Comparison Review: Six 10×50 Binoculars

 

‘STELLAR-II’ SERIES 50MM
Stellar-II Series 10×50 binoculars

10x50s are often considered to be the “sweet spot” for hand-held astronomical binoculars, with sufficient aperture to catch those faint fuzzy blobs, but with a magnification that can just be held steadily enough. We compared six mid-range waterproof options.

Helios Stellar II 

Pros: Very good image quality.

Cons: Heaviest binoculars on test.

The Helios Stellar II (MSRP: $174) has individual eyepiece focusing, which is ideal for astronomy. You’ll love the brightness and exquisite color rendition of the image, which is tack-sharp over the central 80% of the field of view. The wide neck-strap is comfortable to wear, and you won’t lose the tethered lens caps.

Bottom line: Excellent choice if you want 10x50s specifically for astronomy.

Opticron Imagic TGA WP

Pros: Lightweight, superb color rendition.

Cons: Narrow field of view.

These Opticron binoculars (MSRP: $249) are lightweight but rugged binoculars. They are so well-balanced that they feel lighter than they actually are, allowing for extended use. If you enjoy scanning colorful starfields, you’ll be knocked out by the exceptional color correction, which compensates for the somewhat narrow (5.3°) field of view of a good quality image.

Bottom line: A lightweight waterproof all-rounder that’s useful for astronomy.

Nikon Action EX

Pros: Exceptional image quality.

Cons: Heaviest center-focus binoculars.

The moment you pick the Nikon binoculars (MSRP: $249.99) up, these binoculars just ooze quality, and that impression increases when you use the buttery smooth focus wheel. You get a lovely wide, flat field of view with a huge “sweet spot” (about 85%) where the stars are pin-pricks, with beautiful color rendition.

Bottom line: Extremely capable binoculars for both day and night-time use.

Vortex Crossfire

Pros: Exceptional image quality, lifetime guarantee .

Cons: Large minimum distance between pupils (“interpupillary distance”).

These Vortex binoculars (MSRP: $219.99) give you a fantastic image that is perfectly flat over most of the field of view, The color rendition is so good that the subtle differences between similarly colored stars become apparent. The short bridge makes them easy to hold and to operate the very precise focus.

Bottom line: Perfect combination of compactness, capability and versatility.

Celestron Outland X

Pros: Lightest binoculars on test, good color rendition.

Cons: Can’t be used with eyeglasses.

These Celestron ultra-lightweight binoculars (MSRP: $126) are comfortable to use for extended periods, and give you sharp views on axis. The color correction is good, but the image was not as bright as in the other binoculars on test. The 10mm eye relief is too short if you use eyeglasses to observe.

Bottom line: Lightweight general-purpose binoculars for occasional astronomical use. 

Pentax SP WP

Pros: Innovative features, sharp image.

Cons: Ill-fitting lens caps, narrow field of view.

Unusually for Porro-prism binoculars, the Ricoh Imaging Pentax SP series (MSRP: $215) has internal focusing, making them easy to waterproof. The internal focusing lets them incorporate lockable focus, a boon for astronomy where you don’t want to accidentally change your focus during a session. The binoculars will help you make the most of the exceptionally sharp, albeit small, field of view.

Bottom line: Will appeal to people who want binoculars that have very good optics and mechanics.

 

Comparison Chart 

Manufacturers’ Specifications
Model Helios Stellar II Opticron Imagic TGA WP Nikon Action EX Vortex Crossfire Celestron Outland X Pentax SP WP
Weight (g/oz) 1150/40.6 834/29.4 1020/36 863/30.4 768/27.1 1060/37
Field of view (°) 6.5 5.3 6.5 6.1 5.5 5.0
Eye Relief (mm) 20 19.5 17.2 17 10 20
IPD (mm) 56-74 57-73 56-72 60-75 56-72 57-72
Waterproof Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Nitrogen filled Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Coatings FMC FMC FMC FMC MC FMC
Focus Individual Eyepiece Center Center Center Center Center
Eyecups Fold-down Twist-up Twist-up Twist-up Twist-up Twist-up

This review is adapted from an article published on BBC Sky at Night Magazine:
http://www.skyatnightmagazine.com/review/binoculars/best-10×50-binoculars

About Stephen Tonkin

I first tried to use binoculars for astronomy in 1957, when my father took me outside to see if we could spot Sputnik. I was hooked! In 2011, I started The Binocular Sky website, to promote this aspect of astronomy. This led to me being invited to write a monthly Binocular Tour for BBC Sky at Night Magazine, for which I also write equipment reviews and articles on practical astronomy. I also teach astronomy courses, am a STEM ambassador, and do practical astronomy outreach with people of all ages. I am a speaker on the UK astronomy society circuit.

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