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Fujinon Polaris 16x 70 mm FMT-SX Binocular

Fujinon 16x 70mm FMT-SX rear (101,406 Bytes) The Fujinon 16x 70 mm FMT-SX is one of the two larger cousins of the highly popular 7x 50 mm FMT-SX, the other being the 10x 50 mm FMT-SX. The 16x 70 mm FMT-SX is a first rate binocular that provides features meeting the needs the highly demanding astronomy and shipboard marine communities. And because of its highly efficient light gathering power (about twice that of the comparable quality 50 mm models), balance of transportability, waterproofness and durability. The 16x 70 mm FMT-SX is also a good choice for longer distance panoramic observation, law enforcement and surveillance, coast watching, air traffic control (even shipboard), mountainside observing, and low light nature observation.

Right: Fujinon 16x 70 mm FMT-SX Binocular (101,406 Bytes).
Click on image to see enlarged view (258,629 bytes)

The magnification and aperture balance along with the highly perfected optical design means the 16x 70 mm FMT-SX makes good sense for those pursuing astronomy from urban or suburban skies since the exit pupil is more practical (given the eye's inability to fully dark adapt in these areas). And at 16x the sky background appears blacker than in its 10x 70 mm cousin. Comets, the planets, moon and other brighter objects appear more distinct in part due to the magnification, but in some measure due to the smaller exit pupil than that of the 10x 70mm model. The extra magnification also helps to reign in more of the deep sky objects since many of these tend to be smaller than the four degree area of sky shown even by the 16x 70 mm FMT-SX. A number of Company Seven's clients and some of our employees have been able to identify the entire Messier Catalog from suburban skies with the 16x 70 mm FMT-SX and it's predecessor the 14x 70 mm FMT-SX. In rare instances where a Comet makes an approach close enough to Earth to appear immense, then the wider fields of view provided by the 16x 70 mm FMT-SX or even the 7x 50 FMT-SX may be more desirable.

The Fujinon company is based in Japan and is a well regarded maker of medical, photographic and sports optics products. Their FMT-SX series are their result of years of efforts to perfect a series of binoculars that are suitable for highly demanding marine and astronomical uses. These systems employ a refined doublet objective lens arrangement feeding substantial optical glass (BaK-4) porro prisms and so light fall off or vignetting are among the most modest in production binoculars. These are matched to a very comfortable five element eyepiece. Fujinon's multilayer electron beam deposited antireflection coatings assure a high degree of light throughput, and the elimination of ghost images or glare. The result provides an high degree of contrast, clarity and sharpness across the entire field of view; stars appear as pinpoints against a black velour background of the night sky. The clarity leaves little to be desired, and these feel reassuringly firm in the hand - complemented by their non slip coverings and rubber trim pads.

The FMT-SX series are the most sophisticated binoculars offered by Fujinon and offer the best value overall in terms of performance, reliability, and comfort among all the consumer oriented 70 to 80 mm binoculars made. The 70 mm FMT-SX series tend to outperform most others consumer oriented 80 mm binoculars made by in Japan and China, even though the 70 mm FMT-SX may cost about the same as these competitors or slightly more. One would have to look up towards one of our Carl Zeiss 60 mm or Nikon's best 70 mm binoculars, either will cost twice as much or more than the FMT-SX.

The eyepieces of the 16x 70mm FMT-SX are constructed of five optical glass lens elements providing a field of view with little coma or distortion. All air to glass surfaces of the SX series are E-Beam coated. The eyepiece design provides flat field performance (hence the "F" prefix) with diminished field-curvature. When pointed onto the night sky the stars across most of the field of view are seen as intense pinpoints. And those stars seen toward the extreme periphery, while not quite as sharp as those in the center, are still clear and not distracting. The capacity to image a star as an intense point of light is the most difficult test of any optical system; the "star test" using artificial stars (often a laser source fed through a tiny perfect pinhole) is quite a common and valid technique for subjectively judging the merits of an optical system.

The FMT series display less pincushion distortion than most competing models. One has to work to see what little there is of it - but if you look carefully when panning then a slight bending of the image may appear towards the edges of the field of view. This uncommonly good level of correction comes with some balance of field of view, Fujinon 16x 70 mm FMT-SX provides a field of view of 4 degrees, this is comparable or better than most other Porro 15x to 20x 80 mm models which range around 3 to 4.5 degrees.

The color correction of the FMT-SX is quite good too. When looking at a bright star (Sirius, Vega, etc.) or a black bird on a tree contrasted against a light blue sky, you will not observe any obvious secondary color fringing. The terminator of the Moon for example is sharp, crisp, and three dimensional contrasted against the blackness of space.

cover of Touring the Universe Through Binoculars (116,734 bytes) The optical performance alone could be considered the critical best feature for a demanding astronomer, and this is not commonly found with most other binoculars anywhere near this cost. Incidentally, we find it more than coincidental that the 70 mm FMT-SX are considered the "poster child" of astronomy binoculars and one was selected by Phil Harrington to grace the cover of his book Touring The Universe Through Binoculars which we also stock. But in addition to the very good optical aspects, there are highly attractive mechanical features:

Left: cover of Phil Harrington's book "Touring the Universe Through Binoculars" (24,583 bytes).
Click on image at left to view enlarged view (116,734 bytes).

  • Individual Focus: the user initially sets focus by turning each of the two eyepiece housings clockwise or counterclockwise, and once focus is set for infinity then there is no need to fiddle with it. It is possible to adjust each independently and so if you have normal vision, then you may set "0" on the dial. Or if you have prescription glasses with one eye -1.5 and another +2 then it is a simple matter to dial these in on the eyepiece indicator scales and then make fine adjustments as may be needed. The depth of field of focus is so great with these binoculars, that once focused for infinity one may see details on objects as near as about eighty feet without having to focus again.

    Thus individual focus eyepieces and mechanical bridge design are helpful considerations for astronomy and shipboard marine use too where one needs to be able to pull the binocular up the eye and see a target in the distance quickly, and without wondering if an object coming out of the fog is in focus or not. The individual focus arrangement facilitates sealing against water and the elements.

    The eye relief (distance from the eyepiece lens to the eye) is 12.4 mm, this is adequate for most who do not need to wear glasses but less than the 15 mm or so we prefer for all spectacle wearers. Those who do not have deep set eyes and or thick glasses may be able to do acceptably well with the 12.4 mm by simply roll down the provided eyecups. In time these rubber eyecups can be replaced easily since they are threaded in place. Their 4 mm exit pupil make this binocular more practical to use for astronomy than those of similar aperture and with larger exit pupils for those in the suburbs where their eyes may not dilate to accept a larger exiting light cone.

    The "M" in the designation indicates this is a Fujinon binocular designed for marine use. The FMT-SX meet the US military specifications for water proofness. This rating is a measure of the binoculars' capacity to survive immersion in water at depth for a period of time. Our sense is the binocular will tolerate more shock, vibration and water immersion than the owner will. Furthermore, the metal and alloy materials used in the construction are nonferrous and so the binocular will not distort a magnetic compass.

Our comparisons between the 70 mm FMT-SX and popular consumer oriented 80 mm binoculars have found:

  1. The high efficiency of the FMT-SX optical design made possible by advanced glass and coatings technologies make up in quality for whatever they may lack in aperture. We often find moderate cost 80 mm models incorporate designs that simply can not transmit as much light as the FMT-SX, often these 80 mm models incorporate a Field Stop (a washer like ring) just behind the 80 mm objective lens to reduce the effective aperture as a means to make the view appear sharper, all while cutting the effective light gathering power and resolution for example.

  2. The high performance design of the FMT-SX series produces wider and more useful actual fields of view. Images are sharper and clearer across the field of view and to the edge of the field of view much more so than those provided with the moderate cost 80 mm models.

  3. Mechanical durability provides longevity. Given reasonable care, then these individual focus FMT-SX can provide a lifetime of good service that is simply no likely to be matched by comparatively priced center focus 80 mm models. Company Seven has never received a new FMT-SX that arrived with quality control defects, or that was shaken out of collimation. While in the case of the less costly 80 mm binoculars for example, the may come out of the box new out of proper collimation to some degree whether immediately obvious or not - this is why we have to check each of these meticulously. And assuming 80 mm binoculars arrive intact, then most must be handled and transported gingerly compared to the 70 mm FMT-SX.

Now we are not saying that the less costly 80 mm models are useless, many 80 mm models coming from Japan, and as China improves from there too, are a fair value for many people. We simply want one to understand the differences in what they are buying when they spend $300 or so less than the FMT-SX to buy an economical 80 mm: most people who spend somewhat more to buy the Fujinon 70 mm FMT-SX are happier, longer.

  • The eyepiece focus and the 56 to 74 mm interpupilary (IP) spacing adjustment by pulling the hinged barrels together or apart. These motions are done smoothly with some mild effort, and stay where you leave them set. The seals and lubricants permit focus and IP spacing changes in temperatures ranging from from a low of -20 and + 50 degrees C.

    These eyepieces are wide enough that some people with larger noses and narrow IP spacing may not be accommodated. And this is in part why we at Company Seven continue to see the value of a showroom environment where one may visit and try a binocular first hand.

  • Tripod Adapter: There is a good amount of area on these to grip comfortably, and to balance well in the hand. However at 16x and weighing a bit more than 4 lbs. / 1.9 kg, these binoculars are barely hand hold able for any length of time by an adult of average height and good health. This is not among our binocular that you will keep handy on a neck strap for extended sessions. In all fairness, there simply is quite a lot of weight associated with the optical elements needed to provide such good images and light gathering power. The solution for the magnification and weight issue is the optional Tripod Adapter used with a suitable tripod and head.

    Fujinon 7x 50mm FMT-SX Binocular (98,506 Bytes) The front of the 16x 70 mm FMT-SX binocular Central Axis Bridge incorporates a ¼ inch - 20 tpi threaded socket which will accept most L bracket style binocular Tripod Adapters; this socket is provided protected by a thread on plastic cover. This hardware option permits one to install the binocular onto common camera tripod heads. While there are many cheap and simple adapters, and some poorly engineered adapters made, Company Seven recommends and stocks that adapter made by Fujinon for the FMT-SX series. Using this accessory one may leave their binocular fastened onto a suitable tripod and head, set up conveniently by a window for panoramic uses or for looking at a bird feeder, etc.

    Left: The similar Fujinon 7x 50 mm FMT-SX Bridge showing Tripod Adapter socket with protective cover removed (46,652 Bytes).

    While for nature watching or other surveillance uses the common camera tripod and head may work just fine with the 16x 70 mm, most camera tripods are not well suited for astronomical applications with binoculars. And so for extended astronomical observing sessions Company Seven recommends an articulated parallelogram stand such as our Universal Astronomics UniMount™ Light Deluxe. Such a stand, when installed onto a suitable field tripod provides a most comfortable observing experience. Stands such as the UniMount™ do this by allowing the user to position a counter balanced binocular high enough to provide more comfortable head positioning; one could even be reclined in a lawn chair while observing objects overhead.

  • Filters: The 16x 70 mm FMT-SX are among the few binoculars made that are able to accept optional filters. To support those who buy the Fujinon binoculars from Company Seven we offer:

    • Haze Filters: a nearly transparent appearing filter reduces the haze ("blue blur") or a bluish cast effects caused by UV light during the day especially when observing from high altitudes or from long distances, particularly over water. This filter can be used to protect the eyepieces in harsh climates.

    • Binocular Polarizing Filters: to cut the glare from water or snow, the shine from streets or leaves, windows, and enhance color saturation.

    • Binocular Nebula Filter (Light Pollution Rejection) Filters: darken the night sky background so that faint nebulae are more easily seen.

    • Solar Filters: permit the safe observation of Sun Spots.

  • Cast alloy construction, sealed with the interior filled with dry nitrogen prohibits fogging or corrosion of the interior optics.

  • Baffled and antireflection covered interior construction prevents ghost images and reduces possible effects of glare all accomplished without any loss of contrast or definition. Observations of even the brightest objects (the Moon, etc.) against the background of the night sky show no ghosting or flare.

  • Partial Rubber Covering: since July 2001 the FMT-SX binoculars are finished in satin black with a textured covering of the hand held areas. To protect the objectives ends and prism housings rubber coverings are provided. These keep the appearance of the binocular more intact since they prohibit chipping the anodized and painted areas from becoming chipped or scraped. The contribute some mechanical dampening too. Company Seven can service any Fujinon we sell, and we can replace the FMT-SX partial coverings over time if needed. Note, these coverings are not covered under the Fujinon warranty.

    Fujinon 16x 70mm FMT-SX in case (51,859 Bytes) The Fujinon Polaris FMT-SX binoculars distributed by factory authorized retailers in the USA are provided with a slip on rubber eyepiece cover (sometime called a rain guard), slip on objective lens covers, padded neck strap, padded hard shell carrying case, Fujinon Lifetime Warranty for the mechanical and optical components. And every Fujinon received at Company Seven undergoes a comprehensive testing and approval process, so whatever we deliver will be among the best example that the factory can produce!

    Right: A Fujinon 16x 70mm FMT-SX with objective caps in place, greets you from within the provided carrying case (51,859 Bytes).
    Click on image to see enlarged view (148,543 bytes)

    This binocular is such a popular choice for astronomy that we encourage you to buy one or two guidebooks to help you progress in the hobby. Please refer to our on line section describing some of the most recommended book titles by Company Seven for guides to the Messier Catalog and other objects brought within your grasp by these binoculars.

    Below Right: Fujinon 16x 70mm FMT-SX binocular (95,862 Bytes).
    Click on image to see enlarged view (166,385 bytes)

    16x 70 FMT-SX Binocular Specifications

    Fujinon 16x 70mm FMT-SX (95,862 Bytes)
    Magnification 16 X
    Objective Diameter 70 mm
    Twilight Factor † 33.5
    Relative Brightness ‡ 19.1
    Exit Pupil Diameter 4.38 mm
    Eye Relief 12.4 mm
    Closest Focus Distance Appx. 24 meters (75 ft)
    I.P. Span 56.5 to 74 mm
    Apparent Field of View 65°
    Actual Field of View 4.1°
    70 meters @ 1 km
    Weight 1,925 g. (67.9 oz.)
    Height (Eyecups extended) 270 mm (10-5/8 inches)
    Width (typical with IPD at 62mm) 226 mm (8.9 inches)
    Width (maximum) 238 mm (9-3/8 inches)
    Depth (at Prism Housing) 70 mm (2-½ inches)

    † Twilight Factor (sometimes termed Relative Brightness) is a mathematical product of a formula. This formula however, does not factor differences of quality. For example two 7x 50 binoculars of vastly differing qualities will produce the same value by using this formula, and so this should only be used to compare binoculars of similar quality (i.e. a Fujinon 7x 50 FMT vs. Fujinon 10x 70 SMT-SX).

      Twilight Factor = Square Root of (Diameter of Objective Lens x Magnification)

    † Relative Brightness (or Relative Light Efficiency) pertains the the efficiency of the optical system in terms of throughput of light. This is measured by sensitive equipment and can help one to determine quality differences between models.

    * Specifications are subject to change without notice.

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