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Year of the Bargain Eyepiece?


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I'm starting to believe that 2011 is going to see a seismic shift in the Telescope Eyepiece industry.

In a way, I think this has been on the cards for a while with the sale of these two game-changing eyepieces:

  • TMB Designed Planetaries
  • BST Explorers

Each of these have a roughly 60 degree apparent field of view, but they also share the following key attributes as well:

  • Nice, even illumination across the field-of-view
  • Good spread of available focal lengths
  • Comfortable at all focal lengths - even short ones
  • Excellent build quality
  • Very good optical performance
  • Extremely good value for money

Not everyone likes huge fields-of-view, and 60 degrees is a good compromise between true wide-field designs, and relatively narrow fields, and couple this with a price tag of £38 and the choice - especially for a newbie - is a no-brainer. Even experienced observers might plump for a TMB at a given focal length to see if the format suits them, before upgrading to a Tele Vue Radian of the same focal length.

But there is talk in Internet circles that the (£180) Tele Vue Radian may be set for the chop - and maybe the Panoptics too - in light of the fierce competition from the bargain-priced TMB Planetaries and BST Explorers (the BSTs being known in the US as "Paradigm Dual ED" eyepieces). Already, some focal lengths are dropping from the Radian range: The 12mm is apparently unobtainable in the USA now - although in the UK I see that the Widescreen Centre has some left. The current "20% off" sale of all Tele Vue eyepieces seems almost unnecessarily generous, and looks a bit like a stock clearout, ready to make space for a new range of eyepieces. Maybe there will be an announcement at NEAF - we shall see...

We saw this happen last year with the Meade SWA eyepiece range being sold off for £55 a pop in the USA - although in rip-off Britain (of course), they are still on sale for prices up to £385. In the USA now, the Meade SWAs are all but gone. The UK shops only have old stock left. Having myself recently received the 24mm Meade SWA that I purchased for £55 from the US, I can see that it's a very beautifully-crafted eyepiece indeed (even though it's yet to see anything other than clouds). I feel a bit sad for the loss of the Meade SWA series; these are clearly exceptionally good eyepieces, and once they're gone I'm not convinced that we'll see anything quite the same in the future.

Rather curiously, Meade's newly announced eyepiece line - the HD-60 - isn't a replacement for the SWAs at all - if anything it's direct competition for their own 5000 "Super Plossls" - and yet the HD-60s also somehow "feel" suspiciously like BST Explorers or TMB Designed Planetaries in a custom housing. Celestron too have announced a new range of (wait for it) 60-degree small-format eyepieces (the confusingly-named X-Cel LX - not to be confused with the old X-Cel eyepieces which are completely different). The specifications look strangely familiar - the focal lengths looking like "massaged" figures broadly similar to Meade's HD-60 - and at a comparable price too.

I don't know whether it's a measure of success or failure that Explore Scientific are having a sale on as well. Either way, the fact that you can buy Nagler-like (82 degree) eyepieces for a mere $99 dollars is amazing - and these are the waterproof ones as well - which

when they get dirty.

So it looks like a bumper year for bargain eyepieces - but I just hope that we haven't sacrificed too many legendary eyepieces in order to get there - and that the resulting eyepieces aren't optically identical ones in different casings...

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Hi Jeremy, very interesting post, it makes sense now that TV have cut a lot of prices, must be a fortune thats been spent by members on the forum over the years.

I hope your hunch is correct, although I do still want a couple more TV'S, to have a decent range, I still like the idea of good competition and will more than likely get to try one or two alternatives to them, then I'll probably want to buy a few of those too! :)

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The current "20% off" sale of all Tele Vue eyepieces seems almost unnecessarily generous, and looks a bit like a stock clear out, ready to make space for a new range of eyepieces. Maybe there will be an announcement at NEAF - we shall see...

This did cross my mind also. Due to a miss timed 10% purchase at T/house I gave David a ring to see what the 20% off a week later was all about. He mentioned that TV were well aware of the 10% offer the week running up to Astrofest but decided to keep quiet about the intended 20% until after Astrofest. A possible stock Clearence dose seem plausible. After all why is TV allowing other suppler discounts to continue knowing they were going to run their own soon after. I know this has put David in a very awkward situation and he has been very professional about it all. I did hear from another source there was suggestion of extending the SX range, so maybe ethos prices are soon to fall meaning they want to make the most out of naglers before they become more of a competitively priced ep. IE: 20% of what they are now????? Of course this is just speculation by myself.

I agree the TMB's are an amazing EP for the money and for a beginner it will be a worth while investment over the scope supplied EP's. I purchased a couple TMB's while deciding if short FL would be of use to me and I was more than impressed with there performance. They offered me the performance needed to make a validated decision where as most other EP in this price range may well have left me disappointed. If it was not for the fact with short FL I often found I was constantly swapping EP's to find the perfect FL vs seeing condition I would have stuck with them.

SPACEBOY

Edited by spaceboy
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TMB's are an amazing EP for the money

I wish people wouldn't call them TMBs, they're not, they're Chinese manufactured to an (allegedly) TMB design. There is legal action in the USA which I believe is still going on, TMB's estate claimed that the Chinese were using their design and trademark without authorization, the Chinese claimed in court that their design was adapted from a TMB design (using different glasses) and was therefore not covered by the patent.

Hmmph. Wish I was a lawyer, free lunches all round.

Anyhoo, another point is that the "TMB designed planetaries" are indeed excellent at their price level, but they're miles from the Radians in either performance or build quality. Whether the Radian is worth the extra depends on how serious you are about your viewing as well as whether or not you can afford the price difference. And, if you can accept the short eye relief, the Baader Genuine Ortho gives a cleaner, crisper image than either, at a price intermediate between the two.

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I wish people wouldn't call them TMBs, they're not, they're Chinese manufactured to an (allegedly) TMB design.

Brian, erm... if you look on the Sky's The Limit website you'll see that there ARE the Burgess/TMB Planetary II eyepieces there for sale at £38 - or you can buy the unbranded ones (apparently from the same factory according to people involved in the TMB side of the dispute - but I note your point about different glass types) for £36.

Edited by great_bear
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He mentioned that TV were well aware of the 10% offer the week running up to Astrofest but decided to keep quiet about the intended 20% until after Astrofest. A possible stock Clearence dose seem plausible. After all why is TV allowing other suppler discounts to continue knowing they were going to run their own soon after.

In fairness, Tele Vue can't really share this information with their dealers because someone - somewhere - will leak it on the web and they'd lose a huge chunk of sales leading up to the promotion.

Such promotions are always problematic - people are bound to be caught out by poor timing.

However, bumping up the price of Naglers - as Telescope House have done - may make advertising the 20% discount as a "Sale" illegal. It depends when they bumped up the price.

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In fairness, Tele Vue can't really share this information with their dealers because someone - somewhere - will leak it on the web and they'd lose a huge chunk of sales leading up to the promotion.

Such promotions are always problematic - people are bound to be caught out by poor timing.

However, bumping up the price of Naglers - as Telescope House have done - may make advertising the 20% discount as a "Sale" illegal. It depends when they bumped up the price.

I had thought about this earlier, is it fair if they put the price up when stating a discount? :)

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In fairness, Tele Vue can't really share this information with their dealers because someone - somewhere - will leak it on the web and they'd lose a huge chunk of sales leading up to the promotion.

Such promotions are always problematic - people are bound to be caught out by poor timing.

However, bumping up the price of Naglers - as Telescope House have done - may make advertising the 20% discount as a "Sale" illegal. It depends when they bumped up the price.

I agree that in these modern times word can get around almost instantly and this could well cause problems in itself. I suppose it is a hard call to make but a slight suggestion by TV to T/H to delay a sale shouldn't have caused too much upset to their plans. I think I must have missed the price increase at T/H, when was this?? I was aware that they went slightly above the 2.5% vat increase.

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GB - we are of the same mind. Personally I thought the moment teh Chinese started bashing our the Explore Scientifics it might well be sea change time coming up.

I mean the TV EPs are made in China (what isn't these days) and you can bet theres leakage from one factory to the other.

Quite apart from that as the market expands the kit gets cheaper and astro seems to be booming, once the Far East gets the smell of dollars up its nose it gies very quickly to hoover up the business.

Just as Fast Newts, APOs and GoTo mounts have all dropped in price with the Chinese in play I'd fully expect the EP market to take the same sort of hit to the price.

I'd love to try one of the Explore Scientific 82' FOV Eyepieces, as a protable astronomer waterproofing seems pretty sensible to me :)

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Three years ago or so on the boards people were arguing that Synta could NEVER build big mirrors of sufficient quality to takes the big DOb market, three years later we have SYnta getting ready to eat Meades LB lunch with a big Dob with GoTo !!!?

Same for APOs, the MN190 etc etc.

I'd expect Ethos quality to cost about £99 to £150 in a few years. At the end of the day its only polished glass and a bit of metalwork, the rest is marketing and stuff like 'lifestyle' and 'pride of ownership' ie its emotion and not product.

If you doubt this tyen look what the far east has done in any other market its entered.

I remember back about 20 years when Casio were bashing out cutesy keyboards for the home market and well remember pro musicisnas saying 'oh the wont ever be a brabd a pro would have on stage cos who wants a Casio logo when you can have something with more cache' a quick punch to the price soon changed that. When Casio bought out a killer samplng keyboard and cut the price in half you soon saw pros 'putting up' with the logo :rolleyes:.

Its pretty well how it goes in every product I have ever seen come out of the far east. Motorbikes, televisions, cars (Honda would never be able to build cars I remember an expert saying around 1977), network gear, instruments (Japs wont ever be able to make a decent guitar/drum kit etc.....they own the market these days) I'd like to think theres a product that would fox them but I dont believe there is and even if there were its unlikley to be a telescope eyepiece. After all the european and US camera makers were the first casalty of the Japanese in the 50s.

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...I'd expect Ethos quality to cost about £99 to £150 in a few years. At the end of the day its only polished glass and a bit of metalwork, the rest is marketing and stuff like 'lifestyle' and 'pride of ownership' ie its emotion and not product....

I reckon you are right AB but you have to give some credit to Tele Vue for throwing the stick out there so that others can chase it.

It's surprised me that it's taken so long for eyepieces that offer comparable performance to Naglers to emerge - they have after all been on the market since 1980. The original cost $250 back then and it was predicted that nobody would buy it ....... :rolleyes:

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Umm. In my experience TV eyepieces last, Chinese clones don't. I've personally never liked Naglers that much - the compromises involved in getting that field of view do show up in resolution & contrast, I don't like the "coffee stain" tint that they all seem to have and I don't find any advantage in an apparent field of view exceeding about 60 degrees.

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I don't find any advantage in an apparent field of view exceeding about 60 degrees.

But you've surely got to admit that close-up views of the moon are pretty mind-blowing when allowed to bleed to the edge of your peripheral vision?

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Umm. In my experience TV eyepieces last, Chinese clones don't. I've personally never liked Naglers that much - the compromises involved in getting that field of view do show up in resolution & contrast, I don't like the "coffee stain" tint that they all seem to have and I don't find any advantage in an apparent field of view exceeding about 60 degrees.

Despite the contents of my eye piece case I have to agree with BB but in the same breath I have to also agree with GB. There are compromises that have to be made to achieve wider field of view and because of this you don't always get the best quality of image compared to say BGO's (based on what I have read). BUT!! 82' is very useful for tracking in manual dobs and adds to a more enjoyable experience not having to keep nudging the scope every few seconds at high powers. I have said before it can be slightly uncomfortable to use 82' and I can imagine 100' is some what pointless ( if used in a tracking mount) even if it dose give you a port hole on the universe. I'm sure most ethos owners will disagree but as BB said the human eye only has AFOV of 60' so the other 40' has to be looked for and I assume not everyone can find all of it with out risking black outs. I cannot comment on the durability of Chinese clones but the quality of the views I found were more than adequate for the money in comparison to my Naglers at 5x the price.

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But you've surely got to admit that close-up views of the moon are pretty mind-blowing when allowed to bleed to the edge of your peripheral vision?

Nope - if I want to concentrate on a particular feature, anything outside a field of 20 - 25 degrees is a distraction. Wide apparent fields are a compromise which is really only necessary with undriven scopes.

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