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Helios Stellar 20x80 versus TS Marine 15x70

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#1 F.Meiresonne

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 12:26 PM

For some time I was toying with the idea of getting a 15 x 70 binocular that was light and could be hand holded... I merely wanted it for spotting airplanes flying at high altitudes. My attention was drawn to the TS 15 x 70 which was about equal as the Celestron Skymaster 15 x 70. There is a lot to be found about that particular binocular, merely problems that users encountered. For one the binocular had collimation problems and many of them arrived miscollimated. After some serious reading I come to the conclusion that this particular binocular might result in a disappointment so I did not go for it.

That still left me with my problem. Rather quick the TS Marine 15 x 70 drew my attention. Some other CN users already mentioned this as a very good binocular. Reading all about that binocular in Edz report about most likely the same binocular namely the Oberwerk Ultra got me going. But this was not light binocular. Actually this was more a replacement for my Helios Stellar 20 x 80.

After some consideration I finally ordered it from Teleskope Service in Germany on a Thursday. It was Wolfi himself who dealt with my order and much to my surprise the bino appeared already the next day at my doorstep! Speaking about turbo delivery…

It arrived very well packed and comes in an alu box. A mounting adapter is not included in the price and has to be ordered separately. Actually hadn’t it been for Edz’s report I would not have realized the adapter I use for all my other bino’s could not be used with this one! Luckily I noticed that in time and Wolfi included one. The strap, which is included, is too small and flimsy. I don’t trust it with such a heavy bino. I decided not to put it on.

Out of the box

A nice bino when you look at it for the first time. I think this is a somewhat modern style bino. My Helios Stellar bino has a very classic look. The Marine is green witch nice black ends at the barrels. Within that black area there are even a 2 shiny chrome rings of some kind. He’s heavy, surely heavier then my Helios Stellar. I immediately noticed that the moment I picked the up. The kitchen balance showed 2,555 kg for the Marine and 2,380 kg for the Stellar. The Marine has big eyepieces. The moment I look through them I got a nice, very bright sight. Looking at some building and trees in the neighborhood I was already very impressed with the brightness and contrast of the views. You immediately notice that. And no black outs, none.
Exit pupils look totally circular. However In the left barrel there is a very small protrusion in the light pad. It’s very small, like a little bump. It is so small you easily can miss it. In the right barrel I don’t see it. This exit pupil looks flawless…

Mechanics

Mechanics are stiff, very stiff but work very well. Focusing goes slow. Setting the IPD goes stiff. This all turned out to be a good thing. Once set you don’t have to fiddle with the focus or IPD. It stays in place. Neither one of my other bino’s has that. I need always to refocus when I am in a session. Often they loose their settings. This is by manipulation of course but you don’t notice it… Although the mechanics of the Stellar are quite good this one too tends to loose the focus from time to time.

Coatings.

Totally different in comparison to all my other binoculars. The objective lenses have a greenish-blue hue. Looking from aside they produce a deep Bordeaux red hue. They don’t reflect light very well. You see the contour of you face but you have a hard time seeing any features of your face. In fact you don’t see them at all. The edges of the lenses seem to be blacked. The typical grey edge of unblackened lenses cannot be seen. The eyepieces have somewhat the same colors. Looking from some distances at the exit pupils the area around is dark and no stray light is seen. Good baffling….
When you shine light in the lenses the coatings produces all sorts of colors which can actually change depending from which angel you are looking. The same effect I see in Televue coatings. I am not able to see if the prisms are coated or how well they are coated. Sometimes I think I see some white reflections but then again I don’t…confusing, really no way to tell.
The Helios stellar states fully multicoated and yet I doubt this very much. The objective lenses produce a light Bordeaux reddish hint but show also clearly pure white reflections. The eyepieces seem to do a better job because no white reflections can be seen, only purple ones. I suspect some lenses have MgF others perhaps are better coated. However the objectives do show you face rather well, in fact of all the binoculars I own this one show the most reflection.

Daylight test

Airplanes in the sky. How are the views? … Just stunning…Mounted on a tripod the views are incredible and the best I ever seen. Very bright, high detailed and colorful views. Not much CA present, sometimes you don’t see any. If apparent it’s a vague purple under the airplane and a vague greenish hint on the upper site of the plane. Contrast is amazing, color is very apparent. Just a delight to see. One exception about CA is a black object on a bright background. I happed to catch a pitch black bird on a tree and this one showed CA quite well, a very bright greenish and purple hue. Strangely a grey-white pigeon produced hardly hints of CA. I wonder why that is….

The view in the Stellar, compared to that of the Marine, is rather dull. The view is sharp but much much dimmer, white airplanes seems to look yellowish. Viewing in the Stellar after using the TS Marine is a bit disappointing; Contrast is much poorer. Also the FOV is smaller and it is rather difficult at times to catch the fast moving plane. This was much easier with the Marine. It’s obvious; the difference may be in the coatings. In the Stellar the objective lenses have a red Bordeaux color. But you can see your face quite good and clearly much more light is reflected. Edges of the lenses are not blackened. Of course the exit pupil is smaller too and that may play a role.
Eye relief is great on the Marine. With normal eyecups I can barely see the edge, perhaps I am missing a few percent but this is very minor. With the eyecups folded down I can Cleary see the edge. The view reminds me of my Pentax eyepiece although that one has a better edge correction. The eye relief may be a bit short for eyeglass wearers, but to me it is perfect. It does not surprise me. My pan19 with an eye relief of 13 mm is also perfect to me. This binocular has about the same eye relief so no wonder its eye relief suits me fine. I cannot get any blackouts, none whatsoever.
The Stellar has too short eye relief. You have to press you’re eyes against the eyepieces. After one session the eyepieces are already dirty. No blackouts here too though. This one with eyeglasses surely poses a problem.

Balloon meeting

This weekend there was a balloon meeting in our local town. Wind was perfect and the hot air balloons drove right over our house. Great opportunity for binoviewing and indeed, the views were astounding. Big bright balloons with incredible detail and color. Views as I never seen before. Detail was unbelievable. You could see al sorts of detail on the balloons, striking advertisements but also dirt. It was no deal to tell how much people there was on board but either what were they wearing, or what were they looking through: a camera or a binocular. Most of the time that could get sorted out!
Here too, in spite of the bright views, CA was not apparent…

The night sky.

This weekend was clear. A good opportunity to do some limit magnitude testing. I used Edz maps of Cr 399, Brocchi’s cluster. NELM was about m5, I think, I could see all stars of the little dipper without much difficulty. Stars C3,C10,C4 rather easy. Double C4,C5 was more difficult but after a while you could not miss it. C13 was about the limit m 10, 73.I tried numerous times for C28 which is of m10, 97. Could not see it.
A bit to my surprise the Stellar 20x80 didn’t do any better. With difficulty C13 was seen (it was as difficult as in the TS Marine) but C28 was not seen either. I tried it numerous times, no go.

The following evening I did the same test. Same result.

The next evening although partly clouded I was able to catch a 10.83 m star (S20) which impressed me a lot. I definitely could see this star, not al the time but frequently see peeked through leaving me with no doubt. When I star tested my Stellar at the time I bought it I was able to reach that same magnitude.
Later one that week I tried this star again this time in both binoculars. The Helios Stellar could see it too but actually the Marine noticed it a bit better

This make it pretty clear that this 15x70 TS Marine just sees as deep or even a tad better as the 20x80 Helios Stellar which is quite remarkable

One other thing that I noticed that at dusk the stars were easier to pick up in the Marine then in the Stellar even the fainter ones. Probably this is another advantage of the better contrast.

Ergonomics

Overall the TS Marine is more pleasing to look through. Because of the bigger eye relief it was a bit more pleasing to look high up. I folded down the eyepiecescups which made it a littlebit easier to look high up. The star fields looked nicer too, brighter stars again probably due to the striking better contrast in the TS Marine. And off course bigger FOV. The Marine did a little better handholded too but this was only because the magnification was less and the FOV bigger. The extra weight did not seem too much of influence.
I used it with glasses one night. With the eyecups folded down I had no trouble to see the entire FOV. The edge was pronounced and not ragged. With the eyecups up I missed the edge
And another nice feature: The eyepieces are threaded for filters. Wonder what 2 OIII filters will do on the Veil or Lagoon nebulae...

Still the area around the double cluster looked impressive with the Stellar, FOV is smaller but everything it seen a bit more apart due to the bigger magnification. Eye relief is short, however and surely eyeglass wearers will not like this. Without glasses it is not too much of a problem but you will be cleaning your eyepieces a lot because your eyelashes contaminate them all the time.


I wonder if faint nebulae are not a better seen in the Marine. M110 showed up in the Marine with averted vision but I could see it almost immediately, but very faint.
In the stellar it was a bit less striking, meaning I had to look for it just a little bit longer.
M71, quite easy actually, a faint round glow, dim, but obvious. I had no trouble with it on any of the observing nights
M27, striking, very nice, dumbbell shape apparent
M15, easy, bright, bright core, faint haze around with averted vision.
M57, easy seen
NGC 7789, faint big glow, with averted vision stars pointed through, difficult to pinpoint them but obviously the view told you this was a star cluster.

Sharpness

I tried that to determine with my glasses because I have some astigmatism. I would say that the stars stayed quite sharp until 70% out from the middle and fairly usable until 80% from the centre. From 90% off centre the FOV was unusable and from 80 to 90 I call it not too good.
Helas in the Stellar this was much worse. Stars starting to show distortion from 60% off centre and detoriated fast when moved further to the edge. I was easy to see that the sharp FOV in the Marine was much bigger.

Moon

Moon sat low. I looked handholded.Moon was half but already showed show ghosting when moved to the edge. Not too bad but noticeable.
Here the Stellar showed none of that. No ghosting on this half moon.None.I have always noticed that.
The Marine showed also a yellow rim, quite noticeable. Strangely on the Stellar this was less. Moon looked more impressive too due to the bigger magnification. This round goes to the Stellar.

My verdict.

Is this TS Marine, call it the Kunming Optical 70 mm BA 8 series, a true premium binocular? Well in the achromatic class I would sure want to call it like that. Views are impressive and my comparison proved to me it is clearly superior to my classic 20x80 bino in almost in any way. Most striking for me is the brightness and contrast which is really superb. The weakest point for me: CA which is still there and can be seen in particular occasions. It is more pronounced on black objects on a grey or white background (clouds). On one occasion I was viewing a pitch black bird. CA could be very well seen, green on one side purple at the other side. Strangely this effect is hardly or even not seen on white objects and that’s an advantage.
FOV is rather big IMO, objects like airplanes are easily found and those views almost produce no CA, in some cases this is even absent
I am very, very thrilled with this binocular, worth every cent I paid for it….should have bought it much earlier…

It does however poses a problem…..I am very wondering how well his bigger brothers perform….the 22x85 and 28x110…and that is a very bad thing for the wallet…Knowing what I know now about this series of binos it will be almost irresistible to get the 22x85 some time in the future

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#2 F.Meiresonne

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 12:27 PM

Some other pictures

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#3 F.Meiresonne

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 12:31 PM

another

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#4 F.Meiresonne

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 12:32 PM

eyepiece view of the TS Marine

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#5 Rich V.

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 01:04 PM

Nice report, Freddy,

A lot more positive points than negative ones; it looks like another satisfied Series 8 owner.

I don't know if the Helios uses its full 80mm aperture or not but a large number of current "80mm" bins are really vignetted to a bit over 70mm. EdZ has shown that your 15x70s are truly 70mm. Better optics, coatings and illumination make a great equalizer.

Enjoy,

Rich V

#6 EdZ

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 01:22 PM

very nice comparison.
also, glad to hear you found some useful info beforehand.

edz

#7 F.Meiresonne

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 02:17 PM

I don't know if the Helios uses its full 80mm aperture or not but a large number of current "80mm" bins are really vignetted to a bit over 70mm



That's indeed the question. But i don't really know how to measure accurate.
I could measure the exit pupil with a caliper but i am no good at it.I may be easy over mm off.
But indeed I suspect the Helios is probably not 80 mm ...
Of course the bino is 5 or 6 year old. It still sells, but it might be updated. On some advertising pictures i allready noticed the eyepiece cups now are different then mine has...who knows ...

#8 KennyJ

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 02:43 PM

Thank you Freddy for a VERY well written and clearly presented two - way review .

It was a real pleasure to read I can assure you !

I am pleased your decision to purchase this model has such a happy outcome ! :-)

Wishing you clear skies -- and LIGHT blackbirds :-)

Kenny

#9 daniel_h

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 05:49 PM

great report - the 15x70 definitely is a sweet bino & a real winner

#10 RichD

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 11:08 AM

Very interesting!

I have the helios stellar 15x70 and it shows all the characteristics you mention. I have never seen pics before of the 20x80 version, so thanks for posting those.

I think that over time you will find that your TS marine 15x70 will get alot more observing time than the helios due to the quality difference.

Congratulations on a well informed purchase!

#11 F.Meiresonne

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 01:30 PM

Thanks all, for the comments

@Edz

Ed, i believe you have tested the Series 8 22x85. How do you compare it to the 15x70? Is this a binocular truly in the same qualitylevel?

#12 RichD

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 01:36 PM

I think someone's going to be making another optical investment soon...

#13 EdZ

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 03:48 PM

yes Freddy, it is. I have two 20x80s that will go. I'll keep the 15x70 Ultra (and the Fujinon 16x70) and the GO22x85.

#14 RichD

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 04:55 PM

Do you see yourself keeping the 15x70 ultra long term despite having the fuji 16x70 EdZ?

#15 F.Meiresonne

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 03:43 PM

Is this two way review I actually 'forgot' to post a truly two way picture..
so here it is

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#16 Man in a Tub

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 06:57 PM

Nice looking couple, but I guess we know who's the better half.

#17 F.Meiresonne

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 02:09 PM

I think someone's going to be making another optical investment soon...



Not soon, anyway...

But it is sure on my mind. I will not forget. I tend to plan my purchases long on beforehand allthough the 15x70 was a bit an exception.
We' ll see next year...(4 months to go and counting :cool:)

#18 RichD

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 05:12 PM

I'm sure you wouldn't regret it!






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