Whether you are upgrading from the eyepieces that came with your new scope or you are an experienced telescope owner looking for a better experience, the Meade Series 5000 Ultra Wide family of eyepieces is worth a look. Some people also refer to these as Meade 82s which comes from their 82-degree apparent field of view specification.
I have been using mine for over a year and enjoy them very much. I recommend them often and the following review will tell you why.
The photo shows the 2” Meade UWA 20 mm in the focuser of my 8” Dobsonian telescope. I use it extensively as a low power, wide-angle eyepiece.
Overview of the family
The Meade UWA series consists of four eyepieces.
- 2” 20 mm
- 1.25” 14 mm, 8.8 mm and 5.5 mm
There also used to be 30mm, 24mm, 18mm, and 6.7mm models available but these have sadly been discontinued and are rather hard to find.
The UWAs are all are built around a 7 lens element design, similar to the Tele-Vue Nagler design they attempt to emulate. While there is nothing magic around 7 lens elements, it is indicative of a design that attempts to better handle the light, especially from lower focal ratio telescopes. When the telescope’s focal ratio gets below about f/7, it becomes more and more difficult for the eyepiece to present a uniformly even image. Below f/5 and this becomes very challenging.
The Meade UWA design seeks to correct or avoid edge distortion that can come from the steep angle of light entering the eyepiece. They perform well at F5 and above. The goal is to present a uniformly in focus image across the entire field of view that is free of aberrations that are generally most evident around the edges of the field of view.
The Meade UWA lens elements are fully multicoated. These coatings provide improved light transmission and help reduce internal reflections. Lesser designs may only be multicoated, coated or even not coated at all! Meade is providing the best level of coating in this eyepiece series.
All lens edges are blackened. This again can help control stray light inside the eyepiece. It can also help enhance contrast. Cheap eyepieces often leave this step.
Most eyepieces include an eye guard or cup that is simply a vinyl or rubber cup that helps you position your eye and reduce some side stray light. The Meade UWA eyepieces incorporate an adjustable eye guard that can be moved up and down to help you better position your eye. This is a very distinctive characteristic of the series.
The series is parfocal which means that as you change from one eyepiece to the next you should not have to refocus. This is a tremendous convenience and can be especially valuable in telescopes that do not track. In a manually tracked scope, in the time it takes to change an eyepiece, the target can drift out of view. If you then need to reacquire the target it can be more challenging if you also have to refocus. Having a parfocal eyepiece set minimizes or eliminates this refocusing. A big plus!
Meade states that the eyepieces include “exotic” optical glasses though they don’t provide specifics. We often see the inclusion of special glass types in higher end eyepieces to enhance the view.
The UWAs are also waterproof and purged with an unknown gas, which minimizes issues of dirt or dew accumulating between the lenses and simplifies cleaning.
The eyepieces are covered by a one year warranty.
Understanding the Specifications
Eyepieces are rated by focal length and apparent field of view, AFOV. These are the key specifications you need to know in order to predict how an eyepiece will behave in your telescope. These are the key formula you will want to know.
- Focal length telescope / Focal length eyepiece = magnification
- Apparent field of view / Magnification = approximate true field of view
In the case of the Meade Ultra Wide Angle eyepieces the apparent field of view, AFOV, is 82 degrees. Eyepiece AFOV typically ranges from about 40 degrees to 100 degrees or more. So 82 degrees would be considered very wide.
As the AFOV goes up the challenge of controlling that edge distortion goes up. Inexpensive eyepieces that claim AFOV of over 50 degrees often do so while delivering a considerable amount of edge distortion. The image in the center may be fine but as you move out it may be out of focus or distorted in other ways. The Meade UWA eyepieces do an excellent job of controlling the edge and delivering a quality image.
Let’s look at an example of how AFOV affects your viewing experience. Say your telescope has a 1200 mm focal length. The Meade UWA 20 mm eyepiece will deliver 60X and approximately a 1.3-degree true field of view. Likewise, the 8.8 mm in the same scope would deliver 136X and a .6 degree FOV. Note that it is normal for FOV to decrease as magnification increases.
By comparison, a 20 mm eyepiece with a 50 degree AFOV, such as a typical Plossl eyepiece, will deliver the same magnification but only a .8 degree field of view. This reduced field of view will provide more of the sensation of looking through a tube where the Meade UWA will provide a more immersive experience, more like looking through a window.
The greater field of view will also mean more drift time when using a manual telescope. This means you won’t have to nudge the scope as much to keep the target in view. And it will allow you to apply more magnification while still framing the target nicely in the eyepiece. These are all desirable traits.
Where the Meade UWA really shine is value. If we look at them in the context of cost and performance they really deliver excellent value. Eyepieces that deliver a similar level of optical performance often cost 40% to 100% more.
For example, I also have Explore Scientific 82 degree eyepieces. These are well respected in the market but typically cost a lot more than the Meade UWA. Yet I consider the optical performance of the two to be very similar.
While the Meade UWA deliver outstanding value, the series is limited to only 4 eyepieces. It would be nice to see a 2” in the 35 mm to 40 mm range. And the series would benefit from a 1.25” somewhere around 11 mm. But this does not take away from the value and performance of the eyepieces. It just means you may wish to fill in with other eyepieces that may not be parfocal with the Meade UWA.
The series is also considered fairly large and heavy. This comes primarily from the adjustable eyecup. This adds considerably to the weight and to the space needed in your eyepiece case. Take these into account when you are planning your purchase. If you have a fairly small scope the weight of these eyepieces may be a concern. I find them quite workable in my 8” and 12” Dobsonian telescopes but they are a bit heavy for my 100 mm desktop Newtonian.
The picture shows the Meade UWA 5.5 mm eyepiece in one of my 80 mm refractor telescopes. Though it is significantly larger than a similar focal length Plossl, this scope and focuser handle it just fine.
Planning Your Eyepiece Set
Many people find 3-4 eyepieces to be optimal. The focal lengths in the Meade UWA are nicely spaced to meet that goal.
If you have a 2” focuser in your scope, the 2” 20 mm is a very good low power wide view eyepiece. That is how I use it.
The 14 mm, 8.8 mm and 5.5 mm make a nice 1.25” eyepiece set. However, the spacing of the 1.25” eyepieces lend themselves very nicely to their use with a 2X Barlow lens. Add a 2X Barlow and you add the equivalent of 7 mm, 4.4 mm and 2.75 mm. Now you have a broad range of wide field of view eyepieces that will deliver a great view.
My experience with the Made UWA series has been excellent. I own the 20 mm and the 5.5 mm, and I have used the 14 and the 8.8 that belong to friends. I use them in scopes of focal ratio from f/5 to f/15 and have been very happy with their performance in all of my scopes. I find them to be optically equivalent to my Explore Scientific 82 eyepieces which cost significantly more.
If you are looking to expand your eyepiece set, I would highly recommend you consider the Meade Ultra Wide Angle series. The image will be great and the price/performance is outstanding. I give them 5 stars!