Review of Agena Astro Dual ED StarGuider Eyepieces 1.25 inch 12mm and 25mm

Okay, on a whim I was reading over on CloudyNights and found a solid and excellent recommendation for these two eyepieces.  I looked them up, and for $60 I figured, why not? If they are good I need some outreach eyepieces or loaners when I am at a dark site if someone shows up and needs some additional eyepieces.  I used them last night in the backyard with my AR102 and my 14" dob.  Below comes the review after the specs.

25mm StarGuider ED  LINK
1.25 inch
60 degree FOV
20mm Eye Relief
Filter Threads 1.25
Fully Multi-Coated
5 Lens Elements
3 Lens Groups
Blackened Lens Edge: Yes
There is an undercut for safety but no problems with it.
Rubber Eye Guard: Yes/Twist Up
Weight: 5.9oz/167g
Made in China

Below you can see the two eyepieces and they come with the bolt cases below them. The 25mm is on the right, the 12mm is on the left.

In this image below, you can see the 12mm with the eye guard twisted up to wear I need it to observe with my glasses on and to provide the images I want.

The images below show the eyepiece looking right down the barrel on the 25mm. 

I have to admit that I was not just pleasantly surprised, but stunned by how well the 25mm performed in both the AR102 and in the 14" dob.  Images were sharp across the FOV, and I did not need to adjust the eye guard using the twist up.  I wore my glasses and the view was fantastic.  Alberio was sharp, color for both stars was clearly evident as yellow/orange and blue.  The presentation of both the object, Alberio, and the FOV was extremely pleasant.  I was impressed at this point.  I had used my DeLite's early that night and my Pentax XW's, 10mm and 20mm, and though not quite up to that level, this eyepiece by Agena is a keeper. It provided a much better view than the Orion Stratus or Baader Hyperion eyepieces that I had started out with. For the cost, this is a winner.

I went on to view Messier 22 and that provided a small fuzz of light in the AR102, with a nice wide field presentation. The 14" showed more of Messier 22 here, larger, more stars resolved and a very wonderful sight. I liked it! Great as a finder eyepiece!  From Messier 22 I went up to the Lagoon Nebula and here the view was again, sharp and crisp across the FOV, the contrast was very dark behind allowing the stars and objects to pop.  This was true both the AR102 and the 14" In the AR102 some nebulosity was observed, especially by the two bright stars in this OC and Nebula as they lit up the nebulosity.  The 14" showed more contrast thanks to the Zambuto and thus more of the nebula.

I tried at Messier 51 with the AR102 for the challenge, and between the light pollution and moon two days past first quarter, that extra light just about drowned it out. Since I know where this wonderful galaxy lays, I could detect a hint of the main galaxy in the 25mm StarGuider ED.  The 14" showed the galaxies better, hints of bright cores in both,

My last view this night in the test was Luna itself. Here again the 25mm was sharp, details popping, a good contrast between the lunar features and the varying layers of gray around them. The AR102 showed only a small hint of purple around the edge of the moon, but in truth, I didn't notice because I was focused on the view. The 14" loved teasing out detail with its Zambuto mirror on various craters, and the items in them.

My overall impression of this eyepiece is it is an instant winner. There is some slight field curvature to the eyepiece, but not enough to ruin the view. Use it for outreach or as a night loaner at a dark site? Yep, works awesome for that. Use myself, maybe, if I want to stay in the 60 degree range in a 1 1/4 (sorry, it is an wonderful eyepiece but not my 22mmNaglerT4 or my 26mmNagler T5).  If I was new to the hobby and looking to upgrade in a budget from plossls, this is the eyepiece! No problem on my end recommending this eyepiece as the poster on CloudyNights also recommended. It did very, VERY well in the AR102 and the 14" dob. No doubt either on the 20mm of eye relief on this eyepiece. I observed as I said with my glasses on, and with my glasses off with no problem (lazy on my part. I need my glasses to see the sky but not for observing). Finally the weight of these will not unbalance any scope that I own or have ever owned or used.

12mm Agena StarGuider ED LINK
1.25 inch
60 degree FOV
20mm Eye Relief*
Filter Threads 1.25
Fully Multi-Coated
6 Lens Elements
4 Lens Groups
Blackened Lens Edge: Yes
There is an undercut for safety but no problems with it.
Rubber Eye Guard: Yes/Twist Up
Weight: 6.1oz/173g
Made in China

I have to say at first, when I swapped the 25mm out with the 12mm, it was like WHAT! The stars would not come to a complete focus and be pin points of light. My first reaction here is to think and I remembered the eye guard and I hadn't twisted it up. So I adjusted the eye guard and the stars come to their pin points. Alberio was better for me with no glasses using this eyepiece. Closer with the increase magnification, the sky background was slightly lighter but not a lot.  I like this eyepiece. It was pleasing on Alberio in both the AR102 and the 14" dob.  I think I preferred at this point the 25mm more, as my notes record.

From Alberio, I went to Messier 22 and here I saw a major difference. Even in the light pollution and the light of a moon two days past first quarter, the globular popped out. With the AR102  I could discern several, three chain of stars on M22. The core had a slightly brighter appearance then the outer edge, not much but enough that I could pick it up, especially in the 14" but the AR102 did quite well with this. The 14" of course showed far more stars and chains, and it was fun to see M22 in this light through this eyepiece. Sharp and crisp and the 12mm was starting to grow on me.

The Lagoon Nebula in the AR102 with the 12mm was very nice, sharp, the nebula was quite evident with structure also evident in it. The 14" showed the nebula in this eyepiece quite well, and the stars popped. Now I was really liking the 12mm.

On M51 the AR102 showed with the 12mm a little hint of where it is located and in the 14" I could both see the inner core regions and the companion.

On Luna in the AR102 with the 12mm showed crisp and excellent views. There were structures seen in the craters and contrasts of the white and gray's was excellent. In the 14" this eyepiece was extremely pleasing.

Final judgement on the 12mm is I like the 25mm overall a little better, but the 12mm was an extremely solid eyepiece. I actually prefer it also to the 13mm Stratus and Hyperion, though those have a slightly wider FOV by 8 degrees if I remember correctly.

Here is an image of the bolt cases that come free with them.

I am not going to rate this in a quick reference guide as I think there is too much to consider, and each observer varies in what they think and view of an eyepiece.  Having said that, if you are a beginner looking to upgrade from say Plossls and what a solid to very good eyepiece, these are the ones.  Thee come in 3.2mm, 5mm, 8mm, 12mm, 15mm, 18mm and 25mm.  The 25mm is outstanding, and I really liked the 12mm, and will be keeping both. They cost $60.00 each and for that cost, you are getting a bargain and a steal, at least for the 25mm and for the 12mm also. You may find each of them here, at this LINK to Agena Astro.  Again, solid to excellent eyepieces from excellent contrast, very good color, sharp and crisp images and light weight to boot.  Sometimes it is nice to find something of very good quality that doesn't cost over $200.00. For that matter, even if you've been in the hobby for awhile and want to try these out, do, I think you'll like em.

Edit: I forgot to mention. I tried these out with the Orion 2x shorty barlow, worked great. I tried them with the Explore Scientific 2x extender and a TeleVue Powermate 2x, worked great! I cannot reiterate that these would make an excellent set of eyepieces to have if your not ready to invest $300 per eyepiece, or even to spend $99 to $130 on the Explore Scientific line per eyepiece.  So here is how I would rate these.

TeleVue Eyepieces/Pentax XW Eyepieces
Explore Scientific 100, 82 and 68 degree eyepieces
Agena Astro StarGuider 60 degree ED eyepieces
Baader Hyperion's (not a huge fan of these)
Orion Stratus (again not a huge fan).

There are a lot of other eyepieces I could fit in there, but I think this makes the point. The top line is premium, la creme de creme. The Explore Scientific are excellent eyepieces. The Agena StarGuider ED eyepieces are solid, middle of the road eyepieces that could offer someone satisfying viewing at an excellent cost.

Observing July 7th pm; July 8th am 2016 FR006 Juniper Grove

     Well, I opted not to go to Wolf Creek Tonight. My friend Alan was going to FR006 on the Wasatch/Cache National Forest Land south of Vernon, Utah, so I opted to go there. I love observing with my friend Alan. We get along great, we get observing, he on his beloved double stars and me on my deep sky. I enjoy being Alan's goto scope, where I find the objects and he comes an take a good look at the objects.  Alan can confirm that my 17.5 is dialed in, motions are great and easy to use, and the views are wonderful in that scope.

So this night I actually got out before Alan, and set up.  As always here are the pics from that setup. I was interested that the mountains and the site, while turning into the summer brown, still had quite a bit of green to them from our extra wet spring.  Here are the pictures.  First comes the telescope, my 17.5" which has the nickname of Star Catcher, though in the blog I refer to her as my 17.5."  I guess I need to start adding Star Catcher to it as I like that nickname.  I grew up in the era of WWII being something in my comics and the books I read, and my Dad was an avaiation nut, so besides flying, he made sure I knew a lot of the air campaigns of WWII, the planes, their squardrons and their naming of their aircraft. I guess that is where my naming of my scopes comes from. I'll show the Star Catcher 17.5" from a variety of angles.

Looking SE 

Looking SE moved in closer to the Star Catcher 

Closer view of Star Catcher looking  SE - S

Looking West at Star Catcher, the 17.5's" left side. 

Looking N and front on view of Star Catcher; primary cooling, secondary open

Looking E - SE at Star Catcher's upper ring; secondary mirror, Telrad on 4" riser; Green Moonlite Focuser and Stellarvue Finderscope 

Looking S at Star Catcher and the rear view. 

Looking S at my set up. Outback, hauler, camper, table to hold Pelican cases with Eyepieces, battery, CPAP machine, 2 inch memory foam, air mattress underneath; pillow, safety items. Then my portable red table, atlas, sketching material, books in waterproof bag, both next to a rear leg of the table; portable Levono Notepad on table running SkyTools 3 with rubylith and acrylic clear red screen; 15-70 binoculars (review coming) on Tripod; Alan's green chair, my chair is at my table; step ladder 3 steps for Star Catcher, 17.5" f/4.4 dob; homemade astronomy chair made out of Red Oak, and Star Catcher. Hanging on the driver door of the Outback is my duck hunting bibs and coat. I didn't need them on this warm summer night but you never know in the West Desert of Utah. 

Here is my friend's Alan set up for going after doubles. He had pretty good success this night. The dark skies sure help! 

Click on the Pan to view it. Shows from the view east on the far left, to the south view which dominates the how hills just left of center to the western sky over the Sheeprock Mountains and toward the lone Juniper, which heads toward the grove of Juniper's, thus the name for this site. You can see the ground and vegetation moving to a more summer view here. 

Looking N center to NE to the right edge of the photo. 

Looking E from the observing site. 

Looking SE from the observing site 

Looking S from the observing site

Looking S - SE from the observing site. 

Looking W from the observing site. 

Sorry that you have to endure my images of the site. I am actually trying to document it for several reasons.  

So I did observe this night, and I actually sketched every object I observed. So here we go. 

1. Messier 4 Globular Cluster in Scorpius; July 7th, 2016; 11:20pm MDT; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi II, SQM:-L: 21.8; 17.5" Star Catcher Dob; 22mmNaglerT4, Paracorr Type II; 

Rich globular cluster with a bright lane in the center of stars.  The bright lane leans to the right in the sketch.  Many stars in evidence and to be honest, one of the best views I have had of this globular. Raw sketch from the field. 

2. NGC 6818 Little Gem Planetary Nebula in Sagittarius; July 7th, 2016, 11:55pm MDT; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi III, conditions are beginning to degrade with slight wind increasing, mild 70 degrees F;  17.5" Star Catcher Dob with 22mm NaglerT4, 10mm Pentax XW, Paracorr Type II, OIII and NB Thousand Oaks Filters; 

Little Gem has a bluish color to it, round in shape and with magnification more detail is evident. Inner structure with outer halo clearly observed.  Fun object as always. 

3. NGC 6822 Barnard's Galaxy in Sagittarius; July 8th, 2016, 12:15am MDT; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi III, low 70's F for temperature; 17.5" Star Catcher Dob; 22mm Nagler Type4, 20mm Pentax XW, 10mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II; OIII Filter Thousand Oaks; 

Rather faint galaxy and large, spread out, with an uneven surface brightness.  OIII shows HII knots in the galaxy which is cool.  Diffused appearance with some brightening in the core region. Averted vision helps with this. I was in the area so I garnered a look and I think did my best sketch of the night here, I like how this came out. 

4. NGC 5928 Galaxy in Serpens; July 8th, 2016; 12:30am MDT; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi III, low 70's F temperature, wind increasing; 17.5" Star Catcher Dob; 22mm Nagler T4, 10mm Pentax XW, Parcorr Type II; 

Galaxy is faint, oval in shape, elongated slightly E to W.  It has a small bright core region associated with it. 

5. NGC 5996 Spiral Galaxy & NGC 5994 Galaxy in Serpens Caput; Arp 72; July 7th, 2016; 11:10pm; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi II; 17.5" Star Catcher Dob; 22mm Nagler T4, 10mm Pentax XW; 7mm DeLite; Type II Paracorr; 

This galaxy is moderately large in size (NGC 5996), elongated N-S with a bright inner core and a faint stellar nucleus that is evident with direct and averted vision.  I can hold the core with averted vision.  Some structure hinted at here.  NGC 5994 is very faint, small and roundish, a knot next to its interacting companion, no structure is seen in NGC 5994.  Fun! NGC 5996 is the large of the two galaxies in the sketch. NGC 5994 is the small round one. 

6. NGC 5954 a spiral galaxy & NGC 5953 a lenticular galaxy in Serpens Caput. NGC 5954 is the one on top, elongated, NGC 5953 is the round one underneath with the bright core. Arp 92; July 8th, 2016; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi III, wind increasing, warm; 17.5" Star Catcher Dob; 22mm Nagler T4, 10mm Pentax XW, 12mm Delos; Type II Paracorr;

Interacting galaxies. NGC 5953 is oval, elongated slightly E-W, with an even surface brightness and sharp define edge with brightening near the core. 
NGC 5954 is oval in shape and lays N-S, even surface brightness with some brightening on the southern side of the galaxy where it connects to NGC 5953. Small in size for both overall. Interesting pair. 

Due to conditions, the wind began to gust after this to around 20mph, steady wind at 10mph to 15mph so with the scopes shaking we closed up shop around 1:45a.m. MDT that night. Shame, because outside of the wind, it was a wonderfully clear night.  Conditions continued to degrade from there, so it was a good thing. Some observing is better than no observing, and connecting with a friend is always a good thing.