Would you like an alternative to tripod-mounted binoculars that enables you to comfortably observe high-elevation targets and move around the tripod in the dark without kicking it? Enter the parallelogram.
Pros: Sturdily made, ideal for group observing.
Cons: Not suitable for all binoculars.
Orion’s ready-assembled entry-level parallelogram mount, the Paragon-Plus (MSRP: $280), oozes robustness, from the 1-inch (25 mm) box section arms, to the block-mounted captive counterweight bar.
Once you have the parallelogram attached to a sturdy photographic tripod (3/8 inch or ¼ inch), you screw its L-bracket to the tripod adapter socket on your binoculars. With the binoculars aimed up at about 45 degrees, slacken the tension knobs on the parallelogram joints, adjust the counterweight to balance the binoculars, tighten the tensions to how you like them, and you’re ready to go. It’s that simple.
With your binoculars held away from the tripod, you can more easily get into position for high-elevation observing, and as you move around the tripod, you’re far less likely to accidentally kick one of its legs. You can tighten the joint tensions if you don’t want them too easily moved or, provided the binoculars are balanced, you can slacken the bolts to have the binoculars feel like they’re floating. Be aware that the balance changes as you target objects of different elevations.
An advantage of the Paragon-Plus for outreach is that you can adjust the height of the binoculars by up to 19.5” (50 cm) while the binoculars stay aimed at the target. This is ideal if you are showing the night sky to people of different heights.
There are a few problems, though. The L-bracket does not fit most roof-prism binoclars, and Porro-prism ones with a narrow recess between the prism housings. The specified capacity is 6 lbs (2.72 kg) but I found that, with the counterweight fully extended, binoculars weighing 4 oz (113 g) less than this would drop unless the tension knobs were tightened; the opposite problem occurs with very light binoculars.
Unlike more expensive parallelograms, the Paragon has only three degrees of motion, so you are restricted to looking back over the tripod. This is a minor inconvenience compared to the advantages of steady binoculars, with easy-to-access eyepieces. Observing becomes more pleasurable so you’ll probably find yourself observing more frequently and for longer.
If you’ve not used a parallelogram mount before, you’ll be amazed at how much easier this makes binocular observing.