By: Vlad Fedosov
With the advent of the hyper wide 100° field of view(FOV) eyepieces, it would seem that no one would even consider an eyepiece that affords a mere 50° FOV. Well as with many things in life it turns out that there have to be compromises made in and optical design. So, while an eyepiece may have a hyper wide FOV it will likely give up a little performance in other aspects such as contrast, light throughput, and sharpness. It is for these reasons that in recent times there seems to be kind of a small anti-monster eyepiece glass movement with simple but time-proven eyepiece designs such as the plossl and orthoscopic. This is especially true for people that are into demanding applications such as planetary observing. Being an owner of some nice 100° FOV eyepieces I was one that was curious as to what the simpler design of the orthos can bring to the table so I ordered two sets of Baader Classic Orthos in 32mm, 18mm, 10mm, and 6mm(two because I use them in binoviewers). These are a more modern take on an ortho giving you a bit wider FOV then older designs at 52° vs the ~40° of the past. On the exterior, they are all black and VERY lightweight. Let’s dive in and take a look at whether these are a valid addition to your eyepiece arsenal!
I have owned these sets of eyepieces for about 5 years so this review is based on my fairly long term use of them. These were used extensively in my light-polluted backyard as well as from a dark sky site. I will start by talking about the scenarios I use these simpler narrow FOV eyepieces over my 100°’s. The most obvious use case is when doing planetary observing. Unless I’m at a star party and did not bring my Baader orthos I will always use either my excellent Baader Zoom(see review) or my orthos for planetary observing. How are they better for the planets? Well its quite simple really. The orthos have only 4 optical elements compared to the 8+ in hyperwide FOV eyepieces. Even though the glass elements used in modern eyepieces are very, very good they will still degrade the light at least a tiny amount. The more elements the more degration there is to the light in regards to brightness, contrast, and sharpness. The other scenario that I will use my orthos is in double star observing when I’m trying to split a very close pair. Extremely deep sky objects(DSO) can also benefit from the slight performance edge you get from an ortho.
Moving on to the experiences that I have had observing with the eyepieces. The 32mm eyepiece in this line is not actually an ortho. It is a plossl eyepiece and the only reason I really have it is that it works quite nicely with my Daystar Quark(that’s an H-Alpha filter system). It’s a nice eyepiece but honestly nothing too special from any other decent 32mm plossl. The 18 and 10mm eyepieces are my favorite units an I use them quite often for planetary observing. The eye relief of the 18mm is 14.6mm witch is very comfortable. The 10mm has 8mm eye relief which is also acceptable to use for extended periods of time. I do use the 6mm but fairly rarely as the eye relief is quite tight at only 5mm. This is really kind of in that range to where its not too bad for a quick look but if I’m going to be studying Jupiter for an hour its not really comfortable.
Sharpness is about the same with the 18, 10, and 6mm. I have confirmed on many occasions that there is a slight advantage of using these orthos compared to my Explore Scientific 100° eyepieces. Contrast is also better. I could not find the note, but years ago I remember trying to chase down a particularly dim object from a light polluted location. I could not see it with the 100° eyepiece even though I was 100% sure I was looking in the right location. I switched to the ortho and there it was just on the edge of visibility! I remember writing in my observing log how this was the first time that I witnessed a very clear difference between two eyepiece designs. I use them quite rarely for DSO but if I’m hunting down a really dim object and its not showing up with my 100° glass I will sometimes try with the ortho(for DSO’s I do prefer the immersive effect of the hyperwide eyepieces).
Physically these guys are very light(94-37g) witch is a huge plus when used in a small scope. The entire eyepiece including the barrel is coated with a very nice simi-gloss black coating. I have found it quite durable and all of my eyepieces still look brand new. The bat-wing eyeguard that these come with are some of the best I have tried. I usually do not like eye guards in general and have them folded down. These are an exception and I do use them fairly often from my light polluted back yard especially with a binoviewer. Why? Well they only cover one side of the eyepiece and do not infringe on me getting close to the glass so that I can easily see the entire FOV of the eyepiece. I wish more eyepieces came with such eyeguards… If your curius as to how they work in binoviewers, I really like the 18 and 10mm. The 6mm does work but the eyerilef is a little short for me. The 18mm is my top choice for a binoviewer application and 90% of the time that’s the pair that I use. They also make the 2.25x Barlow that’s a match for these eyepieces and the Baader zoom. I find that this is an excellent Barlow and I do use it quite often.
Would I recommend these eyepieces? Well I’m sure that you can guess from the review that it’s a yes! Witch ones should you get? Well I would look up what magnifications will work the best with your scope(for the planets I would recommend something around 150x-200x unless you have amazing seeing often and then you can shoot for higher). In all honesty I would buy the 18mm and 10mm. Add the 2.25X Baader Barlow if the 10m does not give you enough magnification with your scope. These truly are a set of eyepieces that are almost as good as it gets for demanding applications such as planetary work. Unless you spend $300+ per eyepieces there is really not any better eyepieces for your money in this simple design class!
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