Japanese External Reverse Porro Prism Binoculars. VIRTUAL MUSEUM

Les origines de l'Allemand jumelles miniatures

Истоки немецкий миниатюрный бинокль

Los orígenes del alemán prismáticos en miniatura




Text Box: Additional Advertisements: Fata Morgana Binoculars Weitere Werbematerialien für „Fata Morgana“-Ferngläser. Annonces Supplémentaires: «Fata Morgana» Jumelles. Дополнительные рекламные объявления: «Fata Morgana» бинокль.   追加のアドバタイズメント:Fata Morgana双眼鏡.Ytterligare annonser: “Fata Morgana” kikare. Nuevos anuncios: «Fata Morgana» Prismáticos.

Fata Morgana advertisement by the optician ETZ & PRITCHARD, in Charleston, West Virginia USA, June 1923

Fata Morgana advertisement by the jewelers William Wise & Son, Flatbush Ave at   Fulton & Nevins Streets, Brooklyn NY USA in 1922

Using Fata Morgana binoculars. „Fata Morgana“ Ferngläser im Gebrauch. Jumelles «Fata Morgana» en cours d’utilization.

Optical Journal & Review of Optometry Vol 49 Jan 1922

Text Box:   Precedent Design? Präzedenzfall -Design? Précédent design? Прецедент Дизайн? 先例のデザイン
   Prejudikat Design? Diseño Prejudikat?

    An interesting pair of prismatic binoculars (or binocular telescope) exists in the Louwman Collection of Historic Telescopes in the Netherlands. They were created by Carston Diederick Ahrens (1837-1918), ...“the most famous maker of hand ground precision optical glass, polarizing Nicol prisms and quartz plates in the world during his lifetime” according to Stuart Talbot. Ahrens worked in and around London, England. The binoculars are of interest in the context of this website because the prism arrangement and physical presentation (though not the size or objective tubes) is similar to the design later used by Baumann in the Fata Morgana. Ahrens was issued a British patent number of 17102/84 on Dec 31, 1884. No patent details survive, and there is contemporary evidence the patent was not completed (exhibited, but not registered plus completed). Stuart Talbot notes that in “Binokularen Instrumenten” published by Carl Zeiss Jena historian Prof. Moritz von Rohr in 1920, Rohr states that Carston Ahrens applied for an   English patent for a double telescope in 1884, but the patent was not completed. Rohr stated that the firm of Carl Zeiss was in possession of an example of the Ahrens binoculars, but that Ahrens had not utilized the advantage of image erection by Porro prisms to result in shortened [objective] tubes.

   Zeiss subsequently did so with their 1894 compact binoculars, and then Baumann took miniaturization quite a bit further with his 1919 design.




Ahrens Photos courtesy of Peter Louwman

Louwman Collection of   Historic Telescopes, The Netherlands

It is amusing to note that the United Binocular Co of Chicago imported a reverse poro prism design that seems to be quite similar to the 1884 Ahrens binoculars, which they called “the Falcon”, sold for a short time around 1956. That design did not seem to persist, and was presumably not popular. I have not yet obtained an example. They also sold monocular spotting scopes of a similar design, which seemed to be more popular, and seem to have been produced in larger quantities.

The following information is based on information from the article “C.D. Ahrens (1837-1918) Optical Prism Worker of Every Description” by Stuart Talbot, FRAS, published in The Bulletin of the Scientific   Instrument Society No 121 (2014), and provided to me by Peter Louwman. Additional information is from a history of C. D. Ahrens by Jean and Colin Gaskin which can be viewed at Peter Abrahams website at: http://home.europa.com/~telscope/temp/Gaskin.2011.C.D.Ahrens.pdf.





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Text Box:  Optistar Binoculars: Partially Disassembled. „Optistar “-Ferngläser: Teilweise Zerlegt. «Optistar» Jumelles: Partiellement Dissimulé. «Optistar» Бинокль : частично разобрана. Optistar 双眼鏡:部分的に分解.:”Optistar” Kikare: Delvis Demonterade.  «Optistar» Prismáticos: Parcialmente Desarmado.

I recently had the opportunity to disassemble a pair of Optistar binoculars to diagnose a fault (chipped prism).

When you bought an “A.B.C.” “Optistar” prism 6x binoculars in the early to mid 1920’s, “the exquisite sport, travel and marine binoculars”, this is what you received. Even by today’s standards, these are an appealing, attractive, well designed and are a well made pair of binoculars that are a pleasure to use. Collection of Mark Ohno, binocular serial # 42784. Binocular & Case sourced in the United States , Box sourced in Germany .

As is commonly encountered, the prisms were marked in pencil. I am uncertain about the meaning. It is apparently a current practice to mark prisms for direction of deviation, amount of deviation, and light travel as a plus or minus value relative to ideal. Comments welcome...

Text Box: Fata Morgana Binoculars with an Interesting History and Dealer Markings. „Fata Morgana“ Ferngläser mit einer interessanten Geschichte und mit Händler Kennzeichnungen. «Fata Morgana» Jumelles avec une Histoire Intéressante et avec des Marques de Courtiers. «Fata Morgana»  Бинокль с интересной историей и с Дилер разметке. 興味深い歴史を持つとディーラーのマーキングFATA双眼鏡. ”Fata Morgana” Kikare Med en Intressant Historia Och Med Dealer Märkningar. «Fata Morgana»  Prismáticos con una Historia Interesante y con Marcas de Distribuidores.

My research indicates that these Fata Morgana binoculars marked “Ludwig B ü nger “and “Bandoeng” and “Semaring” were marked for and sold by the optician firm of Ludwig B ü nger. The firm had shops in the cities of Bandoeng (later Bandung) and Semaring in the 1920's on the island of Java. Java was part of the colony of the Dutch East Indies at the time (now Indonesia). Meine forschung zeigt, dass diese Fata Morgana Fernglas mit “Ludwig B ü nger “ und “Bandoeng” und “Semaring” wurden markiert und vom Optiker Firma Ludwig B ü nger verkauft. Die Firma hatte den Geschäften in den Städten von Bandoeng (Bandung) und Semaring in den 1920er Jahren auf der Insel Java. Java war Teil der Kolonie Niederländisch-Indien zu der Zeit (heute Indonesien). Ma recherche indique qe ces jumelles Fata Morgana marqués “Ludwig B ü nger “ et “Bandoeng”   et “Semaring” ont été marqués pour et vendus par la firme opticien de Ludwig B ü nger . La firme avait des magasins dans les villes de Bandoeng (Bandung) et Semaring dans les années 1920 sur l'île de Java . Java faisait partie de la colonie des Indes hollandaise à l'époque (l'actuelle Indonésie ). Min forskning tyder på att dessa Fata Morgana kikare markerade “Ludwig B ü nger “ och “Bandoeng” och “Semaring” markerades för och säljs av optiker firman Ludwig B ü nger . Företaget hade butiker i städerna Bandoeng (Bandung) och Semaring i 1920-talet på ön Java. Java var en del av kolonin av den holländska Ostindien på tiden (numera Indonesien ). Mi investigación indica que estos prismáticos Fata Morgana marcados “Ludwig B ü nger “ y “Bandoeng” y “Semaring” estuvieron marcados por y vendidos por la firma óptico de Ludwig B ü nger. La firma tenía tiendas en las ciudades de Bandoeng (Bandung) y Semaring en la década de 1920 en la isla de Java. Java fue parte de la colonia de las Indias Orientales Holandesas en el momento (actual Indonesia )

Fata Morgana binoculars with case,

Serial number 35,117.

Latest Fata Morgana Serial number

    documented to date

Collection of Mark Ohno, USA

Sourced in Germany

Information about Ludwig Bünger came from sources including the Catalogus Koliniale Tentoonstelling (Colonial Exhibition catalog) published in Semaring, Java, Dutch East Indies, various years including 1914, with PDF scan by Colonialearchitecture.eu. The Bünger firm is mentioned as exhibiting in 1916,   and is mentioned in trade directories such as Archief voor de suikerindustrie in Nederlandsch-Indië, Volume 30, Part 1 1922, geïllustreerd tijdschrift voor Nederland en koloniën, Volume 7 1923, and the firm is mentioned at least through

1928, with 1920-1930 being a potential time frame for involvement with Fata Morgana binoculars.

Photo of the trade stand of optician Ludwig B ü nger at the Colonial Exhibition held at the Jaarbeurs building in Bandoeng, Java, Dutch East Indies. Ludwig B ü nger sold eyeglasses (which they fabricated themselves), as well as lorgnettes, binoculars & field glasses, microscopes, and presumably telescopes or surveying transits (there appear to be a couple of telescopes or transits on tripods in the photo.) You can see a chair in the alcove for giving exhibition attendees their free eye exams (and selling them eyeglasses). The photo is reputed to be from around 1923. Circled objects may be Fata Morgana binoculars. Keep in mind that by third quarter 1923 German hyperinflation made the German mark worth between 1-4 trillion marks to on US dollar (from around 4 marks to a dollar during the war years), and 32 to the dollar in late 1919, so that a loaf of bread in 1923 cost 200 billion marks, and foreign currencies were considered to have more stable value than German currency.

Recent photo of the Jaarbeurs public hall in Bandung, Indonesia (edited) photo credit: Albert Tok.

Additional research assistance provided by fellow enthusiasts Hans Braakhuis and Ulrich Zeun

Text Box: Eerste Java’sche Optisch– Mechanische Industrie Bandoeng Ludwig Bunger Semarang
First Java Optical Mechanical Industry [city of ] Bandoeng Ludwig Bunger [city of ] Semarang



1923 thirty billion Reichs mark banknote

Notgeld (emergency) type. Around six and a half of these might buy a loaf of bread at the time.   Collection of Mark Ohno

I was trained as an archaeologist, using recovered objects to interpret human and societal activity. My 30 billion German Marks banknote at left is a relic indicative of the unintended (or perhaps intended) consequences of post World War One war reparations policies intended to punish Germany. While the production of luxury goods such as Fata Morgana binoculars in the 1920’s might seem incongruous during a period of sustained currency chaos, in fact the opposite is true, as luxury hard goods were widely seen as a safe haven against increasingly worthless paper currency. This is an example of how human behavior may follow a logic that deviates from conventional expectations, and how warfare may take economic as well as militaristic guises.

1922 advertisement

Text Box:  German Harwix Mirakel binoculars. Deutsch „Harwix Mirakel“ Fernglässer. Jumelles «Harwix       
  Mirakel» Allemand. Tysk ”Harwix Mirakel” Kikare. Prismaticos «Harwix Mirakel» Alemán.

As his 1921 patent applications shows, the Mirakel binocular design of Ewald Harwix was a similar but different German design approach to that taken by Alfred Baumann with his Fata Morgana and Optistar designs. Both targeted a similar consumer market at around the same time, and were competitors, though the fragile bakelite plastic body of the Mirakel was rather less elegant. The Mirakel is not part of the Fata Morgana to Nikko Mikron to post war Japanese miniature binoculars design lineage, but it does reflect similar and competitive contemporary designs of miniature or pocket binoculars.

1930 advertisement

1926 advertisement

All Harwix advertisements courtesy of Ulrich Zeun


Plate Glass Factory, Reno, Nevada USA, Dec. 23, 1923

Text Box:  Fata Morgana & Optistar. Frame Thickness. Design & Production Variations
 Design-und Herstellungsvarianten der „Fata Morgana“- und „Optistar“-Ferngläser: Rahmenstärke. Jumelles «Fata Morgana» et «Optistar». Épaisseur de la Monture.  Variations de Conception et de Fabrication. Fata Morgana И «Optistar» бинокль: рамы различия. «Fata Morgana» & «Optistar» Prismáticos: Variaciones en la Producción de la Trama.

Fata Morgana and Optistar binoculars underwent various minor production changes over time, including eyepieces, focus rings, frame thickness, objective tubes, geometry, markings, carry cases, and perhaps some other changes. In terms of frame thickness, there seem to have been three different frame thicknesses for the Fata Morgana binoculars, of approximately 5mm-6mm at least to serial # 8383, then 7mm, then changing late in production to approximately 10mm, noted after serial # 25490, with the late production “Prinzess” also 10mm. There appears to have been one frame thickness for the Optistar model of approximately 10mm.

Fata Morgana Serial # 680,

Earliest pattern, Frame approx. 6mm

Fata Morgana Serial # 8383,

Early production, Frame approx. 6mm

Fata Morgana Serial #15105

(gilded brass) Frame approx. 7mm

Fata Morgana Serial # 14133,

Frame approx. 7mm


Frame approx 10mm

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