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What binoculars for watching aircraft flying at 30,000 ft ?

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What binoculars for watching aircraft flying at 30,000 ft ?

Postby skydancer on Mon Jan 11, 2010 7:53 pm

Whats the best binoculars for watching airliners flying at 20 to 30,000 feet from the ground? I have a old pair of Tasco 10x50mm wide angle which worked ok until now everything looks double thru them. Plus i want to bring the planes in closer when watching them. I was looking at the Celestron 15x70's or the Oberwerk 15x70's. Or maybe the Pentax 20x60's?? Would i be able to follow the plane in the air with any of these Binoculars? Are they to powerful? I don't mind spending up to $250.00 on a pair. Can anyone help answer some of my questions? thankyou
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Re: What binoculars for watching aircraft flying at 30,000 ft ?

Postby PhilR. on Mon Jan 11, 2010 10:47 pm

Only you can tell if you are strong and steady enough to hold a 15x or 20x binocular still, but I can tell you that the average person cannot.

Only you can tell if you can follow a target with a powerful set of binoculars. I can follow airliners with my astronomical binoculars without a problem, but I cannot tell you if you can.

A set of decent 15x's mounted on a monopod works well for me, and is much more portable than mounting on a tripod. Vortex, Nikon, Pentax, Celestron, Garret, and Bushnell all make inexpensive binoculars that will work reasonably well. The ones with larger objective lenses such as the 15x70 Garrets will also work well for astronomical viewing. You can get a set of 15x70 Garrets w/monopod within your budget. For your purposes, you would want the monopod with the "grip action" head.

You could go up to 20x, but you would have to mount them on a tripod, and it will take a lot of practice to be able to follow airliners. But I've done it with my 20x Oberwerks, so it is possible.

To answer your first question -- like most commodities, there is no "best". However, one could argue that binoculars from Zeiss, Swarovski, Leica, Nikon, Meopta and Pentax would rank in the "best" category. Obviously you cannot come remotely close to getting the "best" with your budget. Lastly, a set of stabilized binoculars from Canon might argueably be called the best for your purposes, but will also be out of your price range.
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Re: What binoculars for watching aircraft flying at 30,000 ft ?

Postby Jne_K on Tue Jan 12, 2010 8:51 am

Hi

Going from a 10x to even a 15x is going to create some headaches for you. The first, as Phil mentioned is steadiness - you will need a tripod, or at least a monopod, if you expect to see any kind of detail, at all. Going from a 10x to even a 15x also narrows your field of view, considerably, so locating objects is going to be more difficult and you will also have a harder time tracking objects for the same reason.

One of the best options for you is an image stabilized binocular - eliminated the need for a tripod or monopod, but that's not going to happen for $250. Of the ones you listed, I think you'll find the 20x60 Pentax to be the best, optically and mechanically, but, as Phil says, 20x is definitely tougher to work than a 15x. The Oberwerk or Celestron is a good alternative if you need to keep the budget, down and that still leaves enough for a monopod or tripod.
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Re: What binoculars for watching aircraft flying at 30,000 ft ?

Postby ET on Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:00 pm

I would go with an angled scope, some 20x. Cheap models may not hava a wide field of view. But certainly 50mm scopes are available that work at 20x and a wide field. A fixed eye piece usually gives the widest field.

Never looked that high for birds, but I do look at flying raptors with a scope. Only way to go if they are high.

something like
http://www.opticsplanet.com/vortex-noma ... d-60a.html
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Re: What binoculars for watching aircraft flying at 30,000 ft ?

Postby skydancer on Wed Jan 13, 2010 7:47 pm

Thanks for the response so far. I am learning alot. I kind of thought the 20x60 or 20x80 would be to stronge and would be hard to find and follow the plane for any amount of time. But, i didn't think the 15x70 would be all that bad?? Never gave a thought about a angled scope! Maybe I should be looking for a nicer pair of 12x50's. Whats a good pair of 12x50 with some good bright lenses? As for having a steady hand, thats not a problem for me. I usually lean up against the corner of my house or use the car roof to steady the binoculars. Not looking to see the pilots face or anything but i would like to get a good enough look at the plane to be able to identify it by model and the color scheme. I can almost do this with my 10x50's when they were clear. I thought the 15x70's would have been perfect but maybe not. Where does the monopod rest and mount?

thanks
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Re: What binoculars for watching aircraft flying at 30,000 ft ?

Postby Jne_K on Thu Jan 14, 2010 9:52 am

Hi

Going to a 12x over a 10x is not going to give a significant increase in detail. Go with at least 15x if you expect to see any real increase in detail. An increase of only 2x is just not going to get you enough for your dollar to see a difference.

My advice is to at least try a 15x - but, as Phil said, only you will be able to determine if it is right for you. You can wrestle with all the variables in field of view, image steadiness and so on, but it really is going to boil down to a try it basis.

Again, I strongly recommend that you save for an image stabilized binocular if you do not want the hassle of a tripod. I know several folks who do exactly the same type of observing as you do and this has been the best solution for them
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