Mounted Binoculars

All binoculars will show more if they are mounted because this eliminates the jiggles of being held. Even a small binocular will show objects a magnitude or so fainter if it is mounted. If binoculars are going to be a main observing instrument, it makes sense to acquire one of greater aperture and magnification than can be held. Big binoculars in the aperture range of 60 to 100 mm have become readily available in recent years (Figure 3.4). Once you are dealing with big binoculars, you are dealing with specialist instruments and can expect them to have features that enhance the ease and pleasure of astronomical observing. These may include:

• Mounting Plate. Because big binoculars necessarily have to be mounted, it is common for them to incorporate a plate, with quarter-inch threaded holes, for direct mounting to a photographic tripod or other mounting. This eliminates the need for an L-bracket, which inevitably introduces an additional potential source of instability and is yet another essential piece of equipment that has to be remembered (Figure 3.5).

• Angled Eyepieces. There is little to recommend in straight-through binoculars for astronomical observing. They are considerably less comfortable than those with angled eyepieces when you are observing at high elevations. Angled eyepieces also permit the use of photographic or video tripods and heads because they eliminate the need to "limbo-dance" under the tripod when you observe objects of high elevation.

• Interchangeable Eyepieces. If binoculars are mounted, interchangeable eyepieces become functionally useful. The ability to change magnification permits, within the limits of the mechanical and optical precision of the binocular, the best combination of image brightness and contrast to be selected. Interchangeable eyepieces are usually friction-fit into the eyepiece holder, although some binoculars have their eyepieces turret mounted so that the unused eyepieces cannot get mislain or dropped. I am not convinced that this is a long-term advantage,

Figure 3.4.

Strathspey 15x70 binocular. These Chinese binoculars, which are sold with different brand names, have become very popular in recent years. (Photo: John G. Burns)

Figure 3.4.

Strathspey 15x70 binocular. These Chinese binoculars, which are sold with different brand names, have become very popular in recent years. (Photo: John G. Burns)

Figure 3.5. Bracket attached to mounting plate at the bottom of 20/37x100 binoculars.

because it introduces another feature that must be made to great precision and detracts from the inherent simplicity of binoculars by adding to the number of things that can go wrong. On the other hand, their advocates report this feature to be extremely useful.

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