Taking the SLC 56 family out under the stars!
As luck would have it, skies cleared to wonderful mag 6 skies the second and third night I had these binoculars on loan. Over these two nights, I observed with them extensively on a variety of astronomical objects. During the day I used them on birds in my garden and at dusk I took them out to observe some geese and deer.
All three performed flawlessly and had spot-on collimation as tested on the stars while mounted on a tripod. The new rubber armor turned out to have a great combination of feel and grip. The thumb rests are well placed and make these binoculars easy to hold and feel smaller than they really are.
Fields were sharp for 3/4 of the field with only slight deterioration towards the edge. Almost EL-class. But without the rolling ball effect of the EL. All in all a great combination of sharpness over the field of view and comfort of the view.
Brightness in all 3 is fantastic for their aperture and respective magnifications. They are brighter and more transparent than their EL series counterparts like the 10x50 and 12x50's.
Mechanics of the SLC 56's are different, but definitely EL-class, unlike the smaller SLC 42's, which are a notch below the SLC 56's in the mechanical department (sticky focuser in the 42) and less bright of course.
When the moon is far (40-50 degrees) outside the field of view in the SLC 56's, it generates a weak reflection, but nothing to worry about in the field. And ghosting with the moon inside the field of view is absent.
All 3 SLC's 56 are wonderful binoculars and a joy to use. All show a 56mm class sky with similarities and differences. All interact differently with the observers' eyes and the sky-conditions.
So here we go!
The new SLC 8x56
Of the 3 SLC's, the 8x56 are the brightest. Their views are supremely easy on the eyes, have great depth of view (helpful during the day) and offer the steadiest views, thanks to their low magnification. Their eye relief is enormous and comfortable at the same time.
They are the only new SLC 56's that fit the Belt and Sword of Orion in one view. Or the Heiades. And generally have at least 2 guiding stars in their field of view to find fainter deep-sky objects.
The moon is on the small side for detail-observing, but the views are fantastically sharp, color free and contrasty. Their very big exit pupils of 7 mm make stars a bit spiky to our less than perfect eyes. It is in our eyes though, as adding a 3x booster easily demonstrates. If your eyes open up wide enough, or if you simply want to enjoy very bright, wide and easy views, the new SLC 8x56 could be just the ticket for you.
The new SLC 10x56
These are great allround binoculars for both night- and daytime observing. Brightness is a notch below the SLC 8X56's. To most eyes they do appear a tad sharper than the 8x56's at night due to their smaller 5.6mm exit pupils. Eyerelief is wonderful, both for most observers with glasses and those without. But they are noticeably tighter on eye relief than the SLC 8x56.
The Moon and Pleiades start to come alive at 10x and smaller deep-sky objects become easier to distinguish from each other and from stars. But they do loose that critical overview for finding deep-sky objects. And the new SLC 10x56's are unable to fit the Sword and Belt of Orion into the same field of view. Or really display the Heiades in all their wide field splendor. Yet they still lack some magnification for more detailed observations of the heavens. During the day and early dusk, these 10x56's give a powerful demonstration of the benefits of 56mm of aperture and 10x hits a sweet spot for this size binoculars during these heavy duty hours for birders and general observing. All in all, they are a great compromise, but also a Jack of all trades and a master of none.
The new SLC 15x56
Enter the SLC 15x56, or shall I say the masters of hand-held (deep) sky observing? These binoculars are stunning astronomical performers.
Although eyerelief is the shortest of the SLC 56 series, it is still very good except for those who must wear thick glasses. Because of their relatively small exit pupils of 3.7 they appear very sharp to most peoples' eyes. And they ARE in fact very sharp. Very sharp indeed. As verified with the 3x Zeiss monocular while tripod-mounted, the views remain sharp and virtually color free at 45x!
Observing the moon with these binos is an incredible experience. Sharpness, brightness, contrast and purity images is unsurpassed by any current production binocular in this aperture class. They are miles ahead of the old SLC 15x56 they replace, specially in color correction. Views are 3-D with the Moon appearing as a very detailed sphere comparable to the view in an apochromatic refractor at similar magnification.
Deep-sky objects take on a new identity in these 15xSLC's showing detail and structure the 10x or 8x SLC's cannot remotely reveal. And the best thing is that these new SLC 15x56 are handhold able. Balance is subtly better than the lower magnification models of the series. Less front heavy, they are easy to hold well for longer periods of time, giving the impression of some magical hidden image stabilizer. Of course they work even better on a tripod, but they work really well without. For astronomical use, these are the finest SLC's in my opinion. But you have to know your way around the stars, because finding is a lot more challenging at 15x and the correspondingly smaller field of view. Especially when the SLC 15x56 are teamed up with the wide field brightness masters of the family,the superb SLC 8x56, you have a great team for hand-held binocular astronomy.
Later on, I will compare the SLC 56's with some other binos. The SLC 15x56 has to take on the Nikon 18x70 to see which of them is the best medium sized astronomical bino. And the SLC 8x56 challenges the Zeiss Victory FL 7x42 to see who is he brightness champ. As a bonus I do some comparisons between two binoculars with identical magnification, but different sizes and -exit pupils: the new SLC 10x56 and the Zeiss Vixtory FL 10x32.