It must be hard being as famous a name as ‘Fisher’, especially where metal detecting is concerned. Fisher Research Labs was founded in 1931 by engineer and inventor Dr. Gerhard R. Fisher.
He was the first to receive a patent for a metal detector and generally speaking kicked off the whole industry that culminated in the fantastic range of machines available today.
Fisher Research Labs have seen many changes over the years and are now owned by First Texas Holdings Corporation. Apart from their other businesses First Texas are well known for the Teknetics and Bounty Hunter brands of metal detector.
Of course one of the problems of being a successful brand, which Fisher undoubtedly are is that you attract the attention of counterfeiters.
Fisher along with their competitors Garrett and Minelab has been fighting an ongoing battle with Chinese based copiers for many years and with limited success. They have collectively closed down the market for copies in the USA but the rest of the world is a much tougher nut to crack.
Over the past couple of years, Chinese copiers have changed tactics. They are no longer trying to pass off their copies as the genuine item and have instead removed the Fisher branding and given the machines model names instead of brand names.
It is clear to see that these Chinese copies are identical clones of the original Fisher machines. However, by removing the brand name, they can no longer be called “counterfeit” and this leaves them free to sell on the open market. Buyers are not being duped into believing these are genuine Fisher machines even if the descriptions and spec are identical.
This brings me nicely onto one of the most successful copies, the GoldFinder FS2. This is in all intents and purposes a direct copy of the Fisher Gold Bug Pro, a machine that retails at approx £600/$770. Yet you can buy the copy for as little as £170/$220 and it comes with an extra 6″ coil!
Apart from the moral issues of buying a clone or copy the real question is, just how good is the GoldFinder FS2 compared to a genuine Fisher Gold Bug Pro?
If you were to ask most detectorists they would immediately say the Chinese copy is rubbish and can never be as good as the original. Move on and don’t waste your money. However, that is mostly based on gut reaction and a “hope” that the copy is not as good as the original. This is especially the case if you have recently forked out £600/$770 for a genuine Fisher Gold Bug Pro. And who can blame them?
The problem for Fisher Research Labs and buyers of their machines is that the copies are actually proving to be rather good!
Evidence suggests that not only have the Chinese managed to replicate the look of the original Gold Bug Pro but they have also copied the circuit board and software too. In fact, in tests, the Chinese GoldFinder FS2 has performed pretty much the same as the genuine Fisher Gold Bug Pro.
This is a big problem for Fisher and First Texas Holdings. They can shut down sales of these copies in the USA but have little power to do so on the world stage. In the UK, for example, as of the time of writing this article, you can purchase a brand new GoldFinder FS2 with the extra 6″ coil and free next day UK delivery for just £140! You don’t even need to take a risk buying from China and waiting for delivery!
So how does the Chinese Gold Bug copy compare with the original? It has exactly the same features and specs. Take a look at these images of the control boxes of the original Fisher Gold Bug Pro and the GoldFinder FS2.
You can easily see that the Chinese GoldFinder FS2 is pretty much an identical clone of the Fisher Gold Bug Pro apart from the name of course.
And when you turn the machines on the similarities are even more striking!
Of course, aesthetics are one thing. You can make something look the same but if you have a Ferrari with a Ford Pinto engine inside you are going to be pretty disappointed with the performance.
Well surprisingly the Chinese GoldFinder FS2 performs just as well as the Fisher Gold Bug Pro. It locates the same targets at the same depths in the same conditions. If you didn’t know it was a copy you would think it was a genuine Fisher Gold Bug Pro.
You may be wondering how is it the Chinese can produce what is essentially the same machine as the Fisher Gold Bug Pro and sell it for a third of the price? For one thing, the Chinese copiers do not have the same overheads as Fisher has. There are no research and development costs and labour costs are far cheaper. The Chinese government subsidizes shipping costs to the rest of the world so that is another factor in lower prices.
The negatives are you won’t get a warranty of any sort with one of these Chinese copies. Although it must be said that some of the companies selling these machines through eBay do take on the responsibility of replacing faulty machines and offering refunds where needed. Also if you buy through eBay and use PayPal you are covered by their money-back guarantee.
Legally these cloned machines are in a grey area. They do not represent themselves as a genuine product but they are very obviously copies in all but name.
Morally it is a question of whether you personally want to pay a higher price to support companies like Fisher Research Labs and their official dealers.
Sometimes it just comes down to not having the budget to buy a £600/$770 metal detector. Rather than spend what little you have on a very limited genuine brand name machine you choose to compromise on the warranty, take a chance and go for something more advanced but without that hefty price tag.
However, consider this for a moment. Right now there are machines coming onto the market which give you mid-range features at an entry-level price. The Minelab Vanquish and Nokta Makro Simplex+ immediately come to mind. Even cheaper but with some great mid-level features is the Quest X5 and X10.
The Minelab Vanquish which starts at just £229/$296 uses the same Mult-IQ simultaneous multi-frequency detection system found in the more expensive Equinox. This covers 5,10,15,20 and 40 kHz at the same time. The Fisher Gold Bug Pro is a single frequency machine running at 19 kHz. The Minelab Vanquish at less than half the price makes it pretty much redundant!
Ask yourself, do I really need to buy a knock off when I can get something genuine that is cheaper and more powerful?
Having said that. If your budget is only £140 then this GoldFinder FS2 is a lot of detector for the money!
Interested in the Vanquish? Why not head over to the Minelab Vanquish UK Users Group and share your thoughts.