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by Tom Trusock 01/20/09 | Email Author
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Choice - Gear of the Year 2008
Tom Trusock 1/09
Another year older and deeper in debt - that's how the saying
goes. And after last year, it's true. If nothing else, 2008
was a very interesting life experience for many. But some things
don't change and as sure as clouds follow a new astro-purchase,
manufacturers still come out with new gear. Back in the waning
months of 2008 we asked you - our forum members - to nominate and then
vote to choose the best and most interesting gear of the year.
Tele Vue 8mm Ethos
Well, you've got to hand it to Tele Vue. And apparently, you
did. They were your landslide pick in 2007 with the 13 Ethos, and
they've repeated the performance in 2008 with their introduction of the
8mm Ethos. For those who have been living under a rock, or
on a deserted island in the south pacific (or both), the Ethos line of
eyepieces is the first commercial widefield to break the three
digit AFOV barrier. The performance of the 13mm was nothing short
of amazing, and the 8mm follows in it's bigger brothers
footsteps. Who would have thought that the 82 degree field
of yesterdays uberwides would ever feel restrictive? The
price is $585 and they are available through your favorite Tele Vue
Lunt Solar Scopes
Our runner up this year is a newcomer to the field - literally, and
it's more of a company than a product! Lunt solar has shaken the
community with the introduction of several new products for the solar
observer that set both new price and performance standards.
Pricing is $800 and up. (Exact pricing depends on product.)
Spike-a Bahtinov and PHD
We have met the imagers, and they are us... With ever increasing
amounts of light pollution in the local area more and more
amateurs are turning to imaging. And that means more and more are
needing focusing and guiding solutions. Enter two diverse
products to help the astrophotographer get the most of their limited
time: the Spike-a Bahtinov focusing mask, and Stark Labs' freeware
autoguider PHD v1.8. For those not familiar with the Spike-a
Bahtinov mask, it's an innovative focus aid that quickly and easily
allows you to achieve exact focus. It's available in various
sizes from 4" to 14", and costs from $69.95 to $99.95. And
PHD? While Stark Labs accepts donations, they are actually giving
their product away. Come on, what's better than free? I
don't know about you, but it makes me want to give them money just on
general principles. And I'm not even an imager. PHD is
available for both Windows and Macintosh platforms.
Obsession 15" UC
An increasing number of amateurs are driving to dark sites for visual
sessions, and as always, space is at a premium. For many, that
means the new Obsession UC line is just the ticket. following on
the heals of the 18" UC, Kriege and company introduced the 15" Ultra
Compact in 2008. These scopes are designed to pack the most
aperture into the smallest package possible, and the 15" makes it even
smaller yet. Available from Obsession Telescopes at a cost of
$4995 for the basic package.
StarShoot Pro Deep Space
Color CCD Camera
Orion broke some technology and price barriers with it's Starshoot pro
series of cameras. With 6.1 megapixels, and a price point
of around $1300 imagers are finally brought - somewhat inexpensively -
into the range where consumer digital cameras have been for
years. What's not to love?
You say you need a telescope for that new camera? Well, both AT
and Deepsky introduced a line up of new, inexpensive
Ritchie-Chretien telescopes. Optimized for imaging, you can get
the AT 6" version for as little as $800. Further, AT also
an 8" with plans for larger sizes (10, 12 and 16) in the future.
DeepSky currently offers a 10" (in two versions) with a 14" promised
for sometime in 2009. Other sizes are available at increased
price, but all are far lower than what we've seen in the past.
Reports are starting to trickle in on some of these, and they certainly
look promising. You, the reader, must think so too - as they made
it into the top ten pieces of Gear of the Year for 2008.
Zeiss Abbe Orthoscopic II
But as some of our other products have shown, don't count the visual
observer out just yet. The next product chosen by our readers is
a new version of a classic: the re-issue of the Zeiss Abbe Ortho.
The original version of this eyepiece commands a stellar price on the
new market - it's only fitting that the latest incarnation
commands a similarly stellar price on the new market. Dollar for
dollar tho, forum members swear that it provides them with some of the
best lunar and planetary views they've ever had. It sure looks
like the ZAO II's are destined to be a classic.
EON 120 Apochromatic
Orion had another big hit with our forum members this year -
their EON 120 refractor. This fpl-53 based f7.5 120mm doublet
retails for around $2000 and offers some very nice performance both
optically and mechanically - especially for the
TMB 92SS Apochromatic
For portable setups, TMB released a scope that some call - "Son of
Stowaway". This 92mm f5.5 telescope weighs 8.5 lbs, and is a mere
13.25 inches long with the focuser racked in, and the dew shield
collapsed. It sports an fpl-53 based triplet on one end and a
custom Feathertouch focuser on the other. It'll set you back 2k,
but if you're into small - this is one seriously cool new telescope.
And the final product in our top 10 this year is a new mount to put all
these toys on. Celestron has introduced it's CGEM middle weight
german equatorial. Designed for a a maximum load of 40lbs, this
is a new ride for their 11 inch SCT (and other optics as
well). This computerized mount is supplied with a 17lb
counterweight when sold alone. It'll set you back around $1400.
There you have it - your top choices for 2008. It's always good
to see innovation in the astro-industry, and especially good to see it
in years like last year. There were a number of other stellar
products that didn't quite make the cut - here's hoping they'll make it
in 2009 - but that will be up to you. NEAF 2009 is
right around the corner, and we'll be bringing you the latest live from
Finally, it's been tough times for the guys and gals who make (and
sell) our favorite toys, and I'd like to take a minute to thank them
for sticking with it throughout 2008. I'd also like to thank our
readers - nearly 30k strong - that make the CN forums the most active
and friendly astronomy forum on the internet.
Congratulations to all the 2008 winners, and here's wishing everyone
the best in 2009.