A Work Commenced January 15 2023
Product: Celestron Regal ED 8 x 42
Country of Manufacture: China
Exit Pupil: 5.25mm
Eye Relief: 22.5mm
Chassis: Rubber armoured Magnesium Alloy
Field of View: 139m@1000m(8.0 angular degrees)
Dioptre Compensation: +/- 2
Close Focus: 1.5m advertised, 2.04m measured
Coatings: Fully Broadband Multicoated, Phase and Dielectric Coatings on BAK4 prisms
Field Flattening Optics: Yes
ED Glass: Yes
Tripod Mountable: Yes
Weight: 768g advertised, 819g measured
Dimensions: 15.2 x 13 cm
Accessories: High quality clamshell case, binocular harness, rubber rain guard and tethered objective lens covers, logoed neoprene neck strap, microfibre lens cleaning cloth, instruction sheet
Warranty: Limited Lifetime Warranty
There’s a quiet revolution taking place in high quality sports optics. Over the last decade, Chinese optics houses are producing instruments of amazing quality, packed full of features that up to very recently would have been unthinkable. This is not born of idle speculation but from solid and extensive experience of many instruments made in China and now marketed extensively in western markets.
I’ve already showcased a number of instruments produced by Svbony, Vortex, GPO, Opticron and Nikon to name just a few, that have gone well above and beyond the call of duty, producing very high-quality instruments that offer both excellent images and solid ergonomics in packages consumers could only dream of a few short years ago. The instrument I will showcase in this blog is the Celestron Regal ED 8 x 42, the new flagship, full-sized binocular from the well-known telescope manufacturer.
The instrument was kindly lent to me by fellow binocular enthusiast, Gary, from Northern Ireland. He was keen for me to put it through its paces and to see what I thought of it. I’m delighted to reveal that I was very impressed with the instrument and would recommend it wholeheartedly to the community. For more details though, read on.
Celestron has been turning heads for a while now, bringing a good range of binoculars to the low and mid-priced market. The Nature DX and DX ED ranges are very good entry-level instruments for those who wish to cut their teeth in quality binocular optics, featuring fully multicoated components, phase corrected roof prisms in lightweight, weatherproof housings. Moving up to the Traliseeker models, we see Celestron offering durable Magnesium alloy chassis, dielectric coatings and higher quality optical components, delivering brighter and sharper images. The next step in the intelligent design of the Celestron binocular is embodied in the Trailseeker ED range, which added extra low dispersion glass for sharper, higher contrast images. Collectively, these instruments have delighted birders, hunters and general outdoor enthusiasts alike and helped the hobby grow in ways unthinkable to the elitist attitude of top European optics houses, creating feverish competition between manufacturers to deliver the best bang for buck in a rapidly growing and evolving market. Now Celestron has gone one step further still, introducing flat field optical technology into their new flagship binocular models in the form of the Regal ED 8x and 10 x 42.
The 8 x 42 binocular arrived brand new, as Gary had conveniently arranged for it to be sent to me first before shipping on to him at the conclusion of my tests. The instrument arrived inside an attractively presented black and orange box – the longstanding trade colours of Celestron. Upon opening the box, I found a beautifully designed clamshell case safely storing the instrument away inside. All the usual accessories were there: the tethered rubber objective covers, a high-quality rain guard, neoprene neck strap and binocular harness, microfibre cloth and instruction manual.
Holding the instrument in my hands for the first time, I was immediately taken by the heft of it. This is one chunky binocular! Weighing in at over 800g I was immediately struck by its attractive black rubber armouring and fetching orange touches. The heft of a binocular like this shouldn’t really surprise anyone. All those hi-tech optical components add to the weight of the instrument and, as such, is no different to anything found from the top-tier of European alpha binoculars.
Irrespective of how their weight is re-distributed under the bonnet , they’re all bricks in the end. lol
The oversized focus wheel moves with buttery smoothness, with no annoying free play or backlash. Just short of two full rotations anti-clockwise brings you from closest focus to infinity and a little bit beyond. Tension is excellent. I was able to move it perfectly well with my pinkie! The nicely machined multi-stage, twist up eye cups are clad in soft rubber and click rigidly into place. I noted that they were not quite as firm as those I experienced on the Trailseeker model, but still presented no issues in field use. The eyecups are very comfortable, with no eyestrain experienced even after using it for a couple of hours in the field.
The right eye dioptre located under the ocular lens is larger than normal, and moves smoothly with a good degree of friction ensuring that it stays in place with no issues. The large ocular field lenses are easy to engage with and I found no real trouble centring my eyes on the large(5.25mm) exit pupil. The fully broadband multicoated objectives are nicely recessed, protecting them from rain, dust and peripheral light sources.
Eye relief is very generous. Though I don’t observe with glasses on, I had no trouble seeing the entire field when I donned by varifocals, with the eye cups fully retracted.
The underside of the binocular has some shallow thumb indents. I found these convenient to use but it’s not something I look for specifically when shopping for an instrument.
The textured rubber armouring affords excellent griping in the hands and though I personally have a preference for a slightly shorter bridge where I can better wrap my fingers round the chassis, I was quickly able to find a nice stable positioning with my hands, allowing me to enjoy the views. Clearly Celestron have done their homework in delivering a very solidly made instrument that looks and feels like a quality act. Top marks awarded for ergonomics!
And I’m delighted to disclose that the optics too impressed me!
I began, as ever, directing a bright beam of light into the binocular and examining the images garnered from across my living room. These tests revealed very good results. There were no diffraction spikes, only the merest traces of weak internal reflections and no contrast robbing diffused light around the beam, all collectively indicative of high-quality optical components. My next test involved examining the exit pupils. Both presented as almost perfectly round with very little in the way truncation, but I did record some stray light immediately outside each pupil as the images below show.
That said, I’ve seen considerably worse on instruments costing more than twice the retail cost of this instrument.
As soon as I brought the binocular to my eyes, and even before I had made the dioptre adjustment, the image was really impressive. That’s a sure sign of excellent optics. The image is very sharp across most of the field, with excellent contrast, casting a distinctly warm colour balance. Chromatic aberration is very well controlled in the centre of the image, with only a trace of lateral colour appearing in the outer part of the field on the highest contrast targets. Seeing the hard field stops certainly enhanced the degree of immersivity of the images. Testing the field flatness, I was pleased to see very good control of barrel distortion. Drainpipes and telephone poles maintained their straightness even when placed near the edge of the field. Indeed, it showed up the distinct barrel distortion in my own full-sized roof prism binocular all too easily.
I detected some slight blurring at the edge of the field during my daylight testing, but wasn’t sure of its nature until I employed the instrument under the stars and a bright, late December Moon. By defocusing the bright star Procyon with the right eye dioptre, I was able to confirm excellent collimation. Turning the binocular on a bright gibbous Moon showed some very minor internal reflections. The Moon looked razor sharp within its generously wide sweet spot, with excellent contrast and control of chromatic aberration, but when I moved the silvery orb to the edge of the field, I could see that the last ten per cent or so of the field produced a blurred image with some lateral colour – blue and yellow for the most part. I attempted to refocus the lunar image but was unsuccessful in doing so. This suggested the presence of astigmatism and/or coma as opposed to field curvature, which is easily focused out in contrast. Turning to some some bright stellar luminaries of the winter sky, I was impressed how well they maintained their pinpoint sharpness across most of the field, showing some elongation near the field stops.
Turning back once again to daylight tests conducted during some dull, overcast early January days, the Regal ED showed excellent control of glare, for the most part, but some did creep in when the binocular was pointed to targets in the general direction of the Sun. Veiling glare, on the whole, was also very well suppressed in this instrument too. Scanning a long stretch of conifer trees near one of my local patches did throw up some blackouts and some mild manifestations of the rolling ball effect, but it was far less severe than what I had encountered with a Swarovski EL 8.5 x 42 and a Nikon Monarch HG 8 x 30 in comparison.
Comparing the images in the Regal ED to my control binocular – the Svbony SV 202 ED 8 x 42 – during dull overcast conditions, I concluded that the latter was slightly brighter, a consequence I suppose of it having a simpler optical design, without using field flattening lenses. More optical components usually result in lower overall light transmission. Close focus was measured to be just over 2 metres, a bit longer than the advertised value of 1.5m, but not an issue for me.
I enjoyed some stargazing vigils with the Celestron Regal ED 8 x 42. Its very wide sweet spot – covering about 85 per cent of the field – made sweeping the winter Milky Way through Perseus and Cassiopeia a very pleasant affair. I enjoyed great views of the Swordhandle of Orion and the brilliant white Belt Stars. The instrument effortlessly swept up the trio of Messier open clusters through Auriga and made easy pickings of M35 in Gemini. The Pleiads were sparkling jewels in this instrument and below them, the magnificent Hyades produced some very memorable views. Mars was an intensely bright beacon high in the winter sky, its beautiful ochre tints standing out well against a jet-black sky hinterland. This will make a great binocular for astronomical viewing, but its significant heft will probably limit hand-held use to a few minutes at a time. That said, it’s easily mounted on a lightweight monopod if you’re after rock steady views of the heavens.
Is the Regal ED for you? Well, that depends on how well you respond to the effects of the field flattening lenses built into the instrument. I suspect that most people will find these new Celestron binoculars to be great. For me though, I have gradually come to realise that I prefer non-field flattened optics. I prefer the more relaxed views of daytime objects without any blackout issues, even if that means sacrificing some field of view and the effects of barrel and pincushion distortion.
This is definitely a binocular to try before you buy, if at all possible. But I can wholeheartedly recommend it to the binocular enthusiast looking for great optical and ergonomic performance. Celestron has really come a long way introducing these new high-performance instruments.
Where next Columbus?
I would like to personally thank Gary for kindly lending the instrument to me for the purposes of this review. May the road rise with you!
Neil English is the author of seven books in amateur and professional astronomy, including his highly acclaimed tome, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, celebrating four centuries of visual telescopic history. If you like his work, why not consider buying one of his books? Thanks for reading.