Best Stargazing Binoculars: 6 Pairs for Boaters

Looking to do a little skywatching at sea or on shore? The best stargazing binoculars will take you higher than standard marine binoculars.

While just about any pair of binoculars will offer an enhanced view of the heavens, when it comes to astronomy binoculars that also perform well in a marine context, the field narrows considerably, so how do you pick the best stargazing binoculars?

The good news is that you don’t need a pair of tripod-mounted optical canons to reveal stunning features of the night sky.

Even a pair of budget 8x42s will enable you to study craters on the moon, observe star clusters or prominent nebulae, and even locate the nearby Andromeda galaxy.

But sailors with a passion for the night sky will still want the best stargazing binoculars they can afford to bring out more deep-sky objects. The key thing to remember is that like boat design itself, everything in binocular design is a trade-off.

For instance, higher magnification produces larger images, but that enhanced picture is less stable and may not be as bright. Also, high-power binoculars are heavier, which makes hand-held viewing cumbersome.

Any binocular purchase should also be based on individual traits, from face shape to age. Unfortunately, age-related vision impairment can make the most expensive binoculars a waste of money. Your vision becomes the limiting factor.

Bearing in mind a few basic features such as magnification, image stability, and waterproofness, we’ve scoured the market to find some of the hottest deals on the best binoculars for sky-watching boaters.

The binoculars highlighted here offer more stargazing potential than those models meant specifically for boating, which often have features unnecessary for astronomy, such as a built-in compass or reticle scales. Save the bells and whistles for your 7x marine binoculars.

These are genuine light buckets that can reach for the stars right from your boat, the beach, or simply your backyard.

6 Best Stargazing Binoculars for Boaters

Best Stargazing Binoculars_Canon 10X42

Canon 10x42L IS WP

Best Premium Binoculars for Boaters

Reasons to Buy:

•Sophisticated image stabilization.
•Waterproof and rubberized.
•Integrated tripod mount.
•Premium lens quality.

Reasons to Avoid:

•They are expensive.
•Compact—but heavy.
•Objective lens caps tend to be loose.
•The IS technology requires batteries.

Aside from magnification, image stability and waterproofness are the most important factors in choosing the best stargazing binoculars for boaters. Canon’s 10 x 42 IS WP checks all the right boxes.

The internal image stabilizer is a sophisticated gyroscopic mechanism activated with the push of a button. The downside is that it requires multiple batteries, and of course, all that tech adds weight.

But in addition to the IS technology, this binocular’s lens quality guarantees a sharp image of the night sky. It is the same L (“Luxury”) glass used in Canon’s top camera lenses. The lenses are ultra-low dispersion (UD) glass, which reproduces an exceptionally bright, true-color image.

The 10×42 IS WP is rubberized, rugged, and waterproof. They are marketed toward the marine market, but many astronomy binocular reviews (including Yachting World’s sister publication Space.com) rate them very highly for celestial observation. They are truly the best of both worlds.

Buy from B&H Photo
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Best Stargazing Binoculars_Celestron Skymaster 25 X 70

Celestron Skymaster 25 X 70 Binocular

Best Budget Binoculars

Reasons to Buy:

•Very affordable.
•High power for viewing deep sky objects.
•Integrated tripod adapter.
•Large objective lens.

Reasons to Avoid:

•Hard to hand-hold for long periods.
•Not waterproof or fog-proof.
•The tripod adapter is plastic.
•Objective lens caps are not tethered.

Celestron is a well-known brand in astronomical observation. While its binoculars don’t have the caché of high-end optics such as Swarovski or Zeiss, it would be hard to go wrong with the Skymaster 25 x 70 as an inexpensive pair of binoculars to carry ashore around the campfire.

This is a dedicated astronomy binocular that will have a limited number of other uses at sea. But at only about $130, they are economical enough to keep on board specifically for those moments when stargazing is the order of the evening.

The multi-coated lenses and BaK-4 prisms guarantee a sharp image, which is enhanced by the large objective lens typical of binoculars designed specifically for astronomical observation.

The Skymaster has a long eye relief to reduce vignetting, which means it is ideal for glasses wearers. The model’s main drawback is that it is only water-resistant and not waterproof. And the barrels are not filled with dry gas, such as nitrogen or argon, to prevent internal fogging. The best binoculars are gas-filled.

Buy from B&H Photo
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Best Stargazing Binoculars_Vortex 10x50 Crossfiire HD

Vortex Crossfire HD 10×50

Most Durable Binoculars for Skywatching

Reasons to Buy:

•Great value for the money.
•Sleek roof-prism design.
•Wide field of view
•Comes with a chest harness and integrated case.

Reasons to Avoid:

•The attached objective-lens caps are fussy.
•Chest harness is more appropriate for sportsmen than skywatchers.

Vortex is the brand of choice among budget-minded U.S. hunters seeking the perfect blend of performance and price point. They are neither the most expensive nor the cheapest binoculars on the market but an excellent middle ground.

In 10×50, the Crossfire is just as comfortable glassing the Orion nebula as it is spotting game in the Rocky Mountains. The medium-power (10X) magnification makes deep sky objects accessible without the loss of sharpness found at higher magnification. And it has a 50mm objective lens, which is sort of the breakpoint between regular field glasses and true astronomy binoculars.

The Crossfire boasts excellent built quality with a lifetime warranty. The nitrogen-filled barrels are rubberized for grip and shock absorption, with a large, knurled center-focus wheel. The roof-prism design packs a lot of power in a compact, waterproof, and anti-fogging package.

The Crossfire is available in four specifications, from 8×42 to 12×50. While they are not endemic to either the astronomy or marine markets, they make an excellent multi-purpose glass for any boat owner seeking a little more star power.

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Buy from Dick’s Sporting Goods

 

Best Stargazing Binoculars_Celestron Skymaster Pro 15x70

Celestron Skymaster Pro 15×70

Best High-Powered Light Buckets

Reasons to Buy:

•15-power magnification.
•Moderate price point.
•Waterproof and fog-proof.
•Accepts a “red dot” aiming accessory.

Reasons to Avoid:

•Lacking edge-to-edge sharpness
•Difficult to hand-hold for extended periods.

Serious deep sky viewing demands high magnification. The Celestron Skywatcher Pro in 15 x 70 is an excellent choice in entry-level astronomy binoculars that won’t break the bank.

With the Skywatcher Pro version, you get waterproof, nitrogen-filled barrels and better shock absorption than the lower-cost Skywatcher models. And at 15 power you’ll have all the magnification you need to bring deep sky objects into vivid focus without having to cart around a telescope.

The downside is bulk. You’ll need a tripod to enjoy these binoculars at their finest.

The best binoculars for astronomy can exceed 25x power, but at some point, for a boater, higher magnification just gets ridiculous. Beyond a certain size of binocular, you are not a boater who likes to stargaze; you are a stargazer who owns a boat.

Buy from Amazon
Buy from B&H Photo

Opticron Adventurer

Opticron Adventurer T 10×50

Best Binoculars for a Second Pair

Reasons to Buy:

•Economical auxiliary pair.
•Waterproof.
•Long eye relief for glasses wearers.
•BAK-4 glass with fully multi-coated lenses and prisms.

Reasons to Avoid:

•No rubberized grip.
•Porro prism design is bulky.
•Not nitrogen-filled.

The Opticron Adventurer T 10×50 gives you all the features you’d expect in astronomy glass without the astronomical price.

This is a Porro prism binocular. That means the internal prisms are offset to create the extended light path required to make high magnification possible over such a short distance.

Porro prism binoculars tend to be bulkier because the ocular lens and objective lens are not in a straight line. Porros are also usually of lesser build quality than comparable roof prism binoculars. But what you get in return is a brighter, more 3D-looking image, and best of all, reduced cost due to simplicity of design.

Although the Adventurer T is not nitrogen-filled, it is waterproof, which makes it an excellent choice as an auxiliary pair on any vessel.

Buy from Amazon
Buy from Optics Planet

Pentax 20X60

Pentax SP WP 20X60

Best Binoculars for a Narrow Face

Reasons to Buy:

•Good for a narrow face.
•Very high-power magnification.
•Large objective lens for brighter viewing
•Waterproof and anti-fogging.

Reasons to Avoid:

•Difficult to hand hold.
•Narrow field of view (2.2°).

If you have ever looked through a pair of binoculars and wondered why you are getting overlapping circles, it’s because the eyepieces (or ocular lenses) are not in line with your pupils. For users with narrow faces or close-set eyes, this can be a persistent problem.

In binocular parlance, the interpupillary distance (IPD) is the measurement between eyepieces. The average IPD on adult humans is about 65mm, thus the average industry-wide range of adjustability on binoculars is from about 55mm to 75mm wide.

The Pentax SP WP has an IPD of 52mm, which allows those with a narrower face to bring the image into perfect focus. At 20X60 power, they are designed for astronomical observation, with the added benefit of being waterproof. They are even submersible up to 1 meter.

The Porro prism design and huge objective lenses offer excellent low-light observation in a powerful if somewhat unwieldy package. At more than three pounds, you’ll want the optional tripod adapter.

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How to choose the Best Stargazing Binoculars

Binocular specifications are generally expressed in two numbers (for example, 8×42 or 10×50). The first number is the magnification, and the second number is the diameter of the objective lens.

Higher magnification means larger images. A wider objective lens offers greater light gathering, but that often comes with added weight and bulk.

Astronomy binoculars fall in the range of about 10x to 15x magnification and 40mm to 70mm objective lenses. Marine binoculars, by contrast, are usually around 7x magnification.

The two main categories of binocular construction are Porro prism and roof prism. Porro binoculars have the characteristic offset eyepieces, while roof prism binoculars have straight barrels.

Roof prism binoculars are more compact, better constructed, and higher end. But many astronomy binoculars utilize Porro design for its superior light gathering ability and image depth. Porros are also less expensive because the prism design is simpler.

No matter the style, just remember that the larger the binoculars, the more likely you will need a tripod for astronomical observation.

Other features to look for are waterproofness and anti-fog technology, which means the binocular is filled with either nitrogen or argon. Both are a “dry gas,” which prevents moisture build-up inside the barrel.

Finally, the best binoculars for stargazing are fully multi-coated. That means there are multiple anti-reflective layers on all air-to-glass surfaces, including lenses and prisms.

As for the glass itself, there is a lot of debate about whether BAK-4 glass is superior to BK7. Both are widely used, but the bottom line is that you must hold several different pairs of binoculars to your eyes to know which is best for you. So, be sure to check the return policy before making an online purchase!

Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated sailing page for more marine products.

The post Best Stargazing Binoculars: 6 Pairs for Boaters appeared first on Yachting World.

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