Posted 29 September 2013 - 08:42 PM
I purchased a nice 3.5 Standard last December. Going from personal experience the first thing I would advise is to pick an easy daytime object and make sure your finder is seeing the same thing as the main optics. If it is, great. If not you will need to align your finder with the main optcs. I won't go into that since it should be covered in the owners instruction manual.
Speaking to how easy the finder is to use, and what can you see, I would say the other posts about seeing down to around magnitude 8 are about right. At lowest magnification, a constellation like Hercules will fill the field of view or spill out of it. You will appreciate a good star chart, and it really helps to have a good working knowledge of what objects are in each constellation and where. Having said all this ,I found it easy to use the finder, even under my light polluted suburban skies in Beaverton, Oregon. One evening late last Spring, I was able to go out and view 13 Messier objects with the Q sitting on a wine barrel on my deck. It was polar aligned but I only used the finder and my memory of where the objects were. After a little practice it was pretty easy. The best part was using the manual slow motion controls was intuitive enough that it really did feel like I was dialing my way around the sky.
If you are trying to find dimmer objects directly, the finder is not going to work for that. However, once you are polar aligned and find a couple broght stars, you can set the RA setting circle and then locate anything within the scopes capability with relative ease.