Nothing seems to get arguments going faster between amateurs than discussions about which eyepieces are the best! If you hang out on the Internet astronomy areas for long you are bound to run into an eyepiece flame war. There are two important components to any given eyepiece - optics and price - and a good eyepiece is the combination of both components that makesYOU happy. It is quite easy these days to spend far more money on an eyepiece collection than you spent on your telescope. What you will read here are my opinions. They are not right or wrong, but just opinions. If you want to argue or debate them, my e-mail address can be found on the opening page.
As you can see, eyepieces come in all sizes. The one on the left is a 12mm Nagler Type II while a 7.4mm Televue Plossl sits on the right. I actually traded an even bigger eyepiece (the 14mm Meade Ultrawide Angle for the 12mm Nagler since the Meade was so big is was causing flexing at the star diagonal and visual back. The Nagler is designed to fit in both a 1.25 and 2 inch eyepiece holder. Using a 2" diagonal gains you nothing, however, over using it in a 1.25" diagonal. I use the 2" diagonal because it is beefier and can better handle the weight of the large ocular.
Here's my entire collection, from left to right and back to front: 12mm Nagler, 9mm Nagler, 24.5 Meade Superwide, 32mm Televue Plossl, 18mm Meade SWA, 13.8mm SWA, 6.7mm Meade UWA, 17mm Televue Plossl, 13mm Plossl and the 7.4mm Plossl. At the far left is a Celestron 2x shorty Barlow and a 2" diagonal on the right.
There's a lot of optical power there, but out of this collection, a couple of the eyepieces are almost never used. For example, I can't remember the last time the 32mm Plossl was taken out of the eyepiece case. It works fine for large clusters, but so does the 24.5mm SWA and the SWA gives 80x vs. the 62x of the 32mm. I find the 6.7UWA to be superior to the 7.4mm Plossl, but keep the Plossl around when seeing won't quite let me use 300x. My most used eyepiece is, by a wide margin, the 18mm SWA. I find the C-8 works wonderfully well at right around 100x. For my eyes, I find a 110x eyepiece to be the best all around magnification for both hunting down fainter objects and observing them. Much lower power and I have a tendency to pass over small, faint objects. More power and the field gets too small for efficient hunting.
Of course, there are those times when you need to boost the power just to find an object and it is here that the 12mm Nagler really shines. 170x combined with the 82 degree field of the Nagler makes a potent weapon for hunting faint, small galaxies and planetary nebulae.
It all comes down to the fact that you have to make your own choices about eyepieces. Yes, we would all love to have every one of the big, expensive Naglers, Panoptics and those new Pentax eyepieces. And maybe a few Clave plossls and couple Zeiss and Takahashis as well. The best suggestion I can make is to get out to your local astronomy club's observing nights and try different eyepieces until you find those that suit both your eye and your wallet.
Todd Gross, a Boston weatherman and well-known on the Internet astronomy areas, has about the best set of eyepiece reviews on the Net. Check out his web site for reviews of dozens of different eyepieces.
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