TeleVue Panoptic Eyepiece Overview!

By Ed Ting 

Updated 10/10/10


(L to R) 19 mm, 22 mm, 27 mm, 35 mm Panoptics

(Missing: 15 mm, 41 mm)

In the 1980's, Al Nagler, in an attempt to expand his already successful line of Nagler eyepieces, turned his attention towards a high-quality, low power eyepiece line. The result was a modified Erfle design called the Wide Field. Available in 15 mm, 19 mm, 24 mm, 32 mm, and 40 mm, the Wide Fields sported an impressive 65 degree FOV. What's more, the Wide Fields exhibited far less off-axis distortions than conventional Erfles. 

Nice as the Wide Fields were (they're still considered modest collector's items even today), their edge-of-field sharpness was still a ways off from the Naglers, which are truly sharp right out to the field stop. 

As a result, the 22 mm and 35 mm Panoptics were introduced in the early 1990's, carrying 68 degree fields of view and Nagler-like price tags. Complaints about edge-of-field sharpness vanished. What's more, both the 22 mm and the 35 mm can seem Nagler-like with their "porthole into space" views. The 2" barlow was also introduced at this time. It became clear early on that the Panoptics were here to stay. The 27 mm and 15 mm models were introduced in the mid 1990's. Finally, the 19 mm (a truly magnificent eyepiece) followed in 1997. 

A Panoptic Barlow Interface lens ($99) is available also, but I haven't tried it. Surprisingly, Nagler wound up creating a second "mini sensation" with the introduction of the Panoptics. Even more surprisingly, very little competition has sprung up through the years (recall that the "Nagler revolution" begat a number of imitators.) Meade's Super Wide series, while offering excellent value, appear to be clones of the older TeleVue Wide Fields, making them a generaton or so behind the Panoptics. 

Drawbacks? Aside from the obvious -- cost and (on the larger models) weight --, there are a few issues you should know about. First, the eye relief seems to be a bit shorter on all these models than the literature suggests. If you wear glasses while observing, try and check this out before buying. Also, there is the "pin-cushion" distortion effect. Place a Panoptic on a piece of lined, ruled paper in daylight and you will notice that the lines are not straight. In fact, the lines will be curved somewhat more than in your other eyepieces. This is an unfortunate by-product of the sharpness of the Panoptic. If you think about it, it is a difficult proposition to take a flat field (i.e., stars in space) and make them appear sharp across a curved surface (i.e., a lens.) Thus, the curvature of field is a part of the reason why the Panoptics are so sharp in the first place. The "pin cushion" effect causes some people to get a little sea sick while panning around. This doesn't bother me, but it might bother you. (On the other hand, I do get sea sick using most 40 mm eyepieces, and you might not.) 

Panoptics have a double green ring on the bottom that's supposed to help you identify them, but I've found this to be of little help in the dark. Also, the Panoptics do not appear to be the victim of "TeleVue-Upgrade-Itis" that plagues the Naglers. The early 1990's Panoptic 35, for example, appears identical to the ones sold today. Reviews appear below. The 15 mm and 19 mm are reviewed elsewhere on this website, but I thought it fit to include them again here. There are no "big" revelations at the end. All of the Panoptics are superb eyepieces; there isn't a dog among them.

1) TeleVue Panoptic 15 mm

2) TeleVue Panoptic 19 mm 

3) TeleVue Panoptic 22 mm 

4) TeleVue Panoptic 27 mm

5) TeleVue Panoptic 35 mm

1) TeleVue Panoptic 15 mm  

(1.25" only, $270 list, $220-$230 street)

 Looking a little bit like a stouter 15 mm Wide Field, this eyepiece is far better than the eyepiece it replaces. There seems to be some reluctance amongst astronomers to shell out $200+ for such a small eyepiece, but once you pick it up, feel the weight, and look through it, it becomes quickly obvious that something special is going on. The 15 mm turns out to be perfect for short focal length scopes, and spotting scopes. It also tends to correct edge of field irregularities in inexpensive telescopes like the Orion Short Tube. In medium focal length scopes (like 6" f/8 Newtonians) it's a perfect eyepiece for looking at globulars. It can also double as a planetary eyepiece (until you can pick up a 7 mm Nagler!) There is one drawback, that of the really short eye relief. It's rated at 10 mm, but subtract a hefty portion of that if you hope to see anything near its full FOV. In short, a most useful eyepiece that deserves more recognition in the Panoptic family.


2) TeleVue Panoptic 19 mm  

(1.25" only, $320 list, $240-$265 street)

 If you have a 19 mm Panoptic in your eyepiece case, it will get used -- a lot. Many of us start our evenings with a 25 mm Kellner in the focuser. If you replace the Kellner with a 19 mm Panoptic, you will actually have a wider true FOV, and benefit from the darkened sky background, increased sharpness, etc. It's still relatively small (about the size of a 32 mm Plossl, only wider) so that "eyepiece aperture fever" will not relegate it to the bottom of your accessory case. Serious competition comes in the form of the Meade 18 mm Super Wide ($150), which is tempting at ~60% of the price. However, side-by-side comparisons do show the TeleVue to be modestly better. In this case, I recommend spending the extra money. Along with the 7 mm Nagler and the 32 mm Plossl, I find the 19 mm Panoptic is one of the true "must haves" in the TeleVue eyepiece line. 


3) TeleVue Panoptic 22 mm  

(1.25"/2", $375 list, $275-$300 street) 

Getting up there in terms of size (it's a little bigger than the 9 mm Nagler), the 22 mm Panoptic is sometimes called to duty as a substitute for the 20 mm Nagler, especially for folks who don't have a 2" visual back on their scopes. There is an "Oh my!" quality to this eyepiece on deep-sky that's hard to describe. It's got that Nagler-like "porthole into space" effect that is quite addicting. Also, the eye relief is long enough that most eyeglass users will be able to use it (this is what people tell me; I wear contacts when I observe.) For some reason, hybrid (1.25"/2") eyepieces get used a lot less than their single- barrel brothers. It would be a shame to have that happen to the 22 mm Panoptic; it is truly a stunning deep sky tool. Highly recommended. A super-sharp premium eyepiece, with a price to match. 


4) TeleVue Panoptic 27 mm  

(2" only, $445 list, $310 street) 

For those who want sharp, low power views, the Panoptic 27 is an incredible eyepiece. The 27 mm and 35 mm are like "brothers" - they're the only Panoptics with the 2"-only barrel, but the 27 mm is as small as the 22 mm. Which one you buy depends on the focal length of your scope(s). Some feel the 35 mm yields too low a power. For those people, I recommend the 27 mm. You won't go wrong with either unit. 


5) TeleVue Panoptic 35 mm  

(2" only, $495 list, $350 street) 

Awesome eyepiece. With the Panoptic 35 in your focuser, you feel as if you can do almost anything. On objects with lots of individual stars, like globulars, it seems as if you can see right into the core. Stars are sharp right out to the field stop. There's a big, bright, picture-window eye lens with just-right eye relief. The 35 mm Panoptic so good that you should consider upgrading your visual back for 2" capability just so you can use this one eyepiece! This is a big, heavy eyepiece (right up there with the 13 mm and 20 mm Naglers), that looks somewhat like one of those giant vitamin bottles at your local health food store. Just be sure you have all your set screws down tight before moving your scope around. TeleVue provides excellent repair service on its eyepieces, but hopefully you'll never have to experience this first hand. 

Competition? None that are really serious. The Meade 32 mm Super Wide ($240) is very good, but the Panoptic is in another class altogether. If you must have even lower power (i.e., for that 14"-16" Schmidt Cassegrain or that 24" Dob) your options get even more limited. The Meade 40 mm Super Wide ($300) has its problems, and the TeleVue 55 mm Plossl and Meade 56 mm Super Plossl have some weird eye relief issues. Again, try before you buy. If you've never looked through a 35 mm Panoptic, you're in for a real treat. One member of our club told me that the best view he'd ever had of the Veil Nebula was through an Alt-Az mounted Pronto with a 35 mm Panoptic and a 2" UHC filter installed. Now, I'm not suggesting that you spend $2000 just to look at the Veil... ...But, then again, I've heard worse ideas... 

End Panoptic Overview

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