A Work Commenced April 03 2023
After the rather joyful experience with the Tento BPC 7x 35, which turned out to be a real peach of a binocular, my interest in classic Russian glass was piqued, so I decided to investigate a couple of 8 x 30 Porro prism binoculars manufactured by another Russian optics house, KOMZ, which stands for Kazan Optical and Mechanical Plant, that specializes in the production of high-quality optical equipment. The company was founded in 1940 in the city of Kazan, located in the Republic of Tatarstan in Russia.
Initially, KOMZ produced military-grade optical devices such as binoculars and telescopes for the Soviet Union. Today, the company continues to produce a range of optical equipment including riflescopes, binoculars, telescopes, and spotting scopes for both civilian and military use.
KOMZ is known for its high-quality optics, which are made using advanced technology and precise manufacturing processes. The company’s products are also known for their durability and reliability, making them a popular choice among hunters, shooters, and outdoor enthusiasts.
In addition to producing its own line of optics, KOMZ also provides components and optics for other companies in the industry. The company has a strong presence in the international market and exports its products to over 30 countries around the world. Overall, KOMZ is a respected and well-established optics firm that has been producing high-quality optical equipment for over 80 years.
I bought two of the 8x 30 KOMZ binoculars, both from Oxfam stores; one model dated to 1977 BNU4(USSR) and the other a later BNU5 1992 (Russia) which had a 8 x30 M designation. They cost £30 and £50, respectively.
Both instruments have an all-metal quality construction, weighing about 600g. The 1977 instrument came with the groovy orange eyepiece filters, shown below:
Why, one may ask, did KOMZ manufacture these filters? Well, it turns out that older Russian binoculars often came with orange eyepiece filters because they were designed for use in low-light conditions such as at dawn or dusk, where the spectral peak of the ambient light shifted to shorter, bluer wavelengths, or on cloudy days. The orange filters also helped to improve image clarity and contrast by blocking out blue light, which can cause glare and reduce visibility in low-light situations. In addition, the orange filters also provided some protection against harmful UV radiation from the sun, especially when exposed to blinding winter snow. This was particularly important for people who used binoculars for extended periods, such as hunters, birdwatchers, and military personnel.
Although both instruments are separated by 15 years according to the serial numbers, their design features look pretty much identical to my eye. The large central focus wheel on the 1977 model worked well but had a significant amount of play. The later 1992 model had a better focuser, with less free play, though I did note that a small amount remained. Testing these in some sub zero night time temperature exposures showed that they continued to work well even after exposing them for a couple of hours. Like the Tento BPC 7 x 35 I tested, these KOMZ focus wheels worked just fine in the cold.
The eyepieces are made from some kind of hard plastic and are decently comfortable but do not have enough eye relief to accommodate eye glass wearers. The right eye dioptre worked well in both instruments and I was impressed by how rigidly they kept their positions compared with several more recent Chinese and Japanese-made 8 x 30 Porro prism models I have personally tested, which did get rather sluggish when subjected to the same low temperature regimes
Both models had accumulated quite a bit of dust and grime on the outside of the chassis, but after cleaning them carefully, I was able to see that the insides had not accumulated much in the way of haze and both were fungus free. Both instruments appear to have decent quality BaK4 Porro prisms. Examining the exit pupils of these instruments revealed pretty consistent results. Below is a shot of a typical result I got by looking at the pupils placed behind a soft living room lamp.
The antireflection coatings applied to the 1997 and 1992 models looked different in daylight though. The 1977 model had a pronounced purple bloom on both the objective and ocular lenses, but those on the 1992 unit were far more subdued, as the photos below reveal.
Testing both instruments in bright overcast conditions showed that the optics were pretty much identical in both instruments, which genuinely surprised me, as I had expected the 1992 model with the ‘M’ billing to be brighter. That’s because I understood the 1992 model to have a full multicoating.
Both served up sharp images within a nice big sweet spot very reminiscent of a mid-1980s Zeiss Jenoptem 8 x 30 I showcased a while back. Close focus was similar in both: about 3.5m. I found myself wishing that I could pull down those tall ocular cups, since I could not quite see the field stops in either instrument.
Conducting some tests after dark showed very similar results when I turned them on a bright sodium streetlamp. There was some glare and a few significant internal reflections in both instruments. The same was true when I used them in the open air, where both units showed quite dim images, and also exhibited quite high levels of glare; too much, in fact, for my liking. That’s such a pity; despite being very sharp and in possession of a well corrected and wide field of view, glare ingloriously robs the image of contrast, essentially ruining the images.
Overall I was a little underwhelmed by these sexy looking compact 8 x 30 Russian glasses. They are nice collector’s items, and fun to play around with, but ultimately not something I would like to use on a regular basis.
Thanks for reading!
Read more about some other classic binoculars in my new book; Choosing & Using Binoculars: A Guide for Stargazers, Birders and Outdoor Enthusiasts, due out in the fall of 2023.