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Review: Baader Planetarium’s 17.5mm Morpheus Eyepiece

The Baader 17.5mm Morpheus is configured with the eye guard extension (left) and with the eye guard removed (right). Credit: William Paolini

Review edited by Alan Dyer.

Baader Planetarium’s latest Morpheus eyepiece  (MSRP: $280) provides the lowest power and widest actual field of view in the series without sacrificing any of the Morpheus features.

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Plus: Excellent mechanics and optics at an attractive price.

Minus: Some lateral color at the edge of field.

The 17.5mm extends the Morpheus series, offering a generous 24mm of eye relief and sharp images across a 76° apparent field. Performance with a binocular viewer is particularly impressive.

Who Is It For? Observers looking for an excellent moderate-power wide-field eyepiece with long eye relief, at a lower price than competitive models.

With the introduction of the newest 17.5mm model, Baader Planetarium’s Morpheus line now includes six eyepieces, all with stated 76° apparent fields of view.

All the eyepieces have eight lenses in three groups, including three low-dispersion ED elements and one Lanthanum element.

Eye relief is long, measuring 24mm in this newest Morpheus, and is flexibly adaptable with the included M43 extension ring and choice of standard and winged eye guards.

Like the other Morpheus eyepieces, the 17.5mm has a dual 1.25/2-inch barrel so it can be used in either size focuser without the need for fiddly adapters, and requiring only lower-cost 1.25-inch filters. As with all dual-barrel designs, however, users should always check that the 1.25-inch barrel does not extend so far into a 2-inch diagonal that it impacts the prism or mirror surface.

Baader’s use of ribbed “safety kerfs” on the barrel appears to overcome the problems that barrels with undercuts introduced. Notably, Morpheus eyepieces have not shown any propensity for getting snagged when extracting them from the focuser.

The 17.5mm Morpheus feels solid in the hand, with excellent fit and finish, yet weighs only 11 ounces. Like the others in the series, it is well sealed from moisture and dust.

Observing Tests

To test the 17.5mm Morpheus, I used my Takahashi TSA-102 f/8 refractor, Lunt Solar Systems APM 152 f/8 ED refractor, Orion XT10 10-inch f/4.7 Dobsonian, and a Pentax 65 ED II f/6 spotting scope. I compared the 17.5mm Morpheus to the 20mm Pentax XW, the 18mm Takahashi LE and the 17mm Sterling Plössl eyepieces, by viewing a wide variety of celestial objects.

However, the Takahashi and Sterling were not in the same league as the Morpheus. Neither could muster up the perceived contrast, brightness and edge correction that the Morpheus delivers

The Pentax XW, while a better match for the Morpheus, showed significantly more field curvature, and given its longer focal length and larger exit pupil, showed less contrasty views from my light polluted site. Another interesting impression was just how much larger the stated 76° field of the Morpheus appeared vs. the Pentax’s 70°. Indeed, I measured the apparent field of the Morpheus to be 77°, putting it closer to an 82° eyepiece for apparent field.

This shows the comparison in size of the Baader 17.5mm Morpheus to other eyepieces used in testing. Credit: William Paolini

Lateral Color

This aberration is present in all wide-field eyepieces I have used. In the Morpheus I characterize it as minimal. I could just begin to see it on a bright star like Rigel at about 75 percent from center, primarily as a small amount of blue fringe on the side of the star towards the center.

Perceived Brightness and Contrast

Comparing the 17mm Sterling Plössl to the 17.5mm Morpheus, I felt views were just as bright in both. Faintest stars in clusters and the full extent of nebulas were equally visible.

However, in the Sterling the background field was brighter. As a result, the edges of nebulas were more defined in the Morpheus. Additionally, the mottled structure of the Orion Nebula, the dust lanes in nearby M43, and in the Running Man (Sh2-279) and Flame (NGC 2024) nebulas, were all more discernible in the Morpheus. The view looked more milky in the Sterling, and in the Takahashi LE it was just dimmer overall.

Scatter

Compared to the Takahashi LE and Sterling Plössl, the Morpheus showed the least amount of light scatter around bright stars. This trait would make the observation of dim secondary stars of doubles all the easier.

Field Stop

The region near the field stop showed no brightening or dimming. The field stop itself was distinct, but showed a slight blue ring, noticeable only with the Moon in the field.

Flare and Ghosting

Bright objects like Sirius and the Moon did not produce any unwanted light artifacts, regardless of where objects were positioned in or just outside the field.

I did not see any eyeball glint off the top of the eye lens, nor did I experience any reflections from exterior lights at my observing location with the eye guards in place. Overall, the light control features of the Morpheus proved to be effective.

Edge of Field Sharpness

Like most wide-field eyepieces I have tested, the 17.5mm Morpheus does require accurate eye placement for best rendering of the entire field. If your eye is not well placed over the exit pupil, stars far off-axis can show some level of aberrations. But with my eye properly positioned, stars stayed tight and double stars remained well resolved all the way out to the field stop.

Use with Binoviewers

With a binocular viewer, my preference was to use a pair of eyepieces with their standard eye guards unfolded. External light was blocked but there was no contact between my face and the eyepieces. Observing felt natural with no eye fatigue.

I also found I could just shift my gaze to any place in the field without any blackouts or need to alter my head position. Overall, using a pair of Morpheus 17.5s was the first time I really enjoyed binoviewing of deep sky objects.

Conclusion

Through the course of my testing, I found the 17.5mm Morpheus exceedingly comfortable to use. The exit pupil is very stable and not once did I encounter any blackout or kidney beaning.

The eyepiece seemed to get out of the way more than with most eyepieces I have used. Its strengths include a bright, crisp and wide field of view, with generous eye relief, comfortable eye positioning, and hassle-free operation in the field.

The 17.5mm Morpheus provided some of the most transparent and contrasty views I have seen. Highly recommended!

MSRP: $280

Website: www.baader-planetarium.com

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About William Paolini

William "Bill" Paolini has been actively involved in optics and amateur astronomy for 45 years, is author of the desk reference on astronomical eyepieces: Choosing and Using Astronomical Eyepieces which is part of the Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series published by Springer of New York, has published numerous product reviews on major online amateur astronomy boards, and volunteers with public tours at a famous vintage Clark refractor site.

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