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Vixen Giant ARK 30x80: Seeking a review/personal experience

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#26 Pinac

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Posted 14 October 2015 - 01:22 AM

Troy, is this still a current topic for you?  Just got an ARK 30x80 and will review it over the next few days / nights.

Pinac


Edited by Pinac, 14 October 2015 - 01:23 AM.


#27 Milos1977

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Posted 14 October 2015 - 09:16 PM

looking forward to it. 

 

thanks



#28 Pinac

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Posted 19 October 2015 - 08:35 AM

I was maybe a bit optimistic when I said on Oct. 14 I would "review over the next few days / nights" - lately, the days have been foggy and the nights constantly rainy (I live in Switzerland) so I will get back when I have had a chance to actually see something when looking through the bino :( :) 



#29 btr209

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Posted 19 October 2015 - 11:34 AM

Looking forward to read your review Pinac as I am considering getting a 30x80 Ark for terrestrial and planetary observations. CA control  will be crucial.



#30 Pinac

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Posted 19 October 2015 - 12:19 PM

Tks btr209. I will follow up soon, but it is already clear to me now that I will not be using the ARK for terrestrial observations - a Nikon Monarch 5 16x56 or 20x56 is much better suited for that in my humble view, for various reasons - and CA control is unfortunately NOT the ARK's strong point. Happy to elaborate on that later.

Rgds Pinac



#31 Pinac

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Posted 21 October 2015 - 01:43 PM

This is a brief review of the Vixen ARK 30x80.

 

The newly acquired ARK 30x80 is the largest bino I have been using, and unfortunately, I do not have a possibility to compare it to other large binos such as e.g. Celestron 25x70 or similar. However, I have been and am frequently using binoculars with magnifications of 15x, 16x and 20x, among which Nikon Monarch 5 16x and 20x, Docter Nobilem 15x60, Zeiss Conquest HD 15x56, Swarovski SLC 15x56 and Leica Duovid 10x/15x. I am using magnifications up to 15x / 16x for daytime and night sky observations, 20x and now 30x are intended for night sky use only, mostly observing the moon and some of the planets (Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn). I do own a C90 and a Swaro ATM 80 HD for observations when higher magnifications are needed, but I prefer the binocular vision wherever it is reasonably useful.

I have read the brief review posted by daniel_h on June 6, 2015 in this forum and will quote it below.

 

GENERAL / BUILD QUALITY, FINISH / ACCESSORIES
Overall finishing is ok. The Vixen appears quite light for its size (2445g), easy to grasp and handle, and seems well balanced. In contrast to daniel_h, I had no problem fixing the Vixen on the tripod and adjusting the balance with the tripod support bar screw so that no slop remained. Overall, the ARK fits better on my tripod than anticipated and can be easily balanced out, in line with viewing requirements.
There are in fact dew / stray light shields (as daniel-h suspected) at the front of each barrel made of rubber, which can be pulled out so that they protrude the objective lenses by about 2 inches; more would be better, and moving the rubbery shields is a bit of a hassle since they stick a little bit on the barrel surface. But the shields are still a useful feature.
The Vixen comes with objective caps, eyepiece caps, a thin neck strap (who is ever going to use that and carry the Vixen on his chest??) and is packed in a hard plastic case with thin inside lining, which in my view does not give the Vixen proper protection (a padded metal or plastic suitcase would be a much better idea), especially since the Vixen appears to be quite a sensitive instrument (see below). Moreover, when you place the Vixen back into the case you have to manoevre quite a bit since the tripod support bar and the protruding screw are always somehow in the way (I have decided not to use the orginal case anymore and to carry the Vixen for transport in a heavily padded small suitcase).

 

MECHANICS
The hinge is reasonably tight and can be adjusted for interpupillary distances between 55 and 70 mm. The eyecups can be twisted up quite a bit but there is no intermediate stops. The eyecups are reasonably comfortable on the eye, not perfect though, a bit too hard for my taste.
The focusing wheel turns smoothly, neither too easy nor to hard but just right in my opinion, with no play at all, BUT: the bridge rocks significantly ! I have been asking myself whether this is a problem of my individual ARK but have come to the conclusion that it’s probably typical for this model. The consequence of this is, that you have to either continually search for the right focus, like daniel_h described it in his review, or you have to be very self-disciplined and always make the last turn of the focus wheel in the same direction (i.e. I first turn clockwise beyond the right focus point and then „come back“ counter-clockwise). This is not very satisfactory, and even if the Vixen is not a top of the range instrument and does not carry a price tag like a Zeiss, this flaw is not really acceptable (even some relatively cheap Chinese binos can do considerably better).
The focusing range is from about 20m to infinity, and there is ample „excess movement“ beyond infinity (what’s the correct technical term here?).
The diopter adjustment ring is on the right eyepiece; it works well with no play, but the „0 dpt“ position is not really at 0, but rather at about -1, not a huge problem but maybe noteworthy. The dpt adjustment ring cannot be locked, so it can happen that you rotate it inadvertently when pulling out the right eyecup.
Looking at the Vixen from the eyepiece side, things look quite good; there is no false exit pupil, just a little bit of brightness around the exit pupil but really quite little. There is no vignetting.
Looking into the tubes from the objective side, everything looks ok as well, the inner side of the tubes is nicely finished and blackened, and only an insignificant number of small dust specks becomes visible when directing a bright torch at the front side of the tubes.
Eye relief should be quite sufficient with 18mm (I am not using glasses when observing).

Vixen claims the ARK to be waterproof. I have a bit of difficulty believing that, given the significant rioking movement of the bridge which gives me the impression that water should be able to get in between eyepiece and barrel, but maybe there is a seal in between ?

 

OPTICS
The first look through the ARK reveals no significant collimation errors; collimation is maybe not perfect, I am quite sensitive to decollimation it and had several binos returned to the manufacturers for recollimation, but the collimation of the Vixen appears just okay in my view. I have been reading several times and also have been told by bino sellers that the 30x80 is actually prone to decollimate during use if not handled with care , more easily than the 20x80 model which seems a bit more robust in this respect (I had my ARK triple packed and padded for dispatch when I had it sent to me by the German optics shop in Cologne where I bought it).

The real field of view is 2.3 degrees, the apparent fov is 69 degrees. This results in a picture with about a 40m diameter at 1000m observation distance. For somebody like me who is used to wide fovs (e.g. over 150m with the Nikon EII) the ARK shows a tiny field which makes it unattractive for my daytime nature observations. It is sufficient, however, for observations of planets and the moon, the latter fits easily into the fov.

As to the optical quality of the Vixen:
Something that a colleague here in  the forum, „Surveyor I“, mentioned in his post of June 9, 2015 when talking  about the Orion MegaView 30x80 (which he described as „a close cousin to the Vixen ARK 30x80“) struck me as an excellent description of the image quality of the ARK: he wrote that
quote
„you really do have to concentrate on staying on-axis while viewing. Staying in the center will give you a very nice image. But moving just slightly off-center will distort things quite a bit.“
unquote
I couldn’t describe it any better. In the center of the image, the ARK produces a fairly sharp picture with reasonably good contrast, but sharpness decreases relatively rapidly towards the edge. In addition, you need to align your eyes well to the  eyepieces and stay well on-center, or your image can get somewhat blurry.
Correction of CA is not a strong point of the ARK. Objects show the well known color fringes even close to the center of the image. Of course, Vixen does not use ED glass at this price range and the result is quite visible. For my personal uses, this is not dramatic, but if you intend to use the ARK for observations for which CA is detrimental, you may need to consider whether the ARK is really for you.

Control of stray light appears reasonably good; in difficult observation situations with the sun ahead and shining on the objective lenses, a bit of glare becomes visible, but not too bad. In such situations, the stray light / dew shields are a bit too short and do not provide full shade on the objective lenses; but they still fulfill their purpose as dew shields.

I have not seen any ghost images or other light effects when observing bright objects such as the moon. Apart from the relatively strong CA, color reproduction is generally good.

I colleague who owns an ARK 30x8 since quite some time told me that on Jupiter, the two main cloud bands are visible in the ARK, and on Saturn the gap between the planet and the ring should be easibly visible (it’s just visible in the 20x56 Monarch 5 if atmospheric conditions are good). I will test that myself , but so far have been mainly observing the crescent moon (finally, the bad weather cleared 3 days ago).

 

CONCLUSION
I hesitated for a while whether to buy the 20x80 or the 30x80 ARK model and ended up buying the 30x80, mainly because with the Monarch 5, I already owned a 20x bino and wanted more magnification. Is it worth it ?
I am not sure yet. While 20x is not enough for certain purposes, 30x might just do the job, but only if the optical quality is good enough. Of course, there are bigger, even much bigger,  and more expensive binos out there, such as the ones from Docter, Fujinon etc, but I neither wanted to spend that kind of money, nor go through the hassle of mounting a 40x100 20 kilogram „double refractor“ or the like. So the 30x80 ARK in my judgment is a compromise and I consider it mechanically (except for the rocking bridge!!) and optically „reasonably good“; it’s optics are not terrific, but they are also not appalling, and maybe I am just a bit spoiled from frequently using true premium binos from Zeiss, Swarovski and Co.
As I mentioned earlier, I can unfortunately not compare the ARK with other similarly sized binos, e.g. from Celestron. It could well be that the 20x80 model from Vixen would be a better choice than the 30x model for many applications: brighter, more fov, a bit less CA (??), and apparently a bit more robust.

I will report back again once I have gained more experience with planetary observations and the like.

 

Please ignore my typos and give me feedback on errors and mistakes.

 

For what it’s worth.
Pinac


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#32 hakann

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Posted 21 October 2015 - 06:37 PM

Good report.
Off topics but you seems be into astronomy and 20X.
Has you test the Zeiss 2060S ?
If so, how do them stand out from other pair you has used.

Edited by hakann, 21 October 2015 - 06:37 PM.


#33 Pinac

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Posted 22 October 2015 - 01:40 AM

Sorry, no I don't know the stabilized Zeiss (if I were to spend that amount of money, it would be on one of the very big Kowas, Docters or Vixens).

Some people find the 20x60 S  quite heavy to hold over extended periods of time, and I heard that the stabilization mechanism works less well at high angles, such as during observations in the sky; that may or may not be true. I guess the glass is optically a bit "dated", but it's certainly still an impressive instrument.

I have a colleague who published a brief review on an optics forum, however it is in German (if you don't speak German, maybe with Google Translate you could get the gist of it). Let me know if you want it.

Pinac


Edited by Pinac, 22 October 2015 - 01:41 AM.


#34 hakann

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Posted 22 October 2015 - 02:11 AM

Yes youre right, 2015 and 8.000 USD on a 25 year old optics dont make sense if astronomy only. I bought my at 900 euros ( broken IS ) but I repair the IS now at Zeiss. I got a estimate at 700-1.000 Euros. This pair was serviced in opics at Zeiss 5 years ago for 700 Euros.
So as I like to handhold a bino this still might be state of the art even today. So if I pay less than 2.000 Euros I'm under what a pair of Swarro EL or Zeiss SF 42 mm cost today. Might be worth it ? Ok, cant be compared but I was chosing bino for a upcoming La Palma trip.
As I heard it, IS will work for Astronomy. But ?
If you has reviews, please send it!
I will get a tripod aswell, but idea is handhold. Weight is on upper level to bring out of course.
IS should be very sensetive. Binos cant be loose in a car etc, the IS will be broken direct, must go in box.
Former owner bought a Fuij 25X150 mm.
He also has a bigger Kowa bino.
I'm not into this real big units.

Edited by hakann, 22 October 2015 - 02:20 AM.


#35 Pinac

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Posted 22 October 2015 - 03:37 AM

Less than € 2k for a 20x60S ?

Good deal !!

Please state email address so that I can send review - as I said, it is in German, but I think the guy knows what he is talking about, and I'm sure you can translate online.

Pinac



#36 btr209

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Posted 22 October 2015 - 12:58 PM

Thanks a lot Pinac for taking the time to write this detailed and very interesting review.

As the owner of a Zeiss Conquest HD 15x56, I would like to know how the CA of the Ark compares to this particular Zeiss, because CA is obvious if not disturbing in the Zeiss which is, IMO a good achromat but nothing more.

The AFOV and ER are exactly the same as the Zeiss as well which is interesting.

If image quality deteriorates so quickly in the 30x80 when you look off-axis or when your eye placement is not optimum, it may cause fatigue very quickly and make observations  tiring.

Also, how would you rate your Nikon 16x56 against the Zeiss?

Regards.


Edited by btr209, 22 October 2015 - 01:00 PM.


#37 Pinac

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Posted 22 October 2015 - 02:19 PM

Tks btr209.

 

The 15x Conquest HD is a wonderful bino, and I like it a lot. In optics performance it is quite close to the considerably more expensive (at least here in Switzerland) Swarovski SLC, which marks the top of the 15x56 market (the Swaro is a bit lighter and smaller than the Zeiss). There are people who think hat the Conquest shows a bit more CA than the SLC; if so, the difference is small. On the other hand, in some tests (e.g. binomania) the Zeiss is said to beat the Swaro in central sharpness. I thave not been able to come to a consistent conclusion whether that's true. At any rate, the Zeiss is a very good piece of equipment.

 

The ARK cannot be compared to the Zeiss when it comes to CA. The ARK is much worse, the difference is huge. I will have to work with the ARK to get optimum performance out of it; I think that e.g. on the moon, I see more details than with the 20x Nikon when the eye placement is optimal, otherwise not. In addition, air turbulence is clearly more of an issue for the 30x bino than for the 20x, more so than I would have anticipated.

 

The Nikon Monarch 5 16x56 is an excellent binocular when you consider the price (here in Switzerland, it's half the price of the Conquest HD). It serves me well for daytime obsevations as well as at night (moon, planets), it's quite compact (almost an inch shorter than the Zeiss), but it is clearly a class below the Zeiss in optical performance - in the Zeiss, sharpness, contrast, brightness, field of view, and CA control are visibly better.

 

I have access and am co-owner of a local collection of current binoculars, and beside the Nikon Monarch 5 20x56, we have also two other 15x binos, a Leica Duovid 15x/10x (a bit more CA, as it does not have ED glass like the Ultravids), and a Docter Nobilem 15x60 (a huge porro with an old-fashioned design, but very nice image). If you were to ask me to rate them all, the following would be my rating, starting wit the best:

Swaro SLC, Zeiss Conquest HD, Docter, Leica, Nikon 16x, Nikon 20x.

 

Rgds. Pinac


Edited by Pinac, 22 October 2015 - 02:23 PM.


#38 btr209

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Posted 23 October 2015 - 09:47 AM

Thanks Pinac,

I love my Conquest HD 15x56 but I expected less CA for the money, if the Ark is much worse I will not buy it and save instead for a Vixen BT binocular. The reason why I did not get the Swaro is the short 16mm ER, I have owned several Swarovsky glasses and I know that it would not be enough for me.



#39 Rich V.

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Posted 23 October 2015 - 10:27 AM

I've enjoyed reading this thread; it makes it clear that comparing a value priced 30x80 "giant" achromatic binocular to much smaller, higher quality binos is going to show the giant bino in a bad light.    ;)

 

We know for a given focal ratio and lens design, a larger objective is more prone to show CA; when you magnify that image 30x rather than 15x or even 20x, the CA will be all the more apparent.

 

For daytime use, I'd suspect the 30x80 would be a poor choice.  This bino is primarily designed for astro use where the CA is usually much less noticeable unless you're looking at very bright objects that are probably more appropriate for a telescope anyhow.  30x is also likely too high a mag for daytime use due to atmospheric turbulence as noted above by Pinac.  I frequently see too much turbulence in my WO 22x70 ED binos; I wouldn't want a higher mag. version for daytime use even though it shows negligible CA...

 

If high performance, higher mag. viewing without a lot of CA is your expectation, it's clear you need to look at a much higher priced ED bino like the Docter 40x80 or the Kowa Highlander Prominar or perhaps a used WO 22x70ED if you can find one.

 

Rich



#40 btr209

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Posted 23 October 2015 - 12:54 PM

Rich, I don't think that 30x is too high for daytime use, otherwise spotting scopes wouldn't exist. I asked Zeiss about the F/D ratio of the Conquest HD 15x56 but they have remained silent so far. I know too about the problems of increasing aperture for a given F/D ratio, I suspect the Ark series has a short F/D ratio, just like any other porro of this confugaration. I looked through an Ark 16x80 once at a show and found CA too noticeable but the rep told me that correcting the CA further would make a price increase that most potential buyers would not accept...remains to be seen IMO.

The problem is that there isn't much choice in  large ED binos, I definitely want at least 30x mag because 20x wouldn't be much more than my current 15x. the ideal would be interchangeable telescope eyepieces, which leads to Vixen.



#41 Rich V.

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Posted 23 October 2015 - 02:43 PM

I was referring to long distance terrestrial use.  At closer distances, certainly atmospheric turbulence is a non-issue.  Spotters are frequently used at relatively close distances and higher mags are of course useful.  

 

I don't see any reference to the close focus distance of the 30x80s; even though they are a CF design, I'd suspect they don't have nearly the close focus capabilities of a spotter and with all the CA reported by Pinac, they just don't appear to be a great choice for terrestrial use.

 

Now, the Vixen BT-ED70 would be an entirely different story with good CA correction and a choice of eyepieces.  Individual focusing, though, and no mention of close focus capability that I've seen.  

 

Rich



#42 btr209

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Posted 23 October 2015 - 03:19 PM

The BT-ED70 is too close to my 15x56 that's why I have discarded it. Close focus is of no interest to me, what I meant by terrestrial observation is long distance indeed.

I am not looking for a totally CA-free instrument, if it has the same optical quality as my Zeiss 15x56 it will be good enough, The BT81S could be fine.


Edited by btr209, 23 October 2015 - 03:20 PM.


#43 Milos1977

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Posted 23 October 2015 - 05:48 PM

Thanks for review Pinac !!, as well as for comparison of 15x and 16x Roofs. I also own Monarch 5 16x56 and would loove to spend some time comparing it to something better in that class. 



#44 Prescott702

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Posted 23 October 2015 - 06:01 PM

Btr, i dont know what you mean the vixen ed 70 is too close to your zeiss.

Its optically better, and you can push it up to 70x if you want.

#45 KennyJ

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Posted 23 October 2015 - 06:15 PM

Pinac,

 

I'm a bit late offering these comments, and it's also a bit late at the moment ( after midnight here following a long day ) to expand any further at this moment.

 

First of all, thank you for taking the time and effort to post such a well presented and well thought out review.

 

Secondly, most of what I might have written, had time permitted, would already have been said, as far from the first time, Rich V. has already said almost everything I would have said myself.

 

Wishing you clear skies !

 

Kenny



#46 btr209

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Posted 24 October 2015 - 01:49 AM

Btr, i dont know what you mean the vixen ed 70 is too close to your zeiss.

Its optically better, and you can push it up to 70x if you want.

Yes the Vixen 70mm is optically better but I want to keep a relatively comfortable EP at 30x, say around 3mm which gives  a 23x mag, spending 4000 euros for this small leap is not worthwile as the Zess already does a good job at 15x with a good 3,7mm EP. Moreover DSOs viewing will not dramatically change from the Zeiss to the Vixen 70mm.

I look forward to the Binomania comparative between the BT-126, Kowa Prominar and APM 100 90°.


Edited by btr209, 24 October 2015 - 01:52 AM.


#47 Prescott702

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Posted 24 October 2015 - 08:13 AM

What about the chineses 28x110? Too heavy?

#48 btr209

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Posted 24 October 2015 - 08:33 AM

What about the chineses 28x110? Too heavy?

Yes too heavy and from the information I have gathered, massive CA and only (fairly) sharp in the centre.



#49 Pinac

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Posted 16 February 2016 - 12:47 PM

Just some brief additional remarks after 4 months of using the ARK 30x80:

 

Taking it out only at night, I don't have to turn much on the focus wheel, so the rocking bridge which I critized in my review does not really bother me much, and the ARK has "grown on me" a bit; it's not a top of the range bino like a Kowa, Fujinon or Docter, but still quite useful for astro (see below), and of course also mauch cheaper, and I particularly like it's light weight and easy handling on a tripod. I guess (don't really know, so would welcome comments) the ARK is optically probaly better than a Skymaster 25x.

 

Does the 30x magnification bring a significant advantage on the night sky against smaller instruments with 15x, 18x and 20x ?

 

During a few nights with acceptable conditions and relatively dark skies, I have been comparing the ARK against a number of other binos on some night sky objects and came to the following conclusions (for the time being). The smaller binos were:
 

Zeiss Conquest HD 15x56

Swarovski SLC 15x56

Nikon 18x70 IF WP WF

Lunt Engineering 20x70 MS

(I did not have access to a Fujinon 16x70 but I guess it's performance would have been somewhat comparable to the Nikon)

 

- Moon: since everything is significantly larger in the ARK, I detected some smaller structures which I had overlooked in the smaller instruments. Once I had detected them, I could then also see them in 18x and 20x, less so in 15x. However, the wider, sharper and more brillant image in the smaller instruments makes up for a part of the difference in magnification.

 

- Jupiter: maybe in excellent atmospheric conditions some cloud bands could be visible, but I had no luck or did not trust my eyes to really see what I hoped to see. I found the moons surrounding Jupiter nicer, sharper and more brilliant in the smaller instruments than in the ARK.

 

- M45(Pleiades): I liked the image in the 15x, 18x and the 20x binos better than in the ARK, the wider field of view in the smaller instruments gave me more of a "3D" impression.

 

- M42/M43 (Orion Nebula): here, the ARK showed more cloud detail, the nebulous structures with dark and light parts extended further outwards than in the smaller binos; however, the 18x and 20x instruments with their higher quality optics than the ARK gave a crisper view of the stars in and around the nebula.

 

- M31 (Andromeda): in fuzzy objects like this one, the higher magnification brings advantages over the smaller instruments. Here, the ARK showed its potential. Maybe if the sky had been very dark, which it is rarely where I live, the 18x and 20x would have impressed me as much as the ARK. I found 15x, however, less impressive (of course it is still better than 10x or 12x).

 

For what it's worth. Pinac

 

P.S.
Saturn and Venus: not observed yet. I suspect the higher quality 18x and 20x instruments will give me nicer views of Venus, and with good conditions,  Saturn's ring is clearly visible in 18x and easy in 20x, so I do not expect the ARK to bring much more in detail. 15x is at its limits here, Saturn's ring is more a guess and not a certainty, at least for my eyes.

Will have to see later in the year.



#50 hallelujah

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Posted 16 February 2016 - 01:20 PM

 

- Jupiter: maybe in excellent atmospheric conditions some cloud bands could be visible, but I had no luck or did not trust my eyes to really see what I hoped to see. I found the moons surrounding Jupiter nicer, sharper and more brilliant in the smaller instruments than in the ARK.

 

 

When atmospheric conditions are clear, I can see the bands of Jupiter with my ORION MEGAView 30x80mm.

 

Saturn is tiny but it is still more pleasing in the 30x80mm than in my 20x binoculars.

 

The view of the Double Cluster is really striking through my Orion 30x80mm.

 

It is easier to view the Stickman/Stock 2 with the 30x80 also, at least from my location.

 

http://astronomer.wp.../10/Stock-2.jpg

 

I would not want to be without my ORIONMEGAView 30x80 when it comes to stargazing, or lunar, or planetary viewing. :like:

 

Stan




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