Celestron Ultima 8x42 binoculars review: classic binos at an attractive price

These classic-looking Celestron Ultima 8x42 porro prism binoculars are as suited to watching sports as spotting birds or wildlife in the raw

T3 Verdict

Traditional looks and features combine with value for money in the well-constructed Celestron Ultima 8x42 porro prism binoculars. While, unsurprisingly, their performance isn’t as ultra sharp as alternatives costing three or four times as much, for short-range bird watching and general viewing more than fits the bill, while it can just about be squeezed into a jacket pocket too.

Reasons to buy
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    Classic looks and design

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    Relatively compact for porro type binos

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    Decent performance for the price

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    Waterproofed and nitrogen filled to prevent fogging

Reasons to avoid
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    Bulkier than comparable roof prism binos

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    Untethered lens caps easy to misplace

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    Traditional looks will be divisive

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Celestron Ultima 8x42 binoculars review: Specs

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm
Field of view at 1000m: 131 metres
Closest focusing distance: 4 metres
Eye relief: 18mm
Weight: 620g
Dimensions: 17.5x14x5.1cm

In our Celestron Ultima 8x42 binoculars review, we're going to be putting these porro prism binos through their paces. These days, many people opt for roof prism binoculars, as their straight lens tubes offer a more compact build than the typically bulkier porro prism style with angular lens tubes. 

However, despite being of the more vintage style, with classic looks and performance, the Celestron Ultima 8x42 binoculars do at least feature a central folding mechanism which means the user can adjust the inter-pupillary distance of the eye pieces to perfectly match up with their own. While porro prism binoculars may generally be more popular because of their portability, we still managed to fit the Celestron Ultima 8x42 into a roomy jacket pocket when folded. 

Another benefit of the porro prism type is that they provide greater depth of image due to their glass elements being offset from one another. Overall, you're getting decent image quality at a lower price than you'd pay for the sleeker roof prism style. In fact, these binoculars rank very highly in our best binoculars for birdwatching guide, as well as being a strong consideration amongst the best binoculars for general viewing activities. Read on for my full Celestron Ultima 8x42 binoculars review.

Celestron Ultima 8x42 binoculars review: Features

Celestron Ultima 8x42 binoculars

(Image credit: Gavin Stoker)

The key features to focus on here are, naturally, a sensibly moderate 8x magnification wedded to a reasonably generous 42mm objective lens, a pretty standard combination as far as binoculars go, and arguably an optimum one given the overall size and performance. Making them suitable for use in the great outdoors, the Celestron Ultima 8x42 are also commendably waterproof and nitrogen purged to prevent fogging.

With a 42mm lens diameter providing better results than expected in low light or on dull days, factor in high quality BaK4 prism glass and we’re getting crisp and clear views too that won’t disappoint anyone looking for a pair of binos with a wide range of possible uses.

In terms of extras, a carry bag with Velcro fastening and shoulder strap, plus a lens cloth are provided out of the box. You also get slip-on rubber lens covers and plastic eyepiece caps at the rear. While the former covers are tethered, the rear slip-on caps aren’t, so we can imagine these getting lost in time. Still, given the budget price being asked here, that’s not much of a grumble.

Celestron Ultima 8x42 binoculars review: design

Celestron Ultima 8x42 binoculars

(Image credit: Gavin Stoker)

As we’ve noted in our intro, the Celestron Ultima 8x42 will appeal to those who like the traditional, dare we suggest ‘classic’ bino design and performance. You still get more modern touches such as a central, adjustable folding mechanism and synthetic rubber armoured exterior for a tighter, non-slip grip. In short it’s possible to get a good steady hold with both hands and a wobble free image.

Operation is likewise straightforward and intuitive enough, with focus adjusted via a large, centrally placed ridged wheel. Weighing 620g, the aluminium alloy construction quality feels good when gripped and free of any obvious corner-cutting that you might reasonably expect at this sort of price point.

That said, eyecups are of the thin fold down variety that mould to your eye sockets rather than the solid, twist-to-adjust alternative found on pricier competitors.

Celestron Ultima 8x42 binoculars review: viewing quality

Celestron Ultima 8x42 binoculars

(Image credit: Gavin Stoker)

Like most of their ilk, these binos feature fully multi-coated optics to improve light transmission, and even on a dull day the views we got were impressively bright and clear.

Performance-wise the Celestron Ultima 8x42 porro prism binoculars seem less susceptible to purple fringing between areas of high contrast. Indeed, unlike one possible competitor, the Bushnell EDX Engage 8x42, we didn’t notice any. However, while the performance is perfectly acceptable, the Celestron, for us, was not quite as sharp as its competitor costing three times as much.

Celestron Ultima 8x42 binoculars review: alternatives to consider

If money is less of an issue and you’re looking for plenty of bang for your buck, we’d also direct you to the Leica Trinovid 8x42 HD binoculars. Another very compact option for birders, as well as being commendably fuss free in operation, the Leica has an added advantage of  being not only water resistant but also impact resistant; the latter isn’t a feature commonly found when assessing binoculars.

There’s a broad range of 8x42 binoculars on the market as it’s a fairly standard specification for compact binos. Alternatives include the pricier roof prism type binos such as the Bushnell EDX Engage 8x42, with these in particular being a personal preference if budget allows. If you're set on Celestron, try its Outland X 8x42 binoculars, which will be good enough for most casual observers, along with the Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 binoculars.

Celestron Ultima 8x42 binoculars review: verdict

Celestron Ultima 8x42 binoculars

(Image credit: Gavin Stoker)

The porro prism design and vintage look, combined with the modern feel of the waterproofed Celestron Ultima 8x42 binoculars, will appeal to those looking for a pair of binos with a foot in both camps at a value-added price point. Though you’ll get sharper results from spending a bit more, and alternative roof prism design binos may be more compact, the combination of specification, weight and form factor here feels about right. For anyone in any doubt, a limited lifetime warranty for the Celestron Ultima 8x42 binoculars provides additional peace of mind and may just be the convincer you need.

Gavin Stoker

Gavin Stoker has been writing about photography and technology for the past 20 years. He currently edits the trade magazine British Photographic Industry News - BPI News for short - which is a member of TIPA, the international Technical Imaging Press Association.