Please recommend binoculars for launch

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Jan 18, 2009
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Please recommend a set of economically priced ($50-100) binoculars for use at a launch. Something decent that my girls can use to track rockets up to 6k altitude at upcoming RG7. Or am I asking the impossible at that price?

I know the good ones cost $$$ but I kinda blew my rocket budget for the next several months...

Thanks in advance
Outstanding On-Line Supplier

I would recommend a 7x35 wide angle binocular for this job. They are light-weight so you won't get tired and with a wide-field you won't loose track of the rocket if you're shakey.

Below is a list of the best at a given price point.

Best $20 Good optics, cheap price. Celestron makes great telescopes so they probably wouldn't put their name on a piece of junk.

Best $25 Good optics, wide field, water resistant.

Best $40 Good optics, perma-focus, extremely wide field. very easy to use. The extremely wide 11 degree FOV and not having to focus makes these two really easy to use. or

Best $60 Good optics, wide field, life-time warrantee.

Best $70 Good optics, wide field, life-time warrantee.

Best $100 binocular Good optics, wide field, waterproof, life-time warrantee + B&H Photo $25 Gift Card An outstanding deal for a net $75 purchase.

Zack, thanks for the link and suggestion. A bit pricier but a good consideration.

Bob, thanks for the excellent analysis and suggestions. Weight and ease of use is very important since my 7 year old's will be using them.
I'm going with your recommendation of the Bushnell 7x35 Permafocus Binocular for ease of use and price. Thanks again!

Can't say enough good things about B&H.

I've bought almost all of my optics and cameras from them. They stock all brands, and if they don't have it, you probably can't get it. They consistently have the best (lowest) prices you will find at any legit store, and since you're near NYC you can even go to the store in person.

I have a pair of Celestron 15 x 70s. They are really nice for tracking high altitude flights, but they're big and bulky, so I'm not sure if 7 year olds can use them for a long period of time.
10x25s, 20 bucks at wally world, will work pretty well. The field of view is a bit narrow, but they've got good magnification so seeing this little guys at high altitudes, plus they're tiny for packing and easy to hold.

7x35s are good - easier to use, and wide field.

You can get a halfway decent pair or 7x50s or 10x50s (my favorites) for about 50 bucks. They won't be waterproof or high-quality coated optics, but fine for tracking rockets. They might be a bit heavy for kids, though.

15x70s are prolly overkill.
I have a pair of Celestron 15 x 70s. They are really nice for tracking high altitude flights, but they're big and bulky, so I'm not sure if 7 year olds can use them for a long period of time.

I have those too, and I love them (cheap and they work well). But not for 7 year olds.

B&H is a great supplier. I've been buying stuff from them since about 1981 (my first SLR). Highly recomended.

I'm probably way behind on this if you've made your choice, but several things you might want to consider. First, you get what you pay for. If you buy $30 binoculars, that's what you get. They may be fine for tracking rockets in a clear or cloudy sky where you have one object with a distinct contrast to the background. They probably won't work well in low light or for spotting things on the ground, bird watching, etc. and I seriously doubt you could use them at night for star gazing.

With that said, I would recommend a 7-15 x 35 zoom. You still won't get the great optics for low light or night use, but it really is easier to track the rockets up at 7x and zoom to 15x as they reach the top half of the flight. I have a set of 7-15 x 35 Bushnell zoom binoculars that work great for rockets.

Teach the seven year olds how to focus and zoom the binoculars and let them practice with them before you get to the range. You'll be surprised how fast they pick up the focus and zoom on the binoculars.
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I'm assuming that this $70 Bushnell 7-15 x 35 binoculars are similar to yours. At 7x the FOV is 5.3 degrees and at 15x the FOV is 3.4 degrees

The similar quality standard Bushnell wide field focusing 7 x 35 binoculars are $41 and have a 9.3 degree FOV.

and the similar quality perma-focus Bushnell wide field 7 x 35 binoculars are $42-$43 and have a 11 degree FOV.

All of the above have coated lenses and all have the same objective diameter so there is no difference in light gathering ability at 7x magnification.

Any perma-focus type binocular is simply set at the hyper-focal distance so for this magnification, everything should be in sharp focus from about 10 yards to infinity, and you can set any regular binoculars to this setting as well, but once you touch the focusing knob you have lost it.

The perma-focus models have more than twice the FOV at 7x as the vari-focal models so it is much easier to keep the rocket in sight. While the 15x magnification will make the rocket appear twice as large as the permafocus wide field 7x magnification binocular, the FOV is 3 x smaller, so it is much easier to loose sight of the rocket, and it's harder to reacquire it once you loose it.

Hand a zooming video camera to someone with little or no experience tracking a rocket flight and you'll see why I recommend a wide FOV, non-focusing, fixed magnification binocular for the occasional user.


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