Big Zoom, Big Performance, Big Price!
19 April 2016 | David
Having owned several Baader 8-24mm zooms, and having always hankered after a premium Pentax one, I finally took the plunge in early 2016.
FLO service was excellent, as always and I received the eyepiece 24 hours after ordering it.
First impressions, (with all too few later sessions due to weather and work commitments):
Size: This is a Big zoom, considerably bigger than the Baader, but looks fantastic and comes with branded eyeglass cover and bomb proof bolt case for storage.
Build quality - superb, exemplary:
Zoom mechanism is quite stiff, due to the O Seal JIS waterproofing, but it does ease off and I have found that the best results come when using a Baader Click Lock 1.25" adapter in my 2" scope focuser. This holds the ep rock solid and enables plenty of torque to allow the smooth rotation of the zoom mechanism. A real, tangible step up on the build of the Baader zoom.
Optics: The optics are very, very good for a zoom. In comparison to a world class Meade Japan UWA 14mm, I would say the Meade ever so slightly edged it in terms of faint stars visible, but it was a very slight advantage: from darker skies than mine this might disappear as a factor, and a tiny price to pay for having several eyepieces in one unit.
Stellar images are pinpoint to the edge in my F7.7 apo doublet, with very good contrast.
Field of view. The range of this zoom is 24mm, at which the specs say the view is 38degrees, going up to the highest 8mm power, at which the view is 60 degrees. On the face of it, the 24mm setting is quite narrow, but it never feels tunnel like, and the quality of the views are excellent. I have a wide 68 deg 24mm for that purpose anyway, so I do tend to look at this (and Baaders are the same fov) as an 8mm-20mm eyepiece. At 20mm the field is approximately 45degrees, and at 16mm about 50 degrees (same as most plossls). But, unlike many cheaper fixed eyepieces, the whole field of view is very sharp right to the edge. At 14mm and above, the field increases steadily up to the very healthy 60 degrees at 8mm. And, of course, you can increase or decrease the magnification in very small increments/decrements as conditions dictate.
The zoom is NOT 100% parfocal. As you move from the 24mm setting to the highest 8mm setting, you need about a 2mm further in-focus setting on my focuser to achieve perfect focus. This is not a deal breaker at all for me, but just something to be aware of.
Perhaps the best feature optically of the Pentax zoom is it's versatility. On any given night the seeing can vary quite significantly, and, when using fixed length eyepieces it can be very tiresome to have to keep swapping eyepieces to get the best view at a given moment.
With the Pentax, you just dial in the magnification that gives the best view, simple, with just one eyepiece. So, you can observe for longer and see more.
This is not a cheap eyepiece. But, it is of superb quality in all respects, and will last you a lifetime if you want it to. The Baader is an excellent unit to be sure, but in my honest opinion the Pentax has it comfortably beaten on all counts. And, at about twice the price of the Baader, so it should!