By: Ramiz Qureshi
Binoculars are an astronomer’s best friend! A good pair can allow you to peak at thousands of stars, the moon, planets and just anything else in general. I wanted to get Binos for skygazing. I already own a telescope, which is great for getting up close to an object, but it wasn’t exactly suitable for “scanning” the skies.
I wanted to buy either Nikon or a Pentax. After a lot of searching, researching, and searching on the Internet I had decided to either buy a Nikon 10×50 or a Pentax PCF WP 10×50. Both had rave reviews, and the Pentax especially was known to have the most “crispiest” views of any binoculars in its price range. The Nikon had a better FOV, and it seemed great for general usage.
In my opinion a 10×50 model perfect strikes a perfect balance between light-gathering ability, magnification and weight; i.e it makes for a great pair of binoculars. Having adequate exit pupil, eye relief and a solid build, the Bino would make for the most optimum buy one can afford.
Anyway, initially I called Authorized Nikon Stores to find out if they had the model I wanted, in stock. Turns out none of them did, which was upsetting. After a lot of thinking, I decided to go to the only other place that sells Binoculars in bulk: Sadder!
So here I was, standing in the Electronic Market of Sadder the next day. Shop by shop, I kept asking for the models I wanted but no one had them. They clearly seemed like a lost cause by now and I started to examine other brands. Binoculars on sale ranged from 5×30 to 10×50, and by companies such as Bushnell, Tasco, Olympus and a “Russian Company”. The latter didn’t even had a company name– I suspect it was “do number maal”. Bushnell’s quality was awful, I could tell right on the spot. The image was completely tinted blue. Similar was the case with many other models I examined. Some had focusing issues, others had MASSIVE vignetting. Most had objective lenses of 30 mm or less.
That wasted about 2 hours of my time. I was about to give up but fortunately, I found a shop which had a great Nikon 8×40 mm binocular (it was an original). After a bit of field testing I concluded that it didn’t suffer from any of the problems I found in other Binos over there. And on the plus side it had great eye-relief and a large exit-pupil (5 mm). The view was also easy on the eyes and had much more clarity and contrast. Vignetting was controlled well, so was chromatic aberration. FOV was excellent and well suited to my needs, and image deterioration at the edges was minimal. During testing, I didn’t have any strain holding it with my bare hands for minutes. How could I pass up this excellent Binocular then!? And it was priced at just 9000 Rs.
In fact, I was most comfortable handling it out of all the ones I tested. Just seemed like the right choice!
Came home at around 6:30 pm, which happened to be the perfect time to observe Venus. Took out the Bino, and after a bit of playing with the focusing and diopter adjustment… I pointed its two glasses towards the sunset, with Venus in the backdrop. The view was AWESOME! I could easily see the crescent shape. The sun-set colors were vivid. However there were ghostly images (reflections), but I suppose at this price this is acceptable.
Two of the moons of Jupiter were visible by 6:45 pm when there still was light in the sky. Later in the night all the moons came into view, as well as Uranus which wasn’t far away from Jupiter in the sky
I decided for once to settle the question of “Whether 40 mm is good enough for Astronomical Purposes?” by trying to find M31 under light polluted skies of Karachi. And to my amazement, 40 mm IS good enough! ‘Hopping’ to M31 in less than 30 seconds was no problem, which appeared as a diffuse ‘nebula. I also observed a lot of other open clusters, most notably the Double Cluster. In it, stars of > 7.5 magnitude were faintly visible. I suppose from a darker site, my Bino could perform way better.
The Double Cluster is the name of two open clusters NGC 884 and NGC 869 which are 7600 and 6800 Light Years away from the Earth, respectively. An amazing fact is that NGC 884 and NGC 869 are approaching Earth at a speed of 21 and 22 km/s, respectively.
However, it does have a few shortco
mings. Chromatic aberration becomes apparent when viewing an especially bright object (like Jupiter) against dark surroundings. Also, I wish the Bino had a tripod adapter, because sometimes I just want to ‘pause’, and stare at a cluster for elongated periods of time.
However I have to say that I am really satisfied with this pair and I think I got my money’s worth.