A unique opportunity presented itself last night in that I was able to check out three different binoviewers at the same time. We were using a well-collimated Celestron Nexstar 11” SCT under rural suburban skies. Because we were using a catadioptric, we did not need optical correctors to achieve focus. On deck were a late model Televue, a standard Denk with Power X Switch, and a pair of HS Elite 40’s.
The reason I am writing this is because I was really anxious to get my hands on and view through the Elite (or any of the new HS offerings). When I found out that this gentleman was brining them to my friend’s observatory in rural Chicagoland from St. Louis, MO, I just had to be a part of this little gathering.
Before the gentleman arrived with the Elite, my friend and I did some comparisons between my TV and his standard Denk. Using my friend’s SCT and his Vixen wide-field eyepieces we looked at open and globular clusters. We were looking and comparing views of stars that were right on the edge of detection. The views were very close with a nod to the TV because it exhibited more contrast. Stars that needed averted vision to see in the standard Denk were visible directly or “nearly directly” in the TV.
When the Elite arrived, it stole the show. This isn’t your typical floor model binoviewer, this is a custom, hand-crafted optic. It’s huge, but so very light. It has self-centering eyepiece holders that both turn very smoothly and grip very well. To adjust eyepiece separation, only one side moves but I had no problem getting used to that at all. It was intuitive and easy to adjust. Did I mention the Elite was huge? My friend was pointing out something about the positioning of the mirrors on each side and I noticed that the inside of the Elite was very dark. I was curious about what the build quality and mechanical operation was going to be like and I was pleased to find out that this binoviewer is rock solid. The machining is smooth, clean, and attractive. It was a joy to work with.
Observing with the Elite, I could not detect anything that concerned me, but I feel I would have to do more testing under darker skies to give my best, most objective opinion of optical quality since that is where I am most accustomed to using my binoviewers. None of us had problems merging the images using HS 2” 36mm and 19mm wide-field eyepieces. The stars were perfectly focused points of light from one edge of the field to the other. In one field, we had a bright star centered to demonstrate collimation for our St. Louis guest (Antares I believe) and we saw ghost images of a few field stars floating at the top of the field of view. On everything we observed including doubles, galaxies, planetary nebulae, globs, and open clusters, the Elite performed exactly as a binoviewer at this price point should: famously. In the rural suburban conditions we were observing in, the Elite was the winner by consistently presenting the brightest, most detailed images.
I’ve been using binoviewers for a couple of years now, and I have an idea of what they are capable of with a variety of scopes including my own 12.5” and 18” Dobsonians. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to use a pair of the new Elites, I’m happy to report that they are worthy of your consideration as a premium class binoviewer.