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Meade SWA28mm 2" Eyepiece

Posted by david elosser   06/22/2005 12:00AM

Customer Review: The New Meade SWA 28mm 2 inch Eyepiece

It had been on order since January. My new Meade SWA 28mm 2" eyepiece finally arrived in mid-June. I had not heard anything about the new line of eyepieces, nor read anything about them, and for good reason. The eyepieces have been trickling in to dealers, one focal length at a time, for months now. No one really had much chance to evaluate them. If these Super Wide Eyepieces did what Meade claimed, they would make a good, medium cost alternative to the higher priced premium ep’s out there. I managed to beat the new-equipment-curse, well barely. Between the full Moon and hazy skies, my VLM was around magnitude 2.5 or 3 at best. Still, I managed to get a very good skytest of my new eyepiece. I mounted it to my Stellarvue SV102d, the “Achrobat.”

First Sight: This is a premium priced eyepiece, and Meade gives it proper treatment in its packaging. Cheaper Eyepieces are wrapped up in plastic and thrown into an empty box. The SWA 28mm had a much nicer packaging. It came in a heavy box with felt-lined inserts. It was not wrapped in plastic, but the inserts were molded specifically for the shape of this eyepiece, so it was very well protected. It comes with both end caps. The top end cap is a loose fit, but considering the design, it fits as well as it can. It is a heavy, solidly built eyepiece, but not so large so as to be bulky in feel, either in the hand or on the diagonal. The specs are very comparable to the Nagler 27mm Panoptic. I unscrewed the chrome barrel and measured the field stop diameter with calipers. The chrome barrel is the only part of the eyepiece that disappointed me a bit. It was lightweight in feel, difficult to unscrew, and flexed a little when I gave it a squeeze. It fit firmly in the diagonal though, and it has the now standard captive set groove to prevent accidents with a loose set screw. The fsd is 32mm, just slightly larger than the 30.5mm of the Panoptic. This gives me a 2.6 degree fov over, say, the 32mm Plossl, which has a 2.2 degree fov, in my “Achrobat ”. In comparison, the 26mm Nagler Type 5 has a 35mm fsd with a 2.86 degree fov. Another feature I like is the adjustable eye cup. It screws up and down like the Pentax XL28 that I have. Unlike the Pentax however, it requires much less turning of the cup to get to where you are going. Adjusting from top to bottom is only 180 degrees. The feel of it is firm, but not so firm to make it hard to adjust, and firm enough to keep its position regardless of orientation. I also have a Radian with an adjustable cup. But the click-stop, although good on paper, is quite awkward for me in practice. It tends to jar the scope off target when adjusting.

I do not own a 27mm Panoptic, but I do have a 28mm 1.25" Pentax to compare it with. The Pentax is one of may favorites: good contrast, a field of view comparable to the 32mm Plossl, good edge-to-edge sharpness and long eye relief. In my 102mm f/6.9 Stellarvue, I get a magnification of 25x with these two eyepieces. With summer solstice, it does not get really dark until after 10:30 pm here, and between that, the hazy skies, and a 28-1/2 day old full moon rising, conditions were lousy, my VLM being magnitude 2.5 or 3 at best. I still managed to get a good evaluation of the SWA28.

First Light:
The target was Jupiter. The view through the SWA28 was mostly identical to the Pentax: good contrast (considering the conditions), sharp and clean. Jupiter resolved into a good tight, tiny disc. The four jovian moons focused into pinpoints of light, with almost no spiking. Jupiter was 1.66 degrees from Porrima that night, and the Pentax, with its 2.2 fov, put both targets nicely in the field with a little room to spare, still sharp at each end. The Meade though, showed much more field with sharpness again being good between the two targets. When I moved Porrima to the edge of the field, only at the extreme edge did it begin to suffer from image breakdown. I found no objection to this at all. In fact, if I move the adjustable eye cup up just a little, it blocks this edge out of view if it become objectionable. I loose less than 10% of the field this way.

First Flight:
I then went to other brighter stars to check out color accuracy. The SV102d is a doublet achromat that Stellarvue made limited quantities of a few years back. I normally see some false color around Jupiter and Vega. Although the power was only 25x, I was still very impressed with the color accuracy and lack of chromatic abberation. I saw no noticable fringe around Jupiter, and Vega was a brilliant white with very little purple tint at the edge. I have a 1.25" MV filter that I viewed with on top of the eyepiece. I could see very little difference on Vega with or without the filter. Arcturus showed no false color, it was a pale but distinct yellow hue. HIP 62233, just southwest of Porimma, has a companion 16" away. Both magnitude 8 stars are very easily split with plenty of space between the two. Later that evening, Antares popped up behind the trees. It also showed a lovely orange tint with no hints of false color. This eyepiece is a great match for the Achrobat!

Getting It Right:
Globular cluster M13 in Hercules was the only deep space object I could find in the moonlit haze. I could not resolve any stars in these conditions, but colors were again very accurate, the white patch of the globular constrasting with the red giant nearby. I discovered an interesting trick with the eye cup. When fully down, I had no trouble seeing the entire fov through my glasses. When I adjusted the cup upward, I could gradually limit the fov until just the globular and the surrounding stars were visible, with the eye cup's rim guiding my eye to just the right viewing spot. This adjustment is so easy because moving the cup from top to bottom requires only a 180 degree twist. Trying this with the click-stop adjustment on my Radian is more troublesome because it tends to move the scope out of position while balanced on the Unistar Deluxe mount.

The Keyhole and the Kite:
I was getting tired but I decided to wait untill the Moon had cleared the treetops. I was rewarded with my patience! The Moon was still low above the trees, and it glowed with a lovely yellow-orange color in the haze. Even through all this, the SWA28 demonstrated an incredible amount of contrast and sharpness. The yellow-orange color was not at all diminished. Excellent contrasts between mare and craters could be seen. Rays were spectacular. Subtle shadings in the mare regions were noticable. Aristotle and Herodotus were distinctly separated, and the "kite tail" was just visible. Reiner Gamma, although small, showed its "keyhole" shape. Even when I put on a neutral density filter, the color, contrast, and sharpness remained excellent. At 25x, the Moon only filled about 20% of the field. Moving the Moon toward the edge of the field caused a distortion of its shape into an oval as it reached the edge. This effect was minimal, and the Moon remained tack sharp right up to the last 5% of the field. This "oval effect" is almost unnoticeable on star fields, except at the extreme edge. I saw very little color abberation from the scope, but I did notice a thin line of yellow color just inside the lunar limb- the dreaded lateral color that plagues so many eyepiece designs. The color might be a little objectionable to some, but it did not result in any degradation of the sharpness of the limb area that I could detect.

Good Time Tonight:
My overall opinions of this new eyepiece from Meade are very high. The original cost of the now discontinued Pentax XL28 was close to the cost of the SWA28. The Meade eyepiece equalled or excelled over the Pentax on image sharpness, contrast, brightness, edge-to-edge resolution, and field of view. People who have been looking for a Pentax XL28 but could not find one can now take heart: Meade has your new eyepiece! True, the Nagler 26mm Type 5 has a 10% greater fov with better edge of field resolution, but is it worth more than twice the price? I have never looked through one, so I'll have to let someone who has be the judge of that.

David Elosser

Click here for more about this subject. -Ed.