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First look at the new Leica ASPH zoom

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#1 andydj5xp

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 06:05 AM

Two weeks ago I took delivery of my long (VERY long) awaited new zoom: Leica 25x-50x ASPH. The designation "25x-50x" refers to the available magnifications together with the Leica spotting scope's focal length of 440mm. I will call it 17.6-8.8mm.

General:
- Body dimensions: 59mm/2.3" diameter, 89mm/3.5" body length (without barrel)
- weight approx. 400g/14oz
- twist-up eyecup (3 positions, 9mm difference)
- comfortable eye relief (18mm)
- smooth zoom-ring movement

Having been a fan of my Leica zoom 22-7.3mm for quite some years my expectations were rather high. My benchmark was this:

ZAOII's vs. Leica 22-7.3mm

Fortunately the skies were cooperative at the very first evening showing a 12 day's moon with fairly good seeing conditions. I did compare the new zoom against the ZAOII's and the old zoom at different focal lengths of 16mm, 10mm, 8mm, 6mm, and 5mm. The main target for the higher mags was crater Gassendi. As reported in the given link the old zoom and the ZAOII's again were so close that it wasn't possible to see differences. The new zoom instantly could be seen as being on par with both. But after the comparisons had been performed for more than one hour it even seemed to excede both for coming slightly better into focus, not by a large margin but repeatedly so. It kind of looked a tad "sharper" which I did interpret as being may be even more contrasty. At any rate: it can easily compete for contrast, definition, and absence of stray light. And of course it substantially surpasses the ZAOII's for its huge AFOV and its generous eye relief.

This week the sun made for a very tough test target for stray light and ghosting. With a filtering of ND5 (100 000 times) the apparent brightness of the solar disk is still 1.6 magnitudes brighter than the full moon. Putting the sun just outside the field stop there could not be seen even the faintest glow. This is equal to the ZAOII's where the approaching solar disk can be seen already through the triangular cuttings without generating stray light within the field of view.

Saturn gave a very pleasing view with natural colors slowly drifting through the large field of view without the necessity to refocus. To conclude this little report: the double cluster looked magnificent at different magnifications displaying pinpoint stars up to the field stop. Finally, the E and F stars within M42 could equally easily be observed with both Leica ASPH zoom and the ZAOII's.

Pros:
- wide AFOV: 58.5° at 17.6mm up to 79.5° at 8.8mm
- virtually flat field (within my measurement uncertainty of 0.05mm)
- no astigmatism up to the field stop
- extremely sharp
- extremely high contrast due to complete absence of straylight and ghosting
- no eyeball reflections
- neutral color rendition
- parfocal
- no kidney beaning
- replaces three high quality eyepieces (even more with barlowing)
- barlows very well
- with a quality barlow lens element and extension rings it covers all focal lengths

Cons:
- expensive (800 Euros/1080 USD)
- 2"-adapter not yet available (I'm using a modified Baader adapter T2-#16)
- no click-stops (I don't need it: see below)

Summary: Is it the "ultimate" eyepiece? For me: YES. For others as always: YMMV (or better: YMWV). My UWAN16 and the old Leica 22-7.3mm zoom have been sold already, and eventually I will even sell my ZAOII's since I don't think them to be used often any more after – of course – much more comparisons. Together with a premium barlow lens (Baader VIP Modular) and a two-stage scheme of adding extension rings I have 3 barlow factors of 1.5x, 2x, and 2.5x. Thus a focal range of 17.6mm down to 3.5mm gives me everything I would need.

The attached picture gives an impression. From left: Zoom with 2"-barrel, barlow lens for 1.5x, 30mm T2-extension for 2x, 32mm T2-extension for 2.5x. The two combos 1.5x and 2x fit within the 2" eyepiece holder of my Baader Maxbright diagonal, the second extension will be placed outside the eyepiece holder. The white markings on the eyepiece body are little pieces cut from a nylon cable binder and glued onto small strips of transparent selfadhesive tape. They enable "feeling" the chosen magnification and are placed such that they give with my TEC140 mags of 60x, 80x, and 100x unbarlowed and the corresponding magnifications multiplied with the barlow factors.

Andreas

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#2 NHRob

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 07:52 AM

Andreas,
Very interesting. Who did you get it from?

Pricey but, if it replaces 3 XWs or Nags it's not too bad.

Rob

#3 andydj5xp

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 01:39 PM

Who did you get it from?



Rob,

I got it from my local Leica dealer who ordered it for me as early as last summer.

Andreas

#4 Chris Schroeder

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 02:06 PM

Great report Andreas, nice idea with the strips of cable binder :waytogo:

#5 Rob S

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 03:09 PM

Andreas, are Leica still insisting on shipping practically everything they make in leather (or cordura with leather trim)?

Regards,

Rob.

#6 andydj5xp

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 04:18 PM

Andreas, are Leica still insisting on shipping practically everything they make in leather (or cordura with leather trim)?



Rob,

it came with a simple cordura case (to be closed with a zipper) without a trim. Nothing special.

Andreas

#7 Rob S

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 12:55 AM

Andreas, are Leica still insisting on shipping practically everything they make in leather (or cordura with leather trim)?



Rob,

it came with a simple cordura case (to be closed with a zipper) without a trim. Nothing special.

Andreas


Andreas,

That is good news - i'm vegan so could not have bought it if it came in leather. I got quoted a very, very good price for this a while back - but that was before my dollar went in the toilet :-{

Regards,

Rob.

#8 Tamiji Homma

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Posted 07 August 2009 - 08:58 AM

I've been thinking about getting this zoom eyepiece. Wait is over. It is here. It got a bit of cosmetic look change comparing to Andreas'.

After a quick peek, placing on 2" diagonal, it was shipped to machinist to get 2" nosepiece done.

Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

I hope it performs as good as Andreas said :grin:

Tammy

#9 edwincjones

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Posted 07 August 2009 - 09:51 AM

I think that the old Leica zoom is the ulitmate ep-if this is better-WOW!

note-there is an old leica zoom on shop and swap

edj

#10 Tamiji Homma

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Posted 07 August 2009 - 11:35 AM

I think that the old Leica zoom is the ulitmate ep-if this is better-WOW!

note-there is an old leica zoom on shop and swap

edj


Hi Ed,

I spent only half an hour with the zoom eyepiece looking at hills 0.7 miles away before packing up for sending it to machinist. Turning the zoom in, it gave me a sensation flying into the hills as magnification going up with AFOV increases.

It was interesting experience just like scene in IMAX movie "The Dream Is Alive", Space Shuttle astronaut training scene, they are in basket hanging on rope and slowly descending toward big net down and hit ... It was WOW :)

Tammy

#11 ibase

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Posted 07 August 2009 - 12:33 PM

Hail zoom kings Andreas & Tammy!:bow: Congrats!

Quite euphoric that the advent of the new millennium zoom has arrived. Let it never be said again that zooms are "tacky" or "compromised." Zooms are here to stay and their comeback packs a wallop! Clear skies.

Best,

#12 andydj5xp

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Posted 07 August 2009 - 12:50 PM

I think that the old Leica zoom is the ulitmate ep-if this is better-WOW!

edj


I've been using the "old" Leica zoom (22...7.3mm) for about 8 years and you are right with "ultimate". The new ASPH zoom isn't only at least as good optically (contrast, definition, absolute lack of straylight, zooming smoothness) but with its huge AFOVs of 60°-80° it's the first zoom to not miss fixed focal length widefields any more.

@ Tammy: I'm glad you got yours and I'm looking forward to hear about your viewing experiences.

Andreas

#13 Tarzanrock

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Posted 07 August 2009 - 01:43 PM

Hi Tammy:
I've been interested in this particular eyepiece as well. I, for one, would be extremely interested to know how well it performs in your long focal length Vixen scope.
Best regards,
William

#14 Tamiji Homma

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Posted 07 August 2009 - 11:41 PM

Hi Tammy:
I've been interested in this particular eyepiece as well. I, for one, would be extremely interested to know how well it performs in your long focal length Vixen scope.
Best regards,
William


Hi Bill,

I am planning to use the eyepiece with VMC260L most as Andreas mentioned if it were matching performance to replace 3 Pentax XWs (7, 10, 14), a grand price tag does not look that bad :)

A bit of terrestrial view, it looks very promising but real test will be M13 for me with ZAO-II 16, 10/Denk 14/Pentax XW 10/Ethos 17, looking forward to it.

Tammy

#15 Starman1

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 10:04 AM

I'm following this thread with bated breath.
If it works as well as Tammy hopes, we may have to get the machinist to make a bunch of adapters for this eyepiece, because it may become "hot" in the marketplace (well, as hot as any eyepiece in this price range can be :grin:)

#16 ibase

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 10:29 AM

I'm following this thread with bated breath.
If it works as well as Tammy hopes, we may have to get the machinist to make a bunch of adapters for this eyepiece, because it may become "hot" in the marketplace (well, as hot as any eyepiece in this price range can be :grin:)


Hi Don,

From an old Zoom eyepieces thread it was mentioned (Novbabies - Mark) that you don't think highly of zoom EPs ("something like you couldn't pay him to own one"); is it true and if so do you still feel the same way today? Thanks.

Best,

#17 Starman1

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 10:56 AM

Zoom eyepieces typically have narrow fields of view, and poorer quality optics than fixed power eyepieces.

However, the zoom experience is still a desirable experience if the eyepiece stays in focus during its zoom.

Spotting scope eyepieces have to stay in focus as they zoom to be practical eyepieces for nature/bird watchers, so good spotting scope zooms have that requirement.

This Leica zoom also purports to have a wider field of view, which might answer that objection I have.

Sharpness compared to fixed power eyepieces is a different issue, though, and so I await Tammy's report (he's known to be a fussy observer in that regard).

The zoom experience is worth experiencing, though. It's really neat to see a globular cluster get larger and "closer" as you zoom in, as if you were flying through space toward it.

In different scopes, at different times, I've used zoom eyepieces to help me determine the correct magnification to view an object. Every time I've changed to a fixed power eyepiece, though, the image improved.

I don't think it's impossible to have a zoom eyepiece that performs like fixed power--the Nagler zooms convinced me of that--but the lower-powered ones in the market have always left me cold.

There are some "decent" zooms in the market, and they might make excellent "traveling eyepieces" for a person flying somewhere and whose weight limit may preclude the taking of a box of fixed-power eyepieces. But for the critical observer, zooms fall a little short of the sharpness I've come to know and expect--especially at the edge of the field.

But there are beginning to be some "no-compromises" zooms appearing for the spotting scope users, and Tammy has one of them.

It isn't the concept of a zoom I object to, it has been the execution. If a zoom appears that has a wide field AND is as sharp as fixed-power eyepieces, it might be one that finds a place in my eyepiece box.

#18 andydj5xp

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 12:47 PM

It isn't the concept of a zoom I object to, it has been the execution. If a zoom appears that has a wide field AND is as sharp as fixed-power eyepieces, it might be one that finds a place in my eyepiece box.


As you will know from my correspondence with Tammy I'm particularly interested to hear about your impression of this eyepiece. Since you have way more observing experience than I have and since you will have access to the finest telescopes as well your judgement will be most welcome.

Andreas

#19 Tarzanrock

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 01:22 PM

I am planning to use the eyepiece with VMC260L most as Andreas mentioned if it were matching performance to replace 3 Pentax XWs (7, 10, 14), a grand price tag does not look that bad :)

A bit of terrestrial view, it looks very promising but real test will be M13 for me with ZAO-II 16, 10/Denk 14/Pentax XW 10/Ethos 17, looking forward to it.


Hi Tammy:
Interesting test -- I think that you need to add the Pentax 14 mm XW to the "test" if you are not already planning on doing so.
Although I certainly know very little about optics, I do share Don's view about the Leica eyepiece being designed for their "spotting scope."
I have in the past considered Zeiss, Leica, Nikon and Pentax zoom eyepieces but never actually obtained one because of the concerns that I then had (and have) which are related to the design and useage in their respective spotting scopes. I wondered then (and I still wonder) how well they would work in a catadioptic type scope or in a dobsonian type scope.
As for the occurrence of the "test" perhaps you would like to do it at Mt. Pinos next weekend. I've been wanting to get up there this summer; and, some of the guys on the classics thread have invited me so I'm thinking of going -- maybe even camping up there -- assuming that I can get away from L.A.
Bill

#20 ibase

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 02:36 PM

Thanks for the response.

Best,

#21 Tamiji Homma

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Posted 09 August 2009 - 12:27 PM

Hi Don,

Sharpness compared to fixed power eyepieces is a different issue, though, and so I await Tammy's report (he's known to be a fussy observer in that regard).



Ha ha ha... I am happy with any eyepiece under night skies.

I'll drop it off at your office after I have a chance to try. I think it would take at least two weeks to get back the eyepiece with adapter.

You are much more qualified to judge eyepiece performance :)
I am just curious about the eyepiece performance, nothing more, my curiosity gave in :grin:

Tammy

#22 macular hole

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Posted 28 September 2009 - 05:40 PM

The recent interest in this Leica 25-50x EP led me to this thread.

I have owned/used a Leica 77 APO spotting scope with the old 20-60x version of this EP for 12 years. I can report with confidence, through extensive observation, both terrestrial and planets/moon, that the old zoom is excellent to about 45x in the Leica 77 APO. However, there is a noticeable drop off in resolution and contrast when zooming past 45x up to 60x. I do not know if it is the fault of the EP, OTA or a combo of both. I have not tried any other EP in the 77 APO.

Ergonomically, I dislike the stiffness of the zoom ring on this older EP. In fact, it is so stiff, you have to grab the EP with both hands to zoom, with one hand holding the barrel of the EP and the other forceably cranking the zoom. Frequently, the zooming effort required will shake the object out of view. The scope will then have to be repositioned to re-aquire the object of regard.

I also want to add that the old 20-60x Leica zoom is not quite parfocal throughout its entire zoom range. I do need to tweek the apo 77's fine focus nob a bit when going past about 45x.

If Leica has solved all three of these objections I have had with the old EP, this new zoom EP should be excellent. One of the outdoor magazines recently tested a bunch of new spotting scopes and the new Leica 85 was the overall winner. I also look foward to hearing more about how it performs with an adapter, in a telescope app. Maybe if it catches on for telescope use, Leica will make an adapter, or perhaps make a version specifically designed for use in a telescope.

In fact, now that I think about it, I don't get why Leica and Zeiss don't make any high end EP's designed for telescopes. After all, they both still make excellent EP's for use in their respective lab/surgical microscopes. How hard would it be?

I would really like to replace my old 20-60x EP with this new 25-50s for use in my 77 APO, but I called Leica tech support recently and was told that it will not fit.

#23 Tom T

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Posted 28 September 2009 - 06:30 PM

Andreas,

Would you please consider submitting this as an article - there's far too much great information here to let it eventually get lost in the forums.

Thank you

Tom T.

#24 turtle86

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Posted 28 September 2009 - 06:47 PM

Sounds like a great zoom. Thanks for the report.

#25 andydj5xp

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Posted 29 September 2009 - 04:13 AM

Andreas,

Would you please consider submitting this as an article - there's far too much great information here to let it eventually get lost in the forums.

Thank you

Tom T.


Tom,

up to now I'm the only user - at least AFIK - of this new zoom for astronomical purposes. This has left me a bit reluctant about writing an article since my observing experience is kind of limited.

But within the very next future there will be another Leica ASPH zoom at the disposal of highly experienced fellow CNers who will either confirm or at least complement my results. This will be announced within this thread. In case of getting assurance for my own impressions I would be glad to submit a short article.

Andreas






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