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Binoculars or telescope?


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I'm new to all this and I'm close to buying my first equipment. What would you recomend? I'm a complete novice and know zero about telescopes. I've done a bit of research and it just seems so complicated.

I'm leaning in favour of a pair of Celestron Skymaster 20 X 80 Binoculars because they are simple and easy to use, plus they are portable. I don't want any gear that I can't pick up and carry around with me.

Please share your thoughts on this matter with me? I'll probably make my purchase in the next few weeks as I'm going on Holiday to a remote cottage near Holyhead in June and It would be a great chance for my first stargazing. If you want to recommend a product please tell me what it is and why you recommend it.

Thank you.

Carrot.

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Hello Carrot,

Welcome to SGL!

Many astronomers prefer a nice pair of bins for a 'grab-n-go' instrument - they offer unrivaled wide-angle views that no scope can match. Be aware that any binocular over 12x is almost impossible to hand hold (they magnify your hand tremors along with the sky!). Such bins require a tripod. 20x80s are typically over 2Kg - much to heavy to hold up to your face for long periods!

A pair of 10x50, or at most 15x70's would be much better. Lighter, more compact, and much easier to hold.

On the other hand, if you have a camera tripod that will hold a full size DSLR, you probably have all you need to support a pair of 20x80's, and the views will be spectacular.

I hope that helps,

Dan

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Thanx for your feedback. I have very shakey hands so if I bought a pair of smaller binoculars I'd still have to use a tripod. I already have a tripod that I use with my 35mm camera so I thought the 20x80's would be a good buy?

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Hi Carrot

Welcome

I love my 20x80's but as Dan says you will need a tripod.

I worked my way up over the last 5 months from 8x30's via some 15x70's to my current 20x80's and I must say that the 20x80's are great for faint fuzzy spotting and I have seen loads with them. They are most difficult of the 3 to handle and hit targets with due to the narrower field of view I found the 15x70's much easier to line up. That said I would not want give my 20x80's up.

One thing that I am struck by having just got an EQ mounted loan scope from my Astro Society is how quickly and easily you can romp around the sky with Bino's compared to a scope. I normally expect to see 15-20 objects an hour with my Bino's - with the scope I'm lucky to find 5! I know where they are its just a lot harder to get the damn thing lined up.

Any way back to the point. My advice for what it's worth - start with Bino's and a good star chart or planetarium software on a laptop (Stellarium is great and free), learn the sky and in a few months if you are enjoying it you can get a scope. There is no rush - the stars aren't going anywhere in a hurry.

Clear Skies

Rob

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an entry level scope will show you detail on planets and the moon and split double stars and pick up faint fuzzies that binos won't even get close to (unless you go very large and very £££). binos are great for wide views and big loose clusters and 20x80s are a great size.

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Hi Carrot,

I've just ordered a pair of Celestron Skymaster 15 x 70's, which should be arriving today. I've used 10 x 50's and even these smaller bins are more than capable of showing you so much more than you can see with just your eyes. The viewing is especially good from clear, dark sites and even better if you're sat in a recliner with a glass of wine or hot chocolate ;), but as has been already mentioned, the bigger they are, the more difficult it is to hold them steady, so tripods become very useful. I know some people that use very light, portable tripods, but often these are carbon-fibre and very expensive.

Welcome to the forum & happy viewing.

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I've just been reading Astronomy for dummies. The guy who wrote that book recomends 7x50. Now I'm confused. I'm going to hold off making my purchase til a time when things become clearer to me.

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Hello Carrot,

Let me explain about the bins a bit, as they say in the films: "You can trust me, I'm a doctor!" :o Actually, I do teach intro astronomy for a living (it's a great job!)

All my students start out with 7x50 bins; and mostly, that is what they use all semester. But that is more a function of the way I teach astronomy, and what we use the binoculars FOR.

Lower power always means a wider field of view, you see more of the sky in the eyepiece, but the view is less magnified. This is terrific if you are exploring constellations and learning the sky for the first time. The wide view makes it very easy to 'star hop' along a constellation without losing your way. You see so much more, so many more stars with bins, it is easy to get lost. 7x50's make it easier to find your way about. They are also far easier to hand hold. As you can imagine, if you are trying to sweep the sky and learn about constellations, a few of the brighter nebulae, and some of the more obvious clusters & such - 7x50's are easy to hand hold, and you simply sweep about the sky as easily as looking here or there. There are hundreds of such things to see - no need to fear you'll have nothing to see in low power bins! ;) Also, not everyone has a tripod, or wants to bother swinging bins about on top of one. It adds expense, bulk, and bother - it also increases the setup & take down time. 7x50's are the ultimate travel tool for astronomy.

So why would anyone want a giant pair of 20x80's? There are loads of reasons! But 20x80's demand a bit more skill of the user. Higher magnification reduces the field of view, and magnifies hand tremor. This all means you need greater stability and pointing accuracy --- the tripod! But what does that magnification and aperture (also weight) get you? Thousands of deep sky objects like galaxies, globular clusters, and fainter nebulae!

Aperture and magnification both improve you limiting magnitude; you can not only reach fainter, more distant targets, but the magnification lets you see smaller objects in the sky. Many galaxies, globular clusters, and faint nebulae are really quite small - they require magnification to reveal them to the human eye. You will see much more detail on familiar objects, and many hundreds of new targets will reveal themselves.

Goodness, they both sound wonderful, don't they? You may be pleased or dismayed to hear that most of us never solve this dilemma - we simply own more than one pair of bins! :o A reasonable quality 'starter' 7x50 can be had for about $50 in the States, others here can recommend local brands and models for sale in your area. 7x50's are also common enough, that they can be had in pawn shops, second hand shops, and even the occasional jumble sale! ;) It might not be too expensive to order both and then save on shipping! :o;)

If you know the sky fairly well, go for just the 20x80's and you won't be sorry - but I'd sure add a pair of 7x50's to the kit if I could, they are like an entirely different set of eyes. You will also find them a lot easier to tote (and much less conspicuous :o ) at the soccer match. :D

I hope that helps rather than confuses the issue!

Dan

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Hi Dan,

First thank you for taking the time to explain this to me. It seems 7x50 is a good place for me to start. I don't really know the sky yet. 7x50 are probably the best place to start for me. I apreciate you taking the time to explain this for me and interested others. Now I know what to buy. I'll probably get a pair of 20x80 oneday but I just need something easy to use to get me off the ground (no pun intended) and the 7x50's are cheap too. I can get a new pair of Celestron 7x50 from Amazon for £28. I was looking at Saturn this evening with my mother's bird watching binoculars and my hands were shaking like crazy and they're a pair of small lightweight bins. I'll still have to use a tripod but I've got one of those already. I'll probably need to buy a cheap adaptor to fit them to the tripod but that wont cost much. With folk like you sharing your experience with newbies like me it makes taking up astronomy as a hoby so much easier.

Thanx,

Carrot

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Hi Carrot,

Thanks so much for your kind reply! :D

As a teacher, I do worry a bit about coming off too pedantic (my wife says I lecture all the time - even when I don't mean to!) I'm so glad you found the tips useful!

I used to sell telescopes and bins once upon a time, and I always took the time to explain to customers, educate them, and make sure they knew what they were getting and what to expect at the eyepiece.... it drove my boss crazy, but somehow, my customers didn't often complain or bring stuff back and throw it in our teeth complaining that I had misled them, either! :o

I think the 7x50's will be an excellent choice for you, and the Celestrons should be just dandy for you. You are correct to order a tripod adapter with the bins, and a small star map or pocket atlas wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Let me know how you get on with them, and if you have questions, you are welcome to PM me. ;)

Dan

Hi Dan,

First thank you for taking the time to explain this to me. It seems 7x50 is a good place for me to start. I don't really know the sky yet. 7x50 are probably the best place to start for me. I apreciate you taking the time to explain this for me and interested others. Now I know what to buy. I'll probably get a pair of 20x80 oneday but I just need something easy to use to get me off the ground (no pun intended) and the 7x50's are cheap too. I can get a new pair of Celestron 7x50 from Amazon for £28. I was looking at Saturn this evening with my mother's bird watching binoculars and my hands were shaking like crazy and they're a pair of small lightweight bins. I'll still have to use a tripod but I've got one of those already. I'll probably need to buy a cheap adaptor to fit them to the tripod but that wont cost much. With folk like you sharing your experience with newbies like me it makes taking up astronomy as a hoby so much easier.

Thanx,

Carrot

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Carrot have a look in our Bins section under observing links, you will see a free program called TUBA, this is a star map program for binos, you can configure them to you own requirements for what part of the sky you want to observe and then print them off to take outside to use with a red torch and your reclining camping chair, comfortable viewing with your 7x50`s when you get them.

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You'll see more with a scope - you can get some very nice grab and go setups. Something like a 70mm-80mm short tube appo in a small padded rucksack is a useful solution - some even come with a shoulder carry bag as optional extra. Then you can carry a nice little alt/az tripod very easilly e.g. a vixen portamount. Just an idea ;)

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Binoculars are very useful but they usually limited in terms of magnification. 20x80's will not really show Saturn as anything other then very small disc.

Also you will need a tripod for using them, I suspect that you will really need a tripod for 15x70's. The image bounces round quite a lot.

So OK if you want them but if it is a choice between binoculars and a scope then you are spending money on binoculars that could go towards a scope. I get worried by the idea of: I want a scope but I will spend the money I have now on a set of binoculars and then not have the money for the scope.

I simply use a set of 8x42 binoculars that are refered to as birding binoculars, but they do a brilliant job.

With a small scope, say 70mm, you can use it at 15x or all the way up to 70x or 100x depending on how good the scope is. With binoculars you are stuck.

Go and check the cost of something like the evostar 90mm scopes first. Achromats but f/7 or f/8 so reduced CA and you have a scope that is transportable and you can get magnifications from 20x to 100x easily.

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