Ross Solaross binoculars
- Production run: 1957 to 1974
- Manufacturer: Ross Ensign Limited, Clapham Common North Side, London
- Special features: light weight aluminium and plastic case
- Cost new: £19 9s 9d (9x35 model 1960 price)
- Value today: £20 to £50
The Ross Solaross was an innovative lightweight binocular from the 1950s. Ross was a longstanding manufacturer of binoculars and other optical equipment. Its binoculars were priced out of the reach of most people, but the Solaross brought down the cost of the entry level Ross binocular and helped the firm stay in business for a few more years.
The Ross company could trace its history back to a business founded by Andrew Ross in 1830. Ross supplied high quality binoculars and optical equipment. The firm was well respected and supplied binoculars to the British armed forces. However, in the 1950s the company was making losses.
The Solaross was a final throw of the dice. Ross targeted the new lightweight binocular, in the popular 9x35 size, at the horse racing enthusiast market.
The simpler construction of the binoculars, use of plastic parts and glue to locate the lenses, brought the price down to less than £20 (£390 in today's money), still expensive, but good value for money. Ross's other 9x35 binocular, the Stepruva, sold for £38 4s 3d (around £750 in today's money).
The design used plastic and aluminium parts and brought down the weight of the popular 9x35 binocular to just 21oz (590 grams). Although these binoculars feel very light for their size, they were not remarkable for the time. Binoculars of other manufacturers, including British rival Wray, were at least as light.
The design brought more curves to the traditional binocular and it was accepted for the Council of Industrial Design (COID) index. Only one other binocular was in the index, the Barr & Stroud CF18.
Ross returned to profitability after the Solaross range was launched. However, this period did not last long. Opposition from Germany and latterly Japan pushed Ross into the red and the receiver was called into Ross' parent company, Whitefriars, in 1964. Ross continued under new ownership until 1975 when the factory closed.
Today you still cannot fault the optics of the Solaross. If you are happy with a good quality binocular for a remarkably cheap price, they are pretty usable if you can find a good one.
Ross' Solaross was available in a wide range of magnifications and sizes. These are the binoculars in the Solaross range with approximate dates of manufacture:
- Solaross 7x42 - 1957 to 1962
- Solaross 8x40 - 1962 to 1974
- Solaross 9x35 - 1957 to 1974
- Solaross 10x40 - 1963 to 1974
- Solaross 12x40 - 1957 to 1974
- Solaross 15x40 - 1957 to to 1964
- Solaross 16x60- 1962 to 1974
- Spectacle Solaross 8x35 (model for spectacle wearers) - 1957 to 1974
Sources: Ross Catalogue, November 1962 and information compiled by Terence Wayland
Towards the end of the company's life Ross made binoculars for Dixons under the Prinz label. They were essentially a rebranded Solaross 12x40.
How old are my Solaross Binoculars?
Ross marked all their products with a serial number. The numbers ran consecutively across all the product range. When Ross was taken over by British Photographic Industries in 1954 the serial numbers were restarted.
When the Solaross was introduced in 1957 the serial numbers were around 11,000.
This is a rough guide to the serial numbers.
- 11000 to 32800 - 1957 to 1959
- 32800 to 42000 - 1960 to 1964
- 42000 to 72500- 1965 to 1970
- >72500 - 1970 to 1974
Sources: based on information compiled by Terrance Wayland
British manufacturer Wray also made a binocular for this market, the Wray Wrayvu 9x40, also introduced in 1957, was a direct competitor to the Solaross in the 1950s and 1960s.
Shop on eBay for:
By Steven Braggs, May 2014
Add your comments
"I don't know about the serial numbers listed, but I was given a 12x40 Solaross in probably about 1959 with serial number 66631" Rob 06/07/2014
"Today I bought 9 x 35 Solaross binoculars for Can$ 12.60 at Value Village, a charity shop in Winnipeg, Canada. They are in Fine condition, Serial # 26542, complete with a leather case." Rod Leschasin 18/11/2014
"Sounds like a very early Solaross." Steven 20/11/2014
"I bought my 12x40 Solaross binoculars at a fair in Wilmslow Cheshire England for Â£12 on 12th April 2015. The serial no is 80839 puts them between 1970 and 1974. Very happy with then indeed!" andy ledger 13/04/2015
"I think you got a bargain. You often can if you find things at fairs rather than buy on eBay and its more fun to look around.
Solaross are great binoculars. Lightweight, good optics. It is a pity more people did not buy British at the time." Steven 15/04/2015
"Hi I have Solaross 9X35 the SERIAL number is 59529 they was left to me by dad and they were also left to him by my grandad in 1986 they may not have a big value in money but to me they have a big sentiment value Kenneth from Stoke on Trent ENGLAND 21-10-2015" Kenneth Hodgson 21/10/2015
"My wife has her father's pair of Solaross 9x35 with serial number 28676 and the leather case is still functional though a little worn on the corners. I know they won't end up at a fair!!" Frank Iveson 07/12/2015
"i recently bought on EBay a solaross 9x35 serial number29799
In really good condition very pleased with their performance" Peter woods 09/04/2016
"Can anyone refer me to an on-line site for instructions of assembly and disassembly of the Solaross 9x35? All I get is garbage on entering search terms. A pair I got the other day needs cleaning, yet removing the eye-side section for cleaning is difficult with the tools I have, and the plastic construction makes damage a likelihood with application of force. Any suggestions? How do I remove the axis cap in order to pull out the eyepieces and also clean the eye-side prisms? Thanks for your suggestions." Richard Nash Creel 19/04/2016
"I managed to buy a pair of 9X35 which are labeled both Solaross on the right lens and Ross on the left lens with the serial number 29127. The leather case is also in very good condition and they are superb to use and for their size surprisingly light wait. I paid Â£20 for them in a 'Pop Up' shop in Dunbar" Mike Boyle-Ronaldson 12/06/2016
"I love optics and have been looking for a nice pair of vintage binos. Bought 9 x 35 serial number #66126 in Berwick upon Tweed today for Â£10.Needless to say I'm pleased.T" Nigel Lavender 16/08/2016
"I have a pair of Ross London Enbeeco binoculars, serial number (70146), in perfect condition. Even the case is still in as new condition.
On the LH lens, the word Enbeeco is inscribed, and on the RH lens it says Made in Japan. Were London binoculars ever made in Japan.
My late father gave them to me back in the 60's, and they've been in a cupboard, and unused ( hence their perfect condition)since 1970 when I came to Australia.
Any comment would be welcome." Maurice Swithenbank 28/01/2017
"Just found in a junk shop a pair of virtually unused Ross binoculars butI cannot place/date them.......
Lefthand mark: Ross London
Righthand mark: 8x42 Regent
End mark: Field6.6 709H 769 Japan
Japanese makers mark: JB58
Centre wheel: elongated pebbled (70s style?)
Coated lens bluish.
They come in an expensive lined dark brown leather case marked Hinomoto No 47 in pristine condition. There are two object lens caps, an elongated single cap for the eyepieces, and both case and binocular straps are present.
The vision is exceptional.
Any help in dating and intende market greatly appreciated." John Bratley 07/10/2017
"To get out eyepieces unscrew front cap next o big lenses remove circlip and gently pull out eyepieces in one piece with spindle attached
Then you can unscrew covers (3) screws
Watch out for great on your sleeves" M hearn 31/08/2018
"My Mum bought some of these recently in a charity shop. Didn't realise how old they were as they seemed brand new. Serial 84771." Luke 29/03/2019
Vintage, retro & social history