Well it's here. I've been on a catadioptric binge lately. Within the last 6 months I've picked up a C6, C5, MN68 and most recently (opened it this morning here in the office) C90. This is odd behavior for a guy whose least favorite telescope designs are catadioptrics.
My recent C6 and C5 purchases didn't prepare me for what to expect with the little C90 spotter. I'll explain. One of the factors underlying my recent catadioptric buying spree is the fact that each and every one of them has been deeply discounted, well below the price range where I could pick up a comparable aperture EQ mountable scope of *any* other design. I paid $390 for the C6, $380 for the C5 bundle which includes a nice padded case, $1000 for the MN68 which is approximately half of the MSRP and for the C90 I paid a shockingly low $160 for the scope, padded backpack, two eyepieces, 8x21 finder, 45-degree diagonal...and a small Celestron photo tripod.
Separately the C90 backpack bundle without the tripod retails for $209. The included tripod, Celestron's model 93606, typically goes for $40. On paper, the bundle looked to be a great offer. In reality?
The C90 is solid! It's a tough little all-metal (save for the finder bracket arm) scope that is remarkably well-made. The paint quality, for example, is higher than that used on my CPC-1100 or C6. It uses the sparkle, metal-flake black used on the C5 (also pitched as a spotter) rather than the gloss black of the larger SCTs. I think the sparkle black is a much nicer looking paint than the gloss.
The optics are clean and sleek-free (unlike my CPC-1100 which arrived with a coating flaw on the corrector). Unlike the C5, this scope does not use Starbright XLT coatings. Instead it uses multi-coatings on all surfaces. This leads me to suspect that the optics and coatings are the same as those used in Synta MCTs made for Orion.
The proof is in the pudding, of course, and I won't really know how good of a deal I got until I get the little OTA out under the stars, but at this point my perception is that I received much more than I ought for a modest $160 investment. The only "negative" comment I have right now is that the focuser is on the stiff side, but as I do this morning's conference calls, I'll run the mirror back and forth along the baffle a few times to see if redistribution of lubrication smooths it out any.
If the optics turn out to be decent, I may elect to use this scope (together with the C6) for an article I'm writing on the "trickle down" of decent astronomy gear to us masses at shockingly good (from a historical perspective) prices.
I'm going to use the OTA tonight for a brief first light on my Lapides Teegul and may also get a chance to snap a few pictures. I'll update this thread once I have some user impressions from the field.
Interesting little scope and seems well made. Not much for the tripod, but it is in a backpack form. Just picked one up for a friend to give to his kids to check out the planets that are up now. It will be interesting to hear your report. I'm going yo compare my 10 year old ETX-90 with his.