Beginner telescopes always come with a couple of eyepieces to get you started, these are not the best telescope eyepieces for your telescope, just ones to get you going. Then you want more, usually to get more magnification. The problem here is most people look at eyepieces wrong and then even when they get the right idea, they have no idea what the best telescope eyepieces to buy since there are hundreds of them out there.
The first thing you need to know is that you only need three or four good eyepieces, you do not need an entire telescope eyepiece kit or a complete telescope eyepiece set. Keep in mind that if you are using a refractor telescope, the eyepiece is half of all the optics in your telescope, in a reflector it can be about a third, either way, upgrading your eyepieces can make a huge difference in your enjoyment of your telescope.
So what are the best telescope eyepieces on your budget?
Let me start by saying this list of best telescope eyepieces is made for the generic observer. If you are looking for the best telescope eyepiece for viewing planets or the best eyepieces for telescopes to use splitting starts then Brandon’s may be more your thing, or if you are really into wide clusters the Ethos line from Televue might work better for you. The ones listed in this chart are for the typical observer who observes a wide variety of things and needs eyepieces that will do well at all object types, although maybe not the absolute best at any one thing.
So what eyepieces should you get? That all depends on your budget and your needs. There is no reason to spend $350 per eyepiece when your entire telescope package only cost $299, then again if you paid thousands of dollars for your telescope, using $20 eyepieces is killing your views. Lets look at several of the best telescope eyepieces in different price ranges and see what will work for you.
|Low end||Low-Mid||Midrange||High end||High end||Top of the line|
|Model||Plossl||X-Cel LX||Hyperion||Lanthanum||82 degree||Nagler|
|Field Of View||52||60||68||80||82||82|
|Eyepiece size||1.25″||1.25″||1.25″/2″ combo||1.25″ or 2″ depending on focal length||1.25″ or 2″ depending on focal length||1.25″ or 2″ depending on focal length|
|Suggested focal lengths||12.5, 20, 25||9, 18, 25||11, 17, 24||9, 14, 20||8.8, 14, 24||9, 17, 31|
Let’s take a look at some of these a little more in depth.
For a beginner, the Plossl is the most likely eyepiece to come with your telescope. It is also one of the best budget telescope eyepieces for the newcommer. There is nothing at all wrong with these for the person just starting out and your telescope very well may have come with a 25mm and a 10mm as these are the most common shipping with telescopes these days. If you are not sure how serious you want to get, stick with these and add about a 17mm to your collection. Plossl eyepieces are not well suited for fast telescopes such as f5 or faster Dobsonians.
One word of caution. Not all Plossl eyepieces are created equal. Just because you got a $20 Plossl eyepiece with your inexpensive starter telescope does not mean there are not high end Plossl eyepieces. Televue makes some excellent Plossl eyepieces that start at around $100 each. These are used primarily for specific purposes such as planetary observations and as such do not fit what we are looking for. I just thought you should know they exist.
These eyepieces are the next logical step up for beginners with a wider field of view, better eye relief, and a nice grip around the barrel making them easier to handle. For a mere $70 you can get far better views than you can with your $30 Plossl. In fact, many advanced amateur astronomers carry these in their kits to loan out to other people, as backups for sizes they do not normally use, or in some cases, they may only normally use 2″ eyepieces and keep some of these around in case they are at someone else’s telescope and need a 1.25″ eyepiece.
These are not horrible in fast telescopes such as Dobsonians but I would still recommend something a bit higher end. They are ideal in small refractors, starter reflectors such as small newtonians, etc. Anyone who is using a telescope other than a Dobsonian and who wants to make a good improvement of their viewing I highly suggest these and think they are the best telescope eyepieces for casual observers.
One fantastic feature of these eyepieces is that they work in both 1.25″ and 2″ telescopes making them pretty universal. They also have a 68 degree field of view, excellent eye relief and a fantastic grip to make sure you do not drop them. These provide fantastic views for the money and are available in a wide range of focal lengths. While Orion offers their Stratus eyepieces which are quite similar to these, the Baader versions sport a newer design and far more focal lengths than the Orions do.
These are the lowest end eyepieces I would recommend for fast Dobsonians.
Orion has had a virtual copy of the Baader Hyperion eyepieces called the Stratus, and they were excellent eyepieces. Baader came out with their Morpheus 76 degree eyepieces and Orion decided to do one better with their new Lanthanum 80 degree eyepieces. Not only do they have a wider field of view but they have better eye relief and a better set of focal length including a 20mm (the Baader Morpheus line stops at 17.5 on the high end). All of that and the price difference between the Badder and Orion offerings is only about $30.
Aside from besting Baader’s offerings, they are excellent eyepieces compared to anyone else on the block in this range. Sure, you can get better quality from Televue, Nikon and Pentax, but you will pay far more too. Performing just as well in a fast dob as they do in a long refractor, you will be hard pressed to put these in a situation where they will not excel. I think these are definitely some of the best telescope eyepieces out there regardless of price.
Enough people have contacted me about not including eyepieces from Explore Scientific in my roundup of best telescope eyepieces that I felt I had to add a set. The ones I chose are my personal favorites from their lineup, the argon purged 82 degree models.
Overall these appear to be copies of my Televue Naglers, in size and style. They feel solid in the hand and seem well made overall. The views are good and most models seem to give me a sharp view most of the way to the edge. Contrast is good with little to no internal reflections even when I do something stupid like try to view a faint object right next to a full moon. Eye relief is good and the eye cups are plenty soft enough to use with or without glasses.
That whole paragraph above should tell you why I didn’t include them before, they are good, but priced as excellent eyepieces. Even when I put aside my person issues with the service I have received from Explore Scientific, they are just not that special. You pay about the same as the Orion Lanthinums, but get nothing in return except a few more sizes and for my dollar, slightly worse ergonomics (including a much worse eye relief). You pay a little less than the Televue Naglers and get inferior views (the Naglers are sharp as far as I can tell all the way to the edge, or at least 99% or better).
So if you like the looks of the Explore Scientifics, get them, they are some of the best telescope eyepieces. I think you can do better with your money like saving for Naglers, or even buying Meade 5000 UWA eyepieces which will give you just as good of views, the same angle of view, better ergonomics, and a substantially lower price (about 25% less per eyepiece).
Nagler eyepieces are some of the best telescope eyepieces money can buy. Starting at $310 each, they should be! If you spent good money on your telescope, these are the eyepieces you want so that you make sure your views are the absolute best they can be. They also hold their value exceptionally well so if you ever decide to sell them you can get most of your money back without a problem.
These are also the eyepiece of choice for people who have a lot of telescopes because they will perform well in anything you can stick them in. You want perfect images from your fast Dobsonian? These will deliver in spades. Want edge to edge sharpness in your refractor? Child’s play for these guys.
Nagler’s are also know for their wide range of focal lengths, coming in as small as 2.5mm all the way to the “Hand Grenade” 31mm. This allows you to have one for every use from planetary observations to the widest open clusters in the sky.
If you want the best you can get, Televue is it. They are definitely the best telescope eyepiece brand.
As I told you before, there are better eyepieces for specific uses, assuming you do a lot of only one thing. If however you are like most observers and want a general purpose eyepiece that does very well at a wide variety of targets, these are the best telescope eyepieces for you.