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Crazy Eyepiece Prices

Started by Kevin Conville, 03/05/2004 02:59PM
Posted 03/05/2004 02:59PM Opening Post
AP eyepieces- $249?!
Monocentrics- $200?!
Pentax XOs- $339?!

What am I not understanding about the construction of these that would warrant their prices other than disproportionately high margins and marketing BS?

The few tiny elements and super simple machanicals simply cannot compare to, say, a Nagler or a Pentax XW for cost of production- yet the prices do.

Talk about reaching a point of diminishing return, my god! Seemingly, people can talk themselves into just about anything.
I'm sure there will be plenty of people responding about the "ne plus ultra", but I can't help but feel we're being played.
Posted 03/05/2004 03:09PM #1
You think smaller lens elements are *easier?*

Super-simple mechanicals?

And maybe all glass types and supplies are the same?

Well, there's three huge reasons why you don't get it.

Rant away, Mr. Conville.
Posted 03/05/2004 03:35PM #2
Economics, supply and demand, overhead and return on investment expectations, and on and on.
I do my best (which is pretty pathetic) not to get caught up in the specific object performance race. I'm a general observer of all objects and mostly a newt guy.
I have embarrassingly too much equipment, but I use all of it.
I'd rather run a business with high end products that sell for more than the opposite. There are plenty of off shore manufacturers that are closing the gap on high-end stuff so the high end manufacturers will have to invent more new products, as we always see them do, to continue.
When I go to star parties, I see a few obsessors, (BTW they are terrific people, not putting them down) with ultrahigh end refractors with ultra high end mounts that only view bright objects because of the aperture sizes and just sit around or wander the field looking through newts.
There's nothing wrong with that, we don't all want to be the same for sure, but it made me realize what the hobby is worth and what it is not. BTW Photography today changes the dynamics on aperture to some extent (digital).
So not to ramble anymore, it's all in what you allow yourself to get caught up in. In my case, and surely others, our spouses should use a larger hammer once in a while.
Just have fun and ask yourself if you would be embarassed
to list all your hobby purchases to your friends and aquaintances and explain to them why a 'big' purchase was so necessary.
BTW, I have no right to say what I've just said!! HaHa!

Posted 03/05/2004 03:48PM #3

While I don't own any of these expensive eyepieces, I can understand why they're priced as they are.

First, they're low volume items, hence higher manufacturing costs. Second, they are made to extremely tight mechanical tolerances, and they use many precision machined parts, which again adds to the costs. Third, they often have many optical elements (6 to 8 typical?), again more cost. Fourth, they often use special types of costly low dispersion glass, again more cost.

Actually, the costs of these eyepieces is probably in line with the cost of similar complexity high-quality camera lenses, such as are used with 35mm camera systems. Medium format lenses are usually priced higher still (lower volume).

Anyway, that's how I see it.

-andy z
Posted 03/05/2004 06:16PM #4
For a quality eyepiece....

Top quality glass, free of microbubbles.
Coatings matched to each glass type.
More thorough and time consuming polishing process.
Closer tolerances, and insistance on better surface quality.
Greater care to insure clean surfaces during assembly (not easy nor cheap to do).

Some possibilities that could explain the prices. As usual, no one forces anyone to buy these nor to consider them "good values," but the market seems to be there.

Clear skies, Alan
Posted 03/05/2004 06:58PM #5
Roland Christen discussed the differenced on the AP Users Group:

"In general, there are 4 things that set the cost of an eyepiece:

1. degree of polish
2. type of coating
3. length of production run
4. size of the glass

I will deal with each in turn.

1. polish for twice as long, minimum, as it takes to get the grey out, that is the rule of thumb in the industry for a good deep polish. This is the Zeiss standard, and they don't deviate from it. Take twice as long, costs twice as much. You can see where it is possible to shave off some cost. A manufacturer will say, lessee if they'll notice if we only go 50% longer? NA! They'll never know the difference. Lessee if they will notice if we only go 25% as long? NA! they'll never see the difference. Lessee if ... etc. No, they'll never see the difference, BUT you will be celebrated all day long and praised for offering the eyepiece for LESS MONEY, right?

Is it necessary to polish for twice as long? The answer is yes, since below the fine ground surface is a thin layer of subsurface damage that cannot be seen, but shows up later after the glass undergoes the coating process where it gets heated to 600 DegF. It puts ever so slight haze into the optical path.

2. Most eyepieces, including most premium eyepieces, do not have an efficient multi-coating on all surfaces, and some are only multicoated on one surface. It goes like this - as the lenses come off the production line, they are multi-coated on production coating machines, without regard to glass type or index. This results in a nice rainbow of colors (reinforces in the purchaser's mind that, by golly, I got a real multicoated eyepiece here). Unfortunately, that rainbow tells me right away that the coatings are not optimal, just average, and, believe it or not, sometimes thay can be worse than no coating at all. Zeiss coats each glass according to it's own unique index value. It requires constant monitoring by skilled technicians, as well as adjusting the formula. The other thing is the type of evaporant that is used. Some produce a so-so coating, other, more expensive materials produce a very high transmission coating. High index glass is the hardest to coat properly, it wants 4 or even 5 layers, whereas pretty much all the popular eyepieces I've seen use typically 3 layers, or even only one layer for very high index flint elements. This results in a yellowish tint to the image, and a blueish glow coming out of the eyepiece.
Posted 03/05/2004 10:54PM #6

Gee, lets tear a hole in your argument...take two telescopes:
1. Takahashi - FS-102UH 4" f/8 fluorite apo, EM-10 mount
* Relatively simple mechanical & optical design - two elements, no goto mount
* Relatively smaller glass - 4"
* Street Price - $5599

2. Meade - ETX-125AT 5" go-to Maksutov-Cassegrain, with tripod and Autostar computer
* Much more complex mechanical & optical design - moving mirror system, 2 mirrors * 1 corrector plate, goto mount
* larger glass - 5" (almost)
* Street Price - $1090

Gee, why on earth would the Tak setup cost so much more - Answer: because high quality, low production run products are much more expensive to make than mass market, relatively mediocre products, and I could talk myself into buying the Tak setup (if I had the money), and wouldn't even feel like I was being "played".

You may have a point, and I am not saying that wide angle Pentax & Nagler eyepieces are mediocre (although I would not personally use them for high power planetary viewing, I much prefer UO orthos, and am contemplating buying the TMB super monos some day).

My brother is a machinest, and he can machine a part to a tolerance of .003", or make the exact same part to a tolerance of .0002", which will increase the price of the part by a factor of 10 or more per piece.

Unless you know the actual production costs, including labor, to manufacture the eyepieces in question, you are just making uninformed wild guesses about manufacturing costs.

Posted 03/06/2004 03:28AM #7
>AP eyepieces- $249?!
Monocentrics- $200?!
Pentax XOs- $339?!

What am I not understanding about the construction of these that would warrant their prices other than disproportionately high margins and marketing BS?

Are you actually interested in gaining some insight into why this might be or are you more interested in just complaining? In otherwords, are you actually asking a question or just producing your own BS?

Posted 03/06/2004 08:00AM #8

Your original question was:
AP eyepieces- $249?!
Monocentrics- $200?!
Pentax XOs- $339?!

What am I not understanding about the construction of these that would warrant their prices...?
After reading the entire thread to date, it seems that what you're not understanding is pretty much everything that goes into the manufacturing of a high quality product.

Why don't you make a serious inquiry into what it would require to design an excellent planetary eyepiece and have it manufactured by subcontractors (just like Tele Vue) to meet exacting standards? If it's as easy as you claim, you'll be able to add a bit of marketing BS, and make a fortune. If it doesn't turn out to be so easy, maybe you'll quit taking the great selection of quality eyepieces for granted.

Posted 03/06/2004 08:05AM #9
Hey Kevin,

Don't be discouraged by some of the responses you're getting. Personally, I think you're dead on 100% on the money. Your question is a good one, and your version of the truth is probably much more accurate then some of the responses you're seeing here.

Keeping thinking,