Celestron Skymaster 15×70 Binocular Review

If you go camping in the wilds for your fishing or if at the end of the day gaze up at the stars in wonder and want to feel a bit closer to them I have just the review for you – a pair of Celestron Skymaster 15 x 70 binoculars which are designed especially for astronomy although you can use them for other stuff too.

I have been wondering how to do a spot of astronomy for a while now, slightly more than a vague interest but less than wanting to get all crazy about it! I actually have been hankering for a telescope for years and decided to have a look around for one that would fit my “young family budget”  however once I started reading about astronomy what it turned out I needed was not a telescope but binoculars. They’re light, durable, easy to use, and seemingly allow you to see objects in the night sky that you just couldn’t see with your own eyes.

So I started hunting around for a pair and it turns out there are a bewildering amount of types and makes of binoculars (just like fishing rods).

Nearly all binoculars will have two numbers written on their casing, like this: ‘8 x 25’ or ‘10 x 42’. The first number is the binoculars’ magnification. This tells you how many times larger an image will appear compared to that seen by the naked eye. A magnification of ‘8 x’ means that the object you observe with binoculars will appear eight times closer than it does in the real world. The second number refers to the objective lens diameter. This is the lens through which light enters the binoculars. The larger this number, the brighter the image in the binoculars will appear. The larger the objective lens diameter, the larger and heavier the binoculars are likely to be.

So my reading took me to a land where I had to choose a pair of binoculars for gazing up at the stars – the advice that people give is to buy a pair of 10 x 50  binoculars as they are the heaviest that someone can get away with before having to buy a tripod – I bought a pair and I duly gazed up at a bright star in the sky and armed with my Android Google Sky Map . I discovered that this was actually not a bright star, it turned out that this was in fact Jupiter. Through my 10 x 50s I could clearly see the moons (4 of them) and this was in my living room gazing through my window.

The neighbors were not amused and there was much rustling of curtains –  however I duly gazed up for a few nights and looked forward to the clear nights of winter so I could go and check out other stuff, for example, Andromeda.

It was around this time that a very nice chap from a company called Idealo got in contact with me after reading about my wishlist a few weeks ago and offered to send me a pair of 15 x 70 Skymasters to review. I must point out that Idealo is not actually a shop but a price comparison website so essentially you type in what you want and then you see what the cheapest price is – they also have a fishing section on Idealo.

Anyway, never one to pass up on free shit a golden opportunity to pass on wisdom to my wonderful readers and as I am an opinionated person with a website I duly accepted.

They arrived in a huge big heavy box and they certainly were bigger than my 10 x 50s

Celestron-SkyMaster-15x70

It then proceeded to rain and be cloudy for a week when they arrived. In the meantime I bought myself a tripod to fit them to. Before I go any further I should tell you the specs:

Specifications:

  • 15x magnification porro prism binocular
  • Large 70 mm objective lens offers maximum image brightness in low-light and long-range conditions
  • Ultra sharp focus across the field of view
  • Multi-Coated optics for sharp, clear views
  • Suitable for terrestrial or astronomical viewing
  • Protective rubber covering for ultra-firm grip Large center focus knob for easy focusing
  • Tripod adapter included
  • Long eye relief ideal for eyeglass wearers
  • Carrying case included for travel and safe storage
Right, I should point out that I do not know a lot about binoculars, from my reading I found out that you have got to have a pair that are in collimation. For perfect viewing, both sides should be parallel so that one circle is seen when looking through them. A binocular that is out of collimation (or out of alignment), usually the result of a knock or poor factory standards, will have slightly different images in each side, and can cause considerable discomfort and eyestrain when used. The Skymasters are pretty cheap for 15 x 70 binoculars and I read a lot of people claiming a lot of them had collimation problems. From my reading I reckon these are like the Ron Thomson of binoculars – perfectly acceptable tools although there is always a danger of buying a duff one. However the pair I received appear not to have any problems, at least all the simple tests I did showed they were fine.
When gazing through them at local landmarks and my neighbors windows (only kidding neighbors) I was not that impressed and did not see what all the fuss was about, they were certainly a bit stronger however I could not immediately see the benefits over my 10 x 50s – I got another gander at Jupiter and its moons and it was pretty impressive however only slightly more so than my 10 x 50s.
Thankfully however the weather Gods smiled upon me and I then had a totally clear night (Guy Fawkes Night) and headed out to Mugdock Country park where it is a little bit darker (to see stars you need somewhere away from streetlights) and whereas serious astronomy type people would frown at the moon being in the sky blanking a lot of stars out I was happy to gaze at it through the 10 x 50s and then the 15 x 70s.
The difference between the 10 x 50 and the 15 x 70 was pretty substantial – you have got to remember that even in these slightly darker places for every one star you see with your naked eyes you see a dozen through binoculars. I pointed my 10 x 50s at a wee cluster of stars and was mighty impressed – I took my new 15 x 70s off the tripod (as the included tripod adapter makes the view shake worse than holding them) and pointed them at the cluster of stars.

Point those bad boys at the stars...

The view was incredibly impressive – I lent my arms on the car to keep them steady and wondered just what the hell I was looking at – it turns out I was looking at the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters as it is otherwise known. I gazed at that sight on and off all night. The moon looked great showing lots of detail (you can see craters) and of course mighty Jupiter looked even more impressive – you cannot see any detail however it looks like a bright disk and you can quite clearly see dots of light which are the moons.

Other stuff I noticed about the binoculars:

  • I liked the rubber feel to them (and not just because I wear rubber pants before any of you wags get in there first) as it made them comfy to hold.
  • They were heavy however not too heavy to hold for short times.
  • Light was let in at the sides of the rubber eye pieces – this would not be problem in a totally dark place.
  • They were well packed meaning any bumps would be absorbed.
  • There was some distortion around the edges – I have read this is normal on cheaper binoculars.
  • As stated the included tripod mount is rubbish, it causes the binoculars to wobble like a jelly fish so you will need to buy a metal one or find a way to strengthen the included one.
  • Unlike my 10 x 50s these cannot be carried around and used casually – people would think you had someone under surveillance with these bad boys.
Conclusion
I thoroughly recommend these binoculars as a reasonably budget friendly way to start star gazing through the winter months or during the summer when at the end of the fishing day you want to gaze up at the universe around you. To check out the best prices I would not be chivalrous if I did not point you towards the Idealo site who sent me these binoculars. Next on my hit list of astronomy gear will hopefully be the mighty Celestron Astromaster 114EQ so that I can start seeing some detail.
I have a horrible feeling that like fly fishing astronomy is going to be a never ending process of wanting new gear.

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