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Meet the Entrepreneurs Who Set Their Sights on Bringing Quality Binoculars to the U.S. A domestic maker of binoculars takes on the best European optics, one satisfied customer at a time.

By Jason Daley

This story appears in the October 2015 issue of Start Up.

Steven Brutger
Birdwatching along Montana’s Smith River.

For most people, cheap binoculars will do just fine for watching a ballgame, catching a glimpse of Springsteen from the back row or getting a peek at the neighbor's begonias.

But there's a subset of hobbyists -- including hunters, birdwatchers and stargazers -- for whom top-of-the-line binoculars are essential. In fact, they're willing to pay up to $2,500 to get them. So when it comes to purchasing those nitrogen-purged, electrophoretic-coated, phase-corrected, rubber-armored devices, the choice is clear: Order a pair from one of Europe's big-three manufacturers -- Swarovski Optik, Leica and Zeiss -- which have set and held the standard for optics since before World War II.

The minds behind Lander, Wyo.-based Maven Outdoor Equipment Co. agree that Austrian and German binoculars are impressive, with their minimal color distortion and ability to produce crisp, bright images, even in low light. But they also believe a birdwatcher shouldn't have to eat ramen noodles for the next five years to afford quality optics.

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