Best binoculars for astronomy in 2021

Binoculars are a great way of getting into astronomy. Read our buyers' guide to get started, or find more powerful models to take your bino observing up a notch.

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.

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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.

A pair of binoculars may be all you need to get started in astronomy. Credit: VW Pics / Contributor / Getty Images
A pair of binoculars may be all you need to get started in astronomy. Credit: VW Pics / Contributor / Getty Images

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.

13 of the best binoculars for astronomy

1

Helios Stellar II 10×50 binoculars

Helios Stellar II 10x50 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

  • Verdict If you want 10x50s specifically for astronomy, these would be a very good choice.
  • For Bright images, good colour rendition, wide field
  • Against Relatively heavy
  • Price £159
  • Weight 1,190g
  • Extras Wide, neoprene neck strap; tethered objective caps and rain-guard; robust, lightly padded fabric case
  • Supplier Optical Vision Ltd
  • Tel 01359 244200
  • www.opticalvision.co.uk
  • Overall Score: 4/5
2

Opticron Imagic TGA WP

Opticron Imagic TGA binoculars

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.

  • Verdict A very versatile, lightweight all-rounder, which is also useful for astronomy
  • For Excellent colour rendition; lightest Porro on test
  • Against Relatively narrow field of view
  • Price £179
  • Weight 935g
  • Extras Wide, nylon neck strap; tethered objective caps and rain-guard; semi-rigid vinyl case
  • Supplier Opticron UK
  • Tel 01528 726522
  • www.opticron.co.uk
  • Overall Score: 4/5
3

Nikon Action EX

Nikon Action EX binoculars

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.

  • Verdict Very capable general-purpose binoculars that are good for both day and night-time use
  • For Bright, good colour; wide flat field
  • Against Heaviest centre-focus binocular
  • Price £179
  • Weight 1,069g
  • Extras Wide, nylon strap with soft anti-slip neck patch; tethered rain-guard, tetherable objective caps; lightly padded fabric case
  • Supplier Wex
  • Tel 01603 486413
  • www.wexphotovideo.com
  • Overall Score 4.5/5
4

Vortex Crossfire

Vortex Crossfire binoculars

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.

  • Verdict If you want a compact but capable and versatile 10×50, this could be ideal for you
  • For Bright, sharp views, superb colour; lifetime guarantee
  • Against Large minimum IPD
  • Price £179
  • Weight 924g
  • Extras Wide, padded neck strap; tethered objective caps and rain-guard; lightly-padded fabric case
  • Supplier First Light Optics
  • Tel 01392 791000
  • www.firstlightoptics.com
  • Overall Score 4.5/5
5

Celestron Outland X

Celestron Outland X binoculars

Weighing just shy of 800g, these are easily the lightest binoculars on test.

We found them 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.

  • Verdict Okay if you want some lightweight, general-purpose binoculars for occasional astronomical use
  • For Good colour rendition, lightweight
  • Against Inadequate eye relief, large minimum IPD
  • Price £129
  • Weight 790g
  • Extras Narrow, nylon neck strap; tethered objective caps and rain guard; lightly padded fabric case
  • Supplier David Hinds Ltd
  • Tel 01525 852696
  • www.celestron.co.uk
  • Overall Score: 3/5
6

Pentax SP WP

Pentax SP WP binoculars

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.

  • Verdict Optically and mechanically very good, these binoculars will suit a wide range of people
  • For Sharp image, locking focus
  • Against Narrow FOV; ill-fitting, untethered lens caps
  • Price £159
  • Weight 1,060g
  • Extras Wide nylon strap with soft neck patch, untethered caps and rain-guard, lightly padded, strapless fabric case
  • Supplier 365Astronomy
  • Tel 02033 845187
  • www.365astronomy.com
  • Overall Score 4/5
7

Opticron Adventurer 10×50 Binoculars (£79)

Opticron Adventurer II WP 10x42 binoculars

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.

Read our full Opticron Adventurer 10x50s review here.

8

Celestron Upclose G2 10×50 binoculars

Celestron Upclose G2 10x50 binoculars. Credit: BBC Sky at Night Magazine

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.

9

Opticron Oregon Observation 20×80 binoculars

Opticron Oregon Observation 20x80 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.

10

Visionary HD 7×50 binoculars

Visionary HD 7x50 binoculars review

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.

11

Bresser Spezial Astro SF 15×70 binoculars

Bresser Spezial Astro SF 15x70 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

12

Orion Monster Parallelogram mount, GiantView 25×100 binoculars

Orion Monster Parallelogram mount, GiantView 25x100 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.

Read our full Orion Monster Parallelogram mount, GiantView 25×100 review

13

Opticron Marine-3 7×50 binoculars

Opticron Marine-3 7x50 binoculars review. Credit: BBC Sky at Night Magazine

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

14

Canon 14×32 IS binoculars review

Canon 14x32 IS binoculars

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

 

15

Celestron SkyMaster Pro 20×80 binoculars and 10Micron BM100 Leonardo mount

Celestron SkyMaster Pro 20x80 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.

Read our full Celestron SkyMaster Pro 20×80 and 10Micron BM100 Leonardo mount review

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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 contactus@skyatnightmagazine.com.