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"Big Plossls" - Televue 55mm, Meade 4000 56mm (4-Element Design), Meade 4000 56mm (5-Element Design)
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A QUICK LOOK AT THE “BIG” PLÖSSLS
By: William Paolini, 12/22/09 (updated)
Pictured (Left to Right):
Meade 4000 56mm (4-Element Design)
Tele Vue 55mm (4-Element Design)
Meade 4000 56mm (5-Element Design)
Certainly a “novelty” eyepiece in many respects by today’s standards with so many fast scopes on the market as a 55mm eyepiece produces a rather large exit pupil, these eyepieces are still very practical for longer focal ratio scopes which are f/8 and slower. Of the three used in this quick look I did early in 2009, both the Tele Vue and the Meade 4000 4-Element are still currently available. The particular Meade version used here was a slightly older one manufactured in Japan whereas current versions are manufactured in China. Tele Vue eyepieces are made in Japan and Taiwan to Tele Vue's design, Japanese glass material, and tolerance specifications. The older Meade 4000 5-Element (often referred to as a pseudo-Masuyama design) is long out of production.
A quick comparison was conducted using all of these eyepieces in a TSA-102 f/8 APO, a Celestron C-6 f/10 SCT, and to challenge the off-axis performance, an Orion XT10 10” f/4.7 Dob. While the exit pupil produced by these eyepieces would be just under 7mm for the refractor and SCT, for the Dob it would be a huge 11.6mm! This of course would mean a much less impressive image than what I would be used to from this 10” instrument since the smaller dark adapted 6mm to 7mm opening of my eye’s iris would block much of the light in the 11.6mm exit pupil produced by this eyepiece-telescope combination. However, it would still be interesting to see how the edge correction would be for the giant Plössls in such a fast scope as the XT10.
|#1 (winner)||56mm Meade 4000 Plössl|
|#2||55mm TeleVue Plössl|
|#3||56mm Meade 4000 Plössl|
Details of the Results
Ranks #1 and #2 were very close. In both, the edge correction was equal in my XT10 f/4.7 Dob and I'd say a slight edge went to the Tele Vue in terms of beings able to pull in the very difficult to see faintest stars (which can be due to more than just transmission, as things like scatter, spot size, chromatic aberration, distortion, etc. can all contribute to the ability to see the faintest stars). While I could still see the faintest of stars being observed in both of these contenders, the faintest stars seemed a little stronger looking in the Tele Vue. However, the Meade 4000 5-Element showed a slight edge over Tele Vue in terms of star colors or color saturation, and how much "presence" or "authority" the stars conveyed. So when I was observing clusters with any of the telescopes, the brighter stars seemed to pop out more in the Meade 4000 5-Element vs. the Tele Vue, resulting in a little more of a dimensional impression to the view. Finally, the Meade 4000 5-Element took a square win in the "engaging" department. Eye placement was much easier than with the Tele Vue, and I always felt more engaged and observation seemed more comfortable and natural without distractions when viewing with the Meade 4000 5-Element Plössl vs the Tele Vue. So in the end, while both were really close, I felt the Meade 4000 5-Element gave a little stronger visual experience overall than the Tele Vue, which earned it its Rank of #1.
The Meade 4000 4-Element Plössl was also quite a good performer, even compared to the much more expensive Tele Vue. The bottom line is that it did produce a beautiful picture, worked very well, and felt it was an excellent value for the money. Where it trailed the other two was the view of star fields had slightly less “pop” and edge correction was also slightly less controlled.
If I were going to use this class of Plössl often, then for the $100 or so more for the TeleVue Plössl at $190-$219 new vs the Meade 4000 4-Element Plossl at $75-$89 new, I would say it might just be worth the extra investment as one gains a little more “pop” and dimensionality in star fields, edge correction is slightly better, and dimmest stars are easier to discern. If on the other hand a 55mm Plössl is only going to be an occasional use item for you such as a less often needed 2” max True Field of View (TFOV) finder eyepiece, then I feel I’d definitely go for the Meade 4000 4-Element Plössl as you are probably getting 85%-90% of the performance of the Tele Vue. If you are a collector and want the best possible, out of the three in my opinion the older Meade 4000 5-Element Plössl would be something I’d be keeping my eye out for on the used market as it is a real gem both in performance, look, feel, and build.
As a side note, while eye relief is long on all these eyepieces (38mm for the Tele Vue), my preference seemed to be for the no eye cup or eye guard configuration of the Meade 4000 5-Element. However, while the Tele Vue does have the long cone-shaped upper housing which is used in part as an extended eye guard as it is entirely above the eye lens, I discovered that this portion does simply unscrew so the Tele Vue can become an eye guard-less version similar to the Meade 4000 5-Element.
Overall though, these Big Plössls are wonderful eyepieces in longer focal length instruments. As example, in both my TSA-102 (3.2 deg TFOV) and Celestron C-6 SCT (1.7 degrees TFOV) the views of the M42 Orion Nebula and the Pleiades was nothing short of mesmerizing. And even though the Apparent Field of View is only 50 degrees for these 2” eyepieces, they still gave somewhat of an impression of the wide-field experience plus a rare level of comfort with their very large eye lenses.
Update 2014 – corrects the original post of this article which incorrectly stated that the Tele Vue Plössl was manufactured in China. At the time of this article’s posting and this update, Tele Vue eyepieces were made in Japan and Taiwan.
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Disclaimer - Given difference between equipment, seeing conditions, observer physiology, and observer psychology (i.e., likes, dislikes, and expectations), your outcomes can be different when compared to those in this article. All advice and information in this article is given in good faith as an amateur astronomer and hobbyist and is based on sources believed to be reliable and accurate at the time of release. The author does not accept legal liability or responsibility for the content of the advice or information or any consequences arising from its use, and should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. It is the responsibility of the user to make their own decisions about the relevance, accuracy, currency and reliability of information found in this article. The advice and information in this article does not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations hosting the article.
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