Pentax 20x60mm PCF V
Design: 60mm objective lenses with Bak-4 prisms
Description: Large astronomical binoculars with rubber armor and fully multi-coated optics. Also features 21mm eye relief.
I recently was in the market for a more powerful set of binoculars to
enhance my observing sessions. The lure of a "flat field" pair seemd to be what I was after. But as it usually goes, a really great pair
could only be purchased at a really great price. After some searching and testing, I finally found what may be a truly affordable way to
get the higher magnification along with a flat field at a manageable price.
Pentax has been a top notch manufacturer of optical equipment for
some time, and I have never really associated their name with exceptional value. Mostly I would think of their products as being
one of the more "high-end" Japanese fare. Not in the ranks with Takahashi, or Fujinon, but up there some where below.
I was surprised to find a pair of 16x60 binoculars and a pair of
20x60 binoculars at the local camera/telescope shop in my small home-town. The larger 60mm aperture interested me because up to now I have only owned 50mm and smaller. I asked to see them and was surprised at what I saw.
Fit and Feel
The packaging was excellent. A nice box with well wrapped bubble plastic inside cardboard kept these nice and protected. The imatation leather soft case was accented with a tan bottom. A velcro tab holds the flap opening secured well. Removing the glasses from the case, I noticed the impact linig in the case. The binos were snug fitting inside and as I removed them I was shocked at the weight. These were very light for a medium power set. The covers on the objective lenses were a good fit, but the single-piece ocular cover was not as tight. The first thing I noticed was the nice dark green/purple of the oculars. The pop-out eyecups were perfectly set for the long eye-relief (21mm). The focus-lock is standard on these and I was doubtful of the real usefulness of this feature, but it turns out I have used it as a convienience when they are mounted on a stand. The real beauty is these beg to be hand-held because of the weight. Unusual for powerful glasses.
The first thing I noticed right off was the flatness of the image. Like I said earlier, I was looking for something with a really flat field and these 16x60's were really happening. I next asked to see the 20x60's. The same flat image was present. Of course the magnification was up, but the really interesting thing was the full field of view was crystal clear. These were really powerful glasses, and the images a good mile away were snap-sharp. The next trial involved looking through them at a closer subject. At about 100 feet, the image started showing some noticable false color separation. I was not terribly concerned because I was planning to use them for strict astronomical viewing. The next examination was for edge distortion. To my eyes there seemed to be none. This was truly extraordinary. I asked the clerk how much the pair (20x60) were retailing for. I was surprised to hear him say $230.00. These, at this point, seemed too good to be true. Needless to say, I took them.
I couldn't wait to try them out on some dark skies, so I packed up my mount and new binoculars and headed out to the country. Lucky for me, I live only 15 minutes away from the minor glare of a low light pollution city. The night wasn't the best with a few lingering clouds and some high haze, but things were clear enough for a decent test. The mount I use for binoculars is a large aluminum tripod for heavier cameras. I bought it second-hand from a retired portrait photographer, and modified it with aa angle bracket to accept binoculars. It has a vertical reach of seven feet, so I needn't worry about stooping. Once mounted, I immediatly set my gaze upon Brocchi's Cluster. This is otherwise known as The Coathanger Cluster in Vulpecula. This cluster is a good measuring unit for me to get a "feel" for the size of the view. The entire cluster filled the view comfortably. The contrast was good for the conditions, and the stars on either end of the line were nice and sharp. Not as pin-point sharp as I had hoped, but good never-the-less. I next tried for another object in Vulpecula; The Dumbell Nebula. It was easy to find right away despite the power and smaller true field. The contrast was low, but the optics still afforded me some definition in the shape of the nebula. After that, I really had an interest in seeing some doubles. Of course, just next to Vulpecula is Cygnus, the home of my favorite pair; Albireo, Beta Cygni, "The Scout Double", 6-beta1 and 6-beta2. I was looking for that color problem I saw earlier at the store, but it was not here. Good news! The larger yellow Albireo was school-bus yellow, and Flamsteed-Bayer 6-beta2 was ice blue. This convinced me of the capabilities of the binoculars to stay true to the colors. The lack of tack-sharp stars was a bit annoying, but the image was good from end to end in the view. The truth was becoming apparant as I tried to split the double-double in Lyra. No way. The grainyness of stars in M13 in Hercules was difficult to resolve as well because of the inability to snap the image in focus tightly. The entire field was flat from edge to edge with no distortion at all, and if it weren't for the mushy focus, the view was as good as the higher priced Fujinons I've seen. The real advantage I could see from these was going to be in variable star observations. The ability to see all the image with no distortion or loss of light is essential. The higher magnification is the downside, even though up to now I have
been using my telescope for that, and these were an improvement.
The binoculars are an overwhelming success. The fairly low purchase price along with the extreme flatness has these in the "best buy" catagory for sure. You simply cannot find this quality in this price range, until now. If it is tack-sharp images you need, well there may be some better $200 binos, but if it is power, eye-relief, and flat-fields you need, then these are the ones folks!
Submitted by firstname.lastname@example.org - USA - 7/13/2001