I seem to have become the owner of numerous pairs of binoculars.
I have a tiny pair handy for keeping in a daypack on walks: the Olympus 10×25s (RC II R, weatherproof) are about the size of a compact camera. They have a 5° field of view and focus as close as 3 metres.
Then I have the Pentax 12x50s (XCF) useful for bird spotting and checking out things nearby. We look down a valley towards Cook Strait, about 5 Km away, so there are often things to see. These have a 5.6° field of view and focus as close as 10 metres.
Those 2 small pairs are great hand-held binoculars and have served me well, especially for looking at birds and unusual ‘things’ in the garden or the neighbouring Town Belt.
They’ve been fantastic: I can easily see the moons of Jupiter and believe I’ve seen the rings of Saturn too. To be quite honest, I may be imagining Saturn’s rings, because I know they’re there, but I think I’ve seen them. In any case, the binoculars have been wonderful.
They weigh enough (2 kilos) that you must use them on a tripod. With a tiny field of view (51 metres at 1,000 metres) and focus minimum of 21 metres they are best suited to astronomy, or viewing land-based items that are a long way away. I’ve enjoyed several times finding out what interesting ships are sailing past the South Coast.
I sold my telescope
But recently I’ve had a hankering for even more powerful binoculars.
I recently sold my telescope as I found I was just too shaky to enjoy using it. My hands shook slightly as I tried to reposition it, and my head shook slightly as I tried to squint one-eyed through the eyepiece. I had to crane my neck at strange angles to use the straight-through sighting scope.
Together with Wellington’s consistently annoying weather, the shaky viewing meant the telescope just wasn’t earning its keep.
Also, it wasn’t specially heavy, but it was awkward moving it from my room to the front or back deck to do some viewing. Moving binoculars and a tripod around is easy.
Super giant binoculars
I resolved to save up for even more powerful binoculars and before I knew it the universe had fulfilled my wish. My partner generously paid the difference between the cost of a pair that came up at a good price on TradeMe and the sale of the Zhumells.
The new Acuter 25×100 Waterproof Binoculars arrived the other day.
They don’t appear to have a website of their own, but marketing literature tells me these binoculars have BAK-4 prisms and fully broadband multi-coated optics.
Where I thought my giant binoculars were big, the new pair put them to shame. These monsters weigh a ton — 4.7 Kilos. The problem I’ve struck so far is that my tripod needs to be a little sturdier to hold them well.
It’s taking me a while to get used to and set up the new ones. Their closes focus is 17 metres, and the field of view is 52 metres at 1,000 metres.
The Acuters don’t have a central focus; instead each eyepiece can be adjusted separately. The action’s slightly stiff and the binoculars wobble a little as I make the adjustment. In the few days since I’ve had them the weather has been poor too, so I’m not convinced I have them quite correctly focussed yet.
Focus is also complicated by the progressive lenses in my glasses. The portion of glass I look through at one angle of my head (such as a horizontal view of landscape) is different from another angle, such as looking upwards at the sky. That means I need a slightly different focus for the binoculars, depending on the angle of my head.
I’ve been looking at Wellington Zoo (about 3Km away in a straight line), and have had pleasing views of chimpanzees, giraffes and even the lions, but there’s been quite a heat haze.
The nights have been cloudy too, so I haven’t yet looked at much in the night sky.
It seems as though my next goal will be a really sturdy tripod for these new supergiants.
I’ve sold the Zhumells to a friend, so I’m back down to 3 pairs now. Once I’ve had a chance to really do some star gazing I’ll report back.
Do you use binoculars for star gazing? Tell us about it in the Comments.