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John

More eyepiece mini-reviews: The ramblings of an occularholic

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Before I get too old and senile to remember (I’m 50 now you know !!!) I thought I’d try and recall the eyepieces that have come and gone (in some cases more than once !) since I started buying stuff in 1982 and what, if anything stood out about them. Many are out of production now of course – like me !.

I’m also hoping that writing this will be a form of aversion therapy to curb my eyepiece buying habit in the future …… some hope !. Still perhaps it will be a warning to others !.

As this collection of musings has reached epic proportions (well 8 MS Word pages) I’ve “chunked” it into two parts. I have not gone on about the Tele Vue’s much at all as there is so much written about them already .

And as the old saying goes, “your mileage (ie: opinions) may vary” J

Chapter one – small and slightly bigger

One inchers:

Tasco (Japan) Huygenian 6mm, 12.5mm.

Japanese Special Ramsden 4mm

Vixen Kellner 25mm and 20mm

Vixen Ortho 9mm, 7mm and 5mm

Japanese Achromatic Huygenian 40mm

Japanese Plossl 25mm, 12.5mm and 6mm

My early eyepieces, dictated by a) coming free with a scope or ;) being really cheap and c) because I could not afford to think about 1.25” eyepieces back then (early-mid 1980’s). The Vixen’s were rather good optically although the 25mm field of view was restricted by the barrel size. The Vixen orthos were probably as good as Circle-K “volcano” top orthos are. The Japanese plossls listed were a bit special - .965” plossls are unusual and I believe these were the same as those sold by Unitron in the USA – probably collectable to some extent today.

One and a quarter inchers – “standard field”

Bausch & Lomb 4mm Ortho

I bought this eyepiece for 10 quid from Broadhurst, Clarkson and Fuller at Telescope House in Farringdon. My 1st 1.25” eyepiece !. Early flat top design with tiny eye lens. It was a true ortho I think and was actually very sharp – but you had to virtually glue the eyepiece to your eye – the eye relief was about 3mm !. It actually stayed with me for a long time and was great for testing seeing conditions and splitting tight doubles.

Meade 4000 series Plossl 6.4mm

I was not happy with this one. Bought new, not cheap and had a fuzzy field stop. Replaced by Telescope House but the 2nd one was not much better. We never “got on” and these were the much celebrated Japanese ones as well !.

Meade 3000 series Plossl 40mm, 16mm, 9.4mm 6.7mm and 5mm

I had the Japanese made versions and I thought they were nice examples of plossls. They seemed to compare with Tele Vue plossls well although I understand that the lens edges are not blackened on the 3000’s. Eye relief on the 6.7mm and 5mm was pretty tight. The 40mm was surprisingly immersive for a 1.25” – possibly the nicest 1.25” 40mm I’ve used. That and the 16mm were probably the “sweet spots” in the range.

Vixen (Japan) “silvertop” plossl 30mm

Lovely eyepiece. Comfortable eye relief. Japanese made and very crisp, bright views. Always a pleasure to look though in any scope.

TAL Plossl 25mm

I’m talking about the original 25mm plossls that TAL supplied with their scopes here. No rubber eyecup and some variation in the field stops size between batches (I’ve owned 3) – 50 degrees in some, 55 degrees in others. Very easy to look though, lovely purple coatings and crisp, bright images. Possibly a future “classic” ?.

TAL Kellner 15mm

Supplied with my TAL 100R in 1999. Rather basic. Tight eye relief, limited field of view and no coatings of any sort. Not one of TAL’s proudest moments. But it was free with the scope …..

Generic Taiwanese Plossl 40mm, 32mm, 25mm, 20mm, 17mm, 12.5mm, 9mm and 6.3mm, Antares Plossl 32mm, Celestron Plossl 12.5mm, 4mm

I’ve lumped all these together because they all looked of the same manufacture, possibly GSO, to me. Quite decent plossls mostly. I always had a soft spot for the 32mm’s of this type which offer as much field as a 1.25” eyepiece can. For £20 apiece new these days they will give decent views in most scopes and let you enjoy the hobby for a minimal outlay. Actually the Celestron 4mm was a duffer and is now, lensless, my collimation cap !.

Circle K “volcano top” Ortho 18mm, 12.5mm, 7mm, 5mm and 4mm, Celestron Ortho 9mm, Antares “flat top” Ortho 18mm, 12.5mm, 9mm, 7mm, 6mm

Again I’ve grouped these together because they all seemed to perform similarly and to be from the same source. Optically excellent for what they cost as all the reports say - actually excellent full stop !. Personally I prefer the conical topped ones because it’s easier to get your eye tight into the eye lens where it needs to be. As I’ve moved to undriven, alt-az mounts I’ve tended to prefer wide field eyepieces but that’s not the fault of the orthos. I recall in the 1980’s that Plossls were the “in thing” and considered a step up from Ortho’s – the situation is reversed I think today.

Celestron Erfle 32mm

I drooled over pictures of these in “Astronomy” magazine then, years later, I picked on up used for only a few quid. A bit of a disappointment in reality, although I knew enough about eyepieces by then to realise that the claimed “65 degree field of view” was not going to happen in a 32mm 1.25” eyepiece. Views about the same as a nice 32mm plossl I seem to recall so not a bad eyepiece but just 50 degrees FoV of course. I think it was actually made by Vixen.

Celestron Ultima 35mm, 7.5mm and 5mm, Orion (USA) Ultrascopic 20mm,Parks Gold Series 7.5mm

Another group of clones !. But very nice and rather underrated eyepieces in my opinion. Japanese quality, good coatings, good light control. I always felt these gave great views what ever scope I was using them with. I adored the 35mm with it’s huge “picture window” eye lens, lustrous coatings and a generous (for a 35mm 1.25” inch) 49 degree field of view. I bought and sold 3 of these !. The only downside was that the 35mm needed loads of in travel – my poor TAL 100 refractor could not bring it to focus L

Skywatcher LER 20mm, 9mm, 5mm and 2.5mm

I got a set of these with a used scope that I bought. One of the few eyepiece types that I can’t think of anything good to say about. They do have Long Eye Relief. But not much else ….

TS Planetary HR / TMB / Burgess Planetary 9mm, 7mm, 6mm, 5mm, 4mm, 3.2mm

Generally very impressive eyepieces for £50 a throw or thereabouts. I say generally because I did get one (the 6mm I think) which had the off-axis glare problem which bedevilled the initial TMB / Burgess production run of this design. I had to remove the inner lens retaining ring, chamfer and blacken it to fix the issue which was fiddly but it was a used eyepiece so I had no recourse to a retailer. Otherwise though you cannot fault the 58-60 degree fields of view, very comfortable eye relief and features such as the screw-up eyecup which are normally found on more expensive eyepieces. Possibly the best value eyepieces for medium to high power out there at the moment and pretty good in fast scopes as well.

Part two follows shortly – the field gets wider ……

Edited by John
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Wow, John!

I'm amazed you managed to recall them all. What a brilliant read: like time travel!

From those mentioned in this thread, I've only tried the last bunch, and now own 5mm (TS), 6mm (TMB-II) and 7mm (TS) ones. I really like them, and also think they are some of the best value high powers out there. Pity about the iffy supply though. I actually can't comment on performance in fast scopes though: my f/4.5 dob doesn't like high-power full-stop!

Cheers

Andrew

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glad i saw your comments about the skywatcher ler's before i bought the ones on astro buy & sell!

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An interesting read,

the Erfle you describe certainly sounds like the Vixen model I had for a while. I would agree with everything you said about it. Ditto the TMB/TS planetary's.

Tal seems to have a Knack for 25mm Plossl making. All of them are excellent in my opinion! The newer ones are more all 50 degree field but have the same excellent image quality.

I have had the chance to look through a few ultima's in my time and they seemed very good indeed so i was a bit a bit gutted when, just as I could finally afford to buy one or two, they were discontinued.

Anyway this is a fine addition to our growing collection of eyepiece reviews. Thankyou for this!

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These EP reports do make me wonder, does anybody ever find the perfect EP and actually decide to keep it for life, never considering changing it?

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These EP reports do make me wonder, does anybody ever find the perfect EP and actually decide to keep it for life, never considering changing it?

Never heard of it happening yet! ;)

And a great read John. Impressed you can remember them all and all their pros and cons. I thought about do one of these threads but after sitting down and thinking about it, it occured to me i could only remember things about the really good and really bad eyepieces. Everything in between is just a blur.

Russ

Edited by russ

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it occured to me i could only remember things about the really good and really bad eyepieces. Everything in between is just a blur.

Russ

Wouldn't they be classed as some of the bad ones then? ;)

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Wouldn't they be classed as some of the bad ones then? :)

I think they would be the Vauxhall Astra of the eyepiece world. Nothing really stands out that makes them either good or bad. Just competent, so fade from memory pretty quickly. ;)

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Wouldn't they be classed as some of the bad ones then? ;)

:):D

No, I know the feeling Russ. That's what I found as well.

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These EP reports do make me wonder, does anybody ever find the perfect EP and actually decide to keep it for life, never considering changing it?

Yes, the Tele Vue 24mm Panoptic and the Pentax 10mm XW ;)

Neither of them will be leaving me whilst I still have a pulse...

James

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;):D

No, I know the feeling Russ. That's what I found as well.

:):D

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These EP reports do make me wonder, does anybody ever find the perfect EP and actually decide to keep it for life, never considering changing it?

I got this funny feeling when I unwrapped my 17mm and 22mm Naglers, that felt like I had finally sorted out my mid-power eyepieces. My first views through them has just confirmed this feeling.

The only reasons I would change them is if I can afford an Ethos, or if, conversely, I need the money and need to downgrade.

Andrew

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or if, conversely, I need the money and need to downgrade.

Andrew

Unfortunately that's a position i quite often find myself in. Had to lose all my fav eyepieces for this reason.

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Thanks for the comments folks :)

I've enjoyed trawling though my memories and if these ramblings prove of any interest to anyone that's a bonus !.

There may have been some "Vauxhall Astra's" along the way that I've forgotten - if so it's probably best left that way !.

While I love my current Tele Vue's I don't think I'm prepared to say that there are any that I'd never consider changing - after all never is a long time ;)

If I moved back to slower scopes then I'd have to think very carefully about the merits of tying so much capital up in expensive glass - there are plenty of mid-cost eyepieces about now that provide wonderful views in slow scopes .....

Edited by John

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Thank-you John,

As always a readable, informative write-up. ;)

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