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5 Best Vintage Binoculars (Japanese & Brass) of 2020 – Reviews & Top Picks

Last Updated on November 18, 2020

Old Modern Handicrafts Brass Binocular on Stand Collectible

Binoculars become increasingly more complex with each year that passes. And, while there are many good reasons for this, there is still plenty to be said for the vintage designs of old.

The brass and leather accents of antiques are beautiful, effective, and quite unlike the vast majority of products that are currently hitting the market.

Granted, you do sacrifice a little by opting for these old-fashioned design concepts. After all, there is a reason optical equipment has progressed so much.

However, the right pair of binoculars will treat you to the best of both worlds—the beauty and elegance of old, combining with the performance and efficiency of the new.

Read on for some vintage binoculars (Japanese and Brass) reviews!

A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Collectibles Buy Antique Victorian Brass Binocular Collectibles Buy Antique Victorian Brass Binocular
  • Handmade
  • 15X magnification
  • Awesome display piece
  • Best Value
    Second place
    NauticalMart Marine Brass Binocular NauticalMart Marine Brass Binocular
  • Affordable
  • Attractive design
  • Compact dimensions
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Old Modern Handicrafts Brass Binocular Old Modern Handicrafts Brass Binocular
  • Very attractive
  • Stand for easy displaying
  • High-quality brass, nickel, and wood
  • Collectibles Buy A Classic R & J Beck Brass Binocular Collectibles Buy A Classic R & J Beck Brass Binocular
  • Attractive brass
  • Decorative stamp
  • Modest dimensions
  • Collectibles Buy Antique Marine Victorian Binoculars Collectibles Buy Antique Marine Victorian Binoculars
  • Attractive brass
  • Handmade leather
  • The 5 Best Vintage Binoculars (Japanese & Brass) – Reviews 2020

    1. Collectibles Buy Antique Victorian Brass Binocular – Best Overall

    Antique Victorian Marine Brass Leather

    The Collectibles Buy is handmade, crafted with leather and brass, designed to look lightly distressed—thus accentuating the vintage aesthetic. The lenses are also fairly effective considering what we are dealing with here.

    The unit can be magnified by 15X, making it great for close-range viewing. For example, this pair might be good for birdwatching.

    However, the ultimate application for this pair will probably be as a display piece. This is mostly for the fact that the interface is not nearly as intuitive as that of more modern binoculars.

    It can be very hard to adjust for focus, which will be problematic for real-time viewing. It’s still an effective, highly attractive piece of equipment, but it can’t quite compare to the performance provided by a more modern design concept.

    Pros
    • Handmade
    • 15X magnification
    • Awesome display piece
    Cons
    • Quite challenging to adjust

    2. NauticalMart Marine Brass Binocular – Best Value

    Marine Brass Binocular with Antique Finish Spy Glass with Belt

    The NautficalMart comes in as our best vintage binoculars (Japanese and Brass) for the money. The build is almost entirely of brass and features extremely compact dimensions, including a length of just 4 inches.

    The unit also features an attractive leather strap, further enhancing the appearance of the piece. Buyers should, however, note that the word “nautical’ included in the name of this product may be something of a misnomer. While it does feature a 4X magnification range that may be conducive to close-range viewing, you probably wouldn’t actually take this unit out on a boat with you.

    The main issue is optical quality—the lenses are very murky which means that you won’t see much out of them. However, the appearance is still very striking, making them a good unit to be used as a prop or decorative piece.

    Pros
    • Affordable
    • Attractive design
    • Compact dimensions
    Cons
    • Low-quality lenses

    3. Old Modern Handicrafts Brass Binocular – Premium Choice

    Old Modern Handicrafts Brass Binocular on Stand Collectible

    The Old Modern is a display quality piece made in the style of 19th-century Victorian antiques. The unit is crafted from wood and brass and finished with nickel. It also comes with a brass and wood stand that matches the overall design concept of the binoculars.

    This makes the binoculars easier to display and (at least, theoretically) easier to use for hands-free viewing. Stands are often used for academic style implementation.

    Unfortunately, though, this is ultimately better for presentation than it is for research. The lenses are virtually useless at seeing more than 15-20 yards out—which is basically akin to saying that they don’t really perform better than the human eye.

    This is an issue common to many binoculars in this niche, but might be particularly disappointing when you factor in the cost. This product is also among the most expensive seen here.

    Pros
    • High-quality brass, nickel, and wood
    • Very attractive
    • Stand for easy displaying
    Cons
    • Lenses are basically useless
    • Very pricey

    4. Collectibles Buy A Classic R & J Beck Brass Binocular

    Classic Marine Spy Glass Antique London 1857 R & J Beck Brass Binocular Collectibles Gift

    The Collectibles Buy ZTS549 is made almost exclusively from a yellowish brass. It features an attractive image of an old-fashioned ship stamped onto the side and comes with a leather carrying case for easy transportation.

    The unit weighs just 10 ounces and features a length of about 3.5 inches. The specs make it optimal for birdwatching and other smaller outings. However, the magnification feature (listed at 10X) does not really work, which means it wouldn’t actually do you much good on the trail.

    We’ve also heard many users complain about the leather case. While the case advertised is of a darker brown leather, many have received something that is more albino in appearance. Depending on your sense of style, this may or may not be an issue, but it is nevertheless something to be aware of.

    Pros
    • Attractive brass
    • Decorative stamp
    • Modest dimensions for display or transportation
    Cons
    • Not functional
    • The leather case may not be as advertised

    5. Collectibles Buy Antique Marine Victorian Binoculars

    Antique Marine Victorian Binoculars Handmade Buffed Leather Cover Belt, 6 inches, Brass

    We close out the list with the Collectibles Buy ZTS502. The unit is made from brass and benefits from hand-buffed leather. The handmade quality is particularly nice in these display pieces because it imparts an imperfect appearance that enhances the idea that this might be a genuine antique.

    The binoculars are 6 inches in size and can be zoomed up to 15X (a good range for birdwatching or a day at the beach). It also features leather straps that are practical, while further enhancing the aesthetic.

    Unfortunately, the quality of the optics is only so-so. Most may consider this a display-only piece of equipment. It’s also one of the more expensive pieces of equipment on our list today.

    Pros
    • Handmade leather
    • Attractive brass
    Cons
    • Optics are basically useless
    • Quite pricey

    Buyer’s Guide

    And now, here are some buying considerations that may make your buying decision a little bit easier.

    A Word About the Dates Mentioned

    Most of these products feature a date somewhere in their name. For instance, the manufacturer might call it a 1917 model. Unfortunately, though, this does not mean it actually came from 1917 (if it did, the prices would be significantly higher).

    These are all replicas—designed either after real products or simply in the style of older instruments. For the layperson though, the difference doesn’t really matter. The nice thing about leather and brass is that it can be very difficult to visually determine how old the material is, which means your replica should be very convincing.

    Display Only?

    Many of the units featured here are effectively only for display. They may list a magnification rating but are ultimately useless in the field. However, if you want something that looks great and performs well, you aren’t completely out of luck.

    For example, our top choice can be used to at least some effect. However, none of these binoculars are made to be utilized extensively. If you want something more effective, you’ll probably favor a product with a much more modern design sensibility.

    Appearance

    Do you like how this pair of binoculars looks? If not, it probably isn’t right for you. The main point of these binoculars is to look good sitting on a shelf, so pick something that you wouldn’t mind displaying for many years to come.

    Conclusion

    Which of the vintage binocular reviews spoke to you the most? Maybe you want something that looks great on your shelf and can actually be used. If that is your objective, you’ll probably gravitate towards something like our top choice, the Collectibles Buy ZTS554 Antique Victorian Brass Binocular.

    Or, maybe getting a deal is more important. If so, you’ll like our runner up choice, the NauticalMart 4332111521 Marine Brass Binocular. At the end of the day though, your personal taste is going to be the most important factor. Opt for something you think looks great, and chances are pretty good you will be pleased with your purchase.

    About the Author Robert Sparks

    Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.