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Ships and Stars

Celestron 12x70s vs Helios Apollo 15x70s.

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I've been very happy with my Celestron Cometron 12x70s, despite the often so-so reviews.

However, I'd like the option of using 1.25" filters at my dark sky spots and a bit more magnification, plus wanted to see how much of an improvement proper high-end binos would offer in terms of sharpness and overall quality, eye-relief, etc over the cheap and cheerful Celestron range.

After reading several reviews praising the Helios Apollo HR 15x70s, I took the plunge when a nice pair recently came up second-hand. 

I'll write up my impressions soon, trying both pairs out on terrestrial targets today so waiting for some stars (supposed to be a bit clear here early this evening, actually). 

More to follow...

 

 

 

 

 

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CC vs HA.jpg

Edited by Ships and Stars
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Good luck with your new binos. I also have the 15x70 Apollo and the 12x70 Cometron. I leave the Cometron in the car just in case I am away and have the opportunity for a grab and go session.

I believe that buying the Helios Apollo opened up a new world of observing especially using O-III or UHC filters. Although for the money the Celestron Cometron are not too bad IMHO the Apollo binos are certainly a step up.

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Thanks Mark! The Cometrons have certainly seen some use but have held up surprisingly well and cost next to nothing second-hand. Hoping with filters under dark conditions the Apollos really come into their own. First impression is a big difference in weight, they weren't messing around when they built the Apollos! 

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If you have some 1.25" filters have a look at the Rosette Nebula and the Monkey Head Nebula they are well placed at the moment. I would also recommend not screwing the filters too tight I had a problem removing a Lumicon UHC filter once.

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Thanks again Mark, Rosette was on the list but had overlooked the Monkey Head - will do some investigation on Stellarium for both. Looking forward to getting out again, though everyone is aware of the 'breezy conditions' . Quite clear here at the moment...

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I used to have Helios Apollo 15x70 bins, as a replacement of cheaper Omegon 15x70s, and they were a clear step up. The only reason I no longer have them is that I went for a further upgrade to the Helios LightQuest 16x80 bins. I sold the Apollo 15x70s to the outreach coordinator of our astronomy department, and she is very happy with them indeed. I have no doubt you will love yours

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Thanks Michael. Getting dark here now so hoping for a few initial tests before it clouds over. They are some solid binoculars!

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It will be interesting if you can see a difference in brightness between the two. The lower cost 70's operate at a bit less than their full aperture I believe - more like 62-64mm as I understand it.

 

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2 minutes ago, John said:

It will be interesting if you can see a difference in brightness between the two. The lower cost 70's operate at a bit less than their full aperture I believe - more like 62-64mm as I understand it.

 

I'd read that, seem to recall 62mm. There is an obvious difference in aperture on the business end, haven't precisely measured it yet, but the Apollos are noticeably larger. Perhaps 12x62s vs 15x70s is closer! The Cometrons are holding their own so far...

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10 minutes ago, Ships and Stars said:

I'd read that, seem to recall 62mm. There is an obvious difference in aperture on the business end, haven't precisely measured it yet, but the Apollos are noticeably larger. Perhaps 12x62s vs 15x70s is closer! The Cometrons are holding their own so far...

I think the objective lenses of the low cost 70's are 70mm but there is some vignetting by the internal prisms which reduces the operating aperture down a bit.

If it's less than 10% difference its going to be tough to see though.

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22 minutes ago, John said:

I think the objective lenses of the low cost 70's are 70mm but there is some vignetting by the internal prisms which reduces the operating aperture down a bit.

If it's less than 10% difference its going to be tough to see though.

Yes I've just measured the Celestron objective at bang on 70mm with a digital caliper. The Apollos objective lens actually measured 73mm across, but there is an internal ring or baffle immediately behind it which is about 1.5mm thick which means we're back to 70mm (taking into account usable diameter).  So that makes sense that any difference would be in the prisms, think the sales literature mentions larger prisms. 

I'm doing this in a rush, bit hectic at home currently. Will need a relaxed night under dark skies with a tripod to really see where things stand.  Quick look at M42 didn't show much difference between either pair, the main thing I can tell so far is just the increased mag of 15x over the 12x which helps split the Trapezium, but then I need a tripod to really see what I'm looking at now due to increased weight and mag, especially as I increase altitude and view objects higher up. The moon is brighter through the Apollos, but then again, it's a larger disc of light. Good detail through both, but a clear edge here to the 15x70s... Everything has been compared hand-held so far. 

Edited by Ships and Stars
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Cloud moving in now. Will try again in early morning if I wake up early enough. No clear overall winner between the two. Despite the windy conditions, managed to just split the Trapezium into two groups of stars with the Cometrons, but Apollos were moving around too much without a tripod for a definite split and couldn't seem to get a nice sharp focus going back and forth between the individual eyepiece adjustment...my 25x100s were the same, just back and forth constant focus adjustment. The Apollos did reveal slightly more of the Pinwheel Cluster M36, but it was very, very slight indeed. The 15x70s are ok laying on a camping mat to look straight up, but they are substantially heavier than the 12x70s.  

OK, that's it for me and the binoculars for now...

Edited by Ships and Stars

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17 hours ago, Mark at Beaufort said:

Just used the Apollo binos to view Mercury. Binos are so useful.

Fully commend that remark.
The majority of my Astronomy is with Binoculars,
many short grab and looks done each week, far less scope time invested.

I run 10x50's at present but the 70mm objectives have a siren call,
but so does a certain AZ100 mount and that calls louder for 2020.

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An interesting thread👍.

I've not owned BA8 quality 70mm bins (ie Helios quality), although I have owned the 50mm equivalent, and they too were MUCH heavier, too heavy to handhold comfortably for more than 10 minutes or so, I found. 

I'd just offer two suggestions for a fair comparison?..

1. All BA8 quality binos are relatively heavy and can only really perform to their best when mounted on a tripod or monopod. And I think the same applies to most "lower quality" larger binoculars as well: a proper, detailed assessment of image quality, field of view, colour rendition etc can only be really done on a static or almost static view, which means a tripod or other mount.

2. For the past week or so, the moon has dominated the night sky, being at or very close to Full.

I think this makes a true comparison test very difficult, especially on fainter objects which might be right as the limit of the binos' reach. Often, I have found that the very faintest stars my 50mms can detect (and which are present in large numbers), just "pop into view" under a dark, moonless sky when held very still or supported. I think the same applies to teasing out fainter details.

You mentioned a short comparison on M42 the other night? I actually found, looking through my 5" scope at M42, that I could barely see any of the nebula at all, such was the glare from the moon - I could just make out the faintest D star of the Trapezium. So I'm not surprised that it was difficult to tell any difference with your pairs of bins.

I'm sure that when you get the chance for a moonless night comparison, using a mount of some sort, that the Helios will stretch ahead of the Cometrons (as so they should, given the price difference!). But the Cometrons can still give pleasant views and will have a case for keeping them handy as Mark  and Alan say, for very quick views, being much lighter to hold for a few minutes.

Indeed , I recently bought a nice small pair of Vixen 8x32s just to have handy for birdwatching or  short night time views when on holiday or short of time..horses for courses and all that😊.

I look forward to your full review when time permits and I'm sure you will enjoy both pairs enormously, albeit in different ways.

Dave

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9 hours ago, F15Rules said:

An interesting thread👍.

I've not owned BA8 quality 70mm bins (ie Helios quality), although I have owned the 50mm equivalent, and they too were MUCH heavier, too heavy to handhold comfortably for more than 10 minutes or so, I found. 

I'd just offer two suggestions for a fair comparison?..

1. All BA8 quality binos are relatively heavy and can only really perform to their best when mounted on a tripod or monopod. And I think the same applies to most "lower quality" larger binoculars as well: a proper, detailed assessment of image quality, field of view, colour rendition etc can only be really done on a static or almost static view, which means a tripod or other mount.

2. For the past week or so, the moon has dominated the night sky, being at or very close to Full.

I think this makes a true comparison test very difficult, especially on fainter objects which might be right as the limit of the binos' reach. Often, I have found that the very faintest stars my 50mms can detect (and which are present in large numbers), just "pop into view" under a dark, moonless sky when held very still or supported. I think the same applies to teasing out fainter details.

You mentioned a short comparison on M42 the other night? I actually found, looking through my 5" scope at M42, that I could barely see any of the nebula at all, such was the glare from the moon - I could just make out the faintest D star of the Trapezium. So I'm not surprised that it was difficult to tell any difference with your pairs of bins.

I'm sure that when you get the chance for a moonless night comparison, using a mount of some sort, that the Helios will stretch ahead of the Cometrons (as so they should, given the price difference!). But the Cometrons can still give pleasant views and will have a case for keeping them handy as Mark  and Alan say, for very quick views, being much lighter to hold for a few minutes.

Indeed , I recently bought a nice small pair of Vixen 8x32s just to have handy for birdwatching or  short night time views when on holiday or short of time..horses for courses and all that😊.

I look forward to your full review when time permits and I'm sure you will enjoy both pairs enormously, albeit in different ways.

Dave

Hi Dave, thanks, yes a beer vs champagne sort of comparison! The Helios are almost twice as heavy, 2.58kg vs 1.4kg for the Celestrons, (84% heavier actually) with a leap in build quality. The biggest problem for me is eye-relief because it works out to just 8mm usable on the Apollos with the recessed eyepiece lenses vs 19.5mm on the Cometrons, but I specifically wanted binoculars that take filters. I can just take my glasses off for nebula views, but then they become kind of a one trick pony.

To me, the point of owning binoculars in this mag range (12-15x) is to use them handheld, even if only for short periods, otherwise if I need a tripod or p-mount, I'd be looking for another pair of 25x100s or ideally, APMs etc with interchangeable 1.25" EPs - budget willing!  

Because they are so light, I've only ever used the Cometrons hand-held, even for extended periods. The tripod adapter that came with them never came out if the bag until I did terrestrial tests with the CC/Apollos. 

The other night, I caught M42 when the moon was just above the horizon and was in a belt of cloud around 6:30pm, so it was quite dark. I split the four main Trapezium stars into two groups (not four stars) with the Celestrons handheld, but couldn't manage it with the Helios due to the weight, not the mag, and continuous fiddling with the individual focus adjustment. Laying on a camping mat, I was able to comfortably hold the 15x70s very still and gain slightly more detail with M36 over the Celestrons, but there wasn't much in it. 

I'm keeping the Apollos for now, they are very well built (I mean they are seriously solid) and certainly have high optical quality. Like I mentioned in my earlier post, I'd like to build up some time with them under dark conditions with filters to see if they grow on me, but they won't replace the Cometrons which are like flying. The Apollos are in excellent condition and will be perfect someday for a user who wants filters and doesn't wear eyeglasses when viewing, or uses a tripod but doesn't want something like 25x100s.

Does anyone know of a good quality pair of binoculars that take filters, but still offer great eye relief for glasses? Is that sort of asking for the impossible I guess? I looked at the Lightquest and APMs, but nothing stood out other than the giant binos with threaded 1.25" EPs (someday).

Anyway, hoping to get the Apollos out with filters under a new moon soon and see what I can detect...who knows, I still might fall in love yet...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CC vs HA.jpg

Edited by Ships and Stars
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I bought the Apollo binos because of the filter option. I am not aware of any other make that provides this option. However, you could send a message to Steve Tonkin - 'binocularsky' because his knowledge is second to none on this subject.

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8 minutes ago, Mark at Beaufort said:

I bought the Apollo binos because of the filter option. I am not aware of any other make that provides this option. However, you could send a message to Steve Tonkin - 'binocularsky' because his knowledge is second to none on this subject.

Thanks Mark, I'll drop him a line, the name rings a bell? Just out with the Apollos again and great views of M42 (moon is hiding at the mo or is still right on the horizon). They definitely have good optics! I want to dig out my monopod, they are not quite heavy enough for me to absolutely require a tripod, but still a bit too heavy for relaxed hand-held viewing. They are growing on me. I like the build quality and find once I've set IPD and focus, I shouldn't mess with it and just enjoy the views.

Edited by Ships and Stars
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25 minutes ago, Mark at Beaufort said:

I bought the Apollo binos because of the filter option. I am not aware of any other make that provides this option. However, you could send a message to Steve Tonkin - 'binocularsky' because his knowledge is second to none on this subject.

Yep, Steve is "The Man", no question about it. I was just dipping into his book again recently and his knowledge is mind boggling!:hello2:

Dave

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If the Apollos are the only reasonably affordable binoculars that take 1.25 filters, and assuming any others that do, don't offer greatly increased eye relief, then I shall be hanging onto them for sure. I'll check out Steve's website, sounds very intriguing!

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The Lunt binoculars I use, which may not be available anymore except used, although probably about the same as the APM version, have a relaxing 20mm of eye relief. They are quite light and comfortable hand held and superb on a monopod. Definition and contrast is excellent. Steve Tonkin, Binocular Sky has a comprehensive review on his website. Occasionally they may come up second hand.

They do not as you will know accept filters. I haven't really had an opportunity to try hand holding a filter to the objective, although had considered it if an opportunity should occur. They are very effective for general sweeping / observing, I would expect that they will become a bit clumsy if attempting filtered observing. A rich field refractor between 70mm to 90mm is lovely to have in addition to these binoculars for that purpose. The Apollos might be good on a tripod, I had the 10.5x70 Apollos, a little shorter, steadier to hand hold for short periods when leaning against something and OK on a monopod. Try the 15x70's on your monopod, they might just be OK.  

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Thanks Scarp, I looked at the Lightquest and APMs (which are same as the Lunts I believe) but none were going second hand except some 20x80 lightquest which sold before I could blink. They both seem to offer a good amount of eye relief. I think it's the filter threads that take up a fair bit of EF on the Apollos, but as a nebula junkie, they are worth it for that.

Best of all, you've probably just talked me into my first refractor! Have to wait a while on that for a while however. Plenty to keep me busy this season in the meantime.

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Meanwhile Robert you do have an excellent pair of binoculars, besides accepting filters, they will be a great addition to slip into your vehicle next time you head onto your dark site. Nothing more instantaneous than a good pair of binoculars. 

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9 minutes ago, scarp15 said:

Meanwhile Robert you do have an excellent pair of binoculars, besides accepting filters, they will be a great addition to slip into your vehicle next time you head onto your dark site. Nothing more instantaneous than a good pair of binoculars. 

Definitely! They are pretty impressive optically and the build quality has to be about as robust as possible. I'm popping back out tonight with the binoculars once the children are asleep, if they don't wear out dad first!

Edited by Ships and Stars
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I couldn't resist popping in the UHC and OIII filters tonight and having a quick scan before the moon rose too much. The nebula in M42 was greatly enhanced and frankly pretty impressive. I was fighting high cloud, so came back in for a bit. When it cleared, I swapped to Hb and OIII combo and went for NGC1499, California Nebula. Hopping up from the Pleiades, I located the approximate area, but by this time, the moon had lit up the sky a great deal...

I really can't wait to get out to any dark sky sites with the Apollos and some filters in my pocket. And maybe a dob in the van of course. DSO hunting starts first half of Thursday night (moonrise not until around 11:15pm), plus early Saturday morning and so far, Monday night are looking promising...

Edited by Ships and Stars
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