping the production costs lower, they can market these binoculars at a lower price, which enables many users to buy branded products at affordable prices. With an exception of a few, several manufacturers market all such binoculars under the “Made in Germany” brand. The same is true for optical products other than binoculars, such as riflescopes, spotting scopes, telescopes, rangefinders, sights, etc.
Binoculars produced in Germany are usually of great quality, which is why most German-made binoculars start at 1000 EUR or more. The price can be an indication of whether a set of binoculars was produced in a German factory or is outsourced. Serious users do not compromise on quality, therefore they are never seen carrying a cheap pair. Below are some well-known optics manufacturers that are operating in Germany.
Leica is one of the oldest and most successful Germany-based optics brands in the world. Although it started with the commercial production of microscopes, the company went onto manufacturing handheld analog cameras and sport optics after the enormous success of microscopes and related instruments. Presently, Leica is known for its world-class digital cameras, binoculars, riflescopes, and lenses.
Leica was founded in 1849 as an optical workshop by a German mechanic called Carl Kellner in Wetzlar, Germany. The small factory was originally called Optische Institut and is aimed at the design and commercial production of microscopes. Since the instruments produced at the workshop had an excellent optical performance, the workshop came to be known for the quality of its products by 1851. A young engineer by the name of Ernest Leitz joined the company in 1864 and this is when the company’s microscope business began to thrive. When Leitz assumed the leadership in 1869 after the passing of the owners, the name of the company was modified to Ernest Leitz – Optische Institut – Wetzlar Company, to include his name.
The microscope business reached its peak by the 1900s when the number of employees working for the company grew to 400 and the annual capacity rose to 4000 units. The continued success of the company encouraged Leitz to include other optical instruments in the line of products. In 1907, the Ernest Leitz – Optische Institut – Wetzlar Company started manufacturing operations for binoculars. The first set of binoculars produced by Leica was called the Binocle 6x18. In 1911, the company hired Oskar Barnack, an engineer who was obsessed with designing the first portable camera. Barnack was originally hired to work on microscopes and binoculars, but he used his free time to develop a handheld camera. He became successful at his dream when he developed the prototype of his ultra-portable camera in 1913. The camera was named UR-Leica (short of Leitz Camera) and it used a standard 35mm film for taking still photographs.
Leica Trinovid and Apollo Missions
The huge success of handheld cameras led the company to include more variants in its line of products. The immense popularity and demand for cameras urged the owners to change the name of the company to just “Leica”. Consequently, the production of Leica-II and Leica-III slowed down the production of microscopes and binoculars. The company unveiled Leica Trinovid binoculars not long after World War II, which NASA chose to send to the Moon with the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Following the success of Trinovid during the ‘60s, the company has since been producing several binoculars models for various markets.
Leica in Leitz Park, Wetzlar, Germany
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the UR-Leica camera, Leica Camera AG established a new factory in the main industrial sector in Wetzlar, Germany in 2014. The location at Leitz Park integrates several attractions in one location, such as the Ernest Leitz Museum, The Leica Akademie of Photography, Ernest Leitz Hotel, Leica Store, and a museum shop, alongside the actual production facility of Leica cameras, lenses, and sport optics.
The museum displays several Leica products that have been produced since the very beginning. Several optics manufacturers copied the design of Leica cameras during the 1950s to varying degrees of success. Some of these models are also displayed at the museum for visitors. Guests visiting the site from outside the city and individuals studying at the Leica Academy can enjoy overnight accommodation at the onsite hotel facility. Another attraction on the site is The World of Leica Experience, which displays the work of popular photographers along with a display of the Leica product range. The sustained accomplishments in several products have labeled Leica as the national heritage of Germany.
Presently, Leica produces binoculars at two factories, Leitz Park in Wetzlar, Germany, and Famalicao factory in Porto, Portugal.
Leica binoculars produced in Germany
Following binoculars models are manufactured and assembled in Germany:
Unveiled in 2016, Noctivid binoculars are the newest addition to the Leica sport optics family. These high-end binoculars feature light-weight materials for housing and the signature SCHOTT HTTM glass for internal optics. This high-quality glass material is known for capturing more light and producing exceptionally sharp images with excellent brightness even in low light situations. The high-end optics are paired with nano-coatings from Leica to ensure improved optical performance and protection against abrasion and accumulation of water droplets during rainy weather. The sturdy construction allows these binoculars to virtually last forever, despite years of use in difficult terrains.
The Ultravid HD+ is another series of high-end binoculars from Leica Camera AG. Like the Noctivids, these binoculars are known for their unrivaled optical performance, thanks to SCHOTT HT glass. Leica has used a combination of Magnesium alloys for binoculars housing, which has a high strength-to-weight ratio. The resilient housing is also coated with rubber armour for added protection and a comfortable grip. For the hinge mechanism, the company has chosen a Titanium alloy which ensures the hinge remains functional even after decades of use.
The Leica Duovid series is the prime example of an optical marvel in sport optics. These binoculars feature the rare “zooming” option that enables users to switch between two magnifications. The Duovid can come in handy when the observer needs to have a close-up view of a distant object without getting close, especially during hunting. In addition, the binoculars are equipped with state-of-the-art optics technology which ensures bright imagery without any compromise to the optical quality. Duovid series is available in limited quantity since it has been discontinued by Leica.
Special editions of the Ultravid HD+ binoculars have been released from time to time. These models feature customized designs, such as traditional leather designs and vintage eye-cups to name a few. However, the optics and focusing mechanisms are kept intact.
Leica factory in Porto, Portugal
In 1973, Leica built a small factory in Vila Nova de Famalicão near Porto, Portugal to take some workload off the Wetzlar factory following a huge demand for Leica cameras, binoculars, and microscopes. Since the factory was operated under the control of Leica Wetzlar, this was different than when other brands completely outsourced their binoculars. The Famalicao factory was initially intended to work primarily on the assembly of microscopes, but soon the assembly operations of cameras and binoculars were transferred to it after appropriate extensions.
In 2014, the Portugal location saw a large extension in terms of area, equipment, and workforce. The extension was aimed at significantly enhancing the manufacturing capacity of the factory. At present, the factory manufactures cameras, binoculars, riflescopes, and lenses. The Famalicão facility employs 700 people and houses top-notch machining, polishing, and coating equipment. Leica AG claims that the design and manufacturing standards at the Portugal factory are par with the factory in Wetzlar and consequently, the products are of the same quality in either location.
Leica binoculars produced in Portugal
Following binoculars models are manufactured and assembled in Portugal:
The Geovid binoculars are known for their precise Equivalent Horizontal Range (EHR) rangefinder system along with unrivaled optics, ergonomic design, and robust construction. The rangefinder used in these binoculars also features a built-in inclinometer that provides precise angle measurements. The optics used in the Geovid series is of high quality, ensuring that the images seen through the eyepiece have optimum brightness in all lighting conditions. The rugged housing along with high optical performance and robust construction provides unbeatable confidence to the hunters in the most difficult of situations.
The Geovid series are available in three configurations:
These devices provide rangefinder measurements up to 3200 yards in all weather conditions, hence the name. No other binoculars on the market are capable of measuring above 2000 yards. Additionally, the ballistic profiles created using these binoculars can be swiftly sent to the Geovid app in a click.
Geovid HD-R 2700
The Geovid HD-R binoculars provide distance and inclinometer measurements up to 1200 yards even in rough weather conditions. Like Geovid.com, these binoculars also feature the wrap-around-grip which enables users to use them for longer periods comfortably.
The R series features the essential EHR rangefinder of the Geovid series, but in a relatively compact housing with the same quality of optics and housing materials. These binoculars can measure distances up to 1200 yards.
Originally produced during the 1960s, the popularity of these binoculars can be gauged by the fact that they were taken to the moon during the Apollo missions. The Trinovid binoculars are one of the oldest binoculars to still be produced. Featuring a compact size along with exceptional low-light performance, the Trinovid has remained a symbol of quality throughout history.
The compact housing features a rubber armour that guarantees a comfortable grip and protection against unwanted falls. Under the rubber, the metal casing keeps the internals from getting damaged even after years of use, which makes these binoculars the perfect fit for hunting and camping trips.
Ultravid BR, BL, and Silver line
The Ultravid range is popular for their ultra-portable size which allows these binoculars to be carried in jacket pockets. The small size does not affect the quality of materials used and the signature optical performance of the Ultravid binoculars. They are best suited for camping trips, theatre performances, and watching sports in large stadiums.
The Leica Monovid is a light-weight monocular which can easily fit in your trouser or shirt pocket. With an 8x magnification, the Monovid is an elegant choice for users who love to carry a viewing device everywhere regardless of the situation. The 20mm objective is enough to bring optimum light to the eyepiece for naturally bright imaging.
Zeiss is another German manufacturer of optics and optoelectronics products. Based in Wetzlar, the company was created by Carl Zeiss in 1846 as an optics workshop and was originally located in the city of Jena in Thuringia, Germany. Ernst Abbe and Otto Schott became a part of the company in 1866 and 1884, and the name of the company was modified to Carl-Zeiss-Stiftung. The workshop initially produced microscopes but turned to the manufacturing of apochromatic lenses and prisms by the 1880s. It was during this era that the company invented their signature Abbe-Koenig prisms. Zeiss was the first brand ever to market its cameras, binoculars, and riflescopes under the “Made in Germany” branding.
During the Second World War, Zeiss was forced to manufacture products for the army under the Zwangsarbeiter program of Nazi Germany. In the aftermath of the war, the company was divided into two parts, namely the VEB Zeiss Jena in East Germany and Zeiss-Opton Optische Werke Oberkochen in West Germany. Both companies continued to manufacture products under their branding until they were reunited into one soon after the reunification of East and West Germany. The Carl Zeiss Group also owns Schott AG, which manufactures glass and ceramic products. The company was founded by Carl Zeiss and Otto Schott in 1884.
Zeiss is one of the many companies in Germany which are known for introducing innovative features in their products. Features like the T* Coating, FL Concept glass, SF Concept Focusing system, and Abbe-Koenig prisms are some examples of innovations that Zeiss has brought to its sport optics products over the years. These features were later included by other brands in their high-end products.
Zeiss factory in Wetzlar
Wetzlar has become a hub of German optics manufacturers. From Leica to MINOX and Schmidt & Bender, all companies have a presence there. The main factory for Zeiss sport optics is also located in the city, where most of the Zeiss binoculars are produced. The site was originally owned by Hensoldt AG, which was founded in 1849 by Moritz Carl Hensoldt and Carl Kellner as a manufacturer of optical instruments. Carl Zeiss invested in the company and acquired a small partnership in 1928.
By the year 1968, Zeiss had acquired complete rights of Hensoldt AG but chose to keep the brand due to its loyal customer base. In the years following WW2, Zeiss relocated the manufacturing and assembly operations of sport optics to the Wetzlar factory. By 2006, the Carl-Zeiss-Stiftung group stopped using the Hensoldt brand completely and the Wetzlar location was renamed to Carl Zeiss Optics GmbH. The factory currently produces binoculars, riflescopes, and related equipment.
Zeiss binoculars made in Germany
The following Zeiss binoculars are produced in German factories.
The Conquest HD is the series of premium binoculars featuring all the latest innovations in optomechanical technology from Zeiss. These binoculars are known for amazing optical performance even in low light situations thanks to the T* coating from Zeiss. The optics are coated with LotuTec coating and the housing is wrapped with rubber armour, so users can utilize all features of the binoculars without having to worry about unintentional falls. The series is available in several configurations.
Victory HT series features the signature Abbe-Koenig prisms along with premium SCHOTT AG glass lenses, which together generate consistently bright images with improved colour-fidelity. Since the HT series comes in a 54mm objective size, the company has managed to keep the overall dimensions and weight lower than most binoculars of this range.
These are the flagship Zeiss Victory binoculars with the innovative Smart Focus system. The SF focusing system features a central wheel which is elegantly placed in line with the index finger of the user, allowing the binoculars focus to be comfortably adjusted with one hand. Since the center of mass is located in the center, the binoculars can be used ergonomically for longer periods. The Victory SF models also feature an open bridge design for added comfort while holding binoculars during day-long excursions.
Outsourced Zeiss binoculars
Binoculars outsourced outside of Germany are listed below:
Unlike the rest of the series, Terra ED binoculars are explicitly produced in China. Since they are entirely assembled in Asia, the price for these binoculars is significantly lower than other binoculars offered by Zeiss Sport Optics. Therefore, those looking for an affordable entrance to the Zeiss ecosystem can choose the Terra binoculars for their outdoor needs. Despite an affordable price, the materials used in these binos are of high quality.
This series was produced as a compact version of the signature Conquest HD binoculars. Just like the original series, the pocket models exhibit most of the premium features, like the T* coating and rubber armour for added protection. Originally produced in the Zeiss factory in Hungary, the Conquest Pocket models have been discontinued by Zeiss.
Next on the list of optics brands operating in Germany is Steiner. Like Zeiss, the company is renowned for producing some of the best binoculars for marine, military, and adventure uses. Although Steiner produces several optics equipment, such as spotting scopes, riflescopes, battle sights, and imaging systems, its binoculars have remained the best-selling product ever since the company originated in the aftermath of WW2. The founder’s vision was to create a portfolio of high-quality optical products that no other brand would offer. This idea led the company from the initial workshop state to a 50-men factory in record time.
The company has remained a major supplier of binoculars and riflescopes to various armed forces around the world. The first major contract between the German armed forces and Steiner was signed in 1966 and since then the company has produced military-grade binoculars among other models. Binoculars of the time did not contain any system to protect the internals from fogging. Users, especially armed personnel, regularly complained of poor visibility in binoculars. The geniuses at Steiner came with the idea of filling the void inside binoculars housing with Nitrogen and sealing them shut. The positive pressure of Nitrogen kept the outside dirt and moisture at bay, which solved the fogging problem. Modern binoculars come with either Nitrogen or Argon filling thanks to the innovation by Steiner.
Steiner was acquired by Beretta Holding Group in 2008. The group is renowned for being the oldest supplier of weapons and has stakes in a total of 32 firms in Europe and North America, which primarily deals in arms and military equipment. All major European wars since the 1650s were equipped with military equipment from the Beretta Group. Popular members of the group are Benelli, Beretta, Stoeger, Uberti, and Sako. Apart from these, Beretta Holdings has several distributors in the Americas, Asia, and Oceania. Another optics company, Burris Optics, is currently tasked with the distribution of Steiner binoculars in North America.
Steiner Factory in Bayreuth, Bavaria
Steiner’s main production facility for binoculars has been in Bayreuth, Bavaria since its inception in 1955 by Karl Steiner. Since then, the factory has seen several developments and extensions over the years. The manufacturing section is located on the ground floor, where all machining and assembly operations are carried out by trained officials. The factory houses computer-controlled machining and grinding equipment which shape the materials to form the final shape of the binoculars.
The machining is followed by a 9-stage cleaning process where all pieces are cleaned and checked for dust particles. Cleaning is a crucial step for glass components before they are sent for the coating process. Steiner uses proprietary glass and coatings for all of its German-made devices. The last stage before the assembly is Quality Control, which is also the most important. Inspectors use both hand-held tools and complex equipment to inspect the quality of metal and glass components carefully while wearing appropriate head coverings and gloves. After the assembly, binoculars are sent for Nitrogen-purging before they are sent for packaging and shipping.
Binoculars manufactured in Germany
The following binoculars series are made in Germany and they are marked with “Made in Germany” branding. Generally, all binoculars with Porro Prisms are produced in Bayreuth, Bavaria. All German-made binoculars come with an unbelievable 30-year warranty, which signifies the standard of quality for these devices.
As the name suggests, the rugged Nighthunter binoculars from Steiner is known for night hunting, thanks to its exceptional optics technology. The Porro prism design provides an excellent transmission rate along with a 3-dimensional perspective, without which it is impossible to locate anything in the wild. Even in minimal lighting conditions, the hunter can identify game from a distance and plan their shots without scaring the animal away. The binoculars are air-tight and feature a water-resistant coating, which stops water from damaging the internals even at a depth of 5m, so you don’t need to worry about your beloved pair falling in the water.
The Ranger xTreme is designed for an enhanced viewing experience when hunting in the wild. Ever wondered if a large field of view would have helped you take your last missed shot? The Ranger series features one of the largest Field of Views available at this price range. The central focus wheel requires minimal travel, so you can adjust the focus from a close-up distance to infinity as quickly as possible. Features like these make Ranger xTreme one of the best choices for hunting.
One of the oldest series, Commander Binoculars are available in 7x50 configuration. These marine binoculars are equipped with the proprietary Diamond Marine™ lens coating and NBR rubber armour. The main casing is made of Makrolon, which is a lightweight polycarbonate material that further protects the internals from the harsh climatic conditions at sea. For optics, the binoculars feature BAK4 prisms with phase-correction coatings for 3-D depth perception. The Global model comes with a digital compass and others feature a mechanical one.
Steiner outsourced binoculars
Following the lead of Zeiss, Steiner has also outsourced the production of affordable binoculars outside of Germany. Since the company upgrades the series of binoculars relatively fast, it is quite difficult to recognize outsourced binoculars. To identify which binoculars are not German-made, a simple rule of thumb is all Steiner binoculars that are sold for anything below 500 Euros are outsourced. Since Steiner produces all Porro Prism binoculars at its Bayreuth factory, the outsourced models mostly contain Schmidt Pechan or Abbe-Koenig Roof prisms.
MINOX was established in 1945 as a producer of small form-factor cameras in Wetzlar, Germany. Since only bulky hand-held cameras existed before, MINOX A, the company’s first miniature camera was liked by many photographers when it was released just after WWII. It was not much later that MINOX garnered a reputation as the manufacturer of high-end spy cameras. By 1951, the small company turned into a factory of 180 employees. The success of the camera business inspired the owners to try their hands at sport optics in 2000. Since then, the Wetzlar factory has produced several models of binoculars, riflescopes, night vision devices, and spotting scopes.
Following a financial instability in 1981, the company was forced to remove over 750 employees. As the situation grew worse, the manpower was further reduced to 300 workers, and MINOX was subsequently taken over by Leica Camera AG in 1996. A change in management enabled the company to regain its strength and it was eventually separated from Leica in 2005. Becoming independent once again enabled the company to expand rapidly which laid the foundation of its merger to become a member of Blaser Group Wetzlar.
Acquisition by Blaser Group
In 2013, MINOX was acquired by the Blaser Group, a German firearms manufacturer. Three companies, MINOX, Optronika, and Blaser joined to form an alliance known as the German Sport Optics (GSO), which was the reason behind the acquisition. GSO was renamed to Blaser Group Wetzlar recently and MINOX will remain an independent company within the group. Even after becoming a part of a weapons producer, MINOX will continue to manufacture products for photography, hunting, and nature.
Not long after the acquisition, it was decided to relocate the Wetzlar factory operations to Isny Allgau, Germany. The move was initiated to bring the factory in the proximity of the Blaser Group, which is also located in Isny. This will ensure intensive information exchange between the member companies of the group.
Binoculars produced in Germany
The X-HD is the only binoculars series from MINOX to be produced in Germany.
X-HD is also the only flagship series and is therefore equipped with all the premium features from the manufacturer. This set of binoculars is fitted with ED glass for lenses, which ensures detailed views and a relatively large field of view. In addition, the housing features an open-bridge hinge design which is both ergonomic and provides an aesthetic appearance to the binoculars. Other features include lightweight construction, adjustable eyecups, phase-corrected roof prisms, and multi-coated lenses for high light-transmittance.
MINOX has outsourced the manufacturing of following binoculars:
Although produced outside Germany, the X-Range binoculars feature a high-tech laser rangefinder along with premium features, such as multi-coated ED glass, rugged magnesium housing, and adjustable eyecups. The rangefinder system can measure distances up to 1600 meters even in rough weather, thanks to effective Nitrogen-purging, so users can focus on the target without getting distracted from rainy weather.
The X-Active series is designed to perform in a myriad of situations. To combat mishandling and extreme climatic conditions, the binoculars are equipped with a lightweight yet rugged and waterproof aluminum housing along with an open-bridge hinge design. Other features include roof prisms with phase correction coatings and multi-coated objective lenses for improved optical performance, so even in dimly lit conditions, users can experience sufficiently bright viewing.
X-Lite binoculars are intended for newcomers. Even at an entry-level price, these binoculars feature roof prisms with phase correction coating, IPX7 waterproofing, comfortable open-bridge hinge design, adjustable eyecups, and a center focus mechanism for quick focus adjustments. The Lite series is available in 8x26 and 10x26 pocket-size configurations.
Blaser entered the sport optics industry in 2017 with the production of binoculars, riflescopes, and red-dot sights. Established in 1957 by Horst Blaser, the company has reached extreme heights in the manufacturing of premium rifles and shotguns for tactical and hunting markets throughout Europe. Being one of the oldest firearms manufacturers, the company has acquired several firms to form the “Blaser Group Wetzlar”, including MINOX, Liemke, J. P. Sauer & Sohn, and Mauser. Together, the Blaser Group produces accessories, clothing, and optics for the hunting market in addition to firearms.
Blaser Production Facility
The headquarters of the company is located in Isny Allgau, Germany, and has a workforce of 350 people. Known as the pioneer of riflescopes and shotguns in Germany, the factory in Isny uses high-quality material and computer-controlled machining equipment for the manufacturing of all Blaser products. Until February 2020, the sport optics products were produced at the MINOX factory in Wetzlar. After the relocation of MINOX, all Blaser optics products will be produced in the city of Isny Allgau. Blaser is one of the few remaining companies in Germany to manufacture all of its binoculars in German factories. By doing so, the company keeps the manufacturing and assembly operations under strict observation.
The Blaser Group currently offers only one binoculars series, namely Blaser Primus. Even though the company is new to sport optics, the Primus binoculars use Abbe-Koenig prisms along with high-quality phase correction coatings to increase the sharpness of images. For improved light transmission, the objective and eyepiece lenses in these binoculars are equipped with a multi-layered Colour and Contrast Coating (CCC), which systematically reduces aberration problems. For protection against abrasion and dirt, all lenses are coated with the SLP coating. The series is available in 8x30, 8x42, 8x56, and 10x42 configurations.
Noblex is a renowned sport optics manufacturer which is headquartered in Eisfeld, Germany.
Influence of WW2
The onset of the Second World War affected a great number of businesses in and around Germany. Many factories were forced to manufacture military equipment for Nazi Germany under the Zwangsarbeiter program and Carl Zeiss was one of the affected companies. When the allied forces gained momentum, they dismantled many factories that produced equipment for the German army. A part of Carl Zeiss was left in Wetzlar, while the remaining part was established in Jena as VEB Carl Zeiss Jenoptik.
Factory in Eisfeld, Thuringia, Germany
Many employees left the Jena factory when the war was declared over. The establishment was restarted with the remaining workforce and it aimed to market only the highest selling products. To keep up with the demand, another factory was set up in Eisfeld, Germany in 1952. The approach was successful and the factory was producing a staggering 300,000 binoculars annually in the years leading to the reunion of East and West Germany.
Reunification of Germany
The reunification of Germany saw the reintegration of the two Zeiss plants in Wetzlar and Jena. Meanwhile, the Eisfeld factory was acquired by Bernhard Docter and the company was renamed to Docter-Optik-Eisfeld in 1991. During this time, the owners added several items to the product line. Although the brand was successful in the beginning, Docter Optik declared bankruptcy in 1997. The company was subsequently acquired by Analytik Jena and later by Noblex GmbH in 2016.
While Analytik Jena kept the Docter brand name intact due to its popularity across Europe, Noblex decided to market all products under its brand. In addition, the new management has significantly shrunk the production numbers of binoculars in Germany. All new binoculars are being outsourced out of Germany to minimize production overheads.
Binoculars produced in Germany
The production of binoculars is not consistent since it takes place intermittently from time to time.
Just like how certain smartphone manufacturers offer rugged versions of their flagship phones, the B/GA binoculars are Noblex’s intriguing answer to a robust yet extremely functional set of binoculars. The housing is made of a lightweight magnesium-aluminum alloy which is covered with rubber armour to withstand shock loads easily. The internals feature high-fidelity lenses with multiple-coatings so you can stay ahead of your game. With standard 7x40 and 10x42 configurations, the B/GA binoculars are suitable for almost all situations.
Noblex Compact is designed to be ultra-portable thanks to its double-hinge design, which allows users to carry it anywhere easily regardless of the occasion. Although it is relatively small, this model still features brilliant optics and high-quality construction for seamless use. If you are looking for a reliable set of binoculars to take everywhere, Compact from Noblex can be your go-to companion.
As the name suggests, the Mono is a compact monocular in the form of binoculars. With a weight of 80g, carrying a Mono is like carrying nothing at all. The device features a Porro prism design and a magnification of 8x, which makes it a perfect fit for opera and golfing.
Presently, Noblex sources the following binoculars from factories in China. Both binoculars are equipped with German optics, so their optical performance is at par with their German-made counterparts.
Vector binoculars are designed to have a lightweight construction along with high-quality optics for improved light transmittance. The series comes with a center focus mechanism and an open-bridge hinge design for comfortable viewing so that the user does not lose his focus.
The Inception series from Noblex is one of the unique binoculars that are made of a polycarbonate housing instead of the conventional metal alloys. Inception binoculars are available with either Roof or Porro prisms, however, the latter is designed to be used for marine environments and feature an illuminated reticle. Since both models feature German optics, they have excellent optical performance even in dim lighting conditions.
Optolyth is one of the oldest manufacturers of binoculars and spotting scopes in Germany. The company was founded in Nuremberg, Germany in 1856 and has since produced a series of optical products, including binoculars, telescopes, and spotting scopes. Optolyth believes in the “Made in Germany” philosophy, therefore all of its products are strictly manufactured and assembled in Germany.
In 2008, Optolyth was merged with Sill Optics into one company with an intent to produce sport optics products. Since the merger, the assembly operations for binoculars are carried out in Sorg/Wendelstein. Optolyth binoculars are manufactured in-house using only computer-controlled machining and grinding equipment. Since manufacturing takes place in Germany for all products, Optolyth provides extra attention to the quality of raw materials for housing and optics.
Presently, the company offers three variants in the binoculars segment, namely ViaNova, Royal, and Sporting binoculars. All binoculars exhibit a center focus system, adjustable eyecups, rubber armour, and multi-coated lenses. One particular feature of Optolyth binoculars is the use of Argon for purging the optical cavity instead of Nitrogen. Lastly, Optolyth is popular for using a classical look for all of their binoculars, unlike others who prefer versatility in appearance.
GERMAN BRANDS THAT OUTSOURCED ALL OF THEIR BINOCULARS
Although the outsourcing based business model has been successful in North America, most European optics manufacturers still prefer to produce their products in-house under close observation. This enables them to keep a constant level of quality, which also affects pricing. The production and labour overheads are much higher in Germany than in Asia, therefore German assembled binoculars start at around 1000 euros, while outsourced binos are relatively inexpensive since they are cheaper to manufacture.
German manufacturers who have broken this stereotype and outsourced their binoculars completely to increase profitability are listed below.
German Precision Optics (GPO) is a manufacturer of riflescopes, binoculars, and laser rangefinders for hunting and tactical uses. The company has striven to reduce unnecessary cost components to keep the price-performance ratio lower to sell more products and systematically increase profitability. Sourcing binoculars from outside of Europe has enabled GPO to keep prices lower than comparable models from other brands. The company offers two binocular variants, Passion ED and Passion HD. Both models offer robust magnesium housing along with multi-coated ED lenses for improved light transmittance and sharp images.
DD Optics is a Germany-based sport optics manufacturer. Founded in 2004, the company is headquartered in Chemnitz and Dresden. Although the products are designed in Germany, the production of most of its products, especially binoculars, has been outsourced to Japan for keeping the costs lower. The company offers a wide variety of binoculars ranging from premium to affordable ones. Popular binoculars from DD Optics include Pirschler and EDX, both of which come in several configurations.
Bauer is another optics manufacturer that primarily deals in good quality binoculars, telescopic sights, and related accessories. Founded in 1936, Bauer is one of the oldest optics manufacturers operating in Germany which have outsourced the production of all binoculars. The company offers three binoculars variants, Bauer ED, Bauer HD, and Bauer Outdoor SL, all of which feature a lightweight magnesium construction and fluoride lenses for enhanced optical performance.
Sourcing binoculars from outside Europe helps in keeping the prices low. Similar is the case with Geco, which reportedly sold its first binoculars as early as the 1930s. Its binoculars are equipped with premium features, such as Extra Low-dispersion glass lenses for a higher colour-fidelity and a solid magnesium construction for added protection against accidents. Geco presently offers three binoculars, Geco RF Binoculars, Geco Gold Binoculars, and Geco Binoculars. The flagship Gold binos come with a 10-year warranty while the rest only come with a 5-year warranty.
Based in the UK, Pentacon Praktica was founded as a producer of cameras in 1949 in Dresden, East Germany. The company produced several versions of the Praktica cameras before being merged with Carl Zeiss Jena in the aftermath of WW2. Together, the two companies jointly produced several sport cameras and binoculars until the reunification of Germany in 1990, which prompted the end of its partnership with Carl Zeiss.
In the following years, the company saw large investments from the Schneider Group to keep the manufacturing operations from stalling. Today, Pentacon designs its binoculars but manufacturing has been outsourced to keep prices lower than the competition. Out of all products, the Marine 7x50 and Zoom binoculars are quite popular among avid outdoorsmen.
Braun Photo Technik GmbH was originally founded in 1915 in Nurnberg, Germany as a manufacturer of optical appliances. Initially called Karl Braun Camera-Werk, the company did not produce its first film camera until 1948 for which the company gained immense popularity. Over the years, the company has introduced several products to its product catalogue, such as binoculars, opaque projectors, and scanners. Presently, Braun offers a wide range of binoculars in both Porro and roof prisms designs. Popular models include Braun WP 8x42 and Trekking WP 8x32.
Dorr GmbH is a Germany-based sport optics manufacturer which was founded in 1973 by Hermann Dorr in Ulm, Germany. Unlike many others on the list, Dorr produced sport optics equipment, such as binoculars, spotting scopes, telescopes, and related accessories from the start. At present, the company offers several series of binoculars at fair prices with Danubia Bussard and Danubia Alpina LX being the popular models.
Although the development of sport optics has spread from Europe to all over the world lately, the German-made binoculars and riflescopes are still considered as the epitome of quality, thanks to the high-tech German engineering and their commitment to excellence. We are yet to come across a pair of binoculars which was produced in Germany and did not perform to its expectations.
Dubious brands take advantage of this widespread impression and deceive users by selling binoculars sourced from other countries under “Made in Germany” brands at attractive prices. For German manufacturers that design and produce binoculars in Germany from scratch, this can hurt their credibility and consequently affect their annual sales. Similar is the case for consumers, who are looking for quality products. Therefore, it is advised to distinguish the real German-made binoculars from cheap products before making your purchase.
is an experienced author from the field of sports optics. He writes articles and reviews about binoculars, spotting scopes, rifle scopes, long range shooting and other topics for magazines like Lovec and Optics-Info.com blog. Currently, he is a member of Optics Trade team.