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Simmons Redline 10x50 Binoculars WA Model 801302
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The following is a review of Simmons Redline 10X50mm binocular that was purchased at a department store on February 10th, 2006. Southeastern New Mexico is the location of my current residence. My skies are of orange zone quality with green zone skies just several minutes away. The climate here is a dry, arid, and very windy climate with lots of dust. For the last 13 years I have indulged in stargazing with small telescopes of all basic designs. So far I have personally owned over 50 telescopes ranging from cheap department store refractors to high-end triplet apochromatic designs. Currently my main telescope for visual observation is a custom 60/1000mm refractor with a Carton objective; coming in a close second is a ST80 f/5 achromat.
I have no biases regarding telescope type, any instrument that allows human-kind to experience the night sky is a wonderful tool. Refractors, Schmidt Cassegrains, Maksutovs, reflectors, etc all equally useful in my humble opinion. My schedule, location, observing habits, and experiences have always caused me to lean toward small refractors and binoculars for allowing an intimate connection with the visible universe. One last thing before starting the review: Experience and skill, NOT aperture RULE in my experience.
It has been said and repeatedly shown that binoculars are a beginner’s best friend. Handheld low-power binoculars are the ultimate grab and go tool for any serious stargazer. Jogging back almost 4 years ago my life included two jobs and 16 credit hours in college. Needless to say finances were limited, time very short and precious when the opportunity finally presented itself for stargazing. On a cold, crisp, clear, dark winter's night the stars sparkle with the fury of countless members. These celestial torches ignite the visible universe with such prominence and beauty that any woman or man becomes instantly fixated with wonder and amazement.
On such nights here in southeast New Mexico I would stare back into time itself, hypnotized by all the incomprehensive workings, my simplistic mind attempting to put some sort of establish boundary as to what was being observed. My senses were intoxicated and needed to get closer to these candles in the sky. Sure I had a simple telescope at the time but it needed work and better upgrades. What to do for a short-term fix.....ah, binoculars should do the trick. As a kid I was fortunate enough to have a pair of Tasco 7X35mm binoculars and remembered the splendid views they presented. Yes, this seemed like the appropriate answer to the situation.
A trip to the local department store yielded good results and for $24 USD a pair of 10X50mm coated Simmons Redline binoculars were purchased with first-light had that very night. The front of the binocular states COATED and 367 @ 1000yds or around 7° (closer to 6.7°, 5° usable FOV). First light was highly successful, Saturn was located by M44 (The Beehive Cluster) with the Moon just above Saturn. The ever beautiful Pleiades were near the zenith with the god of war (Mars) in proximately. Orion's Nebula was ablaze with the smoldering greenish-gray stellar cocoon. M41 in Canis Majoris was clearly seen south of Sirius with hints of resolution. My notes indicate that Luna was bright that night and the weather cold. This positive session left me very satisfied with my low priced purchase for several months.
These binoculars are very light weight (~27oz?), are very comfortable to use with the soft rubber eye cups, and fit my average sized hands well. Plus, they seem to have a good balance too; however, this is not to say that they are without faults. From what I can tell they seem closer to 9.6X43mm binoculars than 10X50mm, and after several off-roading adventures and approximately 100hrs of star time collimation seemed to begin to drift off on the left barrel. Also, the eyepiece bridge plastic cap allowed the left eyepiece to tilt causing stars to arch in the left eye. Furthermore, the rubber exterior coating began to loosen. At this point most would discard of these binoculars and move on to a better pair; however, this was not to be the case with this pair. Sure I had gotten far more than $24 use out of them but I wanted more.
After deciding to repair the cheap plastic eyepiece center cap with a large hard plastic washer the left eyepiece began to focus as it should without all the extra tilt. Upon this successful minor triumph I progressed onward by tackling the next major problem: COLLIMATION! After reading several web pages on the topic, including here on CN, I felt that the task was doable. Using a jeweler's flat-head screw driver I meticulously adjusted and collimated the binoculars to my eyes. Collimation was an ongoing process for a bit, but finally I managed to nail it down. The easiest way was to defocus one barrel completely while focusing the opposite barrel perfectly on a star. The goal is to get the focused stellar image perfectly in the center of the unfocused stellar image. Once that is achieved both barrels are brought to focus and VERY minor adjustments can be made. This method worked very well for me! Note: the star needs to be in the center of the FOV.
In focus the Porro 10X50s gave extremely sharp views! Yes, yes, even sharper than my since passed Nikon Action 10X50s. 61 Cygni a pair of 5.2 and 6 magnitude stars separated by 31" were cleanly split handheld! H3945 (The Winter Albireo) in Canis Majoris was also easy game. Nu Scorpii was split too! Albireo was easy, Alcyone shown all four members split, all these stars were split handheld! Jupiter shown as a perfect round disk, never did that before I "collimated" these binoculars. Saturn would even reveal Titan earlier this year when handheld using something on which to rest the elbows. Not a bad binocular for doubles I think considering costs.
Let's talk deep space performance here, under ~5.1-5.2 mag skies I have been able to glimpse several times 9.8 magnitude stars handheld with averted vision using the Simmons. Under magnitude 5.8+ skies I have seen:
NGC 2024 (Flame Nebula)
NGC 3077 (GX near M81/M82)
NGC 7293 (Helix Nebula)
NGC 6144 (GC)
Barnard's E (Triple Cave Nebula)
North American Nebula
M65/66, NGC 3628
GC NGC 5466
The Veil Nebula
Globular cluster NGC 5466 has a visual magnitude of 9; however, it is 11' in size and has a surface brightness of 16.6mag. Perhaps this has been the faintest DSO I have yet to repeatedly see with the Simmons. Sure I have suspected several other faint DSOs but do not feel confident enough to say that I did in fact see them, at least not until the observations can be repeated several more times under ideal conditions.
Seeing the Veil Nebula under a dark sky was perhaps the most wondrous sight to date that has been seen in the Simmons binoculars by myself. Others that have looked at the heavens through them claim the star images are very sharp and merge. This leads me to believe collimate is ok. Many things in this hobby can cost you a small fortune, your sanity, retirement, a relationship, or more. These simple binoculars aren't one of those things. If you take care of them they will last a lifetime with proper maintenance and care. Hope you enjoyed my review, clear skies!