The following will be a review of both the purchase process and a technical review of the OVNI-M.
Some background, I am a NV user for about 3 years in Canada using a PVS14 with a 3x afocal lens, halpha filters, and 3d printed adapters.
I was using it quite happily but really wanted to try the flexibility of SLR lenses/prime, and a bit more performance from the NV.
luminous sensitivity 2122/2340
luminace gain at 10-6 fcd 69273/70296
luminace gain at 10 -4 fcd 16821/15500
The purchase process started with my order of the 2600 FOM OVNI-M and all the fixings/adapters in mid-March 2021. I had trouble justifying the cost, but with the recent crypto boom I had some fun money lying around. Joko initially wasn’t equipped to take payment in crypto, but made accommodations on his side, and the whole transaction was completed via crypto. Kudos to him for working with me on that front. Communication was really good and timely updates were had.
The item shipped and arrived around April 12th. Here in Canada you can ask Fedex to provide you the self clearance forms, which allows you to walk into the local CBSA (Canadian Border Services Agency), where you can self import the item, pay duties and taxes, and not pay Fedex for brokering that. This is important for later.
Took the item home and used it in a dark bathroom (do we all run to a bathroom when we get our NV?), and noticed the increase in SNR/EBI and notably resolution. However there was a really bad autogating whine coming from the unit. Now most of our tubes have autogating, and that circuitry can sometimes be audible. On my PVS14 I can only hear it when it’s directly up to my ear, while with the OVNI I could hear it from 6ft away, in a room with a loud PC. The problem with NV is, it’s not exactly ubiquitous so you don’t know what’s “normal”, so after asking around and realizing that some people couldn’t hear their higher performing tubes at all, I messaged Joko about taking the unit back.
At first Joko was hesitant that the autogating whine was “that bad” and that it really was worth sending back. I have a friend who has access to controlled testing equipment so we conducted a more scientific study, comparing the PVS14 to the OVNI. In short, the OVNI was about 15db higher than the PVS14, and the frequency is about 3050 hz.(see attached)
After some back and forth, Joko did agree to take it back. I wanted to be sure I was on the right side of the law so I reached out to Global Affairs Canada (GAC) which is responsible for handing out export licenses for these types of items. After about 45 days, GAC confirmed that I do not require an export license.
At this point I packaged up the unit and Fedex’d it back to Joko with documentation from CBSA indicating that it is a warranty item. At the counter at Fedex I made sure to declare it as a warranty item, and insured it for half the value. It made it to Paris in 2 days at which point it ground to a halt.
French customs claims that there is no mechanism in France to import an item for warranty purposes. I called French customs and asked if Joko can self import the item and not pay the broker fees. Based on my broken French, individuals can’t self clear items like we can in Canada, it has to go through a broker. The importer would need to pay customs, and the reclaim the customs when the item leaves the country again. Joko hammered Fedex on the French side, and I was hounding them on the Canadian side. Finally Fedex Canada told me that the “correct forms” weren’t provided with the shipment and that the item would need to come back to Canada, and then resent with the right forms. I said “delightful, please send me the forms that need to be filled in to send it when it comes back”. 24 hours later I get an email that Fedex “made an exception” and cleared the item. At this point I genuinely don’t know whether Fedex dropped the ball and were covering for their ineptness, or there really isn’t a way to import warranty items without paying fees, but that was my experience. This whole process took 34 days.
The icing on the cake is even though I insured the item for 7000$, you still need to ask for signature on delivery, so Fedex left the box on Joko’s front door for 2 days.
At this point I had reached out to a few other vendors of NV in both the USA and Europe, and just asked, is there a ceiling for autogating whine for the civilian units they sell. For the ones that got back to me, the answer is that there is a ceiling for civilian units and it’s 59 db. There is a ceiling for military spec units, but they couldn’t tell me what it is.
Although I had accurate measurements of my tube, OVNI does not have an official ceiling for autogating whine. Joko’s method for analysis was to compare my tube to other tubes he was building and had in his possession to see which one is louder. In this scenario I would have appreciated more communication on his front, even if the answer is “no progress, still testing”. Joko had the unit for ~35 days at which point he acknowledged that there was something wrong with it. It went back to the vendor for repairs and then back to him, and then back to me, which was another 25 days. I finally received the OVNI (again) on Aug 26.
Fedex tried to leave it on my doorstep again, so had to call them to tell the driver to take it back to the warehouse.
Joko did recognize that this was quite a stressful experience and threw in a 2” 685 filter to smooth things over. I think the loud autogate whine would have been an easy aspect of the unit to miss, but after some discussions Joko honoured the warranty as described.
And now, after all that, a technical review.
I am using the 2 units with an 8” f/5, 80mm f/5, and a Cosmicar 72mm lens, 3x afocal lens, and a 7nm/12nm h-alpha filters. 32/55 mm televue plossels.
The tube specs comparing the 2 units above indicate where the differences are. The increase in resolution makes a huge difference in how tight the stars look. All stars are crisp and pinpoint. The higher SNR means that even if I crank the gain up to maximum there is a lot less scintillation relative to the PVS14.
The difference in white vs green (pvs14) phosphor is there, but to be honest I like the green equally well. For my eyes I see more contrast in the green phosphor vs white when sweeping the milky way.
This has been mentioned by some other reviewers but the 1x lens that comes with the OVNI suffers from some aberrations around the perimeter. The pictures softens quite a bit and is generally not a pleasing view like the PVS14 lens. Replacing the 1x lens with the Cosmicar provides pinpoint stars across the field of view. I really love the ability to grab and go with the SLR lens, and the SLR lenses provide much better views than the 3x afocal that I have with the PVS14.
The OVNI comes with a push button for gain control. 1-click changes 1 stop of gain. You can hold the button and it will cycle through the various gain levels. I much prefer the knob on the PVS14 that allows granular control and easy cycling of gain levels so you know where you are in the gain-band.
The lower EBI means that the background is much darker and pleasing. Lastly the Halo value is much lower on the OVNI so bright stars and objects don’t blow up as much.
In short the OVNI does provide a much more pleasing view than the PVS14 I have… however, the last part is cost.
The PVS14 I found on the used market up here in Canada for about 4200$ (CAD). The OVNI ended up being 3.8x that. Is the OVNI 3.8x better than the PVS14?
That's a tough pill to swallow. It's better and more flexible for sure, but after speaking to some smart guys a good way to look at it is, the quantum leap happens when you go from regular observing to NV. After this, you start hitting diminishing returns, h-alpha filters and narrower band-passes. Incremental increases in SNR/EBI/Resolution do provide more pleasing views, but at a much steeper cost. If you've got the money it's well worth it, but if you are looking to get into night vision a medium range tube will get you started in the hobby just as well.
Next purchase I think may be a large dobsonian to really stretch the NV (12/14") and have ordered the 67mm converter for the plossel, and a 3-5nm halpha filter.
Edited by bobo99, 03 September 2021 - 09:18 PM.