Note: For definitions of basic eyepiece characteristics mentioned below, see Ed Ting’s A Beginner’s Guide to Telescope Eyepieces.
Once you look through eyepieces with 82° apparent fields, all lesser eyepieces give the impression of looking down a tunnel. Not to say that normal 50° and wide-field 65° eyepieces aren’t excellent, but for a more immersive viewing experience most telescope owners add at least one, if not several ultra-wide 82° eyepieces to their collection.
I tested nine brands of 82° eyepieces, all in the 13 mm to 16 mm range, a focal length that provides moderate power on most telescopes and so is suitable for all types of viewing. If there’s one premium eyepiece to buy, it will likely be in this focal length range. I tested this set on f/6 apo refractors and f/5 to f/6 Newtonian reflectors, concentrating on comparing on-axis and off-axis sharpness. I present them in order of increasing price. Except for the Orion Lanthanum 80°, all have 1.25-inch barrels and so can be used on any telescope.
As good as these 82° eyepieces are, if your budget allows, you might want to consider an even wider 100° eyepiece.
My conclusion from testing this 82° group was that the Explore Scientific came very close to matching the standard-setting premium Tele Vue Nagler, but at a lower price. The Orion and Vixen 82° eyepieces are also superb in all aspects, though at prices similar to Tele Vue. The Stellarvue 82° and Meade’s new PWA provide good performance for a much lower price. While the 76° Baader Morpheus provides slightly less field of view than the rest, the long eye relief and excellent image quality makes it new favorite of mine, and worthy of consideration.
Celestron Luminos 15mm
Pros: Lowest cost eyepiece in the group; long eye relief.
Cons: Very aberrated off-axis star images; slightly less than 82° field.
Though advertised as 82°, Celestron’s 15mm Luminos had an apparent field between that of the 76° Morpheus and the other 82° models. On my f/5 to f/6 test scopes, stars started to distort 50 percent out from the center and were quite bloated at the edge, the poorest optical performance of the group, but one that’s commensurate with price. However, on a Schmidt-Cassegrain, with its more forgiving f/10 focal ratio, off-axis sharpness was much better. Eye relief is an excellent 17 mm, longer than in more premium models, and the eyecup is extendable. But the twist-up mechanism in one unit I tested (which I exchanged) was loose and rattled. The top dust cap fits on only when the eyecup is retracted, an inconvenience.
Bottom Line: A good, economical choice for Schmidt-Cassegrains.
Stellarvue Ultra Wide Angle 15mm
Pros: Low price; good eye relief; solid construction.
Cons: Soft off-axis star images.
The Stellarvue 82° is well made, with a compact, solid construction, good 14mm of eye relief (better than the stated 12mm) and a fold-up eyecup. However, stars began to bloat 60 percent out from the center and were quite distorted at the edge. Of the lower-cost 82° models, this was a good choice overall for both optics and mechanics. The attractive price makes it easier to collect the complete set of three, along with the 8mm and 4mm models.
Bottom Line: A better bargain 82° eyepiece.
Meade Series 5000 PWA 16mm
Pros: Solid construction with good eye relief.
Cons: Soft off-axis star images.
Meade’s new PWA (Premium Wide Angle) series is effectively a new version of their previous 82° UWA series, which is still available as of November 2020. The latter had good optical performance, but with a twist-up eyecup mechanism that was stiff and greasy in the unit I tested. The new PWA has an improved design with a standard fold-up rubber eyecup and good eye relief. It looks very similar to the Stellarvue 82°. Optical performance also proved similar, with stars in the Meade beginning to distort 60 percent out from the center and appearing fairly aberrated at the edge of field.
Bottom Line: A well-made eyepiece but costly for the performance.
Explore Scientific 82° Series 14mm
Pros: Very good optics and waterproof construction.
Cons: Short eye relief.
The ES is solidly made and comfortable to use despite its short 11mm eye relief (measured from the top of the eyecup), due to the recessed eye lens (the specs state 15.6mm). But the soft eyecup nicely places your eye where it needs to be with no kidney-bean blackout. Stars are sharp across all but the outer 10 to 15 percent of the field, so very close to Nagler performance. This is a superb eyepiece for the money, with the bonus of argon-filled waterproof construction to keep moisture from penetrating and fogging the eyepiece on humid nights. And the included velvety storage bag is very nice.
Bottom Line: Very good optics and mechanics for an excellent price. A best buy.
Antares Speers-WALER 14mm Series 4
Pros: Good off-axis sharpness and eye relief, but …
Cons: Severe kidney-bean blackout.
The eyepiece’s name comes from “Wide-Angle Long-Eye-Relief” and its Canadian designer Glen Speers. This is the largest and heaviest of the 1.25-inch eyepieces, with a mass of 400 grams. The specifications state an 86° apparent field but it appeared to be the same as the other 82° models. Stars are sharp across all but the outer 20 percent. Eye relief is a good 16mm, much longer than the 10mm specified. However, with your eye positioned where it needs to be to see the whole field, the field partially blacks out with squirming “kidney-bean” shadows (technically called spherical aberration of the exit pupil). In short, I found it uncomfortable to use. Despite its modest price and sharp optics, I can’t recommend it.
Bottom Line: Economical but with optical flaws.
Baader Morpheus 76° 14mm
$240 (typical U.S. retail price)
Pros: Very comfortable eye relief; superb optics.
Cons: Field less than others; eyecup height not easily adjustable.
While not as wide as the others, the Morpheus comes close, so I included it. With 20mm of eye relief and a large eye lens, this is a very comfortable eyepiece to look through. Stars are sharp across all but the outer 15 percent of the field and are still tight at the edge, though with some lateral chromatic aberration. It can fit either a 2-inch or 1.25-inch focuser but requires only 1.25-inch filters. On the 2-inch focusers on my Newtonians I had to pull the eyepiece out a little in the draw tube to have it reach focus. The rubber eyecup can be raised higher with the use of an included extension ring; a twist-up mechanism would have been preferable. It comes with a pouch with a belt clip. The 8-element Morpheus design provides nearly top-class performance for much less than the premium competition, which would also include Tele Vue’s 72° Delos series.
Bottom Line: A top-class eyepiece for optics and build quality.
Orion LHD Lanthanum 80° 14mm
Pros: Great optics; comfortable eye relief and eyecup.
Cons: Size and weight.
Its long 20mm of eye relief, screw-up eyecup and large eye lens makes Orion’s Lanthanum a pleasure to use. Though advertised as 80°, I found the apparent field matched a Nagler’s 82° field. Stars are Nagler-class sharp to the edge even on the Newtonians. At 580 grams, it is the heaviest of the 82° set. Its barrel fits only 2-inch focusers and so requires more costly 2-inch filters. But it is an excellent and attractive, though large, eyepiece at a slightly lower price than a Nagler with much better eye relief. The LHD series includes four other focal lengths, all with 20mm eye relief, and with the 4mm, 6mm and 9mm eyepieces having 1.25-inch barrels but very tall form factors.
Bottom Line: A superb eyepiece for 2-inch focusers.
Tele Vue Nagler Type 6 13mm
Pros: Superb optics; compact size.
Cons: Short eye relief and non-adjustable eyecup.
Tele Vue’s Type 6 Naglers are small, light and tack sharp across the field, even on fast f-ratio telescopes. No question — they set the standard. While the rubber eyecup can fold down, it is stiff enough that it is best left up. The eye has to be a little above the eyecup for best position, with eye relief just 12mm. With the eyecup folded down it can be used with eyeglasses, but only just. As such, the Nagler Type 6s are showing their age, as newer models of eyepieces, including Tele Vue’s own Delos series, provide adjustable eyecups and much longer eye relief, important for us aging observers!
Bottom Line: The best for optics but others provide more comfortable viewing.
Vixen Optics SSW 83° 14mm
Pros: Great optics; wider field; comfortable eye relief and eyecup.
Vixen’s fine eyepieces don’t get the respect they deserve. While stars do bloat a little at the very edge, the 83° SSW comes close to matching a Nagler for optical performance, with the benefit of slightly longer 14mm eye relief and a more comfortable twist-up eyecup. The apparent field is indeed noticeably wider than the other 82s. And the color-coded cosmetics of the SSW series are attractive, though somewhat moot in the dark under red light. Based on the 14mm SSW, I can recommended the series, though they are even more costly than Nagler Type 6s.
Bottom Line: A superb and compact top-class eyepiece.