The top models in the brightness category where the Nikon Monarch 5 8x56, and the Celestron SkyMaster DX 9x63. The Nikon Monarch 5 and Celestron SkyMaster both have large diameter objective lenses that allow for more light to enter the system. This makes them both good for low light viewing conditions. The Nikon Monarch 5 features ED glass and have fully multi-coated lenses, which helps to reduce the scattering of light inside the system. The Celestron SkyMaster use a double porro prism (the only pro prism pair in our test) which is more efficient at transferring light than a roof prism.
Bucking the trend, Walker Golder, Deputy Director of Audubon North Carolina, is a shore-bird specialist who uses an old pair of Leica 8x32 binoculars. For closer views, he switches to a spotting scope, but the 8x32s are, according to him, “small enough for me to put around my neck and they don’t get in the way as I move and get in and out of boats.” He generally recommends 10x for shorebird viewing for others.
Meteor showers offer a practical example. You never know exactly where the next bright streak will appear. Yes, you're pretty sure it will come from the "radiant." That’s the name of a constellation (usually) whose location on the sky roughly corresponds to the cloud of cosmic crap into which Earth is plowing to create the shower. [Example: The Leonid meteor shower in November appears to come from the direction of Leo.]
When choosing a pair of binoculars, the magnification power, always the first number listed in bin features, refers to how much the binoculars increase the apparent size of the object you’re viewing. 10x (which is solid) will make whatever you’re looking at seem ten times bigger. The second number is the lens diameter, or how big the lens measures across its center (larger lenses let it more light, allowing distant objects to appear brighter and easier to see.) The trick is finding the right balance between magnification, lens diameter, and compactness. Below, the ones I recommend to anyone who asks.
I took my initial 17 models to a few of my favorite local Southern California beaches, mountains, and deserts for a couple weeks to get a feel for their handling characteristics and durability, and to get a rough feel for their images’ quality. But I couldn’t get an accurate handle on what actually looked better in such a familiar setting. My brain and its stored knowledge of overfamiliar birds take over, and binoculars are a lot harder to evaluate. That’s because with familiar objects, you know what you’re going to see even before you lift the binoculars.
Want really steady views? Invest in a dedicated binocular mount. This can be a simple "L" bracket ($10 to $20) that attaches to a tripod — or, much better, a fancy parallelogram-style mount ($200 or more) that holds your binoculars for astronomy pointing at any angle overhead while you raise or lower them to suit your eyes. This is especially useful for sharing views with others.
For careful budgeters, we recommend Oberwerk's 20X80 Deluxe II and 25X100 individual focus models which provide good values for their prices. If your budget is flexible, there are many fine, giant binoculars that will provide very good value for their purchase prices. We plan ongoing reviews of astronomy binoculars as OpticsReviewer.com grows, so please check back from time to time as your astronomy interests evolve!
Eric Lind, Center Director of the Audubon Constitution Marsh Center & Sanctuary, in Garrison, New York, prefers 8x binoculars and says, “8-power gives you a little bit more than 7-power. I’ve tried 10x, but they were difficult to hold steady.” Eric uses an older pair of Zeiss 8x42 binoculars. “10x,” he says, “might be more appropriate for shore bird viewing from the beach.”
If you’re looking at the best possible pair of rangefinder binoculars, you’ve got them. This is hands down one of the best pairs you can get, and the value they give is also amazing. In ideal conditions, the Fusion 1-Mile ARC can give you the range on targets that are up to 1 mile out. You will find that the ranging performance can easily beat some competitors that cost even twice as much. Being somewhat of a successor to the Bushnell Fusion 1600, you will find that Bushnell actually made some significant improvements in the ranging capabilities.
The Meade 15×70 are indeed more suitable for general use without a tripod. You shouldn’t have issues holding them still and using them for stargazing. They are full sized 70mm binoculars which is what you need for astronomy. They are not compact or light but they come with a carry bag and can be carried around. You can use them with your glasses by twisting the eyecups to their downwards position. They can be used during daytime too and work very well actually. Your only concern would be size and weight. These are 1.4 Kg and need to be carried in the case or in a large backpack / bag. But if your main use is astronomy then there is no way around it.. The large lenses are essential and do provide a much brighter view. We hope this helps.
Review additional features and warranties. Pay attention to field of view and close focus, two measures that affect how much you’ll see. See our report on field of view and close focus to understand how these factor into your choice. Also pay attention to durability, waterproofing, and warranty—many major optics companies now offer excellent warranties. Check our full review spreadsheet for these details.
Dave Brody has been a writer and Executive Producer at SPACE.com since January 2000. He created and hosted space science video for Starry Night astronomy software, Orion Telescopes and SPACE.com TV. A career space documentarian and journalist, Brody was the Supervising Producer of the long running Inside Space news magazine television program on SYFY. Follow Dave on Twitter @DavidSkyBrody. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.