Sky and Telescope
||56mm objective lenses with Bak-4 prisms
astronomical binoculars with rubber armor and fully multi-coated optics.
5.8 degree field of view.
am a 30-year-old electrical engineer who has been observing for two years from
my fairly dark suburban backyard in central Virginia. I also make
occasional trips to the Blue Ridge Parkway (about 40 minutes west) to observe
under much darker skies. When I began in astronomy, I already owned a pair
of Bushnell zoom binoculars (7-21 x 40 mm). The zooms treated me well
enough to get started, but after a year or so I wanted a pair of
"real" astronomy binoculars: larger objectives, better optical
coatings, and no zoom optics to degrade the images. I immediately turned
to Orion because I have been so impressed with their quality and service.
I was looking for binoculars in the $120-$180 price range, and I considered both
the 8x56 Mini-Giants and Orion's Ultraview line (7x50 or 10x50). The 10x50
Ultraviews seem to get rave reviews from everyone, but most people recommend a
tripod at 10x for reasonably steady viewing. I wanted something that I
could hand-hold, for observing on a whim without the setup time of a tripod.
Thus, I opted for a lower magnification and the correspondingly larger
exit pupil. Both the Ultraviews and the Mini-Giants appear to be made by
the same manufacturer and share the same quality and features, so I chose the
8x56 over the 7x50 simply because of the larger objectives and slightly higher
power. (Both models weigh the same--32 ounces.)
My 8x56 Mini-Giants arrived promptly and in perfect condition. They showed
a level of mechanical fit and finish that is substantially better than my older
Bushnell binocs. The fully multi-coated optics showed a dark purple
reflection with no hint of imperfections. I couldn't wait for the sun to
set to try them out, so I immediately went outside and looked up and down my
street. The sharpness and clarity were stunning in daylight, and as
evening turned to twilight, I was amazed at how bright the images remained.
These binoculars work extremely well for low-light nature observation as
well as for astronomy!
The real test, though, came that night. Once again I was astonished at the
clarity and brightness of the images in the binoculars. Stars were sharp all the
way to the edges of the 5.8 degree field. I immediately spotted clusters
that had eluded me with the Bushnell binocs. I could plainly see M81 and
M82, even in my somewhat-polluted suburban skies. Jupiter's disk and four
large moons were all clearly visible and distinct (especially when I braced the
binoculars by putting my elbows on the deck railing). Under darker skies,
where I can take full advantage of their 7mm exit pupil, these binoculars are
truly amazing. One warning, though: I once made the mistake of
looking at the moon through these binocs after my eyes had already
dark-adapted--Ouch! I almost fell over from the intensity! Unless
the moon is a mere crescent, it is far too bright to observe comfortably with
Orion includes dust caps and a hard case with their Mini-Giants which are
nothing fancy, but are perfectly adequate to store and protect the binoculars.
The deluxe neck strap for the binoculars is wonderful-it distributes the
weight of the binoculars comfortably and the length is adjustable. The
strap on the case, however, is another matter. It seems to be made of some
flimsy vinyl material and is far too thin to carry comfortably for long periods.
This isn't an issue for me most of the time, but I would recommend
replacing it if you carry your binoculars for long periods in their case.
The case strap is really the only complaint I have with these binoculars. The
only other constructive criticism I could offer Orion is to make the right
diopter a little harder to adjust; it moves so smoothly that I sometimes turn it
inadvertently. There is no detent at 0 to let you find it by feel, so a
flashlight is required to verify the setting.
These two small criticisms should in no way discourage anyone from rushing out
to buy a pair of these binoculars. Make no mistake: I absolutely
love them! The optics are impressive, the mechanical construction is
solid, and they are light enough to hand-hold for long periods. I truly
believe that they are the best buy available in this price range. (Similar
binoculars are available from Bausch & Lomb, among others, but cost at least
$50-$100 more.) The only alternative you might consider is Orion's 10x50
Ultraview (also $159), especially if you want their higher magnification or will
primarily use them under brighter, light-polluted skies.
Submitted by Neil Hobbs - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Forest, VA