So you’ve realized the limitations of budget-priced binoculars and want something better that does not break the bank. Does Celestron’s Skymaster Pro 20×80 fit the bill?
Pros: Useful features and sound quality.
Cons: Annoying eyepiece cups.
The Celestron SkyMaster Pro 20×80 binoculars have a satisfyingly sturdy feel, due to the aluminum and polycarbonate body, which is covered by substantial textured rubber armor. They are of a center-focus Porro-prism construction, with a central mounting bar that connects the central hinge to cuffs on the objective cells.
In the die-cut packaging foam you will find, in addition to the expected case (tough padded fabric), strap (padded and comfortable) and instruction booklet, a clip-on rail with which you can mount a red-dot finder to the mounting bar, and some winged eyepiece cups as an alternative to the standard ones.
The focus, hinge and right eyepiece diopter all operate smoothly, with enough resistance to make it unlikely that you will accidentally adjust them. The objective caps are tethered, so that they won’t get lost and are always where you need them during breaks in observing on dewy nights, but you can remove them completely if you prefer. The eyepiece cover is a flexible rainguard that can be tethered to the strap. The binoculars are waterproof and nitrogen-filled, protecting the insides from the ravages of moisture if you use them in dewy conditions.
If you examine the insides of the objective tubes with a flashlight, you’ll see that the prisms appear to be secured in proper cages and that there are two light-baffles in each tube.
When you attach the mounting post to the mount (0.25-inch photographic thread) you set the balance of the binoculars by sliding the post along the central mounting bar. The mount is locked in place by a lever, which is much more effective than the more common hand-wheels.
A red-dot finder makes the binoculars a cinch to aim accurately. When you acquire your target, you’ll find that the binoculars give a bright, contrasty image. The image is sharp over the central half of the field of view and usable except very near the edge – with the exception of off-axis chromatic aberration on bright objects like the lunar terminator. The light baffles and proprietary XLT multi-coatings are effective, and the image you get is bright, with good contrast, all over the field of view.
The interchangeable eye-cups seem to be a good idea, and are effective at shielding from lateral light, but the winged cups need to be folded down to get the eyepiece covers on. These latter cups have an irritating tendency to come off when you fold them back up again.
These binoculars will suit someone who has exhausted the possibilities of an entry-level model and who wants a decent quality, large aperture instrument with the convenience of center-focus.