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Orion Explorer 15x70's and Paragon Mount

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#1 aa0ni

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 03:06 PM

I bought the Orion Explorer 15x70's and the Paragon Plus mount and tripod at a local Orion distributor (I originally wanted just the mount and tripod, but the 15x70's looked like they naturally belonged on this mount). The price was probably 'astronomical' compared to similar units, but ignoring that...

I'd like to compare notes on the binoculars. Has anyone done a serious side-by-side comparison of the Orion Explorer 15x70's with the Celestron or other brands? The binos showed excellent air-to-glass coatings on the objectives, and the glass and prisms almost look transparent when looking backwards thru the objectives (maybe I need to find stronger back lighting). We haven't had good transparency in the last 24 hours - but I was able to see Saturn and Mars approaching each other (Beehive was washed out in the haze). And this is where my concern lies ... I wasn't able to get a really good focused view of these two planets even though I'd adjust each ocular individually. At best, the center would be tack sharp, but the other planet would show a little glare streaking off to the edge. I don't know if this is just because I'm looking at bright planets and not dimmer stars and DSO's. Further testing is obviously needed. I will say - that daytime use - these things are incredible. Looking down the street, it's like standing 20 feet away from a car 100+ feet away.

The only other problem is with the Paragon mount - and maybe this is just typical of bino-mounts - but when I aim at an object and then let go, the bino leans a little bit causing the image to shift. I think it is related to the tension knob that holds the binoculars at a particular altitude. I guess I can learn to live with this.

Your comments on these two pieces of equipment would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks, and Clear Skies!
Daniel
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#2 Art Fritzson

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 09:12 AM

Daniel,

The 15x70s and Paragon are a great combination. Good luck with them. The symptoms you describe - "a little glare streaking off to the edge" - is what I think of as "flaring". It seems to be present in most low to mid quality binos when looking at very bright objects (especially planets). I see the same thing in my Meades, my Oberwerks, and my Garretts. I've heard that some of the very high end binoculars don't have this problem, but I can't speak first hand.

My suggestion - use the binos for clusters and DSOs and get a small telescope for the planets.

- Art

#3 aa0ni

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 11:59 PM

Thanks Art,

We had some storms come thru in the last 24 hours that knocked alot of the moisture/dust out of the air. I had about 15-30 minutes with the bino's tonight, and they are quite nice. The flaring is not at all noticable in dimmer objects and most stars.

I got these because of the summer milky way - and because it is quite a chore dragging out the SkyView Pro 8 EQ and setting it up (but I use it for planets and sketching). Wide views of the milky way are what really keep me tied to the eyepiece.

Thanks again for the reply - a reality check is always in order when you don't have other equipment to test it against.

Clear Skies,
Daniel
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#4 Art Fritzson

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 07:39 AM

Daniel,

With the SVP 8 and the 15x70s, you've got the bases covered for a long time. That's a really good combination. Let us hear how you use them together sometime.

- Art

#5 Brad P

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 08:21 AM

I got my 10x50s in December and did not notice any "flaring" when looking at Saturn, but since the bigger and brighter Jupiter has come around, I can't even get a decent focus on it.

Is flaring similar to these strange internal reflections I get from street lights? If I am in my front yard I seem to lose about 1/4 on my field of view to this washed out light on the right side (it looks like a crescent moon). When I got to my back yard (and away from the pole mounted lights), it seems to go away.

#6 Joad

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 12:29 PM

Welcome to Cloudy Nights, aa0ni! Art has already provided you with the answer I would give. Jupiter and Mars are tough binocular targets. They tend to produce "flaring." Saturn doesn't. But star fields, asterisms, the more spectacular nebulae: ah, these are where binoculars excel.

#7 Glassthrower

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 01:14 PM

Brad and Daniel -

Flaring has been discussed around here quite a bit and my understanding of it is : it's a byproduct of the inherently fast focal ratio of most binoculars, coupled with insufficient "correction" in the optical train. Almost any binocular, even the expensive premium ones, will show some flaring on the brightest stars and planets. To get a "tack sharp" pinpointy view without spiking would require a highly-corrected (read : expensive) optical system like the Takahashi 22x60 (which is an APO I believe?) that uses premium glass (The Tak is fluorite). The only other solution (possibly?) is to slow down the focal ratio to get a better corrected image - which would require a LONG binocular.

But, let me qualify that above paragraph of regurgitated optical geek-speak with this : I am by no means an expert on flaring, but I have seen my fair share of it in budget Chinese optics. It annoys me and I have tried to read up on it to find a "low tech" solution. I tried stopping down my objectives from 100mm to 80mm in an effort to reduce the flaring (amongst other things) and the results were negligible.

BTW, welcome again to CN Daniel.

Clear dark skies...

MikeG

#8 DJB

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 02:23 AM

Hi MikeG,

Yes, I believe you have it right. My shortest FL binoculars all flare, and, since I like a wide field, well, what would I expect anyway?

However, a particular 20x80 that I have has a rather wide 3.7* FOV. That baby is (almost) as long as my OB 25x100s. But the point is that there is VIRTUALLY no flare out to the very edge; curvature yes, flare no way!

That particular binocular is a Celestron (Japan) from the 1980s. Apparently few were made then because of the cost, I suppose. It weighs around eight pounds. But, your observation is quite correct in my opinion. I do concur.

Best regards,
Dave.

#9 aa0ni

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 11:18 AM

Thank you all for the comments.

I did some additional reading and was not aware that my astigmatism can play an additional role with flaring - especially when I view without my glasses. When I share the view, I use my glasses, but when I want to spend a few moments of deep, intense, star gazing, the glasses come off, the eyeguards are extended, and I adjust the bino's for my extreme near sightedness - and the flaring is a little stronger on brighter objects. But, over all, these bino's are great!

I had a good evening last night and found some real gems here in my mag-3 skies. The Milky Way was up high enough to be seen over my neighbor's tree to the east and it wasn't so high that we had to crane our necks backwards - providing a lovely scene in the heart of Cygnus (my wife didn't know that there were so many stars to be seen - she has not seen the milky way with her naked eye out in the country - it was breath taking in town with the bino's - worth the money right there). A little West of Sagitii (?) I found a string of 'pearls' (6 stars in a row). Also, to the south, looking at alpha Librae - we could see the double star - and also make out an arrow or 'carrot' shape (like shift-6 on the keyboard) just above it. Light pollution is bad enough here so that I could barely imagine I was seeing M4 low to the south next to Antares - although I could find M5 after much consulting of my charts. M13 is easy to hit, but difficult to view since it is nearly straight up. I had a few minutes where I could view Mars and Saturn last night along with the Beehive, but clouds quickly rolled in and covered up - first - the Beehive, then the planets. Albireo was also a joy to observe - easily resolved at 15x.

I have a pair of Swift 15x60's (from my father) to compare with the Orion Explorer 15x70's. The Swifts are much easier to handhold. They both give the same 4 deg wide view. The extra 10 mm's does not improve my view here in town (I need an evening out in the country to really prove them). I like the Explorer's individual focus better, and although I can handhold the Explorers if I must - they are significantly heavier. I found myself using the Swifts by hand to scan quickly, and after finding an object, I'd use the Explorers on the Paragon Mount to show it to others.

I think I've got most of my serious equipment covered for a long time. The bino's give me 4 deg FOV, and I can squeak out 2 deg FOV in the scope (not the best view but it's what I could afford - flaring is evident at f5 with my $50 2" 30mm GSO Superview, but it acts like a "super finder" and is fun to use combined with the Rigel Quickfinder). I've had decent views up to 250x with the SVP 8 EQ - so planets have been alot of fun. It just takes longer to set up the SVP - set up the tripod, attach the mount, align it with Polaris, attach scope and weights, check collimation front and back, align finder scope and Quickfinder ... that's 15-30 minutes (which does give the scope some time to approach ambient air temperature). I'm not complaining - it just helps to have something for the kids to look at while I'm busy readying the scope - and sometimes (like last night when I was tired) it was fun to just forget about the scope.

As for the bino's and the Paragon Mount - they seem to be matched well. The slide out counterweight is not quite fully extended - so anything heavier might require additional counterweight or some method to hang the weight out further. I have access to a pair of 20x80's, and when I can get the correct mount adapter, I'll see how well the mount supports them.

For the price, the bino's do a very nice job. I agree ... it's hard to expect perfection, as others have suggested, when the binos are sized to be held by hand and have such short focal lengths. It's amazing that we can get this kind of quality for the price when you consider what existed 20-30 years ago.

I think one of the neatest aspects of just using the bino's is that "seeing" isn't really a factor. You could have less than average seeing (which would reduce your ability to resolve a planet at 100-200x), but those little stars still shine (in fact - they might be prettier when they twinkle) like little gems at 15x.

Clear Skies,
Daniel
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#10 Glassthrower

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 11:33 AM

...It's amazing that we can get this kind of quality for the price when you consider what existed 20-30 years ago.

I think one of the neatest aspects of just using the bino's is that "seeing" isn't really a factor. You could have less than average seeing (which would reduce your ability to resolve a planet at 100-200x), but those little stars still shine (in fact - they might be prettier when they twinkle) like little gems at 15x.


Two good points worth emphasizing. I have some old Astronomy magazines laying around from 1998 (not even 10 years old) and the selection of giant astro binoculars was MUCH smaller and much more expensive - and many of them are no better than what's available today. I bought my Celestron 15x70 Skymaster for the tidy sum of $99 two years ago, today that same binocular sells for $69. Eight years ago, a comparable binocular sold for $200. There's more selection now and thanks to a deluge of moderately-good Chinese optics the prices are also much lower.

And I totally agree about seeing as a factor when binocular observing. I all but ignore the seeing forecasts on the CSC. I pay close attention to the transparency and aerosols, which effects low power viewing as much as high power. But yeah, it is nice knowing that I can setup my big binoculars and stargaze without worrying about the atmospheric turbulence. Although, the Trapezium is a bit harder to seperate at 25x during moments of terrible seeing. But other than that, most views are not adversely effected.

Clear dark skies...

MikeG

#11 EdZ

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 11:46 AM

I did some additional reading and was not aware that my astigmatism can play an additional role with flaring - especially when I view without my glasses. When I share the view, I use my glasses, but when I want to spend a few moments of deep, intense, star gazing, the glasses come off, the eyeguards are extended, and I adjust the bino's for my extreme near sightedness - and the flaring is a little stronger on brighter objects.


I'm not sure what you mean by flaring. In fact I think people have different meanings for this term. Some I think are referring to spiking and some to ghosting. Flaring in photographic images refers to something similar to ghosting, as in lens flare.

At any rate, the affect of astigmatism is that you will notice elongated images off axis. If astigmatism is severe, then on-axis focused images will show a very small cross, never a fine pinpoint. The affects of astigmatism are generally eliminated with high power and small exit pupil, but that is usually not achieved in binoculars.

Stopping down an objective will help suppress spherical aberration. This would have the effect of eliminating improper focal length rays generated at the extreme outer portion of the lens. This would improve or "reduce in size" the least circle of confusion at or near the focal plane. This would give a more pinpoint effect to focused stars.

What some people are calling flaring might be lateral chromatic aberrtion. Lateral CA increases the further off center you view the object and is more pronounced towards the outer edge of the lens. lateral CA is seen as the outer edge of the object bleeding, usually a different color, generally observed in large bright extended objects.



And I totally agree about seeing as a factor when binocular observing. I all but ignore the seeing forecasts on the CSC. I pay close attention to the transparency and aerosols, which effects low power viewing as much as high power. But yeah, it is nice knowing that I can setup my big binoculars and stargaze without worrying about the atmospheric turbulence. Although, the Trapezium is a bit harder to seperate at 25x during moments of terrible seeing. But other than that, most views are not adversely effected.



I would say that depends very much on what your targets are.

Seeing and/or transparency would have little to no affect on bright stars. So bright clusters will still be bright clusters.

But, very faint stars will probably be obliterated from view. Bright globular clusters will still be visible, but the faint globulars which look like extended circular galaxies would be more difficult of not seen. Brightest galaxies may still be visible, but most other galaxies will be very difficult if not impossible. Very close doubles will suffer as will resolution of dense clusters. And more than anything else, difficult nebula will be all but wiped out.

edz

#12 DJB

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 03:03 AM

Hi all,

Just to follow up on Ed's excellent explanation, when I speak of flaring, I intend to mean lateral CA, or bad coma. I think that we may be using the term rather loosely here and not definitely as to the type of abberation.

I have astigmatism in my left eye ALONG WITH a corneal scratch due to a minor industrial mishap while wearing hard contact lenses; this compounds my problem.

However, when Ed states that one (or some) can never achieve pinpoint focus, oh, how true it is.

I'm one of those stubborn ones who refuses to wear glasses when behind any eyepiece, or, whatever. Just ask Kenny. Great points.

Best regards,
Dave.

#13 EdZ

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 05:17 AM

Coma is another good example of an aberration that people might refer to as flaring. Coma would be seen as a wedge with the point of the wedge towards the center. The wedge would probaly get larger as you move the object further off axis. Coma would be seen on all stars. lateral CA would probably only be seen on very bright objects and would have a smooth outer edge shaped to the object.

edz

#14 Art Fritzson

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 06:30 AM

In fact I think people have different meanings for this term. Some I think are referring to spiking and some to ghosting.



Ed, good explanation. I suspect that what I was referring to in my explanation was more like "spiking". What I see is a directionally random extension of light from a very bright object that extended across maybe 5-10% of the AFOV. I say it's directionally random because it jumps around as I shift my eyes or as I rotate the binos in azimimuth - it vanishes and then instantly reappears in another apparently random angle. I used the term "flaring" rather than "spiking" because I think of spiking as a line extending from the source that rotates smoothly around the object as you vary the view. But the behavior characteristics of the abberation I see are definitely not like ghosting.

Thanks -

- Art

#15 Glassthrower

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 07:37 AM

I say it's directionally random because it jumps around as I shift my eyes or as I rotate the binos in azimimuth - it vanishes and then instantly reappears in another apparently random angle.


Art, that is exactly what I see and what I refer to when I say "flaring" ... I wonder how bad the flaring is in my Celestron compared to your Garrett? I would wager that the Celestron exhibits more on average. It's my impression, without having seen either, that the Obie and Garrett might be slightly better off in this respect.

Dave - I got stabbed in the eyeball with a lemon tree thorn about 14 years ago. I never sought treatment and it healed on it's own. Who knows what kind of damage that did. It sure hurt like ... well, I just hope there were not any children, nuns, or old ladies within earshot when it happened. Most of my flare-causing scratches are on my eyeglass lenses.

Clear dark skies...

MikeG

#16 btschumy

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 09:47 AM

I suspect that what I was referring to in my explanation was more like "spiking". What I see is a directionally random extension of light from a very bright object that extended across maybe 5-10% of the AFOV.

Art (and others),

You should notice whether you also see this spiking when looking naked eye at bright lights at night (headlights, streetlights, etc). Since paying attention to this I notice the same effect you describe without any optical aid at all (well, I do wear glasses). I really do think that some of the spiking (flaring) we complain about in binoculars is actually in our eyes. It is just that we pay attention to it more there because we are being "critical" observers at that time.

#17 DJB

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 02:12 AM

Hi MikeG, Bill, and others,

Mike, I am sorry to hear of "that" accident. I feel as though Bill makes a good point in that, whilst using binoculars, we do, indeed, become most critical.

Mike, and we must agree with Bill here too, some (perhaps most) of our problems are inherent in one's eye(s) deficiencies, as has been discussed on these lists. It definetly depends on the person, his/her general eye condition, and other mitigating circumstances (or not!).

I surmise that is why we tend to want the best in optics--simply to minimize, as much as possible, existing problems with our eyes. Now, what was it, exactly, that you said Mike? Never mind.

Best regards,
Dave.

#18 Art Fritzson

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 07:01 AM

Bill,

I tried a few experiments last night looking for aberrations in my eyes. I found occasional instances of lines radiating from (typically) headlights where the lines tended to rotate with relative motion - this is what i used to think of as "spikes". Other than that, I think I saw a hint of CA on Jupiter but it wasn't obvious and I'm not really sure it was there. I could not reconstruct the "flaring" or "spiking" I described earlier - but it's still readily apparent when I pick up binoculars.

I'm planning on ordering an upscale pair of 10x50s soon (haven't decided which one yet) and will be looking for something that doesn't exhibit this phenomonen. If I can't find it, I may have to rethink this - you may be right about it being in my eyes, but I can't find any evidence yet.

Thanks -

- Art

#19 edcannon

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 10:32 AM

A little West of Sagitii (?) I found a string of 'pearls' (6 stars in a row).


That's the "Coathanger", Brocchi's Cluster, or Collinder 399. The hook of the coathanger is south of the center of the line of stars. The constellation is Sagitta, the Arrow.

Regarding what's in our eyes versus what's brought to them by external optics, my eyeglasses no longer fully correct my astigmatism, so I can't get truly sharp pinpoint stars with my binoculars -- and the effect is different with each eye.

#20 aa0ni

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 11:05 AM

I just wanted to submit a third report on the performance of the original equipment I was asking about at the beginning of this thread. I had a great evening Saturday from here in town (mag 3-4 skies) and had a great time rediscovering globular clusters, open clusters and nebula around Sagitarius.

I really like these binoculars. The mount also makes it so much easier than hand holding - there is no comparison.

The experience with binoculars is wholly unlike that of using the telescope. I had them both set up in the yard, and I'd go between the two as I was looking at various objects.

With the telescope, all of the focus is on the telescope ... getting it polar aligned, collimated, hunting down the object in the finder - locking and unlocking the mount and making fine adjustments in RA/Dec ... and then when you find the object - changing eyepieces and refocusing. There's also the awkward posturing behind the finder piece to aim the scope - and occasionally rotating the OTA in the mount when I switch from viewing in the East to the West (German EQ mount).

With the binoculars, it is more like - put your eyes up to the binoculars (after you've got both eyes properly focused) and move them around the sky taking in all of the stars ... and then just happening upon an interesting configuration - or ... is that a fuzzy patch? a globular cluster? ... sort of like being Messier for the first time.

With the telescope, you usually have a destination in mind ... with the binoculars, you can wander around and enjoy things you might not have known were there.

I'm definately going to keep these. Not that I plan on selling either the binos or the scope ... but I think if I had to choose - I'd have a hard time deciding ... I enjoy star clusters more than planets (although kids love looking at the moon and planets), and I like the more compact binos and mount ... they might be the keepers.

Thankfully I don't have to choose.

Clear Skies!
Daniel


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