What's the deal with the green laser pointers?
March 10, 2008 12:01 PM   Subscribe

Astronomy buffs: Does it matter whether I get the $80 green laser pointer or the $5 one?

I want to get one of the green laser pointers for my main squeeze. Are the cheap ones significantly crappy (i.e., not worth getting)? I see that the skypointer is $80, and that's too much right now, but then there are all these cheapie ones on ebay that have the same specs. Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks all and happy starring!
posted by letahl to Science & Nature (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I read somewhere that the difference between the high-end green lasers and the cheap ones are in the reflectors and the actual power of the diode. Something about the cheap ones might do the rated mW for the first 30 seconds or so, and then always get dimmer pretty fast.
posted by TomMelee at 12:39 PM on March 10, 2008

I have a $60 one that I use for non-astronomy purposes. It's 5mW but is a quality product so it works great. I can't see how you'd need too much more power if you're in an area with not much light pollution--as you'd need to be for astronomy anyway.

Most important part of this though: I have a friend who bought a cheapo $20 one off eBay (that's where mine came from too) and although it was pretty bright, the batteries lasted about 3 days instead of the month or more I get from mine.

Spend the money, you'll get a much better product.
posted by DMan at 12:45 PM on March 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

DMan.. where'd you get yours?
posted by acro at 1:12 PM on March 10, 2008

Best answer: I've been loving my green laser for years now. It's extremely bright, and contrary to the sentiment in one of those earlier comments, green is EASIER to make bright, because it's got a shorter wavelength, and one that the human eye is much more sensitive to.

My blue one is cool, too.

But for an authoritative source on all things laser, you want Sam's Laser FAQ. And if it's not there, you can email Sam. I have, and he was great.
posted by SlyBevel at 1:24 PM on March 10, 2008

Unless something has changed, most green lasers don't use an integrated laser diode, like you find on cheap red lasers. This usually means that the parts are going to need to be hand fitted to make it work properly.

Now, I haven't looked at one of these in years, and it's entirely possible that the technology has moved on from what I remember, but if you are still seeing a lot of them in the $50+ price range, this may be why.

It is also possible that the more expensive is brighter, but green is generally one the colors that the human eye is really good at resolving at low light levels, so for pointing out stars, a super bright one might not be needed.

I guess for me, the $5 one is inexpensive enough that I would probably give it a try with the full knowledge that it might not work for me and I'd have to buy the more expensive one later. But if you don't do the whole impulse buy thing, you may be better off just waiting till you can afford the more expensive one. It will definitely be better, the only question is, 'will it be $75 better?'
posted by quin at 2:32 PM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

I like Quin's suggestion, because it seems to lead naturally to a best-case scenario: TWO GREEN LASERS!

posted by SlyBevel at 2:36 PM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's worth the extra money to get a more powerful one.

The 5mW ones really are very weak. Mine is 35mW and i paid $80 more than a year ago. Once you get into the 45mW+ area you need protective goggles if you're pointing it anywhere that your eyes can focus on the "dot" at the end. Once you get into the 65mW+ area, you can pop balloons and burn things.

Seriously, look at getting one around 35mW. Being able to see the beam in midair is beyond cool.
posted by phritosan at 10:44 AM on March 11, 2008

Response by poster: I went for the 5mW from Wicked Lasers. I snagged it on Ebay for $44 new, including shipping and a hard case.
posted by letahl at 11:44 AM on March 18, 2008

Best answer: Received the 5mW Wicked Laser and it works just great. Very happy with the purchase. Thanks for the feedback, Mefites.
posted by letahl at 8:03 AM on April 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

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