Amazing or Marketing?

If you are still searching for an astronomy related Christmas gift and feeling stressed, you are the market segment target for DCOM.

Dubious Claims Optics Marketing, I just made that up, has been around for, well, a long time.  Seems every year there are new, amazing, even miraculous binoculars, telescopes, glasses, and other optical devices.

I was prompted to write this article by recent questions posed to me regarding a new and amazing zoom telescope.  Is it as good as they claim?

This year’s big one, the 4K 10-300 x 40mm Super Telephoto Telescope Monocular!  Sold under various names, marketing for this zoom hit Facebook in June.  The advertisement is slick and makes the case for some very advanced, maybe new optics theory.  Anyway, they throw around a lot of terminology such as nano etching, thin film mosaic technology, luminous flux, implying performance way beyond that of any conventional optic.  They even claim the technology comes from Johns Hopkins University! A video shows it zooming throughout its range from 10-300x, and WOW, it barely gets dimmer and sharpness is great!  Craters on the Moon look so close you can almost touch them.  My initial response to questioners was if it sounds too good…yep.  This is a case of outright lying, not just marketing.  This scope is not associated with Johns Hopkins University.  The technical flim-flam comes from a re-purposed NASA paper about making optics lighter.  The maker of this scope changed author names and associations in its advertising to make it appear it was from Johns Hopkins. 300x magnification?  Not close.  Oberwerk optics tested it and found it gets about 30x.  Enough to see craters on the Moon but not so close. What about 4K?  4K is a resolution measure for digital sensors and displays like TVs, not a measure of a lens’ optical resolution.  It’s baloney. It comes with lens caps, a flimsy little tripod, a pouch, strap, smart phone clip, and cleaning cloth.  You get what you pay for…a useable optic that does not live up to its hype. $49 at Amazon.

Powerful zoom binoculars are also popular with marketing firms.  They attract attention.  I’ve seen numerous adds for 10-150x zoom binoculars from various companies.  Even with 70mm objectives the view at 150x is very dim with a 0.47 mm exit pupil.  They must be used on a tripod or other stable surface once zoomed beyond about 15x.  Aberrations such as spherical and chromatic are magnified, making the image hazy.

There is a 180×100 zoom binocular advertised, only it’s an 8-24 x 50mm binocular!  What is with that?

Of course, watch out for the old telescope marketing game of claiming magnifications entirely beyond reason for the size and/or type of telescope advertised.

Please watch out!

What’s in the Sky?

December 12; all day; east to southwest: Venus and a very thin crescent Moon start close in the pre-dawn hours and end closer at around 3:30 pm