Outdoors / Hands-on Review

In the Field: 3D Astronomy Space Walker 3D Binoculars for Star Gazing

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The 3D Astronomy 8x42 Space Walker 3D Binoculars are changing the way star gazers and astronomers around the world are enjoying the night sky. These binoculars give users an immersive view of the stars and planets above in way that standard astronomical (or all-purpose) binoculars do not.

From the Earth, the night sky looks two-dimensional, as if the stars are shining down on us from a distant vast dome ceiling, like you find in your local planetarium. In fact, the night sky has depth. Stars vary in their distance from the Earth by millions and millions of miles. Wouldn’t it be cool to see a representation of that depth when we point our astronomy binoculars to the night sky? Now you can.

Designed by astronomer Russ Lederman, and using his patent-pending L-O-A™ (Lederman Optical Array), the Space Walker 3D binoculars allow users to experience a three-dimensional view of the night sky. Lederman is the designer of L-O-A 21 eyepieces for telescope binoviewers that gave a 3D viewing experience to binoviewer telescope users.

Here is a more specific description of the array from Mr. Lederman: “L-O-A is a patent-pending optical configuration that is present in the optical path of the left side of the binocular. The optical prisms are produced to very high tolerances and produce depth perception by way of angular displacement. When the right and left images produced by the binocular are combined through the process of summation by the brain, depth perception (views seen in 3D) result.”

Let’s get the stats out of the way.

  • 8x42
  • Roof prism
  • Phase-corrected multi-coating
  • BAK4 prisms
  • 60o apparent field of view
  • 388' field of view at 1,000 yards
  • Long 17.5mm eye relief
  • Wide 5.25mm exit pupil
  • Carrying Case, Strap, and more!
3D Astronomy 8x42 Space Walker 3D Binocular

The Space Walkers feel like a high-quality pair of binoculars. There is absolutely no sign of cost cutting in the construction. You’d be tempted to assume that, as a first binocular from 3D Astronomy, you might not find the initial offering to be of the highest caliber but, because Lederman has them built by a top-shelf optical firm in China, it appears that his team could skip the learning curve and plunge straight into the high-end experience one gets from binoculars in this price range, and even higher. Lederman checks the collimation and optics of all the pairs of binoculars at his office, in Maryland.

In the Field

There are two things you need to know about the Space Walker 3D binoculars. The first is that viewing the night sky in 3D is very cool. The second is that, optically, these are incredibly good binoculars.

I said it before, but it bears repeating: these binoculars give you an immersive view of the night sky. They are, in effect, magnified 3D glasses for viewing the stars above. Stated in this manner, I will admit it sounds gimmicky. However, once you try the glasses, you will experience this immersive viewing sensation. Looking at Orion’s belt, the stars are no longer on the same plane as Betelgeuse and Rigel, and the Orion Nebula appears to be on a different plane, as well. Suddenly, Orion has depth! Turning further west, the Pleiades Star Cluster appears to hover in front of the background stars. Really cool.

Just to be clear, the Space Walkers give you a 3D view, but they do not show actual celestial depth. Therefore, when looking at Orion’s belt, you cannot visually tell that there is a difference of 523 light-years distance between Alnitak and Alnilam.

On the nights that I tried out the Space Walkers, I was also accompanied by my Nikon 7x50 PROSTAR binoculars—known as one of the world’s premier astronomical binoculars. Optically, the Space Walkers were a match for the PROSTAR. Moving stars and other celestial objects to the edge of the field of view showed no perceptible chromatic aberration at all. I have looked through the world’s best binoculars and almost all of them suffer from CA at the extreme edges. The Space Walkers seem to avoid this somehow. In fact, B&H optics writer and stargazer Chris Witt and I both remarked on how good the optics of the Space Walkers were and mentioned that, without the L-O-A system, they would make an amazingly good pair of general purpose 8x42 binoculars.

Immersion

The downside to the Space Walkers is that they are mostly single-purpose binoculars made for viewing the night sky. You won’t want to take these birding or on a trip to the Grand Canyon, unless you are going to be stargazing! However, Mr. Lederman reports that a few customers have viewed fireworks displays through them and found the view incredible. Having seen the stars through them, I’m tempted to hold onto this pair until July 4th!

Given the opportunity to star gaze with one set of binoculars for an evening, I would certainly be tempted to grab the Space Walkers, due to the unique way they allow you to view the stars. Kids and novice stargazers will undoubtedly not want to give up the Space Walkers once they start to look through them. For some folks, the 2D sky is entertainment enough, but for those with shorter attention spans, the Space Walkers might be just the ticket to increasing the visual stimuli of the night sky.

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