If you think about astronomy, you automatically think of using a telescope. It’s no surprise, seeing as telescopes give an awesome view of the sky and there’s an abundance of different types of telescope that you can choose from. But is a telescope always the right option, or for some people are astronomy binoculars a better idea?
Well for some people, binoculars will be a good point to get started. But in my opinion, even for amateurs you should look at owning at least one telescope before you decide to get yourself a pair of binoculars. This doesn’t even need to be an extremely expensive telescope – it could be a cheap one, but it’s a good idea to get a telescope before you get a set of astronomy binoculars.
Of course, there are advantages of using binoculars that you just can’t get when you use a telescope. So, let’s have a look at some of the reasons why you might want to consider using a set of binoculars for your astronomy needs.
Best Astronomy Binoculars for Beginners
If you’re just getting into astronomy, then it makes sense to get a good pair of budget binoculars. Those there’s no real ‘best set’, there are a few different ones that I’d recommend if you’re just dipping your toes in the water.
Celestron Skymaster Series (10×70, 15×70, 20×80, 25×100)
Celestron are generally considered to be one of the best brands for beginners in the industry. The main reasons for this is that they have the widest variety of products, so it doesn’t matter whether you’re a novice or an expert – they’re going to have something for you.
For complete beginners, you’re likely best going for the 15×70 set, as these are best for viewing simple things like the moon. You won’t need to get a tripod with binoculars with this lower magnification either, but they’ll be more than enough to see the moon and close planets.
- Multi coated optics
- Large aperture perfect for low light conditions and stargazing
- Tripod adapter. 13 mm (0.51 inch) long eye relief ideal for eyeglass wearers. Linear Field of View (@1000 yds) / @1000 m) 231 ft (77 m)
The main reason that I like the Skymaster’s is that firstly, they’re available at a really good entry price. If you put them with another cheap telescope, then you can get a good combination of telescope and binoculars for around $250, which is pretty affordable.
Another reason that I like the Skymaster’s is that they’re pretty much the maximum you can use without having to use a tripod. They’ll give you a pretty steady view of the sky, but if you opt for 20-25x magnification you’re entering tripod territory in my opinion.
Finally, whilst the Celestron’s aren’t the very best quality that you’re going to find, they’re surprisingly good. If you’re looking to see the moon clearly, you should be able to with the Skymaster’s.
I also have compared the 15×70 and the 25×70 if you want to know more about them.
Orion Scenix 7×50
Another option if you are looking for a cheaper set of astronomy binoculars is the Orion Scenix 7×50. They’re ideal if you want a set of smaller binoculars that still have enough power to see star clusters and get in depth looks at a full moon. But if you want binoculars that you can use for astronomy and for other stuff too, then the Scenix 7×50’s are probably your best bet. Due to their compact size, they’re great for birding and other outdoors activities, too.
- Great all-around binoculars for astronomy as well as scenic daytime viewing
- High-quality BAK-4 porro prisms and multi-coated binocular objective lenses ensure bright, crisp images
- Wide 7.1 degree field of view and 14 foot close focus
One thing to note about the Scenix is that they use Bak4 prisms, like the majority of decent quality astronomy binoculars currently available. Essentially, Bak4 just refers to the optical quality of the materials (glass) used (typically, Bak4 is better than the other common glass used, BK-7). Bak4 binoculars use non circular exit pupils too, which helps to reduce blur around the edges of your view.
For their relatively cheap price, the Orion Scenix provide decent value. They’re made from decent material (not cheap plastic like you might expect with cheap binoculars), they have multi coated lenses and they’re some of the best value binoculars you’re going to find on the current market.
ESSLNB Giant Binoculars 13×39
Another option for those that want a set of big binoculars is this ESSLNB set. Though they aren’t a prestigious astronomical brand, they’re typically pretty cheap and they do a decent enough job.
- Professional Giant Binoculars:13-39X zoom magnification and 70mm fully multi-coated objective offer great brightness and higher-contrast images in low-light and long-range conditions, which has higher-contrast images and reduces color errors and distortions.
- Astronomy Binoculars with smartphone adapter and Tripod Adapter:Phone adapter with rubber sucker, which can 180°angle and length adjustment,is easy to set up and take images. Tripod adapter for steady, hands-free viewing.
- With the easy-to-reach control knob on your left hand,it's more convenient and quick to change the magnification from 13X-39X. Right diopter ring can be adjusted to meet different visions requirements between two eyes.
What are some good things about this particular set of binoculars? Well, they come with a decent quality set of adaptors, for both using with a tripod or directly onto your smartphone. This means that if you’ve thought about getting started with iPhone astrophotography before but don’t want to splash out on all the equipment, you can get a taste for it with just this set of binoculars and a phone.
As well as being easy to set up with your iPhone, this set is ideal for those that wear glasses and need a set of binoculars with long eye relief. Essentially, eye relief is just the distance allowed between the eyepiece and your eyes, and binoculars with shorter eye relief won’t give a comfortable view for those with glasses. So if you’re looking to scan the sky for long periods of time and you wear glasses, it’s essential you get a set that allows this. So, if you’re not too concerned about having high magnification, then this is likely going to be a good set of binoculars for you.
Orion 20×80 Astronomical Binocular
Aside from Celestron, the other most well known brand when considering astronomy equipment is probably Orion. They make some awesome telescopes, as well as a variety of astronomy binoculars too. One of their more popular models is the Orion 20×80’s.
As I’ve mentioned, when you’re increasing the magnification to 20x, you’re entering tripod territory. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except that tripods can be expensive and cheaper binoculars tend to have a problem attaching to tripods (for me, anyway). So if you’re looking for a binocular and tripod set together, then it could be worth considering the Orion 20×80 Astronomical Binoculars.
- Complete binocular stargazing solution with everything you need to see comets and other interesting objects in the night sky
- Big 20x80 astronomical binoculars gather a lot of light for bright, clear views
- Powerful 20x magnification great for up-close explorations of starry skies and daytime targets too
Although they’re a bit more expensive than the other binoculars, it’s necessary to take the tripod into account. Not just this, but the quality of the binoculars themselves. The 80mm objective lenses are great, and are all you really need to get a good view. If you’re looking to take a step up from the cheaper sets of binoculars, then getting this set of 20x80s is undoubtedly a good idea.
Canon 18×50 Image Stabilization All-Weather Binoculars
If you have more cash to spend, then you could consider getting some image stabilization binoculars. Of course, these aren’t necessarily for a beginner and are only for people looking at getting themselves an extravagant purchase.
Many people don’t think image stabilization binoculars are worth considering, and I’ve debated IS binoculars myself before, and ultimately decided that they can be a good investment. Essentially, image stabilization is designed to help reduce the effectiveness of your shaky hands. This reduces the needs for a tripod, and allows you to use higher magnified binoculars.
- 18x magnification
- Built-in optical image stabilization uses 2 AA batteries
- Wide, extra-bright field of view
These binoculars are a good example of a set of image stabilization binoculars that work exactly as they’re supposed to. Yes, they’re much more expensive than your average set but they’re definitely a good example of a more high quality set of binoculars.
Astronomy Binoculars – Better than a telescope?
It’s undoubtable that astronomy binoculars aren’t as comprehensive as using a telescope. But, there are definitely advantages to using astronomy binoculars as opposed to a telescope. The main pros of using binoculars are;
- Portability – It goes without saying that the number one key to getting a good view of space objects is to have a clear sky. It doesn’t matter how good your telescope is, you need to have a clear sky to be able to see things. So, your location for stargazing is a priority. With some telescopes, they can weigh a lot – 10, 20, 30 lbs. These are obviously not ideal for carrying with you. So, a small set of binoculars gives you the chance to find a good stargazing spot without having to break a sweat.
- Wide field of view – For beginners especially, using a telescope can be overwhelming. So, the idea of using a set of binoculars which gives a broader view of the sky may be good for beginners. Although you won’t get the ability to see Deep Sky Objects clearly, they’re good for seeing things that aren’t too far in the distance.
- Natural image – When you’re using a reflecting telescope, you’re seeing a mirrored image of the sky which can feel like a portrayed image, not the real thing. But with a set of binoculars, you’re getting a real view of the sky due to the way their designed. Sure, you’re not going to get the same magnification as you’d get with a telescope, but you are going to get a more realistic image.
Overall, it’s pretty clear to see where binoculars have their advantage over telescopes. They’re much easier to carry around with you, and you’re going to get a quicker and wider view of the sky – though nowhere near as in depth.
What can you see with astronomy binoculars?
If you’re completely new to astronomy, then you’ll want to know exactly what it is that you can see with a good set of astronomy binoculars. Your vision isn’t going to be as good as with a telescope, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to get a clear view of closer objects.
- DSO’s – If you want to see DSO’s, then you’ll generally want to consider using a refracting telescope like a Cassegrain. With binoculars, you’re just not going to get good enough magnification to see these distant objects in space.
- Planets – Planets are easier to see with binoculars that galaxies, but they’re still not fully clear. You’ll be able to see the planet and make out the outlines, but again you won’t be able to see anything distinguishable on the planet itself.
- The Moon – Ah, now this is where binoculars come into their own. You’ll be able to see the moon clearly with some astronomy binoculars, and this is where many experts suggest that you start when considering astronomy for the first time.
It’s clear to see that with binoculars, you’re going to be able to see pretty much everything. But, you need to ensure that you’re using the binoculars properly, you really need to understand how astronomy binoculars work.
Understanding Astronomy Binoculars
Before you purchase a set of astronomy binoculars, you’ll really want to understand how they work and what the specifications mean. One of the most confusing things about binoculars can be their name, as they’re often referred to by their specifications e.g. Celestron 10×50 binoculars. But what does 10×50 even mean, and does it matter when you’re picking which set your should purchase?
Well yes, it does matter a lot actually. These numbers refer to the main two things that you’ll want to consider when you’re purchasing a set of astronomy binoculars; magnification and objective lens size.
The first number before the X refers to the magnification of the binoculars e.g. 10×50 means that the binoculars have magnification of 10x. 10x is the general standard for a set of beginners binoculars, but you’ll also find sets with 20 and 25x quite frequently too. The magnification is important, especially for stability purposes.
Whilst you might think it’s better to just go and get the highest magnification possible, this isn’t the case. Unless you have a tripod to keep your binoculars steady, then you’ll need to ensure that they have a low enough magnification, otherwise they’re just not going to be stable enough to see anything clearly.
The other thing that you’ll want to consider is the objective lens – the second part of the 10×50 specifications. This defines the brightness of the image that you’re going to see, so if you want a brighter image, then you need larger objective lenses. They are brighter because they have the ability to draw in more light.
Generally, people opt for astronomy binoculars because they have a wider field of view than a telescope. A good set of astronomy binoculars will combine magnification and a good viewing point.
Astronomy Binocular Buying Guide
To help people know what kind of binoculars they need, I’ve created this buying guide filled with the most common questions that I’m asked by friends and family before buying astronomy binoculars. If there’s something I’ve missed that you’d like to ask me, you’re more than welcome to at the bottom and I’ll try and give you an answer as soon as I can.
Do I need a Tripod?
If you get higher magnification binoculars, then you’ll want to consider getting a tripod along with your binoculars. This is because they need to be steady to be able to get a clear view. Trust me, even if you think you’ve got a steady hand, if you’re using 25x magnified binoculars then you’ll want to get a tripod to go with them. You should also ensure that you have the right tripod fitting, or you might need to get a binocular tripod adapter.
How much should I spend on astronomy binoculars?
If you’re purchasing your first set of astronomy binoculars, then there’s really no need for you to spend for than $200. That doesn’t mean that you even need to spend $200, as there are definitely other options that are cheaper for you than you can get your hands on, too.
Will I need to get waterproof binoculars?
Of course, this depends on where you’re going to be stargazing. Generally, rain isn’t the best time to be stargazing, so it doesn’t really matter whether your binoculars are waterproof or not, as long as you have a good waterproof harness or case.
Porro Prism vs Roof Prisms Explained
Something that often confuses people when they start looking at binoculars at a more in depth level is the different between Porro Prism binoculars and Roof Prism binoculars. Essentially, prisms are used to keep the binoculars to a reasonable size – they allow compact binoculars to increase their magnification by lengthening the path of light between the lens and the eyepiece itself.
For more experienced astronomers, they’ll want to look at roof prism binoculars. I say ‘more experienced’, but I also mean those willing to pay more, because roof prism binoculars tend to be quite a bit more expensive than Porro prism binoculars.
Porro prisms were actually the standard for all binoculars until, much like John Dobson popularised the Dobsonian telescope, companies Zeiss and Leitz introduced Roof Prism binoculars. The difference between the two is that Roof’s were introduced as a better, smaller version of Porro prisms. Whilst Porro prisms reflect directly off of each other, Roof prisms are designed in a different way that makes them better for weatherproof and more compact.
Overall, these are just some of the questions that you should be asking yourself when you’re considering getting a new set of astronomy binoculars. Whilst you might want to consider a telescope for more in depth views of the sky and stars, this isn’t always necessary and sometimes for complete beginners, spending the first few months using a set of binoculars can be a great idea.
Remember not to break the bank on a set of binoculars, as there’s a variety of other equipment that you’ll need to consider getting as well as the binoculars themselves; tripods, cases etc. As far as astronomy goes, telescopes will always take the number 1 spot – with binoculars being a close second.
Last update on 2019-08-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API