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NEAF Travelog: Part 2
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NEAF: 2011 - Part 2
Welcome to Part 2 of the annual NEAF travelog - if you missed part 1, you can find it here.
This year, we took some suggestions from members before the show as to who to talk to. One of the people most requested was Don Yeier.
For those completely unfamiliar with him, his name is synonymous with Brandon and Vernonscope. In my interview with Don - who incidentally seems to be one of the worlds nicest folks (that seems to be the rule, not the exception in astronomy), he's hand assembled most of these eyepieces himself over the years. Assembly time varies for several reasons, but he's estimated he's personally put together somewhere around 500,000 eyepieces for Questar, Amateurs and the US Military. I have to admit I was pretty tempted to put in an order for a set, but my personal fiscal situation is looking fairly insecure for the near future, so that's going to have to wait a bit.
My friend Normand Fullum was unfortunately absent this year due to some unforeseen tragic circumstances, but several of his friends came to run the booth for him. If you've never seen his gear in person, you really owe it to yourself to do so at some point - it's truly art.
SV was there, and according to Vic, had an excellent show. Most of their products were gone by the time we did the walk through at the end of the first day.
Of course the three US print magazines were there - Astronomy, S&T and Astronomy Technology Today. I must admit to having a special place in my heart for both the guys from Astronomy and ATT. I (on occasion) have been known to contribute to Astronomy, and having worked with them, can attest to the fact that they are a great bunch of guys. ATT got it's start largely due to CN, so I have something of a family feel where they are concerned, and it's always great to see them. Aw heck, and for that matter, I've got lots of friends who write for S&T as well. Three fine magazines.
William Yang was there, and we had a chance to do an interview with him. WO has reopened their offices in the US, and William showed me some of his (very beautiful) new products.
This next product I'm told came out of some discussion on our forums. The Skylight line of refractors. It's still amazing to me how our forums and members can continue to shape the marketplace. Many many moons ago, I remember only looking at the forums every week or so - there were so few of us members, that was all you had to do to keep up on things. Now, we're pushing 50k members, and it's nearly impossible to keep up on everything. It's amazing how things grow.
Of course, no NEAF would be complete for me without a stop by Tom Peters Discmounts booth. I've known Tom for several years now, and remain convinced that - with money no object - he makes the best alt-az mount on the market. There were several discmounts floating around the floor, so I suspect other folks there feel the same way.
Explore Scientific was there this year - although sans fish tank for underwater demonstrations. They did have a new prototype mount that looked extremely promising. I've long felt that the EQ mount market was under exploited, and am glad to see some new options coming to light.
And of course Astronomics / TMB were there with a massive multimedia booth. Astronomics has just started importing the russian Mak-Newts, Mak-Cass telescopes. And at amazing prices. They had an Intes Alter 603 and a 615 at the show for a mere $1200. The 503 and various Mak Newts were even better deals.
And then of course, there's that staple of NEAF - Tele Vue.
One thing you can't argue with - Tele Vue consistently produces some of the most desirable gear on the market. Many of us wondered how they could possibly top the Ethos line up tho. I mean, flat field, true color rendition, exceptional contrast and high throughput - how could you top it?
Well, the Ethos is lacking in one area - eye relief. This year (a couple of days before the show actually) Tele Vue announced their latest line of eyepieces - Delos. These are dioptrix compatible, have a 72 apparent field, an extremely flat (and large eye lens) and 20 mm of eye relief.
How are the views? Amazing. See the 5$ bill taped to the focuser? They had another on the wall 20-30 feet away, and you could easily make out more low contrast detail on the distant bill than the one mere inches from your eyes. Additionally, the huge eye lens really lends itself to an immersive viewing experience, and the new adjust system for determining spacing is sure to please everyone - infinite adjustment possibilities, quick positioning, and no grease.
Before you ask, no - they aren't planning on replacing the Radians or the Panoptics with these, at least immediately - Al and David told me they would wait to see what the market wanted. Had a great interview with them on Sunday as well - watch for it to come up in the archives if you didn't get a chance to see it live.
I don't often say this, but IMO two of the most interesting products at the show this year were from Celestron. Both on the low end of the price range. One, their intro level computerized scope incorporates technology that for the first time makes it truly easy for beginner to operate. Their Sky Prodigy line of gear incorporates a camera to assist with alignment, and ensure a good out of the box experience for any beginner - and in a move many of us will like - note that the mounts themselves will take vixen style dovetails.
Below is a shot of the camera used to help align the telescope.
Another product with a lot of potential is their NexGuide autoguider. This inexpensive autoguider eliminates the need for a computer.
It's small and light enough to mount on nearly anything.
Coming soon: Part 3!