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Hand-held Binoculars for Double Stars

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#1 JoeFaz

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 12:11 PM

I've very recently discovered to my surprise that I thoroughly enjoy observing double stars with binoculars, and hand-held in particular. I'm currently using my 8x40 action extremes, which are great but are also a bit limited in terms of minimum separation (of course...) and limited magnitude. I'm curious what people's favorite hand-held binoculars (magnification, aperture, MFR/model, all of the above, whatever...) for viewing double stars.

 

I know this is highly subjective, and that's the point. I'm curious what people's subjective opinions are. I also know that what can be "hand-held" is subjective. If you can somehow hand-hold your 25x100 and observe doubles then good for you tell me about it!

 

I suspect, and this is from so little experience, that 15x50 IS would be pretty ideal. Unfortunately it'll probably be some time before those fit within my budget personally frown.gif


Edited by JoeFaz, 06 November 2023 - 12:12 PM.

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#2 gwlee

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 12:23 PM

I use a Fujinon 7x50  and 10x50 FMT-SX binoculars for handheld double star observation.The 7x50 is easier to use handheld. The 10x50 is more difficult to use handheld, but works better for those that can hand hold it. 


Edited by gwlee, 06 November 2023 - 12:29 PM.

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#3 Mike G.

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 12:34 PM

The Canon 15x50IS (and the 18x50IS as well) are indeed as you suspect, ideal for hand-held double star viewing.  For me, even Alberio was not 'splittable' in my 10x50 Luntdue to my shaking hands, even in a z-gravity chair with my arms propped up on the armrests.  I can stand up, with my head craned back and split the pair easily  with the Canons.  I have some 16x60 Pentax, 20x60 Tasco's, 12x56 Celestron Nature DX and 10x70 Oberwerk LW and Fuji's.  none of them work like the Canons.  For double stars, IS takes you to a different level.  If the 15x50's are too much for your budget, consider the 12x36IS - substantially cheaper but will still be better for splitting doubles than non-IS.


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#4 jrazz

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 12:36 PM

What really matters in double stars is magnification and stability so even though I don’t observe with them I think the best would be IS binoculars. Canon 15x50 is probably in the top.

Some do hold 25x100 binoculars successfully and I have been able to split Albireo with a hand held 10x and 15x. Still. If you like double stars and the IS is out of your budget then why not buy a simple tripod or monopod?
.

Edited by jrazz, 06 November 2023 - 12:39 PM.

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#5 Rich V.

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 12:40 PM

+1 for using IS binos for hand held use.  Makes a big difference in splitting doubles.  


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#6 JoeFaz

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 01:02 PM

...why not buy a simple tripod or monopod?

My particular interest in hand-held is that I'm very lazy and half the time I don't even feel like bringing my tripod out and back in, plus I've really come to detest the ergonomics of using a standard tripod. It's much more enjoyable to me to just lounge back and hold the binos, not to mention way easier to point further up towards or at zenith. I'm getting a parallelogram so I will also start using larger/mounted binos more again soon. It's just so relaxing to sit back with a smaller binocular though, so I will probably always prefer to use them that way.


Edited by JoeFaz, 06 November 2023 - 01:02 PM.

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#7 Erik Bakker

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 01:23 PM

Wide doubles with contrasting colors come to mind. The summer Milky Way is home to plenty of them. In my recliner, I use my 7x50 SP and 10x70 SP for them. Love sweeping the skies and come across colorful pairs . Hand held works great for these. Close doubles do much better and often require the instrument to be supported by a good tripod and head. That restricts freedom of movement but opens a whole new world of optical performance with good instruments.


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#8 sevenofnine

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 01:29 PM

My preferred binocular is Nikon AE 10x50 when I'm laying on a zero gravity chair. Ultimate lazy wink.gif  Next up that's real easy is Oberwerk's 12x60 LW. You might be able to hand hold these but I can't. So, they are mounted on an Obie monopod. After that, out comes a good tripod. The Obie 4000 is in a class by itself for ease of use. My Oberwerk 20x70 EDU's go outside in one move on this tripod borg.gif


Edited by sevenofnine, 06 November 2023 - 05:11 PM.

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#9 JoeFaz

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 01:37 PM

My preferred binocular is Nikon AE 10x50 when I'm laying on a zero gravity chair.

Have you used the 8x40 AEs? I've found them to be such a great value for birds/wildlife out my back window plus more "casual" astronomy, I've considered the 10x50s or even 12x50s as an inexpensive upgrade. I'm just not sure if the improvement over 8x40 would be worth the money or not considering my bino/telescope wishlist is not lacking nearly as much as my budget...


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#10 Erik Bakker

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 01:39 PM

When I use my 8x42, it works really well for those wide doubles too.

 

Just use and enjoy whatever instrument you have waytogo.gif


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#11 Fiske

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 01:40 PM

I love binocular double stars, which account for more than half of my observing time. But for me mounted binoculars are far preferable. wink.gif

 

This is not news to anyone on the forum who has read more than, like, three of my posts. lol.gif

 

However, what may surprise those who are familiar with my quirks, and in particularly my somewhat aversion to IS binoculars, is that I find the Canon 18x50 IS to be an oddly pleasing binocular double star instrument. Even more so than the Canon 15x50 IS (both of which I have some experience with, though admittedly it was many years ago now). At least for pairs that are brighter than 9th magnitude.


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#12 zombie1210

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 01:47 PM

I've had success with my Sig 16x42 IS. They are not heavy, and the IS works great at 16x


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#13 Tony Flanders

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 02:04 PM

For me, even Alberio was not 'splittable' in my 10x50 Luntdue to my shaking hands, even in a z-gravity chair with my arms propped up on the armrests.  I can stand up, with my head craned back and split the pair easily  with the Canons.


Yep. I can -- barely -- split Albireo with conventional hand-held 10x binoculars if I can get my elbows really firmly planted. But as soon as I press the IS button on my Canon IS 10x30s, the two components pop wide apart.

Obviously the bigger IS binoculars will split closer doubles.

As for the original question, I think the answer is "whatever happens to work for you." In this particular case optical quality is nearly irrelevant; what matters is your own steadiness. Spending a while refining your technique is likely to yield bigger benefits than using different binoculars.


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#14 MT4

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 06:10 PM

I love binocular double stars, which account for more than half of my observing time. But for me mounted binoculars are far preferable. wink.gif

 

This is not news to anyone on the forum who has read more than, like, three of my posts. lol.gif

 

However, what may surprise those who are familiar with my quirks, and in particularly my somewhat aversion to IS binoculars, is that I find the Canon 18x50 IS to be an oddly pleasing binocular double star instrument. Even more so than the Canon 15x50 IS (both of which I have some experience with, though admittedly it was many years ago now). At least for pairs that are brighter than 9th magnitude.

 

I like my new-to-me Canon 18x50 IS even more than my old 15x50 IS.    Just the perfect hand-held instrument for my Bortle-9 skies.

 

 

Edit:  I've come around to your style of observing too.   Recently put my Zeiss 20x60 S on a mount and it's a game changer.   smile.gif


Edited by MT4, 06 November 2023 - 06:14 PM.


#15 sevenofnine

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 06:52 PM

JoeFaz...10x50's are in a class by themselves for scanning the night sky. It's all about the aperture and power. My Nikon M5 8x42's are my favorite daytime binoculars. Clear, bright and sharp to the edge using ED glass. However, at night they are missing something. In my opinion, it's the light gathering ability. Power has something to do with it too. When I first looked through my 10x50 at night I thought "Now that's what I'm talking about!" Borrow a pair from a friend if you can or buy a pair from a trusted vendor with a satisfaction guaranteed policy. I don't think you will return them borg.gif


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#16 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 08:56 PM

I don’t do doubles other than Mizar/Albireo with binos. Hopefully this isn’t considered heresy in this forum, but get a grab and go refractor. 


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#17 Fiske

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 09:30 PM

I don’t do doubles other than Mizar/Albireo with binos. Hopefully this isn’t considered heresy in this forum, but get a grab and go refractor. 

Yeah. That is pretty much a YMMV thing.

 

In August and September I observed 100 double stars with binoculars in a single constellationwink.gif

 

Not handheld, though. grin.gif


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#18 Echolight

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 10:50 PM

I would get the smallest IS model.



#19 gwlee

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 10:55 PM

Whether you prefer observing doubles with telescopes, with mounted binoculars, or handheld binoculars, you are doing it right if you enjoy what you’re doing.
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#20 Fiske

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Posted 07 November 2023 - 08:32 AM

JoeFaz...10x50's are in a class by themselves for scanning the night sky. It's all about the aperture and power. My Nikon M5 8x42's are my favorite daytime binoculars. Clear, bright and sharp to the edge using ED glass. However, at night they are missing something. In my opinion, it's the light gathering ability. Power has something to do with it too. When I first looked through my 10x50 at night I thought "Now that's what I'm talking about!" Borrow a pair from a friend if you can or buy a pair from a trusted vendor with a satisfaction guaranteed policy. I don't think you will return them borg.gif

To my eyes, 10x42 binoculars, no matter how premium, are not as satisfying for astronomy as a decent quality 10x50 binocular. (It doesn't even have to be premium.) They just don't have the same sparkle and brilliance. My response to deep sky views with x42s is meh, but with x50s, just like you, that's what I'm talking about! lol.gif

 

I used to imagine that anyone who compared 10x42s with 10x50s side by side would have the same response, but I'm not so sure about that any more. I think it's possible that what I describe as brilliance/sparkle matters more to some of us than to others. I own a Nikon Monarch 10x42 HG and glanced at the sky with it for several years without really engaging on binocular astronomy. It was the Oberwerk 10x50 Ultra that really started me up as a binocular astronomy devotee.

 

It doesn't seem to be as critical for me at higher magnifications -- I am fine with my Maven b.5 15x56 compared with 15x70 binoculars, for example. Somehow the x56 seems pleasingly bright at 15x, where a 10x42 just doesn't. Though, come to think of it, for deep sky views the OB 20x65ED does seem a bit dull and uninspiring to me. The OB 20x70 works just fine, though. 

 

scratchhead2.gif


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#21 sevenofnine

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Posted 07 November 2023 - 11:15 AM

Fiske...I'm creeping up to paying $1 grand or more for a pair of binoculars...baby steps wink.gif  


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#22 jrazz

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Posted 07 November 2023 - 11:43 AM

To my eyes, 10x42 binoculars, no matter how premium, are not as satisfying for astronomy as a decent quality 10x50 binocular. (It doesn't even have to be premium.) They just don't have the same sparkle and brilliance. My response to deep sky views with x42s is meh, but with x50s, just like you, that's what I'm talking about! lol.gif

 

I used to imagine that anyone who compared 10x42s with 10x50s side by side would have the same response, but I'm not so sure about that any more. I think it's possible that what I describe as brilliance/sparkle matters more to some of us than to others. I own a Nikon Monarch 10x42 HG and glanced at the sky with it for several years without really engaging on binocular astronomy. It was the Oberwerk 10x50 Ultra that really started me up as a binocular astronomy devotee.

 

It doesn't seem to be as critical for me at higher magnifications -- I am fine with my Maven b.5 15x56 compared with 15x70 binoculars, for example. Somehow the x56 seems pleasingly bright at 15x, where a 10x42 just doesn't. Though, come to think of it, for deep sky views the OB 20x65ED does seem a bit dull and uninspiring to me. The OB 20x70 works just fine, though. 

 

scratchhead2.gif

Can't say anything about the 20x70 but I agree that there are brighter binoculars than the 20x65ED... However, you won't get color correction like that until you go BT. The 20x65 were wonderful for doubles and the moon but limited beyond that.



#23 sevenofnine

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Posted 07 November 2023 - 03:14 PM

Maybe that extra 5mm really does something for the new 20x70EDU? I can tell you that I had the same reaction to them as when I first looked through a 10x50. Just much deeper and very satisfying. I've only used them on the usual double stars like Mizar and Albireo. The views of the Teapot and the Lagoon were very nice borg.gif


Edited by sevenofnine, 07 November 2023 - 03:15 PM.


#24 Takuan

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Posted 07 November 2023 - 03:29 PM

Yeah. That is pretty much a YMMV thing.

 

In August and September I observed 100 double stars with binoculars in a single constellationwink.gif

 

Not handheld, though. grin.gif

Fiske is a very respectful person...

I'll say it clearly: watching doubles with hanheld binos is like swimming with a lead belt. It's doable, but a little absurd IMO.


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#25 gwlee

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Posted 07 November 2023 - 03:39 PM

Fiske is a very respectful person...

I'll say it clearly: watching doubles with hanheld binos is like swimming with a lead belt. It's doable, but a little absurd IMO.

Many people feel the same way about observing doubles with a mounted binocular. It’s doable, but absurd when telescopes are so inexpensive and readily available. IMO, we are all doing it right if we are enjoying what we are doing. 


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