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Baader Zoom or Fixed FL EP for Planets?


PeterC65
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2 minutes ago, Franklin said:

Having a zoom is convenient and also very useful. For quick impromptu views between the clouds and for evaluating the best magnification to use for extended viewing. Great in the solar wedge too.

This begs the question: why would you switch to a fixed FL EP for extended viewing (having first determined the best magnification using a zoom) rather than just keep using the zoom at the selected magnification?

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7 minutes ago, PeterC65 said:

@SuburbanMak Can I ask, why do you have both the Baader Zoom and the BCO's? Originally I was thinking that the Baader Zoom, while expensive, would perform as well as a set of fixed FL EPs. I do like the Zoom, it's well made, convenient, and seems to perform well, although I don't have much to compare it with! The only other EP I have is a 40mm Celestron Omni which I bought to get the maximum possible FOV from the Skymax 127 and to give a big exit pupil (which seems to be useful when using filters). I'm just wondering now if I'm missing something by not having fixed FL EPs. For observing planets the advice so far seems to be that the Zoom is just fine, but maybe there are benefits of going for fixed FL EPs for other objects.

I think that’s a neat summary yes.  
The zoom gives great views and I won’t be fiddling about with Orthos in the Mak when it gets to minus 5 in a few weeks! 
 

I bought the Orthos to go with a growing collection of old refractors.  Their simplicity and weight seemed an appropriate upgrade on the often murky .965s or very old RAS fit glass that these old ‘scopes tend to come with. 
 

Gratuitous Classic refractor photos follow…

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You don't have to, you could just use the zoom. When using a travelscope remotely, to keep the weight down, for example. But some eyepiece designs are better suited to different kind of targets. You wouldn't use a super wide field, low power eyepiece to split a close double star and you wouldn't use a 45deg orthoscopic to view extended star fields and nebula. It's horses for courses, but a decent zoom, which the Baader is, makes a very handy all rounder. I own seven fixed focal length eyepieces and they all have their place and they all get used. But the zoom is definately my most used eyepiece.

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11 minutes ago, PeterC65 said:

@Tiny Clanger The prices for all Baader kit at FLO have increased in the last few days by between 15% and 35%!! RVO still seem to be holding the old prices, for now. I think if I do get some fixed FL EPs, the BSTs will be prime candidates.

 

Ah, and there's me wondering if I should try to sell you my 6mm BCO 🤣 🙂 *

Seriously though , mid range second hand eyepieces come up on here regularly as folk upgrade, BSTs go for around £35, which is not a great amount of money to risk, and not expensive or wildly difficult to post safely either. About half of the eyepieces I own are second hand bargains from SGL members, some are major hits, some are misses, but as long as you stick to quality makes with a good reputation , you can always sell the 'misses' on for someone else to see if they like it.  The mak is not picky on eyepieces, so you should have no problem with even wide FOV low mag eps as long as you stick with decent makes.

If you don't mind biding your time , second hand from people you trust and know care for their kit is a really good way to build a decent set of eyepieces (and diagonals, and mounts, and filters and .. what else have I bought ? ah yes, finders  ... 🙂 )

A lot of personal  preference , combination with 'scope factors , and individual's quirks of vision does seem to come into play. I simply don't like using zoom eps, I have tried, and it probably doesn't help that as a long time photographer, I'm prejudiced in favour of the simplicity and lack of optical compromise of single fixed focal length camera lenses.

Heather

* I'm joking , not a sales pitch , honest. The little 6mm BCO has a place with the plossls in my portable/loanable, reserve set . At the moment ...

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Many of the people on SGL seem to have lots of EPs and I guess this is to give them choice, allowing them to compare the view of a given object through a number of different EPs to select the one that is best for that object / what they want to observe about it / the seeing conditions / their own eyesight. I have only two EPs so it's either the Baader Zoom or the 40mm Celestron, and I do switch between them when I'm looking at objects with low magnification / wide FoV. I do have a filter wheel which gives me another thing to change and compare.

I suppose in pre-pandemic days people would meet at clubs and borrow EPs from others to give them a try before considering buying.

I'm also coming to the conclusion that while there is a lot of interesting kit out there, much of what you can observe is down to the seeing and your own experience, and the kit (provided it meets a minimum standard) has only a minor effect.

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52 minutes ago, PeterC65 said:

I'm also coming to the conclusion that while there is a lot of interesting kit out there, much of what you can observe is down to the seeing and your own experience, and the kit (provided it meets a minimum standard) has only a minor effect.

Until you look through it, and then start to notice the (often minor) improvements - but that's enough to start you on the slippery slope!

Seriously, though. The benefits of better gear starts to show when you start pushing the equipment to its limits.  Either faint stuff, small stuff, bright stuff, fuzzy stuff, etc. For me, it was trying to split tight doubles that started to show up limitations with the budget EPs.

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Having sold a few surplus bits and pieces recently, I'm still contemplating a fixed FL EP for planetary use!

Orthoscopic EPs seem to have the advantage of less glass and therefore more light and better contrast. I can see that this might offer an advantage over the Baader Zoom, even at the same FL as the Zoom, but the eye relief for orthos seems very tight (5mm). My current two EPs have eye relief of at least 16mm. 5mm seems very short by comparison but is it really a problem for someone who doesn't wear glasses?

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It takes some getting used to Peter, but when you think about it, these eyepieces are used at high power, which means the target you're viewing is in the center of the field. You do not need to stick your eye right up to the eye lens to see the center of the field. When I use my 6mm BCO, I hold my eye position above the eyepiece and peer down into it from above. The object, Jupiter Saturn or whatever, is completely visible but I don't see the whole field of view of the eyepiece and there's no need to.

I would just get a few eyepieces and experiment, see what works for you.

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I wear glasses but take them off when I'm observing and I've adjusted fairly easily to using my 6mm ortho, although it did seem a bit strange at first and I have poked myself in the eye a couple of times! 🤣

I recently got a cheap binoviewer which should also be ideal for high magnification observing. I've not had a chance to try it out on any celestial targets with the recent weather but I've done a bit of birdwatching and was impressed by how easy and comfortable it was to use.

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There's uncomfortable, and there's impossible.

If you really need to wear glasses for observing (i.e. significant astigmatism, not just short/long sight) then quite a few eyepieces are non-starters. Orthoscopics of the Abbe design, like plossls, have eye relief directly proportional to the focal length. For the BCOs, it's 75% of the FL, which is too short for glasses - although, since the effects of astigmatism are less noticeable with shorter focal lengths, some people with a milder degree can dispense with them anyway when switching to higher magnifications.

I don't wear glasses so, for the BCO 10mm, I find that 7.5mm is acceptable, whereas the 4.5mm relief of the 6mm BCO is uncomfortable for me. If I want to see the field stop, my lashes are right up against the surround - although, as mentioned above, this may not be necessary for compact objects, especially if your mount tracks. I expect I will get used to it; I've probably just gotten used to widefield EPs with generous relief.

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After much deliberation I've ordered 6mm and 10mm BCOs from Harrison Telescopes who still have them in stock at a reasonable price (thanks for the tip @SuburbanMak). They will give me a minimum glass alternative to the Baader Zoom, and having the two FLs should cover average and good seeing conditions.

The wife tells me that these EPs are to be wrapped up for Christmas!

 

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3 hours ago, PeterC65 said:

The wife tells me that these EPs are to be wrapped up for Christmas!

What?  You told the wife you're getting these?  I usually until I've had the chance the use them a few nights to ensure I want to keep them.  Then, when she asks what I want for Christmas, I tell her I'm already taken care of, and she can wrap them up at that point.  She's usually thrilled to be done so easily with shopping for me.

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1 minute ago, Louis D said:

What?  You told the wife you're getting these?  I usually until I've had the chance the use them a few nights to ensure I want to keep them.  Then, when she asks what I want for Christmas, I tell her I'm already taken care of, and she can wrap them up at that point.  She's usually thrilled to be done so easily with shopping for me.

No, that’s why I keep a couple of this very basic generic eyepieces that come with entry level SW scopes. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been given those for Christmas 😊

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I've spent way more on astronomy kit than I ever envisaged. We bought the Skymax 127 originally for both of us, and my wife does look at things from time to time, but it's me that sits outside for hours getting cold! So I'm content to have a few things wrapped up for Christmas.

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On 07/11/2021 at 14:28, PeterC65 said:

I'll give that a try next time, along with the clothes peg!

Yes the clothes peg and jar lid mods work a treat and I used the later on my 127. I have however just found a 3D printed (glow in the dark) focus knob that just slips over the existing one, Great for the £8 postD3EE1566-E5ED-4516-9645-C9974FBAB0B6.thumb.jpeg.e87daaf7f7b5fb8247843c52c2e46cfe.jpeg3CBE1B47-B13D-4D86-B443-A75270BC7F9F.thumb.jpeg.bc9a653e0abdfdb14b9c2907c93ff040.jpeged 

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17 hours ago, bosun21 said:

I have however just found a 3D printed (glow in the dark) focus knob that just slips over the existing one

That's a nice idea but I've swapped the visual back on my 127 for a 2" Clicklock clamp which leaves too little space between the focus knob and the clamp for a bigger focus knob. I made this swap as I'm forever canting over the diagonal to get just the right observing position for the eyepiece and so wanted an easy to adjust clamp. I thought that going for a 2" would give me room for flexibility in the future (if I ever decide to get a 2" diagonal for example).

Anyway, I've made a clothes peg instead, just re-using the spring.

P1060109.thumb.JPG.bb692cfef2a323b58a12a5dcdc062ed9.JPG

I've not had a chance to try it out yet but I'm hoping that fingertip nudges at the far end of the peg will allow fine focusing without vibrating the scope.

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1 hour ago, PeterC65 said:

That's a nice idea but I've swapped the visual back on my 127 for a 2" Clicklock clamp which leaves too little space between the focus knob and the clamp for a bigger focus knob. I made this swap as I'm forever canting over the diagonal to get just the right observing position for the eyepiece and so wanted an easy to adjust clamp. I thought that going for a 2" would give me room for flexibility in the future (if I ever decide to get a 2" diagonal for example).

Anyway, I've made a clothes peg instead, just re-using the spring.

P1060109.thumb.JPG.bb692cfef2a323b58a12a5dcdc062ed9.JPG

I've not had a chance to try it out yet but I'm hoping that fingertip nudges at the far end of the peg will allow fine focusing without vibrating the scope.

Was it the Baader 2” click lock that you fitted?. I was looking at doing the same thing however I thought that it was only the 1.25” that fitted due to the diagonal being 1.25”

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1 hour ago, PeterC65 said:

That's a nice idea but I've swapped the visual back on my 127 for a 2" Clicklock clamp which leaves too little space between the focus knob and the clamp for a bigger focus knob. I made this swap as I'm forever canting over the diagonal to get just the right observing position for the eyepiece and so wanted an easy to adjust clamp. I thought that going for a 2" would give me room for flexibility in the future (if I ever decide to get a 2" diagonal for example).

Anyway, I've made a clothes peg instead, just re-using the spring.

P1060109.thumb.JPG.bb692cfef2a323b58a12a5dcdc062ed9.JPG

I've not had a chance to try it out yet but I'm hoping that fingertip nudges at the far end of the peg will allow fine focusing without vibrating the scope.

Try putting a foam grip for handlebars or foam tape over the end of the peg.  I've found it helps dampen the contact shock from your fingertip as you search for best focus.  Check Amazon and/or ebay for ideas.

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23 minutes ago, bosun21 said:

Was it the Baader 2” click lock that you fitted?. I was looking at doing the same thing however I thought that it was only the 1.25” that fitted due to the diagonal being 1.25”

I'm guessing this adapter was added to the back of the Mak to bring it up to SCT thread size for the BCL.

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Despite having high quality fixed focal length eyepieces,  I use my Baader zoom a lot more often.  The zoom plus a Barlow lens and a low power, wide field eyepiece is often all I use the whole evening.  

Fixed focal length eyepieces may be slightly better corrected when compared with a zoom at the same magnification.   But that's not always a fair comparison as that magnification may not be the optimum for a given object.  This is because one of the many advantages of a zoom is to be able to dial in precisely the best focal length.  For instance, this may be 13mm or even 13.1mm, which may actually show more detail than shorter or longer fixed focal length eyepieces - even better quality ones.

I particularly like the ability to increase the magnification to make use of brief moments of good seeing (a steady atmosphere).  It takes more time to swap out an eyepiece, and the opportunity may then be missed.  You can't see anything if you haven't got an eyepiece in the focuser!

Zooms also enable the field of view to be varied to frame an object to get the prettiest view.  For this reason I particularly like them for clusters.. 

Another advantage is that you don't have to change a filter when you change magnification.

Many of those who post here and advocate fixed focal lengths are experienced observers.  It's so easy to forget what it was like as a beginner!  A zoom eyepiece enables beginners to easily learn what difference a change of magnification makes on all the various classes of object.  It also shows them what focal lengths would be most useful to their eyes, their telescope, and their observing conditions.  They then have the option of buying/not buying the most appropriate fixed focal length eyepieces for them.  For these reasons I'd always recommend that beginners buy a zoom as their first eyepiece.

For higher power than the 8mm with the Baader zoom I use a Barlow lens.  Just in case you're not aware, a Barlow lens multiplies the magnification of any eyepiece it's used with.  It goes in the focuser before the eyepiece.  The multiplication factor varies but 2x is most common.  Some of these 2x Barlows can also be used at 1.5x, although it's not always mentioned in the blurb, and it's one of these I'd recommend.  These dual 1.5x/2x Barlows allow the black lens cell to be unscrewed from the body of the Barlow and then screwed into the filter thread at the bottom of an eyepiece to give approx 1.5x.  My most used Barlow is a clone of the GSO 1.5/2x Shorty Barlow .  FLO sell a similar one for £25.

The exact amplification varies from eyepiece to eyepiece depending on where the field stop is located.  At 2x amplification with the Baader zoom this will give you magnifications of approx 125-375x with your Skymax 127.  Most nights the seeing (atmospheric turbulence) won't be good enough to go as high as 375x and you'd get more use from the approx 94-281x that 1.5x amplification will give you.  Additionally, at a given magnification the field of view will be bigger with 1.5x amplification.  This is because the vast majority of zooms have a wider field of view at the high power end.

Good luck with whichever way you decide to go.

 

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4 minutes ago, Second Time Around said:

Despite having high quality fixed focal length eyepieces,  I use my Baader zoom a lot more often.  The zoom plus a Barlow lens and a low power, wide field eyepiece is often all I use the whole evening.  

Fixed focal length eyepieces may be slightly better corrected when compared with a zoom at the same magnification.   But that's not always a fair comparison as that magnification may not be the optimum for a given object.  This is because one of the many advantages of a zoom is to be able to dial in precisely the best focal length.  For instance, this may be 13mm or even 13.1mm, which may actually show more detail than shorter or longer fixed focal length eyepieces - even better quality ones.

I particularly like the ability to increase the magnification to make use of brief moments of good seeing (a steady atmosphere).  It takes more time to swap out an eyepiece, and the opportunity may then be missed.  You can't see anything if you haven't got an eyepiece in the focuser!

Zooms also enable the field of view to be varied to frame an object to get the prettiest view.  For this reason I particularly like them for clusters.. 

Another advantage is that you don't have to change a filter when you change magnification.

Many of those who post here and advocate fixed focal lengths are experienced observers.  It's so easy to forget what it was like as a beginner!  A zoom eyepiece enables beginners to easily learn what difference a change of magnification makes on all the various classes of object.  It also shows them what focal lengths would be most useful to their eyes, their telescope, and their observing conditions.  They then have the option of buying/not buying the most appropriate fixed focal length eyepieces for them.  For these reasons I'd always recommend that beginners buy a zoom as their first eyepiece.

For higher power than the 8mm with the Baader zoom I use a Barlow lens.  Just in case you're not aware, a Barlow lens multiplies the magnification of any eyepiece it's used with.  It goes in the focuser before the eyepiece.  The multiplication factor varies but 2x is most common.  Some of these 2x Barlows can also be used at 1.5x, although it's not always mentioned in the blurb, and it's one of these I'd recommend.  These dual 1.5x/2x Barlows allow the black lens cell to be unscrewed from the body of the Barlow and then screwed into the filter thread at the bottom of an eyepiece to give approx 1.5x.  My most used Barlow is a clone of the GSO 1.5/2x Shorty Barlow .  FLO sell a similar one for £25.

The exact amplification varies from eyepiece to eyepiece depending on where the field stop is located.  At 2x amplification with the Baader zoom this will give you magnifications of approx 125-375x with your Skymax 127.  Most nights the seeing (atmospheric turbulence) won't be good enough to go as high as 375x and you'd get more use from the approx 94-281x that 1.5x amplification will give you.  Additionally, at a given magnification the field of view will be bigger with 1.5x amplification.  This is because the vast majority of zooms have a wider field of view at the high power end.

Good luck with whichever way you decide to go.

 

I have already bought the Baader Hyperion Zoom and Barlow and been using it. I also bought a Celestron Omni 32mm just for finding targets. I use the Baader Barlow with the Hyperion Zoom but use my GSO 2.5x triplet Barlow for my other EP’s

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3 hours ago, bosun21 said:

Was it the Baader 2” click lock that you fitted?. I was looking at doing the same thing however I thought that it was only the 1.25” that fitted due to the diagonal being 1.25”

Yes I fitted the Baader 2" Clicklock which requires an SCT thread on the visual back of the scope. I'm told that some Skymax 127 have the SCT thread as standard but mine did not and so I needed to use the adaptor that @Louis D mentioned. You can tell which thread you have by measuring its outside diameter. If it's 50mm then you have an SCT thread already, if it's 45mm then you need the adapter. It took me ages to get this sorted out, including a wait while FLO had their adapter stock re-made as they were the wrong size (what they have in stock now is the correct size).

I also swapped the standard Sky-Watcher diagonal for a Baader 32mm Prism and screwed a Baader 2" / T2 Nosepiece into the scope side of this diagonal. This has given me a rock solid diagonal mount which I can easily and safely cant over and lock to put the EP in just the right position for comfortable seated observing. You need to use the Baader nosepiece with safety kerfs rather than a standard one with an undercut or it will flop about in the Clicklock clamp when it is loosened (that mistake cost me a tenner!). I can't say if the Baader diagonal has given me any optical improvement as I only used the original Sky-Watcher diagonal briefly and didn't do a side by side comparison, but in theory the Baader prism should be better.

Just to continue the tale, on the EP side of the prism I have a ZWO Manual Filter Wheel, then another adaptor (T-2 to T-2), and finally (and most recently) a Baader 1.25" Clicklock to hold the EP.

It's taken a lot of faffing around and a lot of waiting for kit to put all this in place but I'm glad I did it. The Clicklocks are great and make setup and positional adjustment of the EP easy. I also love the filter wheel as it makes it so easy to switch in and out different filters to check whether they improve the view. So far the Astronomik UHC filter has been the most impressive (used on M42).

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@Second Time Around and @bosun21, the Baader Zoom was my first EP purchase. It is a lovely piece of kit, and very versatile.

I also felt the need for a low magnification EP which would allow me to see the maximum TFoV that is possible with the Skymax 127 (about 1 degree) and for this I plumped for a Celestron 40mm Omni. With this EP, the TFoV is limited by the scope rather than the EP but the 40mm FL gives me a 3.4mm exit pupil and I've read that maximising the exit pupil size is useful when using filters, particularly UHC filters, which does seem to be the case. I find that I use the Celestron 40mm almost as much as the Baader Zoom so I think I was right to purchase something with a longer FL and wider TFoV than the Baader Zoom can achieve.

Right now I just have these two EPs. I think they give me good coverage but not having anything else to compare them with keeps making me wonder what I might be missing. I've order a couple of Baader Classic Orthos (6mm and 10mm) to give me an alternative at the high magnification end of the Baader Zoom and to see what orthoscopic EPs are all about.

The slippery slope continues to beckon however, and I am wondering whether there may be merit in getting a 24mm 68 degree EP which should give me the same maximal TFoV as the Celestron 40mm but with a higher magnification. Someone should probably cut up my credit card!

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