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Knight_Owl Services (GSO) Eyepiece Review

Posted by Eric Esworthy   10/01/2004 00:00:AM

Being as there have been MANY questions floating around various forums as of late regarding these eyepieces, I figured I’d post my thoughts and experience with these as I just purchased, what I feel is, a nice line of inexpensive oculars for use in a variety of applications.

A quick note that I have NO affiliations or interests with Owl Services or Astromart, & purchased these eyepieces through normal channels.

The Method to the Madness:

A while back I spoke with Tom (owner of Owl Services) regarding his line of GSO eyepieces. At the prices they were offering these oculars to the public, I simply figured there had to be something wrong with them. They were either optically flawed or cosmetically flawed in some way. Boy, was I wrong. I’ll get into that in a minute. First I want to detail some reasons for my purchase and decision too get the eyepieces I did.

Before making this purchase, I basically only used 3 eyepieces. A Meade SWA 24.5mm, Meade SWA 13.8mm, & a Meade UWA 6.7mm, all of which provided me with EXCELLENT views. I currently have been using my Meade AR-5 refractor to do all of my observing with. It has a decent focal length of f/9.3 (see Review in “Refractor Forum”)… While observing a few weeks back at my clubs dark sky site, a friend let me use his 2” TV 55mm Plossl to view M31 & the Double Cluster in Perseus, along with a few other nice wide field objects. Now, if you’ve never viewed a nice wide-field target in a long focal length refractor with a quality wide-field eyepiece, you don’t know what you’re missing! I was absolutely beside myself as to what you can see, especially at the edge of FOV. Stars were perfect all the way to the edge and no image degradation what so ever. This was the deciding factor, as I instantly became an enthusiast of wide-field observing. So, I began looking on the net for some inexpensive wide-field eyepieces. This is where Owl Services came into the picture. They offer a wide selection of 1.25” eyepieces & about 5 or 6 - 2.00” selections. I decided to purchase the following:

2.00” 42mm SuperView - 5 elements (65 deg FOV)
2.00” 30mm SuperView - 5 elements (70 deg FOV)
2.00” 26mm SuperWide Kellner - 3 elements (62 deg FOV)
1.25” 20mm SuperView - 5 elements (67 deg FOV)
1.25” 15mm SuperView - 5 elements (65 deg FOV)
1.25” 9mm KnightOwl MC Plossl - 4 elements (52 deg FOV)
1.25” 6mm KnightOwl MC Plossl - 4 elements (52 deg FOV)
1.25” 4mm KnightOwl MC Plossl - 4 elements (52 deg FOV)

Please understand, if you have a fast scope, I don’t think the 2” SV’s will benefit you. I believe people who will get most out of these eyepieces are those who own scopes with an f/7 or slower. Anything faster than f/7, and the edges tend to distort and get all fuzzy. This applies to the 26mm Kellner as well.

Now, as we all know, there are some important factors when buying eyepieces. You have to consider quality, both optically & esthetically. Reputation is a consideration for some, but the MOST important factor for me is price. Everyone out there is looking for the best “bang for the buck”. Kind of an oxymoron of sorts. Cheap/Quality eyepieces… definitely fits the bill for an oxymoron to me. Well… I believe I found some. I paid a total of $260 shipped for EVERYTHING above. That’s about the price of a decent Nagler or Panoptic, probably even cheaper than most.

Arrival & Inspection:

My business transaction with Owl was a bit tricky at first. I used PayPal and there was a bit of a mix up in the email account system. The email listed on their site is NOT the email you send funds to. So if you plan on using PayPal to fund your purchase, I advise calling ahead of time & getting the correct account info. It will save you time & unwanted aggravation in the long run. Once Tom received the funds, the eyepieces were shipped the same day via UPS ground. Usually he uses USPS 2-day priority, but being that I’m only an hour drive from Bath, PA, which is where he’s located, the UPS ground service was essentially next day service due to us being in the same UPS zone. So, I had my eyepieces the next day. Sure enough upon arriving home from work the following day, there was nice sized box sitting on my front porch.
Now for you newbies out there, us seasoned amateurs will tell you that to this day, we STILL get all giddy when new toys arrive. So when family members & friends see you literally panting in anticipation of opening the parcel, don’t think you’re weird or alone in this matter. Personally, I go completely bonkers. My eyes are sore from bugging out of my head and my cheeks hurt from the constant grinning of the “new toy” phenomenon. Anyway, I digress.

I opened the box and found everything packed very snug & securely. The 2” eyepieces were packaged similarly to TV packaging. Black box style & appropriate labeling on each. But also there were 3 empty HUGE bolt style cases for these things. And yes, the 2” eyepieces are BIG! The 1.25” were packaged similarly, but no bolt cases. They did have the top & bottom eyepiece caps that the big 2” do NOT have though. Kind of odd, but ok. All of them have the rubber eyeguards, and all of them have the recessed setscrew ring on the barrel. I like to look through each one next to a bright lamp & see if there are any dust bunnies or blems on the optics, these had none. Upon viewing the lenses in the light, there was a nice green coating, which did turn purple at various angles. Overall I was very impressed with the look & feel of them. The 2” are also very heavy.

First Light:

I had the opportunity to use these on a few occasions, but I made all of the following observations on in one night and will post my impressions by eyepiece. I observed 3 different wide field targets for the 2” & 3 different DSO’s for the 1.25”. No filters or other observing aides were used. Sky conditions were as follows on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being really poor:
Seeing: 5
Transparency: 6.5
VLM: 6 (entire little dipper easily seen as well as other stars)

2” eyepiece objects:
Double Cluster
Scutum Starcloud (M11 region)

1.25” eyepiece objects:

Lets start with the 2”, shall we…

M31 - Using the 42mm, M31 was EASILY located and appeared beautifully elongated. The core was nice & fuzzy but with such a low power, it was easy to see it was sort of “squashed” a bit. The haziness of the spiral arms was evident, not profound, but still evident. M110 was also very easy to spot. The 30mm was similar but with slightly increased magnification (40x). I could easily see a dust lane in one of the arms and contrast was better. The 26mm (45x) actually gave me a perfect view. The sky was even a bit darker in this eyepiece. I believe that has something to do with it being a Kellner & only using 3 elements, but I may be wrong.

The Double Cluster - What can I say but WOW! ALL of the 2” eyepieces performed wonderfully on this target. Each one showed the entire double cluster with pinpoint stars to the edge. On the 26mm, I even thought I detected some variations in star colors, but will have to confirm this later when I have an observing buddy.

Scutum Starcloud (M11 region) - Again, I’m VERY pleased with the views these eyepieces provide. Each eyepiece revealed a MASSIVE amount of stars, which just peppered the FOV with tiny pinpoints of light. Using the 42mm & 30mm, I thought I was seeing some dark streaks of “void” or maybe dark nebulosity through the star field as the star field was almost cloudlike. I’ve never seen this before even in my Meade’s. The 26mm revealed the same thing, but with more contrast on the dark stuff. I’d be interested to know if there are in fact dark areas in this area and if this was in fact what I was seeing.

Now for the 1.25”-

M13 - The 20mm(60x) was extraordinary on this target. Not too much mag, but not too little either. The globular appeared as a very bright fuzz ball, which resolved towards the outer edges, but the core was drowned out to a fuzzy blob. The 15mm (78x) resolved the core much better and due to its wide field, you could still see the other 2 bright stars in the FOV. The 9mm (131x) revealed it fully resolved to the core. Although a bit dimmer than the 15mm, individual stars were easy pickings. The 6mm (197x) did the same, but now there were “star lanes??” visible. I don’t know if that makes any sense to some of you, but I swear it seemed like there were lanes of stars in the core itself.

M57 - Again, the 20mm provided an excellent view of the Ring. It appeared like a slightly out of round smoke ring, but still rather small. Bumping up to the 15mm provided more contrast around the ring itself and it was still nice & bright. The 9mm was the winner on this object. At 131x, the ring took on a more defined look. It was a tad dimmer than the 15mm, but the increase in magnification was worth the view. The 6mm was ok. The ring was a bit too dim to see anything other than a somewhat blurry smoke ring. It was much bigger, but not as bright.

M27 - The Dumbbell was exquisite in the 20mm. The extra FOV in it, provided me with one of the most pleasing views of this object I’ve ever seen. The 15mm was similar, but even though contrast was slightly better in the overall shape, the view in the 20mm was just more pleasing to the eye. Both the 6mm & the 9mm were admirable, but the light loss in the 6mm from increased magnification made it tough to focus and describe any discernable detail in nebulosity.

If you notice, I did NOT include the 4mm in this particular area of my review as I only bought the 4mm for planetary observation. Unfortunately, both Uranus & Neptune were not viewable from my location at the time of this writing. I’ll post a review later on this eyepiece as soon as viewing permits.


Overall, I’d say these eyepieces offer wonderful quality for the money spent. As of this writing, I have since sold my Meade eyepieces and decided to keep these instead. I did perform a side-by-side comparison with the Meade’s, which influenced this decision, but I’m saving that for another review. Let’s just say these eyepieces outperformed the Meade series by a decent margin & more than 1/3 the cost. That for me was the “no brainer”. If money isn’t an object for you, then by all means grab the “Pans” & the Naglers, but if you wallet is tight like mine, grab a set of these eyepieces. They’re worth every penny.

I hope this review was informative for some of you. I’d be happy to answer any questions the best I can.

Clear skies,