Celestron EclipSmart 12x50mm porro solar binoculars review

If you're ready for a close encounter with the sun's surface these solar binoculars are hard to beat, though they're best used sitting down or with a tripod.

Celestron EclipSmart 12x50 porro solar binoculars placed on a wooden surface with green foliage behind
(Image: © Jamie Carter)

Space Verdict

Celestron EclipSmart 12x50mm Porro are specialist solar eclipse binoculars that offer a great close-up view of sunspots. However, their bulky size means they require a little patience, practice and preparation. At their best when attached to a tripod, they're a wise choice if you're after something serious that will last beyond the next eclipse.


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    Excellent close-up views of sunspots

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    Tripod adaptor jack


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    Heavy and bulky

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    Narrow field of view

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    Some color fringing

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With two solar eclipses coming up in North America everyone's focusing on getting the best view, but do you need the kind of magnification offered by the Celestron EclipSmart 12x50mm Porro solar binoculars? The scramble for solar eclipse safety glasses always mushrooms before every solar eclipse, but given that the sun and moon occupy barely half a degree in the 180-degrees sky, it's tough to get anything other than a general view of how the eclipse is progressing. Cue 12x magnification on these solar eclipse binoculars, whose 50mm objective lenses have solar filters permanently built into them. 

With the sun looking 12x bigger than with the unaided eye, the Celestron EclipSmart 12x50mm might seem a no-brainer, but there are a few things you need to know about them before making a purchase. Depending on your own preferences — and even your physical size — they could either delight or repel you. Are they one of the Best binoculars? Here's what you need to know.

Celestron EclipSmart 12x50mm porro solar binoculars review

Celestron EclipSmart 12x50mm porro solar binoculars: Design

EclipSmart 12x50 binoculars placed on foliage

The Celestron EclipSmart 12x50 porro solar binoculars are for serious close-ups of the solar disk. (Image credit: Jamie Carter)
  • Solar filters meet ISO rating
  • Bulky Porro optical design
  • Average quality accessories

Design: Porro prism

Exit pupil: 0.13-in / 3.3mm

Eye relief: 0.47-in / 12mm

Weight: 31.5 oz / 892g

Dimensions: 7.8x2.6x7.3-in / 199x65x186mm

Magnification: 12x

Objective lenses: 50mm

Durability: Water resistant

Except during totality, it's not safe to look directly at the sun through binoculars unless they're fitted with solar filters. That's exactly what the Celestron EclipSmart 12x50mm has, with polymer glass solar filters on the objective lenses that meet the ISO 12312-2:2015(E) international safety standard. On the underside of the barrels are thumb pads, which indicate where to hold them.

Wide view of the EclipSmart 12x50 binoculars on a tripod

Mounting the binoculars on a tripod does add much-needed stability.  (Image credit: Jamie Carter)

Using the Porro prism optical design — known for good contrast, clarity and less light loss compared to roof prisms — the Celestron EclipSmart 12x50mm has a focus wheel on the top and eyecups with plenty of eye relief. Sadly, the lens caps — for both the objective lenses and for the eyecups — are separate and easy to lose, while the neck strap is on the slender side. Ditto the shoulder bag in the box, which is best described as rudimentary.

Celestron EclipSmart 12x50mm porro solar binoculars: Performance

View of labels on the EclipSmart 12x50 binoculars

These binoculars are part of Celestron's four-strong EclipSmart range. (Image credit: Jamie Carter)
  • Blueish-white image of sun
  • Detailed views of sunspots
  • Some color fringing

With plenty of magnification, the Celestron EclipSmart 12x50 is capable of fantastic detailed close-ups of sunspots peppering the sun's surface. It does so against a cool bluish-white backdrop, though we did notice a trace of color fringing around the sun's disk. This issue appears as visible blue and yellow bands on opposite limbs of the solar disk, but it's neither distracting nor particularly unusual on solar eclipse binoculars.

View of objective lenses on the EclipSmart 12x50 binoculars

The 50mm objective lenses mean a bright image of the solar disk but the ISO standards adhered to mean that it is totally safe to view the sun. (Image credit: Jamie Carter)

What the Celestron EclipSmart 12x50mm is good at is both identifying sunspots and actually separating areas of activity within them. During my test I could see two large sunspots, Active Region 3403 and 3407, front and center, and make out detail within them. I could also see the smaller 3405 also visible on the eastern limb, something not nearly as visible while using the Celestron EclipSmart 10x42 solar binoculars I had on hand (which offer a little less magnification).

Celestron EclipSmart 12x50mm porro solar binoculars: Functionality

Underside view of the EclipSmart 12x50 binoculars

Thumb pads on the underside of the binoculars make them easy to grip. (Image credit: Jamie Carter)
  • Difficult to hold stable
  • Tripod adaptor jack included
  • Requires practice and patience

A common challenge arises when hand-holding binoculars with a magnification beyond 10x. The cause is the added weight in their construction that makes it tough to keep them still. The end result is an image that's just too wobbly — and, thus, blurry — to truly impress. That's the scenario here, though there are ways around it. The first is to sit down while you use them.

A lot of folks take a lawn chair to watch a solar eclipse, principally because they take about three hours. That's a wise choice made doubly so if you have the Celestron EclipSmart 12x50 in tow simply because sitting down more easily allows your head to take more of the weight of the binoculars.

However, the Celestron EclipSmart 12x50 also hides a nifty tripod adaptor jack right between its barrels. Pair this with an L-shaped adaptor and a camera tripod, and voila — you've got yourself a mini-telescope. This is, in practice, the best way to treat the Celestron EclipSmart 12x50 if you want a steady view.

However, the extra magnification on the Celestron EclipSmart 12x50 brings another problem — finding the sun. It might sound like an easy thing to do. After all, it's a huge great fiery ball in the sky, but the sun is actually tiny in our sky (and even smaller as an eclipse progresses) covering just 0.5-degrees of a visible 180-degrees. Besides, the solar filters on the objective lenses mean it's actually the only thing you can see.

Without context and in a sea of black, finding the sun while hand-holding the Celestron EclipSmart 12x50 is difficult and requires a little practice and patience. The best way is to wear a wide-brimmed hat (a sun hat or a baseball cap) to block the sun from your eyes, roughly face the sun while holding binoculars, and bring them up to your eyes before lifting them slowly towards the sky. It gets easier with practice.

Making adjustments to the distance between the barrels and fiddling with the diopter ring on the right-hand eyecup (to customize the optics to your own vision) isn't particularly easy to do, either, because you need to have the sun in the field of view to make alterations. The diopter tweaks, at least, should be done in advance of the eclipse, though it does mean that sharing the Celestron EclipSmart 12x50 becomes more difficult.

Should you buy the Celestron EclipSmart 12x50mm porro solar binoculars?

The Celestron EclipSmart 12x50mm is best considered by eclipse-chasers that would preferably like to be using a telescope to follow the eclipse, but really don't want to be transporting all that gear. Just about able to be used hand-held, but more impressive when attached to a tripod, it's a good option for those that are flying into their eclipse-observing destination. It will also be of great use before and after solar eclipses merely for studying sunspots.

If the Celestron EclipSmart 12x50mm porro solar binocular isn't for you

If you're fine with mounting the Celestron EclipSmart 12x50mm on a tripod and you're after as much magnification as possible then consider upgrading to the Celestron EclipSmart 20x50mm, which are otherwise identical. However, if you want something much more portable and pocket-sized, the more affordable Celestron EclipSmart 10x25mm will better suit you.

If you're actually not that bothered about getting any magnification of the partial eclipse and instead want a mind-blowing close-up of totality (warning: you must be within the path of totality!) then it's difficult to beat any of the best binoculars, but in particular image-stabilized products like the Canon 10x32 IS and Canon 10x42L IS WP.

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Jamie Carter
Contributing Writer

Jamie is an experienced science, technology and travel journalist and stargazer who writes about exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, moon-gazing, astro-travel, astronomy and space exploration. He is the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com and author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners, and is a senior contributor at Forbes. His special skill is turning tech-babble into plain English.