Interesting new product Monday: The $1000 eyepiece
Televue and Takahashi made names for themselves for making high quality, high price astronomical tools and accessories. Their eyepieces would make you think all anyone cares about is maximum FOV (field of view), which spending the maximum money will get you. I’ll just say now that I do not own eyepieces from either maker, but I do own other things made by Televue and I have a small amount of fist hand experience. Either way, this is not meant to be a detailed review of any particular item’s performance, but just a moment of reflection on some telescope accessories that cost more than a lot of telescopes.
First, let’s look at Televue ETHOS eyepieces. They offer FOV of 100 degrees, which is about what a human can see normally. They list from $730-$1050 each and you can expect to pay about $520-$730, depending on what size and format (1.25″ or 2″) you want. If you want to step it up to 110 degrees at high magnification, you can go for the ETHOS-SX, which is a bit more expensive than the others, but has an adapter for both formats. They’re huge too, but they need to be since they use many elements to achieve a wide FOV and non-distorted image. Customer reviews are great, but do you really expect anyone to drop that kind of coin on these and then say it’s no good? A ridiculously thorough and more objective review can be found here.
Next is the Takahashi Ultra Wide/Flat Field 1.25″ eyepiece. This comes in one format and offers a 90 degree FOV, all for the bargain price of $945. When I fist saw these, I thought that price was for the set, but no, that’s each. This is an 8 element, 5 group design, which means there are 8 lenses in each piece, carefully placed together (groups) and apart to achieve the claimed high optical performance. I wanted to link a good review for these online, but I can’t seem to find one. Do I even really need one though? These might be the finest 8 pieces of glass you’ll ever look through, but is that really why someone buys them?
There are many schools of thought for anything. If a very wide FOV that looks good to the edge of the field is important and money isn’t an issue, sure why not get the best thing you can? Questar knows there’s a market for stuff that’s simply the most expensive. Yes, they’re all nice and built very well, but at some point the price vs. performance ratio starts to matter. It’s up to the individual to decide how important the advantages a top-price piece of equipment is worth and if it makes sense for you, then I suppose it’s the right thing. For someone getting into the hobby, it can seem discouraging to see that the price scale is so huge, when it’s our common inclination to think that cost always correlates with quality. The price scale of telescopes is the same way, but it’s easier, I think, to understand those differences.
My personal approach is to try and get the nicest stuff I can for the least amount possible, which is not the same as buying the cheapest things. If I get internal reflections in an eyepiece, I’ll never use it. The inexpensive, but by no means “bad”, eyepieces that came with my telescopes have all been sold and replaced with slightly more premium ones. My current favorites are the Astro-Tec Paradigm Dual ED series. Sure they only have a 60 degree FOV, but they’re very comfortable, have excellent contrast and are enjoyable to use. I also like the Explore Scientific 82 degree waterproof series. They’re hefty, offer a very wide FOV and were on sale for $99, which I still think is a lot for an eyepiece, but they are also very nice to use. With so much glass, you lose a little contrast, so I also like an Abbe Ortho, which good quality ones can be had from University Optics. The eye relief sucks, the FOV is not more than 47 degrees and they don’t look like much. Looking at Jupiter with the amount of detail they provide is really amazing, however.
In the end, you need to get what you like. Knowing what you like before you get it is important, but not always possible. This is why going where you can have experiences with these things before dropping your hard earned duggits on them is an excellent use of your time. Expos like NEAF, star parties and (if you have one) a local shop are ideal choices. There’s only so much you can do online, but if that’s all you’ve got, it’s worth reading what you can.
No matter what you wind up with, just remember it’s always going to be a gazillion times nicer than anything the founding fathers of astronomy used and they changed the world.