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Just to give some background info, I have been a very amateur astronomer for
almost 40 years. My first scope was a 50mm refractor from Sears in the mid
60s and my first real scope was a Criterion RV6 that was suposed to be a Christmas
present in 1969, but even back then you had to wait on
good things to come, I didn’t get the scope until 3 weeks later, still
an excellent Christmas present. Since that golden time in my astronomy hobby,
I have been in and out of it many times due to college, marriage, work, kids,
house buying…you get the idea. It has only been during the last ten years
that I have been a steady astronomer, make that a steady AMATEUR astronomer.
Recently I have been looking for a quickie scope to put on my idle Vixen GP mount, a scope for quick views. My work schedule lately has been terrible and I didn’t need another scope that required an hour to cool down, just one that gave good views, quick to set up and trouble free. Seemed a refractor in the 80mm range would be a good choice and now the only problem was to decide which one. I considered the Orion ED80, certainly a great choice, many good reviews have been written. Then there are the William Optics scopes, also well reviewed with good comments. Other considerations were from Astro Tech and Vixen.
After about a week of agonizing deliberation (yes, I take my scope buying seriously), I saw the Vixen ED80SF on sale for less than $600 and being a sucker to save bucks, I had the answer I had been looking for. And for this price, you get the OTA, a flip mirror diagonal, 9x50 finder, rings and dovetail, and a really cool aluminum case with “Vixen” in big red letters. I was hooked.
In doing my purchase “research” earlier, I knew the Vixen was made in China. This was somewhat disappointing, having owned several “made in Japan” Vixens I was a little hesitant but what the heck, it was less than $600 and it appeared to be the brother to the Orion ED80 with all the good reviews, right? So I whipped out the Master Card, the one with the scope and eyepieces on the front (just kidding, but a good idea, huh?) and couldn’t wait to get online to make the purchase. Thank goodness, it was in stock!
The scope arrived later in the week. I was like Ralphie getting his Red Ryder BB gun. Upon opening the box, all appeared in order. Each item was undamaged and looked great for its long travel from China. The only damage was a ding in one edge of the aluminum case. I made note of this in an email to the vendor, a replacement was sent out the next day, a fine example of excellent customer service.
Two weeks later the weather improved and while checking the Clear Sky Clock data at work, the forecast was excellent, couldn’t wait to leave work and get home. Sure enough, after getting home that evening, the forecast was correct, seeing conditions were almost perfect, just a bit of a light breeze. Having the scope on my Vixen GP means I can carry it out in one piece, so I carried the scope outside, gave in a few minutes to acclimate and right away popped in a 2x Orion Shorty Barlow and an 8mm Televue Plossl giving me 150x, the maximum mag I had available. I aimed at one of my favorite targets, the moon. The color correction was excellent, with just a hint, and I mean a hint of yellow-green on the limb. Craters and details were sharp….if I only had my old TV 3-6 zoom, why did I sell it???!!! Next, I went to the famous “double-double” in Lyra. I always get a kick out of seeing those little diffraction rings around the 4 airy disks in the same field of view. I removed the Barlow and could still see separation between the doubles. Next came Albireo, maybe my favorite double, gotta love the yellow and blue pair. After knowing the scope was acclimated, I picked a mag one star to check the collimation. Some of the reviews of the Orion ED80 mentioned some collimation issues. My scope had perfect collimation and the defocused star image had nice round concentric circles with no pinched optics, whew, another relief. After jumping around to a few more objects that first evening, I went back inside with a sense of relief knowing that I made a good purchase.
Conclusion and closing comments:
-This scope is well made, fit and finish of the ota is certainly as good as my last Vixen, the ED81SWT. The white rings and dovetail are very Chinese, just like those seen on other Synta type scopes. I am curious how the white paint holds up with age. I would prefer the usual Vixen rings and dovetail, but these work just fine.
-I like the 2” crayford type focuser. In fact, it is smoother than my the rack and pinion type found on my last Vixen ED81 and ED103 scopes. There is no play in the focus tube fully extended either, a good sign.
-The optics are great, especially when you consider the price. I have no gripes about the optics what so ever and am very satisfied and am still surprised at how a scope this cheap could have such good optics. Whether you want to call it APO or semi-APO doesn’t matter much to me, the color correction is light years ahead of an achro.
-I am not a fan of the flip mirror diagonal. I sold it on Astromart the first week I had the scope. I suppose if you are into imaging, it would be a good accessory to have. I replaced the flip mirror with an Astro Tech 2” diagonal, also a very good bang for the buck.
-I like the finder, looks impressive sitting on that “big” ota and am glad Vixen decided not to include their Red Dot finder like the one that comes with the ED81SWT, just a personal preference I suppose.
-The front dust cover could be a bit tighter of fit. I could see it falling off during set-up if not careful.
All in all, I think this may be the best money I have spent on a scope, really has been the most enjoyment bang for the buck thus far and I highly recommend this scope. I have never used or seen in person the Orion ED80, but when you factor in the rings, dovetail, finder and case, I felt that the Vixen was the better deal, especially if you like white scopes. I should mention that, unfortunately, I am not associated with Vixen or any other scope manufacturer but am always willing to do a field test!