REVIEW OF SUMERIAN OPTICS ALKAID 16” TRAVEL SCOPE
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First, let’s define the TV-60. It is first and foremost a 60mm F6 APO that is capable pristine color-free views from about 9X (with a 40mm plossl) to about 180X. The field of view is huge and maxes out at 4.3°, or approximately 8-9 moon diameters. Televue recommends the 24mm Panoptic as the best way to achieve the widest field. I took them up on their suggestion and bought a 24 Panoptic and all I can say is wow! For high power, I can recommend the Nagler 2-4mm zoom which gives and incredible range of 90X to 180X magnification with this scope. For the ultimate mid-range eyepiece, go with the 9mm Nagler T6. It gives 40X magnification with a field of view of a whopping 2 degrees.
TV-60 on Nexstar 8GPS mounted to the SCT mounting bracket made by Televue
In my opinion, red dot finders are perfect for goto scopes since the main purpose of the finder in these scopes is to find and center guide stars for the initial alignment. Still, I missed my 8X50 finder and wanted a scope that would give wide field context to the relatively narrow field of the SCT. This is especially appreciated at public observing events where you can share a small object, say a planetary nebula or globular cluster, through the SCT, while showing the wider field surrounding the object through the refractor. I recently purchased the Televue Starbeam red dot finder for my Nexstar scope. It’s the new one made specifically for SCTs. The finder includes a quick release style bracket that allows you to store the Starbeam between sessions. The TV-60 also mounts right into this bracket.
TV-60 mounted on a Losmandy piggyback rail and sliding camera adapter
Another mounting option for the TV-60 onto an SCT is to use a piggyback bracket. Mine has the Losmandy piggyback rail with the sliding camera adapter. This allows me to keep the Starbeam finder in place and still mount the TV-60 on top. This is probably the option that will get the most use.
TV-60 ultra-light rig for backpacking or birding. I use a Bogen 3130 fluid head on a Hakuba carbon fiber tripod (total weight of scope, components, tripod and head is 8 lbs)
Backpacking is a big part of my life and I’ve been known to do a lot of solo backpacking in the Ozarks, the Smokies, the Rockies and even took a trip to the Andes a few years ago. The paradox of backpacking is that on the one hand you get to see the best skies on planet but, on the other hand you are limited to the weight you can carry and I generally settle for a monocular or a small pair of binoculars. This scope will change that.
The scope itself weighs about 3 lbs. Add to that a 1.25” Everbright diagonal, 2-4mm Nagler zoom and an 8-24mm click-stop zoom and you are up to 4 lbs. My carbon fiber tripod and Bogen fluid head weigh a total of 4 lbs. For the first time, I have a scope setup that is capable of a magnification range from 15X to 180X that weighs only 8lbs for the scope and mount! I am not “into” birding, but for those who are, this setup should be a dream with one difference. Get the Televue 60-degree Everbright diagonal instead of the 90-degree I got specifically for astronomy. The 60-degree gives you the same view as the 90-degree (correct up and down, but reversed left and right), but at a more comfortable position for terrestrial use..
The one picture I do not have yet, is the TV-60 mounted to my Starmaster, and this is the primary reason I originally bought it. I will think long and hard about mounting options before I take a drill to my baby. It will have to be a mount that is solid and of the same build quality as the other Starmaster components. It can’t affect balance (balance is just perfect as is) and the mount must adjust in the X and Y axes so that the finder can align with the main scope. Still, I will figure it out and I will mount the TV-60 to the dob. It is just too compelling an idea not to have this capability. (IMPORTANT NOTE: Great news! I called Televue about this requirement and was told they would be demoing a prototype (at next month's Winter Star Party) of a "finder mount" similar to the Starbeam mount for SCTs, but with X-Y adjustments. This will allow you to use the Televue-60 as a finder or guide scope, without the need for rings!)
How does the TV-60 perform? Perfectly, of course, but still it is only 60mm. Many of us have been on the same quest in our hobby for years—that is the quest for the perfect scope, the one that does everything. Unfortunately, like the elusive fountain of youth, there is no one scope that will do it all. It seems you can have aperture and give up portability, or you can have portability and give up aperture. This scope is not the one you will use for a detailed visual study of Stephan’s Quintet. On the other hand, I’m not planning on thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail with my Starmaster dob strapped to my back either. If you want wide field, pristine, color free views throughout a wide range of magnification—if you want a scope that is a superfinder, a guidescope, a piggyback refractor, or an ultra-light travel scope—and if you demand the best in fit, finish and build quality—buy this. I’ve not seen anything else in its class that does so much.
For those interested, I’ve observed the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, M42, M31, M44, M45 and a few other bright objects from my light polluted driveway. The views are crisp and color-free at all magnifications from 15X to 180X. With Jupiter you can see the four major satellites, along with the NEB and SEB. Casini is not trivial on Saturn with 60mm, but not too difficult either at 150X. Polaris is and easy split with most scopes and it’s easy with this scope as well using a 9mm Nagler T6. 'm reluctant to say this, but I did see the "E" star in the trapezium the first night out at 144X though I could not seem to split Rigel at the same magnification. Rigel’s companion did pop into view, however at about 160X. I have to keep reminding myself that this scope is only 60mm of aperture. Good grief—I bought it as a finder for gosh sakes!
The scope is outfitted with a marvelous sliding dew shield of the quality of the other TV scopes as well as a two-stage helical focuser that I suppose is the same as the Ranger. I have a two-speed Feathertouch focusers on my dob and SCT. I think the Feathertouch is just the best focuser ever made. Still, I like the helical focuser on the TV-60 and find the quality substantial and equal to the build quality of the rest of the scope. There are no provisions made to mount a finder to this scope. You don’t need a finder; this scope is a finder. Using the Telepod and a 9mm eyepiece, I had not trouble pointing at Saturn and Jupiter.
The scope comes with a nice Gortex carry bag (really a stuff bag, but large enough to hold scope with diagonal and eyepiece affixed), but get the optional shoulder bag. It will hold the scope, diagonal and your three favorite eyepieces in a case as small as many leather notebook holders.
I’ll close with a picture of the open shoulder bag and its contents. Clear Skies!