* Prices may differ from that shown
In recent years there have been an explosion of wide field eyepieces available to the eager astronomer. Due to this massive influx of quality widefielders the price of such eyepieces has been steadily driven down so that now it's not only the richest astronomers who can afford 'spacewalk' views.
Aesthetically the ultra wide angle (or UWA) looks a little like Frankenstein's monster, like two different eyepieces mashed together. The top half is big, black and bulbous while the barrel is thin, tapered and silver.
There are little divets cut into the body to help with gripping as this is a heavy eyepiece (at 289g). The weight comes from the large number of lens elements used to create that stunning 84 degree field. 7 elements have been used.
Usually putting such a lot of glass between an object and an observer only serves to degrade image quality but in this case Meade have used a high quality glass then multi coated it to make each lens as effective as it can be.
Optically the Meade performs very well indeed, the field is sharp even right out at the fringes (although there is a slight loss of sharpness in the very outer 10%). Loss of sharpness is not as significant as in some other wide fielders I've looked through and is certainly not enough to spoil this eyepiece. Contrast is excellent which is important as this eyepiece will mainly be used to observe faint deep sky objects (due to it's 14mm focal length).
Due to it's massive 84 degree field the 5000 can be used to great effect on the moon, showing a large area whilst still providing a reasonable magnification.
14mm is starting to get a little low powered for serious planetary observation but if you enjoy low power views of our nearest neighbours (there is something satisfying about observing Saturn as a tiny little ball) the 84 degree field will ensure the planet stays within the field of view for a long time.
But it is as a deep space eyepiece that the 5000 excels. Plucking elusive galaxies out of the murk as well as extended emission nebula. M31 in particular has never looked so good.
Thankfully the 5000 is quite comfortable to look through, the objective lens is large and the eye relief is around 10mm making it suitable for spectacle wearers.
Definately recommended even at it's seemingly high £170 price tag. Sharp and contrasty images are backed up by a decent eye relief and good sized objective to make a winning eyepiece.
There has been a revolution in amateur astronomy over the last decade. Many high quality, reasonably priced telescopes, often computerised, have been launched, giving amateurs views that were once the preserve of professionals.
As well as better quality scopes, higher performance eyepieces have also been developed.
For over 100 years, all eyepieces gave narrow fields of view which made the view through the telescope tube-like. The recent improvements to eyepiece design have seen very wide angle eyepieces designed. These are rather expensive, however, at up to £400!
The range of objects to be seen in the heavens is even wider than the number of telescopes on sale to view them. From star fields covering several degrees of sky, to large objects like the moon, to the solar system's planets and to tiny planetary nebulae, each type of object requires a different field of view and magnification to view it properly.
The wide differences in fields of view and magnification are achieved by the use of removable eyepieces of different specifications. A good quality eyepiece can give breathtaking views of the night's wonders. A poor quality eyepiece can ruin even the most expensive telescope's view.
Recently, Meade has introduced its own, less expensive range of wide angle eyepieces onto the market, the 5000 series.
The Meade 5000 series Ultra Wide Angle 14mm is one of that range. The 14mm eyepiece is a huge chunk of glass. At 289g, it is hardly lightweight but since it consists of seven optical elements in a bulbous stainless steel frame, its weight is understandable.
Potential purchasers should be aware that such a large eyepiece can upset the telescope's balance. Using the 14mm may require the telescope's counterweights' positions to be adjusted.
The 14mm has a field of view of 82 degrees. This is a much wider field of view than older designs which were usually less than 50 degrees and is closer to the eye's natural field of view (around 120 degrees).
Magnification of a telescope/eyepiece combination is calculated by dividing the telescope's focal length by the focal length of the eyepiece. My eight inch reflector has a focal length of 1000mm so using the 14mm gives a magnification of 1000/20 = 71 times.
The 82 degree field of view gives, with my telescope, coverage of over 1 degree of sky (twice the diameter of the moon's disc in the sky).
This medium magnification is ideally suited to viewing the larger astronomical objects such as the moon, star clusters, and the planets.
The eye relief of the eyepiece is excellent (the user does not have to put his or her eye right over the lens) and allows spectacle wearers to use the telescope whilst wearing their glasses.
Using the eyepiece, the first thing that will be noticed is the huge field of view. Unlike old eyepieces, the 14mm gives a truly expansive vista: it can be necessary to move the eye's viewpoint to get a good look around the object being observed. The advantage to this cannot be overstated; it gives a sense of looking directly up into the sky with one's own eyes, rather than looking through the telescope.
Next it will be noticed how sharp the view is, at least in the centre. It would be amazing, with an 82 degree field of view if there were no off-centre distortions. The 14mm is tack sharp across four fifths of the field of view, then stars get elongated indicating distortion at the edge. Despite these distortions, the eyepiece's performance is impressive.
What's not apparent is chromatic aberration. Many poor quality lenses show colour fringes at edges of high contrast. There was no sign of this effect in the 14mm.
Let me give some impressions of the 14mm in use during an observing session.
The Orion Nebula is one of the showpieces of the sky. With the 14mm, the ghostly glowing patch visible to the naked eye, is transformed into a view-filling tangle of gas clouds with a trapezium of hot blue stars in the centre. The detail visible is really impressive and moving the eye around to navigate the nebula gives an awe inspiring effect. I have never had a better view in another eyepiece.
The most famous galaxy pair in the night sky is M81/M82. These galaxies are unrelated lying 4.5 and 17 million light years away respectively. In the 14mm, they appear close together, one circular, the other cigar shaped, surrounded by acres of jet black sky. Their glowing centres fade away to the outer reaches with tantalising details being teased out by the eyepiece.
The Ring Nebula in the constellation of Lyra is, as its name suggests a smoke ring in space. Formed by the death throes of an exhausted star, it looks amazing in the 14mm. The tiny ring clearly shows the central hole, whilst the ring itself is clearly defined at 71x magnification. This is one of the finest nebulae in the sky and looks great in the 14mm.
This eyepiece is not perfect. It has some distortions apparent at four fifths of the field of view. This is the only flaw, however, as the rest of the field is bright, sharp, with no distortions or chromatic aberration. Best of all is that 82 degree view which would have been impossible to achieve only a few years ago.
There is a price to pay for such performance, however. The 14mm cost £169 from Warehouse Express. This is quite expensive, but for such a high quality eyepiece, is not excessive. If you want a high quality, ultra wide angle eyepiece, then there is nothing better for the price and the 14mm can be highly recommended.