CLICK ABOVE FOR THE BEST BINOCULAR MOUNT OUT THERE!
In testing over two and a half dozen pairs of binoculars in the past 6 years for my own use, I have been encouraged to post my findings on the net. I have included only those pairs that I became "qualified" to judge as my experience grew. However, since not all of these were tested against each other, and there is some subjectiveness and lot variation... and since I am doing some of the below from memory: please feel free to question any of my findings.
Brightness is relative to it's category.. that is, an 8x56 binocular will already be brighter by design than an 8x32 - and a 7x32 will be brighter than a 10x32 because of exit pupil. However, some lower cost binoculars are actually so intrinsically dim, that they actually have effectively less aperture.
All binoculars are fully multicoated, have fold down eyecups, and BAK-4 prisms unless noted. Also..only about 1/2 the binocs. reached focus for me w/o glasses at -4.25 diopters, I will note those that did.. from my recollection.
"Flair" on Jupiter and bright stars was more or less eliminated on all models when I got a new eyeglass prescription accounting for slight astigmatism! Even so, I still have some residual astigmatism which disqualifies some of the low power judgement on pairs with wide exit pupils.
Also note.. the smallest binoculars had far greater performance in "dark skies" than the largest pair in bright suburban skies! Under dark skies, any one of these binoculars will do an outstanding job.
***NOTE ON PRICES..
Up to $200 low cost
200-400 Mod cost
400+ High cost
1. 7x50 Celestron
2. 10x50 Adlerblick
3. 10x50 Orion Ultraview
4a, 4b, 4c: Various Tento & Russian Binoculars
5, 5b, 6, 7, 8, Celestron Ultimas & ED models
9, 10, 11, 12 FUJINON
13. 8x42 Leica BA
14. 16x80 Orion Giants
15. 20x80 Celestron Giants DELUXE and REGULAR
16. 12x50 Pentax PCF
17. 8x56 Meade Rainforest
18. 7x50 Fujinon FMT-SX
19. 12x36 Canon Stabilized (and 10x30, and 15x45 and 15x50)
20. 15x70, and 20x70 Orion Little Giants
21. 11x70, and 16x70 Prooptic
22. Nikon Superior E (8x32, 10x42, 12x50)
23. Celestron Pro 8x56
24. Takahashi 22x60
25. Oberwerk 15x70
26. Pentax 20x60 PCF V
27. Visioner 12x60 W
28. Orion Mini-Giant 12x63
29. Orion Trail-Head 8x42 Roof Prism
Edge sharpness: EXC
Eye Relief: VG
Weight: Approx. 25 oz
Notes: Outstanding value, views dim for a 7x50, but is the only binoculars tested sharp to the edge. Paid $70 second hand for these. These have BAK-7 prisms (not as good)
Eye Relief: VG
Weight: 23oz. (I weighed)
Notes: Unbelievably good "feel", easy to hand hold and hold steady. Very light, and small. Quite similar to the celestron Ultima 10x50s. Edge performance should have been better, but resolution very sharp, easily resolving Alberio. Brightness seemed a bit less than some of the other models, but not by much. Apparently only available in 7x50s currently. EXCELLENT for nearsighted viewers.. no close focus, but could have gone beyond 6 diopters, maybe 7 (estimate)
Edge: Good - (good minus)
Eye Relief: Exc (too good, have to hold them away)
Weight: approx. 31oz
Notes: The surprise of the lot.. this lost cost binocular either has some variation from unit to unit..or I don't agree with a few other posts I have read on sci. astro.amateur. Apparently similar to the Celestron Pro Line. They were extremely sharp in the field center, and suffered from edge performance, but only to the degree of some of the more expensive models. Bright view, wide field, easily split Alberio. Just a tad large and heavy, but still quite hand holdable. Orion sells these for $180 ! Barely focused, (but made it - YES!) to my nearsightedness... 4.25 diopters
FOV: Approx. 5 degrees, can't take in full field
Res: EXC +
Bright: Fair +
Edge: Fair -
Eye Relief: terrible
Weight: Approx. 26 oz
Notes: This low cost binocular can be found for around $75 or so, and yet offered just about the highest resolution. I am not sure if the "dimness" was due to the additional power and low exit pupil, it seemed it may have been dim anyhow. I could not tell if these were BAK 4 or BAK 7 prisms. Fully Multicoated though. Mechanically these binoculars were awkward.
4b. 12x45 Russian
binoculars (brand?) Commonly sold *new* by second hand dealers
Res: EXC +
Bright: Fair +
Eye Relief: Approx. 7 mm (poor)
Weight: Approx. 26 oz
Notes: This binocular was fairly small, and light. It DID NOT have eyecups. While edge performance, brightness, and eye relief were not very good, the sharpness was nothing short of incredible. I could read very tiny font off a card 50 feet away, and stars were pinpoints. The overall view in fairly dark suburban skies was very similar in quality to more expensive 10x50s which I tested them against. Can be found for $90 and even less
4c. 20x60 Tento (Russian)
FOV: 3.6 degrees, can't take in full field
Eye Relief: Approx. 6mm (poor)
Weight: Approx. 3 lbs
Notes: This is truly a low cost alternative to Giant binoculars. Poor mechanically, hard to focus properly, poor eye relief, and poor edge performance, yet this is a BEST BUY. Outstanding astronomical views on axis (near the center) with many more stars seen than smaller, higher exit pupil binoculars. Jupiter showed little if any flair, and was able to pick a moon off the edge, while just 10 or 20 arc seconds away at most. M31s companions stood out in poor skies without even trying, M13 very prominent cottonball, Alberio split cleanly with lots of room to spare, M46 not resolved, but very prominent, double cluster well resolved. Very wide apparent field of view, over 70degrees. Not sure on how sharp the resolution was because you can see much more resolution just due to the high power alone. Runs under $150, and probably compares very well to most 20x70s.
Edge: Poor +
Eye Relief: VG
Size: Small (fanny pack size)
Weight: 17 oz (weighed myself)
Notes: The cutie of the bunch, this pair easily fit in a fanny pack.. yet showed 4 degrees worth of M31, and easily spotted M27, M13, M37,M38,M36 among others. Also.. this pair did reach focus with my near-sightedness (4.25 diopters) Edge performance was one step better than a crummy Brookstone 10x50 that I once owned. No vignetting (darkening) but way out of focus at edge. 4/00 Update: Tested these against the Nikon Superior Es (expensive) While falling way short on edge performance, and contrast, the resolution on axis was identical!! Also these are smaller, have better eye-point position (eye relief isn't too much) , more focus travel for eyeglass wearers, and they are lighter.
5b. 10x42 Celestron Ultimas
FOV: 6.6 degrees
Edge: Poor +
Eye Relief: VG
Weight: Approx. 21 oz.
Notes: These perform much like the 8x32s. Same huge apparent FOV, approx. 66 degrees, giving 6.6 degrees of real field size. Edge performance exactly the same as the 8x32s, not that great. Starts to lose sharpness about 50% of the way out, but you can sharpen objects at the edge with re-focusing. Nice on M81 and M82, being able to pick M82 out quicker than the 8x32s due to the magnification..but the brightness seems the same from the relative equality of the exit pupil. Jupiter amost a perfect disk, with moons clearly discerned, better than the 8x32 which I had in a side by side. M42 noticeably improved due to magnification in these compared to the 8x32s. Eye-point position is great with my thin glasses with the eyecups folded down (not too much, not too little) Small footprint, can fit in a large fanny pack, very lightweight and easy to hand-hold, actually can be held steady even at 10x due to ergonomics. Also, like the 32s, can reach focus for near-sighted people, well beyond -4.25 diopters. I highly recommend these for astronomy, especially for older people with limited exit pupil size, and for the suburbs where background light runs amock and larger aperture at 10x is less necessary.
Eye Relief: Exc (too good)
Size: Mid -
Weight: 26 oz.
Notes: Great pair, very small, lightweight and yet capable of high resolution and outstanding brightness for it's size. The ED glass may be responsible for the slightly better color correction than the Ultima line... and resulting better resolution than some models. (ie. the 8x56)
Eye Relief: EXC (too good on some, have to hold them back)
Weight: 31 oz
Notes: Very comfortable feel, did great on Hyakutake and in fact was the pair I reached for, more than the 10x70 Fujinons, due to the slightly wider field and nearly as bright performance. Not as highly resolved on Alberio.
April 24, 2001 Update: I received another pair of these and played with them a bit. I was surprised at just how "comfortable" the view is. Easy to hold the view with glasses in particular with the eyecups folded down (not too much eye relief) A truly outstanding value, and perhaps a very key pair of binocs for anyone who wears glasses.
FOV Approx. 5
Eye Relief: EXC
Size: MID ++
Weight: 35 oz.
Notes: Unusual pair.. a bit large, but still hand holdable despite 63mm aperture! Suspected that mine may have fallen out of alignment. Indeed both the 8x56 and 9x63s were really souped up 10x50 Ultima bodies added onto with an extension. Not as much resolution on the Moon as 9.5x44 EDs that they were tested against. Reported to have great performance under very dark skies.
FOV: Approx. 8.5 deg.
Brightness: EXC (for size)
Edge: Good - (like all the in the series, not bad at all!)
Eye Relief: Exc
Weight: 31 oz. (heavy for size)
Notes: Completely, and I mean completely waterproof. However, a bit heavy for their small size. All Fujinons have individual focus, which was inconvenient for other use than astronomy... or distance. Great for near-sightedness, out to about 5 diopters. Very, very sharp optics...
FOV: Approx. 5
Eye Relief: EXC
Notes: Great binoculars all around for astronomy. In this size though, I would recommend going to the 16 x 70s since you have to tripod mount them anyway in most cases.
FMT Fujinons (no longer avail.)
Eye Relief: Fair-
Weight: Heavy - (heavy minus)
Notes: No longer available, these have low eye relief, but sharp, bright views. Less edge performance than the newer FMT-SXs
Eye Relief: Good-
Notes: Outstanding "telescopic" performance! Just barely made it eye relief wise with my thin glasses. Like the other Fujinon FMT-SXs , can be used w/o glasses with my 4.25 diopter prescription, and probably could be pushed to 5.Must be tripod bound. Again, like the others, these have individual focus and are completely water tight, great in dewey areas. Really great job on nebula.. saw the "Swan nebula" looking exactly like a Swan, and resolved the wild duck cluster to a large degree. Comparable performance to a Televue binoviewer coupled to an Astrophysics refractor. Also compared on 4/30/00 to a pair of 15x50 Canon IS binoculars. The Fujinons had worse edge performance and worse eye relief, but slightly greater pulling power, with objects such as M82 slightly more mottled than in the revered 15x50s, and a few marginal stars visible in the Fujinons but not the Canons. Hardly fair to compare 70mm to 50mm binoculars, but the Canons are the best 50mm binocs out there, and the aperture still pulled the Fujis over the top.
Leica BA binoculars
Resolution: EXC +
eye Relief: EXC+ (too good)
Cost: VERY HIGH ($1,000.00)
Weight: 31 oz.
Notes: Outstanding performance. Fits in a fanny. Ridiculously expensive. Competely waterproof, and a bit heavy for their size. Eye relief is very long, and you have to hold them back a bit from your eye, but the "TV-like" view stands out. Very wide field for size... probably great for comets. Wonderful resolution on the Wild Duck Cluster. Also tried
the 8x32s in the store.. same problem with sharpness fall-off at edge of field.
Edge: Fair -
Eye Relief: Approx. 16mm, Good
Weight: approx. 5 lbs
Notes: A great surprise.. very bright and sharp on axis, a great alternative to the Fujinon 16x70s, perhaps even brighter and better performing due to the larger aperture.. yet it maintains high contrast. The problem is the edge performance which was quite poor. The other surprise was the eye relief, it was comfortable for me with glasses, quite comfortable. The field size is a bit small. The Fujion 16X had a 4 degree field. Just barely focused, (but made it - YES!) to my nearsightedness... 4.25 diopters
FOV: 3.5 (approx. 70 degree apparent fov)
Resolution: Good (Deluxe) Excellent(Standard)
Edge: Fair - Poor
Eye Relief: Fair-Good (Deluxe) Poor (Standard)
Size: Giant Weight: Approx. 4 lbs
Very fine astronomical binocular. The DELUXE model comes with a built in 1/4-20" adapter that slides back and forth for balance, but may make it difficult to use with certain bino-mounts. The DELUXE model was not as sharp on axis as Fujinon 16x70s, nor as good edge performance. The REGULAR version of these binoculars were superb on-axis, even splitting easily the Trapezium in M42, easily showing Saturn's rings, and a clean no-flare disk on Jupiter. However, this (STANDARD) pair was close to awful at the edge, and non-correctable with refocusing. However, there is plenty of light throughput due to both the aperture and the coatings on both models, making for some great nebula views. Edge sharpness as mentioned is not very good, but it holds on just enough to give a pleasing overall view, in the DELUXE, worse on the STANDARD. It did not reach focus (DELUXE) for my -4.25 diopter prescription, but did, barely, on the STANDARD style. The STANDARD style I tried may be outdated, seems to be a few years old. Not sure what to recommend as the regular version despite worse eye relief and edge performance gave very sharp on-axis views and was less expensive. Case of personal preference.
Pentax PCF II
Eye Relief: Fair-good
Weight: 31 oz.
NOTES: A wonderful surprise. Can be found for $150.00 new, and yet one of the best overall pairs of astronomical binoculars. PERFECT for eyeglass wearers who want to observe without their glasses as there is plenty of room ..maybe to 6 diopters or more for near sighted users. Also good for correcting astigmatism because of the 4.2mm exit pupil. The binocular has the fit and finish similar to Orion 10x50 Ultraviews, just a bit smaller and lighter. It is amazingly hand holdable despite the high power. Was not quite as bright as the 10x50s, and would likely not be as good in dark country skies. Probably the exit pupil issue and not the coatings making it appear to view a bit dimmer than the 10x50s. However, it performs better on clusters in particular in suburban skies with the high resolving power of 12x and the excellent optics. The edge performance is pretty bad, with drop-off beginning at 50% out, but not bad enough to be distracting.. as in the poorer models. The eye relief is medium, just enough for my high density glasses (thin) but not enough for those of you with thick lenses. As I mentioned, I plan to use these though w/o glasses.
Meade Rain Forest Pro
Resolution: Very good
Eye Relief: EXC (too good)
Weight: 37 oz.
NOTES: Meade's answer to Leicas, but not quite as sharp at the edge, nor on axis from my recollection. However, they still were quite good. They are roof prism binoculars, so they are long and thin.. about 4.5x11.5" Viewed bright, with a bit too much eye relief so that it was a bit hard to hold the binocs. away from your eyes in order to catch the view with the cups rolled down while wearing glasses. Still, light enough and very stable to make it possible, and enjoyable. 10x50 Orion Ultraviews showed a bit more in suburban skies due to the 10x, but in dark country skies these would have excelled with the 7mm exit pupil.
Resolution: EXC+ (best)
Bright: EXC+ (best)
Eye Relief: EXC (23mm, and perfect)
Weight: 52 oz.
NOTES: These Fujinons are among the best available. However, they still have limitations. Even these wonderful binoculars exhibit curvature of field, thus mediocre edge performance, reminding me of the Leicas.(excellent, but not quite perfect) Contrast was better than the cheaper, but superb 10x50 Ultraviews in direct comparison, and sharpness was superb, in fact, I could almost make out as much detail with these 7x50s as the 10x50s, which says a lot for 3x less power. Binoculars view nicely despite an apparent field of only 53 degrees (real field 7.5 deg). That is, the field seems big and bright and very clear. The eye relief for some reason works out well, with the eyecups, even though it is almost "too much" eye relief which has hindered other pairs. That is, the blackout areas are there, but slight as you shift your head around. Weight is heavy, but view is steady. The only problem may be eventual fatigue and inconvenience from the somewhat larger size and additional weight. If you have the extra money, these are the way to go, if you don't.. you shouldn't lose sleep over owning a less expensive pair.
and 15x45 Canon IS (image stabilized!)
FOV: 5.5 deg, 4.5 deg 15x45, 4.5 deg 15x50
Bright: EXC for exit pupil (3mm makes it seem less than other models)
Edge: EXC (best tested of any..only a bit off at very edge)
Eye Relief: EXC
Weight: Approx. 40 oz 15x45, 42 oz. 15x50
NOTES: Unbelievably good, but with three problems. I tested this by day only (see 12/98 update below tested at night, and then 4/00 tested the 15x50s), but had to post the findings. They are extremely sharp to the edge of field compared to other binoculars, and sport a wide apparent fov of 67 degrees. Eye relief is perfect BOTH for glasses and non-glasses, and the diopter range to -5 allows for most near-sighted viewers to use without their glasses. In addition, the narrow (3mm) exit pupil corrects for many astigmatism problems, so this is an excellent choice for those with eye problems. Very sharp view, but dim, probably because of the exit pupil problem. The image stabilization works wonderfully, steadying everything with a push of a button. Radically changes the whole idea of binocular viewing w/o a tripod. The other problems that the Sky and Tel. article (May 98') left out, is that they weigh a lot, I can't even begin to guess how cumbersome the 15x45 is as I found the 12x36 a bit uncomfortable... and #2. It is a bit of a hand-strain (slight) to press the conveniently located Image Stabilization button.. it doesn't lock in place, you have to continuosly hold it, which is mildly distracting. Also..of course..the price, is an issue. Overall, quite a development!
12/98 Update.. I tried the 10x30, and 15x45 in the store. Then I bought 15x45s and resold them. Very carefully put them up against the best of the best and these are the winners. Best edge performance hands down. By a small margin..best on-axis resolution. I found the 15x45 use-able despite the heavy weight... too bad they don't make something with a bigger exit pupil. The exit pupil limited nebula performance so that I could gain much more even with the "shakes" using an Orion Little Giant 15x70. The resolution of the star members though of course was much better both with and without the stabilization engaged in these 15x45s. An image stabilization switch was at one time available to hold it "on" but does not seem to be sold anymore. I did indeed find the binoculars a bit too heavy to use, so I sold them. They still rate as the best performing binoculars for their aperture that I have ever seen, especially when it comes down to the edge performance which only began to suffer (slightly) beyond 90 or 95% from center field.
04/00 Update.. I very thoroughly tested the 15x50 pair on a dozen objects or more including galaxies, emission neb, clusters, globulars and the moon. I am most impressed. The extra 5mm on the new weather resistant pair has propelled the binoculars to just enough light gathering to successfully compete on-axis against my 15x70 Orion Little Giant 2s. M51 displays both galaxies, M27 displayed dim stars on all sides of the object, the moon displayed amazing texture, and stars were as colorful as can be. Contrast was excellent, with the moon barely noticeable just outside the field of view, and no glare entering the field when I moved it in. The edge performance is the best of any unit tested other than the Takahashi 22x60s, and on-axis this is about the tops. There is some lateral "color" when I move the moon from one side of the field to the other. The drop off in contrast and sharpness towards the edge of field is negligible but present. The good news is the image stabilization now works in 5 minute increments and is silent. The unit weighs a tad more than the 15x45s and is a tad cumbersome and tiring. The diopter correction is superb, I can use this with or without glasses and the eyecups are set just right for both glasses-on and off use. You can use these down to about -5.0 diopters. The field of view of 4.5 is perfect, it's at the apparent fov of around 67 degrees which is the maximum a binocular should be set at based on my experience with binoculars and binoviewers. Compared to my 15x70s of course the edge performance was not even an issue (these have the best edge performance of anything yet tried) but even on-axis, hand-held I was able to make out more with the Canons despite the 50mm aperture, with higher contrast but a dimmer field. Tripod mounted it was a wash, with a slight edge (minimal) to the 15x70s on nebulosity, but really only a "tie" on stars, which these 50mm pulled out of the sky magically due to the high contrast. Comparing to a pair of 10x42 Superior E Nikons, these of course won hands down with no contest, not even remotely close. However, the 10x42 were much easier to hand-hold, and just as easy to hold steady despite the lack of image stabilization. . . due to the low weight. One other negative.. while the image stabilization is "on", if you aren't perfectly steady, your view may not move, but the resolution lowers. **One note: I did the BVD "NEED" resolution test, where you measure how many feet away you can separate the the dark and light line separation within the "ONE" on the back side of a dollar bill, and came out with an astounding 50 feet! However, note that I can see that separation naked eye at 30", which is well beyond the normal range of a person's usual eyesight. (I have about 20-13 vision with my glasses on)
4/30/00 Update: Lying down with the binoculars (on a friend's driveway no less) I made these to be about as stable as they would have been on a tripod, and this is how I tested them against a pair of 16x70 Fujinons, which were parallelogram mounted next to me. The contrast made these binoculars almost comparable in how much they could "pull" out of the sky to the Fujis, but not quite. Some threshold stars were just barely seen in the 16x70s and not in these. The mottling in M82 was more clear in the Fujinons. Bright objects like M5 were just as impressive though due to the contrast between the blacker sky (probably partially due to exit pupil) and the bright object itself. Also, the edge performance was better than the Fujis, and the eye relief. Note the difference may have been even more noticeable in darker skies, (the fujis would have the edge there even more than these fairly dark suburban skies) - TG
Little Giants (Orion, Telescope and Binocular Center)
FOV: 4.0 degrees, Under 3 deg. 20x70s
Eye Relief: Fair 15x70s, Poor 20x70s
Weight: 40 oz.
NOTES: A really unusual find. The reason that these are important pairs of binoculars is that although the edge performance is pretty crummy, and the unit is built slightly sub-par (feels cheaper than the 80mm binoculars for example) the weight is so light for a giant binocular, that at 15x, you CAN just barely use them hand-held. , much more than other models. (If you have something to lean against, even the 20x are hand holdable.)This means that like the Canon 15x45 stabilized, you can use these hand-held at the relatively high power of 15x, if you aren't prone to the shakes. This is a breakthrough in itself. I found it easiest to steady the view by lying down. Eye relief was around 10mm, but less on the 20x model... The 15x70s are just barely okay with my ultra thin glasses. Also.. it is set for no close focus, which is a boon for near sighted people as it can be used to around -4 to -5 diopters and more (varied with each unit, I tried four)... without glasses, provided you don't have major astigmatism. So, yes, it reaches focus for a wide variety of folks! Compared to 10x50s, the objects were much more clearly defined, even large extended objects, despite the drop off in focus after 50% out from center field. Even the Pleides fit in the "sweet spot". So as long as you aren't looking for wide, crisp starfields, but are specific-object hunting, you will be far better off with these than those of smaller magnification. Both companions of M31 were clearly visible without a problem in darker suburban skies as an example. In the 20x model, M51 took on it's true telescopic (double galaxy) appearance. As I mentioned, there was a tiny bit of a mechanical problem,a sticky focuser on two units I tried, but not the other two. I would get these rather than Tento / Kronos (name?) or other Russian 20x60s as the field is larger, eye relief a bit better, color purer, and coatings apparently more effective... plus it's easier to hand hold 15x. The 20x also seemed better than the 20x60 russians, mostly due to the larger aperture. By the way, on the second pair of 15x70s that I tried in 3/99, I did a resolution test that I have put other binoculars through of late. Lettering at a far distance was as easy to read, if not easier than the following binoculars: 15x45 Canon IS, and 12x50 Nikon Superior E, and 20x80 Celestron Giants.In fact, I did compare the 15x70s side by side with the Fujinon 16x70s. The Fujis were just a tad brighter, with the same (roughly) resolution. Off-axis, the fujis were much better.
The 20x70s have a field of view NOT as wide as listed, seems like around 2.8 degrees rather than 3. The apparent fov is NOT quite as large as the 15x70s. Still the 20x70s went deeper on deep sky objects even in dark skies when I tested the two pairs together far from city lights. If you are tripod mounted, and want telescopic performance, I'd consider the 20x pair.
11x70 & 16x70 Binoculars
FOV: 4.0 degrees, 3.6 degrees
Bright: EXC+ 11x70, Fair 16x70
Edge: Good- 11x70, bit worse on 16x70
Eye Relief: Exc 11x70, Fair- 16x70
Cost: Low !
Weight: 50 oz.
The 16x70 is nothing exciting. Good on-axis resolution, but fairly good edge performance (not as good as the 11x70). Also limited eye relief (not for those with glasses) and pretty dim for the aperture. On a positive note, there is room for focusing for near-sighted users. (to around -5 or -6 diopter)
On the other hand, the 11x70s are A GREAT BUY. The field size is limited, but the sharpness near the edge of field, while not perfect, ain't all that below the Leicas and Fujinons. On axis sharpness is very, very good too. Compared these to the 10x50 Ultraviews and they were clearly the winner. Hand holdable, just a tad heavier than the Orion Little Giants. YOU CAN WEAR THESE WITH GLASSES OR WITHOUT - due to the large eye relief, and superb amount of focus travel, so if you are nearsighted right down to -5 diopters, you are all set. Pleides, M31, M42, Auriga clusters, the Moon, M15, and many more objects looked great, better than the 10x50s, by a good margin.. but not quite as nice *due to magnification being less* than the 15x70 Little Giants.
Superior E 10x42 (and 8x32, and 12x50)
FOV: 6 deg. (7.5 deg. 8x32, 5 deg. 12x50)
Bright: EXC (the best)
Eye Relief: EXC (too good)
Weight: 20-30 oz..
Notes: If it weren't for the not-quite-perfect edge performance, I'd say these were the best
performing binoculars I have ever seen. Considering they are less costly than the Leicas,
and other high-end roof-prism binoculars, this is good news. There is NO tripod adapter
hole in these binoculars... but an adapter can be purchased.
Eye relief was outstanding,
sharpness was second only to the Canon IS towards the edge.
Focus goes a little sour after 75-80% out from center of field when carefully testing.
There is enough focus travel for some nearsighted eyeglass wearers.. I'd say to -3 to -4 diopters.
I could not find any other 8x32 binoculars that could offer up as much resolution or light throughput or contrast. These binoculars will be outstanding when applied to astronomy. 12/98 update, I have been using the 10x42
and 12x50s on the sky, and they are very , very sharp with high contrast. There is some "blacking out" if you
are not careful because of the too abundant eye relief. In fact, I keep the eyeguards popped out even with my glasses on to avoid this effect. 04/00 Update. Testing the 8x32s against 8x32 ultimas, I note that the Ultima also has superb on-axis performance but falls way short to these in contrast and especially edge performance. These are larger than the Celestron 8x32 ultimas by a bit, and a bit heavier. Important to note is that the field of view is exactly the same despite the Celestron's indicated 8.3 deg. fov and the Nikon 7.5 deg fov. Someone is mistaken. Tested these two under starfilled suburban skies. The Nikon had more contrast and showed dimmer stars. The 8x32 Celestron Ultimas were lighter and easier to handle and view with glasses or without. Optically though, despite the same resolution on-axis, the Ultimas lost due to the slight disadvantage in contrast.
Resolution: Very good-EXC
Edge: Very good
Eye Relief: EXC (too good)
Weight: About 28 oz..
Notes: Similar in design to the Orion Ultraviews. However, the field size of this pair was relatively narrow, at only
5.8 degrees. Despite excellent eye relief, this is not the best design if you wear glasses, as they would not reach focus without the glasses (limited to maybe -3 diopters) and with .. the eye relief was so huge... about 23mm, that with the cups folded down, blackout areas were prominent as I held the binoculars up close. This is common to many binoculars with excellent eye relief. These were quite sharp, and particularly impressive for this price off-axis towards the edge. Also, I did test these under the Milky Way in suburban skies on a pretty good night.. and they did a wonderful job on the "way", because of the 7mm exit pupil, better than a pair of 10x50s would have done on "first impression". The higher magnification on a 10x binocular would still give it the advantage on most individual objects.
22x60 f/5.9 fluorite
Eye Relief: EXC
Weight: Around 4 lbs (approximate)
Notes: Running around $1000-1200,
you'd expect a lot out of the Takahashi 22x60s. You get it. These are essentially
two Takahashi fs60s (f/5.9 apo fluorite) put together into a standard binocular with individual focus on the eyes. The top half (skyward) of the binoculars look like telescopes, with constellations engraved on, the bottom half (towards you) look like standard binoculars. The binoculars come with a versatile threaded tripod adapter that can be used in just about any configuration. (regular tripod, parallelogram) Since the front end is like a scope, you can attach a 1x finder like Orion (or Televue) sells for telescopes.The views are stunning. However, the field of view is narrow, only 2.1 degrees, 45 deg. apparent fov on the eyepieces. The stars are pinpoint almost to the edge. (degrading in the last 15% of the field but minimal compared to most other binoculars - these still fall short of the perfection of the 15x45 Canons). Comparing views to other binoculars, these have a clear edge over some of the great ones such as the Fujinon 16x70s despite the (small) 60mm aperture. (they are a bit longer than the fujis and about the same weight or just a bit heavier) M42 is greener than I have seen in any other binocular other than giant 100mm size. Contrast is really great. Despite the UNDER 3mm exit pupil, the contrast does bring out nebula and stars, boosted by the additional magnification. I usually don't like 3mm exit pupil binoculars for "dimmer" views, but did not find this with these. The contrast is making up for the light loss.
M82 showed foreground stars, and framed wonderfully with M81. M13 showed hints of outer resolution (just hints). The moon was much more detailed than in 70mm binoculars. Jovian moons were more easily followed, but banding was slight on the planet. Saturn's rings were clearly discerned.
In sum: Pricey, small field of view, works well on parallelogram binocular mount. Incredible for 60mm, but still can't out-do nebulosity on 80mm or up, I'm sure. (but ARE more pleasing due to quality.. really high-class pair of binoculars!) Other notes: Eye relief is huge, and works best if you get your eyes aligned just right (not "blackouts, but stars appear most crisp if you view in just the right place) Also, although there is no problem viewing with glasses,but if you want of view without, your vision can't be worse than -4 diopters, focus just missed with me (I'm -4.25)
Oberwerk (tested 3)
FOV: 4.0 degrees
Eye Relief: Excellent
Weight: about 45 oz.
NOTES: I'm a bit stunned, these binoculars which I obtained from http://www.bigbinoculars.com are very low cost and similar to the Orion 15x70 Little Giants with two exceptions. Firstly, the focus range is short, but heavily weighted towards long-distance.. in fact it even focused without my glasses (-4.25 diopter, just made it). They are therefore good for astronomy, but not necessarily birdwatching. Secondly, they have more eye relief than the Orion 15x70s, excellent, long eye relief, reminiscent of the Orion 10x50 Ultras. The view and feel of the binoculars otherwise is similar to the Orion 15x70s, and the Orion 10x50 Ultraviews, they seem to be Chinese made. They must made at the same factory. Jupiter was a disk and I could barely make out Saturn's rings. I could barely resolve the Trapezium. The moon was crisp and detailed with false color out of focus, but not in focus. The binoculars are very lightweight for their large size, and could be marginally hand holdable for long periods of time. Go to the Orion 15x70 review for more detail on the typical views.
5/01 NOTE: I recently received two more pairs of these. In warmer weather the focus is slightly loose (but smooth), and if you press your head against them too hard, the focus can shift on it's own. I am once again amazed that this is the only high eye relief giant binoculars on the market that are hand holdable, and yet they are on the order of 150.00.
20x60 PCF V
FOV: 2.2 degrees
Resolution: Excellent +
Eye Relief: Excellent
Weight: About 38 oz.
These binoculars are amazing optically. Although they have a small field of view (apparent fov is around 45 degrees, actual fov is 2.2 degrees) they are sharp to the edge with only the most minor softening of the image at the very edge. There is also chromatic aberration noted on the moon towards the edge, but overall the performance is reminiscent of much more expensive models such as the Nikon Superior E. Resolution is so high that I was able to read the fine print in secure documents at my office 100 feet or more away! Lunar craters are extremely detailed. Stars are sharp across the field. Jupiter is a disk with no unusual aberrations. M13 looked telescopic (70mm-ish) but not quite resolved. Unusual prisms allow for the unusually thin shape conducive to easy hand holding, despite the 20x. Although it is pretty foolish to observe with these for long periods of time due to the high power, without using the tripod adapter hole, the light weight and stability of the binoculars does cry out for hand holding. The eyecups pop in and out, and eye relief is too much with them in , so that black-out areas result. I can just barely make out the whole fov with my glasses on and the eyecups snapped up. However, without my glasses, when I really nestled my eyes into the "hard" eyecups, the view started to black out a little bit at the edges. There is something I can't verbalize that I don't like about the binoculars. The view is a bit hard to hold unlike the Celestron Ultima series, as an example, which offer quite the opposite. Oh, important note for eyeglass wearers, I had no problem reaching focus without my glasses, and the 3mm exit pupil of course aids to limit astigmatism.
Resolution: Excellent +
Bright: Very Good
Eye Relief: Excellent
Weight: About 40 oz.
These binoculars are great optically, on axis. In fact, this time, while testing them at work, I actually peered into one of the managers office, some 100 feet away, but this time, I caught them calculating extra overtime fees on MY timesheets!! In other words, I was able to get such great resolution that I could read my signature, count the extra times I worked, etc, clear across the studio. Unfortunately, the edge performance isn't up to par with that on-axis performance. Brightness is very good to excellent, although noticeably dimmer than the Nikon Superior E, by day, and about the same by night. Eye relief is high (just a tad too much), but focus is set very poorly set, so that if you are at all near-sighted and choose to view without glasses, you won't reach focus. Field of view is HUGE, 5.7 degrees real FOV, apparent field about 68. I have yet to check the color correction, but so far, so good. The binoculars look light slightly oversized 10x50 Ultraviews from Orion, and are Chinese made. They are heavier than the Pentax 20x60 PCF by a tad, and not all that easy to hold steady at 12x, but still passable. I bought them from Telescope Warehouse which may have an exclusive, I'm not sure. In comparing with the Nikon Superior E 12x50s, I determined that these really are more like 13X binoculars. Because of that, star detection on axis may be a tad better than the Nikon's (nearly a tie), but the Nikons night-time resolution was a bit better, and brightness seemed overall a slight be better, despite being only 50mm in aperture. In other words, these are a great alternative to 700.00 binoculars, but they are not going to beat em, not even on-axis. Off axis, there was no comparison, the images softened less quicky in the Nikons, but even the Nikons were far from perfect in that regard.
Bright: Very good
Eye Relief: EXC
Weight: About 44 oz.
Nearsighted Wearers: Okay to -4.25 diopters
Really nice to view through these beefed up Orion Ultraview-style binoculars.
Fairly wide field of view, soft, but not terrible towards the edge. Bright
view. Mild color distortion towards edges. Put up against the expensive
($800) Nikon 12x50 superior e, these help up fairly well. Similar field
of view. Just a hair less sharp on-axis. Significantly worse though towards
the edge. Larger than the Nikons, but that is because these are 63mm. The
extra aperture makes up for the slight loss of contrast compared to the
Nikons, so star detection is virtually identical. Nebula detection is borderline
easier in the Orions due to the aperture. Some resolution to the Trapezium
in Orion, with the
nebula broad and bright. M31 stretched several degrees through the field. Alberio was clearly significantly separated.
M27 looked identical in both the Nikons and the Orions. Jupiter looked a bit cleaner in the Nikons. These are an
excellent value. Hard to hand hold for long periods of time and hard to hold completely steady at 12x. Tripod recommended, but surely can be hand held at times for quick looks!
29. Orion Trailhead 8x42 Roof Prism
Edge: Fair -
Eye Relief : EXC
Size : Medium-Small
Weight: Around 28 oz.
Nearsighted wearers: No problem reaching focus
The Orion Trailhead 8x42 binoculars are really interesting. I'm still testing these. My wife recently, and I'm not kidding, mistakenly threw my shorts with large pockets into the washer and drier. What's unusual about that? I had a pair of 8x32 Celestron Ultimas in one of the pockets!! Well, for the 2nd time these need to go for repair, but the main problem is that water got inside! The Orion's on the other hand, are waterproof, fogproof, fairly small, and have a good overall view. The apparent FOV is only a little over 50 degrees, nothing great there. The resolution is no better than the Celestron 8x32, even despite the greater aperture, and I'm not overly impressed with light gathering. However, there are several things that set this binocular apart. They are rugged, pretty small, and have the best eyeguard scheme I've seen, rotating inwards so that no matter what kind of glasses you wear, you will always have the perfect amount of eye relief. Also, they are good for nearsighted folks, the edge performance is fairly poor, but not terrible, the brightness isn't tremendous, but passable for this aperture, and of course they are waterproof. Just a good overall binocular for the money, especially for nature, but even for astronomical use.
SUMMARIZING: (current favorites are highlighted)
Orion 10x50 (Celestron Pro?)
Tento, or equivalent Russian 20x60
Pentax 12x50 PCF II (later models now avail.)
Orion Mini-Giant 12x63
WORTH THE EXTRA:
Celestron 9.5x44 ED
Canon Stablized Series (IS)
Nikon Superior E Series
Takahashi 22x60 Fluorite