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New Skywatcher Planetary EP's - 4mm Initial Thoughts


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I've been on the lookout for a good planetary EP for some time now, I really enjoy the views through my X-Cel's but didn't have anything in the 4mm range, I'm not a fan of 'barlowing' things to within an inch of their lives, so I went looking for a modest 4mm EP. I deliberately set myself a budget limit of £50 which is a real challenge for my F4.7 scope. The X-Cel's are wonderful through it and pin sharp to the edges but they were out of my price range. After endless trawling like you do when you look for a new piece of kit, I arrived at TMB Planetary EP's from skies the limit or some BST's. I randomly had a browse of FLO's website and saw the 'new Skywatcher Planetary' Ep's being advertised. I decided to buy the 4mm as an alternative to aforementioned brands and see how it stood up.

FLO were great with dispatch and it arrived yesterday 1st Class, coming in at £39 I wasn't expecting stellar results and so kept my expectations in check. Last night it was lovely and clear for the ISS passes so I thought I'd give the EP a run for it's money.

The closest EP I have for comparison is the 7mm X-Cel Lx, so please take my comments with some consideration that I could be totally speaking out of my backside!

The 4mm SW has a metallic/plastic feel to it, it feels solid enough, but imo it's not very pretty and feels cheap to hold. It definitely feels an improvement over the standard kit EP's, but very lacking compared to the X-Cel Lx's (which are roughly double the price).

My first view was on the moon, the seeing was quite stable and the scope had cooled for a good 90 mins, I will go back and do a full in-depth test when I have more time. So this is more a first impression verdict. In short I found the EP 'passable/average' in my F4.7 scope. I found my optics evidently pushed the EP quite hard and there was a slight softness to the overall image not present in the X-Cel Lx's. It's nothing severe but I was slightly disappointed as I've heard great things about planetary EP's, but I reminded myself for £39 I should expect some optical defects.

There was a slight hint of yellow tinge it felt throughout the whole FOV, I attribute that to loss of contrast at that mag (300x) but no doubt others will clarify what I was seeing. The view was pleasing enough but it just wasn't the experience I've had with the X-Cel Lx's. The FOV is wide enough (58*) and didn't feel overly tight.

Next I moved onto Jupiter. it looked quite good and certainly the closest view I've had without a barlow. It was crisp, but it wasn't 'that' crisp I'm afraid to say. The planetary disc still looked a little washed out and almost overexposed. I tried a #88 Moon filter to reduce glare which brought out more cloud band detail and presented a better view. It was relatively sharp all the way to the edge of the FOV, letting Jupiter drift across the FOV demonstrated this,

Killer question: Would I recommend this EP? Economically my head says yes I would, it's a modest upgrade for the beginner user, under the caveat they own a scope below F5, maybe even F6. In my heart though I can't help but wonder what those TMB or BST's would've given me. For people with fast scopes, no I wouldn't recommend it. It's not a terrible view by any means, it will happily satisfy a gap in your EP range for close up planetary and double star work, but I wouldn't consider it a 'workhorse' EP. Maybe I've been spoiled by the X-Cel Lx's but I felt a little deflated and ever so slightly annoyed I didn't put the money aside and go for an X Cel Lx or equivalent next month.

With observing you 'gets whats you pays', and for £39 in an F4.7 I was pushing my luck, it seems I've found where the limit is. I'm sure some people will get on great with this range of EP's, they're priced just right, a credible alternative to other similarly priced EP's. I suppose we'll await to see what more people think.

Link - http://www.firstligh...-eyepieces.html

skywatcher_planetary_eyepieces.jpg

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Just FYI if you didnt know this, FLO will let you return items for a full refund (less shipping) if you aren't 100% happy with your purchase. This includes using it and not being happy. So long as it has all the packaging it came with and is not damaged or marked and withiin 30 days of receipt they will gladly take it back and refund you. They seem to have a good bead on the fact that people sometimes take a chance not knowing what they are going to get and they therefore let you purchase and make sure you are happy - which is a rare thing, and a reason why I cntinue to keep buying from them. Ive never had reason to send anything back but it's good to know that I have that option if im not happy.

Edited by Stargazing00
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If its any consolation, they sound a lot better than the Baader Hyperion in an F4.7 scope and the Hyperion costs 2.4x as much. I think you are right in your conclusion when you say "With observing you 'gets whats you pays', and for £39 in an F4.7 I was pushing my luck". The TMB clones are a good upgrade from the supplied eyepieces and offer a good alternaitve to the Revelation/GSO Plossl (which is also a bit soft in an F4.7). But they are not miracle workers.

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Buying and trying eyepieces is all I have ever done and to be honest its sometimes the only way, but I have learnt much along the way as well.

Me too. The flourishing used astro equipment market is a godsend for this sort of thing :smiley:

You can often buy, try and then sell at little or no loss.

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Very nice report and honest at the end.

It could well perform better in a faster scope, I would not have tried to use an eyepiece that gave so much power, I see that you have a 10 inch but I still think X300 is over the top for normal UK conditions . I believe you would have done better with the 5mm myself.

Fredster,

Saying things like that, you will have the Hyperion Inquisition after you.

Alan.

Edited by alan potts
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Fredster,

Saying things like that, you will have the Hyperion Inquisition after you.

Alan.

Yep i had better be careful. I found my Hyperions were great in the Skymax 102 but pants in the Explorer 150 and Startravel 120. Hmm that's not helping too much is it. :)

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Nice write up. :)

I had the 8mm version of this (One of the TMB 'designed' type) and thought it a pretty decent little EP in my 200p, although the 300p started to show up the cracks. That was also true of the BST Explorers, which I assume are a similar 'barlowed' Plossl type and were very comparable in terms of the views offered.

What is worth mentioning is the decent eye relief they offer compared to a Plossl or Ortho. A sharper EP is a great thing, but not if you can't get close enough to use it, so the Planetary/Explorers offer a valid alternative at a competitive price.

Russell

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This is a TMB Planetary clone, so not a Plössl, whatever Sky-Watcher might claim. It is identical in manufacture to the BST Wide Angle eyepiece and also, other than than livery, to the TS HR. They are decent comfortable eyepieces which work well even in quite fast telescopes, but there are weaknesses. I find a false floating image caused by glint to be a real annoyance on planets and the glare from objects just out of view to hinder the search for dim objects close by.

I am currently comparing four different Planetary eyepiece clones and hope to have the write up ready in the next fortnight or so.

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