Jim's Corner Blog

Who made your eyepiece?

Many years ago, I attended a star party in Pennsylvania and overheard a heated discussion between to amateur astronomers over the merits of different ultra wide-angle eyepieces and Plossl eyepieces marketed by different manufacturers. Claims of superior or inferior glasses and different levels of quality control were bandied about as the discussion became more heated and started drawing a crowd.

I smiled as I was amused that these two guys really did not understand that both brands of telescope eyepieces actually came out of the factory in mainland China!

I interjected that fact into the discussion, and was told (in no uncertain terms) that I didn’t know what I was talking about! Just then, one of the vendors who was displaying and selling their products at the morning vendor show and swap meet happened by, defended my statement and left the verbal combatants in utter silence.

I tell this story to highlight the misconception held by many in the amateur astronomy world that every brand of eyepiece is uniquely designed and manufactured.

In reality, there are only a handful of optics manufacturers and many familiar brand names are just re-branded designs of these few optical houses.

Let us start with “Made in the USA” eyepieces. There are only two, Vernonscope Brandon eyepieces and Edmund Scientific RKE eyepieces. And the actual lenses for the Brandons aren’t even manufactured by Vernonscope, but by an optics house located in a southern state. I’ve been sworn to secrecy on the name of the optical company, but its a similar arrangement to Questar’s optics being made by Cumberland Optics in Maryland (oh, you didn’t know that? A subject for a future Jim’s Corner!).

All of the rest of the eyepieces that populate the advertisements in Sky and Telescope and Astronomy magazines are made in Japan, Taiwan, or mainland China. Yes, that includes most of the favorite brands around.

There are five Japanese companies manufacturing telescope optics including eyepieces. They are :

Canon Global

Carton Optical Industries

Hioptic Optics

Nikon Corporation

Vixen Optics

Mainland China is represented by:

Jinghua Optical Electronics Company

Kson Optics- Electronics Company

Kunming United-Optics

Suzhou Synta Optical Technology Company

The two Taiwan optical firms are Long-Perng Company and Guan Shang Optical..

Please note that Suzhou Synta Optical Technology Company are the current owners of Celestron and one of their subsidiaries operates Meade Corporation.

Occasionally, a handful of eastern European eyepieces are available in this country made by the Russian firms such as Lomo and Intes. And various versions of Zeiss othroscopics can be found on eBay or Astro-Mart.

By the way, the argument at the star party was over the merits of the Celestron Luminos eyepieces and the Meade Series 5000 UWA eyepieces. Both brands are made by Suzhou Synta Optical Technology Company, and are basically the same eyepieces except for the different housings and branding. Surprise!!!


The Vixen Star Book User Guide: How to Use the Star Book TEN and the Original Star Book

The Vixen Star Book User Guide - By James Lee Chen
The Vixen Star Book User Guide – By James Lee Chen

This book is for anyone who owns, or is thinking of owning, a Vixen Star Book Ten telescope mount or its predecessor. A revolution in amateur astronomy has occurred in the past decade with the wide availability of high tech, computer-driven, Go-To telescopes.  Vixen Optics is leading the way by offering the Star Book Ten system, with its unique star map graphics software.  The Star Book Ten is the latest version of computer telescope control using star map graphics as a user interface, first introduced in the original Star Book first offered in 2003.

The increasingly complicated nature of this software means that learning to optimize this program is not straightforward, and yet the resulting views when all features are correctly deployed can be phenomenal. After a short history of computerized Go-To telescopes for the consumer amateur astronomer market, Chen offers a treasury of technical information. His advice, tips, and solutions aid the user in getting the most out of the Star Book Ten system in observing sessions.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of this book, please consider buying through the links below. For each copy purchased, I will earn a small commission and will use the proceeds to give back to my local astronomy community and fund the production of my next book.

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