Had just about perfect conditions here tonight. Harvest Moon being a few hours away from totally full. Incredible.
I started off the evening with my SkyWatcher 17mm Plossl. Still only dusk, but the Moon peaking above the horizon. I clocked her last night walking home. Just as she rose. She was big and fat and red like only a full (almost) Harvest Moon could be on the Equinox. Breathtaking. I got my kit out of course when I got home and spent a few hours observing.
Woke up today expecting not such good conditions, but they were perfect. I wanted to test out a few EP's that I've narrowed down for my scope (6" f5 newt) for Full Moon observations. I did a kind of report before not so long back, when it was almost full. But tonight was the real deal (ok, still a couple hours more to go, but she goes over the trees then over the houses and I won't be able to see her).
The EP's I wanted to test out?
1: ES 16mm 68*
2: Paradigm 15mm 60*
3: Paradigm 12mm 60*
4: ES 24mm 68*
5: SkyWatcher 17mm 52* Plossl
I started off with the Skywatcher.
It did not disappoint. Incredible view. This is a 20 quid EP here in the UK. As I mentioned before, pretty sure it's made at the same factory that do the Orion EP's. A few quid cheaper, but not much to haggle over. It's a great EP. Maybe the Orion EP's are better - I haven't tested them.
I quickly switched to the Paradigms. Or BST Starguiders as they are known here.
I remember the 12mm being on a par with my ES 24mm 68* (with the ES Focal Extender x2). In fact, I actually preferred the view through the Paradigm. It did not disappoint. It was stunning. Great sharpness and contrast across the whole field. And it wasn't even dark yet.
I messed about with using my Orion moon filter (polarising filter). And it made the views more 'palatable' by dimming them a touch, but in the end I put it back in it's box because I was switching EP's out so fast it wasn't practical.
Ditto the Orion Shorty Barlow. Really really love this little humble barlow. I used it with just the 1.5x extender and not as the full 2x job tonight. But in the end, I got fed up with faffing about with that as well.
One thing to note, with regard to the ES 16mm 68* and the Shorty Barlow extension: it does not thread perfectly, but it does work. I stopped forcing it when it got a bit stiff. I checked it out and it is solid enough and works perfectly, but I wouldn't want to stress out the threads on either piece over a prolonged time.
The Paradigm 15mm was a perfect fit though. And just as well, because the view between the barlowed (at 1.5x) Paradigm and the barlowed ES 16mm was notably different. The ES 16mm was blurred around the edges, more difficult to focus as a whole. The Paradigm 15mm was very sharp and might have even had a bit more contrast. I'm going from memory here - I didn't make notes, so take what I say with a pinch of salt.
Anyway, it was no competition. I thought that because the Paradigm has an extra 'barlow' lens built in to it at the bottom, and that the ES 16mm is one of the range that does not have this feature, that it would be the other way about, but no, in my scope, tonight, with my eyes, looking at the full moon, it was no contest. Well, noticeably a bit better. A little is a 'lot' in these circumstances.
I still had not got out the 24mm ES yet. I was still playing about. Starting to get dark now by this point.
I put the 17mm SkyWatcher Plossl away. Didn't think I would be using it again tonight.
I inter-changed the 12mm Paradigm just to check if it was a good or better a view compared to my best view yet with the Paradigm 15mm (barlowed x1.5). Yes it was. Even better again. Of course a bit smaller because the 15mm would have effectively been around 10mm (with barlow), but I loved that extra bit of blackness around the moon with this 60* EP. It just seemed a tad sharper again, overall.
So then I wanted to stop messing with the barlow. Ok, it works absolutely superb with the Paradigm, not so well with the ES. Let's put that back in the box and just narrow things down and evaluate these EP's on their pure merits alone.
The view through the 15mm Paradigm all on its lonesome was also stunning. Don't forget I've got just about perfect conditions tonight.
Then I threw in the 16mm ES 68* all on its lonesome and was even more impressed. Not much in it, but noticeable. It was definitely a step up. Beautiful useful contrast all out to the edge of the view and that extra few degrees really added to the pleasure of viewing. That full moon is big! And so round. It made an excellent 'test' for these EP's. That is why I'm posting this here in this thread.
I was very impressed with the ES 16mm. I was impressed with it before (as I've noted), but tonight it really lent a little magic to proceedings. It had that certain something. The Paradigm wasn't far behind, but this was something else. The law of diminishing returns in full effect.
It was very dark by now. As dark as a night can be with a full moon.
The burn I'd got from observing went away, because I was nipping back inside, changing EP's, putting things away, working out what to test next. So my pupil never really fully dilated I guess. I heard some people say that the bright light from the moon makes your pupil contract anyway. But still, I know it's unpleasant on a dark night when you are 'night adjusted'. I was swapping things out so fast though that it kind of went over my head. It did reduce my vision a bit though, but I just didn't pay it any heed.
So I'd narrowed it down to the ES 16mm 68* and the Paradigm 15mm 60* being the best views so far. The 12mm Paradigm got periodically put back in just to triple check. Yep. Still probably the best view of all. And this was in keeping with my previous observations.
There was only one thing to do: Whip out that ES 24mm 68* and see if that wasn't as good as the Paradigm (when barlowed effectively to 12mm). So I put the ES FE x2 on it. Then took it outside and plonked it in. My scope ducked down. This is a heavy combo. I just wanted to see if the Paradigm 12mm really was slightly better than it.
There wasn't much in it before. And I'm new to this and don't know what to look for. I don't know how to explain things as well. Plus I am still learning to use my eyes and how best to observe. However...
When I put in that heavy combo to my scope, well, that is when the heavens really opened up. I observed without prejudice. This was the whole point of me going hog wild and buying all these EP's at once. I knew it would be overload, but I also reckoned I would have the advantage to just not have any 'favorites'. The ES 24mm and the FE x2 is about a 250 bucks combo here in the UK. The 12mm Paradigm is about 50 bucks. I didn't let that influence me.
Tonight, with my eyes, under these seeing conditions, the Full Moon was just majestic. The contrast was incredible (I was observing over a street lamp believe it or not). Sharper than any of my EP's out to the edges. Just had that extra bit of ability to 'tune' the focuser to get that little bit of edge. Really really awesome. Tonight, there was no contest. The ES 24mm was easier the better EP in comparison to the Paradigm 12mm.
I smiled inside. The views were just getting better.
Keep in mind I'm a noob. Keep in mind I'm only observing the full moon. And don't forget my secondary mirror is also scratched a bit (I mentioned this in an earlier post). I'm definitely finding it difficult getting pinpoint stars even on a great night and even with my best EP's. But this 'damage' just doesn't seem to be effecting the views of a massive and bright object like the Moon so much. I think that makes sense, but just wanted to mention it.
I swapped back and fore just to check and double check. Nope, this ES 24mm is the King with that FE x2 taking it to effectively 12mm. It was almost like eating too much Caviar or drinking too much Champagne. There was nothing left to prove. I put it back in its box. The moon was moving on and the trees would meet with it soon.
Something else I think I figured out as well. When I was observing things would go a bit fuzzy or blurred. Almost like bad seeing. Then it would sharpen up, very quickly sometimes. This happened before, but I thought it might just be the heating from a nearby house - that might have been possible. But where I was focused was no houses. Except then I remembered there was, in the distance. Miles away, but still. I have no idea. I think this might have been something to do with it though. Sorry if I didn't explain that very well. Don't really know how else to put it. It's starting to cold here. It's almost like people are starting to put their heating on and the air gets a blast every hour or so for 10 minutes then it calms down.
I quickly whip out the Paradigm 8mm, and the view is great, very sharp, but it is just not framed enough, so not so pleasant with the Moon just totally in your face. I enjoy the odd details it shows, but it's moving too fast compared to the other EP's. I put it back.
So now we are down to just the ES 16mm 68* and the Paradigm 15mm 60*. Everything else put away now. No barlows. No filters.
I swap back and fore. The views are incredible from both EP's. I'm still a bit annoyed by this intermittent atmospheric turbulence, but it never lasts long, and the seeing goes back to just about perfect.
I think before when the moon was kind of three quarters full the Paradigm 12mm made more sense. But tonight, again, for me and for my eyes, this 15mm just framed it perfectly.
Then I put that away as well and was just left with the winner of the night (apart from the heavy combo of the 24mm 68* + ES FE x2).
Just the very deceptively small ES 16mm 68*. Never mind bang for your buck. This is bang for your size. I can see why they are popular with Bino viewers.
The detail is amazing. The Moon is getting fuller by the minute till she goes through the trees. It's been a good night's observing. I'm in love with this EP. The quality of the 24mm has also really impressed me as well. I decide I will definitely get the ES 20mm 68* just to compare as well. It would really fill a gap.
I got lost for a while there just looking through it. When I realised, I felt a bit silly just swapping out all these EP's and not taking advantage of the simple pleasure of using a very good EP through a humble scope, to just observe on a wonderful night where there is the Equinox and the Harvest Moon. It was a learning experience for sure. A memorable night.
So the ES 16mm 68* doesn't barlow so perfectly with the 1.5x extension of the Shorty Barlow. So what. I know it works absolutely beautifully with the ES extender/barlow. And this is just as well as I previously mentioned, the threads are not a perfect fit either. No great loss.
There is just something very utilitarian and magical about this EP. I think I mentioned before about splitting Polaris with it on a good night not so long back. It's a total keeper.
Oh, one thing about the Eye Relief. Some people say that it's not so great. I don't wear glasses to observe, so can't say. But for me, this EP is just very very easy to use all around. It doesn't black out or kidney bean or vignette or any of those other phrases I don't know (and probably used mistakenly there as well). It's just a very easy and enjoyable EP to look through. I can really concentrate on observing with this EP and don't have to worry about moving my head or eyes around. Like I said, I really got lost in it. And that is worth as much to me as having a great view as well.
When I'd finished my mission and was packing up, I thought: why not go full circle? Plop that SkyWatcher 17mm 52* back in just to 'see'. You know what? That was an excellent view as well. Contrast can't be beat. The outline of the moon with the blackness of the sky was just crystal. No funny 'yellow' rings, no matter how subtle. Very very impressive as well. Very light. I would say that would also make a great EP for Bino viewers. Perfect for outreach.
The Skywatcher 17mm Plossl costs 20 quid here. The ES 16mm 68* costs about 120 quid. You could buy a whole set of Plossls for what the ES costs. If you were starting out, then that would be your best option. Without a doubt.
In fact, the Paradigms are about 40 quid here, so you could buy 3 of them for what the ES costs! The 15mm, the 12mm, and the 8mm are killers! In my humble noob opinion. The 15mm is easily comparable to the ES 16mm so far in my eyes. Not sure how much they cost in the States, but they will still be unbeatable value.
How these EP's will fare when I start looking at other stuff, I don't know. I wasn't planning on becoming so focused on the moon. I want to explore open clusters and nebulae and all that other good stuff. But for now, I feel as if I've learned a lot just by taking advantage of that one great big bright thing in the sky. It will be there next month. Almost the same time, same place.
And if you want to really be able to take your time and slowly observe the Full Moon, if all you have is a 6" f5 newt, well, the ES 16mm 68* is just about the perfect Eye Piece, if you can afford it. If you can't, get the Paradigm 15mm. And if you can't afford that, get the SkyWatcher/Orion 17mm Plossl.
They all do a similar job.
(I thought better of posting this as I read it back. It's an over-excited, semi-incoherent, rant/ramble. Apologies. I'll post it anyway. Perhaps someone can find some useful information in there. Feel free to correct any mistakes I may have made)