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Total beginner needs some purchasing advice


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Hi all; My father and I recently decided to take up astronomy, having been interested in it for a long time. Unfortunately, the maximum we can really afford to spend right now is £70-80, at least until late summer/autumn when we may have a bit more cash floating around. Going on the assumption that any telescope in that price range will probably be fairly mediocre, we're looking for some decent binoculars; better to have a good pair of bins than a trashy, cheap scope, right?

Now, neither of us know a whole lot about astronomy equipment, binoculars, telescopes, or, indeed, anything else, but we've found a couple of likely options:

Celestron Skymaster 15x70

Celestron Skymaster 25x70

Both seem to be pretty good options, as far as we can tell, but we're not entirely sure which one to get; we don't mind spending a bit extra for the more expensive 25x70, but we'd rather get the most suitable one. Our immediate assumption is that the 25x will be the better bet for astronomy, partly because it received very positive reviews but mostly, if I'm entirely honest, because it has a bigger number, and is therefore obviously better in every single way.

That logic, however, rarely works out, so I thought it best to ask. Will there be any appreciable drop in viewing quality with the 25's compared to the 15's? I would imagine that increasing the magnification while keeping the same size lens would mean less light, relatively speaking, and presumably a grainier image? But on the other hand, presumably, higher magnification will mean better views of more distant objects. We'd like to be able to observe the moon and planets, but we're mostly interested in star clusters, nebulae, etc, so I'm fairly certain that we want the 25x. But, again, our knowledge is small bordering on non-existent, so I'll put the question to you wise folk.

I should also point out, my father has a high-quality tripod for his DSLR camera, so stability shouldn't (hopefully..) be too big an issue.

So, if any of that rambling made any sense to you; which of the two would you recommend for a pair of daft and clueless beginners on a budget?

Cheers,

Karl

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I found observation binoculars incredibly uncomfortable after a while which is why many use them on p mounts rather than tripods for astronomy. for this reason I found hand held binoculars better I can just lie back in a comfy chair and rest them on my eyes. All the astro sites say 10 x 50 is the best  because of their larger objective however I find 8 x 42 better because they don't shake so much.  I would go for 8x 42 but of the 2 you have chosen I would go  for the  15 x 70

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Increasing the magnification reduces the field of view. The 15x70 model will show you a 60% wider patch of sky than the 25x70, and that will make finding things easier. It will also show you richer starfields if you point them in the general direction of the Milky Way. The 25x70s will show fainter individual stars and significantly more detail on the Moon. For deep-sky viewing it probably won't make that much difference, increasing magnification dims the background sky and the nebula/galaxy equally - but I fear you'd struggle to find things with the 25x70s.

Bear in mind that any 70mm binocular will be quite a hefty thing. I have the Skymaster 15x70s, they're 11 inches long and weigh 3 pounds. I've enjoyed using them and seen things I couldn't through smaller binoculars, but compared to my 10x50s the narrower view and greater bulk and weight make them less convenient, and I would not have wanted to start out with them.

Edited by cantab
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The 25x70 would need a good tripod, the 15x70 are more forgiving.

Have a look at the advice on www.binocularsky.com

That's a fantastically helpful website, thanks very much :)

As I said, we have a fairly hefty tripod, so that shouldn't be too much of an issue, as long as we get a decent adaptor

Increasing the magnification reduces the field of view. The 15x70 model will show you a 60% wider patch of sky than the 25x70, and that will make finding things easier. It will also show you richer starfields if you point them in the general direction of the Milky Way. The 25x70s will show fainter individual stars and significantly more detail on the Moon. For deep-sky viewing it probably won't make that much difference, increasing magnification dims the background sky and the nebula/galaxy equally - but I fear you'd struggle to find things with the 25x70s.

Bear in mind that any 70mm binocular will be quite a hefty thing. I have the Skymaster 15x70s, they're 11 inches long and weigh 3 pounds. I've enjoyed using them and seen things I couldn't through smaller binoculars, but compared to my 10x50s the narrower view and greater bulk and weight make them less convenient, and I would not have wanted to start out with them.

Hmm, it sounds like the 15x will be the better bet then. I did look at a 10x50 pair, and briefly checked out a more expensive 20x80, but 15x70 seems to be a good middle ground; as you said, you can see things that the smaller binoculars just won't manage. The bulk/weight doesn't bother us too much, really, as long as we can mount it on a tripod. I'm sure we'll manage.

I'll have to discuss it with him tomorrow, but based on what you've said and the website Baggy linked, I think the 15x will be easiest for us while still having enough magnification to keep us happy, at least until we can afford a good starter telescope. Thanks again.

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I think 25x70 will be too magnifying so their fov will be too small. My binos are good for "scouting" the sky prior to looking at it with a telescope , and they are ok for looking at the moon or a quick peek at jupiter. The problem with big binos is that they weigh and they need a tripod. Even 10x50s tend to move a bit , I would guess that 15x70s move already quite a lot and 25x70s will seem to move very much because their FOV is smaller. 

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I have 15x70 which I think are a generic pair and can be seen as Skywatchers, Celestrons and so on. Compared to my 16x50's they are great for revealing DSO's. Once I am back in the UK I will trade in the Bushnells 16x50 for something with better optics.

When I lived in Aus I enjoyed lying on a sunlounger and just sweeping the sky and then checking what I was seeing. There is a huge amount to be said in support of binocular astronomy.

No set up just grab them and go. I think this is especially true of the UK with its challenging weather.

Edited by baggywrinkle
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I think 25x70 will be too magnifying so their fov will be too small. My binos are good for "scouting" the sky prior to looking at it with a telescope , and they are ok for looking at the moon or a quick peek at jupiter. The problem with big binos is that they weigh and they need a tripod. Even 10x50s tend to move a bit , I would guess that 15x70s move already quite a lot and 25x70s will seem to move very much because their FOV is smaller. 

Fortunately we have a very expensive tripod already, so as long as we can get a decent L-Bracket (Thanks, Baggy, for the links for those) I don't think the movement will be too much of a problem. But yeah, Wider FOV is probably best for us, we should at least stand a reasonable chance of looking in the right direction then :)

I have 15x70 which I think are a generic pair and can be seen as Skywatchers, Celestrons and so on. Compared to my 16x50's they are great for revealing DSO's. Once I am back in the UK I will trade in the Bushnells 16x50 for something with better optics.

When I lived in Aus I enjoyed lying on a sunlounger and just sweeping the sky and then checking what I was seeing. There is a huge amount to be said in support of binocular astronomy.

No set up just grab them and go. I think this is especially true of the UK with its challenging weather.

Yeah, British weather seems rather... problematic when it comes to stargazing.

So, one still gets a lot of use out of binoculars, even after getting a good telescope? That's good, since we're planning on moving up to a telescope (hopefully in the ~£130-160ish range, maybe a Heritage 130p, I've seen those mentioned a lot?) at some point, probably at christmas. I wouldn't want to buy the bins and then stop using them after a year.

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So, hi again, we just won a fair bit of money on the horses, and we're thinking about perhaps spending a bit more. We could afford a telescope, like an astromaster 130eq, but I still think bins are a better bet for now, since they're much easier to just grab and go, especially since I don't drive.

We can, though, afford some more expensive binoculars. We were thinking about the 20x80s instead. As we determined, 25x70 is a bit much, between the low FOV and magnification/aperture ratio. But how are the 20x80s? Do you think we should go for it, or would the FOV be too narrow for our inept selves?

thanks again

Sent from my HTC Desire X using Tapatalk

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Well, after much deliberation I've settled on the 20x80's, based on the very high reviews, a fair bit of internet research, and Stellarium's Oculars feature. I don't know how accurate that actually is with regards to binoculars (I HIGHLY doubt Orion's Nebula will look like this, for example..) but it does at least give me a vague idea of what the FOV/Magnification will be like. I'm not placing too much trust in it, but I was leaning towards the 80's before I looked at it anyway. I'll hopefully have the money for a good entry-level scope in june, but it looks like the bins would still get used, since I can easily carry them and the tripod while walking/biking, whereas I'm rather reliant on going out with my father when it comes to using the heavier and bulkier telescope, since I don't have a car at the moment. Not to mention the fact that walking through my local area with a large, expensive-looking telescope would be like holding up a big "mug me now!" sign :p

Either way, we're ordering them tomorrow night, so any last-minute advice or recommendations would be appreciated. Many thanks once again.

Oh, one last thing, is there an edit feature for posts? Normally there's one at the bottom right on a post, but I haven't found one anywhere here, am I simply being dense, or is it locked to new members, or what?

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You're doing things the right way. I bought my first scope last febuary and binos this christmas and I've seen and learnt so much more with the binoculars alongside my scope. When you do get your scope you'll see that the binoculars are such a good tool as you learn the sky.

Matt

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I agree with Matt - I've just taken delivery of my first proper scope but I'm so glad I've spent a lot of time over the last year using my bird watching bins for astronomy. It gets you used to finding your way around the sky and gives you tantalizing glimpses into future possibilities. I've seen the moons of Jupiter clearly through my bins and Jupiter will undoubtedly be my first target with the new scope as soon as the weather clears. 

john

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Minus the colour, Stellarium's not too bad for realism of DSO views at binocular magnifications. Certainly things like the open clusters in Auriga or the globs in Hercules have looked just like the real thing in the software. I suspect it's being optimistic on the Orion Neb though.

And yes, the edit function is only available once you've made enough posts. It's because of past issues with trolls posting, getting angry replies, then editing their posts before the mods saw.

Edited by cantab
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Minus the colour, Stellarium's not too bad for realism of DSO views at binocular magnifications. Certainly things like the open clusters in Auriga or the globs in Hercules have looked just like the real thing in the software. I suspect it's being optimistic on the Orion Neb though.

And yes, the edit function is only available once you've made enough posts. It's because of past issues with trolls posting, getting angry replies, then editing their posts before the mods saw.

Yeah, all the more prominent nebulae seem to be rather.. idealised in stellarium, I suspect that they just have a flat image that they scale up when you increase magnification, rather than treating it in the same way as the stars/clusters. Glad to hear that it's fairly reliable for other things, though, I found some pretty great looking clusters I want to check out once I get the kit. Plus the Pleiades looks stunning, if Stellarium is indeed to be trusted.

The post count limit on editing seems fair, thanks for letting me know. How many posts do you need, do you know? I assume around 10 or 20? :)

Sent from my HTC Desire X using Tapatalk

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You have made a good choice. I have a pair of 20x80's and they are great for when I don't fancy getting my scopes out, and with the way the weather is at the present, they take less time to set up and put away, (especially when you have been a work for twelve hours plus travelling time, etc).

Also, if astronomy is not for you or your father, they can be used for other hobbies too, (aircraft spotting, nature watching, etc). Just remember, you will still need a tripod/monopod support even for day-time use.

Quote: "...my local area with a large, expensive-looking telescope would be like holding up a big "mug me now!" sign..." - you could always say it is a bazooka!

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Okeydoke, so, one more question, hopefully the last, but my ineptitude knows no bounds, so that remains to be seen.

This is the tripod we have for the DSLR: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hahnel-Triad-40-Professional-Aluminium/dp/B0046EDM1U

As it turns out, the old man was somewhat exaggerating when he said they were "worth more than the binoculars", and I felt it best to check, before we actually get the binoculars and discover that the tripod can't handle it. The tripod can allegedly handle up to 5kg (the camera is about 1.4-ish) but I imagine that's assuming 1x magnification. So, would these be adequate, or will I need to invest in a better tripod? 

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I'd exercise some caution when first using them. It's not so much the magnification I'd worry about, after all longer fl camera lenses show up shakes, but the off-centre load when the binoculars are tilted back to look high in the sky. I had my 15x70s on a cheap tripod that could barely handle them, and one time the binoculars swung back under their weight, clonked me on the forehead, and fell to the ground. I was lucky I was on the lawn - if I'd been on concrete I reckon I'd've needed a new pair of binoculars.

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Check the Manfrotto site, http://www.manfrotto.co.uk/ as it lists all their tripods, heads, accessories and importantly the payloads they are capable of. I did weigh mine just after I received them, (I cannot recall what the weight is, as I am at work as I write this). As I mentioned in my earlier post, you could use a monopod too.

Another useful accessory I find is a red dot finder, (RDF). The way I attach it to mine is with a spare RDF mounting block such as 'Finderscope Adaptor Bracket Ref: TV-FAB-1008' http://www.green-witch.com/acatalog/Reflex_Sights___Finder_Mounts.hmtl, but finding away to make and attach it was/is not challanging

To attach it to the centre bar I purchased:-

2x 15mm plastic pipe clips

2x 4mm thread bolts

2x 4mm nyloc nuts.

...and assembly only takes a few minutes.

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Hi,

For photography I use a Giottos Vitruvian tripod / monopod.  Carbon fibre so very light and can convert into a monopod if required.   You can use the hook beneath the head to hang your rucksack which also gives additional stability.  I use ball head for photography but you can get a 3 way head as well.

Hope it helps.

Nick.

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