Who hasn’t wanted to purchase and own their own telescope? Whether it’s a childhood dream, a burst of inspiration from seeing what telescopes can do, or perhaps you now have the time and resources for a brand new telescope.
Well a telescope might just be what you need, or is it?
We at saxon love our telescopes, but we also have a range of optical equipment may be just as, if not more suitable, for your needs.
The instrument of choice for those who value portability, most binoculars can be held in the hands when in use, and slung around the neck or placed in a backpack when not. Perfect for travellers due to their portability and also their ease of use. While most binoculars are small and provide low magnification, you can find a range of high powered saxon binoculars that are used even for certain types of astronomy. You can also find binoculars with special features such as being waterproof, focus free, or military grade in our range of binoculars.
Spotting scopes will remind you of a sort of small telescope, they lie between binoculars and telescopes in terms of power. They are very portable, although they will require a tripod for use, and are optimised for terrestrial viewing. All of our spotting scopes come with a zoom eyepiece, which will allow you to adjust magnifications. Spotting scopes are popular for activities such as birdwatching, whale watching, hunting, looking across the waterfront or at nature in general.
What surprises most people about telescopes is that telescopes come in a number of different designs (more on that here) and that they are very affordable due to increased efficiency and advances in the manufacturing process. Telescopes are geared toward astronomy and this is reflected in the design of telescope tubes, mounts, and telescope accessories, although there are several telescopes that can be utilised for terrestrial viewing as well. Telescopes come in a range of shapes and sizes and their most effective use will vary accordingly.
So should you buy a telescope, a pair of binoculars, or a spotting scope?
The first question to ask is, of course, “What do you want to use your telescope for?”
With some of the best night sky available in the world, it is no surprise if you would like to have a shot at astronomy. And if that is what you want to do, then you will almost certainly need a telescope. Telescopes have much larger light gathering ability, can handle larger magnifications, and are designed for astronomy. A difficult to measure and often unconsidered advantage of telescopes is their upgradability down the line due to the sheer number of telescope accessories available. If your aim is to pick out individual stars or celestial objects in the night sky, and get close-up views, the telescope is without a doubt the instrument for you. However, this does not mean that other optical instruments are not suitable for any form of astronomy.
High powered binoculars are excellent choices for those who are looking for an intuitive “star hopping” experience. The relatively low magnification on binoculars provide wide sweeping views of the sky, and is superb for looking at objects such as comets and the Milky Way.
Medium to large sized spotting scopes are comparable to very small refractor telescopes. They are however not optimised for astronomical use. Their 45° viewing opposition, while ideal for terrestrial viewing, can be uncomfortable for astronomy and spotting scopes are also unable to provide magnifications outside the range of the paired eyepiece.
In addition to amazing astronomy opportunities, Australia also provides some amazing walks and trails, natural landscapes, wildlife, and a wide range of sporting and recreational spectacles. There is simply no shortage of sights and attractions where a where you would not want saxon optical equipment with you.
While telescopes can be used for terrestrial viewing, only refractor telescopes are really suitable for such uses. These refractors have to be used with an erecting diagonal which corrects the orientation of the image through the scope, while other telescope designs produce images with incorrect orientations or function at magnifications which are far too powerful for terrestrial viewing.
For those who enjoy hiking and trekking, binoculars may be preferable as they require no set up and are extremely portable. Their ease of use also make them suitable for children without the use; binoculars in our Focus-Free range are especially easy to use and suitable for general use. Our waterproof and fog-proof binoculars are excellent for boaters or those travelling to humid and wet areas.
Spotting scopes are designed for terrestrial viewing, they are more rugged than telescopes in that they are water resistant and are expected to brave the elements. Spotting scopes can be mounted on the same tripods that cameras can be attached to, this provides more intuitive control over the position of the scope than the slow motion controls that usually accompany telescopes. As telescopes are designed primarily for astronomy, high end refractors are constructed with astronomers in mind, especially astrophotographers. There are, however, high end spotting scopes for terrestrial viewing which produce images that are consistently clear and crisp.
There’s a high probability this is you; who wouldn’t want an instrument that can do double duty? And all three choices can perform well when called upon to do so and each has their strengths and areas where they excel. Unfortunately, each choice also has their weaknesses and choosing an optical instrument is a matter of compromise and figuring out what is the most suitable instrument for the purpose you want.
Determining which activity you will be engaged in more should be a strong factor in making a decision. If you will be using your scope mainly for terrestrial viewing and the occasional glance at the night sky, a spotting scope would be a good choice, or possibly a small refractor is you really want one. If your interest is mainly in astronomy but you want to look at the surrounding landscape once in a while, a refractor would be the way to go. All but zoom binoculars are fixed in their magnification and will be more suitable for certain activities depending on their power and aperture.
Your choice of whether the telescope, binoculars, or spotting scope is right for you will depend on you.
Do you want something that is portable, convenient, and easy to set up? Binoculars require zero set up time and can be carried in a pouch, although a very large pair of binoculars will need a tripod to be used comfortably. Spotting scopes and telescopes will always require a tripod to be used properly.
Do you want something that can be upgraded in the future? Telescopes have by far the most accessories such as eyepieces, motor drives, and filters. Small telescopes are also used as auxiliary guide scopes by astrophotographers. In comparison, binoculars and spotting scopes have little to no room for upgrades (the only real way to upgrade is buying a model with higher specifications!).
These are but some of the considerations that will go into your decision, and only you can answer these questions (and others!) for yourself.
Click here to see read more about telescope designs and choosing a suitable telescope.