When it comes to looking at the night skies, binoculars can work better than telescopes in some ways. They are more portable, intuitive to use and offer a wider field of view. If you like astronomy, you should have a decent pair of binoculars. Even if you already own a telescope or two, you should still have a minimum of one good pair of binoculars. If you are a beginning astronomer, or if you love to look up at the stars, then you will most likely use your binoculars even more than your telescope. The following is a quick guide on choosing astronomy binoculars. We’ve also listed our Top 3 Astronomy Binoculars for 2017.
The Basics of Choosing Astronomical Binoculars
Like every set of binoculars, astronomy binoculars will have two main features: magnification and the objective lens size. So for example, if the binoculars are 10×50 it means they have 10x magnification and 50mm objective lenses. The secret to choosing the perfect night time binoculars is getting the right balance between magnification and lens size that will result in a clear, bright and stable image.
Ideal Magnification for Astronomical Binoculars
As the moon, stars and galaxies are so distant you will obviously want to choose high magnification binoculars for astronomy. But bigger magnification also means an unstable image – this is because every small hand movement is also magnified 10x 15x or 20x times. To avoid image shakiness you will need to either purchase lower magnification binoculars (10x is recommended) or use your binoculars with a tripod.
Note that most 15x, 20x or 25x binoculars can still be used without a tripod for short periods of time. A tripod is recommended if you want to use them for longer periods of time or if you choose to buy the larger and heavier models. Remember that high magnification will allow you to see further and in more detail. The downside is that with higher magnification usually comes a narrower field of view and a less stable image.
Field of View / Angle of View
The field of view relates to the width of your image. For astronomers, this means the amount of sky you can capture when aiming your binoculars to the stars. The wider the field of view the more sky you can cover. Powerful, high magnification, binoculars will often have a narrower field of view and vice versa. Good astronomy binoculars will have both – a good magnification and a wide field of view.
Objective Lens Size
As mentioned before, this is the second number when describing binoculars. Along with magnification, this is the most important feature for astronomical binoculars. The larger the lens is, the more light that gets in, the brighter your image will be. Binoculars for stargazing should be at least 50mm and preferably even 70mm and above. Larger lenses of 50mm to 100mm are very common in astronomy binoculars simply because they can gather more light.
Think about how you will use your binoculars. If you are using them for the occasional stargazing but also want to take them along for trips and events, then you’ll be better off with lighter, more portable models. 10×50 Binoculars are great for watching the stars yet still easily carried around and used without a tripod. You will not have any issues with achieving a stable image. These will also be handy for general viewing, travel, bird watching, hunting, sports etc.
On the other hand, if you are happy to keep your binoculars fixed in one location and used mainly for astronomy and long distance viewing then go with a larger and more powerful model. Remember that the larger the lenses are, the better your binoculars will be for astronomy – as simple as that! It is no surprise that most astronomy binoculars are also referred to as “Giant Binoculars.” Big lenses mean brighter images.
Our Top 3 Night / Astronomy Binoculars for 2017
Here at Procular, we stock over 400 different binoculars. We are also passionate about testing, studying and reviewing every single one of them! Below is a list of our top pick binoculars for stargazing and astronomy:
** Note: All 3 binoculars recommended below are suitable for eyeglasses users **
Olympus 10X50 DPS I Binoculars
Current Price: $225
Some would argue that 10×50 binoculars are not really good enough for astronomy – but after carefully examining the Olympus 10×50 DPS binoculars we believe otherwise!
The main reason why these are perfectly fine for astronomy is that they have mid-level or perhaps even high-level multicoated 50mm lenses. Unlike other low-priced models these truly deliver the brightness and sharpness you need when stargazing at night. The optics are simply remarkable for this price range. There is no distortion on the sides of the image and the focusing mechanism operates smoothly every time.
Another strong feature of the Olympus 10×50 DPS is their wide 6.5 degrees field of view. This wider view allows you to capture a larger part of the skies. For a low-priced 10x binoculars this is a superb quality.
The Olympus 10×50 are also durable and very comfortable to hold and stabilise for extended periods of time. The folding eyecups allow you to use them with or without glasses. They do not require a tripod. If you need strong binoculars for both stargazing and general use then these are an excellent choice.
Meade 15×70 Astro Binoculars
Current Price: $299
The Meade 15×70 is a powerful pair of binoculars and a perfect choice for astronomy. These are our best selling astronomical binoculars due to their high quality optics and very affordable price. They are fine to use handheld although a tripod is still recommended for stargazing with this model. The Meade 15×70 Astro Binoculars are built for night viewing and feature large 70mm lenses, they provide a bright image across the whole field of view, nice vivid colours, solid design and an impressive 15x magnification.
The Meade 15×70 Astro Binoculars are currently discounted and available here on Procular for $299.
The binoculars do not come with a tripod adapter (sold seperatly). They can be used with nearly any standard photographic tripod. They weigh around 1.4 Kg so are not difficult to carry at all.
Barska 25×100 Cosmos WP Binoculars
Current Price: $899 (Special offer)
We saved the best ones for last! With astronomical binoculars bigger is definitely better and the Barska 25×100 Cosmos WP Binoculars are indeed a big player. This is Barska’s flagship astronomy model and features outstanding optical quality. The large 100mm lenses allow for the clearest and brightest night views one can imagine.
The Barska 25×100 are highly suitable for long-range terrestrial or astronomical viewing. Note that these weigh nearly 4 Kg and should be mounted on a very strong tripod. The recommended tripod for this model is the Bushnell Advanced Tripod which is also available here on Procular.
In our opinion the Barska 25×100 binoculars are easily comparable with the world’s best astronomy binoculars – But for about half of the price! The Barska 25×100 Cosmos WP are currently discounted and available for $899 including free delivery.