The TeleVue Plossl – Unsung Eyepiece Hero

Article written: 21 Aug , 2008
Updated: 26 Apr , 2016
by

If you’re into telescopy, then you know the name Televue needs little or no introduction at all. The name is absolutely synonymous with the most outstanding quality and high performance optics in the business and every product is backed by uncompromising standards. Of course, if you’re like me, the moment I see the name Televue little dollar signs start swimming around in front of my eyes. Would you like me to shoo them away for you?

I’ve been playing the astronomy game for a long time now and I know when it comes to optics that you get what you pay for. But, one of my favorite things to do is to find products that give you more than what you expect. Go anywhere. Look any place. Check out plossl eyepieces. The four element Plossl design is perhaps the most popular telescope eyepiece design on today’s market and just about every manufacturer makes one. It provides excellent image quality, good eye relief and just about all of them have an apparent field of view of about 50 degrees. But is one plossl really better than another?

The answer is yes. And here’s why…

The names TeleVue and Al Nagler are synonymous among the international astronomy community with revolutionary telescope and eyepiece designs in production since 1977. Beginning his career with amateur astronomy and telescope making, Mr. Nagler enjoyed an illustrious career in optics and eventually became involved in the design of the NASA Apollo program astronaut lunar landing visual simulator by designing a probe which simulated a field of up to 140 degrees! Establishing TeleVue Optics Incorporated in 1977, Uncle Al’s mind eventually turned to a field which hadn’t progressed in nearly a century – telescope eyepiece designs – and thus was born a legend. Says Mr. Nagler in his Company 7 interview: “I have worked on eyepieces, telescopes and viewing devices with two major goals: to make astronomy as easy and versatile as possible to encourage, rather than discourage, newcomers, and secondly, to provide a visual experience as close to a “space walk” as possible by obtaining the widest, sharpest, highest contrast views. I am deeply gratified that my work has enhanced the pleasure and growth of the hobby.”

Televue demands a certain standard that can and will be met – and nothing says it more clearly than their very affordable line of Televue Plossl Eyepieces. At right around $100 per eyepiece, this is not only competitive with other manufacturers – it’s meeting their price point and delivering far better performance. In a side by side comparison with a 2″ Meade 26mm QX Wide Angle Eyepiece which supposedly offers a 70 degree field of view, the 1.25″ Televue 25mm Plossl absolutely buried it. Why? By all design rights, the QX should have outperformed it – yet it did not. Telescope after telescope, focal length after focal length… The results were the same. The Televue Plossl consistently gave outstandingly better edge of eyepiece performance, far more contrast and sharper images.

Now for a 1.25″ Celestron 12mm Omni Plossl compared to a 1.25″ Televue 11mm Plossl. Again, we have near dead-ringers in design, magnification, field of view and eye relief – but not performance. Putting in the Televue Plossl was like the different between day and night. Contrast improved significantly and image sharpness doubled. When Jupiter would near the edge of the eyepiece field, it didn’t distort! Telescope after telescope… Focal length after focal length… Same results.

Did I spend several evenings switching out eyepieces? Yes. Refractor, reflector and SCT… I went through a very serious collection of eyepieces that ranged from Antares to William Optics and I am very impressed with what these very affordable plossl eyepieces can do. Before anyone even considers buying a plossl eyepiece from another manufacturer, stop and think Televue. Their prices are exactly the same and I guarantee you the performance is far superior. Now… There’s only one eyepiece left to try, and that test belongs to my much beloved Meade 12.5″ study grade reflector.

Let’s dance.

The 2″ Televue 55mm Plossl is a serious chunk of glass. But when you look through this one, you’ll be blown away. The eye relief is simply outstanding! Can you imagine seeing entire vistas like the Lagoon and Trifid Nebulae together? Can you picture the Sagittarius Star Cloud spraying out across the night? Holy cow… Have you ever seen all the stuff that’s really around the Ring Nebula? Have you spotted the little galaxy that’s near the M13 at the same time? You can’t image what the Dumbbell really looks like until you’ve captured it with the whole field around it…

Is it the same spacewalk effect produced by Nagler’s other famous eyepieces? Yes. But to a lesser degree. I have seen through even wider field Televue eyepieces and I can tell you that my eye can never take it all in. To me, the plossl is perfect. Here I see such a large, true field that I wish I had this around when it was galaxy season! Yes, I’m babbling. Every one that has a light bucket telescope should own one of these! What all this distills down to is this particular eyepiece is just slightly over $200 (US), ships anywhere in the world and comes with a 5-year Televue warranty and it’s not going back.

It’s a keeper.

The Televue Plossl Eyepieces for this product review were provided by Oceanside Photo and Telescope. We thank them for their generous loan and the check for the 55mm is in the mail. If Universe Today readers should choose to order from OPT, please type in “Universe Today Astronomers” into the Club Affiliation section of your order to receive your rewards discount!


21 Responses

  1. AndJames says

    Tammy said;

    “Before anyone even considers buying a plossl eyepiece from another manufacturer, stop and think Televue.”

    I disagree. When I think eyepieces, I think the French Clavé (or Clave). These Plossls are probably the best ever made, whose polish and quality is more than exceptional. Old or new, nothing beats them, to the extent that the owners would rather die than depart with them.

    Sure TeleVue are popular and are pretty good, but in comparison to Clavé’s its like comparing instant coffee to freshly ground coffee. – or gold medals to mere silver or bronze.

    Sorry, this article (yet another) just smacks of the usual narrow Americancentric view of the world.

  2. DuddleyFuddle says

    Just to let UT know that, unlike the previous poster whose rant smacks of elitism of what appears to be a Eurocentric view, I thoroughly enjoy your reviews on Astro equipment As an old geezer who is thinking about starting astronomy, I enjoyed your review of the Celestron C65 and am considering getting one. Astronomy for us down-to-earth plebians. Keep up the good work.

  3. Aodhhan says

    AndJames, you don’t have to be a “whole ass” to make your point. The success of TeleVue does stand for something.

    However, I prefer Clave eyepieces over others as well. I believe little things like the stars of galaxies are very sharp (M15 is a good galaxy to use when comparing lenses) when comparing it to others, including TV; although, I haven’t compared the entire line.

    I have a friend who wears glasses and has an astygmatism who doesn’t see the difference between his and mine. So perhaps if you fall into this category, you may wish to make your own conclusions.

    Thanks Tammy for the article. Where we may have different opinions, the article is productive as insight to individuals new to astronomy, and everyone has their own opinion, preferences and pocket book.

    A good reference on eyepieces can be found at: http://www.brayebrookobservatory.org/BrayObsWebSite/BOOKS/EVOLUTIONofEYEPIECES.pdf

  4. Vedran V says

    Words of wisdom AndJames!

  5. Archer says

    Thank you for the article Tammy. As a newbie in Astronomy myself, I’m finding out the value of good eye pieces. I’ll definitely give Teleview a look. Of course, I have a narrow Tammycentric view when it comes to this website.

    Duddley, I’m right there with ya. I’ve been at this 4 months now and I don’t see it slowing down. Does 48 qualify as an old geezer?

  6. Member

    AndJames? I would be delighted to review a Clavé eyepiece! Please tell me these eyepieces are available to anyone anywhere in the world and they are around the $100 mark that I set for this review.

    Availability and affordability is what these product reviews are all about. Great googley moogley on a sidecar… Don’t you think I’ve used a lanthanum eyepiece, or studied with exquisite optics? Gosh, I love them… The observatory has some hand-figured eyepieces that are worth more than most folks telescopes, but before I go drop my new plossl in a bowl of vichyssoise, I’m gonna’ remember how much I earn each week, how much my bills are and how much I can afford to spend on my hobby.

    And no offense… I love vichyssoise!

    Please, this is not Cloudy Nights. I am not here to rip someone’s product apart – but to find a reason why it is worth considering. No matter what I choose to review there is always a similar product that is better – it’s just the way it is. I do not hold an “Americanistic View” for if I were reviewing an orthoscopic eypiece, I would tell you hands down that Baader Planetarium produces the finest that I have so far had the opportunity to test – but not thoroughly enough yet for a review. (no sun spots.) Perhaps there are better yet – and I am sure there is – but if I do not have them to put side by side, I cannot give you my fair and honest opinion.

    Please also be aware that the very low power Televue eyepieces, such as the 55mm I so admire do not work well in long focal lengths, such as found in SCT model telescopes – hence my suggestion that those who own a “light bucket” would enjoy this eyepiece. (just an fyi before someone else chews me out… ;))

    Duddley? There’s more scopes to come…

    And Archer? I’m a Star Geezer… 😉

  7. Archer says

    “And Archer? I’m a Star Geezer… ”

    I am so stealing that term, thanks! 🙂

  8. Member

    just as long as ya’ keep your mitts offin’ my new eyepiece! 😉

  9. AndJames says

    DuddleyFuddle

    “Just to let UT know that, unlike the previous poster whose rant smacks of elitism of what appears to be a Eurocentric view,”

    I’m an Australian, mate,,,

  10. JamesB says

    Most (but not all) competing eyepieces to the Televue line are actually about half the price. The particular Meade you chose is a gimme with most telescopes Meade are selling these days. It performs VERY well for a freebie.

    That said, I’ve never looked thru a Televue so can not give you an opinion on what’s the “best” eyepiece. But as with most amateur astronomers, there is a budget that determines what equipment I can buy. That makes “best value” the most important consideration for the average amateur, trumping “best”.

    So the question isn’t the elitist “Which is the best?”, but the more mundane “How much bang can I buy for my buck?”

    With only $100 to spend, do I get one great eyepiece or 2 really good eyepieces? With a previous purchased barlow that becomes 2 great views of DSOs, or 4 really good views of DSOs?

  11. JamesB says

    BTW- isn’t Australia a break-away province of EU? 😉

  12. Archer says

    LOL, so is most of North America.

  13. marcellus says

    M15 is a globular cluster in Pegasus. It is not a galaxy.

  14. AndJames says

    I agree with the article about the cost of TeleVue eyepiece, and for the popularity of these worldwide. The Naglers, which weigh an absolute ton are just brilliant, whose apparent field of views are just amazing. So is the price.

    The problem with the Plossls from TeleVue is limited by not having anything above 8mm. For planetary observations under idea conditions slightly higher magnification is an advantage. Clav̩ of Paris I believe has eyepieces as high as 3mm Р8mm Рall with similar quality. Once look through a 3mm in New Zealand once of Jupiter. Needless to say, I was blown away with the image in a well collimated 20cm.

    Clavé costs are the killer – not doubt to the reason not to buy one. I can recall in my earlier days of observing, reading an old telescope making book (forget which one, but J.B. Sidgwick’s “Amateur Astronomer’s Handbook comes to mind) which suggests that a few good quality eyepiece always beats a cheap range of every magnification imaginable. Advice now always heeded.

    My only advice to the novice is buy the best quality eyepieces you can afford. In this view, (as James B says) I agree with Tammy that the TeleVue that these are pretty good, and that say a 15mm to 20mm and 40mm or 55mm along with a Barlow would be a really good start, perhaps with experience, upgrading to an 8mm or 11mm.

    As to my American comments, my issue is that the article for those outside the US reads as a “Made in U.S.A.” endorsement – and the atypical “U.S.A. is best” mentality.

    When you read the slightly misleading quote at the TeleVue website The Cornerstone of Tele Vue’s Reputation

    “Since we introduced our Plössls in 1980, they have won praise and patents, including a patent in Japan. Tele Vue Plössls, designed by Al Nagler, have been a recognized benchmark of performance and value in the class of 50 degree apparent field of view eyepieces.”

    Its funny how the article doesn’t seem to mention that Viennese-born Georg Simon Plössl actually designed this kind of design in eyepieces in 1860. It is also interesting that the French Plossl’s are assumed to be symmetric designs. The patents by Al’s are asymmetrical Plossl’s, which are a slightly different in design, which apparently have the advantage of removing off-axis aberrations and removing astigmatism. As far as I can tell there is no real difference between the symmetric and asymmetrical designs. (If there were, I’d more question the main optics collimation than the eyepiece itself) Modern French Clave’s are not necessarily symmetrical anymore, and have small variations of a theme of Mr Nagler. Anyway, if I’m planetary observing who cares about minor aberrations at the edge of the field. Most of the time the object I’m looking at in mostly dead-centre if I’m splitting doubles or looking at planets.

    As for “BTW- isn’t Australia a break-away province of EU?” Cheeky, eh? If it is then; Bien, c’est la vie! (Well, it is the life! – such is life!) Just for that remark, Jams B, I’ll make have a Croissant or two for breakfast this morning, just to spite you!

    Note: I’ve always felt sorry for Mr. Plossl, who died when he severed and artery with a dropped piece of glass. The wound ended up infected, he got gangrene and died in 1868.

  15. Member

    “Bang for the buck”… Yes, yes! That’s the very best way to try to describe the point my reviews try to get across. When I see something that takes my fancy, I ask if I may be permitted to use it for review purposes and sometimes what I chose, I chose because I am either buying it for my personal use or buying it for the Observatory. Nothing comes into my hands because a certain company wants to make a product look good or I’m asked to endorse a particular manufacturer. What I’m after is what I believe we’re all after – worldwide – value and performance.

    In the case of the Televue Plossls, everyone should have a few good eyepieces in their collection. That’s simply a given. For years, nay, most of my observing career, I have been sold on the quality and value of the Meade Series 5000 Plossls – until I had the chance to place them side by side with the Televue Plossl. What can I say? The Televue simply outperformed them. The image was sharper and had more contrast with better edge of field. To me, that makes the $2 difference in price between the two worth it.

    AndJames addresses the fact that Televue doesn’t make extremely high power plossls – but for newcomers to the astronomy game, be wary of these extreme magnifications. (no offense, my aussie friend, ok?) Unless you’re using a telescope with a focal ratio of f/10 or greater, you’ll be deeply disappointed, no matter who manfactured them. Despite optical perfection, the telescope itself has theoretical magnifcation limits and you cannot push beyond these boundaries. Remember as well when you use a barlow lens that the image quality you get will only be as good as the barlow. For example, you can put a $2000 eyepiece in a $40 barlow and you’re going to get a $40 image. Don’t forget that adding a barlow – no matter how fine it may be – adds more glass – and more glass means dimmer images.

    Why did I consider spending $200 on a 55mm? Because in my case, I’d rather have one outstanding eyepiece that I can afford, instead of the two mediocre ones. I have several eyepiece cases full of mediocre ones and I’ve learned my lesson. But remember, I also value what I do. I understand that within those cases of eyepieces are eyepieces that were meant for specific purposes. For example, high power planetary viewing is best done with an orthoscopic – just as looking at an extended nebula is done with an ultra-wide field. This new “all purpose” 55mm plossl is going to be one killer “field sweeper” eyepiece when doing galaxy field studies!

    A plossl eyepiece is “all purpose”… and after having taken a good close look at all the plossl eyepieces that are still on the market, available to astronomers world-wide, and offer quality and value? My answer is still Televue. And if I could only chose two? It would be the 11mm and the 32mm.

  16. JamesB says

    My point was that many competing eyepieces to the Televue line at 1/2 the price are close the Televue eyepieces in performance.

    I agree with you that I’d prefer one outstanding eyepiece to two mediocre ones.

    But I’m not talking about two mediocre eyepieces.

    Using a scale of 1 to 10 and rating the Televues at 9 on the scale, two eyepieces that are 7 or 8 on the scale certainly present more “bang for the buck” than a single Televue, no matter where you got your economics degree.

    But I expected you to immediately discount ALL competing eyepieces to the one you chose to buy as mediocre. That’s a “fanboy” position (“fanboy” being a proper unisex use of the word).

    So if you are a “fanboy”, is this a review or a sales pitch?

    BTW- Yes, most of North, South and Latin America might be considered by some as break-away EU provinces!! Waiter – tea and croissants for everyone!! 🙂

  17. Member

    JamesB! Please let me know which $100 plossls you have in mind – or plossls which range around $50-65 and are still available.

    If you’ll permit me to be a “fanboy”, I’ll tell ya’, you can’t beat an Orion ED Epic. The eye relief is freekin’ amazing, the image quality is outstanding, and the price tag is… is… well, I’ve got a set of them, ok? But they are an ultra-wide eyepiece – not a plossl. I also own Sirius plossls, too… But unfortunately – even though they are half as much expense-wise – only perform half as well. I won’t replace my exisiting Meade Series 5000 plossls with Televue, because the slight edge in performance isn’t worth buying a new set of eyepieces for, but I’ve also seen enough to know what I’d do now if I had known then – ya’ dig? I remain a fanboy of Meade Series 5000 eyepieces and do not advocate replacing them with Televue if you already own them. But, if you’re looking to buy new ones? Well… The choice is up to you.

    I suppose in a way that every review is in essence a “sales pitch” – but I’m trying offer my experience and nothing else. What I have to be careful to do, in order to be fair, is to make sure I’m comparing apples to apples. If I ask to try out a $100 plossl eyepiece, then the eyepieces I compare it to must be plossls and must be relatively $100.

    So… What do you want? If you tell me you have about $100 to spend and want two good eyepieces what do you think I’ll say? If you think I’d say the Televue plossl, you’d be wrong. I’d tell you to go out and buy a low and high power Orion ED Epic – but if you tell me you have about $100 to spend and want a “plossl” eyepiece?

    Ah, heck… What can I say? Coffee and donuts, anyone? 😉

  18. ScotlandB says

    Hi, folks, I was given a very inexpensive refractor scope as a very thoughtful gift. It’s current performance is not quite Hubblesque.

    This article gives me the idea that I could upgrade the tube by sneaking in a better eyepiece such as this plossl, a higher quality refractor lens and/or improving the collimation.

    Does this make sense, and if so, what order should I go about this?

    As far as collimation goes, please point me in the right direction if it isn’t too far afield.

  19. Member

    Greetings, ScotlandB!

    I most certainly wouldn’t suggest taking apart the telescope tube and replacing the optics… and a really good eyepiece isn’t going to fix a really bad telescope. However, there’s always hope!

    If you’d care to supply a little information as to what brand of telescope it is, aperture and focal ratio (such as a NameBrand 90mm refractor that’s f/9) I’ll certainly be glad to check back for awhile and see what I can come up with to help!

  20. ScotlandB says

    Hi, Tammi,

    It’s a Galileo model CC-2 Refractor
    F700x60mm.

  21. Jeff says

    To the person who said claimed their budget would not allow Televue and that (Chinese) Plossls are almost as good, that is a trick you are playing on yourself.

    If you try them side by side, you’ll see the difference (all other things like optical quality of the telescope and atmospheric seeing being equal). Also eyepieces are (or can be) forever. They move from scope to scope. So they are an investment. Most people I know who claim the price/performance ratio of the Chinese clones are better, simply don’t use them in a scope and under conditions that show the difference. Quality is always worth paying a little extra for.

    Now Clave’? Well that gets into the realm of Zeiss. They are almost collectors items – and they don’t come up very often. If I could I would. But I can’t, so I ‘settle’ for Televue which IMO is making the finest ‘generally available’ oculars along with Pentax.

    However Tammy I am AMAZED at your review of the 55mm Plossl. To me it was almost like looking down a soda-straw. Very much like using any 40mm 1.25 inch Plossl. I NEVER recommend them for that reason.

    For that $200 you paid, save a few more months and can find a used Panoptic 27mm that doubles the magnification (which darkens the background) and at the time only gives up 1/3 the true FOV (1.3 degrees vs. .9 on a typical f/10 SCT). Plus the exit pupil of the 55mm on anything under f/10 is enormous. For example a typical f/6 reflector would have a 9.2mm exit pupil!!

    I urge people to look at the televue eyepiece calculator to get an idea of all the various trade offs.

    My equipment has included over time all manner of Naglers, Zooms, Panoptics, and Radians, as well as Pentax SMC-orthoscopics, circle-t orthoscopics, and even at one point several Takahashi orthoscopics. Scopes have included 18cm Teleport f/5.6, 18cm TMB-180 f/9, 13cm AstroPhysics 130EDT f/8, 10cm Televue TV-101 f5.4, and 45cm f/4.5 dob

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