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iPeace

Everyman's Casual Comparison of Pentax vs Baader: 8-24mm Zoom

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DISCLAIMER: no technical knowledge or jargon available. Just general impressions from me, your average gazer.

Perhaps we will elaborate in future posts, but let's start with tonight's 40 minute grab-and-go session, conducted right before the clouds rolled in. Two scopes on an alt-az mount, the TeleVue 85mm APO refractor (600mm f/l) and the SkyWatcher SkyMax 102mm Maksutov (1300mm f/l). Same diagonal used in both scopes, a Baader T-2 Amici ('astro quality') prism. Target is Luna.

large.tmp_19279-DSC_04701770882132.JPG.40ab598ba699964779100504af84a1e8.JPG

It says the same thing on both of these tins: 8-24mm zoom. One of the tins is a bit bigger and more expensive. So, do you get more beans?

Build Quality and Mechanics

Both have a very nice, solid feel. The Pentax feels a bit heavier, but perhaps not as much as you might expect (I shall have to put them on the scales in due course to get the truth out). I would say the Pentax has a more premium feel to it, but this in no way implies that the Baader feels anything less than good. The zoom action on the Pentax is continuous without stops at set focal lengths, while the Baader has "clicks" at the specific focal lengths. Both have twist-up eyecups, the Baader's is removable and can be replaced with either of the other options included in the box while that of the Pentax is a more substantial and integral part of the eyepiece. Both work well in helping me rest the upper part of my schnoz up against the eyepiece to maintain correct eye position and this is important for use of both as I do get "blackouts" or whatever they're called if I'm not correctly set up. In short, the Pentax looks and feels as though it would be more expensive, but both feel very durable and well made.

In the TV85

Now as always, I tend to lose any concentration I may wish to apply and just look at the amazing spectacle. It's hard to compare the performance of eyepieces in this state of mind; but then again, if you're sitting there looking through it with a big grin on your face, it's working as it should. Both the Pentax and the Baader do this for me, and there's very little in it between them. I'm not sure I could tell which one I was looking through if someone else made the selection and I somehow could not see the eyepiece itself, but the Pentax possibly has a slightly "cooler" picture, if that makes any sense...neither of them are parfocal across the range, both of them snap nicely into focus after zooming with a small tweak of the focuser. Perhaps the Pentax shows a slightly darker sky around Luna, but perhaps not. In short, both are very nice and work well for me in this scope.

In the Mak 102

This scope is still quite new to me, my first Mak, and I'm still getting to grips with it. I made sure it had enough time to cool beforehand, and used the same diagonal I had used in the TV85. The higher magnification it gives with the same eyepieces is instant fun; I can now understand why so often the Mak is cited as valuable for dedicated lunar and planetary observing. And again, both zooms do very well indeed, but this round, there's even less between them - I can't really tell the difference.

So...?

The clouds rolled in; nothing more to do this night. You might think by now that I would be thinking that the Pentax is not worth the extra outlay over the Baader; I'm not quite there because I really like the premium feel of the Pentax. Because of it's lighter weight and smaller size, the Baader travels easier and this would probably get it on board for holidays sooner than the Pentax. And I am certain that I'm not as discerning as some when it comes to judging the performance of an eyepiece, so just because I don't see much difference doesn't mean it's not there to be seen. Neither showed me any noticeable flaws, both were very, very nice. Perhaps the Pentax for home-base use, and the Baader for travel afield? Or perhaps more comparison to be done?

And indeed, why not.

:happy11:

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9 minutes ago, iPeace said:

DISCLAIMER: no technical knowledge or jargon available. Just general impressions from me, your average gazer.

Perhaps we will elaborate in future posts, but let's start with tonight's 40 minute grab-and-go session, conducted right before the clouds rolled in. Two scopes on an alt-az mount, the TeleVue 85mm APO refractor (600mm f/l) and the SkyWatcher SkyMax 102mm Maksutov (1300mm f/l). Same diagonal used in both scopes, a Baader T-2 Amici ('astro quality') prism. Target is Luna.

large.tmp_19279-DSC_04701770882132.JPG.40ab598ba699964779100504af84a1e8.JPG

It says the same thing on both of these tins: 8-24mm zoom. One of the tins is a bit bigger and more expensive. So, do you get more beans?

Build Quality and Mechanics

Both have a very nice, solid feel. The Pentax feels a bit heavier, but perhaps not as much as you might expect (I shall have to put them on the scales in due course to get the truth out). I would say the Pentax has a more premium feel to it, but this in no way implies that the Baader feels anything less than good. The zoom action on the Pentax is continuous without stops at set focal lengths, while the Baader has "clicks" at the specific focal lengths. Both have twist-up eyecups, the Baader's is removable and can be replaced with either of the other options included in the box while that of the Pentax is a more substantial and integral part of the eyepiece. Both work well in helping me rest the upper part of my schnoz up against the eyepiece to maintain correct eye position and this is important for use of both as I do get "blackouts" or whatever they're called if I'm not correctly set up. In short, the Pentax looks and feels as though it would be more expensive, but both feel very durable and well made.

In the TV85

Now as always, I tend to lose any concentration I may wish to apply and just look at the amazing spectacle. It's hard to compare the performance of eyepieces in this state of mind; but then again, if you're sitting there looking through it with a big grin on your face, it's working as it should. Both the Pentax and the Baader do this for me, and there's very little in it between them. I'm not sure I could tell which one I was looking through if someone else made the selection and I somehow could not see the eyepiece itself, but the Pentax possibly has a slightly "cooler" picture, if that makes any sense...neither of them are parfocal across the range, both of them snap nicely into focus after zooming with a small tweak of the focuser. Perhaps the Pentax shows a slightly darker sky around Luna, but perhaps not. In short, both are very nice and work well for me in this scope.

In the Mak 102

This scope is still quite new to me, my first Mak, and I'm still getting to grips with it. I made sure it had enough time to cool beforehand, and used the same diagonal I had used in the TV85. The higher magnification it gives with the same eyepieces is instant fun; I can now understand why so often the Mak is cited as valuable for dedicated lunar and planetary observing. And again, both zooms do very well indeed, but this round, there's even less between them - I can't really tell the difference.

So...?

The clouds rolled in; nothing more to do this night. You might think by now that I would be thinking that the Pentax is not worth the extra outlay over the Baader; I'm not quite there because I really like the premium feel of the Pentax. Because of it's lighter weight and smaller size, the Baader travels easier and this would probably get it on board for holidays sooner than the Pentax. And I am certain that I'm not as discerning as some when it comes to judging the performance of an eyepiece, so just because I don't see much difference doesn't mean it's not there to be seen. Neither showed me any noticeable flaws, both were very, very nice. Perhaps the Pentax for home-base use, and the Baader for travel afield? Or perhaps more comparison to be done?

And indeed, why not.

:happy11:

Interesting review. Would like to see your thoughts further after some more testing perhaps. I'd tend to plump for the Baader myself just because of costs, as I don't think perhaps the view will be Earth shatteringly different for the price, but could be persuaded perhaps. :) 

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I have owned both, but not at the same time, and was left with much the same experience as you.

The Pentax went a few months ago and I fear that the Baader is destined for the same fate.

How many zooms does a man need to buy before he admits to himself he doesn't actually need one? :rolleyes2:  

 

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Interesting initial thoughts on this pair Mike. More to come I hope :smiley:

 

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Just now, DRT said:

I have owned both, but not at the same time, and was left with much the same experience as you.

The Pentax went a few months ago and I fear that the Baader is destined for the same fate.

How many zooms does a man need to buy before he admits to himself he doesn't actually need one? :rolleyes2:  

 

Oh, I certainly need one, but which?

:happy9:

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1 minute ago, John said:

Interesting initial thoughts on this pair Mike. More to come I hope :smiley:

 

Anything in particular I should look for?

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7 minutes ago, iPeace said:

Anything in particular I should look for?

I found comparing the Baader zoom with a good fixed focal length eyepiece on M82 quite revealing. At the 8mm setting. :smiley:

Look out for ghosting when viewing Jupiter of course - check out all the FL stops on both zooms to see if either is "haunted" at all.

Uneven brightness close double stars can be a good test.

Jovian detail (eg: GRS), is it as clear ALL the way acros the FoV ?

You have to be really mean when testing these things - give them a hard time ! :evil4:

 

Edited by John
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14 minutes ago, iPeace said:

Oh, I certainly need one, but which?

:happy9:

I'm changing my plea to "want" rather than "need". 

I have owned a Seben, a Lunt, a Baader Mk III, a Celestron, 2x Tele Vue (including a Nagler), a Pentax, two cheap ones from FleaBay and the Baader Mk IV and each time I have told myself I do not get on with zooms. Then I buy another one.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. {Albert Einstein}

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I've tried many Zoom eyepieces over the years....all of them have fallen short due to quality and performance issues - dust, loose optics, and field effects...

Then along came the Nitrogen filled Pentax....

I just love it, use it on the SM60 or PST mod for solar observing.

 

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5 hours ago, iPeace said:

Anything in particular I should look for?

1. Is the field stop sharp at all focal lengths in the fastest scope you have?

2. Which zoom requires the least refocusing across the range of focal lengths?

3. Do stars remain pinpoints out to the edge or do they turn into comets, tiny crosses or seagulls, rainbows, or become fuzzy?  This tests for coma, astigmatism, lateral color and field curvature.

4. Can stars be refocused to pinpoints at the edge if they don't normally remain pinpoints across the field?

5. Does eye relief remain constant across the focal range or do you have to push in or pull back slightly while zooming to maintain the entire field?

6. Which has the larger apparent field of view at each end?

7. Does the field size change in a nice linear manner during zooming or does it change in fits and spurts?

8. How much effort does it take to turn the zooming collar?  Do you have to grip the lower part of the barrel to keep it from twisting in the eyepiece holder?

9. When panning star fields, which presents the least distortion?  This may take the form of either pincushion (rolling globe, stars slow down and bunch up at the edge while speeding up and spreading out across the center) or barrel (the opposite of pincushion).  Does either make you seasick while panning?

10. If you normally wear eyeglasses, which is easier to use while wearing them?

11. In daytime usage, are there any issues with kidney beaning (spherical aberration of the exit pupil)?

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7 hours ago, John said:

I found comparing the Baader zoom with a good fixed focal length eyepiece on M82 quite revealing. At the 8mm setting. :smiley:

Look out for ghosting when viewing Jupiter of course - check out all the FL stops on both zooms to see if either is "haunted" at all.

Uneven brightness close double stars can be a good test.

Jovian detail (eg: GRS), is it as clear ALL the way acros the FoV ?

You have to be really mean when testing these things - give them a hard time ! :evil4:

 

All of this will take a few sessions... :rolleyes2:

Looks like they'll both have to come along on holiday. :icon_biggrin:

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8 hours ago, DRT said:

How many zooms does a man need to buy before he admits to himself he doesn't actually need one? :rolleyes2:  

Careful analysis suggests that the "need to buy" might be the actual force in action, as opposed to the "need to have".

:grin:

If so, you are continually providing for your own naturally occurring needs, a perfectly healthy and sane approach in my book. More people should be on this path.

:happy11:

P.S. Didn't you also have a Leica at one point?

:icon_biggrin:

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1 hour ago, iPeace said:

Careful analysis suggests that the "need to buy" might be the actual force in action, as opposed to the "need to have".

:grin:

If so, you are continually providing for your own naturally occurring needs, a perfectly healthy and sane approach in my book. More people should be on this path.

:happy11:

P.S. Didn't you also have a Leica at one point?

:icon_biggrin:

Yes ?

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I have used many zooms over the years - Baader Mk1 or was it Mk2, Pentax 6.5-19.5mm x2 and currently a TeleVue 8-24mm. Of these the TeleVue has proved the best.

However, on Sunday I was able to use a Baader Mk3 zoom in a Lunt LS60 Ha and the quality was very good. After that observing session I felt that I might try the new Baader Mk4 so Mike @iPeace I look forward to your further tests. I like the Baader zooms because of the ability to screw a camera into the top which I cannot do with the TeleVue.

 

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Another less-expensive Zoom out there is the Vixen LV 8mm - 24mm. These run about $200.00 in the US, and look identical to many of the others that go for less than half this amount - inclding the Seben. The glaring (though not optically!) difference is the Vixen LV's have Vixens' Lanthanum lens-element. This results in a very nice flat field of pin-point stars edge-to-edge.

Being lighter in weight and smaller in size compared to the Baader, it's my dedicated 'grab-n-go' choice I take with to community-outreach evenings at the local parks. Everyone loves a Zoom - and I introduce folk to what I mean when I ask if they'd they like to try "Parachuting on the Moon." Always a fun time, as I sneak in an education about astronomy and telescopes in general. Lil' devil that I am! :D

Also great for double-stars,

Dave

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Look forward to hearing more Mike. In theory there should be a difference in the faster scope i.e. The edges may be softer in the TV85 but then again it is not f4 or 5 so it might still be ok.

I've always fancied trying out the Pentax, looks and reviews like a great ep so I think you will have fun with it :) 

Best for me has been the Leica 8.9 to 17.8mm ASPH Zoom. Roughly 60 to 80 degrees afov which is the best out there, and wonderful planetary and solar performance. The edges aren't as tight as other dedicated widefield eyepieces, but on axis is right up there and beyond eyepieces such as the BGO. I find that I mainly observe planets on axis in a driven mount so Edge performance is less important for me.

Anyhow, have fun and let us know how you go.

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18 minutes ago, Stu said:

Look forward to hearing more Mike. In theory there should be a difference in the faster scope i.e. The edges may be softer in the TV85 but then again it is not f4 or 5 so it might still be ok.

I've always fancied trying out the Pentax, looks and reviews like a great ep so I think you will have fun with it :) 

Best for me has been the Leica 8.9 to 17.8mm ASPH Zoom. Roughly 60 to 80 degrees afov which is the best out there, and wonderful planetary and solar performance. The edges aren't as tight as other dedicated widefield eyepieces, but on axis is right up there and beyond eyepieces such as the BGO. I find that I mainly observe planets on axis in a driven mount so Edge performance is less important for me.

Anyhow, have fun and let us know how you go.

I have often read comments on edge performance; I may well be missing something, or maybe whatever might be suboptimal just doesn't bother me.

In the interest of public service, what exactly should I be looking for?

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On 3 April 2017 at 10:13, Stu said:

Look forward to hearing more Mike. In theory there should be a difference in the faster scope i.e. The edges may be softer in the TV85 but then again it is not f4 or 5 so it might still be ok.

I've always fancied trying out the Pentax, looks and reviews like a great ep so I think you will have fun with it :) 

Best for me has been the Leica 8.9 to 17.8mm ASPH Zoom. Roughly 60 to 80 degrees afov which is the best out there, and wonderful planetary and solar performance. The edges aren't as tight as other dedicated widefield eyepieces, but on axis is right up there and beyond eyepieces such as the BGO. I find that I mainly observe planets on axis in a driven mount so Edge performance is less important for me.

Anyhow, have fun and let us know how you go.

I don't see the edge of field brightening that some others have reported with the Leica zoom Stu - it's just a fabulous eyepiece, though the Pentax is almost as enjoyable - as long as the narrower fov isn't a problem. 

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30 minutes ago, Highburymark said:

I don't see the edge of field brightening that some others have reported with the Leica zoom Stu - it's just a fabulous eyepiece, though the Pentax is almost as enjoyable - as long as the narrower fov isn't a problem. 

I agree, lovely eyepiece. I've not noticed edge of field brightness either, but suspect that our skies are not dark enough for it to be noticed.

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3 hours ago, Stu said:

I agree, lovely eyepiece. I've not noticed edge of field brightness either, but suspect that our skies are not dark enough for it to be noticed.

For the first time  ever - an advantage to stargazing in London!!

No edge of field brightness with Leica zoom!! In your face dark sky observers!! Bet you're feeling pretty envious now.

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1 hour ago, Highburymark said:

For the first time  ever - an advantage to stargazing in London!!

No edge of field brightness with Leica zoom!! In your face dark sky observers!! Bet you're feeling pretty envious now.

Maybe we should give ourselves a clap on shoulders too:wink: There're gazers who see EOFB in over dozen's EPs

Edited by YKSE
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1 hour ago, Highburymark said:

For the first time  ever - an advantage to stargazing in London!!

No edge of field brightness with Leica zoom!! In your face dark sky observers!! Bet you're feeling pretty envious now.

Here's a Texan who's jealous of your bright night skies.....NOT! :laugh2:

I am jealous of your long history and many interesting places to visit.  Great Britain is definitely on my bucket list for a weeks long visit.  I'll just have to bone up on English English first by watching your period, costume TV dramas. :wink:

I've noticed EOFB only when doing back to back eyepiece swaps.  Otherwise, I seem to subconsciously filter it out.  I've noticed it goes well beyond the edge and can extend nearly to the center of the FOV in some eyepieces.  It looks a little like a graduated neutral density vignette filter, but in reverse.  The FOV gets progressively brighter from center to edge.

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3 hours ago, Louis D said:

Here's a Texan who's jealous of your bright night skies.....NOT! :laugh2:

I am jealous of your long history and many interesting places to visit.  Great Britain is definitely on my bucket list for a weeks long visit.  I'll just have to bone up on English English first by watching your period, costume TV dramas. :wink:

I've noticed EOFB only when doing back to back eyepiece swaps.  Otherwise, I seem to subconsciously filter it out.  I've noticed it goes well beyond the edge and can extend nearly to the center of the FOV in some eyepieces.  It looks a little like a graduated neutral density vignette filter, but in reverse.  The FOV gets progressively brighter from center to edge.

I'd trade our costume dramas for your dark skies Louis. I might even include a Leica zoom as part of the deal.

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