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VITE 2X Barlow Lens Review


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VITE 2X Barlow Lens Review

By Josh Frizzell

Introduction

This review describes the VITE 2x Barlow lens including my initial impressions of build and optical quality.  I observe from a suburb in the southeast U.S.  I have one telescope, an 8-inch Dobsonian, and have had it for approximately five years.  The photos included in this review represent my first crack at astro-imaging.  I wanted to try prime focus photography with my DSLR but my focuser does not have enough in-travel to do so.  I used the Barlow to achieve focus with my telescope/focuser/camera combination.

Selecting the VITE 2x Barlow

When searching for a Barlow I kept coming across an apparently identical (at least on the outside) model all over the internet branded with VITE, SVBony, and even Celestron and un-branded versions.  The Celestron-branded samples were selling for $30 to $35 with the other versions readily-available for less than $15 (note that I have not seen any other than the VITE in person and therefore can’t verify that the interals are the same across the board). I looked into the VITE variant and reviews seemed generally positive for the 2X but less positive for the 3X (which had an entirely different look to it).  One Amazon seller (not the seller I purchased from) described the VITE 2x Barlow as a 3-eIement APO design (more on that later, and I don’t believe that was true of my copy) and others simply described it as “color-corrected.”  I pulled the trigger on a VITE 2x from an Ebay seller for $13.95 with free shipping.

About VITE

Before I bought the VITE 2x Barlow lens I tried to do a little research into VITE as a company.  I was unable to locate a VITE website.  I came across some positive reviews on VITE eyepieces that sold for as little as nine dollars. As noted above, the VITE 2x Barlow seemed to be getting generally favorable reviews but the 3x version didn’t appear to be as well-received.  

When my VITE 2x Barlow arrived, the box was labeled with www.vite.club.  I checked out the website and it was mostly in Chinese so I can’t comment on the content for the most part.  They had, however, a products page in English which was mostly transistor and weather radios with no astronomy products shown.

VITE 2x Barlow – Build Quality

The Barlow is made with a metal barrel and metal threads.  The top has a built-in metal T-thread, which threaded easily and smoothly into a Zhumell-branded T-ring for Canon EOS and made a solid connection.  A notable negative is that there is no eyepiece compression ring, just a set screw, so marred eyepiece barrels could be a concern.  However, the Barlow’s optical element unthreads from the Barlow barrel so it could be threaded into the bottom of an eyepiece rather than inserting the eyepiece into the top of the Barlow and using the set screw.  The Barlow lens threaded smoothly onto the eyepieces that I have, but I’d prefer a compression ring rather than fumble with threads in the dark.  Plastic top and bottom caps were included.

The optical element is held in place inside the outer barrel by a threaded ring and is therefore relatively easy to remove and inspect.  The optical element(s) comes out as one piece.  It appeared that there may be one thick element fused to a much thinner element.  There didn’t seem to be three elements, however.  There appears to be green coating on the lens but it doesn’t show up well on my photo of the optic.

Performance

I gave the VITE 2x Barlow a test run with a lunar observing session.  When used visually the image was pleasingly sharp within the limits of my seeing conditions and to my eye there was no detectable false color even along the Moon’s limb.

Photographically, the Barlow worked well for its intended purpose, which was to allow me to achieve telescope focus with my DSLR.  I didn’t notice false color even in brightly-exposed images of the Moon’s limb that had hard contrast between light and dark parts of the photos.  I include some Moon images that I took using the Barlow, but the reader should keep the following conditions and limitations in mind:

·       Setup:  Zhumell Z8 8-inch Dobsonian telescope, VITE 2x Barlow, Zhumell T-ring for Canon EOS, Canon 7D camera (no lenses in the setup other than in the Barlow), shutter activated with a wireless remote trigger.

·       Optical tube was collimated and allowed to equilibrate with outdoor temperature all night before I began observing at approximately 5:30 AM.

·       Temperature approximately 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

·       Sky/seeing:  No clouds with a faint but visible halo around the Moon;  image in the camera’s live-view screen at 5X digital magnification revealed that detail on the moon noticeably waivered in and out of sharpness.

·       Images are single frame JPEG images and are un-processed right out of the camera.  An experienced astro-imager using stacking or post-processing could probably squeeze more sharpness out of the Barlow than what I present here.

·       ISO ranged from 100 to 320 and shutter speed ranged from 1/5 to 1/80 second.

Conclusion

The VITE 2x Barlow appears generally well-made and put forth a good performance.  The most notable downer is its lack of a compression ring to hold eyepieces in place.  However the built-in T thread made it ideal for my intended purpose and I got some images that I’m happy with for minimal time and money invested.  Although I don’t have another Barlow to compare this one to, this Barlow was of high enough quality that I had fun with it and I expect that I will use it regularly.  I conclude that it’s a good value for the money at least for the casual observer.


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