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So as ZAO Prices Head Into the Stratosphere I Wonder

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#1 SandyHouTex

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Posted 14 September 2020 - 09:38 PM

Here’s the latest ad:

 

https://www.cloudyni...baader-barlows/
 

Over $1000 an eyepiece.

 

So what makes an 8 year or older eyepiece so special?  I’ve come up with some areas that would allow them to have more contrast than all the others.  (Expect maybe the Pentax XOs.)

  1. Glass types used - I pretty much ruled this one out.  At the time the ZAOs were made, Zeiss didn’t make their own glass.  So they had to have ordered and used commercially available glass, just like other manufacturers of Abbe eyepieces.  So whether it’s OHARA, or Schott, or whomever, it would all be the same.
  2. Coatings - This could be the difference, but I have no idea how I could find out which ones they used.  Any input would be appreciated.
  3. Polish - Now this is often touted as the reason ZAOs do better contrast wise versus other eyepieces.  If someone could tell me how to measure, view, and take pictures of polish levels, I would love to hear about it.  I have a 20X stereo microscope, but I’m guessing that’s not a high enough power to actually analyze the polish.  What is?  500X, 1000X?  I can get a higher power microscope.  Is there a special procedure?  Any input would be helpful.
  4. Mechanical design - I don’t think this is it either.  Flat black, blackened lens edges.  Those are all pretty standard on $125 Abbe Ortho eyepieces.  So I don’t think this is a discriminator either.

So I really would like to figure this out.  I am determined to find out if they really are that special, or if people are suffering from a particular psychological malady called “Purchase Price Rationalization”.  It exists, and it’s where when people pay high prices for an item, they figure a way to rationalize the cost.  People in the “Refractor” forums do it from time to time.  Myself included. lol.gif


Edited by SandyHouTex, 14 September 2020 - 10:10 PM.

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#2 luxo II

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Posted 14 September 2020 - 09:43 PM

The price will crash eventually, and yes IMHO the buyers are suffering "Fear Of Missing Out" (FOMO) which is basically the same malady. I did my own comparisons and IMHO they good, but not so special anymore.

 

This happens often enough with other commodities everything from toilet paper, hand sanitiser to real-estate.

 

There are also bizarre retro revivals too. For example vinyl LP's and record players outsell CD's and CD players, and there is demand for portable cassette players which were never anything to crow about, yet are sought-after by Millennials. IMHO Zeiss orthos are in the same category.


Edited by luxo II, 14 September 2020 - 09:55 PM.

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#3 MikiSJ

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Posted 14 September 2020 - 09:55 PM

I would give a Billion Dollars plus my first born for a Johannes Vermeer.

 

$9.500 for a set of eyepieces, regardless of the quality and rareness - no! Well, maybe a lot of Dollars for the real Galileo Jupiter moons discovery telescope.

 

I would still go for the Vermeer.


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#4 havasman

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Posted 14 September 2020 - 10:35 PM

I've looked through others' ZAO 2's. I guess they were really good.

 

But they're kinda a PITA too. Kinda like when a new parent hands you their week-old 1st born and though you've held babies before and it doesn't smell poopy right then there's still this moment of, "Can't screw this up" that runs through the mind. So it was never that maximal observation mode where you're relaxed and one with the optical chain and the object.

 

I long ago decided the TAO's are as good an eyepiece of that type as I'll ever need. Even if I had all the money.


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#5 CrazyPanda

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Posted 14 September 2020 - 10:49 PM

Here’s the latest ad:

 

https://www.cloudyni...baader-barlows/
 

Over $1000 an eyepiece.

 

So what makes an 8 year or older eyepiece so special?  I’ve come up with some areas that would allow them to have more contrast than all the others.  (Expect maybe the Pentax XOs.)

  1. Glass types used - I pretty much ruled this one out.  At the time the ZAOs were made, Zeiss didn’t make their own glass.  So they had to have ordered and used commercially available glass, just like other manufacturers of Abbe eyepieces.  So whether it’s OHARA, or Schott, or whomever, it would all be the same.
  2. Coatings - This could be the difference, but I have no idea how I could find out which ones they used.  Any input would be appreciated.
  3. Polish - Now this is often touted as the reason ZAOs do better contrast wise versus other eyepieces.  If someone could tell me how to measure, view, and take pictures of polish levels, I would love to hear about it.  I have a 20X stereo microscope, but I’m guessing that’s not a high enough power to actually analyze the polish.  What is?  500X, 1000X?  I can get a higher power microscope.  Is there a special procedure?  Any input would be helpful.
  4. Mechanical design - I don’t think this is it either.  Flat black, blackened lens edges.  Those are all pretty standard on $125 Abbe Ortho eyepieces.  So I don’t think this is a discriminator either.

So I really would like to figure this out.  I am determined to find out if they really are that special, or if people are suffering from a particular psychological malady called “Purchase Price Rationalization”.  It exists, and it’s where when people pay high prices for an item, they figure a way to rationalize the cost.  People in the “Refractor” forums do it from time to time.  Myself included. lol.gif

Sadly, virtually every single eyepiece report is subjective and anecdotal. It's also dependent on the condition of the viewer's equipment, the quality of their skies, and their eyes.

 

I would love to see a kind of eyepiece testing lab that does things like empirically measure polish, distortion, contrast, transmission, sharpness, and sample variability and what not. I would imagine an optical engineer would be able to find a clever way to simulate the focal plane of a telescope at various focal ratios, and then devise a high quality artificial "eye" to measure *and photograph* the net result of the eyepiece's construction. This would eliminate variability of observing conditions and subjectivity of the observer's physiology.

 

Ideally, a scanning electron microscope could be used to take hard photographic evidence of the level of polish of each surface of an eyepiece's lens elements.


Edited by CrazyPanda, 14 September 2020 - 10:51 PM.


#6 Jeff Morgan

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Posted 14 September 2020 - 11:08 PM

So what makes an 8 year or older eyepiece so special?

 

The answer is quite easy: the people who are hard core planetary aficionados have done the comparisons and found nothing better.

 

Glass? Polish? Coatings? Magic Pixie Dust? Does it matter?

 

While I accept their judgement, I am a little more balanced in my interests and therefore have to be a little more balanced in my resource allocations.

 

So I am quite happy with a Tak TOE, a Brandon, or a Supermono. I don't loose too much sleep over the price of ZAO's. But if it does drop to around $500 an eyepiece I would find it to be a good value proposition and snap up a couple of them.


Edited by Jeff Morgan, 14 September 2020 - 11:10 PM.

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#7 RichA

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 12:15 AM

Here’s the latest ad:

 

https://www.cloudyni...baader-barlows/
 

Over $1000 an eyepiece.

 

So what makes an 8 year or older eyepiece so special?  I’ve come up with some areas that would allow them to have more contrast than all the others.  (Expect maybe the Pentax XOs.)

  1. Glass types used - I pretty much ruled this one out.  At the time the ZAOs were made, Zeiss didn’t make their own glass.  So they had to have ordered and used commercially available glass, just like other manufacturers of Abbe eyepieces.  So whether it’s OHARA, or Schott, or whomever, it would all be the same.
  2. Coatings - This could be the difference, but I have no idea how I could find out which ones they used.  Any input would be appreciated.
  3. Polish - Now this is often touted as the reason ZAOs do better contrast wise versus other eyepieces.  If someone could tell me how to measure, view, and take pictures of polish levels, I would love to hear about it.  I have a 20X stereo microscope, but I’m guessing that’s not a high enough power to actually analyze the polish.  What is?  500X, 1000X?  I can get a higher power microscope.  Is there a special procedure?  Any input would be helpful.
  4. Mechanical design - I don’t think this is it either.  Flat black, blackened lens edges.  Those are all pretty standard on $125 Abbe Ortho eyepieces.  So I don’t think this is a discriminator either.

So I really would like to figure this out.  I am determined to find out if they really are that special, or if people are suffering from a particular psychological malady called “Purchase Price Rationalization”.  It exists, and it’s where when people pay high prices for an item, they figure a way to rationalize the cost.  People in the “Refractor” forums do it from time to time.  Myself included. lol.gif

If you are savvy, you can get an Atomic Force microscope for a few thousand dollars.  That'll give you a good surface profile of the objects.



#8 CeleNoptic

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 12:28 AM

If you are savvy, you can get an Atomic Force microscope for a few thousand dollars.  That'll give you a good surface profile of the objects.

 

At this price point, probably would be easier (and cheaper?) to get this ZAO set and order its surface profiling from a certified optical lab? lol.gif


Edited by CeleNoptic, 15 September 2020 - 12:44 AM.

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#9 Deep13

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 12:43 AM

I would give a Billion Dollars plus my first born for a Johannes Vermeer.

 

$9.500 for a set of eyepieces, regardless of the quality and rareness - no! Well, maybe a lot of Dollars for the real Galileo Jupiter moons discovery telescope.

 

I would still go for the Vermeer.

In fairness, it's for two sets of EP's plus a pair of Barlows. lol.gif


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#10 Deep13

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 12:52 AM

I like mine. Very sharp and contrasty with a somewhat cool color bias. I just have the one set.


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#11 Ohmless

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 12:54 AM

I am relatively poor as I live on a disability income.  I don't have sour grapes about not being able to afford Zeiss eyepieces as there are competent and less expensive eyepieces.  I am a fan of the Fujiyama HD Orthos.  Good enough for me and affordable new by just about everyone.

 

I liken it to not everyone being able to afford a Shelby Cobra and other such luxuries.  Some people want "the best" or the "most rare" so they are willing to fork the money over for them.  I even have a brother in law that was interested in astronomy for a short time that is like that.  He bought a full line of Delos eyepieces and then quit doing astronomy shortly afterwards.  Maybe they will keep me in mind if he dies before me.  I can hope anyways!  :p


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#12 havasman

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 01:10 AM

As far as analysis of the physical characteristics, of course all of that is just a matter of engineering and measurement. Analysis of surface characteristics is very robust and very well defined. It is a relatively compartmentalized and esoteric subset of measurement technology and the instruments are not generally microscopes though scanning electron microscopes are the instruments of choice at a very fine level of investigation. They are unlikely to be deployed efficiently in measuring eyepiece lens surface characteristics.

 

I have been away from all that for > a decade and cannot easily recall the terminology but there's a veritable library of alphabetical tags to describe the finest characteristics of surfaces. And statistical analytics to confirm and categorize them. A guiding principle is that if you measure a characteristic and find it perfect, you need a better gauge. Part of it comes down to how much you'll spend to get that next level of measurement.



#13 BKSo

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 02:28 AM

This is not rational. Same for a $5000 Questar. I heard that a cheap homemade Dollond of ball eyepiece is just as good (at least with a slow objective), but there aren’t many people using the later. I wonder why.
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#14 noisejammer

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 02:43 AM

Way back when, I was lucky enough to get a set at the original price. Then I picked up an extra 10 & 16 mm so that I could binovue with them. I didn't bother with the Barlows or an extra 4 & 6 mm ... I use a corrector to obtain high magnification.

 

Over the past many years. I've tried a lot of eyepieces. I have yet to come across anything that comes close to my ZOA II pairs. Admittedly, I haven't tried the new Tak ortho's but my experience with the 5XO was underwhelming.. If I find something that's consistently better, then it becomes a matter of economics. Curiously, the ZAO's have been one of my more successful 'investments'.

 

As others have repeated commented, you need perfect conditions, top shelf equipment and really good vision before you can convincingly point to the eyepiece as being the weak link in your image. I have great equipment and I've moved away from the jet stream so the first two are dealt with. Unfortunately age can eat into your vision...

 

So .. just what is it that makes them good? I've read all the breathless commentary but I really have no idea. Yes, I am curious but that knowledge is unlikely to change the  way they perform.

 

For the record, I think $1k per eyepiece is a bit rich but 15 years back they were $600 ea sooo... that's only 3.5% p.a.


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#15 SeattleScott

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 08:43 AM

This is not rational. Same for a $5000 Questar. I heard that a cheap homemade Dollond of ball eyepiece is just as good (at least with a slow objective), but there aren’t many people using the later. I wonder why.

Because you need a slow scope and you need to keep the target precisely in the center of the field.

One analogy would be a view home. Sure a view is nice. Is it worth paying an extra $100k, $250k, whatever? Well if you get your money back when you sell it, plus appreciation, and get to enjoy the view for 5-10 years in the meantime, maybe it’s not so bad.

That being said sometimes there is irrational behavior that temporarily drives up prices before they crash. In America we saw that with the dot com boom, housing boom, etc. I don’t know if the same thing might be happening with ZAOs. At those prices, I won’t be buying any.

Scott

Edited by SeattleScott, 15 September 2020 - 08:49 AM.

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#16 luxo II

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 08:51 AM

Ideally, a scanning electron microscope could be used to take hard photographic evidence of the level of polish of each surface of an eyepiece's lens elements.

I've seen measurements of polish using a scanning electron microscope that measured Zeiss glass vs Pentax and Nikon. Zeiss finished last (oh the shock and horror !!!) and Pentax first. Whether it was a fair comparison is another matter because while the Zeiss example may have had only 4 air-glass surfaces the Pentax and Nikon had more than 12, and there was only one sample of each examined, so probably statistically irrelevant.

 

The total scattered light is complex and what matters is a lab measurement of the total scatter in complete eyepieces.


Edited by luxo II, 15 September 2020 - 09:02 AM.

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#17 BillP

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 09:06 AM

What makes them so special?  Who knows unless you can sit down with Mr Baader, pour him a drink, and try to pry out of him exactly what was done in the manufacture of the ZAO-IIs.  Proof is in the pudding and as far as I'm concerned they maintain themselves as the best of best.  I keep pressing new eyepieces against my ZAO-II 6mm on planetary and when the seeing is excellent it always pulls ahead authoritatively.  It is probably not anything too special, but just a gestalt of factors each done to a high quality level.  I think glasspath might also be a distinct advantage as well as with this design, with the very small optical element size and thickness, the light is just not traveling thru that much glass, reducing scatter even more. So if the figure is good, polish is good, coating precise and tuned, glass is high quality clear, build is baffled, and the optical prescription itself minimizes backscatter, then everything just comes together for a really unbeatable planetary view.


Edited by BillP, 15 September 2020 - 09:06 AM.

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#18 SandyHouTex

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 09:38 AM

Sadly, virtually every single eyepiece report is subjective and anecdotal. It's also dependent on the condition of the viewer's equipment, the quality of their skies, and their eyes.

 

I would love to see a kind of eyepiece testing lab that does things like empirically measure polish, distortion, contrast, transmission, sharpness, and sample variability and what not. I would imagine an optical engineer would be able to find a clever way to simulate the focal plane of a telescope at various focal ratios, and then devise a high quality artificial "eye" to measure *and photograph* the net result of the eyepiece's construction. This would eliminate variability of observing conditions and subjectivity of the observer's physiology.

 

Ideally, a scanning electron microscope could be used to take hard photographic evidence of the level of polish of each surface of an eyepiece's lens elements.

That’s what I would like to do, but I don’t think I can afford a scanning electron microscope.



#19 SandyHouTex

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 09:39 AM

The answer is quite easy: the people who are hard core planetary aficionados have done the comparisons and found nothing better.

 

Glass? Polish? Coatings? Magic Pixie Dust? Does it matter?

 

While I accept their judgement, I am a little more balanced in my interests and therefore have to be a little more balanced in my resource allocations.

 

So I am quite happy with a Tak TOE, a Brandon, or a Supermono. I don't loose too much sleep over the price of ZAO's. But if it does drop to around $500 an eyepiece I would find it to be a good value proposition and snap up a couple of them.

I just want to know why?



#20 SandyHouTex

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 09:45 AM

Way back when, I was lucky enough to get a set at the original price. Then I picked up an extra 10 & 16 mm so that I could binovue with them. I didn't bother with the Barlows or an extra 4 & 6 mm ... I use a corrector to obtain high magnification.

 

Over the past many years. I've tried a lot of eyepieces. I have yet to come across anything that comes close to my ZOA II pairs. Admittedly, I haven't tried the new Tak ortho's but my experience with the 5XO was underwhelming.. If I find something that's consistently better, then it becomes a matter of economics. Curiously, the ZAO's have been one of my more successful 'investments'.

 

As others have repeated commented, you need perfect conditions, top shelf equipment and really good vision before you can convincingly point to the eyepiece as being the weak link in your image. I have great equipment and I've moved away from the jet stream so the first two are dealt with. Unfortunately age can eat into your vision...

 

So .. just what is it that makes them good? I've read all the breathless commentary but I really have no idea. Yes, I am curious but that knowledge is unlikely to change the  way they perform.

 

For the record, I think $1k per eyepiece is a bit rich but 15 years back they were $600 ea sooo... that's only 3.5% p.a.

3.5% p. a. ?



#21 SandyHouTex

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 09:47 AM

I've seen measurements of polish using a scanning electron microscope that measured Zeiss glass vs Pentax and Nikon. Zeiss finished last (oh the shock and horror !!!) and Pentax first. Whether it was a fair comparison is another matter because while the Zeiss example may have had only 4 air-glass surfaces the Pentax and Nikon had more than 12, and there was only one sample of each examined, so probably statistically irrelevant.

 

The total scattered light is complex and what matters is a lab measurement of the total scatter in complete eyepieces.

I would love to read about that.  Any chance you have a link?



#22 SandyHouTex

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 09:53 AM

What makes them so special?  Who knows unless you can sit down with Mr Baader, pour him a drink, and try to pry out of him exactly what was done in the manufacture of the ZAO-IIs.  Proof is in the pudding and as far as I'm concerned they maintain themselves as the best of best.  I keep pressing new eyepieces against my ZAO-II 6mm on planetary and when the seeing is excellent it always pulls ahead authoritatively.  It is probably not anything too special, but just a gestalt of factors each done to a high quality level.  I think glasspath might also be a distinct advantage as well as with this design, with the very small optical element size and thickness, the light is just not traveling thru that much glass, reducing scatter even more. So if the figure is good, polish is good, coating precise and tuned, glass is high quality clear, build is baffled, and the optical prescription itself minimizes backscatter, then everything just comes together for a really unbeatable planetary view.

In light of “luxo II’s” post just before yours, Zeiss may not have the best polish.  It’s just a curiosity thing for me.  I would also say that coatings have progressed since then.  Now a lot of manufacturers say that they are matching the coatings to the glass for best performance.  I think Televue advertises that.  So if it’s not the glass, the polish, the coatings, or the mechanics, what is left?



#23 csrlice12

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 10:00 AM

So if it’s not the glass, the polish, the coatings, or the mechanics, what is left?

Us.


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#24 stevenwav

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 10:13 AM

For whatever reason (and I am NOT trivializing the quality of these ep's), they occupy the position of being the best ever made to a lot of folks. As such, and with the added element of a sense of "scarcity" - limited editions, supposedly  that the only made 100 of the 34mm's (which I understand is NOT true)  means they can - and do command a huge premium. I know I had to try them after reading so much about them. In fact , I've had double sets of both generations of ZAO's and multiple samples of the 25 and 34. Are they the best in my opinion? - almost - I did an extensive test with them against a full set of TMB Supermonocentrics which I found had less scatter and a "cooler" view than the "warmer" view of the ZAO's. Incidentally, I have found warmer views are better on Jupiter. 

 

Finally, I think a lot of folks bought the sets when they came out as sort of an investment and are cashing in now as well. 

Anyway, that's how I see it - YMMV.


Edited by stevenwav, 15 September 2020 - 11:45 AM.

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#25 Scott99

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 11:39 AM

Why?  Haven't you ever watched "American Pickers"???  lol.gif




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