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Orion's Q70 Super-Wide Angle eyepieces

Posted by Robert Piekiel   02/16/2007 08:00AM

By Bob Piekiel

In late 2006, Orion began advertising three new additions to their eyepiece lineup. These 2-inch models boasted a 70-degree field, focal lengths of 26, 32, and 38mm, with respective eye reliefs of 20, 24, and 28mm. With prices of $99.00 each, or a set of three for $249, they offered impressive specs without severely denting the wallet. Although actual sales of these eyepieces were delayed for some time (they were backordered), I finally got my set of three that I had been waiting for, and eagerly put them to the test.

There is very little competition for these eyepieces on the market today. Meade’s QX Wide-angle eyepiece line offers some 2-inch models, but Orion’s selections have a greater focal length range. Antares and other manufacturers also offer eyepieces with similar specs to the Orion models, but not at these prices.

Physically, the eyepieces have handsome barrels with rubber grip rings and removable rubber eyeguards. Digital camera adapters can be attached to them easily. (The 26 and 32mm models have the same exit flange diameters as Orion’s STRATUS line - approximately 43mm - so one size camera adapter can be used for both models. The 38mm Q70’s exit barrel is 50mm, so it requires a different sized camera attachment.) Another nice feature of these eyepieces is that they have their focal lengths printed in big, white numbering on the barrel, making them easy to ID in the dark. The are threaded for filters, and weigh approximately 10 oz., 13 oz., and 20 oz. for the 26, 32, and 38mm, respectively.

OK, how do they perform? One of the problems with low-cost wide angle eyepieces is that they sometimes suffer in edge-sharpness compared to high-end models, such as Naglers and Panoptics. This is usually of prime concern to serious buyers.

I first tried the models on three commercial SCTs, a C8, a C14, and a C22, all operating at about f/10. Here are some summaries:

When viewing deep-sky objects such as star clusters, all of the eyepieces displayed superb images both in the center of their fields as well as at the extreme edges. There was an EXTRELELY SLIGHT amount of de-focusing of star images near the field edges, but this can also be attributed to the basic SCT design, which has a slightly curved focal plane. The effect was most pronounced in the 38mm, and less visible in the 26mm. The bigger the scope, the better the edge definition.

I wear very thick glasses, and even with the rubber eyeguards folded back, I have to move my eye around slightly in order to actually see the field edges. This is more a quirk of my physiology rather than a problem with the eyepieces. With my glasses off, they really do give an enormous AFOV. Contrast is excellent, and they all seem to be comparable with more expensive brands.

As far as planets go, I got to observe both Venus and Saturn with the new Q70s. Because of the focal lengths of these eyepieces, they naturally give magnifications on the low side, depending on the scope used. I preferred the 26mm to the others because of the higher power. Observing with the C8 showed images similar to a standard Plossl. Venus’ slightly gibbous phase was clearly visible, with no spurious color effects that sometimes plague lower-cost eyepieces. The C14 offered better views, and did a bit better at revealing bands on Saturn’s disk. Using the 26mm with the C22 gives approximately 225x, and this provided enough magnification to be able to see a hint of the Encke division in the rings when the seeing permitted. Equatorial bands were clear and distinct.

Next, I tried them on two short-focus refractors, an Orion 120mm f/5, and a Televue that I borrowed from a friend. I was expecting to see some distortions near the edges of the fields due to the steeper light cones of these scopes, but in fact found NONE. The Televue 102 gave unbelievably sharp images across the entire AFOV with tack-sharp stars and stunning rich-field views. Even with the Orion 120, which can produce some color fringes on bright objects, I saw none with the Q70s. Views of M42 were about the best I’d ever seen, with wisps of nebulosity extending well beyond the basic core of the cloud. The field stars glowed bright blue and yellow. Using the 26mm, I could split the trapezium easily. M45 was an exquisite formation of blue pinpricks, with no distortions or problems across the field.

These Q70 eyepieces are absolutely superb in their performance and live up well to Orion’s advertising claims. Their prices, especially for the set of three, make them a fantastic bargain.

Editor's note: All Orion products are available through Anacortes Telescope and Wild Bird.