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Choosing Binoculars

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#1 PharmGM

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Posted 26 September 2020 - 08:22 PM

Hey all, 

 

Relatively new to the hobby. After vacationing a few times in dark areas, really starting to see the value in something small that's grab and go if I want to check something out without resorting to the full set up (also looking into a smaller dob for this maybe as well?)

 

Anyway, what are the considerations for binoculars? At first I was all in on the idea of high magnification, but now I'm sort of second guessing. If I want big mag to look at planets, I'll set my scope up. Can they gather enough light/field of view appropriate for clusters and nebula? 

 

Just sort of lost as to what direction I want to go. Then there's the whole monopod/tripod thing


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#2 CQDDEMGY

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Posted 26 September 2020 - 08:50 PM

There's open clusters that are dazzling in binoculars. Some are too large to be viewed in most scopes.

Handheld stick to 7-10x. You might have some old 7x35 binoculars in a closet.

#3 tony_spina

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Posted 26 September 2020 - 08:52 PM

Hello and welcome to Cloudy Nights! 

 

Binoculars are a good way to start.  Couple of items you need to think about are what's the budget and do you want to hand hold the binoculars or do you want to mount them

 

If you want to hand hold then common sizes that folks will use are: 7x35, 7x50, 8x40/42, 10x50 and some use 12x50

 

10x50 being the most popular.   I don't own binoculars bigger than 12x50 because if I need to mount the binoculars I would rather use a small rich field telescope in which I can change the magnification. 

 

If you are looking for larger binoculars to mount others will chime in with suggestions depending on your budget 


Edited by tony_spina, 26 September 2020 - 08:53 PM.

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#4 havasman

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Posted 26 September 2020 - 09:17 PM

If you want small grab & go you probably don't want to mount them as that gets away from the G&G concept pretty quickly. 7X50's will be easy to hand hold. 10X50's are about as much as most folks can hold steadily. 8X42's will be a bit lighter. Very useful binoculars are readily available in all those configurations from several makers.


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#5 darkmatter14B

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Posted 26 September 2020 - 10:50 PM

I have Celestron DX 10x50 ED and really like them. Only thing is they quickly become hard to hold steady unless you brace up against something or recline in a chair.

#6 LasVegasMikey

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Posted 26 September 2020 - 10:59 PM

If you want small grab & go you probably don't want to mount them as that gets away from the G&G concept pretty quickly. 7X50's will be easy to hand hold. 10X50's are about as much as most folks can hold steadily. 8X42's will be a bit lighter. Very useful binoculars are readily available in all those configurations from several makers.

+1 on havasmans recommendation... I didn’t listen to the CN recommendations enough when I bought my “grab & go” binoculars. I arrogantly thought that bigger is always better, so I spent a lot of money (relatively speaking) and bought a really nice pair of 15 x 70’s. 
 

Don’t get me wrong; they are great binoculars. The views are amazing. AND they are much more portable than my telescope. The problem is that they are so heavy that I can barely locate my target before it starts dancing around inside my FOV. Now I have to use a tripod to make them serviceable. If I were to go back in time and do it again, I wouldn’t get anything bigger than 50mm (perhaps even smaller). Also the 7x to 10x should be plenty of magnification, and much more forgiving than my current pair.


Edited by LasVegasMikey, 26 September 2020 - 11:01 PM.


#7 BlueMoon

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Posted 26 September 2020 - 11:06 PM

I used a pair of Oberwerks 15x70's mounted on a sturdy camera tripod for years as a "grab n go" setup. The views were quite amazing. There are tons of clusters to be seen all over the sky. Nebulae can be a different matter as it usually takes specific filters to pass light based on the nebula emission type. It can be done, but it seems better suited for telescopic viewing IMO.

 

Anecdotal story: I took some friends out to see Neowise using my 15x70's and my 100ED apo. Most of my friends liked the view from the 15x70's better for the most part because the binoculars gave a better 3D effect.

 

As others have noted however, when you get to the 15x70 stage it really pays to have a steady mount as hand-holding them without shaking is difficult at best.


Edited by BlueMoon, 26 September 2020 - 11:07 PM.

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#8 aeajr

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 08:50 AM

You have given us no budget guidance so I presume money is no object.  You are prepared to spend $$$$ to get the very best.

 

I started in astronomy with binoculars.  $20 10X50s from Harbor Freight.  Not the best but they got me started.

 

Then I got into telescopes but I keep adding binoculars too. They are two different tools, each of which has its place.  I start many of my observing sessions with binoculars, then go to the scope.

 

And, as you suggested, they are great for those quick sessions.

 

7X35, 8X40/42, 7X50, 10X50 are the sizes I suggest for hand held use. For many people, when you go higher than 8X, hand shake becomes a problem.  And anything above 10X really should be mounted.  I have all of those sizes plus a 15X70 that is used on a monopod but which would be better on a binocular mount or a tripod.  

 

The benefit of binoculars is their wide field of view compared to most telescopes.   You can scan a large part of the sky and some things just look better in binoculars than in a telescope.  The Pleiades, for example, looks great in binos but leaves me unimpressed in my telescopes. 

 

My favorite way to use binos to view the sky is in a reclining chair where I can brace my arms to help me hold them steady.

 

Binos are also a great way to learn star hopping to find things you can't see with your eyes.  8X binos provide a similar view to a finder scope on many telescopes so you do your star hops with the binos first. 

 

And, of course, you can use them for daytime activities too.

 

If you have the budget, you want Bak4/BAK4/BAK-4 (essentially the same things) prisms rather than BK7 which are usually found in the cheapest models.  The BAK4 provide a brighter, sharper image.

 

You want coated lenses and preferably multi-coated lenses

 

Waterproof is more important for daytime use than astronomy but it is nice to have.

 

You want them to have a spot to put a tripod adapter so you can mount them if you wish. This is normally at the front of the hinge.

 

In general, avoid zoom binoculars.  They have a fairly narrow field of view and many feel they are more prone to getting out of collimation, the alignment of left and right. 

 

ED glass adds value in that it helps to minimize any CA, chromatic aberration or false color.  Nice to have if you have the budget, but not required. 

 

After that it is a matter of your budget.  You can get fairly capable binoculars for $50 to $100.  After that you can start looking at the better stuff going up into the hundreds.  And then there are the top of the line that are in the thousands.

 

Hope that helps. 

 

I keep a 8X40 in the car for daytime bird watching and night time star gazing.  And I have a bucket of binoculars that I take to outreach events so I can take people on binocular sky tours.


Edited by aeajr, 27 September 2020 - 08:57 AM.

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#9 Don W

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 10:32 AM

A few months ago this question was brought up. The person asking the question disregarded the advice and went with 10X binoculars. She then realized that she could not hold them steady without some sort of support. I strongly urge you to get something with 8X or lower. A good quality pair of 7X50s will do everything you need it to do in astronomy. 7X35 will work too, but the larger aperture of the 7X50s make things brighter.

 

When I decide to use binos for observing I grab my trusty 40 year old Bushnell 7X50s or my 25 year old Orion 8X56s. I have owned 12X and 20X binoculars in the past but they both require a solid tripod or custom binocular mount.



#10 Sketcher

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 10:52 AM

Binoculars, especially larger binoculars, take a while for a person to adjust to.  This goes doubly so for handheld use.

 

It's better, if one wants handheld use, to start with binoculars of 10x or (preferably) lower magnification.  A lot of people have difficulty when it comes to handheld use of binoculars that magnify more.  The situation is similar when it comes to weight and bulk.  Moving beyond 50mm can increase the handheld difficult-to-use level quite rapidly -- for most people.

 

I use 8x42, 20x80, and 25x100 binoculars.  The 8x42s I use as strictly handheld binoculars.  My 20x80 use started out as strictly mounted; but after several years of mounted use, I discovered that I could make very effective use of them (for deep-sky purposes) handheld,and now I prefer to use the 20x80s handheld -- for that purpose.

 

Only after having spent tome time with the 20x80s handheld, and finding it not only to be possible, but also more enjoyable than mounted use, did I try the same with my 25x100s.  Now I even prefer handheld use of my 25x100s -- for deep-sky observing (a very specific, dark-sky, purpose).  But for bright object, detail work (the moon for example) I'll mount the larger binoculars and see much more in the way of fine detail.

 

With all that being said, it should be emphasized that:  Most people feel that the only way to make effective use of 20x80 and 25x100 binoculars is to use them mounted.  And they're right -- for their experience levels and for what they use their binoculars for.

 

If you start small and gradually work your way up, you might eventually be able to use larger binoculars handheld -- but it would appear that most people don't succeed in that ideal.  It would be foolish to start out with a "large" pair of binoculars thinking you'll be able to use them without a tripod and mount.

 

One more thing:  Smaller binoculars are not just for beginners.  I still make regular use of my 8x42 binoculars.  Different objects will be shown better by different binoculars.  For just one of many possible example, Comet NEOWISE was at times better with by 25x100s (mounted).  At other times it was better with my 20x80s.  But when that comet was at its best it was too big for those binoculars and my best view was with my 8x42s:

 

Comet NEOWISE 5.30 20 July 2020 UT

Edited by Sketcher, 27 September 2020 - 10:53 AM.

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#11 aeajr

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 10:54 AM

Hey all, 

 

Relatively new to the hobby. After vacationing a few times in dark areas, really starting to see the value in something small that's grab and go if I want to check something out without resorting to the full set up (also looking into a smaller dob for this maybe as well?)

 

Anyway, what are the considerations for binoculars? At first I was all in on the idea of high magnification, but now I'm sort of second guessing. If I want big mag to look at planets, I'll set my scope up. Can they gather enough light/field of view appropriate for clusters and nebula? 

 

Just sort of lost as to what direction I want to go. Then there's the whole monopod/tripod thing

You might find this Quick Start Guide, written for binocular users, useful.

https://www.cloudyni...art-guide-r3143


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#12 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 11:34 AM

I can hand-hold my 12x50s rather well and, to a somewhat lesser degree, my 15x70s.  I usually mount my 20x80s on a parallelogram mount and tripod but I have hand-held them from time to time for short periods.  However, I agree that for most people 10x50s, 8x42s, or 8x40s are going to be a much better choice.

 

There's a section on binocular astronomy in my post (#22) at https://www.cloudyni...mers/?p=5184287



#13 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 11:39 AM

I should add that the recent acquisition of Canon IS 15x50s has really been a boon to binocular observing for my wife and me.  I am very impressed with what the image-stabilized 15x50s can do.  However, they are terribly expensive.



#14 spaceoddity

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 01:18 PM

You don't won't high magnification or large aperture binoculars unless you plan to mount them. They are pretty difficult to hold still enough for any detailed night sky observation. I have a pair of 11X70 oberwerks. These are at about the max magnification and weight for hand held observation IMO. It helps if you have something to rest your elbows on, like a car roof, or else laying back on a lounge chair. They are also great for daytime terrestial or sky viewing and bird watching. Really good binocs for the money. I think paid around $130 for mine a couple years ago.

 

Definitely worth having a decent set of binocs. They are the ultimate grab-n-go. I have purchased several smaller scopes for portability but they all require a significant amount of effort to transport and set up. Binocs require none.


Edited by spaceoddity, 27 September 2020 - 01:22 PM.


#15 musikerhugh

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 04:46 PM

I’ll be a second voice on this thread with a vote for hand-held 15x70s. I bought a pair of Celestrons here on CN for $85 and it’s been money well-spent. Because they are not the highest quality, they are far lighter than perhaps others are, so I find them easy to hold, and the views of many of the famous DSOs were easy and pretty amazing when I was a beginner without a scope. My first views of Jupiter’s 4 big moons was also spectacular. I can prop my elbows on my chest, chair arm rests, or the cockpit edge of a kayak.
They’re lighter than a soprano sax.

#16 tony_spina

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 05:05 PM

I’ll be a second voice on this thread with a vote for hand-held 15x70s. I bought a pair of Celestrons here on CN for $85 and it’s been money well-spent. Because they are not the highest quality, they are far lighter than perhaps others are, so I find them easy to hold, and the views of many of the famous DSOs were easy and pretty amazing when I was a beginner without a scope. My first views of Jupiter’s 4 big moons was also spectacular. I can prop my elbows on my chest, chair arm rests, or the cockpit edge of a kayak.
They’re lighter than a soprano sax.

It's great that you are able to use 15x hand held.  But most folks will have a problem with more than 10x.  For me 12x is the max and that is for brief periods at a time



#17 Mbinoc

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 11:34 PM

Even with handhold powers, purchasing a binocular mount and placing it on a camera tripod could be a difference maker.

 

I keep my binoculars on camera tripod with a quick release plate. That way I can scan, easily find what I'm looking for, then place it back on the tripod for a more steady view than I can accomplish by hand. For me, it really helps.


Edited by Mbinoc, 27 September 2020 - 11:36 PM.

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#18 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 12:13 AM

A monopod makes mounted binoculars fairly easy to use.



#19 Cames

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 12:28 AM

The type of glass used for the prisms is somewhat important. I've heard that BAK-4 glass is better than BAK-7 for prisms - theoretically producing brighter images for the same aperture but usually at higher cost.

 

The exit pupil diameter of the 7X50 is ~7 millimeters; and that of the 10X50 is 5 millimeters.  It's good practice to match the exit pupil produced by the optic to the diameter of one's fully dilated pupil.  Youthful pupils are often in the 7 mm range; and old timers' more like 5 mm.

 

The most annoying defect of binoculars for me is when right and left optical paths are not parallel to each other.  When I use such a wall-eyed binocular for star gazing, I get what looks like 'double-vision'.  My eyes can overcome and combine the images for a short period but soon eye muscles begin to burn.  It makes me stop the gaze.   Looking through binoculars in broad daylight often masks slightly misaligned optics.  But looking at stars is the acid test and will immediately tell if your bino is any good.   More important than exit pupil and prism quality for me is parallelism of right and left side of the binocular.  I would pay extra for that.

 

A swivel chair that also reclines a little bit and that supports my head and neck while seated has worked wonders for my binocular technique.  I think I can see more of what the binocular is showing me that way.  Also,  the chair supports my comforter that keeps me and my binocular warm while I'm referring to my Pocket Sky Atlas. YMMV.

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#20 jiblet65

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 07:34 AM

Lots of good advice and from my limited experience I can tell you that the ED binos are worth the extra expense. I have a pair of 10x60s I leave in my truck and they magnify the sky well and they're great for checking out the dawn sky before I go in the water. That being said when you view the Moon through them and my Oberwerk 10x42 ED's you can see a huge difference in clarity and detail. I really like them as they are rugged and well built, waterproof and very portable. I viewed NEOWISE through them and they gave a much better image than our telescopes.



#21 rhetfield

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 08:12 AM

My Nikon Acelon 10x50's were the brightest thing that Cabela had in the case.  I wouldn't try to handhold anything bigger or higher magnification.  The 10x50's are a bit shaky for me, but manageable.

 

If one has the small fortune needed to get image stabilized binos, that is the way to go, but those cost thousands.



#22 Tony Flanders

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 08:52 AM

I am very impressed with what the image-stabilized 15x50s can do.  However, they are terribly expensive.


Agreed on both counts.

#23 havasman

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 02:39 PM

Hey all, 

 

Relatively new to the hobby. After vacationing a few times in dark areas, really starting to see the value in something small that's grab and go if I want to check something out without resorting to the full set up (also looking into a smaller dob for this maybe as well?)

 

Anyway, what are the considerations for binoculars? At first I was all in on the idea of high magnification, but now I'm sort of second guessing. If I want big mag to look at planets, I'll set my scope up. Can they gather enough light/field of view appropriate for clusters and nebula? 

 

Just sort of lost as to what direction I want to go. Then there's the whole monopod/tripod thing

If you want a premium pair of binoculars at a good price there's a pair of APM 7X50 ED Magnesium series on AstroMart for $285. I have the older non-ED 10X50's and they are very good. All reports are that the ED's are even better.



#24 ==JAMES==

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 03:38 PM

A lot of good advice here. I will make one suggestion and that is consider a decent pair of 8x42 binoculars. In my opinion these are the best all-around binoculars for birding, sporting events, and all things terrestrial and they are great for observing the night sky, too.  If I only had one pair of bins this would be it and my 8 x 42s are easily the ones I use the most. Also if you can get into the $300 to $500 price range you will have a pair the will last you a lifetime, but spend more if you can. I have a number of binoculars that I bought then after using them for a while I bought a better pair. I could own a pair of Swarovskis if I had started with a better quality to begin with.  That said, I think my favorite brands in the $300-$500 price range would be Nikon, Vortex, Zeiss, but there are others as well. These would be a good starting point.  Good luck.




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