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Pentax PFC V 20x60mm

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Date: 7-13-2001 & 12-2-2002
Price: $230.00
Design: 60mm objective lenses with Bak-4 prisms.
Description: Large astronomical binoculars with rubber armor and super multi-coated optics.  Also features 21mm eye relief.

Review

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 imitation 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 lining 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 convenience 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.

Daytime Test

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 noticeable 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.

First Light

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 immediately 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 apparent 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.

Conclusion

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 davidr@wf.net - USA


Review

With two years of experience in astronomy, I am a newcomer to the field. During that time I have had several scopes as well as good quality binoculars. In this article, I will compare the Pentax 20x60 PCF WP binoculars with the Pro Optics 20x80s and the Oberwerk 20x80s.

Four month ago, I bought the Pentax 20x60 PCF WP from a well-known company. From the reviews in S&T magazine and online sites, I had the impression that the Pentax 20x60s outperformed more expensive brands of the same aperture. So I decided to buy them. They came packed in a soft case, which was put into a cardboard box, with a thin, slightly bigger box as a cover. Frankly, I was expecting better protection.

These are very nice binoculars, with superb mechanical construction and smooth adjustments for both the focuser and the right diopter. They have a locking system, but the focuser is smooth and shows no backlash, so I do not use it at all. The neck strap is decent. The objective caps were solid and fit tightly. Overall the build quality really impressed me.

Specifications

  • 20X magnification with 60mm objective lenses
  • Pentax SMC (super multi coated) optics with BAK-4 prisms
  • Field flattener lenses
  • Apparent FOV - 44
  • Real FOV - 2.2
  • Exit pupil - 3 mm
  • Eye relief - 21 mm (long)
  • Rubber armored metal body construction.
  • Weight - 44 oz.

First Observation

Mount - Using 20x binoculars without a tripod is very difficult, so I mounted them on the same Slik 300DX tripod I have been using with the Pro Optics. The tripod can hold 8 lbs, so holding the 43 oz. Pentax's was not a problem.

On the first night, I took my Pro Optics and Oberwerk's along for a comparison. I have been using the other binoculars for a long time and am really impressed with their performance. The image in Pentax was flat (due to built-in the flattener), sharp, and bright over 90% of the field of view, whereas the Pro Optics and Oberwerk's showed as well only over 65% to 70%. All had superb resolution, with the Oberwerk's offering the best combination of price and performance.

Chromatic Aberration - I chose Jupiter for this test. I was not very impressed, since the Pentax showed the same amount of color as the Oberwerk's, while the Pro Optics were slightly better. So on a bright object, the Pentax was not really impressive. However, I did not see flares when looking at 2nd mag. or higher stars as I always experienced when using the Oberwerk's.

The seeing conditions were not good, though the sky was fairly dark. I shifted to Saturn, which was 45 above the horizon I started observing with the Pentax's. With 20x magnification and only 60mm of objective, I wasn't expecting to make out the rings, but to my surprise I could clearly see the entire ring. Normally that is really hard to see in the Oberwerk's and Pro Optics, so it was a pleasant surprise. In fact, I was stunned by the resolution. Then I went to Jupiter. I saw four moons as points, along with two bands, but as I mentioned above I could see some color. After half an hour of observing I decided to compare stars, but the seeing worsened, so I put that off until another night.

Second Night

The night was calm, clear, and good for a star test. Stars of mag 2 or brighter were little disks with some false color, but those of 3rd magnitude or more were pinpoints. Vega, high in the sky, showed more false color . I went for M57, wondering if I could find it. The nebula showed bright and clear at the first glance. M13 was like a cotton ball; M92 was smaller but just as bright; M81 and M82 beautifully shared the same field of view, with M82 having its distinct mottled appearance, both of them being unbelievable bright and easy; M51 had a very clearly defined bipolar shape with a hint of the bright cores. Incredible! M31, M32 and M110 were easy, with M31 occupying more then half of the field of view when using averted vision, as did M33.

Conclusion

In my personal experience, these are worth every penny. I highly recommended them to anyone interested in binocular astronomy. Although the aperture is only 60mm, the Pentax's certainly outperformed the others. For example, they are much lighter then Oberwerk 20x80s, which weigh almost 8 pounds. If the Pentax's were 80mm with 45 eyepieces, then they would be killer binoculars. Everyone else would be second. I give them a 9 out of 10 and will be happy to keep them. My only negatives are too much eye relief (which actually blacks out your vision) and the loose-fitting eyepiece covers. The FOV is too small which is really a big flaw. Also, they should include a tripod adaptor, which would make observing much smoother, day or night. Overall this binocular is not only good for star gazing but can be used in day time or for bird watching. Honestly, I will keep this one as my quick lookup for star gazing.

Submitted by Jawaid Iqbal Abbasi - USA - (jawaid_iqbal_abbasi@yahoo.com)

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