The Celestron SkyMaster 20×80 are a great pair of astronomy binoculars.
They will enhance your viewing of the night sky, whilst being easy to use and relatively inexpensive.
Read below for the full review, covering what you can see with them, how they compare to other models, and how to use them for photography.
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Celestron SkyMaster 20×80 binoculars overview
Celestron is one of the leading manufacturers of astronomy equipment and is known for reliability and quality.
They currently sell about 14 different models of astronomy binoculars that vary in certain specifications.
The pair we are reviewing are the 20 x 80 SkyMaster model.
To break this down:
- SkyMaster refers to a range of astronomy binoculars from Celestron
- the 20x refers to the magnification,
- the 80 refers to the size of the lens in millimeters (also called the aperture).
Celestron’s SkyMaster range features about 11 different models that vary in terms of their magnification and aperture, but also other features like different lens coatings and the extent to which they are water-resistant or water-proof.
Magnification in binoculars refers to how many times closer the object you are viewing is. The higher this is, the closer the objects you are viewing will look.
Aperture refers to the light gathering capacity of the binoculars. Essentially, the larger the aperture, the greater the brighter and clearer the objects you are viewing will be.
If you’d like to read more about what the different specifications mean, then see our article covering all the key questions about astronomy binoculars.
How to use the SkyMaster Binoculars
These are fairly large binoculars – about 13 inches / 30 cm long and they weigh around 2 kgs.
They are not impossible to use by hand (for an adult), but for any extended viewing you will need to attach them to a tripod.
This is the best way of using them for astronomy – having them held steady and focused on the particular object you want to see.
Handily, these binoculars come with an in-built tripod adapter, so no need to buy a separate adapter (as you do have to for some other models).
You can see in the pictures below how to connect them. It’s a pretty easy process.
What can you see with 20×80 binoculars?
Like with any stargazing, what you will be able to see will depend on where you are and specifically the level of light pollution where you are viewing.
What you should be able to see through these though should include:
- The moon in great detail
- Some of the planets of the solar system – including Jupiter and the rings of Saturn (these will be faint though)
- Some large galaxies and clusters – for example, M31, M33, and the Pleiades star cluster.
Finding and viewing these objects (beyond the moon) will take time, practice, and persistence but that should be part of the fun and what makes it rewarding when you do see things.
Obviously, you should never look at the sun through these binoculars or you risk seriously damaging your eyes.
How to take photos with the SkyMaster astronomy binoculars
The best way to take photos with the SkyMaster binoculars is by attaching your smartphone to the lens (this is known as afocal photography).
You can buy helpful adapters that enable you to attach your smartphone to these binoculars for taking pictures. Celestron sells these separately:
- There’s a basic one (that I have used in the pictures below), and
- There is a souped-up version (I haven’t used this but I would assume that it holds the phone more securely)
You can see below how it works:
Firstly, you attach the adapter to the binocular lens:
Then you insert your phone into the adapter and align the phone’s camera lens with the binocular lens:
You then use the camera app on your phone to take pictures. You will need to use a countdown timer to take the picture to minimize any vibrations from you pressing the button on your phone when taking the picture:
You can also buy a remote shutter device for your phone to help with this.
Here’s an image of the moon I managed to take on my first try:
You can see that it’s not perfect and the image is not as sharp as you’d want, but this literally took a few minutes to put together and so I’m certain I’ll be able to get good images with a bit of practice.
I will come back and add pictures here and add photos once I’ve had another chance.
Set-up & maintenance
These binoculars are pretty much good to take out of the box the first time and use. The only adjustments that need to be made are:
- the distance between the eyes – you do this literally by pushing/pulling them with your hands
- focusing the left lens
- focusing the right lens (these are done separately)
These things are just tailoring the binoculars to your own set of circumstances.
If you are sharing them with others then they will likely need to adjust them for themselves, but it is very easily done and takes just a couple of minutes.
There should be no need for collimation of the binoculars (collimation is the process of adjusting the mirrors inside and is required with some kinds of telescopes.
However, there are stories of people having to collimate Celestron binoculars and there are instructional videos on YouTube of people doing it themselves.
To emphasize though, I didn’t have to do this and you shouldn’t have to. If you have a problem like this, Celestron’s customer support should be able to help you.
The only real maintenance needed is to keep them stored in a dry place. There are options available to buy them with a carry case.
Comparison with other models
Celestron SkyMaster Binoculars – 20×80 vs 15×70 vs 25×70
In comparison to the other models in the SkyMaster range, there are three main differences – two of which are obvious, and one less so:
- The magnification – the first number refers to this, so 15x, 20x, 25x, etc. There are also models available in the range that offer zoom magnification of 18-40x.
- The aperture – this is the size of the lens in mm and is indicated by the second number, so 70, 80, etc.
- The in-build tripod adapter rail on the 20×80 is not there on any of the smaller models (15×70, 25×70, etc). This just means that you’ll have to make sure to attach a separate adapter in order to attach to a tripod so just check if this is included in the package when ordering or, if not, you can buy separately for relatively cheap – see here.
It’s worth noting that the higher the magnification, the narrower the expanse of sky you can see (called the field of view).
Therefore higher magnification is not always best, for example, if you were going into your backyard to try and spot a meteor shower, then a lower magnification would be better as you’d see more of the sky through the lenses.
However, if you wanted close-up views of the moon or were trying to spot a planet, then higher magnification would be best. This is where having a pair with zoomable magnification would offer the best of both worlds. You check out the 15-40×80 SkyMaster binoculars here.
Aperture is a great indicator of how bright and clear the images you will be able to see and pretty much the larger this is, the better the viewing experience you will have using them.
- the 20×80 has slightly lower magnification and higher aperture – making it slightly better at seeing far-off objects like galaxies in deep space.
- the 25×70 has slightly higher magnification and lower aperture – making it better for viewing closer objects like the moon.
- the 15×70 has lower magnification – making it better for scanning the skies for meteor showers.
There is not a lot in it in terms of the difference between the 20×80 and 25×70 and both would be good for astrophotography so if this is what you are after then it might just be worth looking for the best deal at the time.
The 15×70 is more of a grab-and-go pair that would be more suited for taking out to scan the skies by hand.
There is a Celestron SkyMaster 20×80 Pro model available that has the same focal length and aperture but comes with three main advantages:
- It has improved coatings on the lenses (Celestron’s “Proprietary XLT” coatings) which should result in clearer, crisper images
- It is fully waterproof, rather than just water-resistant
- It has the capacity to attach a finderscope to it to make it easier to find what you are looking for (see here for the right attachment)
As you’d expect, the pro version usually costs a fair bit more than the regular version but you’ll have to check prices at different retailers here.
I don’t believe that these extra features will make a dramatic difference but I can see the case for making spending the extra if you have the budget.
If you are after alternatives to these from Celestron, then Orion offers a similar 20×80 model.
For a full lowdown on what different models are available, you can also check out our summary guide to the best astronomy binoculars.
If you have any comments or questions, please let us know by leaving a comment.
Are you a fan of these binoculars or do you prefer another model?