Binoculars are often the best piece of equipment for astronomy beginners, offering great views of the Moon and stars among other celestial objects. All you have to do is step out into your garden on a clear night, grab a pair of good quality binos and enjoy the view.
But binoculars are by no means just a gateway instrument into astronomy before you buy your first telescope. Many amateur astronomers prefer binocular observing over any other form of exploring the night sky, and a good, powerful model will enable you to examine the Moon, planets, stars and deep-sky objects for decades to come.
If you’re getting started in binocular astronomy, read our beginner’s guide to binocular astronomy, or browse our binocular reviews. If easy transportation is what you’re after, there are also many telescopes that might fit the bill. Read our guide to the best travel telescopes.
Here, in no particular order, is our pick of the best binoculars for astronomy, including budget models for beginners and more pricey models for those who are looking to upgrade their current pair.
15 of the best binoculars for astronomy
Helios Stellar II 10×50 binoculars
The Helios Stellar II binoculars have individual eyepiece focusing. This is the preferred option for astronomy, meaning you can set the focus and then leave it alone. They are also quite heavy, which means that they are likely to tire your arms, although we did find that their mass also helps to reduce shake.
We were impressed with the brightness and excellent colour rendition of the image, which is sharp over the central 80 per cent of the 6.5° field of view. This makes them ideal for scanning the sky.
They have several useful features, including tethered lens caps for the objective lenses and the eyepieces. By having these caps attached to the binoculars, they won’t get lost and you’re probably more likely to use them, too. They are covered in a substantial, ribbed rubber armour that offers protection against everyday knocks, and gives a secure grip even when the binoculars are damp from dew
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Opticron Imagic TGA WP
The Opticron TGA binoculars are more than 100g lighter than any of the other Porro prism binoculars in this test group, but this doesn’t come at the expense of ruggedness. Not only are they covered in a substantial rubber armour, but they come with a semi-rigid case that offers excellent protection against the rigours of regular, varied use.
Their field of view is on the narrow side at 5.3°, but this is compensated for by extremely good colour correction and colour rendition. Star colours were vibrant in the eyepieces. Images were bright and stars were tack-sharp across the middle 75 per cent of the field of view.
We thoroughly enjoyed scanning colourful star-fields with these. They are very well-balanced, which makes them feel even lighter than they actually are. This means you can use them for long periods before aches and strains set in. The ribbing on the prism housing gives a very secure grip, even if they are damp with dew.
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Nikon Action EX
From the moment you take these binoculars out of their lightly padded case, they ooze quality. They have a robust feel in the hand and everything – hinge, focusing, twist-up eye-cups – works smoothly with just the right amount of stiffness to prevent accidental readjustment.
The eyepiece rain-guard is tethered, and the objective caps can be secured to the binoculars’ strap to prevent you mislaying them. They are just as impressive under the stars, which snap to focus anywhere in the central 85 per cent of its 6.5° field of view, giving a bright, crisp, high-contrast image.
Colour rendition and control of false colour are both very good. There is just enough eye relief for spectacle-wearers to be able to see the entire field of view.
They are well-balanced and hence relatively easy to hold steady, and the chunky lugs on the right eyepiece dioptre make adjustments easy, even when you’re wearing thick gloves. The rubber armour stops them from becoming slippery when wet with dew.
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The Vortex Crossfire is a good example of how modern manufacturing processes have narrowed the gap in optical quality between Porro and roof prism binoculars of similar prices. The 6.1° field of view is on a par with the Porros and flat enough that we could keep Albireo split into two components over the central 90 per cent.
Colour rendition was excellent; not only do the deeply coloured stars seem vibrant, but the subtle differences between similarly coloured ones are easily visible as well. The focus is smooth and precise and the short-hinge design leaves more room for your fingers, making these binoculars very comfortable to hold.
There is enough eye-relief to allow you to observe while wearing spectacles. The objective lens caps are tethered to the screw in the adaptor bush in the hinge, so they become untethered if you mount the binoculars.
Apart from that, the only other niggle is the high minimum interpupillary distance (IPD: 60.5mm), which is an inevitable feature of the roof prism design used for 50mm aperture.
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Celestron Outland X
Weighing just shy of 800g, we found these binos to be very comfortable to handle and enjoyed the sharp on-axis views they gave. Colour correction was quite good, as was the colour rendition – it was easy to distinguish the orange of Herschel’s Garnet Star (Mu (μ) Cephei) from the brilliant white of Alderamin (Alpha (α) Cephei) and the yellow of Zeta (ζ) Cephei.
The eye relief is a very short 10mm, and some of this is taken up by the recess of the eye lens. Consequently, we were unable to see the entire field of view when we tried observing while wearing spectacles.
They are specified as being ‘multi-coated’ and, although the anti-reflective coatings on the lenses were effective, the image was noticeably dimmer than with the other binoculars in this test, all of which were specified as ‘fully multi-coated’.
In common with most 50mm roof prism binoculars, the minimum interpupillary distance is limited by the design and is relatively large at 61mm.
Pentax SP WP
The Pentax SP series of Porro prism binoculars is characterised by an unusual focusing mechanism. Gone is the familiar eyepiece bridge, because all the workings are internal, aiding with waterproofing. It also allows them to incorporate an enormously useful feature: focus locking. This is achieved by sliding the centre-focus band along its spindle.
Another helpful design feature is the inclusion of large lugs on the right eyepiece dioptre, which make it easy to adjust even with thick gloves.
The first thing you notice about the image these binoculars produce is how much of it is very sharp: the two components of Albireo only merged in the outside 10 per cent of the field of view. However, this field of view is only 5°, the narrowest of all the binoculars we tested.
Colour rendition is faithful, and on-axis chromatic aberration is very well controlled; false colour only appeared on the lunar limb towards the edge of the field. The minimum interpupillary distance of 52mm makes these binoculars suitable for people with small faces or close-set eyes.
Opticron Adventurer 10×50 Binoculars (£79)
Binoculars that are light, compact and waterproof are ideal for the outdoor pursuit that is astronomy. These provide bright crisps of the Moon and stars, and have better light-gathering ability than other 10×50 models. They come in a soft padded case with belt loop, detachable shoulder strap and a microfibre cleaning cloth. They feel light, robust and are also waterproofed with a dry nitrogen filling to help them last for many years to come.
Celestron Upclose G2 10×50 binoculars
An inexpensive pair of 10×50 binoculars can serve as an ideal entry-level instrument, being the maximum aperture and magnification that you can easily hold by hand. Celestron’s UpClose G2 is a lightweight candidate for this position. The binoculars are supplied with a soft, lightly padded case, caps for all lenses, a neck-strap and a microfibre cleaning cloth.
Read our full Celestron Upclose 10×50 binoculars review here.
Opticron Oregon Observation 20×80 binoculars
If you fancy trying a larger-than-standard pair of binoculars without breaking the bank, the Opticron Oregon Observation 20x80s should certainly be on your shortlist, particularly if you’re new to binocular astronomy. These binoculars are pleasant to use, have no glaring faults and also come with a five-year UK guarantee to provide significant peace of mind.
Read our full Opticron Oregon Observation 20×80 review here.
Visionary HD 7×50 binoculars
The Visionary HD 7×50 comes in a soft carry case emblazoned with the brand name. They’re well presented in a two-tone rubberised covering, which is ergonomically shaped for the thumb to give a firm and reassuring grip. We got some great views of Orion’s Belt and Sword together, plus sharp panoramas of larger open clusters like the Beehive and Melotte 111.
Read our full Visionary HD 7×50 binoculars review here.
Bresser Spezial Astro SF 15×70 binoculars
The Spezial Astro SF 15x70s are a good option for observers who’ve been using budget binos for a while now and who’d like to take the next step. The prisms are secured in cages and the insides of the objective tubes are ribbed to reduce stray light and combat spurious reflections. Optical aberrations are well controlled, and this pair display with sharply-focused stars and very little false colour. Shining a torch into the lenses, we found evidence that the glass-air surfaces all meet the “fully multi-coated” specification. This is a reassuringly bright pair of binoculars.
Read our full Bresser Spezial Astro SF 15×70 review
Orion Monster Parallelogram mount, GiantView 25×100 binoculars
With a price tag that’s certainly not to be sniffed at, the Orion Monster Parallelogram mount, GiantView 25×100 binoculars are for those observers who are serious about cranking their bino viewing up to 11. They come in an aluminium case and boast a Porro-prism individual-eyepiece focusing design covered with a thin rubber armour. You can instantly adjust your mount for people of different heights, and can work your way around the tripod, moving between different celestial targets to make the most of these big objective lenses.
Opticron Marine-3 7×50 binoculars
The Marine-3 7x50s are rubber-armoured, waterproof and come in a soft case with a strap included. These binos feel nice and rugged and weigh 1.1kg, which most people will find just right for prolonged use. What’s more, the Marine-3s can be attached to a tripod for extra stability, which we found particularly useful when trying to split double star Albireo (we could just about manage it, but only with a tripod). Colour contrast is good too: the orange and red Garnet star was gorgeous under a moderately good but light summer night.
Read our full Opticron Marine-3 7×50 review
Canon 14×32 IS binoculars review
Canon’s range of image-stabiliser (IS) binoculars incorporates the lens-shift system that the company uses in its EF camera lenses. These binos come in a Cordura case and a 30mm-wide neck strap. It has two stabilisation modes: ‘Stabiliser’ and ‘Powered IS’. If panning, use the Stabiliser mode, which eliminates shake. Once you’ve located your target, switch to Powered IS mode, which compensates for both kinds of motion. A combination of an internal field-flattener lens group and the company’s ‘Super-Spectra coatings’ mean sharp images across the field of view.
Read our full Canon 14×32 IS review
Celestron SkyMaster Pro 20×80 binoculars and 10Micron BM100 Leonardo mount
This is a serious pair of binoculars with a serious price tag, but offering good optics held rock steady by a sturdy tripod. Contrast between the background sky and light from stars, planets and deep-sky objects is apparent across the field of view. Anti-reflective coatings and well-designed light baffles combine with an exceptionally rigid tripod that leaves your observing free of wobbles. A relatively short counterweight bar all but eliminates the longitudinal oscillation that can sometimes plague long-arm parallelograms.
Vixen Atera H12x30 stabilised binoculars
The Vixen Atera H12x30 comes with a hard-shell case, a 25mm-wide neoprene neck strap and individual eyepiece caps. But the real selling point of this model is the The ‘Vibration Canceller’, which is an image-stabilisation system.
This feature compensates for natural shakiness that gets I the way of your ability to resolve fine detail on objects. It’s a good system and the binoculars are lightweight, meaning you can hold them with one hand and use the other for taking notes.
Have we missed any models you think should be included on our list? What’s your favourite pair of binoculars for astronomy? Let us know by contacting us at email@example.com.