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Some thoughts on 15x70 handheld gazing

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#1 Glassthrower

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 11:25 PM

With my Celestrons boxed up and sitting on the coffee table waiting for their long ride to warranty replacement/repair, I have been getting re-acquainted with my 15x70mm Skymasters. Without my usual 25x100's, I have been doing a lot more "grab n go" lately with the 8X42 Bushnell I have. It's amazing how much I had seen in those little binos and how quickly I had forgotten them once the "big dogs" arrived. Still, my case of apeture fever has never gone away so I started grabbing my 15x70 binos when I go out for a cigar at night.

Despite my best efforts, I could not keep view steady when held at any angle. The best I could do was to keep the swaying down to a minimum. Even mighty Jupiter appeared stellar. With a tripod, I get nice views of Jupiter, definitely a disc, nice color, and on the best of nights a hint of red belt. But tonight, with all of the swaying, the best I could manage was a cream colored "star"....alas, poor Jupiter!

I turned to Cygnus and decided to try my luck with Albiero. With some effort, I managed to keep the view still just enough to cleanly split the two and enjoy the color contrast, but the useable look was maddeningly brief.

I tried and tried, using every feat of strength, technique of ninja-like agility and stamina, but nothing could keep the FOV still. I wouldn't call it shake, it was more like a woozy, drunken stagger....lots of swaying. :p

We have some adirondack (sp?) style, wooden chairs on the outside patio. So I sat down real low, and tried to brace my arms of the armrests of the chair. Problem. I am tall (6' 3.5") and I have long arms. Even though I would rate myself a little above-average in arm strength, I am not weightlifter, so I consider their length a liability. Having said that, it was difficult for me to find the right position to look through my braced view in this low, sloped wooden chair. Also, it was partly-cloudy and some of my directions were obstructed. So I abandoned the chair and sat on the back steps and faced south over the garage. I immediately got a nice view of Scorpius and Antares was very obvious, even with the inherent swaying. I could not see any of the Scorpion's trademark globulars, the constant swaying/rocking made it impossible to catch their feeble glow in these LM 4.0 skies. Using averted vision, even while propped on my knees, seated on the steps, was impossible. I just could not keep the FOV stationary for sufficient time to utilize averted vision.

Overall, I considered the handheld possibilities of 15x to be a little outside my range of ability. I lacked the "skills" necessary to use my 15's for any length of time handheld. It's seems funny to me, since I vaguely recall being more successful handholding them in distant past when I first acquired them. But perhaps this was just fond nostalgia tainting my judgement....It has been a while since I hand held them.

BTW, my stepson brought these back to me after working offshore on a boat for two weeks. They came back with undamaged lenses (that were amazingly clean, nice going Josh!), and they were still "mostly collimated". I gave them a good visual test during daylight today using what I learned in the "Best of" thread here in the bino forum. They were off by a very small margin, acceptable to me, but not much worse than when he left with them. So apparently they held up well in a working environment.

So, I put away the 15x70's and went back to the 8x Bushnells. Those have been my trusty bird glasses for YEARS. These are the Japanese model, and their optics are what I would expect from my reading here...although I lack a similar Chinese/German or other bino of similar performance to compare. So my assessment is entirely arbitrary. But I think they have nice crispness, out to about 80% of the FOV. Stars are nice clean points. I'm not sure of exact size of the FOV, I forget, will have to check later....lots to see and enjoy in these little glasses. The view is MUCH easier to handhold. Freehand with no bracing, I could cleanly split Albiero, but the colors were barely detectable. Perhaps it is the lack of coatings on these binos? They appear to have no coatings that I can detect, perhaps I am wrong?

Now that I think about it, it's clearing up outside a little. I'm off for a quick puff on my Hemingway and squeeze in another quick look with those Bushnells.

More later....clear dark skies to all.

MikeG

#2 edwincjones

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Posted 30 July 2005 - 04:28 AM

Thank you for giving me a chance to jump on my soapbox again. We talk (and think) about bigger and bigger, but the true joy of amateur astronomy is to just get out there and look, be it with scopes, binoculars, or eyes.

Ed Jones

#3 Erik D

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Posted 30 July 2005 - 06:29 AM

The ability to hold higher power binoculars varies from person to person AND night to night. There are nights when I have a good time observing DSOs with 20X80 LW bino and my head resting on a U shaped travel pillow. Other nights I don't care to use 12X binos...

Holding high power bino steady for astronomy is more difficult than daytime terrestrial viewing. I wouldn't expect to see any details on Jupiter or Saturn holding 15-20X binos but I had a good time observing the comet a few month ago. I am able to positively split alberio with my Oberwerk 12X60s while sitting with my elbows supported.

The key to steady holding is to find the most stable supported position for yourself. For most people taking up target shooting(rifle) for the first time hitting a pin head sized 10 ring at 50 ft seem nearly impossible.... and it IS if you are holding a 12 lb rifle in the standing position. With a few weeks of practice it's quite possible to score in the high 80s in the sitting or kneeling position. Shooting near perfect scores( 98/99/100) in the prone position with a rifle sling is expected of an average competitor after a few months of weekly practice. I have seen it done by female shooters weighing no more than 120 lbs. Steady holding has very little to do with upper body strength. Practice helps a lot but do it only if you enjoy it..... My 20X80 is mounted 90% of the time, 25X100 99%.


Erik D

#4 Craig Simmons

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Posted 30 July 2005 - 07:24 AM

Enjoyed your report and observations Mike. EdZ mentioned recently that different sized FOV/mag binos are like EPs with a telescope. Each EP has it's purpose, same with binos. The range of mags is far more limited in most binos than EPs, 7-30x vs. 15-200X+.

Steady grab n' go mounting for 15x70s? I keep seeing this device called a Steadymount Oberwerk sells

http://www.bigbinocu...steadymount.htm

that looks like it was made for Adirondack chairs. Holds around 5 lbs. max. I'm tempted to build something similar for chairs that can a accommodate a mount like this.

#5 Glassthrower

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Posted 30 July 2005 - 08:13 AM

Steady grab n' go mounting for 15x70s? I keep seeing this device called a Steadymount Oberwerk sells

http://www.bigbinocu...steadymount.htm


That's an interesting mount. Honestly though, it costs about double what I paid for the 15x binos. But I am learning that a good mount is worth the money. You're right though, it doesn't look tough to build something similar.

I was also considering a mono-pod perhaps.....although I have never used one before.

MikeG

#6 Craig Simmons

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Posted 30 July 2005 - 10:20 AM

I've considered one of those too. A monopod lacks easy height adjustment for astro viewing, better for terrestial though. Also if you have to put it down for a moment, how do you keep the binos from getting damaged or wet on the ground or from falling over if you lean it on something? Seems like a lot of potential for an accident from what I've read.

#7 werewolf6977

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Posted 30 July 2005 - 10:37 AM

Try this: Hold them at the objective end. I still get the wiggles some of the time, but not nearly as severely as when I hold them by the prism housings.

#8 Glassthrower

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Posted 30 July 2005 - 11:10 AM

Pearl of wisdom #1 :

Also if you have to put it down for a moment, how do you keep the binos from getting damaged or wet on the ground or from falling over if you lean it on something? Seems like a lot of potential for an accident from what I've read.


Pearl of wisdom #2 :

Hold them at the objective end. I still get the wiggles some of the time, but not nearly as severely as when I hold them by the prism housings.


I'll have to try holding them that way. Also I noticed that if I remove my custom dew shields from the 15x70's, that lightens them up a bit and makes them slightly (very slightly) easier to hand hold.

MikeG

#9 milt

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Posted 30 July 2005 - 12:45 PM

Hi Erik,

Mark's original post and your reply nicely sum up this topic, but there's another reason for intermediate/advanced binocular astsronomers to tripod mount. Try as I might, I still have not figured out how to look at my star chart and through my binocular at the same time. :confused: The tripod allows me to consult a star chart without losing my place in the sky.

Take care,
Milt

#10 Mark9473

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Posted 30 July 2005 - 03:18 PM

Try as I might, I still have not figured out how to look at my star chart and through my binocular at the same time.

Milt, surely the fact that you only have two eyes and they are both located fairly closely together, has something to do with this. :)
But, jokes aside, I do know what you mean. Myself, I have not found a good way to use a star atlas next to my binoculars even (or especially?) when those are tripod-mounted.

What has worked best for me so far, is the following:
sitting on an ordinary kitchen chair, I have the binoculars tripod mounted with a regular pan and tilt head. For observing, I pull the binoculars towards me so they rest only on two tripod legs; I hold those two legs with my hands for stability. This allows a comfortable seeting position. Adjusting the tilt of the tripod head, and the length of the center column, I can observe at any altitude while comfortably leening backwards.

This works even for my 20x80s, though they do require more of the tripod's stability. For something smaller say 10x50s, it is IMHO the best cheap way of mounting binoculars.

Coming back to the topic of using star charts when observing: when I set down the tripod, the binoculars are far enough removed from where I'm sitting, that I have room to read/write as required.

#11 Rich N

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Posted 30 July 2005 - 03:59 PM

It can be frustrating switching from a well mounted binocular to a hand held binocular.

You can get better at handholding a binocular but you will still be missing a lot compared to a mounted binocular. The IS binoculars are a big step closer to a mounted binocular.

I can drive myself crazy when using low power binoculars by thinking about the fact I'm not holding them any better than high power models. All the shake is still there. Then I start looking for the shake in my low power view. Yep, it's there. At that point I move back up to my 12x binocular and stop thinking about the shake. I just enjoy the view.

Rich

#12 Bob W6PU

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Posted 30 July 2005 - 10:12 PM

Erik, Bebs and guys, if I use my 15x70s just for casual views of star fields, I do ok sitting in a comfortable lawn chair for short periods.

When I first started pistol target shooting and attempted to keep the rear and front sight alligned with a six inch bullseye at 75 feet, I was just amazed how my .357 or even .22 danced up and down, with no magnification envolved!

It's due to our heart beat and pulse. With practice it can be controlled somewhat. At 15x, that shake is magnified fifteen times! :p

Cheers!
Bob in NM

#13 Patrick

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Posted 31 July 2005 - 12:26 AM

Hi Mike,

I just got in from observing with my 15x70 binoculars, which I hand-held. For me I think one of the keys to observing without noticable shake is to SWEEP the sky slowing rather than trying to hold steady on one object. Without a doubt, I could only hand-hold for a limited time before having to rest my arms, but that's okay because I was mainly just having fun looking up anyway.

Regards,

Patrick

#14 werewolf6977

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Posted 31 July 2005 - 04:20 AM

Yeah, for precision observations, I mount mine. for fun, I just pan and scan handheld.

#15 Joe Ogiba

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Posted 31 July 2005 - 08:38 AM

It can be frustrating switching from a well mounted binocular to a hand held binocular.

You can get better at handholding a binocular but you will still be missing a lot compared to a mounted binocular. The IS binoculars are a big step closer to a mounted binocular.


I agree, after using my Unimount ,Unistar,Helix fork mount or one of my Canon IS binoculars it is hard to spend much time with my non IS binoculars of 8x or more handheld. A year ago I would not even think of getting an 8x IS binocular but after seeing how much more stable the image was in my 12x and 10x IS binoculars I purchased the lightweight (16oz) Canon 8x25 IS model and it is great for hanging from my neck for extended periods.

Joe

#16 Glassthrower

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Posted 31 July 2005 - 10:16 AM

Handheld binocular stargazing gets increasingly difficult as the magnification exceeds 7-8x. I have heard mixed reports and some who claim they can easily hand hold a 15x binoc with a decent degree of steadiness. Last night I tried again, and I had mixed results. I tried holding the binos by the objective end as Pete suggested. This did help somewhat, I would hazard to say it decreased the swaying by about 25%. Nevertheless, after an hour or so of casually sweeping the sky handheld, I decided to mount them on my tripod. And yes, Patrick is right, sweeping the sky does reduce the noticeability of shake and sway. Sweeping combined with holding the objective end of the bino did increase my enjoyment of hand-held usage. But whenever I swept across something (like a packed star field in Cygnus), I naturally wanted to stop and linger on the area and take it all in. Of course, this is when the swaying reared it's ugly head again. That said, I greatly enjoyed my 15x70's when they were mounted on the tripod.

All in all, while I am having fun with 15's again, I cannot wait until my 25x100's get back from warranty.

Clear dark skies to all...

MikeG

BTW, check out the OTO. I got my Louisiana Dark Skies petition in the local newspaper. The story and URL is in the OTO under "Tiny victory against light pollution".

#17 chascar

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 08:02 AM

I have found that hand holding is best achieved for me with powers 10x or lower I use my Swift 7x50's and Nikon 10x35's. I don't yet own a higher power bino but have used several higher powers and the only binos close to 15x that I have used without a mount are Orion mini giants 12x and the steadiness can be bothersome and wearing. Congrats on dark sky initiative clear skies

#18 gparkerson

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 08:36 AM

So far I've tried 10X50, 11X70 and 20X80 binos. Of these, I end up using the 10X50s far more than the others for the simple reason that I can use them hand held for extended views. While the 11X70s are only a small magnification increase over the 10X50s, their additional weight is too much for my comfortable hand held use. I also find the larger field of view of the 10X50s more useful than that of the 20X80s. 10X doesn't show as much detail of Jupiter as does 20X, but then binoculars are generally not my first choice for quick planetary views.

My aging eyes will no longer accommodate larger than a 5mm exit pupil, so the 11X70s don't add that much brightness over the 10X50s. I haven't tried 12X60s, but suspect 10X is my limit for useable hand held magnification.

To each his own.

#19 aporigine

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Posted 09 August 2005 - 04:20 PM

Try as I might, I still have not figured out how to look at my star chart and through my binocular at the same time.


I tape the chart to my left objective and look through the right ... :roflmao:

cheers aporigine

(edit) I have no idea why this thread only drew one star. Imo that was unsporting. Mho.

#20 werewolf6977

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Posted 09 August 2005 - 05:26 PM

Count your blessings. My posts usually draw blackholes!

#21 Glassthrower

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Posted 09 August 2005 - 07:12 PM

I have no idea why this thread only drew one star. Imo that was unsporting. Mho.


I rarely, if ever, pay attention to what a thread is rated. And I'm not sure how ratings work on CN. Do admins and mods rate threads? Can regular users rate threads? And does anyone actually care what a thread is rated?

BTW, someone had mentioned earlier in this thread about holding the binos close to the objectives for better stability while gazing handheld. Since I first tried it, I have become hooked. It is how I hold my 8x42mm now and it makes a noticeable difference by cutting back the amount of sway and shake.

MikeG

#22 werewolf6977

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Posted 09 August 2005 - 10:40 PM

Glad it helps.....

#23 aporigine

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Posted 10 August 2005 - 12:21 AM

That ... is heavy, man.

cheers aporigine

#24 KennyJ

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Posted 10 August 2005 - 01:22 AM

< Do admins and mods rate threads? Can regular users rate threads? And does anyone actually care what a thread is rated? >

ANY user can rate a thread.

I don't think anyone actually CARES what a thread is rated , apart from APO and myself , of course :-)

Kenny

#25 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 10 August 2005 - 07:19 AM

Kenny, are you a 5 "star" CN general?


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