Got an hour out tonight before the temps fell enough for the 90% humidity to start frosting up everything. There were definitely some high thin clouds present that I could see earlier, but the transparency still looked reasonably good. I went out in the backyard at twilight, set up the binos and came in to prep dinner. After 30 minutes, I went back outside and spent 30 minutes each in two sessions divided by a 45 minute dinner time. The 18mm AMP UW eyepieces that came with the bino were used, providing about 30x. I could tell that the star images were better during the second session after an hour cool down, but the bino was more than usable 30 minutes after setup.
Sighting in the RDF, I used Venus as a target. Color on Venus as was expected, but it was minimal in the center of the FOV. The slightly less than half lit phase was obvious. Sweeping the binos first to M42, I was pleasantly surprised at the sweep of the nebula even before it was fully dark and the fact that the four trap stars were easy. After adjusting focus a few times to dial things in, I went up to the Pleiades. The cluster filled the field of view nicely with just enough space around the edges to frame it nicely. Stars were sharp throughout most of the FOV with a just little softening in the outer 10% or so, not nearly as much as I was expecting. I had to be looking for it, otherwise it wasn't intrusive. The overall view was very, very nice. The is a slight bit of vignetting on the outer 10-15%, but again, if I wasn't specifically looking for it I wouldn't have noticed. I was expecting some coma in the outer parts of the field since the binos are f/5.5, but I could not detect any. Overall, these seem to be rather well corrected.
From The Pleiades, I went to the Double Cluster which was beautifully framed at 30x and I could even make out my favorite part, the tiny little arc of stars in NGC 869 (I think). Colors of the stars were varied and beautiful.
After my 45 minute break, I easily located M1 in Taurus which was brighter than I anticipated in the high humidity sky. I then went back to M42 which now in the darker sky was breathtaking. I swept the binos all thru the Orion region, just enjoying the magnificent views. Once I quit analyzing the views, I started just enjoying my first use of binos bigger than 50mm.
I then moved to Cassiopeia and cruised around the Milky Way and decided to find the OWL Cluster. I am so used to seeing it this time of year in telescopes, upside down that I really enjoyed the right side up aspect. I swept over to Ursa Major and found M81 and M82 which although were fairly low, were found pretty quickly. No detail to be seen in tonight's sky, however. It was a bit hazier to the north.
Things started frosting up, so I went back to M42 yet again to end the night there.
The APM mount was absolutely invisible and the binoculars just went where I wanted with a light push as if the mount was reading my mind. My marginal Gitzo tripod was more solid than I anticipated. While sweeping around the sky, there was absolutely no vibration. The tripod is only about 2/3 extended. I'll have to see if I feel the same after I try the new Pentax 8.5mm EPs.
So here's my initial take on my first big binos:
APM Fork Mount - A+ - I hate to use the word perfect, but it is.
Color on 2nd magnitude stars - very little and more than tolerable. Venus - well, it's Venus. I did not buy these for planetary work. B+
Vignetting - minimal - A-
Sharpness across FOV - Very good and much better than I expected. A-
Coma - None that I could see - A
Installing and removing eyepieces with the Shapeways ring mods - Easy and secure - A
Focusing - firm, but not too firm - A
Mounting and dismounting the bino to the mount using the two thumb screws with the plate already mounted to the bino - Quick and easy. - A
My wife's comment after viewing M42, M45 and the Double Cluster: "Oh my god, I love these. These are going to Yellowstone with us, right?" - Priceless!
Overall, I am extremely happy as the semi-apos performed way better than anticipated. Now we're in for a lot of snow starting tomorrow all the way through next Tuesday.