Review: Eyepieces by Olivon Manufacture Group
by John Kramer
DISCLAIMER: An independent representative associated with Olivon contacted me via email, having heard my podcast on BlogTalkRadio that has a focus on astronomical equipment discussions (AtTheEyepiece), and extended to me the invitation to be loaned their line-up of astronomical eyepieces for a month, so that I could give them an unbiased review. I am in no way associated with Olivon, and have received no reimbursement whatsoever for my objective opinion on their products.
I know, the first thing that comes to mind regarding Olivon is "Who are they?" Well, you wouldn't be alone in not knowing much on Olivon, I have to admit myself that prior to being approached by a mutual contact that asked if I would be interested in giving my thoughts on their line-up of eyepieces, I had never heard of Olivon, so here is a quick introduction.
Olivon Manufacture Group, as they refer to themselves, is a "family owned and operated" company that has distribution centers in Canada and Sweden. Their manufacturing site, as is so many nowadays, is in China. From a little digging around on their website, and other sites, it appears they have been producing sports optics for quite some time, but astronomy products, from what I can tell is a relatively new venture. They include some smaller aperture, equatorial mounted refractors, miscellaneous astronomical accessories that include, but are not limited to, a universal camera adapter and filter wheel, and of course their line-up of eyepieces.
So yours truly would certainly not pass by the opportunity to check out the full range (at the time of this review) of astronomical eyepieces from Olivon. I had a month and a half with these eyepieces, and although mother nature as well as personal availability during the holidays both conspired a bit against me, I had a few nights to challenge these eyepieces under the stars.
The focal lengths and characteristics made available to me included;
Olivon Super Wide 80 Degree Telescope Eyepieces in 11, 15, 16, 20, 30 mm sizes.
Olivon High Definition 58 Degree FOV Telescope Eyepieces in 2.5, 4, 5, 6, 7, 15 and 20mm.
Olivon Zoom Telescope Eyepieces in 8-24mm as well as a 9.5-18mm flavors.
For an eyepiece review, I am going to keep it simple yet thorough, at least in my opinion. I know some avid amateurs out there may find my approach to be lacking in detailed analysis of measurements, optical aberrations, etc. That's not my approach however, as I prefer to give impressions of the eyepieces performance on a variety of objects that range from the Moon to planets to double-stars. I tried to view just about every kind of object available to me that could showcase their unique properties. As a matter of personal preference, I enjoy sharing my thoughts on the eyepieces performance in a descriptive format that tries to focus on the following attributes to each eyepiece;
Fit and Finish
On-Axis performance (Contrast, brightness, etc)
Comparisons (When available)
Comparisons were also done, but having only a few eyepieces that overlapped the focal lengths from Olivon, all things were not quite equal, but I maintained fairness as much as possible.
Olivon Super Wides
Left to Right: 30mm, 20mm, 15mm, 16mm, 11mm
30mm 80 deg 2" Eyepiece
Fit and Finish - This eyepiece has an all black-matte finish, with soft rubber eye-guard, and a textured, thick ring around the main barrel to ensure a nice grip while handling. I found the black-matte finish to be attractive, and although I was concerned that my diagonals thumbscrew would scratch it, it didn't show signs if abuse after use. The barrel itself has the typical recessed ring to ensure no slippage from your eyepiece holder.
The eyepiece arrives in a wonderful screw-on eyepiece case, which I like because they protect the eyepiece better than anything else, and its pretty hard to lose those things, unlike the smaller tradition pop-on eyepiece barrel covers.
Eye Relief - very comfortable, and I think an eyeglass wearer would be able to utilize this eyepiece as well.
On-Axis Performance - I was surprised that there were no internal reflections on Jupiter or bright stars when viewing with this eyepiece, since it is such a large and impressive piece of glass. I also viewed the Moon, and it provided a great view, with no false colors. NGC 457, the E.T. Cluster, provided a great view of this lovely cluster, and is going to be a favorite no doubt for those of us that like wide fields of view to frame in open clusters such as this. Contrast was very good overall.
Testing in my 12" f/5 Dobsonian, there were your typical diffraction spikes from my diagonal, but nothing at all for internal reflections.
Off-Axis Performance - In my C8, I would estimate that 2/3rd's of the field of view were pin-point stars. In my Apertura AD12 12" f/5, I estimated about the same 2/3rd's field gave sharpness before field curvature gave distortions, but they were more pronounced. I'll note that the entire Sword of Orion just about fit in the field of view with the 12" f/5, but again, the field isn't flat all the way to the field stop.
Comparisons - 30mm Olivon vs. 30 mm Apertura
Both just about fit the entire Sword of Orion in eyepiece.
Clear distortions however for the star fields above and below M42.
Outer 2/3rd FOV is distorted in both eyepieces.
On axis, m42 is very sharp, and lots of nice detail and contrast in both eyepieces.
I would give the slight edge to the Apertura 30mm on field of view performance.
One note, in the 30mm Apertura, the background was a bit darker, and thus gave the impression of a bit better contrast too.
No internal reflections on Jupiter with either eyepiece.
Conclusion - If I didn't have a decent 30mm already, this Olivon 30mm would be a great addition for low-power observing.
20mm 80 deg 2" Eyepiece
Fit and Finish - This is a huge eyepiece, actually larger than the 30mm. It has an all black-matte finish, with soft rubber eye-guard, and a textured, thick ring around the main barrel to ensure a nice grip while handling. I found the black-matte finish to be attractive, and although I was concerned that my diagonals thumbscrew would scratch it, it didn't show signs if abuse after use. The barrel itself has the typical recessed ring to ensure no slippage from your eyepiece holder.
The eyepiece also arrives in a wonderful screw-on eyepiece case, which I like because they protect the eyepiece better than anything else, and its pretty hard to lose those things, unlike the smaller tradition pop-on eyepiece lens covers.
Eye Relief - Comfortable, I think an eyeglass wearer would be able to utilize this eyepiece as well. Eye position is important, could easily get blackouts if I was too close or based on eye position.
On-Axis Performance - Great eyepiece on M42, wow, framed very nicely. On the Moon and my C8 @f10, it was fantastic, fitting the entire lunar landscape within the field of view and providing a sharp and contrasty view.
Jupiter was sharp, but less contrast because the background seemed brighter in this eyepiece. On Sirius, I noticed a very small reflection just off center and very star-like, so that threw me off for a moment because I had actually thought that I had been seeing the elusive Pup, but sigh, I realized it couldn't be at this modest magnification, and thus found this reflection.
Testing in my 12" f/5 Dobsonian, there were your typical diffraction spikes from my diagonal, but nothing at all for internal reflections. However, the eyepiece would not come to focus without being pulled out about 1/2 an inch, so keep that in mind.
Also, a note on reflections. With such a big piece of glass, it was easy to pick up reflections from lighting around me (typical backyard with neighbor lighting). A very useful accessory to have is a hooded-observing vest like Dark-Skies Apparel, which really allowed me to minimize any reflections from my environment and focus on the abilities of the eyepieces.
Off-Axis Performance - I would estimate that 40% of the field of view are pin-point stars, the rest distorted heavily. Slightly better performance in my slower, f10 C8, maybe 50%.
Conclusion - An impressive eyepiece physically, but the most impressive view was on the Moon, deep-sky I would like a flatter field.
16mm 80 deg 1.25" Eyepiece
Fit and Finish - One annoyance with this eyepiece was it was difficult to get out of the eyepiece case as its rubber eye-guard is the exact diameter of the case itself. I had to push on the bottom of the case to ease the eyepiece out, deforming the case somewhat, so keep that in mind. I can see someone really fumbling in the dark with this, so this is one of those instances that the barrel case serves its purpose of protecting the eyepiece a bit too much.
This is one of the smallest 80deg eyepieces that I have ever seen, and I feel its size is actually a great selling point for those of us that don't enjoy carrying around large eyepieces. This eyepiece also has the typical all black matte finish, with a textured upper barrel for handling and a rubber eye-guard.
Eye Relief - No issue at all with eye relief, and I didn't find eye or head position to be much of a factor in seeing the entire field stop in this eyepiece.
On-Axis Performance - Sharp eyepiece, I enjoyed picking up festoons on Jupiter, and I felt the colors were very natural and true. There was a minor reflection in center of view, but it was better than my 15mm Expanse and a bit better than the 11mm reviewed later on.
M42 was a real joy in this eyepiece, with contrast being a noticeable standout as compared to the other eyepieces.
Off-Axis Performance - I would estimate that about 2/3rds of the field of view is sharp before you start to see field curvature.
Comparisons - The 14mm Meade UWA bested the 16mm on edge performance, but on axis it was a draw.
Conclusion - This is a great wide-field eyepiece in a smaller 1.25" format
15mm 80 deg 2" Eyepiece
Fit and Finish - This all black, matte finish eyepiece has a rubber fold-down eye-guard. Typical textured finish around barrel to provide a good grep. Great feel, and not very heavy for its size.
Eye Relief - Again, as with most of these Olivons, a very comfortable eye relief with the eye-guard in the "up" position.
On-Axis Performance - This eyepiece provided a very sharp view. This focal length is an all around perfect range for me, since it provides enough details on planets for most nights, and is well suited to deep-sky targets as well. The 15mm Olivon is no exception, offering a very satisfying view of Jupiter, with a very minimal reflection that was barely detectable. Planetary detail in Jupiter was impressive, with clear ovals picked up in the NPR, something I hadn't noticed in a while.
M42 was super in this eyepiece, with contrast and great framing of the whole nebula. I also picked up 5th and 6th stars of the Trapezium during moments of good seeing.
Off-Axis Performance - Actually pretty darn good, with my estimates putting pin-point starts about 3/4 of the field of view.
Comparisons - Comparing this 15mm 80 Deg 2" Eyepiece to my Orion 15mm 1.25" Expanse, the Olivon wins on both on axis and edge performance, but the Orion had edged it out by a hair on contrast. Comparisons against my Meade 14mm UWA, on axis seemed a bit sharper actually, but the field of view was flatter in the Meade.
Conclusion - A great eyepiece for those wanting to step in the 2" world, or for anyone looking for a great all-around eyepiece.
11mm 80 deg 1.25" Eyepiece
Fit and Finish - All black matte finish, with a rubber eye-guard. Small, but exuded quality.
Eye Relief - This eyepiece had the tightest eye relief of the bunch, and I'm not sure if eyeglass wearers would be satisfied with it. I had to press my eye rather close to get the whole field stop.
On-Axis Performance - Decent contrast and a sharp overall view. By this time Io was crossing Jupiter, and I really took my time to enjoy the inky black dot traverse a planet ripe with detail. However, as I watched, I could pick up times where a glare would kind of overwhelm the view. I scrutinized the eyepiece a bit, and think it was smudges from my lashes, since the eye relief is tighter, so keep that in mind.
Off-Axis Performance - Very good, with 3/4 of the field of view sharp. The edge performance is going to come in handy for dobsonian users, since keeping the view sharp for as long as possible is important for planetary viewing.
Comparisons - I have 12.4 and 9.7mm Meade Plossl eyepieces that I break out on planets when the seeing permits. Between those two powers, I have often felt an 11mm would be perfect for those nights of great seeing when the 9.7 was just a bit soft, and the 12.4 was so sharp I felt I could tease out just a bit more. I could see this fitting the bill nicely, but with one catch. I could not get the 11mm to come to focus in my 12" f5 Dobsonian, there was not enough in-focus.
Conclusion - If you have a longer focal length instrument, the 11mm is a solid choice for nights of great seeing. If you have a fast dob, than you may want to look for an alternative.
Olivon High Definition 58 Degree FOV
Left to Right: 2.5mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm, 7mm, 15mm, 20mm
I am going to take a bit of a different approach on writing up my thoughts on the Olivon High Definition 58 Degree FOV Eyepieces. You see, these fantastic eyepieces are such great and consistent performers that I think evaluating each and every one of their individual attributes is repetitive and will only waste time and space here on this review. Its simple; These eyepieces are FANTASTIC. Yeah, I guess you can say I really enjoyed them. I tested in everything I had, from my C8, to my 6" Dobsonian, to my "Big Boy" 12" f5 Dobsonian, even my 60mm Coronado II, and they performed flawlessly in all of them.
I'll briefly share a story on the 2.5mm. Now a 2.5mm eyepiece, I have to admit, I was like "Really? Who in the world has the seeing conditions to accommodate this type of power on a telescope?" Well I would imagine those of you blessed with great seeing, and superb, high-end short focal-length instruments, of which I really don't own any, well my 12" f5 comes closest I imagine. Franky, I had the same feelings towards the 2.5mm to 5mm range, feeling those are empty magnifications on all but a few instruments in very rare circumstances. Now I myself own a 6mm Orthoscopic, and have an extremely memorable night of gazing in awe at Saturn on my C8, but since that time, I think it was in 2001 during the Cathedral Gorge Star Party, I don't think I have used that eyepiece on more than a handful of nights. Don't get me wrong,the eyepiece isn't at fault, its just that magnification seems lost, I can use it sure, but I rarely benefit in any more discernible detail. Now on to testing.
I had a waxing Gibbous Moon this night, so I decided to plunk in the 2.5mm, and scoffing at the idea I would see anything but an eyepiece full of boiling mush with "floaters" joining in as to mock my efforts, I was shocked when I focused the telescope. There in view, a lunar landscape as I have never seen it before. I was viewing the Moon, not in an empty power with no discernible details as I squished my eye up to some tiny lens. On the contrary, the view was respectable and comfortable at the insane magnification on my C8 of 812x. So lets talk about the view for a moment. Was the detail sharp? I would say soft, but usable as in I can see detail, and at 812x, that's special to me. No doubt, seeing this evening was great, and I am certainly not going to say that the Olivon 2.5mm eyepiece can somehow twist the rules of optics around and make this insane magnification useful for all circumstances - but there are two main points here that I want to emphasize. The fact I was seeing detail speaks well towards the quality of the optics in the eyepiece, but more importantly, at least to me, was the fact that I was comfortably viewing at this magnification. You see the eyepiece lens itself is very large for a 2.5mm (see below).
Olivon 2.5mm HD 58 Deg Eyepiece
Note the large glass, gone are those tiny lenses like my Orthoscoptic. This fact greatly adds to the overall comfort when using these eyepieces, as they are all very similar in lens size, eye relief, etc. Oh, and speaking of eye relief, very comfortable, I didn't have to press my eye up to the rubber eye-guards at all. I used the 4mm, 5mm, and 6mm almost exclusively on the Moon, and as I went through the HD line-up, my grin grew bigger and bigger.
I did try in vain for the Pup in the 6mm and 7mm, but overall the images of stars were great, and as I moved on over to Jupiter, the view was softer, I preferred the views in the 11mm. However, this left me longing for when Saturn enters back into the evening sky because I have no doubt another memorable evening with the ringed planet would have followed if I had these HDs by then.
The 15mm and 20mm both offered sharpness and contrast, all the way to the field stop. I can't think of anything I didn't absolutely love about these eyepieces, all of them. Well, ok there is one thing. They have traditional eye-cups, and not the barrel cases, but yeah, that's very insignificant.
Here are my thoughts on the whole line-up of Olivon High Definition 58 Deg Eyepieces:
Fit and Finish - These eyepieces have a more traditional black upper barrel, with a textured finish, and a silver barrel with recessed retention ring. They are also threaded for 1.25" filters. Great feel and very well made.
Eye Relief - Every one of them were comfortable, and I think eyeglass wearers would be satisfied.
On-Axis Performance - Excellent sharpness, contrast, with no reflections.
Off-Axis Performance - Fantastic. In my opinion, the best attribute to these eyepieces is the fact they have true edge-to-edge performance.
Conclusion - Highly recommended! I can't find any faults at all, just outstanding eyepieces, and a blast to use.
Olivon Zoom Eyepieces (8-24mm and 9.5-19mm)
Olivon actually has two varieties for their zoom eyepieces, which I found kind of odd to be honest. They have their 9.5mm-19mm range eyepiece and a 8mm-24mm range eyepiece, and they were kind enough to loan me both for this review.
I had never had the opportunity to view through zoom eyepieces before, so I was very much looking forward to putting these eyepieces through their paces on my collection of scopes. I tested from my 12" f5 Apertura, 6" Dobsonian, and my C8. I'm pleased to say these eyepieces were a joy to use. I missed nothing from my other eyepieces. Well ok, perhaps some of the wider fields of view sure, but the amazing flat and crisp field all the way to the field stop sure made up for that. Jupiter was crisp, and having the ability to tweak the power range as needed for the seeing conditions was great, it permitted me to get the best view I possibly could without swapping out eyepieces and refocusing. Speaking of refocusing, there is a bit between ranges, but they are minimal. M42 was next, and the view was wonderful and contrasty. I enjoyed zooming in and checking out the Trapezium with just the right mag to nab the 5th and 6th stars with ease. These were my favorite eyepiece to cruise the Moon with, detail was superb, with high contrast and excellent colors through the whole range of magnifications.
2" or 1.25", your choice
I can certainly see someone picking up one of these zooms and being content with just one eyepiece, I truly mean that, I know I would not feel like I'm missing anything at all with just this in my eyepiece case. What a great option too for outreach, since you can dial-in the needed magnification for a particular object without fumbling through different eyepieces. But wait, you don't have a 2" diagonal and thus would prefer a 1.25" eyepiece? No worries, Olivon designed the outermost 2" barrel to be unscrewed, revealing a standard 1.25" barrel, so they have that covered too.
So lets get onto my impressions of these zoom eyepieces.
Fit and Finish - These eyepieces have a more traditional black upper barrel, just larger because they are zooms, with a textured finish and a silver barrel with recessed retention ring. They have a hard plastic twist-up eye-guard that I would have preferred to be plastic, but it was functional. The barrels are also threaded for 1.25" filters and 2" filters. Quality all around.
Eye Relief - Decent, with no issue with eye-guards raised to full height.
On-Axis Performance - Sharp. I did notice some minor internal reflections on bright objects, but it seemed to be only at certain head positions. Very true colors on Jupiter, and the Moon mare really seemed to "pop" with these eyepieces. I went back and forth between my Meade 14mm UWA and the 9.5-19mm, dialed in to being just about 14mm I guess, and the views were too close to call. However, the edge clearly went to the Olivon Zoom, although a wider field of view given in the Meade.
Off-Axis Performance - Excellent, with sharp views all the way to the field stops of the various focal lengths I progressed through.
Conclusion - Highly recommended! You can easily replace a whole range of eyepieces with just one of these quality zooms. I preferred the 8mm-25mm over the 9.5mm-19mm, simply because of the wider range of magnifications it provided.
Olivon may not yet be a name synonymous with astronomical accessories, but they have a very strong offering into the eyepiece world with the aforementioned line-up. My favorite eyepieces of the bunch were all the High Definitions, followed closely by the 8-24mm Zoom, and finally the 15mm 2" 80 Degree Wide Angle. Olivon should certainly gain the attention of backyard stargazers looking for quality eyepieces at reasonable prices.