The Best Eyepieces For Your Telescope

Whether this is your first telescope or one of several, eyepieces are an essential part of the optical system of your telescope. The telescope gathers light and the eyepieces, working with the focuser, magnify the image and bring it into focus. A telescope without eyepieces is of little use for a visual observer.

How to Define Best Eyepiece?

In the context of this article, I am going to define best as best within a price category. Otherwise as best eyepieces, we are looking at eyepieces that could sell for $400 or more each, which would be more than what most people would care to pay. But there are very good quality eyepieces in every price category just as there are very good cars in each price category. 

In This Guide

Most telescopes come with one or two eyepieces giving you a magnification option for each one. You will want more eyepieces so you have more options. This will allow you to select the best magnification for each object you view. This is important as some celestial objects look better at low magnification, some medium and some look better at higher magnification. Often you will want to observe any given object at several different magnifications to bring out different details or to observe in a different context.

How To Select Eyepiece Sizes and Brands

Fortunately, modern telescopes take eyepieces that come in standard diameters of 1.25 inches or 2 inches. You have to know what size your focuser will accept, but virtually all telescopes will take 1.25” eyepieces. 

If yours has a 2-inch focuser you have a wider range of choices. However, almost all telescopes with a 2-inch focuser will have an adapter that can accept 1.25-inch eyepieces so you can use either size. In this case, it is common to have one or two low power wide view eyepieces in the 2-inch size with the rest being 1.25 inches. 

You can use any brand of eyepiece in your telescope. For example, if you purchased a Meade telescope you can use Celestron, Meade, GSO, or other brands of eyepieces in that scope. What this also means is that the eyepieces you buy for your current telescope will work in future telescopes, regardless of the brand of the telescope. I have 5 telescopes and use the same eyepieces in them all. 

Understanding The Basics – Focal Length and Apparent Field of View

Eyepieces typically come as a series of single focal lengths, each providing a different magnification. The higher the number, the lower the magnification. For example, an eyepiece series might include focal lengths of 32 mm, 25 mm, 12 mm, 8 mm, 6 mm, and 4 mm within the series. 

The actual magnification each eyepiece provides will depend on the focal length of your scope. This simple formula defines magnification.

Focal length telescope / Focal length eyepiece = magnification

How many eyepieces do you need? That is up to you. I would suggest at least four magnification options to provide a good range. Some people prefer to have more to provide more options. My core set is 7 eyepieces, but during observing sessions, I may not use all of them on any given night. Which I choose will depend on what I am observing, but having this many options allows me to optimize the image. 

Eyepieces come in various options for apparent field of view or AFOV. This will define how wide of a view the eyepiece will provide at that magnification. The AFOV is a specification that is provided by the eyepiece manufacturer. The formula that tells you what actual field of view to expect is:

AFOV eyepiece/magnification provided by the eyepiece = true field of view

There are also zoom eyepieces which cover a range of magnifications. These work like a zoom lens on a camera. Some people prefer single focal length eyepieces and some prefer zoom eyepieces over single focal length eyepieces. It is all a matter of personal preference. I use both. As part of my core eyepiece set, I have a zoom eyepiece that spans 24 mm to 8 mm and all focal lengths in between. 

Best Single Focal Length Eyepieces

Best In

Models

Why?

Price

Under $50

Meade's or Celestron's Plossls series

Ford, Chevy, Toyota class eyepieces

$50 to $100

Celestron X-Cel LX Series

20% wider FOV compared to Plossls and longer eye relief

$100 to $150

Meade Series 5000 Ultra Wide Angle

Wider AFOV and better eye position

$150 to $250

Explore Scientific 82 degree series

More compact while delivering excellent images

Over $250

Tele Vue Nagler series

The Rolls-Royce of eyepieces

Eyepieces – under $50 each

Plossl eyepieces are the workhorse eyepieces of the industry. If we were to compare eyepieces to cars, these would be your Ford, Chevy, Toyota class eyepieces. Good solid optics with a reasonable apparent field of view of about 50 degrees. They are named after the inventor, Georg Simon Plossl. 

Plossl eyepieces

Plossl type eyepieces are available from a variety of brands. My recommendation would include Meade Super Plossl, Celestron Omni Plossl, and GSO Plossl eyepieces. There are other brands that have good offerings, but, in my opinion, these provide the best price-performance.

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Celestron Omni Series 1-1/4 9MM Eyepiece

As you would expect, there are premium brands that sell Plossl eyepieces at twice this price and provide slightly enhanced performance. And there are “off-brand” offerings that fall into the lower range with somewhat inconsistent performance. However, in this price category, I feel the Meade, Celestron, and GSO brands offer the best, most reliable offerings at a very attractive price. 

Where Plossls begin to show limitations is in eye relief. This is how close or far from the top lens you have to place your eye in order to see the entire field of view. 

Most people who do not wear glasses when viewing will find 10 mm or more of eye relief acceptable. Plossls will typically fall below this level of eye relief when the focal length gets below 14 mm. I prefer not to use Plossls that are shorter than 10 mm in focal length. Optically they work well, but you have to set your eye very close to the lens and it can be uncomfortable.

If you wear glasses, look for eye eyepieces that provide eye relief specifications of at least 15 mm and some people prefer 20 mm of eye relief when wearing glasses while observing.

Eyepieces – $50 to $100 

As we move up the price scale, one of the features we are looking for is a wider field of view. My recommendation in this price category goes to the Celestron X-Cel LX series of eyepieces. These come in focal lengths from 2.3 mm to 25 mm.

Celestron X-Cel LX Series

Price – $92.95

If you are looking for an upgrade from Plossl eyepieces at a moderate premium in price, these are an excellent choice. The image quality is very good and the additional field of view and longer eye relief makes them very comfortable to use. 

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Celestron X-Cel LX Series Eyepiece - 1.25-Inch 5mm 93421

These sport a 60-degree apparent field of view, about a 20% wider apparent field of view than Plossl eyepieces. The lenses are fully multi-coated for excellent light transmission and reduced internal reflections. 

They also offer a generous 16 mm of eye relief which is most important in the shorter focal lengths. This may be enough for most eyeglass wearers. They have a pop-up eye guard and they are threaded to accept filters.

Eyepieces – $100 to $150

In this price range, my favorites are the Meade Series 5000 Ultra Wide Angle eyepieces. These provide an 82-degree apparent field of view. They come in 5.5 mm, 8 mm, 14 mm in 1.25” and 20 mm in a 2” eyepiece.

Meade Series 5000 Ultra Wide Angle eyepieces

Price – $207.98

In addition to the wider apparent field of view, the Meade UWA includes an adjustable eyecup. Most eyepieces have a soft rubber eyecup that is fixed in position. But Meade has added one that moves up and down to help you better position your eye to get the best view. 

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Meade Instruments 07740 Series 5000 1.25-Inch Xtreme Wide Angle 5.5-Millimeter Eyepiece (Black)

Note that, as you get to the wider AFOV range, say over 60 degrees, it becomes harder and harder for the eyepiece to provide a uniformly clean image across the field of view. This is likewise impacted by the focal ratio of the telescope. 

Scopes with a focal ratio of lower than F7 place higher demands on the eyepiece in order to provide a good image all the way to the edge. As a result, you might find very low-cost eyepieces with wide AFOV specifications. But when you put them in your telescope, the outer portions of the image may be distorted. 

The Meade UWA does a good job of controlling that outer part of the field of view, even in my F5 scopes. The higher priced eyepieces I will touch on next likewise do a very good job in this respect. 

Eyepieces – $150 to $250

Here I can confidently recommend the Explore Scientific 82 degree series. These are my favorites among all of my single focal length eyepieces. They are more compact than the Meade UWA while delivering excellent images. 

Explore Scientific 82 degree series

Price – $199.99

Many comparisons between the Explore Scientific 82 degree series, ES 82s, show them to be very competitive with eyepieces that cost twice as much. If you can budget for eyepieces in this range, you can’t go wrong with the ES 82s.

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Explore Scientific 82 Degree Series Gas Purged 11mm Waterproof Telescope Eyepiece

Over $ 250

If you want the best of the best, then the Tele Vue brand is where to go. And the Tele Vue Nagler is probably the flagship of the Tele Vue brand. These eyepieces provide an 82-degree AFOV. The polish on the glass, the quality of the coatings, and the attention to detail make Tele Vue the high-performance standard against which all others are judged.

Tele Vue Nagler Series

If you speak to people in the astronomy community and mention the Tele Vue brand, more often than not, these would be what they would own if they could afford them. 

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Tele Vue 13mm Nagler Type 6 1.25' Ultra Wide Field Eyepiece with 82 Degree Field of View.

Best Zoom Eyepieces

Zoom Eyepieces – Under $150

The Celestron 8-24 mm Zoom, in my opinion, is the best value zoom eyepiece. I own a Celestron zoom. Even though I have more expensive options, I frequently use it in my smaller telescopes. It provides good quality images in a compact package. I compare the image quality favorably with Plossl single focal length eyepieces. However, you can explore the Moon, the Planets, and deep-sky objects over a wide range of magnifications without having to change the eyepiece. That is what I love about zoom eyepieces.

I recommend this zoom eyepiece to many people who are new to astronomy and have just purchased their first telescope. If their budget for eyepieces is limited, I suggest the Celestron zoom. It gives them great flexibility for such a small price.

Celestron Zoom Eyepiece 8-24 mm

Price – $142.95

If you are fond of splitting double stars, a zoom eyepiece is the way to go. You can actually watch the double star split and become two stars as you zoom in with the eyepiece. This is something that single focal length eyepieces simply cannot do.

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Celestron - Zoom Eyepiece for Telescope - Versatile 8mm-24mm Zoom for Low Power and High Power Viewing - Works with Any Telescope that Accepts 1.25' Eyepieces

If you have one or two low power wide view eyepieces, a zoom, and a 2X or 3X Barlow lens, you have all you need to explore the capability of most telescopes. 

Zoom Eyepiece – $150 to $300

Without a doubt, my recommendation would go to the Baader Planetarium 8-24mm Hyperion Clickstop Zoom Mark IV Eyepiece. My Baader Hyperion Zoom, BHZ, is my favorite eyepiece among all of my eyepieces.

Baader Planetarium 8-24mm Hyperion

Price – Price not available

Like the Celestron zoom, the Baader Hyperion Zoom can do things that no single focal length eyepiece can do. As compared to the Celestron, this one has a wider field of view, smoother mechanical operation, and better-corrected image. I compare this to my Explore Scientific single focal length eyepieces in terms of image quality.

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Baader Planetarium 8-24mm Hyperion Clickstop Zoom Mark IV Eyepiece, for 1.25' to 2' Mounts

If you have the budget, this eyepiece gets my top recommendation. 

Zoom eyepiece over $300

The Tele Vue 3-6 mm Nagler Zoom eyepiece gets the nod as the top of the hill in terms of quality. However, this zoom is a more specialized tool as compared to the other two. This has a range of only 3 mm to 6 mm which means that it is only intended for high power viewing. It would be well suited for the Moon or planets in most telescopes, but would not likely be well matched to lower to medium power targets in most telescopes. 

TeleVue 3-6mm Nagler Zoom Eyepiece

Price – $410.00

If you are a focused Moon and planet observer, this might be a great option for you. Otherwise, the Baader Hyperion 8-24 mm zoom offers a wider range of focal lengths which might make it be a better choice. 

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TeleVue 3-6mm Nagler Zoom Eyepiece

The Barlow Lens

Regardless of what eyepiece series fits your budget, a Barlow lens can be a valuable addition to your eyepiece set. Named for the person who invented it, Peter Barlow. In simple terms, this makes your telescope look like it has a longer focal length resulting in higher magnification for each eyepiece. 

If you have three eyepieces that are properly space in focal length and you add a Barlow lens, you will have six magnifications to choose from. So consider adding a 2X, 2.5X or 3X Barlow lens to your eyepiece set and plan your eyepiece focal lengths accordingly. 

Summary

If you only want the best of the best, go to the Tele Vue brand. Every eyepiece they offer is among the best in the industry. This is your Ferrari brand of eyepieces. 

However, if your budget is more limited, there are still very good choices at every price point. I have tried to offer you the best eyepiece choices that you can buy, with confidence, and within your budget.