Orion Shorty Barlow
When I purchased my newest telescope I realized that to get the most out of my limited eyepiece selection I should really purchase a Barlow lens. While the Shorty was not my first choice I was inadvertently sucked into buying one. As a matter of fact it was my third choice. The first Barlow I was looking at was the full sized Orion Ultrascopic 3-element Barlow. Sadly when it arrived I had to return it. It would not work with my scope (Orion Skywatcher 120mm) in the desirable 2x position (after the diagonal). Just recently I have found out that it does however work when placed in front of the diagonal (2x position). My second choice was the Celestron Ultima Barlow (a short model) but Orion had stopped carrying them a few weeks before I had asked for it. So in order to keep everything simple I ordered the Shorty Barlow not knowing what to expect.
It took about two weeks to arrive due to a problem with UPS. It seems that during shipping the box went from California (Orion) to Chicago back to California and then to Chicago again and finally took five more days to arrive in Grand Rapids. When the box arrived I could hardly tell what it was. It was a small shoebox sized box with tons of stickers all over it and looked as if it had fallen out of a plane. The box was hardly in one piece so immediately I was concerned with the condition of the contents. Luckily Orion takes time to package their equipment carefully or else this could have been disastrous. Upon inspection the Barlow looked to be in good shape but I was anxious to give it a try before I came to any premature conclusions.
On the outside this Barlow looks to be an excellent piece of equipment. The coatings also look to be of good quality, as do the lenses. It looks every bit as good as the Ultrascopic did but is nearly half of its size. The size issue is nice because I can now store it easily along side of my eyepieces in my case without trying to fit it into some weird corner of the case. The Ultrascopic was a bit too large for any of the compartments in my case so the reduced size of the Shorty was extremely nice. In general I would say that externally it looks and feels like an excellent piece of equipment. I was getting excited about using it.
Observations with Shorty
In what seemed forever since receiving the Barlow I was finally able to observe with it. It seems that in Michigan the weather is never in a mood to cooperate. The Planets and the moon weren't either. My first night out with the Barlow consisted of me trying to split a couple of the closer doubles. Not my favorite observing activity but I had to test it on something. It performed reasonably well but you really can't tell the quality of a Barlow simply on double stars. But the Double Double in Lyra did look quite exquisite at 200x and at 266x with all four components easily defined.
Just a few days later I was finally given the chance to aim for the moon. After many months of being limited to 133x this Barlow truly opened my eyes to the wonders of the moon. It easily lets me take the power up to 266x and it still maintains a sharp field. At any point beyond that my telescope and mount begin to become serious limiting factors. I also tend to enjoy low to medium power observing anyway as the quality of the image is so much better. But this Barlow did let me find a few of the smaller features on the moon's surface that I had missed at lower powers.
A few months later the real test had begun. Finally the Planets were coming out of their long slumber and rising in the Eastern sky in perfect viewing position from my backyard. Now going from a limit of 133x on Saturn and Jupiter to 266x and above is an extreme eye opener. For the first time I was able to see some of the features that make these Planets the greatest show in the sky (just my opinion).
Jupiter at 133x is a beautiful sight with the four major moons ringing the Planet and detail emerging on the disk but 266x on a night of good seeing is really something else. The disk of the Planet shows tons of new detail. On nights of good seeing five bands are starkly visible with a few more near the poles becoming slightly visible. Above 300x the view starts to waver but with a precise touch on the focuser the image can be amazing. In any event the GRS has become a fairly easy target as well as the shadows of the moons when crossing in front of the Planet.
Saturn is just as amazing if not more so. At 133x Saturn is an excellent sight with the broad rings surrounding the Khaki and Beige disk. With the Barlow I have been able to push the powers above 300x with decent results. The quality tends to peak out at 266x but like with Jupiter a gentle touch on the focuser can make the difference. At higher powers Cassini's division becomes extremely easy to trace around the rings and features on the disk also become plainly evident. It seems that the quality level on Saturn holds up at slightly higher powers than it does on Jupiter. This is probably due to the increased amounts of false color I view around Jupiter.
False color. A 2-element Barlow on an achromatic refractor at f/8.3 is going to throw some false color in your face. Surprisingly it is not that bad and filters (light yellow stacked with a light blue) do an excellent job of correcting this problem. This is also someone who really does not mind false color that much. On the moon at high powers the color begins to invade most parts of the image where as without the Barlow my scope does well except in zones of extreme contrast (the terminator for example). However on Jupiter and Saturn the color really does not get that much worse while using the Barlow. Image quality also seems to suffer just a bit which is what I expected anyway. The moon is just a tough softer and disk detail on the Planets seems ever so slightly smeared. But when you have a serious shortage of good short focal length eyepieces you have to work with what you have.
For $44.50 this is an excellent Barlow. The fit and finish are a class above what I had expected and the optical quality has easily exceeded my expectations. I you are in need of a decent Barlow or require a short Barlow I would find it easy to recommend this one to anyone. On a scale of 10 I would give it an 8.5. It lost points only because it is a 2-element system and not a 3-element Barlow.
Submitted by Curt Irwin - firstname.lastname@example.org - Grand Rapids, Michigan