on January 11, 2006
I've been an amateur astronomer for about 23 years. I have a broad amount of experience with the kind of optics that are used for astronomy. I have used most every type of instrument and have visited some of the great professional telescopes. I have hand built my own newtonian telescope including machining the german equatorial mount. Soon after completing this instrument I took it to a star party and ended up on my back with a pair of Fujinon SX binoculars. To make a long story short, I preferred the binos to the view in my telescope. Telescopes are expensive, they are big, heavy, hard to move, hard to store, complicated to set up correctly, and the view through the eyepiece can be crowded and dissapointing. For the casual observer binoculars are the superior choice. They are everything that a telescope is not...relatively cheap, light, easy use. And because they are so easy to use, you will end up using them much more often than you would a cumbersome telescope. That aspect of binoculars alone will make them show you much more than a telescope ever would. The Celestron 15X70 Skymasters are by far and away the best amateur astronomy instrument for the money on the market right now. They are truly and incredible value. You could spend $600+ on Fujinon SX binoculars and have a very fine instrument, but after using these, that would be a hard argument to make. Most everyone's eyes are not able to discern the fine differences between the two instuments. Mind you, I am not telling you that these are as good as the Fujinons, but at about a 10th of the price...well you get the idea. My experience with Celestron is that they are a first class operation. And now with their lifetime no-fault warranty, the best in the industry, you can purchase products from them knowing that if anything ever goes wrong for whatever reason, they will always stand behind their product. If you are looking to get started in astronomy or looking for an excuse to leave your telescope in the closet, these binoculars are a great value and with proper care will last a lifetime and show you more wonders than you will ever see frustrating yourself with a high magnification-small field telescope. Get them, take them outside at night with your kids and wonder why.......
on October 22, 2011
I purchased the 15x70 Celestron Skymaster Binoculars primarily for casual astronomical viewing. Most of my remarks and observations center around using them for deep sky scans.
First, the basic stats:
Magnification: 15 power (50% greater than 10x50's)
Objective size: 70mm (equivalent light gathering power twice that of a 50mm binocular)
Field of view is 4.4 degrees or 230 ft. at 1000 yards
A surprising near focus of a mere 43 ft.--exceptional for this type of binocular.
Eye Relief: 18mm so one can wear eyeglasses--providing the rubber eyecups are folded down
Exit pupil is 4.67mm (only .33mm less than 10x50's at 5mm)
Other stats: Center focused; BAK-4 prisms, Porro design; Multi coated (but not fully multicoated) optics; Tripod adapter included an extra value (3 ½ inch vertical clearance). Case with strap--the latter the weakest part of the whole package.
During daytime, we used it for scanning distant wildlife and mountain ridges. Excellent performance. Tripod adapter best used when viewing level or slightly above level angles. I found it too tedious and straining to attempt oblique views with a conventional photographic tripod. A tip on holding it steadier by hand: rather than grasping it the normal way, try holding each 70mm objective end with your hands.
For amateur astronomers and novices wondering what you can see and its limitations, here are some notes in viewing familiar objects: Jupiter is readily resolved as a disc but seems too bright to see its bands. Its four moons can be easily seen (when in view); Saturn was near the sun but I think one may be able to resolve or infer its ring shape; Compared with a traditional 7x50 or 10x50 binocular, The Pleiades (M45), the Lagoon Nebula (M8), M35 in Gemini and the Orion Nebula (M42) are all breathtaking. So are the Scorpius open clusters M6 and M7. M13--the great Hercules Globular Cluster--was tantalizingly larger than the fuzzy spot I saw in my 10x50's. If you have a favorable southern horizon, the globular cluster M22 in Sagittarius also exhibits size. You can resolve some of the Wild Duck Cluster, M11. The shape of the Beehive open cluster (M44) in Cancer can be traced. Given a dark night, the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) almost sprawls across the entire field of view with the companion galaxy M32 glimpsed as a fuzzy smudge. Even under urban and suburban skies, M31 does show expansive width. Both the North American and Pelican Nebulae near the star Deneb at the top of Cygnus the Swan--the Northern Cross--can be detected on a dark night's viewing--with patience. The colorful double star Albireo (at the opposite end of Cygnus) can just be resolved if you can manage a steady view. Mizar & Alcor in the Big Dipper's handle are easy to separate. I found it difficult to keep the stars in the Pleiades from dancing across the view unless I used a flat surface to lean on or a tripod.
In terms of field of view (4.4 degrees): You can see the entire belt of Orion in one field; you can capture the entire sword--including M42--in one field of view; The near parallelogram head of Delphinius the Dolphin fills a field; So do the Coat Hanger and Kemble Cascade asterisms, respectively; In Lyra, Vega and the stars epsilon and zeta fill a field. The latter two are revealed as double stars. So also is Castor in Gemini. The Perseus Double Cluster and nearby open cluster Stock 2 can fit in one field, but in urban or moonlit settings this is more of a challenge. The three delightful open clusters sprawling across Auriga can be seen two at a time: Either M36 and M38 or M37 and M38, respectively. One of the four keystone stars in Hercules, eta, can be positioned with the globular cluster M13 also in the same scene. As the field of view is less than five degrees, one cannot place the pointer stars in the Big Dipper in the same field nor contain the entire of the Hyades in Taurus. The central four stars in Cancer the Crab are just barely outside the field.
I also own a pair of Celestron OptiView 10x50's and have found the increased magnification and light gathering power of the Skymaster 15x70 worth the price to upgrade. In a quick comparison, the increase in apparent size of Jupiter's disc in the latter is quite noticeable as is that of M13 and M31. There is a pair of stars several degrees west of M13 that appears white in the 10x50's (at least to my eyes) yet are a stunning red with the 15x70 Skymaster. The moon, of course, can be seen with greater clarity in the Skymaster yet it does not fill the entire field of view. The down sides--and no surprise here--are that I can hold the former much steadier and see more of the sky with the smaller binos. There is also some chromatic aberration with the brighter objects like Jupiter but then again, for the price point (about $60), that's part of the game.
All in all, I find the Skymaster 15x70 an excellent investment for the price. I've already relegated my trusty 10x50's to backup and use the Skymaster to quickly and effectively tour the heavens on nights when I don't want to take the time to set up my 8" SCT. I'd especially recommend it as a portable alternative for those considering purchasing the typical 60mm/2.4 inch department store telescope. The caveat is that one will have greater satisfaction with the use of a tripod or other means of steadying for sustained observing of stellar objects. I suggest acquiring a different tripod adapter such as the all metal Celestron Binocular Tripod Adaptor (#93512-A or equivalent) to alleviate some of the strain of viewing because it extends the height and clearance from the tripod an additional 1 1/8 inch vertical dimension beyond that of the supplied Bakelite tripod adapter.
on October 30, 2006
My first night out under dark skies with these binoculars was a terrific experience. In ninety minutes of observing I had great views of M36, M37, M38, M44, M50, easily saw the Trapizium in Orion's nebula, saw the Andromeda galaxy and it's companions streaching across 75% of my FOV. It had taken me two observing sessions with my 5" reflector to find M33, with the Binoculars I found it in two minutes, M81 and 82 were also easy.
All this and I don't even have a tripod yet. I may well spend more time with the 15 X 70's than I do with my telescope.
They are also great for terrestrial viewing. Contrast and definition are excellent. Best optical value I've ever seen.
on January 26, 2007
I purchased these binoculars for night sky viewing. I had a pair of 10X50 Bushnell binoculars and I was impressed with what I was able to see through those so I bought these for even more in depth viewing and they have not let me down. They are ideal as supplements to a telescope or if you don't have a telescope, these are great for your first introduction to optics that will open up the night sky to you. They are much easier to use than a telescope and you can see all kinds of neat things. I viewed such things as the Orion Nebula, the Andromeda galaxy, the Pleiades, and double stars such as Mizar and Alcor in Ursa Major with relative ease and they looked stunning. Focus these binoculars in on the Milky Way and you will see tons of stars you wouldn't be able to see otherwise. I was even able to look at Saturn and with some steadying of the binoculars against my chest, could slightly make out the definition of the rings. These binoculars also do a magnificent job of viewing the moon.
I had read some reviews that they are really heavy and bulky, but I found that they were surprisingly light and easy to steady free handed. They are quite large, which means that they will take up more space than a normal binocular, but this is to be expected. Mine did come with a carrying case and a tripod adapter (which I haven't used yet, so I cannot comment on its quality).
Overall, for the price, you can't go wrong. I've used these binoculars in the daytime and they are great--crystal clear optics. They also seem very durable and with some care, will probably last you many many years. If you are new to stargazing and are considering a good pair of binoculars that will show you all kinds of wonderous things, look no further than the Celestron Skymasters--you will not be disappointed.
on February 22, 2006
The optics are truly amazing for the price. The field is wide, the image is bright, razor sharp and with fine contrast and color rendition. My complaint is with the center focusing mechanism which tends to drift and requires constant attention. This problem could have been easily fixed at the factory with a properly sized washer to take out the play in the center focusing knob. I hope Celestron gets the message and takes the last small step to make these binoculars just right.
on November 10, 2013
This makes a great instant alternate to my 18 inch Dobsonian telescope when I am not sure if the sky is worth the 10 minute telescope setup. (and compared to the 80-pound telescope, much more portable)
Great on a tripod - yes, it does oscillate interminably - but see my uploaded customser image for an easy way to stabilize it with its own neck strap. (My Vanguard tripod works great; which I bought for its smooth panning ability)
Incredible value for the money. Mine came pretty well aligned, but if it hadn't been, I would have had the factory fix the alignment.
on March 4, 2008
We bought these binoculars for our son when he turned seven. He has a great interest in astronomy, and we considered buying him a telescope. We had read several reviews recommending buying a student a nice pair of binoculars before purchasing a telescope. This recommendation proved to be exactly right. Our entire family has enjoyed these binoculars, and the lunar eclipse over Michigan a few weeks ago was a delight! They are heavy, but our seven year old is able to handle them, and they come with a neck strap. He knows their value, and has been quite careful with them. I wouldn't hesitate to give them to another child this age.
The reason I can't give the binoculars five stars is as follows: This last weekend, one of the eye-pieces broke off. Knowing that there is a no-fault warranty on the binoculars, I called Celestron. The customer service man was knowledgeable and cordial, but it was only then that I became aware of the warranty catch. To take advantage of the no-fault warranty service, you must send back the broken binoculars and pay $25 for service, handling, and shipping of the new binoculars. I somehow missed this little detail when we received the binoculars and read through the warranty information included in the box. When I stated that now the $80 binoculars that I bought in September are going to cost me $105, he said, "Well, that's two sets of great binoculars that you got for $105." That's just a ridiculous point for him to make, because I have to send the broken ones back, and they are unusable anyway. He obviously didn't major in debate in college, OR that's what he's told to say when a customer challenges that policy.
Needless to say, I feel it is important for Amazon customers to know this before purchasing. I am going to send back the binoculars, pay the $25, and see how Celestron does with standing behind their warranty claims. I will update this review when I get the new binoculars.
I would still purchase them, but I would have liked to be aware of the warranty catch ahead of time. Happy stargazing!
UPDATE: I sent the binoculars back to Celestron and received a brand new pair four weeks later. They didn't give me any hassle, and everyone I spoke to on the phone was very helpful. We are enjoying the new pair very much. The only downside is that along with the $25 I had to pay Celestron for warranty service, handling, and shipping of the new ones, it cost me almost $15 to ship the original broken binoculars back to them. So now I have spent $80 on the first binoculars and $40 to get a new pair. I also advise anyone with a warranty issue to spend the few extra dollars for delivery confirmation if you have to return a product. When I called two weeks after sending back the binoculars, the man I talked to had no record that they had ever arrived, but the post office was easily able to confirm that they had been delivered to Celestron. Also, in reading through the included booklet again, I realized why I had missed the warranty catch in the first place: It's not there. The customer is referred to the Celestron website for further warranty information. It seems like that information should be pretty prominent. While they definitely didn't hassle me on the warranty issue, the extra $40 to get a new pair is enough to make me think twice about purchasing from Celestron again.
on November 26, 2014
I love looking at the night sky and have always wanted a closer look at the moon, stars, etc. Unfortunately I had never but trouble with the various "quality" beginner telescopes I tried and ultimately returned. So I have gone without or used an old pair of sports binoculars I had. Then I saw some deals on Woot! which caught my eye in regard to telescopes and astronomical binoculars which got me interested in pursuing this avenue as a solution. I checked out reviews, both on Amazon and other Internet resources, and decided to purchase the Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15x70 astronomical binoculars.
Before making the actual purchase I checked out the Amazon Warehouse deals for this item (who doesn't like to save money, right?). They had several in stock in various grades of condition. I selected a "like new" condition and paid a few dollars more for this. As you know the Warehouse sells returned or damaged items. This pair was listed as having been inspected, was in like new condition, etc. This is important as it will play a big part in what happens later.
The binoculars arrived quickly and I removed them from the Amazon shipping box. The Celestron box looked brand new, but it had been opened. The binoculars were packed inside along with the tripod adapter, a cleaning cloth, and manual. Everything looked great! I couldn't wait to go outside and see what I could see. And what I could see was a pronounced double image. Crud. My luck with telescopes has jumped over to something as simple as binoculars. I would have no luck at all if it wasn't bad. Back to the box they went as I tried to decide if I wanted to return them (which is no doubt why they were at the Amazon Warehouse having been returned for this reason by someone else). I had read more than a few of the one-star ratings, given by other reviewers, citing this as a problem with these binoculars. It is called collimation and happens when the optics are not aligned correctly. Great, this is the problem I was now experiencing.
I think that the late comic and actor, Marty Feldman, would have been the only person to have been able to use these binoculars in their current state. I went online to see if I could find a way to easily fix the problem (otherwise they were going back to Amazon). Luckily, good luck this time for me, I found many web sites and videos that show how to correct the problem. The bad news is that most of these required me to fiddle with various set-screws and try and adjust the internal prisms into correct alignment. I really didn't want to do this and risk breaking something. Then I found a forum where someone having this problem (with a different brand of binoculars btw) only had to unscrew the main barrels and re-screw them back into place. Apparently QC at the assembly factory isn't always the greatest and this can cause the problem and have nothing to do with the prisms. I started looking at where the barrels attached to the mid/focusing section (sorry, I don't know the correct terminology) and noticed the rubber material coating the barrels was bunched-up in places where it was assembled. Could this be the problem?
So I set about unscrewing the barrels from the mid-section. Both easily unscrewed from that assembly and I saw that a little chrome ring (I don't know if it acts as a washer or is from cosmetic purposes) was not seated well and had cross-threaded some of the screw threads. I reseated it and then reattached the barrels. the rubber coating was no longer binding as it did. So now for testing. I just went outside and looked at the moons. Wait! The _moon_ as the double vision was GONE! The fix to my collimation problem was that simple. Yes!
I lack the experience and/or expertise to go into a really in-depth description of the binoculars and their use for celestial viewing. What I can say is that I could see the moon and stars clearly and they were bright. Looking at the foothills was also a treat. I set-up my camera tripod to use the tripod adapter that came with the binoculars. They attach easily to the tripod but I don't care for their quality (they are plastic). I also don't care for the plastic cap that Celestron uses to cover the adapter mounting hole in the binoculars as it is also cheap plastic. But aside from those two items I am now happy with my purchase and look forward to spending more time outside with them.
This experience makes me wonder how many of these are in the Warehouse with this problem? I cannot say my fix will work in all cases of collimation errors with these binoculars, but it is certainly a quick and easy fix for a nice set of modestly priced astronomical binoculars.
on August 1, 2006
These binoculars are just plain amazing for the price. The crisp images of the star fields in Saggitarius is worth the price alone, not to mention the beautiful views of the Lagoon nebula, Orion nebula, and Andromeda galaxy.
Past reviews have pretty much summed it all up, but I wanted to offer some helpful advice to those who are having difficulties with the tripod adapter. First of all the outlet to screw in the adapter to the binoculars s under the screw off cap in front on the binoculars. When using the binoculars and tripod adapter on a tripod out of box, you may find that the adapter bends, making the binocular view swing left to right. To remedy this, buy some epoxy for plastic at your local hardware store, the good kind is the kind with two siringes in one, and put the glue into the open space on both sides of the adapter. Glue one side at a time, mix the glue in the space, and let it dry solid. This should make the adapter more solid, and your viewing more stable! =)
on December 6, 2006
I have purchased five pairs of these binoculars for myself and family members. A couple have been replacements due to my brother's kid having a habit of tossing them in the swimming pool.
Only one pair had to be sent back due to poor collimation, but Amazon replaced them without question.
They are the most stable 15X binoculars I have ever found...more stable, in fact, than some 10X or 12X models I have used. I never though I would be able to use these without a tripod, but was pleasantly surprised at how steady they can be just by holding them with elbows braced against my chest.
These actually get more use than my ETX-125 telescope for casual astronomy, since they can be taken anywhere, and no setup is required.