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spike95609

Helios Apollo 15x70 and 22x85 - mano a mano

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At the request of ManOrAstroman, here's my little attempt at a review of the Helios Apollo 22x85. My mate Alex bought them, having liked the view through my 15x70s and deciding that he wanted a slice of big binocular action. He was thinking of something in the 25x100 range for a little more oomph, but I suggested he look at the Apollo 22x85 because they actually measure 22x85, unlike many comparably priced 25x100s which I have read are more like 23x90 and have inferior optics.

They arrived a few weeks ago from FLO. The carrying case wasn't in the greatest shape as one corner of the metal frame had come apart. Alex wasn't particularly bothered by this as the bins were otherwise perfectly safe in the thick foam lining, so he just glued it back together. No blame was attached to FLO here, the cases of the Helios Apollo's are a noted weak point of this otherwise superb line. The binocular itself simply oozes robust quality at you. They are about 400mm long and weigh 5 kilos, so make no mistake - these things are a beast.

They can be hand held only in the sense that you can pick them up and look through them, but the view wobbles all over the place and you'll tire very quickly, so sturdy mounting is required. I have my 70s on a Manfrotto 475b tripod with a 502AH fluid head, and I think these would be a perfect match for the 85s. Alex decided to save a few pennies, and the rest, by going for the Horizon 8115 tripod instead. Despite the rough ride this tends to get in reviews, I have to say that it's not at all bad for a mere £80, and although it's on the ragged edge it can take the weight of the 85s. The legs are solid enough, although a little short so knees need to be bent at high angled viewing. I don't particularly trust the lock on the extension column - it is just a screw which keeps the column in place by pressure, and if you loosen it without having either the crank handle or binos secure, it will do a freefall drop onto the tripod. The head is a bit sluggish to move around, especially at high angles, and you need to aim above whatever you want to look at when engaging the vertical lock as the view will dip slightly when you let go. The head can be easily replaced with something more substantial if necessary. Personally I wouldn't recommend this mount for the 85s, but at the end of the day it costs £80, and if you don't mind a modest bit of wrestling with the controls you'll find that it does the job. It's nowhere near as solid, tall, easily manoeuvred or locked down as the Manfrotto, but that cost £370 so it wouldn't be.

After weeks of British weather doing what it does best, we finally arranged a meet up for a head to head confrontation. It was a clear enough evening so far as our moderately light polluted skies go, not the best that they can offer, maybe about mag 4.5 to 4.75, but there was no moon and at this time of year there's an excellent variety of stuff to look at.

We began with Mizar which was cleanly split in both the 70s and 85s. With one bright and a few dimmer stars in the view this was also a good test of sharpness. The 70s were a clear winner here, the 85s couldn't quite so well pin point the stars and also showed more flaring on Mizar. I believe both models use the same eyepieces, so this might be the price of the extra magnification. As we were in Ursa Major we went off to M81 and M82, and found the core of the former shining bright with the 70s giving me one of the best views of M82 that I've seen through them - a very definite cigar look about it. Overall there was no noticeable difference between the 70s and 85s here. We drifted across to M101 but it defeated both of us - I've only seen it a couple of times in the 70s on exceptional nights.

Moving on to Orion, M42 was a fabulous sight in both but it was noticeably better in the 85s, with the extra aperture and I guess the contrast provided by the magnification teasing out a bit more detail. Betelgeuse appeared as a pale orange disc in both bins with nothing to separate them in terms of colour.

The Pleiades made for an interesting comparison. The 4.5° field of view of the 70s gave a nicer overall image than the 3° of the 85s. Looking at the surrounding stars, I couldn't pick out anything that the 85s showed which the 70s could not, but stars which were very faint in averted vision in the 70s were just a touch more distinct in the 85s, albeit still with averted vision.

M31 was a marvellous sight in both, with a bright core and the ghost of the spirals drifting off over the field of view. Again nothing obvious to separate the two images other than the increased magnification of the 85s. M33 was identical in both as just a very faint smudge.

A couple of star clusters next, M29 in Cygnus and M37 in Auriga. Here, especially in M37, the 85s started to stretch their legs. Both bins provided a pleasing image but the magnification of the 85s helped to break the clusters apart and resolve more individual stars from the general mass.

Finally we came to Jupiter. Both saw similarly bright discs, and I'm not sure if it was wishful thinking but could we both see a vague occasional suggestion of equatorial banding? I'm not entirely convinced, but something seemed to be coming and going on the surface and along the correct axis, possibly an aberration or figment of a deranged imagination. A shame neither of us thought to bring some filters along. On previous occasions the 70s have shown all four Galilean moons as bright points, we could only see two at first tonight, but then another one popped out from behind Jupiter. Checking on Stellarium, this was actually Io and Europa almost in alignment. A pity I didn't know that at the time or I would have tried to split them.

To sum up these are both superb binoculars, and they were much more closely matched than I thought they would be. I had expected the 70s to be sharper and this turned out to be true. I don't mean to imply that the 85s were in any way like observing through net curtains, they do give a clear and sharp view, just not quite as much as the 70s. DSO performance was a surprise because I expected those 85mm lenses to reveal more than they did, helped in light pollution by the contrast resulting from the extra magnification. And a shade more detail there was, but the 70s were very hot on their heels. The difference could only really be seen in M42 and those two star clusters. On other objects, I'm sure there must have been some similar subtle improvement but in the more faint and fuzzy terrain it was so negligible as to be unnoticeable. Alex doesn't agree with me on that but I don't know why, my eyesight is as good as his.

If you already own the 15x70s then there's little point upgrading to the 22x85s as far as I can see as the improvements are so fine that it's just not worth the additional £375. The 15x85s under dark skies or the 28x110s in light pollution may be a very different story, how I would love to find out. If you own neither then both binoculars have their place, and it ultimately comes down to whether you prefer the sharpness and wider field of view of the 70s, or the 30% bigger and marginally deeper image of the 85s. £100 separates the two binoculars, but that's not the whole story as the 70s can be well mounted for a fraction of the expensive Manfrotto route that I chose, the 85s can't really.

I think I should conclude by saying that after this little showdown, I emerged entirely chuffed with the performance of my 70s, and Alex emerged entirely chuffed with the performance of his 85s. Make of that what you will.

Mark

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Hi Mark,

That's a nice write up of two great pairs of binos :laugh: , thanks for taking the time.

I'm fascinated by your findings, as I've thought for a while that 60-70mm is a "sweet spot" for combining the quality of views with cost and weight. I had the 10.5 x 70 Kunming BA8s and  was very impressed with them (apart from the inside of the case which I agree is low rent). But I found the 2.5kg weight too much (I've since discovered the fabulous value Ravelli tripod and grip head at £37 from Amazon, which would have taken these no problem), so I sold them on and bought a pair of Tento Russian 20x60s. In direct comparison with my Zeiss Jenoptem 7x50s the Tentos win by a mile, although the clarity of the Zeiss glass matches the Tentos...the extra magnificaiton and 10mm of aperture really seems to make a difference. 

The 60mm also show many more faint stars than the 50s, and I think this is a combination of aperature and magnification: personally I find the x20 magnification a real sweet spot for my eyes, with superbly dark background, even in my semi urban location. Last night, the Pleiades were stunning despite the wind.

Thanks again for sharing.

Dave

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Thank you Mark! As soon as I saw the header,I thought "Great,I'm going to enjoy reading this.".And I did! :smiley:  Your detailed descriptions paint a very good picture of what can be expected from the 22x85,and I have to agree with both Dave and yourself that bins around the 70mm mark may well hit the sweetspot as far as performance V. weight/ease of mounting is concerned.

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Great report on two fine instruments Mark, thanks for sharing. Your findings with the 22x85 mirror mine & as a result I didn't keep it very long & replaced it with the 20x110. The 15x70 is great though, and would agree its the sweet spot in the range (BA8). That said, I have found the 20x110 to be superb & would say has the sharpest optics of all the models in this range I have owned. The downside is of course the size and weight. its an absolute brute at 17lbs, but properly mounted,a real deep sky weapon!

Edited by Damo636
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After reading lots of reviews I plumped for  the helios 15x70   :bino2: ,   Brought from FLO They arrived the next day :grin: ,  Then the clouds & rain rolled in for what seemed weeks  :clouds2:  before I got my first views through these fabulous bino's, 

Started of viewing  the Pleiades with my first big wow moment,  With Awesome views far exceeding my bushnell  10x50 bino's,  Then turned onto Orion for my second wow moment! , Yes these bino's seem to have lots of wow's coming with them?

  These 15x70 bino's have now taken pride of place in my arsenal of optics Leaving me with deep holes in my pockets!!!.  

Just as well I don't have  her in doors to explain my need for such extravagance HeHe! :grin: .

Yes I highly recommend these Bino's,  But expect there are many alternatives out there giving superb views !. 

Ian.

PS, Do remember you need a sturdy tripod mount for these bino's to get the best from them  :eek:  .   

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Yes there does seem to be something special about those Apollo 70s. I've used it alongside a wide range of stuff in the past year, from 42 to 125 aperture binos and even a couple of 8" scopes, and it's always given a very good account of itself on DSOs if not stole the show. The 85s gave it the closest run yet, but even then it seemed to be punching far above its weight.

Damo - I'm not sure it will happen now that I've got my 10" scope but I had been looking at the 110 range - they're so big and heavy you can't help yourself! The 28x110s sound like an exciting proposition, although after the 22x85s I am wondering if all that extra light they bring in is killed by the magnification so you end up with more or less the same depth of image you'd get in a smaller binocular, only it's much bigger. As opposed to the 20x110s I imagine which bring in all that light at no cost. I'm not sure they would work so well under my suburban skies though, you have dark skies I assume?

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I liked reading this review. It's fair and to the point. I know both binoculars and always feel I should buy a pair of 15x70s. 

Thank you Mark.

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15x70 is really nice bino, bur I prefeer better controled colour abberations on 10.5x70 model!

Much cleaner image!

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15x70 is really nice bino, bur I prefeer better controled colour abberations on 10.5x70 model!

Much cleaner image!

Hmm.. very interesting comment Denis.Can anyone comment on this? Interesting,as FLO recently had an 'open box' item of these bins on sale,just as I was ordering the 15x70's from them!

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...on CloudyNights forum are more than couple comments, even from well known Professor EdZ where he also confirm that 10.5x70 have much better image than 15x70 model, but with 15x70 model you have higher magnification and wider FOV.

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...but in 15x70 model colour abberations are very annoying to me, becasue I am very sensitive to them!

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Over 15x70 model for astronomy I much prefeer 18x70 Nikon which have much tighter stars, better contrast, but still have on daytime some colour abberations.

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He still do not have ED glasses, but we will se how they will perform! I will probably order one...

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One BIG advantage for me here is 20mm eye releaf, and I hope it will be as they tells, becasue not every time sellers tells truth and precise infos in hope to sell as much as possible stuffs....

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The lower mag at each aperture in this series (UO BA8) all use a 27mm 53° eyepiece, (7x50, 10.5x70, 15x85 & 20x110). The higher mag (10x50, 15x70, 22x85 & 28x110) a 19mm 65°. It has been reported that the 53° versions do produce a slightly cleaner image, and in my experience with the models I've owned, would concur. The 22x85 I found the weakest, but maybe if I hadn't also had the 15x70, my opinion of it would have been different. That said, they are all very good & excellent value considering their performance.

Edited by Damo636
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The lower mag at each aperture in this series (UO BA8) all use a 27mm 53° eyepiece, (7x50, 10.5x70, 15x85 & 20x110). The higher mag (10x50, 15x70, 22x85 & 28x110) a 19mm 65°. It has been reported that the 53° versions do produce a slightly cleaner image, and in my experience with the models I've owned, would concur. The 22x85 I found the weakest, but maybe if I hadn't also had the 15x70, my opinion of it would have been different. That said, they are all very good & excellent value considering their performance.

I agree, all they are great value for money, and great performers, but if you do not like colour abberations as I do, then clear winners are models with lower magnifications, in this case 10.5x70 model.

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I also tested Swarovski SLC 15 × 56, 15 × 56 Zeiss Conquest HD same models, but did not try Docter Nobilem 15 × 60 B / GA, which are VERY expensive andthey still have annoying colour abberations to my taste, and I was more satisfied with China 7x50 and 10.5x70 model which have much less colour abberations than Zeiss and Swaro!

Here you can see one thread where one observer compare them also...

http://www.binomania.it/comparativa-15x-docter-nobilem-15x60-swarovski-slc-15x56-zeiss-conquest-hd-15x56/

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...and here is one thing I do not like in roof binos: all they have some spikes on very bright objects, which is not natural, and none of porro bino do not have this effext, and that is why porro binos are much better for ultimate observationss.

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I thought I'd post a little bit of an update on this contest as me and Alex managed to meet up for another binocular showdown the other night and emerged with some marginally different results. We had competition from the Moon, and strangely made the decision to blind ourselves on that first before going off looking for DSOs. Alex could make out a little bit more fine detail in his 22x85s than I could with the 15x70s.

Moving on to M42, well there was no comparison here. With the Moon it was difficult to make out much more than a smudge with the 70s, but the 85s dragged out a lot more detail, the pincers of the Huygens Region being quite visible and I simply couldn't see them at all in the 70s.

Then we went off looking for star clusters, including the Double Cluster, M36-38 and M46-48. All of which were very fine in both bins, but the extra magnification of the 85s really helped to break them apart a little.

Last time we looked at galaxies we couldn't spot any noticeable benefit to the 85s. This time however we went onto the Leo Triplet, and M65 and M66 were faint in both, but undeniably a touch more bold in the 85s than the 70s.

So our first session was I think a draw with the 15x70s winning on sharpness, drawing on galaxies, and the 85s winning on clusters and nebulae but with the 70s hot on their heels. This time, I don't know if it was a combination of the Moon or looking at a few different objects, but I'd say the 85s had a gentle lead on galaxies and a definite win on clusters and nebulae. The battle continues...

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I thought I'd post a little bit of an update on this contest as me and Alex managed to meet up for another binocular showdown the other night and emerged with some marginally different results. We had competition from the Moon, and strangely made the decision to blind ourselves on that first before going off looking for DSOs. Alex could make out a little bit more fine detail in his 22x85s than I could with the 15x70s.

Moving on to M42, well there was no comparison here. With the Moon it was difficult to make out much more than a smudge with the 70s, but the 85s dragged out a lot more detail, the pincers of the Huygens Region being quite visible and I simply couldn't see them at all in the 70s.

Then we went off looking for star clusters, including the Double Cluster, M36-38 and M46-48. All of which were very fine in both bins, but the extra magnification of the 85s really helped to break them apart a little.

Last time we looked at galaxies we couldn't spot any noticeable benefit to the 85s. This time however we went onto the Leo Triplet, and M65 and M66 were faint in both, but undeniably a touch more bold in the 85s than the 70s.

So our first session was I think a draw with the 15x70s winning on sharpness, drawing on galaxies, and the 85s winning on clusters and nebulae but with the 70s hot on their heels. This time, I don't know if it was a combination of the Moon or looking at a few different objects, but I'd say the 85s had a gentle lead on galaxies and a definite win on clusters and nebulae. The battle continues...

Any more updates please as I've taken the plunge and bought some 22x85 and can't wait to give them a try.

Edited by A40farinagolf

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We haven't had another comparison since, but essentially the conclusion was that the 15x70s have the advantages of being a touch sharper with a much wider field of view, and even though DSO performance was generally evenly matched, the magnification of the 22x85s gave a little more definition to certain objects, especially small star clusters, and its aperture gave it the power to give a little more emphasis to DSOs which were on the fringes of visibility in the 70s. You'll be happy!

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Hi Spike,

I'm very happy as I've just mounted them (Helios 22 x 85) alongside my 130mm triplet on my AZEQ6 mount and had a quick look at the moon followed by M42,M45 and other bits and bobs.

My triplet was fitted with a 31mm Axiom ep giving 29x mag compared to my new bins @ 22x. (a 40mm ep would have given 22.6x but I don't have a decent one in that FL.)

I would say that the Helios 22 x 85 visually provided 90 - 95% of what my APO provided for a small fraction of the cost and was easier to set up, find and align the targets.

If you're on the look out for some large bins then I'd definitely,definitely recommend these - ask Santa nicely.

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