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Meade 26mm QX Wide Angle Eyepiece

Posted by Ed Moreno   04/12/2007 07:28PM

I rarely write negative reviews, though from time to time, a piece of equipment passes through my possession that just needs to have a review. I guess I am reluctant to post reviews on some of these products because I don’t want to offend anyone, or perhaps because it is not in my nature to be negative, though I try to be very balanced when I review something. I usually never pass an opportunity to provide insight into ways that I think a manufacturer could take a good product and improve it even further.

I will make an exception to this general behavior in this case. I mean it isn’t like this particular eyepiece did anything to make me mad. I had very low expectations when I purchased it after all, and in fact, it lived down to those expectations perfectly. So I am not bitter about the purchase at all and this isn't a "Vent" or a "Rant". I could afford any eyepiece I have ever seen, so realize that this isn't acid coming up from my stomach from spending my lunch money on this eyepiece. I am writing this review not to pick on Meade, but rather to provide guidance to those that might consider purchasing one.

The Meade 26mm QX Wide Angle eyepiece uses a 2” barrel format to allow a 70 degree apparent field of view. It is not “Cheaply Made” really. The finish is reasonable for the price point. The quality of the execution of this design can’t be faulted really.

But the design itself can.

First, let me offer a dialog on what I consider to be the REAL reason for using wide field eyepieces. Using a wide field eyepiece allows you to raise magnification and still preserve the true field of view to better frame the object you are looking at. I like the spacewalk effect, but the increased contrast that results from using higher power is to me far more important. But when you raise power, you often loose the ability to frame your subject and you have different eyepieces exactly for this reason. I often view an object with several different eyepieces. So the real benefit of a wide field eyepiece is to raise magnification to improve contrast and to preserve true field. To me, the space-walk is just an added perk.

Now it is important to know that my benchmark reference in terms of wide-field eyepiece performance is defined by Televue T4 Naglers and a lone Televue 35mm Panoptic. Now, along the way, I have tried NUMOEROUS mid and low priced wide field (65 degree to 70 degree AFOV) eyepieces. In EVERY case, I found these other eyepieces to be mostly mediocore. The LONE exception to this was a Meade 8.8 Ultrawide eyepice that was absoulty SUPERB. I sold it because the eye relief was so tight that I didn't use it much, but it was the only other wide field eyepiece besides the Panoptics and Naglers that I thought delievered really magnfiicent wide field views.

The eyepiece I tested was acquired used. The optics looked to be untouched. I actually purchased this eyepiece to use in my 80mm ED refractor that I leave outside most of the time. I got the 26mm cheap enough that I didn’t have to worry about it if one of those vicious squirrels that rampage through my yard mistook it for a giant nut and buried in the tomato bed.

On to the test.

I tested this eyepiece in three different telescopes.

First up was my 80mm 600mm f/L ED Celestron. My first usage was during the day, and even a casual glance confirmed to me that they eyepiece was very soft at the edge of field, but appeared reasonably sharp on axis. The field seemed to have relatively minor pin-cushion distortion. But there was no doubt that it was soft off axis. Now I do use this scope sometimes during the day to observe the occasional bird, or to monitor squirrel activities (Sometimes I have to do pre-emptive strikes on their training camps, and good intelligence is critical) so daytime performance is a factor. In this case, I just felt that the eyepiece was not really all that pleasant to use.

Night falls.

In the 80mm f/7.5 refractor, the softness observed during daytime usage was clearly evident in the form of extreme astigmatism off axis. The astigmatism started to became apparent as close as about 20 degrees off axis in either direction. Now that means that 0nly the central 40 degrees of the field was reasonably sharp out of the 70 degrees that the eyepiece covers. I found it to be really unacceptable in this scope.

Next, I put the eyepiece in my Vixen 140 NA. Now if you don’t know what a Vixen 140 NA is, it is a 5.5 inch f/5.7 refractor. You are probably asking, "How could Ed expect it to perform BETTER in this faster scope?" Well, the reason is that this the Vixen 140 has one of the very flattest, sharpest, widest fields of any telescope I have ever owned. It is actually quite EASY on wide field eyepieces. The field using my 31mm Nagler in this scope is literally stunning, with stars remaining sharp almost right up the VERY freaking edge of the field. I would expect that the Meade 26mm QX eyepiece should have performed BETTER in this scope than in the f/7.5 80mm scope. And it DID. But only a tiny little bit. I still felt the field was affected by sever abberation near the edge, and it was only slightly better at 20 degrees off axis than when it was used in the 80mm scope. By the time you get to about 30 degrees off axis, stars were streaks. Racking through best focus on stars at the center of field showed enormous amounts of astigmatism on stars 2/3rds of the way to the edge. I just couldn't STAND seeing how badly it mangled the field of this superb, large aperture wide-field refractor. Now again, I did NOT have a similar focal length eyepiece to compare to, but oh my GOD, you should see the field of view in this telescope with the 31mm Nagler!!! 3.17 Degrees, and stars all the way up until about the last apparent ONE DEGREE are literally PINPOINTS in the 31mm Nagler. MAN am I a lucky boy! But the Meade 26mm QX by comparion was HORRIBLE!

Finally, I plugged this eyepiece into my f/11 C14. The common belief is that SCTs are usually more forgiving on cheap wide-field eyepieces because of the long focal length. Personally, I never found that to be true. When compared to my Vixen 140, my SCTs have actually been maybe a bit quicker to show more abberation in eyepieces becase they already start from having a slightly curved field. My own observation has been that most of the cheap or mid-priced eyepieces didn't really fare better at f/10 than they did at f/5.7. Now as mentioned, the C14 does not have a particularly flat field, and even my 22mm Nagler will show slightly bloated stars at the edge. But the difference between the 26mm QX and the Nagler were as much as the price difference suggests that they would be. The 26mm QX was soft by 25 degrees off axis, and by the edge of field, faint stars were being smudged out of existence.

Let me give you an actual example. I will start with my definition of "Faint star." To me, a "Faint star" is a star that you have to struggle to see. But you see Vern, MOST objects have FAR more FAINT stars than they have BRIGHT stars. FOr YEARS, I didn't SEE these stars. But finally, after observing for 25 years, I learned to see them. I learned that the TRICK to seeing them is USUALLY higher magnification and PATIENCE. And ONCE you see them, you realize that they are EVERYWHERE in most clusters. When I observe with people, I sometimes ask them how many stars they see. Some people will look into the eyepice and say, "Oh, I see 20 stars". I will look in and given a few minutes to REALLY STUDY the field, I will see 50 stars. Some of these stars are outliers, and some are in the center of the field. And once you learn to see them all, you start to re-define the size of many objects to a GREAT degree. So when I say "Faint" stars, I am in fact talking about the LARGE number of stars in most clusters that are at the edge of detection. They are EVERYWHERE in the field, and when you learn to SEE the full field, you just REALLY become amazed! So remember that.. I am NOT talking here about the brightest stars in the object, I am talking about the DETAIL in the object that is usually filled in by these numerous field stars.

I put the 26mm eyepiece in the C14 and went to M37. M37 is big in the C14. It is so big that members of the cluster were soft near the edge of field that to me, it kind of ruined the effect that a wide field eyepiece should be desired for.. In fact, many of the faint outliers visable in my 22mm Nagler became invisible in the 25mm. For comparison, I put in VERY inexpensive GSO 32mm Plossl. The 32mm Plossl eyepiece was sharp almost to the very edge, and even though the contrast was a bit poorer because of the lower magnification, the field size was similar (.41 degrees for the 32mm vs. .43 for the 26mm) but the field just looked SO much SHARPER that overall in the inexpensive Plossl that preferred the view through it over the 26mm. And some faint stars near the edge in the 32mm Plossl became invisible in the 26mm QQ. I COULD SEE MORE STARS in the 32mm. Now at the CENTER of the field, I think I could get a few stars in the 26mm that just couldn't quite pop out in the 32mm because of the bigger exit pupil and corresponding loss of contrast, but OVERALL, I think I could see more stars in the 32mm. I mean there just seemed to BE more stars, but remember, on a very large object like this, in a big telescope, these objects appear to extend MUCH further than they do in small scopes.

Now some people will say that this is SOOO unfair for me to compare an inexpensive eyepiece to something like a 22mm or 31mm Nagler. Well, yes, I suppose it is.
But what about the 32mm GSO Plossl? In my comparison, I thought that the 32mm Plossl eyepiece offered a more detailed, interesting view. The core of the cluster was tack sharp (partly due to the lower magnification) but the cluster showed MORE stars in the 32mm anyway, because dim stars further out were still shown as sharper points, while in the 26mm, they were smeared to the degree that many really faint stars simply couldn’t be seen. See, SHARPNESS across the field DOES that for you. It enriches the size of these kinds of targets because faint outlying stars stay visible. The QX made the CENTER of M37 more contrasty and a bit brighter, but it looked more like a Globular Cluster in the 26mm because the really faint outliers were simply wiped out of existence. In the 32mm, you were aware that you were looking at a very large, VERY rich cluster standing out from a faint background carpet of stars. Now to SOME people, the effect might have been DESIRABLE, but to me??? No, not so much. I thought that M37 looked pretty awful in the 26mm QX when used in the "Forgiving" f/11 14" SCT.

So what does this all mean? What it means ultimately is that for now at least, if you want a really thrilling wide field view, it will cost you. The 26mm QX is just one of a long line of inexpensive wide field eyepieces that I have tested that left me totally unimpressed. It is VERY hard to me to say even that it is a good “Value” because a wide field eyepiece that can’t deliver a reasonably sharp wide field view fails at its primary purpose for being. But that is my own PERSONAL philosophy, and some may disagree.

My advice? It is better to buy one really fine wide-field eyepiece than 4 cheap ones. If you have used inexpensive wide field eyepieces and are happy with them, then clearly this advice is not for you. But if you have never seen a 3 degree field of view in something like my Vixen 140, where the view is so beautifully sharp across all 82 apparent degrees, then it is simply not possible to appreciate the difference between a really good wide-field eyepiece and a really poor one.

Even at current USED prices, I would put the Meade 26mm QX Wide Field eyepiece on my list of “not recommended” eyepieces. I would recommend a good 32mm Plossl in its place… Or even an inexpensive 32mm GSO Plossl, which I find to be really great VALUE eyepices. And THAT is the DIFFERENCE! But if you WANT a wide field eyepiece, I guess it is a cheap way to do it. Still, I would encourage you to save that money and wait until you can afford a really excellent one. I have bought and sold a BUNCH of telescopes, but I have NEVER sold a Nagler… I sold a Panoptic once, but only to BUY another Nagler…LOL…

And this footnote…
The Chinese are coming. The Chinese are coming. There is gossip about (started by the squirrels in my yard no doubt) that the Chinese will soon be entering the market with 82mm eyepieces of their own. I will say this about that. The 26mm QX would seem to be placed as in inexpensive competitor to the absolutely superb 68 degree Televue eyepices on the market in terms of apparent FOV, and to me, it is an utter failure. I am at this point dubious that an inexpensive Chinese made 82 degree FOV eyepiece will be better at coming CLOSE to achieving Nagler levels of performance. Now I have no DOUBT that they Chinese COULD duplicate Nagler performance, but I think that to do it, they would wind up getting close to Televue prices. And I don’t think they are willing to do that. They would rather sell 10 cheap eyepieces to non-discriminating buyers than one high quality eyepiece to one discriminating purchaser. It is called a market model, and it is simply a business decision. So as long as people are willing to accept gross compromise, they will be successful in meeting their business goals. Don’t forget that to the Chinese companies, that is ALL this is…A volume business. People like Al Nagler and Televue are passionate astronomers, and will be all too happy to satisfy the tastes of people that demand better and are willing to pay for that stunning view that they will get as a result of having spent quite a bit more. Don’t consider this to be a political statement, but rather consider it a caution that by waiting another year for the Chinese “Nagler,” you might wind up being disappointed. My bet is that they will produce another mediocre eyepiece at a cheap price to satisfy the masses, and that is not bad, but if you are like me, you will find less than good "Value" in them when comparing them to top tier offerings (All of which are very expensive).

You won't see this in any other review I have ever posted, but it was about time.... This eyepiece recieves my first ever "Not recommended" rating. It is simply the worst wide-field (although CHEAPEST wide field) eyepice I have ever used. Bottom line??? Save your money for a better eyepiece.


It has been a while since I wished my Marine Corps brothers and sisters good greetings. If you are reading this, please know that I have never stopped supporting you, and WHATEVER side of the political fence you lean on, I am ALWAYS first and foremost on YOUR side. Keep your jacket and lid on, stay covered, and come home safe. And for all the other armed services members, I wish as much for you. May good karma grace you on the battlefield and at home.

And to those of you that have suffered the loss of a brother, sister, husband, wife, mother, father, son or daughter, Aunt, Uncle, Cousin, school chum, neighbor, co-worker, or best friend, please know that I have done the same, and while it was a LONG time ago, I know the pain that it brings, and I wish you peace and a tranquil soul. It is hard, yes? I know it oh all too well, and I offer this advice…. Try to remember their smiles. In the end, it will help you find yours again one day.

Warm regards.