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part timer

Part Timers Eyepiece mini reviews!

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Over the last few years I, like many other astronomers, have been engaged in a very expensive obsession. Namely, finding the best set of eyepieces possible for every sort of observing whilst also costing the least possible amount of money. I do not recommend that any other observer takes this course. It has cost me a small fortune and I still haven’t completed the task yet!

However I think that if I can share my experiences with others and help them to get their perfect set without all the extra expense then at least some use will come of the frequent frustrations. So, with that end in mind, here are my Eyepiece ‘mini reviews’. They are presented in roughly the order in which I used the eyepieces though I have grouped similar ranges together in order to make it more readable.

1)Generic Chinese 20mm Hugenian

This used to be supplied with virtually every cheap telescope. I got mine in a Tasco Newtonian and found that I could get half decent views with it. They are now supplied with the Celestron 76mm Newtonian. Optically they are usable but have some haziness and chromatic distortion. Most eyepieces would show an improved view in comparison with these.

2)Generic 4mm Ramsden

Essentially as above but with increased chromatic aberration.

3)Chinese ‘Silvertop’ Plossl’s

(usually in 25,20and 10mm focal lengths) These were supplied with Helios and early Skywatcher telescopes before they brought in the cheaper low quality plastic eyepieces currently supplied. They are surprisingly good plossls with good optics and construction and generally outperform the current wave of ultra cheap plossls and Kellner’s on the market. I used all the above FL’s and found them all of about the same standard.

4)TAL Plossl’s

I’ve used most of the focal lengths (not the 32, 17 and 10mm) and found them all of the same quality. Construction is of the highest standard and optics are very, very sharp. The 40mm and 25mm are absolutely top class eyepieces and absolutely in the top end of the market. They have a slight yellow tint but nothing noticeable unless you have another eyepiece to compare them too. The yellow tint becomes more bothersome for me as the focal lengths get shorter so that I find the 20 and 12.5mm very good but not quite as good as the longer ones. Shorter than that and the images, whilst still of the highest quality in terms of sharpness and distortion, are dimmed too much for my liking.

5)9mm Volcano top Orthoscopic

I got this second hand at astrofest to fill a gap in the magnifications provided with my TAL telescope. Performance was reasonable but eyerelief combined with the shape of the eyepiece always made me feel as if I was going to poke my eye out. I’m a bit strange about things getting to close to my eye so you may not notice.

6)Celestron Nextar Plossls

(I have used the 32, 17, 13 and 10mm) These were an absolutely excellent and hugely under rated set of eyepieces. They were closely related to the generic silver top plossls above but with improved coatings and construction. All four gave clear, sharp and well corrected images. The 32 does drop off a little in the last 10-15% of the field of view but very little. The rubber eye guards are a bit stiff but this only caused a problem in the 13 and 10mm where the eye relief is shorter. These eyepieces were very consistent, nearly parfocal and are an order of magnitude better than the current Meade 4000’s.

7)Skywatcher MA ‘super’ 25mm and 10mm

These came with my 90mm Maksutov. They are of the same quality as the earlier Hugenian/Ramsden eyepieces but of better optical design. Images are passable but when I compared them to the equivalent focal length plossls that Skywatcher used to provide it was as if a fuzzy fog had descended on the image. OK for a child’s telescope but should be upgraded a soon as possible.

8)GSO 6mm and 20mm Plossl

I bought these for £20 from Jessop’s back when the cheapest plossls were about twice as much. They were absolutely fantastic quality both in build and in optics. Can’t think of anything bad about them. Sold as I couldn’t cope with the eye relief of the 6mm (or any Short Plossl) and the 20mm doubled magnifications I already had. Absolute bargain which are directly comparable to Televue and Ultima Plossls.

9)Baader Hyperion (I had the 8,13, 17 and 24)

These used to be a good bargain but have now gone up in price a bit. They gave images comparable to semi decent Plossls but over a nice wide field. Perfect at F12 and trailing off at F8, and on my F6 refractor they were starting to show their limits. I would not personally want to use them on a short focus telescope. My main problem was that I bought them over the internet without seeing them first hand and hated the size. The 8 and 13 and 17 were all like coke cans and a pain to handle in the dark. They didn’t Barlow well either.

10)Baader Orthoscopic range

I bought the 6, 9 and 12.5mm focal lengths. These are High quality eyepieces with very well correct images. There are no specific faults with them. My problem was that they give the same performance as top of the range plossls and suffer the same poor eyerelief. I struggled to use the 6 and 9mm for this reason and they were all limited by their relatively small field of view. These are fine eyepieces but my own feeling is that they don’t bring anything to the table that a Celestron Ultima (or clone thereof) or Televue Plossl wouldn’t bring and they do this with a smaller field of view.

11)Astronomica ‘ED’ Eyepieces

I used the 7.5 and 12.4 which were consistent in quality with each other. These were cheaply but well constructed with the exception of the outer paint work which was incredibly thin and flaked of easily leaving them very tatty looking. They are clones of the Orion Epic ED range and are the same design as the Celestron Exel but in different focal lengths. All these eyepieces have the same optical qualities. These include sharp, clear views over the full 55 degree field and one massive problem. The eyerelief is so long that it is almost impossible to hold your eye in the correct position to escape terrible kidney beaning. If you wear glasses you may find these eyepieces suit you quite well as the optics are good but I can’t guarantee it. Anyone else should probably avoid them.

12)TMB/TS Planetary 'HR'

I use the 8 and 9mm and have used the 6 and 7. These are just about the only cheap eyepiece for which I can see no drawbacks. Optics are excellent and give views over a 60 degree field which are of the same quality as a good plossls or Orthoscopic and the mechanical design and quality is astounding in this price range. They have long eyerelief which is accommodated by solid twist-up eyecups to allow any user to get a perfect view, with or without glasses. Both of mine and one of the others I used have a rattle resulting from the whole lens assembly not being fixed within the eyepiece. This is tiny and has no effect on the eyepiece. I unreservedly recommend them.

13)11mm Chinese ‘Ultra wide’

These are sold under many different brands and are all identical. They are hugely impressive for what they cost. There is strong chromatic aberration in daylight but this is not an issue on deep sky. The eyerelief is zero and the eyecup is so uncomfortable it will have to be removed. Still the views are surprisingly good over 90% of the field with most craziness being restricted the very last couple of percent of the field. The poor man’s Nagler has fewer compromises than you would expect for 30 pounds!

14)Televue Plossls (new and old)

I am now building a collection of these. The shortest one I’ll use is my 10.5mm due to eye relief but the image and general quality is quite genuinely in another league to cheaper plossls. The GSO’s I used were quite close in performance and quality though. The performance does have the edge in sharpness, contrast and light throughput too all other plossls I’ve used. Even my favourite Nexstar’s are not in the same class as the Televues. So the question is, ‘Are they worth the extra money?’ I’ll be honest about the price; it’s too high in real terms. I think on balance, that it is worth it; as you will never need to upgrade these eyepieces. There is no real difference in performance in any of the different models I’ve used. This includes some smooth sides and some newer types. My collection has more smooth sides because the focal lengths fit my scope better but that is all.

15)Vixen 32mm Erfle

This sometimes comes up used. It is a high quality eyepiece which can only give a 50 degree field as it is in 1.25” format. The optics however will give a greater field in a larger barrel. I found performance in the original barrel size to be Identical to a good Plossl. It did have the advantage that I could see fainter stars in the Erfle than in two 32mm Plossls (the Nexstar and Omni). The Eye relief was, unfortunately too long and the eyepiece really needed a long stiff eye guard. As there was no easy way to do this I let it go. This was a mistake as, with the barrel removed I could have made an excellent 2” eyepiece or more likely a finder scope.

16)Celestron Omni Plossl 32mm

I've owned this and looked through a few other focal lengths (namely the 9, 12.5 and 25mm) They are of excellent build quality and have very nice coatings. All the ones I tried are inferior the Nexstar range they replaced. They have lower light transmission, less sharpness, slightly increased edge aberrations and not as colour neutral. They are a reasonable eyepiece for the price but I still don't recommend them.

17)Meade series4000 Plossls (post 2000 Chinese version)

I've used the 26, 32, 40, 6.4 and 9.7mm. Nothing wrong with these except the price. They are very mediocre eyepieces which would be a good bargain at say £15-20 pounds (although you you can still get Tal Plossls at that price and they would be better). Interestingly One website claims these are made by GSO. The Gso own brand eyepieces are cheaper than these and have higher standards in all areas so Meade must be deliberately ordering lower spec eyepieces to save money.

18) Old Celestron Black and orange Plossl 12.5mm

This eyepiece is the kind with no eye guard and black body with orange lettering. It has shorter eye relief than normal but is of considerably higher build and optical quality than today's offerings. If a Televue is 100% then this is 85-90%. Very impressive and well built. People would do better to find a few second-hand examples of these than spend their money on their cheaply made modern equivalents.

Well that’s all I remember for now but With any more purchases or, if I remember any I’ve missed (I’m sure there is something at the back of my mind) then I’ll add them.

Edited by part timer

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Firstly thankyou for all your hard work writing this report up I'm sure so many people will benefit from it.

Out of all those you have mentioned I have a soft spot for the TAL Eyepiece range. When I first started in this expensive hobby these were the eyepieces I used. I have to agree with you, they are top notch for the money. Great eye relief, great contrast and lovely glass. I think the best was the older purple lens 25mm plossl.

The other ones I use and still do are the UO Volcano top ortho's I think these are great and extremely sharp, perfect planetary eyepiece.

Thanks again.

Edited by Doc

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Excellent stuff !!! - reminds me of Ed Ting's and Todd Gross's review sites which I used to be an avid follower of a few years ago. I'm now going to have to trawl back through my memory and see if I can list the eyepieces that I've owned / tried over the years (gulp !).

Thanks for taking the trouble to post your views on these eyepieces :headbang:

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Thankyou both,

Yes Ed Ting's and Todd Gross's sites were the inspiration for these reviews.

I find that some times those sites are a bit out of date now. A good example being the Meade 4000 series which was once a premium eyepiece and is still priced and marketed as such but is infact now inferior to many other brands.

I've added a couple of extra reviews at the end which I forgot to include originally.

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Excellent post, really enjoyed the read. You seem to have a very similar taste in eyepiece to my own. I can't find a single point that i would disagree with. It's well balanced and you make your case for each eyepiece well. I really love reading posts like this. Looking forward to John's post now......no pressure John!

Glad you mentioned the Astronomica ED eyepieces. I had the 7.5mm and gave it away free. It looked so tatty that i simply couldn't sell it. The optics were perfect (except the terrible kidney beaning you mention) but the paint just fell off.

I'm glad i'm not the only one who acknowledges the optical quality of the Baader/UO Orthos but finds their ER and FOV too much to live with.

Russ

Edited by russ

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.... Looking forward to John's post now......no pressure John!...

Inspired by Part Timer's mini-reviews I set about trying to recall the eyepieces I have owned since I got my 1st scope in 1982 - so far the list is in excess of 100 different ones :p

I'm clearly a shocking "occularholic" desparately in need of treatment ...... :)

I'll start jotting down some notes where I can remember something specific and notable about particular eyepieces - this may take some time !!!

Look what you have started Part Timer :headbang:;)

Edited by John

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hehe will give you until the end of the day to get it finished. :headbang:

Probably best i don't give it any thought as my collection started in 1983 and almost certainly runs into 3 figures also. Although i can think of a few stand out eyepieces for good and bad reasons.

Russ

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Thankyou again all!

I am lucky, I guess, that My only equipment in the 1980's and 90's was a pair of soviet 8x30's. Even when I started with telescopes I didn't catch the Eyepiece 'bug' until a few years ago.

I started thinking about doing these reviews after sitting down one day and toting up an approximate figure for how much I've spent on eyepieces rather than telescopes. The answer was a bit depressing!

I will also do my Barlow list but don't be afraid, this will be much shorter.

Thanks again

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Nice work. I really agree on the Celestron black and orange. I had two (26 and 10mm) and always wondered why people were bashing the "standard plossls that come with the scope." I ditched the 10mm in favour of a Vixen LV 9mm, due to eye-relief issues, not quality. I just parted with the 26mm, because I now have a Nagler 22mm, which completely blows it away, but mainly in AFOV, much less in sharpness. A colleague of mine snapped it up as a replacement for his MA 25 and is very happy with it.

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Nice post! I do love a good eyepiece review :headbang:

You've summarised them very well.

I actually have a comprehensive list of every eyepiece I've owned, and currently own in just 3.5 years of being in the hobby: including 5 barlows it's 47 items long!

I could attempt to recall how each one worked if it would be of any interest?!

Andrew

Edited by Andrew*

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...I could attempt to recall how each one worked if it would be of any interest?! .....

I think views on eyepieces from people that have used them are always interesting.

I wonder if it would be possible to set up a sort of SGL on-line database where people could post mini reports on eyepieces they have owned, past and present (like Part Timer has done) ? - with the collective experience of many SGL members it could quickly build into a useful resource - rather like the Excelsis website I guess :headbang:

Edit: come to think of it, I vaguely recall Andrew suggesting something like this a long time ago - perhaps it's time has come ?.

Edited by John

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An Excelsis style database would be very useful. Although, just like Excelsis, you'll end with very differering views on the same eyepiece.

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The good thing about a forum post is that it is possible question the reviewer on what exactly they liked and disliked and this, coupled with your own experiences gives a better idea of whether you'll get on with an eyepiece or not.

For example If I say an eyepiece is trash then fair enough but if I say 'good optics but no eye relief' you can decide yourself whether that's a problem or not.

Also on exelsis in particular their is a tendency for 'crank' reviews. There is one guy for example who makes absolutely ridiculous statements on every Televue eyepiece.

Every one of them is, he states, the worst he's ever tried.

Also you do have to be carefull as some honest reviewer clearly mix up the names of what they are reviewing. It's quite common to see reviews of plastic barlows or Plossls mixed up with top end kit.

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Nice idea to bundle reviews exelsis-style. I would be happy to contribute my stuff. We should however indeed be careful like is compared with like. In particular i have seen mix-ups between different 14 mm Meade UWA (series 4000 vs 5000).

We should also bear in mind that very variable reviews might indicate a less strict quality control in the factory. Finally, we should require every review to include which scope the EP was tested on, and under which conditions. This is often (or even usually) lacking in exelsis.

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Excelsis is a bit of mess now, has been for 4-5 years. It really needs a huge purge, some re-naming and grouping up of a lot of the reviews. There's kit in there that have 3 or 4 entries because the title has not been correctly spelt.

Perhaps something along the same lines could be done here but only better.

Edited by russ

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A very interesting thread, and my thanks to Part Timer for all the work clearly involved in his comprehensive review.

I was especially interested in three of his eyepiece reviews: Tal, Baader Ortho and TV Plossls. I actually agree in many ways with the views expressed, but in case it helps anyone else would add the following points:

Tal - undoubtedly the best "bang for your buck" Plossl eyepieces on the market to day IMHO. I believe the 25mm is available from Warehouse Express NEW for £19.99! That is an unbelievable bargain for a superb eyepiece. The older more purple lens version was even better, but the current one is still stunning quality. I believe the main difference is the coatings and the new one has a slightly smaller field stop. But for the price, unbeatable.

I hear that the 32 mm is also excellent, and the 20mm. I have used the shorter fl 10mm and 6.3mm as well but found them only "so so".

Baader Ortho with Phantom coatings: this is to me the range which above all shows how some eyepieces are "horses for courses"...I have a full set of 6 of these, which cost me £300 in used but mint condition (a new set is not far off £500!), so not cheap. Cosmetically, the build is superb, and they have the Phantom coatings which in my opinion give them the edge over the University optics Orthos (I think they come out of the same Japanese Factory, and the Baaders use Baader proprietary coatings).

However, I have to say that when I first tried them out in my F9 and F10 refractors, I was underwhelmed to say the least. I couldn't see much difference versus my Meade 4000 Plossls which were a whole lot cheaper! BUT: I then tried them in my long focus Pentax J80 and a couple of vintage F15 refractors which I knew to have excellent objectives. WOW! The difference was and is amazing..the long focus fracs just seem to make the Baaders "snap" into perfect focus, with NO false colour and fantastic sharpness.

The range is 5/6/7/9/12/18mm. The first 3 seem very close together on the face of it, but with a long focus scope there is of course much more "blue water" in the magnifications..for example, on my 1000mm Pentax, the 5/6/7mm give me x200, x166 and x 143 respectively - quite a difference.

The 18mm gives me x55 on the Pentax 1000mm, so quite a nice low-moderate power, with a 52degree field, not bad at all.

So, my conclusion is that the Baaders come right into their own on F12 or higher scopes. I'd be interested to hear what SCT or Mak users think about this, as they too tend to operate at long focal lengths. On the other hand, I suspect that on the very popular short focus fracs and apos, they are less likely to stand out from the crowd.

Thirdly, the Televue Plossls..I have limited experience with these, but the ones I have used have been simply superb. I think that's because they are simple build, but to very high standards, and they manage to combine a decent fov with pretty decent eyerelief. For me, probably the ultimate general purpose EP that doesn't break the bank. They come up regularly in excellent used condition for around £45-£60 and I would heartily recommend them - especially if you use several different types and/or focal length scopes, and you don't want or can't afford a bespoke range of EPs for each scope: the TV plossls will not disappoint.

Finally, a quick word on barlows..I use a Televue x2 barlow, and it is brilliant. It adds no false colour, it takes away no light from the image (other than of course the natural dimming which comes from increased magnification). If budgets are tight, then having a decent TV barlow will effectively double the number of EPs you have, without compromise on image quality.

I also hear that the Celestron Ultima and Tal x2 and x3 Barlows are also excellent, though I have not used them myself - simply as my TV version does everything I need it to..on my Baaders I can get to x400 on a 1000mm focal length! - probably usable on Moon and planets on about 4 nights a year!:headbang:.

Anyway, that's my 3 pennyworth, hope it helps.

Dave

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Thanks for the additions F15!

I agree that the Tal Plossls are superior in the longer focal lengths. Personally I think it's all down to the yellow glass.

With the Baader Orthoscopics, I used them in my Tal 2M and in a 127mm Maksutov, a 90mm Maksutov and a 250 mm Orion Dx which I had the use of for three months a few years ago. In all honesty I found the good in all and can't say as I found a dramatic difference in different scopes. Obviously they were better in the two Maksutovs, but then every eyepiece was. I am definitely a lover of longer focal length scopes.

Obviously, you know how good at least one of my Televue's is (the 10.5) as I bought it off you! I find that all of the Televue Plossls are just as good. The only problem with the new ones is that the choice of focal lengths is quite odd and never fits any of my telescopes.

I am going to write some Barlow reviews too soon but I can tell you that the Tal 2x is excellent in most ways but let down again by the yellowing problem.

Edited by part timer

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Hi Part Timer...am glad you like the TV 10.5mm, it's a great little ep!;).

I recently sold my last Tal 25mm purple lens as it went as part of a scope package and it was only fair to let the buyer have all the original parts..I miss that EP a lot, so....I have taken my own advice and today ordered another from Warehouse Express! Cost £19.99 plus £3.99 delivery. Sounds great and I should have it by Monday..so, thanks for helping me spend MORE cash I haven't got:D!

Seriously though, it fills in a nice gap in my line up of 10mm, 15mm, 17mm, and 32mm eps as well as my Baaders.

Look forward to seeing the UK Excelsis log set up!!

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..I recently sold my last Tal 25mm purple lens as it went as part of a scope package and it was only fair to let the buyer have all the original parts..I miss that EP a lot, so....I have taken my own advice and today ordered another from Warehouse Express! Cost £19.99 plus £3.99 delivery...

I had one of those with my TAL 100 R - lovely eyepiece - I did not realise you could still buy them ?. The type I'm talking about looks like this:

http://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/Bilder/shop/Verschiedene/TAL_Plossl25/TAL-Ploessl-25mm.jpg

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John,

You can see the current one pictured on Warehouse Express site, just drill down to Tal Eyepieces. I think the new ones are slightly smaller field stop as per my last post but they are still very good...I had one with my RS100 dated late 2008 which I recently sold to Astro Baby - she seems to really like it too.

Anyway, I have ordered mine today, it should arrive Monday, so I can let you know how it works if we ever get another good clear night!!

PS, I have replied to your other post re Cloudy Nights...;)

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great review part timer andrew a nice range of eyepieces price and quality ;)

i am looking to upgrade from meade 4000's but on a bit of a budget reviews like these help a lot.

interesting you mention the size of the hyperion's, they do look huge!

i think i will go for some 2nd hand televue plossl's or the celestron nexstar plossl's

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Thanks a lot PT! A really nice and quick to read, but informative review.

Marius

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