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Meade 5000 34mm, GO 32mm, Scopos 30mm, Hyperion Aspheric 36mm


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I’ve seen this question come up again and again on Cloudy Nights: “What’s a good low power, wide view, eyepiece for a reasonable price?” As an owner of a long focal length SCT I’ve asked this question myself because I’d like to be able to get to lower magnifications to view some of the larger objects in the sky.

Of course, the answer always comes back, “Televue Ethos!” or other eyepieces with equally stratospheric price tags. And the fact is, if you want an eyepiece in this category that has no compromises, you’ll want a Televue. But what else is out there that mere mortals can afford? Well, there are eyepieces available that fit this category in all price ranges. But are they any good?

As I looked around the forums, I’d find wildly varying opinions on the same eyepieces. As many will tell you, eyepiece selection is a very personal thing so different people can have completely opposite opinions on the identical piece of glass. It depends on what scope you’re using, the condition of your own eyes, your tolerance for different types of distortion, skill level, etc. But this didn’t help me much.

So, how could I determine which eyepieces were worth considering? Since the nearest astronomy store is hundreds of miles away, I did what any self respecting gear-addict would do. I went out and bought several of them to try for myself. The ones I didn’t keep would head down the road on the used market. I was able to acquire one eyepiece, the Baader Scopos 30mm, as a loaner for this effort from a helpful gentleman at my local astronomy club (Thanks, Bill!)

Here are the contenders:



Garrett Optical

Baader Hyperion Aspheric

Baader Scopos

Meade Series 5000 SWA

Price at time of acquisition

$80

$190

$150

$150

Focal Length

32mm

36mm

30mm

34mm

Apparent Field of View

72°

72°

70°

68°

Weight

14 oz

15 oz

26 oz

28 oz

Eye Relief (Mfgr rating)

24mm

20mm

20mm

26mm

Eye Relief (measured usable)

10mm

14mm

10mm

17mm

What I was looking for

First let me say that, while I am someone of long years, few of those years have been spent on astronomy, so I don’t have oodles (or even one oodle - maybe half an oodle) of experience evaluating eyepieces and some of their more subtle characteristics like coloration. But perhaps that makes me more representative of the level of people looking for eyepieces in this price range. Sure, let’s go with that.

To compare these eyepieces, I used them in my f/10 8” Celestron SCT and my f/6 EON 72mm refractor. I tried them on several nights on star fields and clusters, planets, and faint fuzzies. To my surprise, in all cases, I saw no effect on my evaluation of the eyepieces when moving from one scope to the other.

I started trying to compare individual distortion types such as field flatness and astigmatism. But after spending some time with these eyepieces in the field I realized - who cares? What matters is how much of the field is sharp and useable. With wide field, long focal length eyepieces in this price range there’s always some degree of distortion at the edge. I also looked at sharpness of the central area, contrast, background brightness, construction quality, eye relief, and size and weight.

I measured the eye relief by aiming the eyepiece alone at a bright window and measuring the distance at which the image of the window came into focus from the eyepiece. Note that I measured “usable eye relief’” by measuring from the end of the eyepiece at the lowest position of the eyecup, not from the lens surface as many manufacturers do. In most cases, the usable eye relief was much less than the rated eye relief.

Garret Optical 32mm

At $80 this was the bargain eyepiece of the bunch. I just had to see what you could get for $80. These are also sold under brand names such as the Orion Q70 series, and Agena Astro SWA, as well as others.

The fit and finish of this eyepiece was good and I was pleased with the light weight. One thing I don’t want to have to worry about is throwing my scope out of balance while changing eyepieces. It came with a cap for each end, and a roll up eyecup.

But, the views with this one were something of a disappointment. The outer 30% or so of the view was out of focus due to field curvature. In the center the stars were sharp and pleasing. But I felt that I had been sold a 72° AFOV eyepiece which was really only a 50° AFOV eyepiece. I have to admit, it was still nice to see the larger field of view for context even if it was a bit out of focus. But this was not what I was looking for in an eyepiece.

While the advertisements rated the eye relief at 24mm, I found the useable eye relief to be only 10mm. As someone who needs to wear eyeglasses while viewing, this was a bit tight.

Baader Hyperion Aspheric 36mm

At $190, this was the most expensive of the eyepieces I evaluated. It came in Baader’s usual packaging including a faux leather drawstring bag, and three caps. One cap is for the bottom, and the other two fit the top depending on whether the eyecup is rolled up or down. It also has a 1.25” barrel (right side of photo) to allow you to use it in a 1.25” diagonal or focuser, but at a reduced field of view. Fit and finish were excellent and it appeared to be very well made, on a par with other Hyperion eyepieces.

This eyepiece performed significantly better than the GO 32mm and was sharp to within 10% or so of the edge. It also had notably better contrast, darker background, and was sharper even in the central area. Overall, this was a very nice eyepiece for the price and performed well on all the targets.

I was also impressed by the light weight of the Aspheric , especially considering the good performance on the telescopes. Aside from the 2” barrel, the size and weight were about the same as a 13mm Hyperion.

The usable eye relief was a respectable 14mm and was comfortable with my glasses.

Baader Scopos 32mm

The Scopos is now a discontinued model, but at the time of this test it was available and may still be available from some suppliers. It has been superseded by the Aspheric. Like the Aspheric, it came with standard Baader accouterments like the drawstring bag and caps, and rollup eyecup.

It’s performance was very similar to the Aspheric, but was substantially larger and heavier. This was an eyepiece for which the term “grenade” was coined! A real heft to it, it looked and felt like a solid piece of work. Very impressive to hold! Other than weight, the differences between the two eyepieces were very slight and required a lot of back and forth to tease out. The Scopos was sharp to the outer 10% with the central area exhibiting excellent sharpness and god contrast. But it had a slightly brighter background than the Aspheric which detracted a wee bit from the contrast, and had an odd effect where the outer edge was a bit brighter than the rest of the field. The usable eye relief here was a bit tight at 10mm.

Meade Series 5000 34mm

Ok, there’s no getting around it, this was a thing of beauty and really stood out in terms of workmanship! You just wanted to look at it and hold it as much as actually use it. Kudos to Meade on the design and build!

An interesting feature of this eyepiece is that the entire outer body twists and rises up to act like a twist-up eyecup. The amount of extension of the eyepiece is substantial allowing for a wide adjustment range for eye relief. This motion is very smooth, but the newly exposed barrel area at the bottom is covered with grease to facilitate this smoothness. I was concerned that this grease might stiffen up in cold weather, capture dust and dirt over time, and contaminate errant fingers that might grab the eyepiece in the wrong spot. Here’s a photo of the Meade in the normal and extended position.

Performance? Again sharp to the outer 10% like the two Baaders. Unfortunately, it had very noticeable pincushion distortion. You normally won’t notice pincushion when viewing the night sky because there are no straight lines, but panning around gave a distinctive fishbowl effect, which I didn’t like. This may be less of an issue for some, but for me it was an annoying distraction during observing. The central area of the Meade was as sharp as the Baaders, and had very slightly better contrast. The usable eye relief on the Meade was the best of the bunch at a generous 17mm.

The Result

So which one did I keep? After much heart wrenching deliberation, I decided on the Hyperion Aspheric. The Garrett Optical was clearly not in the same class as the other eyepieces, but that’s to be expected at its price point. The differences in the other three were very small and required a lot of looking, and looking again to detect. In some ways, the Meade was the superior eyepiece, but only by a very small amount. The Hyperion Aspheric performed nearly identically, and at half the weight. The pincushion in the Meade also put me off a bit. As much as I wanted to own the beautifully crafted Meade, in the end my practical side won out. The Aspheric performed essentially the same, but would not throw my scope out of balance, and would fit better in my eyepiece case.

I would enthusiastically recommend either of the two Baaders, or the Meade (if you don’t mind pincushion), as excellent eyepieces in their price range. I can’t say the same for the Garrett Optical.

Here’s a photo of the Aspheric in it’s new home (far left). You can get an idea of the size by comparing to the other Hyperions. For further comparison, the black eyepiece caps at the upper left are on the top of 1.25” Orion Expanse eyepieces.

Disclaimer

The usual yadda-yadda about how none of these manufacturers are paying me handsomely to pump up their products. I’m in no way connected with any astronomy manufacturer or reseller except to throw my hard earned cash in their general direction despite the most desperate pleas of my spouse and amidst the occasional misdirected frying pan.








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