View Full Version here: : Cheap binoculars vs expensive

17-11-2017, 10:13 AM
Hi folks - was thinking i might treat myself to a pair of astro binoculars for taking on camps or casual viewing when i cant be bothered setting up the scope.

I notice that something like a celestron skymaster is in the sub $150 range
and the echelons top a Gorilla in price.

I've looked around the internets to see what justifies the nearly 8x price difference, and found the expected stuff around country of build, quality of build, materials used etc,

However not a lot has been written about what all this means when one looks through them....

Does anyone have experience with cheap vs expensive Binocs,
and what it means to the viewing experience?

What does the extra $800 odd clobber buy in what you see through a scope of the same magnification and aperture?

Any and all thoughts welcome!

17-11-2017, 10:30 AM
most of the celestron binoculars are over-priced [esp. in Australia]
do you know what size you are looking at, ie handheld? i really like the 15x70 size for astro, 20x80 & 25x100 need expensive tripods & heads to keep them steady. post the size & ill recommend some models

expesnive models have sharper eyepieces at the edge, have better illumination, have larger or better prisms, better coatings, are more reisstant to mis-collimation,cheap binos often clip the fll aperute, eg 100mm binos only equate to 92mm due to some light clipping

Sometimes a cheap bino can give great images, & perform at 95% for 25% the cost

17-11-2017, 11:34 AM

I bought a pair of Vangard Spirit binoculars a few years ago.

While trying to choose what to buy, I had a look through a pair of Swarovskis, during the day, I don't know what they are like at night.
Both pairs similar size.

I was surprised, the Swarovski's where remarkably better in clarity and seemed much brighter.
If I could justify the money I would have bought them.

Having said, I am very happy with Vanguards, day or night.


17-11-2017, 11:54 AM
Food for thought while you wade through the responses. I have a pair of the
MB Ultra 70 X 15's and find them quite good.

17-11-2017, 01:37 PM
i must admit to not knowing much about binoculars, except that an expensive pair SHOULD yield sharper and brighter images
i got myself a pair of the top eschenbach 7.5 by 42 straight thru through my optical work and when i first pointed them at the night sky i did have a wow moment

17-11-2017, 03:52 PM
I mostly use cheap Bushnell 8 x 42mm binos and they do quite well though the eye lens coatings weren't very durable so I cleaned them off.

I do have a slightly 'less-cheap' pair in the pipeline and hope they work out ok.

17-11-2017, 04:02 PM
I've got a relatively cheap pair of Teleskop Service versions of Pentax 10x50 WP. I assume they come off the same production line, look almost identical and very close in price. Bintel just struggled getting the Pentax ones in and I was making an order from TS at the time so one thing lead to another.

I have no complains about them, best binos I've also ever used but I've also never used expensive ones so I don't know what I'm missing out on :P

17-11-2017, 04:43 PM
I had a cheap pair that I was happy with and recommended buying them to anybody who listened. Poor buggers, their binos all quickly went out of alignment expect mine!

I eventually went for some better quality Pentax binos (8x40 & 10x50s). I like the 8x40s better, but the larger pair is well worth having for when I want a better look (or to find a faint comet etc).

18-11-2017, 07:56 AM
I have had the Celestron Skymaster 15x70 but these were really jerk. Actual aperture 65mm, "square" exit pupils due to too small prisms, and mechanically poor quality. And I had to readjust focus on both sides after every use.
So I now got the Nikon Monarch 16x56 (I measured really 56mm ) which are not cheap (A$900) but are excellent. Not a Swarovski (which costs three times as much) , but sharp and crisp to the edges.

18-11-2017, 10:22 AM
I use a pair of Canon image stabilised binoculars and there’s no going back! Single biggest advancement IMO but they come at a price. Not a brand thing where you’re just paying for the fancy sticker on it, they really make a huge difference :D

19-11-2017, 08:42 PM
There is a trick to testing binoculars that most people dont know about,
Instead of taking them out of the shop and looking down the street and say "Wow are these sharp"!!!
What you should do is find a straight line ie a shop awning or the edge of a large display window.... then REVERSE the binoculars and look though one side at a time at the straight edge and rotate the edge through the 360 degrees of the lens.
If the straight line "KINKS" near the outer edge then the lens/s/prism are not true. do this to both sides of the binoculars.
Also you can also see any mildue/bits of plastic etc inside the binoculars.
you would be surprised at the amount of rubbish is inside of some of even brand binoculars.

20-11-2017, 03:24 AM
Spend more than the bottom third of the price range. I've had cheaper no-names. My favourites were 12x60 I bought in 2007 when I started in the game. Were my favourites for years but slowly problems appeared. The rubber coating deteriorated becoming sticky in recent years. Then this year I noticed what looked like mould starting grow on the prism. But I warmed them up and it turned into clearer droplets - grease? It might have been there all along - but had started to flow along the prism surface). In pulling them apart I found that the construction was so poor that I could see I wouldn't be likely to restore them. So they are gone. Now I use a pair of Pentax waterproof binoculars that I picked up in IceTrade several years ago as a backup. I still prefer the 12x60s over these (for feel, handling, ease of use and magnification), but at least these should last much longer.

I still have a cheap pair of 20x80s that aren't showing any problems.

20-11-2017, 08:07 AM
Hi SB,

Iíve used the bushnell 10x50s, and their zoom bins. Both were fine and in the relatively inexpensive category. Much better in the day than at night though IMO.

I bought the canon IS 15x50ís about 2 years ago, and really love them. I also wouldnít want to go back to a non image stabilized pair of bins for anything 10x and over. When you click the IS button, it is a wow moment. I can find objects much better, and am able to make out finer detail. Most people can tell the difference with a stabilized camera lens when taking photos, it really does help.

I easily use the canons more than any other Astro gear I own.
I wouldnt want my 7 year old to drop them though so a cheap 10x50 will also not go unused.



20-11-2017, 08:11 AM
Thanks All....looks like the cheapies might not necessarily be the bargain they appear to be.

This, and a few PM's i got lead me to the conclusion that the cheapies might be ok but it is the luck of the draw.

thanks again,

22-11-2017, 11:36 AM
You get what you pay for is still applicable sometimes.i started with cheap Chinese binoculars,but after buying my first Jap made Bushnell elites,I realised I had been missing out.german or Jap made binos are usually the best.but if you want to stay within budget the Pentax sp models come close.their coatings are nearly as good as fujinon.

22-11-2017, 12:59 PM
I have a pair like these...

And very happy.


22-11-2017, 02:43 PM
Some people cannot use binoculars at all, for a variety of reasons. Make sure you can before you buy a pair. Your likely to have differences in performance of your eyes, so try to get binos with independent ocular adjustment. As always with binos, close your weaker eye and adjust focus to suit your dominant eye, then close your good eye and adjust the weaker eye ocular adjustment to sharpen the view. With both eyes now open you should have the best possible setup, unless you have astigmatism, macular degeneration, or other visual issues that affect your binocular vision.

22-11-2017, 04:01 PM
I have used and owned Kahles,Minox HD,Swarovski ,Vanguard HD,Fuginon and Meopta but when i got my hands on a pair of Cannon 10x30 is (image stabilized) binoculars it was a heart breaker for astronomy and daytime viewing they are brilliant you just freeze frame what you are looking at none of those annoying micro movements that you get handheld that make you loose the fine detail,awesome views and fantastic contrast ,try them before you go and spend big dollars you will be shocked at how good they are,got mine for $300 used

22-11-2017, 04:18 PM
This all has me wanting to get a pair of IS! My 10x50 are quite reasonable at $140 new but I’ve never compare them with a really good pair so I’m still happy with them. 10x50 does suffer from micro movements so IS would be nice me thinks.

22-11-2017, 04:36 PM
I have used a heap of different binos, including my 22x60 Takahashi's (not being made anymore).
The MB Ultras that were mentioned earlier are very good: and many people compare them very favourably with the Fujinon's (which are basically the reference standard). These are also sold as Orion "Ultra", Astro-Physics, Williams etc; simply re-branded. Another Chinese-made series that are surprisingly good for the price are the "HG" series; also available through Andrews. You can't really go wrong with the Pentax SP series, or the Olympus DPS1 or Nikon Action or Aculon series, to mention a few porro-prism types. Generally porros are better than roof prism binos at the same price point, because they are easier and cheaper to manufacture to a given quality.
If you look at the roof types, the Nikon Monarchs are very nice, but more expensive than the Aculon or Action series.
Vanguard Endeavour series are excellent (they are their top-of-the line, better than the "Spirit" series mentioned earlier), and compare well with the really high-end stuff, such as Swarovski, Zeiss or Leica, especially given that they are only 1/4 to 1/3 of the price, and especially in their latest version IV. Shop around if you want these: prices vary a lot!

(and the Canon IS and Fujinon IS are amazing, although the Canon vary a fair bit acc. to their aperture etc.)

Happy to talk via PM if you want any more info.

All the best,


22-11-2017, 05:21 PM
Anyone remember the Chinese or Korean military guy looking thru a pair with the lens caps still on and not letting on he was seeing nothing?