Celestron Astromaster 114EQ telescope review

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.

See more of my views in the video below

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Vivitar 75-300mm f4.5 – 5.6 macro with samples

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.

Vivitar 75-300mm f4.5 – 5.6 macro

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.

60th sec, ISO 320, f8, 75mm
60th sec, ISO 6400, 75mm, f4.5
80th sec, ISO 1000, 300mm, f4.5
60th sec, ISO 1250, 150mm, f4.5
400th sec, f8, ISO 100, 300mm
640th sec, f8, ISO 100 , 300mm
250th sec, f8, ISO 100, 75mm
160th sec, f8, ISO 100, 180mm
80th sec, f8 , ISO 100, 180mm
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Miranda 35-70mm f3.5-4.5 vintage camera lens review. With samples

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.

35mm f8
50mm f8
70mm f8
1:2 macro setting. f11
70mm f8
35mm f8
35mm f8
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Hawke digi-scoping adapter for Endurance ED and Nature Trek spotting scopes

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.

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Hawke Frontier APO 8×42 review

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.

Frontier APO 8x42 Binocular - Green
Hawke Frontier APO 8×42 binoculars

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.

Hope you like my little review. If so you can support us by purchasing HERE

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Visionary Wetland 12×32 monocular review

Compact monocular ideal for looking at ships at sea or long distance terrestrial use. Very easy to use and hand hold with a contoured rubber armoured body. Multi-coated optics and waterproof Close focus around 3m . Field of view 4.5 degrees. Eye relief 13mm (our estimate) . 13cm long with eye cup twisted out. Weight 220g Complete with soft Nylon case, lens covers and wrist strap. Comes boxed . See the video for an in depth look.

To purchase , visit Northern Optics

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Viking Ventura 8×25 vs Hawke Endurance ED 8×25 binoculars

Today we are looking at two very capable compact binoculars in the mid price range. Both have their own attributes, but with very little between them. The Ventura has a closer focus and slightly brighter image. The Endurance ED have a wider FOV and less chromatic aberration. Watch the video to see more details. Or better still come along to our optics weekends and try for yourself. See you there.

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Hawke Frontier APO 8×42 review. A customers thoughts

A customer visited our optics weekends with one thing in mind. The Hawke Frontier APO binoculars in 8×42 and 10×42. After travelling some miles, they were happy to see we had one of each model. They commented on the fact there are no reviews out there on the internet, so figured it best to try for themselves.

The customer already owned the Frontier EDx 42mm binoculars. So was hoping to see an improvement. Going by the satisfied look on his face, he was more than happy with one or the 2. So which was his preferred version ?. The APO 8×42 ticked all the boxes. He noticed a brighter and sharper image compared to the EDx, and also found they were much more comfortable and set up for his eyes. The only minus point he found was a very slight slack point in the focus movement. But compared to all the plus point, he found this a very minor gripe and bought them.

So what about my point of view. In my opinion the things that put them ahead of the EDx 8×42 are even less chromatic aberration (if that was possible) in challenging high contrast subjects, better edge of field sharpness and vastly reduced pincushion distortion.

Overall for a brand name APO binocular in the sub £600 (just) range and a lifetime warranty, they represent amazing value for money.

To see more info and full spec , see HERE

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Levenhuk wise 8×32 monocular review

The Levenhuk wise 8×32 monocular is an entry level monocular with a better than expected view through the eyepiece. A lightweight plastic body helps keep the cost down. But do not let this put you off, as it feels very solid and well put together. On the subject of the body, the positioning of the underside ribbed body and positioning of the focus wheel, makes it the easiest monocular to use I have ever tested.

The model comes with a soft nylon case. But depending on which batch you get, it may come in a soft cloth pouch, which I prefer. You also get a wrist strap and lens covers. Comes packaged in a colourful presentation box, showing the product and some specs.

For such a low priced monocular, the view through the eyepiece is crisp sharp. OK not as bright as slightly higher priced, 42mm models. But at well under £50 it does better than expected in this price range. Image quality falls off in the outer 15%, and is some pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration on high contrast subjects. The eye cup is twist type and has 13.5mm eye relief, which is almost but not quite enough to get a full FOV with spectacles on. I measured close focus at around 1.7m, which is less than the quoted figure. This makes them ideal for looking at bugs and butterflies when out on a walk.

Strong points – The price and good image for a starter monocular Excellent handing

Weak points – Not long eye relief.

To purchase click HERE

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Viking Ventura 8×25 binoculars review

The Viking Ventura 8×25 are a great example of a binocular where a clear and crisp view can yield better results than many similar priced options in a similar price range with a wider FOV and AFOV.

The batch that we tested came in a plain outer box. Though I believe some also come in the blue and white Viking boxes. The case was a soft pouch, which I really liked, as it offered good padding, and could be folded up to neatly fit in a pocket when not needed. The binoculars come with individual lens caps that are universal on both objective lenses and eyepieces. The strap included is padded and quick release.

Straight out the box, the Ventura look very neat, and despite weighing just over 300g they feel very solid. The twist eye cups feel very good quality with a smooth twist action. They stay nicely in place once set. The focus wheel is not the smoothest I have tested, but was still very easy to operate with one finder.

I found eye relief just long enough to use with spectacles on. As mentioned earlier, these are not the widest field of view in this category at 6.3 degrees, plus the AFOV is not the widest. But as customers at our optics weekends have mentioned when purchasing from us, this is quickly forgotten when you look through them. The image is crisp and bright with very little chromatic aberration considering they are not ED glass. Proving that sometimes you have to forget what it says on the tin and try them out. You get a lovely flat field with virtually no pincushion distortion. Image is sharp to the outer 20% where you will find a little fall off in focus, but well within tolerances and better than the 10×25 I tested.

Close focus is quoted at 4m, but I found this to be around 2.5m. Overall the Viking Ventura offer a quality image, that is related in the price, with exceptional brightness for such a compact set, with very small amounts of false colour. Some may prefer a standard neck strap to quick release. But that is easily remedied. Definitely worth a look if you get a chance.

To purchase, click HERE

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