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Equipment Discussions >> Classic Telescopes

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Qwickdraw
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Unitron history
      #6299570 - 01/08/14 09:08 AM

Hi all,

I am just curious if anybody can fill me in or point me to information on the circumstances in which Unitron stopped manufacturing telescopes. I see they are still alive and well making microscopes and some cutsie small brass telescopes but why did they stop manufacturing their useful scopes? Did Meade/Celestron get too much market share for them to be profitable? I was not active in astronomy when they stopped making scopes.


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Qwickdraw
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Re: Unitron history new [Re: Qwickdraw]
      #6299591 - 01/08/14 09:17 AM

Found my own answer here. Sorry, I should have researched it to begin with. It would be nice to see Unitron start making high quality refractors to compete with tak and such.

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starman876
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Re: Unitron history new [Re: Qwickdraw]
      #6299639 - 01/08/14 09:46 AM

I do not think that will ever happen. I have talked to them on that subject many times and they just are not going there. They tried to start when they imported a few scopes from China, but they were not happy with the quality so they just gave up. These days there are plenty of high end scopes on the market and we see more brands pop up all the time. If you search for apo scopes for sale it is amazing how many brands are out there. Meade is now selling a triplet scopes like many others. I have never looked into what the amount of sales in dollars the scope market sells each year.

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akman1955
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Re: Unitron history new [Re: starman876]
      #6301455 - 01/09/14 07:46 AM

You have to also remember that the master craftsman from 30/ 40/50 years ago are all old or dead. so unless they go back to the way they used to make things by hand and with pride I don't think unitron will come back like they where.

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Joe Cepleur
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Re: Unitron history new [Re: akman1955]
      #6301539 - 01/09/14 08:51 AM

Those who may know better, correct me if I'm wrong.

As I understand it, Unitron never manufactured. They were an importer with high standards. A Questar always was, and still is, built by Questar in its own factories, with glass manufactured in the factories of Cumberland Optics. Unitron was never like that. They imported scopes built by sub-contractors to demanding specifications. If Unitron decided to make a comeback, they would have two options: Build their own factories for the first time --a new venture for them; hardly a return to past greatness-- or import sub-contracted scopes again built to high standards, from where -- Synta? Some other Chinese firm? Those scopes are already available under other brands. We'd see the Unitron nameplate, but be no further ahead in the availability of fine scopes.


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Roel
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Re: Unitron history new [Re: Joe Cepleur]
      #6301758 - 01/09/14 10:51 AM

Quote:

or import sub-contracted scopes again built to high standards, from where -- Synta? Some other Chinese firm?



Why Chinese? Why cheap? Which such a reputation you don't have to be. Questar isn't, neither is Takahashi.


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Chuck HardsModerator
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Re: Unitron history new [Re: Roel]
      #6301800 - 01/09/14 11:12 AM

The doublet is effectively dead as a high-end objective in the smaller apertures. D&G is making a go of it in the 5"+ range.

I doubt the effort would prove profitable in smaller apertures. A connoisseur market for expensive, though well-built, doublet refractors almost assuredly isn't going to be sufficiently large enough to be worthwhile. It would have to be a labor of love for someone with money to lose.


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terraclarke
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Re: Unitron history new [Re: Joe Cepleur]
      #6301860 - 01/09/14 11:40 AM

You will never again see new Unitrons that are identical or anywhere near identical to real, original Unitrons of the glory days.

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Qwickdraw
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Re: Unitron history new [Re: terraclarke]
      #6301876 - 01/09/14 11:46 AM

Well no, the long F ratios are probably a thing of the past. New materials and processes have allowed for compact scopes without sacrificing optical quality.

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terraclarke
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Re: Unitron history new [Re: Qwickdraw]
      #6301897 - 01/09/14 11:54 AM

Let's not forget the new and beautiful 4 inch F15 Skylight Telescopes. Totally classic in design. But then finding the perfect, classical mount to put it on is another story. I would go with a Losmandy on a custom made oak tripod. But then you are talking 4000 for the scope and mount, minimum!

Terra


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Geo31
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Re: Unitron history new [Re: akman1955]
      #6301899 - 01/09/14 11:56 AM

Quote:

You have to also remember that the master craftsman from 30/ 40/50 years ago are all old or dead. so unless they go back to the way they used to make things by hand and with pride I don't think unitron will come back like they where.




Oh phooey.

First of all, even Unitrons were not hand made. They were production instruments. As such, there is nothing that was done to make a Unitron that couldn't be done consistently as well or better by modern CNC equipment (for mounts) or modern grinding and finishing equipment (for optics).

What perhaps has changed is quality accepted by the consumer. Yes, the consumer. Because in a production environment, quality is a management decision.

Now, what does surprise me is that there is nobody making reproduction Unitron parts. Should be easy enough. The real question is whether or not people are willing to pay the price for reproduction parts of the same quality as the originals.


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akman1955
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Re: Unitron history new [Re: Geo31]
      #6301923 - 01/09/14 12:05 PM

Times were different then and things /production much much cheaper as all things were back in the 40's-60's.. the lense made then were done with skill. the reason unitron will never come back or reproduction parts made on a commercial level is clear...NO market big enough to support it. and yes technology has changed for the good but very expensive in telescope small niche market. I wish I could still buy cars with chrome and emblem's instead of the plastic *BLEEP* they make today.. my 71 chevelle still lives but with a modern engine/tranny in it. try to say that about any car made today in 45 years.

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terraclarke
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Re: Unitron history new [Re: akman1955]
      #6301950 - 01/09/14 12:19 PM

John says it like it is. Sometimes we need to get out of our bubble and see what the vast majority of those who share our hobby are using. If someone like Danny Crawford couldn't make it manufacturing his well made, but still more generic focusers, rings, etc. do you really think that there is a market for newly manufactured Unitron copied parts? Focusers for example- how many do you realistically think you would sell in a year? I think a hundred would greatly be stretching it. I think there are a lot fewer folks out there that are rebuilding Unitrons than those rebuilding 32 Fords. Planet Unitron is a tiny orb lying far, far away in a great big Astronomy universe.

And what I wouldn't give to have my yellow 1964 Chevelle Malibu SS back again.

Terra


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Joe Cepleur
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Re: Unitron history new [Re: Roel]
      #6302038 - 01/09/14 01:00 PM

Quote:

Quote:

or import sub-contracted scopes again built to high standards, from where -- Synta? Some other Chinese firm?



Why Chinese? Why cheap? Which such a reputation you don't have to be. Questar isn't, neither is Takahashi.




Best examined bit by bit:

Quote:

Why Chinese?




It's unlikely that Baader-Hyperion or Questar would have any interest sub-contracting their wares to Unitron. This leaves the folks who are in that business already. The big players there are now all Chinese. (More power to them. I admire their business acumen, their technical ability, and even their insight (is this well known fact disallowed under the "no politics" rule?) that upon the errors of American policy makers, these wonderful companies could be theirs.) The name "Synta' famously comes to mind; there is another large, Chinese firm. I did not mean to be complete. One might find a manufacturer in Taiwan, too, which some would call "Chinese."

Quote:

Why cheap?




Nothing I wrote suggested "cheap." It may hurt our American egos, but Synta is doing a fine job making great scopes, and aspires to be both high-volume and technically perfect. I believe Celestron's best are still made in the USA, but even that may change, with the optics remaining just as good. If Synta can't change that, no problem; Synta owns Celestron, and so would assure there would continue to be American made Celestrons.

Quote:

Which such a reputation you don't have to be.




Sorry; I don't follow. "What" reputation, and "you don't have to be what?" cheap?

Questar and Takahashi follow a different economic rule, that there is (almost!) always room at the top of the market. The connoisseurs who can afford them are happy to pay the price. If one enjoys quality, there is none finer. The buyer is happy to honor the maker with a purchase. Whether the expense is worth the difference in feel or view over a Synta is a decision for each buyer who can afford a Questar or Takahashi.

Terra, the 4" f/15 Skylight only illustrates the shift. Such classics are dead to new manufacturing. The world's supply of them has been made, there will be no more, many of the folks who want them are on this forum, except that there is always room at the top of the market. Anyone who could afford a new Questar or Takahashi can purchase a new, old-school Skylight instead. The rest of us will buy used scopes or new, mass-market scopes. This is far from all bad. We classicists pine away over the loss of our beloved antiques, and thrill to finding them after a long hunt, and everyone who knows better laments the mass market junk, but there is also a lot of good stuff out there at lower prices than ever before.

An, no; I'm not a traitor. I love my small-aperture classics as well as anyone else, and especially value their low price, grab-and-go sensibility, fine views, nostalgic aires, and their fabulous ability to cut through the typically lousy seeing of my dark skies.


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Geo31
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Re: Unitron history new [Re: terraclarke]
      #6302039 - 01/09/14 01:00 PM

Ah, the market is small, but the passion is great. What's the price of unobtainium?

But, for the more common Unicorns, er, Unitrons, people are making more parting them out and as long as that keeps happening, there won't be a market for repro. On the bigger, more rare scopes, I would think there would be a market, but perhaps most of the bigger scopes are more complete?


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Geo31
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Re: Unitron history [Re: Joe Cepleur]
      #6302072 - 01/09/14 01:13 PM

Quote:

Nothing I wrote suggested "cheap." It may hurt our American egos, but Synta is doing a fine job making great scopes, and aspires to be both high-volume and technically perfect. I believe Celestron's best are still made in the USA, but even that may change, with the optics remaining just as good.




Indeed. There is nothing magical about how to produce quality anything, including optics. The only thing that dffers is the standard set by management. It's not like there are small guilds that closely protect their secrets today. Product methods become common knowledge almost immediately (with some rare exceptions). If something can be produced to high quality standards in the US, it can be produced elsewhere to the same standards.

The only thing that changes is economics and accounting. Different locations (whether different cities, states, or countries) have different costs of not only labor, but infrastructure. The accounting differences are more driven by national standards, but also somewhat on culture. It's simply a fact (not trying to get into politics) that the Chinese and other eastern countries tend to think longer term that the US and other western countries. Here we tend to think only so far as the next quarterly statement or annual report at best.

Quote:

Terra, the 4" f/15 Skylight only illustrates the shift. Such classics are dead to new manufacturing. The world's supply of them has been made, there will be no more, many of the folks who want them are on this forum, except that there is always room at the top of the market. Anyone who could afford a new Questar or Takahashi can purchase a new, old-school Skylight instead. The rest of us will buy used scopes or new, mass-market scopes. This is far from all bad. We classicists pine away over the loss of our beloved antiques, and thrill to finding them after a long hunt, and everyone who knows better laments the mass market junk, but there is also a lot of good stuff out there at lower prices than ever before.

An, no; I'm not a traitor. I love my small-aperture classics as well as anyone else, and especially value their low price, grab-and-go sensibility, fine views, nostalgic aires, and their fabulous ability to cut through the typically lousy seeing of my dark skies.




Truth be told, many of us who appreciate these classics either could not have afforded them new, or would not have bought them new due to the cost/value relationship that existed when they were new. Unitrons were the Takahashis of the 50s, 60s, and early 70s. Now, they are bargains relatively speaking.


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Geo31
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Re: Unitron history [Re: akman1955]
      #6302091 - 01/09/14 01:20 PM

Quote:

I wish I could still buy cars with chrome and emblem's instead of the plastic *BLEEP* they make today.. my 71 chevelle still lives but with a modern engine/tranny in it. try to say that about any car made today in 45 years.




OK, not trying to get too much into the cars debate, but they do make a good comparison when it comes to classics.

Cars are my other passion, in fact my first and strongest passion. I'll stop with this...

There are classics still being made today. Yes, there have been periods when there were hardly any cars being made that people would want in the future. However, since the mid to late 80s, there have been cars regularly turned out that are or will become collectable classics.

As strong as the passion is for various classic cars, the passion is as strong for Unitrons.


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dawziecat
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Re: Unitron history [Re: Geo31]
      #6302111 - 01/09/14 01:29 PM

Unitrons will always be close to my heart. It was a long path of continually rising aspirations that saw me with a 4" Model 152 as my first telescope in 1960.

I loved it!

But, as the years slipped, I came to admit to myself an unseemly truth. The "big" Unitron was more satisfying to look AT than to look though! They were beautiful!

I "moved on." I have no interest in a 4" f/15 achromat.

Still get a pang every time I see a pic of the 152 though.

Unitron could indeed get some points in using the old name to introduce a new line of high-quality refractors. Expectations would be high! Prices would have to be high too. Of course they always were. But if they just "re-created" the old line, I think their offerings would be soundly rejected by the modern market!

Unitron is nostalgia . . . pure and simple. And the people who loved them are a dying breed.

They're still gorgeous! They're what telescopes are "supposed" to look like!

I also think the Saturn V was the most impressive machine that ever lifted off the ground! I don't expect the world will ever see a like vehicle. Same difference!

Edited by dawziecat (01/09/14 01:35 PM)


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Joe Cepleur
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Re: Unitron history [Re: dawziecat]
      #6302152 - 01/09/14 01:50 PM

Quote:

Unitron could indeed get some points in using the old name to introduce a new line of high-quality refractors. Expectations would be high! Prices would have to be high too. Of course they always were. But if they just "re-created" the old line, I think their offerings would be soundly rejected by the modern market!




+1. They would need to recreate not the exact scopes (except that a limited edition uber-classic would sell), but the "Unitron-ness," that blend of perfect craftsmanship and cutting edge technology that made them great. The craftsmanship may be the same, but the technology would be utterly different. Surely, management knows this. They just don't care to compete in that market, likely because of how hard it would be to sell the mystique to the larger market that never knew it. Pretty hard to say, "50 years ago, we were the best, and now we are again; buy us!" They are making plenty of money in microscopes.

Quote:

I also think the Saturn V was the most impressive machine that ever lifted off the ground! I don't expect the world will ever see a like vehicle. Same difference!




One might think there is an instruction book somewhere, or records, on how to build a Saturn V, but none exists. (Although there is a foundation trying to recreate at least the engines.) NASA would have to start from scratch, and would surely prefer to build something newer and better.


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xavier
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Re: Unitron history [Re: Geo31]
      #6302234 - 01/09/14 02:41 PM

Quote:

First of all, even Unitrons were not hand made. They were production instruments. As such, there is nothing that was done to make a Unitron that couldn't be done consistently as well or better by modern CNC equipment (for mounts) or modern grinding and finishing equipment (for optics).




Fully agree that if you take a Unitron apart all pieces can be (better) made with modern CNC.

According to me the strength of Unitron was the concept of the complete scope and mount. The system did it. And still does it.

Other Japanese brands as Vixen, GOTO and Takahashi also have a system.
But the Unitron system was (is) more user friendly in all aspects.

Unitron is a marketing story. If you analyze their communication you will see that it's very well done. It makes people dream. Also the high frequency of the ads helped making the brand.

You need marketing but if your product isn't any good it want last long time.

It's the combination of a good and user friendly product and a smart marketing that made Unitron.

It can be done again today. But it will cost a lot of money to get the same brand awareness as Unitron got in the 1960's and 70's.
So if someone would love to launch again the long achromats. It's possible but you will need a good product and an even better marketeer...


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