I think this is my first CN post outside of the classifieds. I've been observing for 20 years from my Bortle 4 site (my sister's farm, about an hour from my home) in central Michigan, for the first 5 years with an 8" f/6 Dob and since then mostly with a wonderful 12.5" f/5 Dob.
I've also done some observing from my home, Bortle 6 sky on the north side of Grand Rapids (inside the city limits, not in the burbs), 2nd largest city in Michigan. The convenience of observing at home can't be beat, but my sister's farm is so much darker that I almost always load up my gear and make the hour-long drive.
I just do visual observing, no astrophotography, it's just wonderful looking at the sky in real-time. And while it's fun to look at the planets, I love deep-sky objects the most. So there's always the desire to see fainter objects!
I've considered a larger Dob, but size and weight have been factors holding me back there, and I'm not getting any younger.
A couple years ago, I became aware of this thing called EAA, and checked into that a bit. But having to use a computer, not having it be quite real-time, not being able to "look" through the scope like I'm used to...well I dunno it just didn't seem like EAA would be my cup of tea.
Then last year I became aware of NV astronomy. Never heard of it before, it never really dawned on me that military NV optics (which I barely knew existed in the first place) would be suitable for astronomy. Well I started reading about NV here on CN forums, and it started becoming apparent that NV just might be right up my alley! So I decided it's time to take the plunge!
Then the question became what to buy. As with scopes, there are so many options and details to consider. Well I decided to go for OVNI-B from Jonathan Kobs in France. I wanted the binocular version for sure, as I've been totally spoiled by my Binotron-27 which I love. (I was previously spoiled with my Nagler eyepieces, then years later with my Ethos eyepieces and Paracorr, but since owning the Binotron-27 those fantastic eyepieces basically just stay in the case, two-eyed viewing with the Binotron-27 is just so very enjoyable.)
After inquiring with Jonathan about the OVNI-B, at the start of summer 2021 -- and with some mild amount of fear and trepidation -- I wired a lot of money to another country, something I'd never done before. Took about a week-and-a-half for the money to appear at Jonathan's end. Then after waiting another couple of months, I got word from Jonathan that my OVNI-B was ready! So I wired more money to pay the balance (took another week-and-a-half to show up on Jonathan's end), and my OVNI-B was shipped out, and just a week later I had my OVNI-B! (Import duties were $105 USD, I was expecting worse!)
Communications with Jonathan were always outstanding, just first-class all the way. That was key, the communication and the total comfort level with Jonathan, if it wasn't for that I probably would have been a lot more hesitant to order something this expensive from another country.
So Michigan is notoriously cloudy, but I got a clear night this week after receiving my OVNI-B a few days prior, loaded up my gear and headed out to my sister's farm. New moon was about half a week away.
I set up my 12.5" f/5 Dob on my equatorial platform, got the fan running to start cooling down the mirror, slid in the OVNI-B at prime focus (it's like a binoviewer with built-in 27mm eyepieces), put my Kendrick dew heaters on the OVNI-B eyepieces, set up my adjustable-height chair, and I was ready to rock.
First time I powered on the OVNI-B was now (I didn't power it up at home at all), I focused, adjusted the inter-pupillary distance, and adjusted the manual gain control to just a little past half-way. Started looking around...I thought man this is cool, it works! This looks pretty darn good! Started looking around the summer Milky Way, I can see lots of stars, boatloads of stars, then I made my way to the Lagoon Nebula. Screwed a 2" Chroma 8nm H-alpha filter onto the OVNI-B, took a look. I gasped! Actually I think I said out loud "Holy sh-t" then started laughing. Moved up to the Trifid. I'm like "you gotta be kidding, this is way cool"! Looked to me like a black-and-white photograph, it was that good. The structure and definition I can see in these nebulae was a real revelation, never before had I experienced that.
I switched out the 8nm filter for a Chroma 5nm. Very cool also, shows the nebulosity a "bit" better than the 8nm, they did not appear all that different from one another, both fantastic. Then tried an Astronomik 12nm, again very nice view, and really not that much different from the 8nm and 5nm. I think I find the view through the 8nm to be my favorite on these targets, there is a small but not huge difference between these filters as far as I could tell. Also with these filters I can still see stars in addition to the nebula, and through the OVNI-B all the objects are WHITE, I like that the stars don't get turned some weird color or whatever. I mean I like my UHC and O-III with the Binotron-27 (or single eyepiece) too, but something about the stars being white in the OVNI-B makes it very pleasing to look at.
Also tried an Astronomik 642 long-pass filter, nice view but didn't show anywhere near the nebulosity of the narrow-band filters.
So then I decided to leave the 8nm filter in and scout around the sky for more nebulae. Headed over the Veil. Absolutely jaw-dropping. The structure and detail, the definition. Then to the North American and Pelican, out-of-this-world, never seen anything remotely close to that before. Why stop there? IC5068, Gamma Cygni area, IC1318b, Sh2-119, Crescent. Somebody pinch me, wake me up, I must be dreaming, this can't be real!
With the Veil, just as a test I took out the OVNI-B for a few minutes and instead put in my 31mm Nagler with O-III filter. Nice view, nothing wrong with it, I could see the Veil pretty nicely, that's the best view I ever used to be able to get. But holy smokes what a far cry from the OVNI-B, the OVNI-B just blows the Nagler/O-III out of the water, literally puts it to shame! Also tried the UHC with the 31mm just to be sure.
Headed over to Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis. Sh2-129, IC1396, Sh2-134/135, Wizard, Cave, Bubble, too many more to mention...I don't even know what they all are, never seen any of them before, I went 5 hours non-stop! Bunch more in Perseus. Later in the evening I went for the California Nebula, never seen it before. It was easy (and HUGE)!
I also at times just started scanning around randomly, enjoying the view until I stumbled upon a new nebula, then I would look up to see where I was in the sky and check my star charts to see what I was looking at. Had quite a bit of fun just doing that!
Had to check out some traditional showpieces too. The Dumbella...stunning. The Helix...Good Lord, I almost came to tears.
Most of these nebulae tonight, I had never seen before at all. Or barely seen as faint fuzzy structure-less challenge objects. With the OVNI-B, what used to be challenging or impossible are now in-your-face. I think I'm discovering that "easy" is a lot more fun than "challenging"!
Another thing that struck me was how HUGE most of these nebulae are, seeing them in all their glory for the first time. I just move the scope around (my scope thankfully is a dream to push smoothly around) and check out the full extent of them. Very cool.
I was also moved by the defined dark nebulae what were now readily apparent, I had never really seen dark nebulae well before. This adds a whole new dimension.
Took off the filter. Globulars take on a new life, especially as you play with the gain control, basically you just go as deep as you want. Really I'm runnning out of superlatives to describe.
Pushed the scope over to the Andromeda Galaxy (no 8nm filter now). Admittedly this was not as much of a jaw-dropping wow-factor as the nebulae were, but still better than the view with my conventional eyepieces. Pushing the scope around to see the full extent of the Andromeda Galaxy, I'm struck by the dust lanes I can now see in the galaxy, I had never before seen that! With a conventional eyepiece (or my 25x100mm binoculars) all I had seen before was the fuzzy central part of the galaxy with no structure. Now I'm faintly detecting the outer limits of the galaxy, and seeing dust lane structure (not in-your-face by any means, but it's there), which I thought was really cool!
Still lots to explore with the OVNI-B, but WOW WOW WOW the first night was a smashing success! I have yet to even try the OVNI-B in afocal, I have the Televue 55/67mm waiting to try that out, it will give me wider fields and faster optics (less gain required probably) compared to native 27mm prime focus (which is already amazing). On the higher-power side of the coin, I also have a couple Barlows coming from Harry Siebert, will give that a try when I receive them. The native 27mm prime focus gives me about 60x on my scope, really I could be very happy just using that and nothing else.
Funny thing about the apparent field of view, which is 40 degrees in the OVNI-B. Used to be I was all about a super-wide apparent field, first with Naglers (84 degree AFOV) then with Ethos (100 degree AFOV). And while those are fantastic eyepieces, when I got the Binotron-27 (I use 24 Pans, 68 degree FOV) I totally never missed the AFOV of the Nagler/Ethos, using two eyes just seems (for me) to compensate somehow. Well it's a similar story with the OVNI-B...though the AFOV is only 40 degrees, the view doesn't seem constricted, it's very pleasing to look through. I think that might be due mainly to the fact that like the Binotron-27 the OVNI-B is a binoviewer, I think that makes a huge difference. I don't understand the physiology or psychology of it all, I just know I like looking through the OVNI-B's 40 degree AFOV very much. The equatorial platform is also priceless in terms of mitigating a narrower actual FOV.
I love astronomy, and when I got my Binotron-27 I really considered that life-changing (for me, two eyes are SO much more pleasing to view with than one), but with this OVNI-B I don't think I've had quite this level of excitement in a good many years!
So I am in love now, but will the OVNI-B totally sideline my previously love the Binotron-27, in the same way the Binotron-27 sidelined my Naglers/Ethos? I think the answer is it very possibly might! A couple things however I REALLY like about the Binotron-27: 1) The power switch, and 2) the filter slide...both of those are SO SO SO nice to have! To never have to change eyepieces to change power (just keep my 24 Pans in the Binotron-27 all the time), and to have UHC and O-III filters available instantly are just priceless. If the OVNI-B came with options for a power switch and filter slide (that worked with my Dob), then I really would think I had died and gone to heaven. Obviously the OVNI-B is now my choice for nebulae, it's in a whole different league for that, can't be touched.
Any other things I would change about the OVNI-B? Not really...maybe a hard case (especially for this price) would be nice. The Binotron-27 comes with a quality hard case and I like that a lot.
On the OVNI-B, the white phosphor is great, the ability to use prime focus, or afocal (which I have yet to even try), or handheld at 1x (which I also have yet to try), or at like 3-8x with an adapted camera lens (which I also have yet to try but I already had fast Canon EF lenses for normal photography, and I bought an adapter now so I can try that out)...I mean how can you beat the flexibility of this system, I think it will keep me busy for a very long time to come. I also have the smartphone adapter, who knows maybe I will be tempted to snap a few photos with it, though I just like getting out under the stars on a peaceful night and observing, it's always so good for my soul.
Only downside really is high cost, this OVNI-B FOM 2600 is big bucks, I suspect that here in the USA it's probably the most expensive NV option out there. But it's the full package, is very flexible, and is VERY convenient to start observing with right out of the box without cobbling together all the pieces on your own. (Also I have no idea whatsoever how a lower FOM compares, but 2600 is supposed to be the best, buy once I say.) I'm not a rich person, very middle class. But I drive old cars, I have a modest and paid-for house that I've been in for 33 years, I don't own a boat/snowmobile/motorcycle/motorhome, I have no debt, I don't go out to eat (I'm vegetarian anyway), don't go to the bar, don't buy alcohol or smoke, I save my pennies in many ways...so I'm able to purchase good gear for my hobbies. It's a matter of priorities in life, my priorities (I've been told) are vastly different than those of the mainstream person! But in part because of that, I have quality gear that I really enjoy, even more so now being retired. So the OVNI-B cost me the equivalent of a picking up crappy 10-year-old used car. Doesn't seem very extreme to me, I can see it's already been totally worth it!
I also have a feeling the OVNI-B will make observing from my Grand Rapids home much more feasible, for the times when I don't want to truck my gear out to my sister's farm, so that's another huge plus I think to getting into NV.
So THANK YOU to all CN NV posters who gave me the information that helped me start on this sure-to-be-amazing NV journey!