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Meade Series 4000 Versus Parks Gold Series



I recently was offered another testing opportunity by Sam The Man Sweiss, Store Manager at Scope City in San Francisco, California. Sam is very friendly and also has a very helpful staff, all of whom have assisted me in my past telescope eyepiece purchases. I asked Sam to borrow two each of his Meade Series 4000 eyepieces and Parks Gold Series eyepieces and compare them one to another. Sam told me to wait just for a moment, got out another box and put in a total of four eyepieces! Plus, he threw in an additional Meade Series 4000 2X Apochromatic Barlow Lens! Elated, I told Sam I’d take good care of the eyepieces and barlow lens and bring them back after evaluating them on the Orion Nebula and Saturn.

The Meade Series 4000 Series of eyepieces are described by Meade as Super Plossls of 52 degrees apparent field containing 4 Multicoated optical elements and highly useful as the finest general-purpose eyepieces available. The focal lengths I borrowed from Sam were 26mm and 9.7mm. The price for the 26mm and 9.7mm Meade Series 4000 eyepieces are $79.95 each

The Parks Gold Series Oculars are described as eyepieces having 52 degrees apparent field and are Fully Multicoated eyepieces consisting of 5 to 7 elements. The focal lengths I borrowed from Sam were the 25mm and 10mm.. The price for the 25mm Gold Series Ocular is $105.95, while the 10mm eyepiece is $99.95.

The Meade Series 4000 2X Apochromatic Barlow Lens is a 3 element Multicoated accessory priced at $79.95.

I decided to use my Celestron WideView 102mm f/5 fast Achromatic Spotter(about $330) to compare the Meade Series 4000 Eyepieces against the Parks Gold Series Oculars, rather than my Televue 102mm f/8.8 Apochromatic Scope(about $2200), because I wanted to test out these eyepieces using a relatively inexpensive type of telescope that is more commonly owned by amateur astronomers. The two objects selected, the Orion Nebula and Saturn, represented modestly challenging and severely challenging objects, respectively, for the Celestron Wide View Spotting Scope, especially at the low power end and the high power end of viewing. On a fast f/5 scope, and at the low powers, under about 20X magnification, my vision, just cannot handle the larger eyepiece exit pupils because of the inherent problems I have with astigmatism in my right/viewing eye. Exit pupil is defined as the telescope objective diameter divided by the power of the object being viewed through a particular eyepiece. Also, at the high power end, many factors tend to come into play such as atmospheric distortions from less than ideal seeing conditions.

The diagonal used with the Wide View 102mm Spotter was a 2 inch Meade Mirror Diagonal of reasonably high quality. In a previous Cloudynights article, I mentioned CEIBS and IPDTEFE as parameters for testing eyepieces, but will redefine them here:

  • CEIBS - Central Eyepiece Image Brightness & Sharpness. A measure of how well the object viewed looks at the very center of the field of view within the eyepiece, with a rating from Zero(0) - lowest/worst rating, to Ten(10) - highest/perfect rating.
  • IPDTEFE - Image Point Degradation Towards Eyepiece Field Edge. Estimated, in percent, with 80% or higher being excellent, which is a measure of how sharp the eyepiece optics are as the stellar object gets closer and closer to the field edge.

The testing on the Orion Nebula was done on the evening of October 4, 2002, while the testing on Saturn was done during the early morning of October 5, 2002. The overall sky conditions were good to very good with a seeing rating condition ranging from around 7 to 8 out of 10. I live in a suburban area, San Ramon, California, with moderate to severe light pollution as the overhead limiting magnitude is 4.0 to 4.5 under normal conditions.

The deep space object chosen for viewing was the Orion Nebula, located in the Sword of the famous Hunter, with its famous quadruple pattern of stars, called the Trapezium. Of course Saturn is arguably the most beautiful of planets with the magnificent Cassini Division and moon Titan, known to hold an atmosphere.

Keep in mind that my ratings are defined with my own CEIBS subjective rating - yours may differ somewhat. Also, IPDTEFE was estimated as I eyeballed the recorded percentages.

Testing Results:

Here are the testing results for the Trapezium in the Orion Nebula viewed with the Meade Series 4000 Eyepieces compared with the Parks Gold Series Eyepieces, Table 1. The top half of Table 1 contains viewing results with the eyepieces alone, while the bottom half of Table 1 contains viewing results with both the eyepieces and 2X Meade Apochromatic Barlow.



Table 1 Object Viewed: Trapezium in the Orion Nebula

Eyepiece CEIBS (1-10) IPDTEFE (%) Remarks

Meade Series 4000

26mm 19X

9

50

3 Trapezium Stars Seen with Pale Blue Nebula

Parks Gold Series

25mm 20X

10

80

4 Trapezium Stars Seen Sharply with Deeper Blue Nebula

Meade Series 4000

9.7mm 52X

10-

85

4 Trapezium Stars Seen with Blue Nebula

Parks Gold Series

10mm 50X

10

90

4 Trapezium Stars Seen with Strikingly Blue Nebula

Meade Series 4000 26mm with 2X Meade Apo Barlow

38X

8

75

4 Trapezium Stars Viewed with Faint Blue Nebula

Parks Gold Series 25mm with 2X Meade Apo Barlow 40X

9

95

4 Trapezium Stars Viewed with Brighter Blue Nebula

Meade Series 4000 9.7mm with 2X Meade Apo Barlow 103X

9

95

4 Trapezium Stars Nicely Separated with Bluish Nebula

Parks Gold Series 10mm with 2X Meade Apo Barlow 100X

9+

95

4 Trapezium Stars Nicely Viewed with More Intense Blue Color in Nebula


Here are the testing results for Saturn viewed with the Meade Series 4000 Eyepieces compared with the Parks Gold Series Eyepieces, Table 2. The top half of Table 2 contains viewing results with the eyepieces alone, while the bottom half of Table 2 contains viewing results with both the eyepieces and the 2X Meade Apochromatic Barlow.


Table 2 Object Viewed: Saturn

Eyepiece CEIBS(1-10) IPDTEFE(&) Remarks

Meade Series 4000

26mm 19X

8

50

Rings Look OK but Flare Out When Planet is Positioned Near the Eyepiece Field Edge

Parks Gold Series

25mm 20X

9+

75

Rings Nicely Viewed with Brighter Planetary Image

Meade Series 4000

9.7mm 52X

8+

80

Cassini’s Division Glimpsed

Parks Gold Series

10mm 50X

9

80

Cassini’s Division Glimpsed But Overall Image of Planet Brighter

Meade Series 4000 26mm with 2X Meade Apo Barlow 38X

8+

60

Rings Fairly Sharp but Cassini’s Division was Not Viewed

Parks Gold Series 25mm with 2X Meade Apo Barlow 40X

9

85

Rings a Bit Brighter but Cassini’s Division was Not Viewed

Meade Series 4000 9.7mm with 2X Meade Apo Barlow 103X

9

90

Rings Nicely Viewed with Casssini’s Division and 1 Planetary Surface Belt Visible

Parks Gold Series 10mm with 2X Meade Apo Barlow 100X

9+

90

Rings Nicely Viewed with Cassini’s Division and 1 Planetary Surface Belt More Clearly Visible

Remarks:

While the Meade Series 4000 Eyepieces performed quite well in this comparative testing, I found the Parks Gold Series Oculars to be especially outstanding in performance at both the low power end and at the high power end of the series, namely at 25mm and at 10mm offering powers on the Wide View of 20X and 50X(100X with Barlow), respectively. On Saturn(see Table 2), the 10mm eyepiece at 100X clearly showed me Cassini’s Division, with one planetary surface Belt. Overall the Parks Gold Series Oculars outperformed the Meade Series 4000 Eyepieces in BOTH image brightness and image clarity.

Generally, from my own experience, most fast achromatics will show some degree of image breakdown, sometimes marked breakdown, especially on a planet, like Saturn, at around 30 times to 35 times per inch of aperture. I was pleased that in using the 10mm Parks Gold Series eyepiece with the 2X Meade Apochromatic Barlow Lens, at 100X(25 times per inch of aperture), Cassini’s Division was still viewed very cleanly with direct vision; not bad on a fast scope like the Wide View 102mm f/5 spotter.

When using the Parks Gold Series Eyepieces to view the Orion Nebula, brighter images of the vivid blue colored nebulosity were seen, at both low and high powers, and the Trapezium’s set of four stars were more cleanly split at low power, when compared with the Meade Series 4000 Eyepieces.

Conclusions:

If you want excellent fully multicoated performance in 5 to 7 element eyepieces, strongly consider the Parks Gold Series set of eyepieces. Their performance on the Orion Nebula and gas giant, Saturn(Cassini’s Division) is outstanding. If you’re in San Francisco, consider dropping in, to say hello to Sam The Man and his staff, and also to take a look-see through his many optical offerings both inside his shop and even on the sidewalk directly outside the front doors.




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