Monday, March 26, 2012

Product Review: The TeleVue Plossl – Unsung Eyepiece Hero

If you're into telescopy, then you know the name Televue needs little or no introduction at all. The name is absolutely synonymous with the most outstanding quality and high performance optics in the business and every product is backed by uncompromising standards. Of course, if you're like me, the moment I see the name Televue little dollar signs start swimming around in front of my eyes. Would you like me to shoo them away for you?

I've been playing the astronomy game for a long time now and I know when it comes to optics that you get what you pay for. But, one of my favorite things to do is to find products that give you more than what you expect. Go anywhere. Look any place. Check out plossl eyepieces. The four element Plossl design is perhaps the most popular telescope eyepiece design on today's market and just about every manufacturer makes one. It provides excellent image quality, good eye relief and just about all of them have an apparent field of view of about 50 degrees. But is one plossl really better than another?

The answer is yes. And here's why...

The names TeleVue and Al Nagler are synonymous among the international astronomy community with revolutionary telescope and eyepiece designs in production since 1977. Beginning his career with amateur astronomy and telescope making, Mr. Nagler enjoyed an illustrious career in optics and eventually became involved in the design of the NASA Apollo program astronaut lunar landing visual simulator by designing a probe which simulated a field of up to 140 degrees! Establishing TeleVue Optics Incorporated in 1977, Uncle Al's mind eventually turned to a field which hadn't progressed in nearly a century - telescope eyepiece designs - and thus was born a legend. Says Mr. Nagler in his Company 7 interview: "I have worked on eyepieces, telescopes and viewing devices with two major goals: to make astronomy as easy and versatile as possible to encourage, rather than discourage, newcomers, and secondly, to provide a visual experience as close to a "space walk" as possible by obtaining the widest, sharpest, highest contrast views. I am deeply gratified that my work has enhanced the pleasure and growth of the hobby."

Televue demands a certain standard that can and will be met - and nothing says it more clearly than their very affordable line of Televue Plossl Eyepieces. At right around $100 per eyepiece, this is not only competitive with other manufacturers - it's meeting their price point and delivering far better performance. In a side by side comparison with a 2" Meade 26mm QX Wide Angle Eyepiece which supposedly offers a 70 degree field of view, the 1.25" Televue 25mm Plossl absolutely buried it. Why? By all design rights, the QX should have outperformed it - yet it did not. Telescope after telescope, focal length after focal length... The results were the same. The Televue Plossl consistently gave outstandingly better edge of eyepiece performance, far more contrast and sharper images.

Now for a 1.25" Celestron 12mm Omni Plossl compared to a 1.25" Televue 11mm Plossl. Again, we have near dead-ringers in design, magnification, field of view and eye relief - but not performance. Putting in the Televue Plossl was like the different between day and night. Contrast improved significantly and image sharpness doubled. When Jupiter would near the edge of the eyepiece field, it didn't distort! Telescope after telescope... Focal length after focal length... Same results.

Did I spend several fine summer evenings switching out eyepieces? Yes. Refractor, reflector and SCT... I went through a very serious collection of eyepieces that ranged from Antares to William Optics and I am very impressed with what these very affordable plossl eyepieces can do. Before anyone even considers buying a plossl eyepiece from another manufacturer, stop and think Televue. Their prices are exactly the same and I guarantee you the performance is far superior. Now... There's only one eyepiece left to try, and that test belongs to my much beloved Meade 12.5" study grade reflector.

Let's dance.

The 2" Televue 55mm Plossl is a serious chunk of glass. But when you look through this one, you'll be blown away. The eye relief is simply outstanding! Can you imagine seeing entire vistas like the Lagoon and Trifid Nebulae together? Can you picture the Sagittarius Star Cloud spraying out across the night? Holy cow... Have you ever seen all the stuff that's really around the Ring Nebula? Have you spotted the little galaxy that's near the M13 at the same time? You can't image what the Dumbbell really looks like until you've captured it with the whole field around it...

Is it the same spacewalk effect produced by Nagler's other famous eyepieces? Yes. But to a lesser degree. I have seen through even wider field Televue eyepieces and I can tell you that my eye can never take it all in. To me, the plossl is perfect. Here I see such a large, true field that I wish I had this around when it was galaxy season! Yes, I'm babbling. Every one that has a light bucket telescope should own one of these! What all this distills down to is this particular eyepiece is just slightly over $200 (US), ships anywhere in the world and comes with a lifetime Televue warranty and it's not going back.

It's a keeper.

If you’re interested in buying a TeleVue Plossl Eyepiece, you can order yours from OPT today!

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