As a newbie in the world of astronomy, you would probably be thinking of telescope right away and beam with excitement.
Sorry to burst your bubble but please, don’t count binoculars out just yet. And why not? If your budget is under $100, I and most other astronomers highly recommend getting a pair of binoculars instead of a low-quality telescope to start out.
Binoculars don’t require a proper mount or interchangeable eyepieces, and are sold far more than telescopes, so good ones are quite cheap. A good pair of 7x50s is under $30. But some may want larger aperture.
If you aren’t convinced yet, let this Skymaster 15×70 Binocular review do the talking.
Celestron’s SkyMaster 15×70 binoculars are an excellent choice for those who already own a sturdy photo tripod or have above-average strength.
Aside from the obvious fact that telescopes generally need tripods, binoculars tend to show better image due to the fact that since you are using both eyes, you see objects in 3D. Plus the light gathering capability of binoculars is said to be around 30% higher than those of telescopes, all other things being constant.
The SkyMaster 15x70s have BAK-4 prisms and full multi-coatings, which is quite spectacular for binoculars of this size and price range.
A pair of binoculars like these are roughly on par with a 5” telescope in light grasp, though unlike a telescope they cannot deliver high-power views of globular clusters, small galaxies, and the Moon and planets. Binoculars like these are mainly good for open clusters and large nebulae.
When you purchased this big baby, you may end up getting the ones that are not yet collimated but don’t worry.
The SkyMasters, like almost all of Celestron’s economy binoculars, sometimes come miscollimated – looking through them, you’ll see a double image. Thankfully, Celestron’s excellent customer service can usually remedy this problem, or you can access the screws yourself and do it (albeit with some difficulty). That being said, my SkyMasters are very slightly out of collimation but not to the point of it being a problem.
The SkyMasters really need a tripod or mount of some kind to be used, unless you are built like Arnold Schwarzenegger. If you rest your elbows on something you’ll probably be okay, but that is awkward and limits where you can point them. Unfortunately, I have an abnormally strong heartbeat and thus the views always shake no matter how well I brace my arms.
As for mounting the SkyMasters on a tripod, forget the supplied adapter. It is so bad that I threw it out. Celestron sells an all-metal adapter for less than $15 – as for why they couldn’t just include it instead of the plastic one, that’s beyond me. Attaching the binoculars to a tripod with the metal adapter is a simple affair.
As for the views, with an aperture of 70mm or 2.75 inches my 15x70s have picked out dark nebulae in Cygnus, M31’s dust lane, and have managed to spot M33, things that are impossible or at least very difficult with a small telescope under my skies.
Its optics are multicoated so expect sharp and very clear views. Open clusters are absolutely spectacular in these binoculars.
You can in fact see the rings of Saturn similar to how Galileo did as a slight elongation, as well as Jupiter’s moons, Venus’ phases, and a fair amount of lunar craters, but that’s the limit with the 15x the SkyMasters provide.
There is a decent amount of chromatic aberration on bright stars, the Moon, and the planets, but it doesn’t hamper the views in the slightest.
The outer 10% of the field is a little fuzzy, but the apparent field is wide enough that you won’t notice.
The Porro prism 15x magnification field glass provided by the SkyMasters is great for up-close nature and scenic viewing. A simple explanation about Porro prism is that the eyepieces are near each other and the objective lenses are far apart. Prisms are critical in increasing the magnification of the eyepiece but without needing to add to the length of the binocular tube.
And the prism glass is said to be BAK4 but I am not really sure if it’s a SchottBAK4 which is considered high-end or the Chinese version which is slightly lower in terms of refractive index rate but still better than the BAK7.
However, I have gotten looked at funny by security officers when attempting to bring them through security at sports venues due to their ridiculous size.
The fact that you’re typically holding the binoculars near-horizontal for daytime targets combined with the ease your brain has in processing images compared to astronomical viewing means that the SkyMasters can be used far more acceptably handheld during the day than at night.
If you have astigmatism which cannot be addressed by focusing the binoculars, its long eye relief feature is ideal for eyeglass wearers like me. This allows me to get the same field of view even if I wear glasses while viewing as this is made to accommodate enough space between the eyepieces and your eyes.
Average eyeglasses wearers would typically need around 14mm to 15mm space to be comfortable. But this model gives you up to 18mm which is more than enough room to manoeuver.
It is also built with protective rubber covering for your no-slip, ultra-firm grip and it is waterproof.
What's The Bottom Line?
I will make life easy for you. Get yourself of this pair. Why? Simply because it is awesome and its quality is comparable to expensive brands and models but definitely won’t ruin your pocket.
So for someone who’s on the lookout for a serious land and night sky viewing but is constrained budget-wise, this Celestron Skymaster Giant 15×70 Binoculars with Tripod Adapter is the closest thing to having the taste of the best. However, be prepared to deal with possible miscollimation.
I own and still regularly use my pair of Skymaster 15x70s. If that’s not a good endorsement I don’t know what is. It’s no wonder it’s listed under ‘Honarable Mentions’ in our buyer’s guide of best astronomical binoculars.