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How to choose a good pair of binoculars

March 9, 2019 - Starter Pack
How to choose a good pair of binoculars
Stargazing with a binocular on a tripod
The author enjoying star clusters with a Celestron 15×70 binocular mounted on tripod

Many of us imagine they should own a large and maybe highly automatized telescope from the beginning in order to have the best experience. This simply isn’t the case. KISS (Keep it simple stupid) principle is relevant in this domain as well. Complicated setups with equatorial mounts, heavy open tube assemblies (OTAs) with GoTo are just too much for an apprentice. They usually lead to disappointment and remain unused, collecting dust  in some garage (after spending a substantial amount of money to purchase them).

The most efficient and simple way to learn and enjoy the night sky it to start this hobby with just a pair of binoculars as your first optical aid. They should be light enough to be hand held easy, your hands shouldn’t shake when using them. This ideal weight is around the 1kg mark, most often with the diameter range of 10mm. Binos with 7×10 mm, 10×50 mm or 12×50 mm are best suited for this task. Diameters larger than 50mm get a lot heavier and usually need a tripod to successfully use. The numbers before the “x” represent the magnification number.

My first pair of binoculars – Celestron 10×50

Again, maybe a bit counterintuitive – the magnification is not the most important characteristic. The lens diameter is the most relevant and the field of view. The resulting image should be sharp and your eye should observe a field of view as large as possible.

Beware of falsified or doubtful brands of binoculars. They may be cheap (under $15) but they are really bad for astronomy (or anything else for that matter). My recommendation would be to buy used gear in good condition if the price of buying a new one is an issue. The “leader” in this area is Astromart (link here) in the US. Usually thrustful items can also be found on members of astronomy clubs and forums.

My first binoculars

The first pair of binoculars that I owned were a Celestron 10×50 mm. I received them as a gift from some of my friends at the age of 18. I was already reading more and attending an extra-curricular course about astronomy. I enjoyed using them about 6 years. I used to take them with me whenever the sky was clear and I got some free time to search new deep sky objects.

Other options

Russian Tento 7x50
Russian Tento 7×50

I also found a russian Tento 7x50mm in good shape about 2 years ago. The optics was amazing and the stars quite sharp. They were just a bit old (produced in the 1980’s) and the focuser was moving really hard. Nice piece of engineering anyhow.

Awesome Lacerta 10x50
Awesome Lacerta 10×50

Current binos in use are a pair of Lacerta 10x50mm. The construction quality is very good and optics also. They were almost new when I purchased them. A good instrument is a used one. It’s pointless to own heavy and complicated setups that require power, more time or physical strength to get you ready for astronomical observations. The ease of use makes binoculars the ideal choice for beginners and even more advanced users alike.

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