A Home for My Eyepieces

A package was waiting at home for me today.  Inside it was something that I had made custom for me, a wood eyepiece case.  My last eyepiece case was the Orion Medium Accessory case, a metal and foam one that when I bought it a few years ago, it was $40. I’m not sure what it is now.  This eyepiece case served me well for that time, but recently, as you know, my eyepiece collection has grown a lot, and I have really out grown my case.

Why did I choose a wood case? While I know that there a lot of choices out there for safe methods of carrying my prized optical glass, I thought that this particular was excellent in that it is both a functional piece and an elegant one as well. There are some very protective cases out there, the one most talked about today is made by Pelican, they have several different models.  While they do their job very well, I wanted something that looked nice too.

Then I came across A Case For Astronomy. Take a look through Jamie’s website for a few minutes, he has some great stuff on there.  And for what you get, the prices are pretty good, having one myself I can say that with absolute certainty.  I thought that now was a good time to get one of these because eventually eyepieces are going to get damaged by taking them in and out of their little boxes.  Here is the case we ended up with.

Eyepiece Case

It is a Plywood case with Walnut top, inlayed with exotic woods with the constellation Scorpio. I chose Scorpio because it’s one of my favorite constellations, and my zodiac sign happens to be it as well. Everything is finished really nice and it has a gloss finish. The sides have leather handles.  Here is inside the case.

Inisde eyepiece caseIt has space for everything I need plus a little space.  I’m planning on picking up an Antares 1.6x barlow to round out my 2″ collection. I just put in my 21 Stratus for right now. Soon as I find a 1.6 for sale I’ll swap them out.  There is also an Orion Shorty 2x just below the ES30mm in the photo, that doesn’t necessarily need to be there.  Maybe one day I’ll pick up an ES 20mm 68*.  The rack on the left is mostly for smaller eyepieces, I have a few plossls, an Expanse and the 7mm Galoc Ortho up there right now.  That rack can be removed for storage of things underneath.

ep case 2In their I have 4 color 1.25″ filters, a Celestron UHC/LPR, 2 collimators, a few various tools and a red flashlight.  I’m planning on getting a 2 inch extension tube that is needed for some eyepieces in the 12.5″.  Here is one more photo – of the top of the case.

ep case detail

I lied, one more, of the side of case and leather handles.

ep case 4Overall I’m thrilled with how the case turned out in the end.  Everything was exactly what I had hoped for, a usable, quality eyepiece case, with a little growing room.  If you’re thinking about upgrading your eyepiece cases to something that’s just really nice, consider Jamie’s cases.  As seen on the website, it’s not just eyepieces that he makes.  There’s a really neat solar filter case with a working sun dial on top, which you should have seen because you looked at his website! In case you skipped it over, here it is again!

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Some New Eyepieces!

I’ve recently upgraded my collection of eyepieces having some of the finest eyepiece  brand names make their way into my case, Tele Vue, and Explore Scientific.  I’ve been using them extensively for a month now.  They have proven to be extraordinary pieces of glass, and have definitely earned a permanent spot in my collection.

On December 20th, a package arrived at the door.

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And inside…

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Tele Vue Nagler 16mm Type 2.  This is my first and only Tele Vue eyepiece.  It is the Type 2 so it’s not the most current model but that doesn’t make others better.  This eyepiece has  an 82 degree apparent field of view.  What’s nice is that it is dual barreled, so it can be accepted with both types of focusers.  Build quality is top notch,  as well as optical quality.  The main scope it is used in is the Meade 12.5″.  It performs well as a mid power eyepiece providing 119x and a 0.68 degree true field.  It’s great for zooming in on objects found with lower power eyepieces.  The eyepiece has shorter eye relief than is tolerable for some, but if you don’t wear glasses its very easy to look through for anyone.

There really is something special about the Type 2 Naglers.  Here is a great article regarding the history about Nagler Eyepieces. Link here. The other Type 2’s were 20mm and 12mm. The best of the type 2’s were the 20mm, but also the heaviest eyepiece Tele Vue has ever made, but all three of these are hard working eyepieces.  Credit is due to someone who gave me this eyepiece, as I would not have been able to afford this, as I won it in a contest.  Thanks Randy!

Here’s the other eyepiece, big in every way:

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That’s an Explore Scientific 30mm 82 degree. Doesn’t look like other ES 30mm’s you’ve seen? It’s the older non water proof version, but optical quality is the same.  This beast is 3 inches wide at the top and weighs in at a whopping 3.06 pounds! That caused some serious balance problems, more on that later.  Why would I buy this eyepiece when I just wrote a great review for the Owl 30mm? The price one was available at was extremely low for how good this eyepiece is.  After reading review after review on ES 30mm, I just had to get it.  So how does it do? It’s like the 31mm Nagler, there have been many reviews directly comparing the 2, as the Nagler is the top of the line.  That being said, this eyepiece is outstanding in terms of the image it puts out.  That huge, expansive eyepiece is great and essential for low power viewing.

However, I have heard that the Nagler just barely edges out in terms of edge correction.  The edge correction in the ES is great, the last 15% or so the stars start to slightly soften.  This is in the 12.5″, at F/6.  It provides very sharp views throughout and high contrast images essential for finding and observing objects.  This eyepiece gave my scope several balance issues that are still being sorted out.  When I put it in the focuser, the scope just dropped at every position.  I had to completely change the balance and lower the counterweights, and add some ankle weights to the back of the tube. There already is a counterweight on a bar back there but it needed more.  I still think I could use one more on it.  The difficulty using this is that when I change eyepieces I have to remove on of the weights in the back.  This is tricky because sometimes I do that, and the scope starts to move.  By removing the eyepiece first seems to fix this for the most part, but at some positions it still moves around.

As nice as the Owl 30mm is the Explore Scientific really is on the next level.  But, it is still a nice eyepiece and very usable.  The views in the Explore Scientific are so nice that the balance issues still make it worth it for me.  One thing I’ve noticed is that the Owl is not truly an 80 degree field.  It’s more like 77 degrees.  If you ever get the chance to pick up an ES 82, do it, you won’t be disappointed.

 

OWL 30mm UW80 – Review

Since there is so much controversy over the performance of this particular eyepiece, I think it deserves a review from yet another point of view.  Googling this eyepiece will bring up many mixed reviews, some good, many bad.  I’ll try to show the eyepiece fairly in a range of different scopes and focal lengths.

First impressions of this eyepiece by holding it is that it is pretty heavy, I havent weighed it but it has a good bulk to it.  It’s about the size of a soda can.  The reason I got this eyepiece was to provide a very wide true field in my 12.5″ Newtonian, which is the main instrument of experimentation of the quality of the views.

In the 12.5″, it provides a magnification of 63.5x, and a true field of view of 1.2 degrees of sky.  For an instrument of this size and focal length (F/6), this is pretty good for finding objects.   I won’t go into a full lesson on how to find objects, but I’ll put it out briefly that having a large true field is necessary in finding objects by being able to “hop” to stars to get you to a particular object in the sky.   The larger the true field is the easier it will be when finding an object.

A Word on Focal Length Importance

I believe that to those who do not fully understand the importance of the focal length of the telescope, this review will be somewhat confusing, so bear with me here.  So all telescopes have a focal length, the length that the light travels to reach focus (in your eye).  This focal length varies by the design of the telescope.  Let’s take my RV-6 telescope for example.

The primary mirror has a diameter of 6 inches across.  The focal length (distance where the light comes to focus) is about 48″.  There are focal ratios that are also called the F-number.  An F/1  6″ telescope has a focal length of 6 inches.  An F/2 telescope has a focal length of 12 inches.  F/3 is 18 inches, and so on.  So the focal length of my RV-6 is 48 inches, or an F/8.

These ratios are important in the performance of the telescope.   Scopes with ratios from F/1 to about F/5 is considered short. F/6 to about 7 is considered mid focal ratio.  And theres long focus scopes with ratios from F/8 on up.  The longest ratios I have heard of are unique telescope designs called Schiefspieglers, check these out! Link here. Anyway scopes with a shorter F-ratio bring out aberrations that are naturally part of an eyepiece.  Naturally scopes with long focal length with a particular eyepiece will be sharp stars to the edge (thats what you really want and hope for) with little or no aberrations.

Eyepiece in Use – Meade 12.5″ F/6

As stated earlier this eyepiece provides a nice wide field of view for finding objects as well as having a nice 80 degree Apparent Field.  Many eyepieces are not their advertised AFOV, but this eyepiece looks just about to be 80 degrees.  The stars at F/6 in the center are very sharp, also moving out.  The outer parts of the field do show some abberations, but not nearly as bad as some have reported.  The last 25% stars dont seem as sharp as the central area but still not that bothersome.  The last 15% or so show field curvature, but really not that bad at all.  As far as the performance on actual objects, very, very good for showing off larger objects like the Orion Nebula, or M37.  The edges of the field are not perfect, but very usable I believe and I am not focused on how stars look.  The eye relief of the eyepiece is not that huge, but not uncomfortable at all.  Actually I find it to be great because some eyepieces with long eye relief suffer from blackouts, where your eye has to be positioned just right.  Short eye relief is where your eye is crammed up close to the glass, not good either. One complaint I had with this eyepiece is that it suffers from some reflections from bright objects in the eyepiece, where a ghost image of a bright star or planet appears in the field.  Sometimes bothersome, but not that big of a deal.  Overall this eyepiece is great and is currently my most used eyepiece in this scope.

Eyepiece in Use – Meade Lightbridge 16″ F/4.5

The use of this eyepiece in this scope is definitely not recommended put simply.  Much of the field suffers from aberrations and the inner 50% is very sharp.  I tested this during my Arizona trip and still used it to find the objects that night.  For this scope there are better alternatives for a finder eyepiece.

Eyepiece at F/12

To acheive an F/12 scope I simply barlowed the eyepiece in my Meade 12.5″, which changes the focal length from F/6 to F/12 (2x amplification).  This also changes the focal length of the eyepiece from 30mm to 15mm, magnification is not 127x and the field is now 0.62 degrees.  Here the eyepiece really shines even more. Image is very sharp throughout with very little aberrations at the extremes of the field.

Owl 30mm 80 degree eyepiece.  12mm AT Paradigm right.

Owl 30mm 80 degree eyepiece. 12mm AT Paradigm right.

So there it is.  My impressions through different focal length scopes.  The shortest focal ratio I would use it in would be F/6.  If you have a longer scope and find one of these pop up for sale definitely go for it.  Also let me say that this eyepiece was about $75 when it was first out for sale.  This is what some people would call a “knock off” of the 31mm Nagler which retails for about $600.   This means that these 2 eyepieces are in separate leagues altogether and should not be directly compared, as the Nagler would beat the OWL in probably every aspect.  However the OWL is a very nice eyepiece and worth it if you can get one, I really enjoy mine.