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Concept: While Barlows are powerful tools, the negative element defining them also limits their ability. The simple negative element Barlow increases eyepiece eye-relief. With short focal length eyepieces the effect is negligible. However, on long focal length eyepieces the exit pupil position moves well beyond the designer's intended position, resulting in vignetting with many eyepieces. This is why "Shorty" Barlows in particular, with their strong negative element often vignette and degrade long focus eyepieces. My 4-element form picks up where the Barlow concept can go no further. Powermate™ is a technically universal solution, using a positive field lens to redirect field rays. The result is an exit pupil that stays where the eyepiece designer intended. With freedom from aberrations, greater magnification potential, and compact size, I hope you'll agree Powermate™ raises the standard for image amplification. — Al Nagler
Al Nagler's 4-element concept, continues the tradition of full-field sharpness with optimum aberration control. Like long eye-relief? Retain the eye-relief of long focal length eyepieces, while at high power. Enjoy, for example, the sharpness and comfort of the 32mm Plössl at up to 5 times the power!
To understand the Powermate™, we must first understand the Barlow lens. Barlows amplify the power of a telescope. They can be considered "focal reducers" for eyepieces, or "focal extenders" for objectives. Terence Dickenson, in his Barlow test report in Sky and Telescope, July 1997, says: "Technology has erased the old objections. A modern Barlow will not degrade your telescope's optics. Anyone telling you otherwise is using outdated information. Moreover, the highly regarded Nagler eyepieces and their clones have built-in Barlows, ample evidence that the lens is not some detrimental intruder." Thanks, Terence, for laying the myth of the degrading Barlow to rest.
A high quality Barlow must be properly designed and manufactured in order to avoid compromising a telescope's color and spherical aberration corrections. The "invisibility" of Tele Vue's 2-element Barlows has been noted in test reports in the astronomy magazines. However, by the nature of its negative power lens, a Barlow will do more than just increase magnification, regardless of the number of elements.
The diverging rays leaving the Barlow result in moving the exit pupil further out, thereby extending the eye relief. In short to medium focal length eyepieces the change is not noticeable. However, in the case of long focal length eyepieces, the increase can be significant and not without performance consequences.
Vignetting can occur due to the altered ray path, when the eyepiece's lenses are not large enough in diameter to allow all the rays to make it through. Shorter Barlows, or ones with too much magnification, only exacerbate the problem because the ray path entering the eyepiece is steeper.
We had to go beyond the Barlow concept to achieve the goal of a compact, high power, fully corrected image amplifier. The Powermate™ consists of a negative doublet plus a positive "pupil-correcting" doublet. This 4-element system provides the magnifying function of a Barlow without its limitations by restoring the field rays back to their original direction, as if the Powermate™ were not there. The result is a pure magnification increase.