Sweeping Widefield Views: Vixen SG 6.5×32 WP ED Astro-Bino

Vixen 6.5×32 WP ED binoculars. Credit: Vixen Optics

Forty years ago, the Canadian amateur astronomer, Lucien Kemble, drew the attention of fellow observers to the asterism in Camelopardalis that now bears his name: Kemble’s Cascade. Kemble had discovered it using his 1970s-vintage 7×35 binoculars, a size that is usually considered to be too small for astronomy. So how would Vixen’s even smaller SG 6.5×32 WP ED Astro-binoculars stand up to scrutiny?

Pros: Lovely image quality, innovative features.

Cons: Insufficient glare protection.

The Vixen 6.5x32s are small, light, roof-prism binoculars, looking for all the world like “birding” binoculars, until you notice the absence of a center-focus wheel. The silky smooth individual eyepiece focusers incorporate a marvelous innovation: variable speed focusing. As  focus approaches infinity, the focus rate decreases and becomes more precise, making perfect focus on a starry sky remarkably easy to attain.

Once you’ve attained focus, you see a beautifully crisp image with exquisite color rendition. The star colors seem vibrant, with easily discernible subtle differences of shade. Critical testing on very bright or high contrast objects like Venus, or the lunar limb, reveals a tiny amount of lateral chromatic aberration at the very edge of the field of view. The ED (extra-low dispersion) glass certainly does its  job!

Our examination of bright objects revealed one flaw: when the was just outside the field of view, we got noticeable glare, but this is eliminated if you hold the binoculars by the objective tubes, effectively extending them by a few centimeters.

So just how sharp are the objects?  We could easily split the double star Delta Cephei (magnitudes +4.1 and +6.1; separation 41 arcseconds) anywhere in the central 85% of the 9° field of view; this is impressive for a magnification of 6.5x.

If you share your views with others, the tripod mounting is invaluable, and the raised sighting line adjacent to the hinge is particularly useful for targeting the mounted binoculars, especially when the target is high.

These won’t be your first choice of binoculars for seeking out faint comets or galaxies. If you train the binoculars on something like the Coma C luster (Melotte 111) or the Beehive Cluster (Messier 44), however, you begin to appreciate the binoculars’ strengths. Kemble’s Cascade appears as a wisp of gray hair, pinned to the sky by its central star. The binoculars’ wide, sharp views make it a sheer delight to examine extensive starfields; they do, quite literally, bring a smile to your face.

Given the advances in optical technology, especially anti-reflective coatings, since the 1970s when Kemble’s little binoculars were made, it should not surprise us that well-designed small binoculars can be this capable.

Summary: Vixen’s 6.5×32 Astro-binoculars raised a few skeptical eyebrows when they were announced early in 2017. We really should have known better!

MSRP: $449

Website: www.vixenoptics.com/

Full Review: BinocularSky.com

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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