Expensive optics?

Discussion in 'Optics & Mounts' started by maddoccanis, Nov 23, 2012.

  1. maddoccanis

    maddoccanis New Member

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    I have a PhD in Physics and have worked on designing optical devices. I have to say I am hard pressed to justify the cost of high end optics. When optics were hand made one at a time they were expensive. Now they are mass produced. Can someone tell me why I am wrong?....doc
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2012
  2. SSGN_Doc

    SSGN_Doc Well-Known Member

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    Quality control. Hand assembly in controlled work spaces. There is still a lot of manual labor involved in sporting optics. Then those optics are subjected to weather, temperature extremes, recoil etc. and still expected to hold zero through power adjustments and maintain repeatable adjustments. Cost of facilities and equipment for mass production. Paying technicians that maintain the equipment. Unions, benefits packages, insurance, testing, marketing, lawyers, shipping and receiving, accounting. Designing it is only the beginning.


    A lab microscope doesn't get exposed to as many variables and extremes as a rifle scope. It has a controlled light source and background. Telescopes may get exposed to some weather and temp extremes but usually not as extreme and with less rough handling.

    Then when you get into red dots the best have to meet military requirements like all of the rough handling while holding zero, submersion requirements, ability to be exposed to salt water, night vision settings, and circuitry that can handle all of this along with battery power management that allows 50,000 hours of constant illumination. Some optics use radioactive gasses to illuminate the sight.

    Purging gasses and other hazmat costs. Lots of these are built outside of the US because of the labor and environmental costs that would be incurred here, and they are still expensive overseas. Then add import tariff. Then add good old supply and demand, and the market drives the price up even more.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2012

  3. JonM

    JonM Moderator

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    a lot of the cost has to do with how rugged the internals are and how well they repeat adjustments and how consistant the clicks are from stop to stop. the glass itself isnt the major factor.

    ssgn beat me to it with a better explanation :p
     
  4. SSGN_Doc

    SSGN_Doc Well-Known Member

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    But you were more concise.
     
  5. Cattledog

    Cattledog New Member

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    and you two beat me to all of it. What they said....:p
     
  6. Sonic82

    Sonic82 New Member

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    I think there's only a handful of labs that precision grind glass. I heard alot of the big manufacturers use the same labs.

    Actually, I used to grind and polish precision glass. Much tighter tolerances than for Sporting Optics. I made Ring Laser Gyros for the Aviation and Cruise Missle industry.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2012
  7. Cattledog

    Cattledog New Member

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    True that. Try looking at the stars with even a mediocre rifle scope and it wont look nearly as good as a cheap telescope. Strap that same telescope to a rifle and watch it become a paperweight in .005 seconds.
     
  8. KG7IL

    KG7IL Active Member

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    hmmm tell you why you are wrong. .. ..Ok, sure..

    You are wrong because the real world is a little tougher on scopes than a classroom or lab. Execution of design is critical. Manufacturing makes the biggest difference.

    Lower end manufacturing skimps on the quality of the manufacturing steps to keep costs low. Scopes do not acheive theoretical goodness. Approaching the goodness costs money.

    precision, material, coatings, mounting, seals, gas ......
    you know all of this as a design engineer.

    Hit the websites to look at the features and specs.

    Hit the stores, compare scopes.

    Try your constestants in low light condition and try the controls.
    Buy what you think is good enough.

    My guess is that you will soon see why you should spend a little more.


    References:
     
  9. Sonic82

    Sonic82 New Member

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    Not sure of your point...glass quality doesn't have much to do with durability that I know of.
     
  10. TCH2FLY

    TCH2FLY New Member

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    Just to be clear, what can't you justify? Is it the list price of the optic or is it PAYING that price because those are two very different things. I'm also not sure what price point you consider "high end", $500, $1000, $3000 or :confused: ?

    Several valid reasons the list price is so high have been listed above so I won't go back over them but complexity also plays a big part of high end scopes.
    As a designer you must know that as the user requirements increase so does complexity. The shooters requirements for high resolution and clarity with good contrast will require a more complex lens array so where a low end scope might have 5 lenses, a high end scope might have 10 or more. This increases the critical nature of the assembly process to ensure proper alignment and increases the cost to produce.

    As far as paying for a high end scope, I can't possibly say you are wrong because you may not have a need for the level of clarity, ruggedness or functionality offered as the price increases. Honestly, the differences between top-end and bottom-end optics are huge but grow smaller as the price point increases from the mid-range up. It really becomes a personal preference due to the unique qualities of an individual's eyes/vision.

    If you hunt in open country with good light you will likely not see an advantage to a high-end scope. If you hunt in dense vegetation under low light you might need the better resolution and contrast in order to separate the game from the background or each other. If you shoot long distances then higher magnification with less distortion is very important and can be provided by the higher end products.
    I own scopes that range for $50 to $3000 and they each fufill a specific requirement ... in the end only you can “justify" making that purchase. :)
     
  11. gunnut07

    gunnut07 New Member

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    Because most optics aren't made to withstand the use and abuse a rifle scope is made to take. There is a lot of design and testing done on scopes. Think about it a mid grade Leupold VX-3 has to withstand everything from a 22lr to a 416 rigby or 50bmg. In guns ranging in weight from 5 to 35#.
     
  12. Vincine

    Vincine New Member

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    Full multi-coatings on all glass surfaces cost more than partial. Small lenses are more difficult to assemble and glue together dust free & centered than larger glass. Complexity and durability are usually design opposites and don’t get along. The clicks on turret adjustments need to be both small & durable, so you may have tiny machined pieces instead of cheaper stamped gears. Cutting tiny threads precisely to tight tolerances takes time. That or you can go with a high rejection ratio. All of the small springs/tension pieces, screws, etc., above takes more time to assemble than simpler designs.

    I used to be a press photographer. Nikon & Canon lens specs were 1/2 a wavelength and the glass was held in the lens mount with three screws. Leica lens specs were 1/8 a wavelength and had eight screws holding the glass in place. You could see the difference between Leica and Nikon slides, although it wouldn’t survive the reproduction process. As strong as the Leicas ($$$$) were, the Nikons & Canons ($$) were strong enough for press work.

    If you're only shooting bench rest on bright days you can get by with less involved or robust designs. If you’re hunting, or in a war zone getting shot at, maybe you need something that can give you a usable image at dusk, stand rough treatment, and still maintain repeatable clicks. Thus the expense.
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2012
  13. Jpyle

    Jpyle New Member

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    You guys are overlooking one major aspect...size and weight, ok 2 aspects. A microscope and a telescope are not intended to be carried around so they can be heavy and bulky. A rifle optic has to accomplish precision in a small, relatively lightweight package. The precision gears and optics required to achieve maximum magnification with no optical distortion in a relatively short focal length costs money. You can buy inexpensive scopes but will suffer from blurring, erratic adjustments, decreasing brightness and chromatic shifting around the edges. Same reasons that Saturn appears as a dim blob of light on a Walmart telescope but you can count the rings on an "astronomers" scope of the same size.
     
  14. maddoccanis

    maddoccanis New Member

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    Thanks for all your responses. I don't hunt, so I am admittedly ignorant. I just wondered about the huge discrepancy between low end and high end optics. I have looked at low end items and do not see them as particularly bad. Today I received a catalog from Orion telescopes and you can buy a telescope that would have been a university quality research scope for $2200. I have seen rifle scopes for this price. I see that ruggedness has to be engineered in, but that shouldn't be expensive. Multiple lenses would add to the cost, but to minimize distortions the minimum number of elements should be used. Light gathering is mostly a function of the diameter of the aperture. I'm not saying anyone is wrong for buying what they want, I just think there are really good optics out there cheap. I have bought a lot of photo optics that are great.....doc
     
  15. jjfuller1

    jjfuller1 New Member

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    You didn't say what prices you were talking about still. I find the $160 nikons to be amazing. But if I had a .50 it would wear the $2000 swarvoski.
     
  16. JonM

    JonM Moderator

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    good internals arent cheap because they cant be cast or stamped when the parts are that small. they have to be machine cut from stock. a low end scope will self destruct under medium to heavy usage. retaining zero under vibration is a difficult thing to do. a el cheapo scope just doesnt cut it when the erectors holding the crosshairs are made of cheap aluminum.

    different kinds of guns beat on scopes harder than others. the recoil impulse of a m1a will beat the snot out of a scope harder than a 338winmag. ive seen plenty of redfields and leupolds with snapped broken or delaminated lenses. they are cheap for a reason. while mostdo just fine there are enough instances to be careful what your using em for.

    ive currently got a vortex 4-12x on my scar17 for my deer hunt trip to tejas next week. if it breaks no biggee ive got iron sights as a backup. my wife with her stolen from me savage 10fcp-sr and nightforce 4.5-15x f1 nxs. if you put those two scopes side by side the difference is immediate and no doubt apparent. turn the adjustment knobs on both look at the edge clarity of the glass and the click adjustments are solid.

    will the vortex on my rifle get deer?? yup all day long and it does ok at range. but its a LOT easier with the nightforce ;) in the dusk and morning hours its readily evident as well what the price difference covers.

    price doesnt mean its good because its expensive or bad because its cheaper in cost. for most shooting needs scopes in the 150-300$ do just fine. when you get into precision shooting or prepping for the end of the world you might want something more precise and rugged.

    precision like ruggedness cost $$. its true of astronomy telescopes or biological microscopes just as it is of rifle scopes. you can see cells just fine with a microscope from the toy isle of walmart but if you want to do side by side stereoscopic comparison of cells or disect cells you need something a bit more precise.
     
  17. Vincine

    Vincine New Member

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    @ the OP:

    Microscopes, telescopes, camera lenses & rifle scopes are probably very similar, except for one thing. Rifle scopes are routinely and regularly subjected to serious shock, thousands of times. It's a degree of durability the others don't have to be engineered to meet. That said, I do believe you start to get diminishing returns after a few hundred dollars. As I'm sure you know, to go from perfectly adequate to perfect, more than doubles the cost, without a commensurate bang for the buck. Those last several points to 100% are very expensive.
     
  18. c3shooter

    c3shooter Administrator Staff Member

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    Would add that the quality of the glass is only one component of the quality of a scope. Usually multiple lenses- and the product used to attach one lens to another affects transmission of light. Coating on lenses is another.

    I have a CHEAP 60 power Chinese spotter scope. I needs full sun on the target, or looks like you are peering thru morning fog. Have a 24X varmint scope, cost a LOT more, much smaller, much more rugged- and brighter than a new penny.

    Would love to be able to put my Cassegrain scope on a rifle. It would last for one shot. :(
     
  19. gunnut07

    gunnut07 New Member

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    Many of the high end scopes (Leupold Mk4, nightforce, ect...) are built with thicker tubes thicker glass and what not.

    OK glass cost is all dependent on what you are doing.

    My f-class gun wears a Sightron SIII 8-32x56mm scope. $850 to $1k. This scope has to be spot on when I make click adjustments moving from 800 to 1000 yards. I can't afford to have it make adjustments like a $150 hunting scope where 1 click might be 1/8 MOA and the next 1/2MOA sure it averages out to 1/4MOA click. My scope has to shoot the box almost perfectaly or else it goes back or gets sold.

    Many of my shooting buddies who shoot bench rest use March Scopes made by Denon Optics. These scopes are hand build by 1 of 4 Japenese Optical Engineers. They have ever part made to their exacting specs and they hand assemble and fit these scope. Their cost $2000+ they are totally worth it.

    If you think $1k scopes are not worth the money then I ask you to go to a store and talk to someone and take a Lower end say Bushnell Banner scope out and look out side with it along with a Leupold VX-3 or other high end scope and look at them side by side. Don't look through scopes in the store this is how many people do it. Are you going to be deer hunting inside a gun store?

    You claim you are ignorant about rifle scopes but, when guys who have been hunting and shooting all of their life and many of which have scopes ranging from $100 to $1000 pass on information to you, you dismiss what we are telling you.

    I could care less about how much some dang telescope cost. A telescope, microscope and a rifle scope are 3 vastly different animals and you can't compare prices, build quality, optical clairty on them. That is like saying a BMW 7 series not worth the money because a Cessna 172 cost x amount. You are not trying to compare apples to oranges, you are trying to compare the taste of an orange to that of a dog turd and Hákarl (See Foot Note).




    Foot Note: http://www.theexpeditioner.com/2011/06/16/my-encounter-with-hakarl-the-worst-tasting-food-on-earth/
     
  20. maddoccanis

    maddoccanis New Member

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    I don't dismiss what anyone says. I'm just curios. Everybody has the right to buy what they want. I didn't say they were wrong. Enjoy....doc