Before even taking the Celestron Regal 8x42ED FF binoculars out of the box, you know in advance these are solid and well built. Some may say heavy, I say well built.
No corners cut with accessories, that include a padded neck strap, chest harness and hard case. The wide eyepieces give the impression of a wide FOV, which is confirmed when you look through them. Having the field flattener lenses built in, it is no surprise that clarity is excellent across the field with no pincushion distortion. Although the focus is not the smoothest in class, the image quality with close up views of insects on plants is as good as it gets.
For a more detailed review, take a look at the video below
Released late 2021, the Hilkinson nature-line 8x32ED binoculars offer remarkable performance for a sub £200 solution. Key features are a lightweight and waterproof polycarbonate body, fully multi-coated ED glass with BaK4 dielectric coated prisms.
End results is a delightful wide field of view with pretty much zero pincushion distortion, excellent edge of field clarity and low levels of chromatic aberration. Couple this with excellent handling, they make a great starter set.
For a more detailed look, click on the video below
The Celestron astromaster 90EQ telescope is often overlooked by the more popular astromaster 130 when it comes to starting out. But with regards specs and optical configuration , it is more suited the Lunar, Planetary and double star observations than the similar priced Newtonians from Celestron, due to the long focal length, and the fact it does not need regular collimation checks.
Very easy to set up and use, with no tools required. For a more detailed look , see the video review below . Click on the subscribe button on the image to be alerted about any new video reviews
Designed for the serious beginner, the Viking Kestrel 8×32 ED binoculars offer dielectric coated prisms and ED glass for around or just over £200, making them excellent value. Although not the build quality of the higher priced Merlin 8×32 ED, the optical performance is pretty much the same.
Very user friendly if starting out. A nice wide field of view with crisp contrast and colours with very low levels of chromatic aberration. Good close focus is another benefit if you like looking at bugs and butterfies.
For a more detailed view, check out the video below
The Hilkinson Skyline 20×80 binoculars are aimed at a variety of uses, from astronomy, to ship spotting and long distance terrestrial observations. These are heavy, so a sturdy tripod will be required.
The large 80mm objective and 4mm exit pupil give them excellent low light capability. Compared to the very soft nylon case you get with the Celestron skymasters, the Hilkinson come with a very nice semi soft case for added protection when not in use.
Eye relief is quoted at 18mm, but I prefer to use them with the eye cups down all the time. Simple reason for this is that if using for astronomy, you do not want to be touching them is any way, to help reduce shake.
Yes there is chromatic aberration evident, but remember these are a sub £150 80mm set. So you still get a lot for your money.
For a more detailed review, take a look at the video below
The Celestron astromaster 114 EQ is aimed at the beginner. Complete with a CG-2 German EQ mount and a couple of eyepieces, it has everything you need to get started.
I personally am not a fan of erect image eyepieces on Newtonian telescopes. But you can easily upgrade to a more suitable plossl version. With a range of magnifications 50x – 100x and an aperture of 114mm, you should be able to make out many features on the Moon, see the 2 main cloud belts of Jupiter + its 4 brightest moons. Saturn will show its rings, plus some of the brighter Moons. Mars will be more tricky, but may just make out its red disc shape. Venus and Mercury will show phases.
But do not think this telescope is only for the Moon and Planets. From a dark sky area, a wealth of Nebula, galaxies and star clusters will be within reach, plus countless double stars.
Following the instructions, the mount is very easy to set up with no tools required. Once polar aligned, tracking using the slow motion controls is a breeze. Though there is a motor as an option.
Managed to try out for the first time a Vivitar 75-300mm macro f4.5 – 5.6, and was surprised by the results. But before that, lets take a look at the lens itself. As with many vintage lenses ( I believe this one was from the 80s), it seems very well built, with a solid feel and metallic pull out sun shade. As you can see from the image, this one has been well used. These is some internal debris, but does not affect the image.
This particular one was a PK fit, so needed an EOS adapter to fit it to my EOS DSLR. As it is a crop sensor camera, it is more like a 105 – 420mm zoom. The f stops show as 4.5 – 32, plus an A for auto. There is a small button which you need to press to move the aperture ring to auto. The f-stops move in a loud and clunky fashion in full stops, with a 6 blade aperture ring. Filter size is only 58mm, which is ideal for affordable filters. Weight is around 730g, which feels light on the camera. I found hand holding with minimal shake quite easy. All the images below were hand held. Obviously there is no auto focus or stabilizer, which I found very easy to manage. Only down side, and unsure if it was my model or not, but the zoom does creep down to 300mm if hanging freely, and visa versa. So in effect if you are walking without your hand on the zoom / focus (all in one), it will keep in effect defualting to 300mm.
Images below were taken over the weekend on my first outing with this lens. The ones at f4.5 were in poor lighting conditions. I did detect a slight green hue to unedited images, but you may find different. But overall, I am very pleased with this lens , as a budget option for still wildlife and landscapes. Though fast moving wildlife will require a greater skill level.
The Miranda 35-70mm f3.5-4.5 macro lens was in production in the 1980s (I believe) as an affordable wide angle – low telephoto lens to compliment stock 50mm lenses that often came as standard.
Considering its age, this is a lovely example, with a little internal dust that does not affect image quality. The construction feels very solid and nicely put together. Just a little play on the zoom ring, but hey, its a few decades old.
Focus is very smooth, as is the zoom. By pressing down the button, it becomes a macro lens, with close focus of around 6-7 inches. See the example of the coin among the sample images below. At f8 through all focal lengths, you get nice contrast with very good edge of field sharpness. Possibly a slight blue cast ? . See final image
35mm may not suit architecture photographers with limited space, but nether the less is a great all rounder for landscapes and general use. See images below for some examples of what you should achieve.
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Model number 64026 digi-scoping adapter to fit the following Hawke spotting scopes Endurance ED 50mm , ED 68mm and 85mm 2020 onwards models Nature Trek 65mm and 80mm models 2017 onwards (will not fit nature trek compact 56mm) . See our video below to see how to connect your camera.
The Hawke Frontier APO 8×42 binoculars were introduced, not to replace the EDx, but as an addition to the Frontier family. The key word that gets the attention of discerning users is Apo or Apochromatic . This triplet lens configuration with regards the objective lens is in many cases the design that many top premium brands use as standard. Though they also may use fluorite glass, which takes things to another level.
When you first take them out the box, you get same the case as the EDx and HDx, other than a slight variation on finish. Strap is a very good padded version, with drop down objective lens covers. The finish looks and feels quite different to the EDx 8×42. So it was not simply a case of changing the optics and leaving everything else as it was. Gone is the almost tacky feeling of the EDx, and in comes a much smoother body. But due to well positioned textured grip, they remain well supported in the hands, balance nicely and stay in place. I found the design of the strap connectors on the body do not protrude as much as the EDx, making them dig less into your hands, which is a good thing.
Field of view and eye relief remain the same as the EDx at 142m @ 1000m and 18mm. Though I personally found focus to be less than the quoted 2m at around 1.6m. This is great news if you like to look at miniature nature up close.
So what about the view through the eyepiece. At first glance you may not notice a difference, depending on how trained your eyes are and experience of many binoculars over the years. Brightness is very similar (in my opinion) to the EDx . But one of our customers who visited our optics weekend said straight away that the APOs were brighter than his own EDx 8×42. Which goes to prove that regards all binoculars, what one person sees the next will not, and visa versa.
The Frontier EDx 8×42 were renowned for their lack of chromatic aberration. Though those with experienced eyes will see some levels of this in challenging high contrast subjects. But any traces of CA seen with the EDx is completely vanished with the APOs. This will make a difference when identifying heavily back lit birds in trees as one example. Also the lack of CA definitely gives you sharper edges to whatever you are looking at.
Other advantages of the APOs is that any pincushion distortion seen with the other models has gone, with nice straight lines throughout the field. Also edge of field quality has improved to enhance the whole image. I personally found that after a good few minutes looking through them, there was no eye strain / correction when you take them away from your eyes.
So am I impressed with the Hawke Frontier APOs. That`s an easy yes. Compared to the price of the £1000+ top brands, you really are getting a good deal, and backed up with a life time warranty.
Any issues ?. Not really, as I will need to do some serious scrapping of the barrel to find anything. Maybe the twist eye cups (for me) come out a couple of mm to far. But maybe that`s just me. try them for yourselves.
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