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Questar vs ETX - Perspective of an ETX owner...

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#1 Jack Tripper

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 08:27 PM

There is a hot discussion in the Questar forum regarding an ETX-90 vs a Questar 3.5". I really didn't want to insult the Questar owners in their own forum by saying what I'm about to say...so I will say it in the more welcome confines of the ETX forum.

Even if the ETX and Questar were the same price, assuming the resale values were equal, I would still take the ETX! (The fact that an ETX costs 90% less, makes it an outrageously better buy than the Questar - but that's besides the point.)

You see, I NEED GoTo. I'm virtually lost without it. I suppose I could learn how to use setting circles, and then manually slew a Questar to the desired coordinates every time. But why bother? I would rather the telescope do the work, and in that regard, the Questar just can't do the job.

I couldn't put a price on the value of GoTo. But Meade has, and it's pretty inexpensive. It allows me to effortlessly view dozens an object an hour if I wish. Objects that I may never find in a Questar. And all at my leisure.

I am also grateful for the computer's instant info on any object that I am looking at. It often helps to put things into perspective and adds to my appreciation for the hobby.

Optically speaking, I've never looked through a Questar, but do the searches. The Questar and the ETX are reported to be very similar, unless using high powers. But I'm a low power kind of guy anyways. And my skies don't always cooperate at higher powers regardless.

It's also said that's its not really the optics that sets a Questar apart from an ETX...it's everything else. But for me, it's everything else that makes the ETX a far better telescope! It can find and point to objects that would otherwise be a chore in a Questar.

I have also read that a Questar is designed to last forever. Well, I don't need my ETX to last forever...just my lifetime. Considering all the ETX's sold over the years, they seem to be reliable enough instruments. And for one tenth the price, even if my ETX lasted "only" half a lifetime, I could run out and buy another ETX and still have enough money left over to feed an entire village of starving children.

Thank-you Meade!

#2 jgraham

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 09:27 PM

I've used both a Questar 3.5 and I own a DSX-90 (same OTA as the ETX-90). Without a doubt the Questar is an amazing piece of kit and I'd love to own one (heck, I'd just like to be able to afford to own one) but a well-built MCT is just a nice scope. Even the Orion 90mm MCT (which I also own) does a really nice job. I think one thing that helps the 90mm MCT's is they generally run out of light before they run out of magnification (which is why I also bought an ETX-125) and that might mask some of the differences between scopes. But what can you say; the Questar is just a thing of beauty. As for the GoTo, I couldn;t agree more. I'm an ol' telescope maker from way back and I've built over two dozen telescopes from 4.25" all the way up to my 16.5" and the closest I ever got to GoTo was a set of homebuilt setting circles on the yellow 10"f/6.7 Newtonian in my avatar (and believe it or not I was once given a hard time for using setting circles during a Messier Marathon, which dates the scope a bit). My first GoTo was a Meade DS-2130 and I absolutely loved it from my very first night out. It's such a joy to spend the evening looking at objects rather than hunting for objects, but I'll be the first to defend to each their own. Still, my ol' star hoping skills come in handy when I'm hunting down comets as they can be pesky litle buggers that aren't always where they're supposed to be. Heh, heh, but spiral search can help there. :)

Have fun!

#3 nytecam

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 04:03 AM

Questars are jewel-like and their owners are in a different universe - they've paid the price and are going to keep it that way :roflmao:

ps:I've now read the Questar forum link and in fairness the comments, regarding the ETX optics, are very favourable but less so about the engineering ;) The Questar is a bit of a dinosaur as it has no goto :o

#4 rmollise

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 06:57 AM

I did the comparo not long after the original ETX 90 came out. Using a buddy's new ETX 90 and another buddy's 80s vintage Q3.5.

Verdict? No difference in optical performance. Both scopes did very nicely within the limits imposed by a slow 3.5-inch optical system. Neither was noticeably better.

What was better in the Q3.5 was everything else. While the Questar's mechanics were NOT perfect (some backlash in the slow motions), they were certainly better than what the ETX offered.

While there is no doubt the Questar is ahead of the ETX mechanically--by lightyears--there's simply not enough difference in the optics to worry about. If the optics of any of the Q3.5s I've used were better than those of the ETX 90s I've tried, it's not been by enough for _me_ to notice.

Certainly some Questar owners want their optics to be better, too. They PAID ALL THAT MONEY. But that is just really not the case in my experience.

The proper way to approach a Questar is to think of it as a Rolex or Omega watch. No, it doesn't keep time better than a lowly Timex, but IT'S A ROLEX! Which is more than enough for some folks. If not enough for cheapskate ol' me. :lol:

#5 Paula E

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 10:50 AM

The most remarkable thing, to me, about Questar is that they've somehow managed to avoid the overall deflation in pricing that's been evident on virtually every other telescope. Deflation (falling prices) has been a great boon for all of us, but the combination of lower volumes coupled with dropping prices has been hard on some of the manufacturers. (This is a nasty combination - because it says if you do nothing different, your company gets smaller over time.)

I think the Rolex analogy is a good one.

It's weird to me that there really isn't anything much between the ETX and the Q in terms of price / build. Nothing against the ETX, I have one and it's a lot of fun and was a great bargain, but something that was better mechanically would have been worth more money.

#6 Joe Lalumia

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 10:55 AM

Unless I just wanted to display the Q in my office or home, it would be just about the last telescope I would ever buy.

Just the rantings of an OLD guy.....and of course, only my opinion.

PS-- I also own a $15 cell phone from Dollar store to make PHONE CALLS! It works just fine by the way-- for guess what-- phone calls. :bigshock:

#7 ColoHank

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 11:08 AM

Just for the heck of it, read down through the titles of threads in the ETX forum. There's lots of stuff like:

Repairing a stiff or binding...
I need to get my ETX125 EC repaired...
Need help repairing...
ETX125 PE -caution...
What do you don't like about your ETX125 5"...
Need help - can't slew...

In short, there's page after page after page of ETX threads relating to user complaints about all manner of mechanical and electronic failures, optical issues, and the manufacturer's reputation for customer-service indifference. Weasner's site offers much more of the same.

Now read through the threads in the Questar forum. Notice a difference? So did I. And so does NASA and our military and numerous other entities doing serious work (for example, a cousin of mine was on a team that used Questars as reference instruments to help identify the optimal location for the siting of the observatories on Mauna Kea).

In spite of the ETX's deficiencies (among other issues, mine had a terrible case of the shakes and took forever to settle down after touching it ever so lightly), many folks seemingly get a great deal of enjoyment out of them, and that suits me just fine. But even a cursory evaluation of the two scopes -- the ETX and the Questar -- should suffice to demonstrate that the former is built down to a very modest price, while the latter is built up to a very high standard of excellence.

#8 Paula E

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 11:16 AM

Unless I just wanted to display the Q in my office or home, it would be just about the last telescope I would ever buy.

Just the rantings of an OLD guy.....and of course, only my opinion.

PS-- I also own a $15 cell phone from Dollar store to make PHONE CALLS! It works just fine by the way-- for guess what-- phone calls. :bigshock:


I'm somehwere in between you and the Rolex guy Uncle Rod mentions, Joe. (I don't own a Rolex!) But I've never been especially tempted by a Q either. They are pretty and are a classic, but for the money one could get a VERY nice refractor, and a more modern mount. (Or lots of other things that for any particular purpose would end up outperforming the Q based on raw optical performance alone...)

Anyway, my little ETX is awesome, and if the mount ever dies (the mount is definitely the weak link, although for what it is it works well), I guess I'll defork it and see about adapting it to another mount.

#9 Jack Tripper

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 12:29 PM

Unless I just wanted to display the Q in my office or home, it would be just about the last telescope I would ever buy.

I also think that a Questar is incredible to look at, but I would hardly spend any time looking through it...it's just not functional for my limited capabilities.

At this point, I would like to pay my respects to those of you who can star-hop. That is one awesome skill that I really wish I could have developed.

But a Questar in my hands would see little use.

#10 Jack Tripper

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 12:36 PM

Now read through the threads in the Questar forum. Notice a difference? So did I. And so does NASA and our military and numerous other entities doing serious work (for example, a cousin of mine was on a team that used Questars as reference instruments to help identify the optimal location for the siting of the observatories on Mauna Kea).

This is my definition of "over built" and as a result, overcostly. I won't be taking my ETX on any military missions, nor do I intend to use it on any scientific missions for NASA. Mine either stays in the backyard or gets driven to a remote observing site. It's cost-effectively designed to operate within those parameters.

#11 Jack Tripper

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 12:39 PM

In spite of the ETX's deficiencies (among other issues, mine had a terrible case of the shakes and took forever to settle down after touching it ever so lightly),

Wow, talk about exaggeration. Mine takes about a second to dampen down. (When it's mounted on the tripod). Not a real issue for me anyways since I'm the type to only use 2 eyepieces a night, so I'm not doing all that much focusing anyways.

#12 Jack Tripper

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 12:50 PM

In short, there's page after page after page of ETX threads relating to user complaints about all manner of mechanical and electronic failures, optical issues, and the manufacturer's reputation for customer-service indifference. Weasner's site offers much more of the same.

Look at the big picture. The ETX is one of the best selling telescopes of all time. With so many of them out there, it is only common sense to expect at least some reports of mechanical failure. And the more ETX's are sold, the more reports of mechanical failure there will be. Even if only 5% of their telecopes experiences problems, that's a lot of telescopes, and a lot of reports of failed telescopes.

But there's the other side of it. Although that 5% translates into a lot of failure reports, it also means that I have a 95% probability of getting a perfectly fine unit. For the price, and for what the ETX is capable of, I will take my chances.

#13 Paula E

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 01:00 PM

Now read through the threads in the Questar forum. Notice a difference? So did I. And so does NASA and our military and numerous other entities doing serious work (for example, a cousin of mine was on a team that used Questars as reference instruments to help identify the optimal location for the siting of the observatories on Mauna Kea).

In spite of the ETX's deficiencies (among other issues, mine had a terrible case of the shakes and took forever to settle down after touching it ever so lightly), many folks seemingly get a great deal of enjoyment out of them, and that suits me just fine. But even a cursory evaluation of the two scopes -- the ETX and the Questar -- should suffice to demonstrate that the former is built down to a very modest price, while the latter is built up to a very high standard of excellence.


They are obviously aimed at totally different markets. I think it's fair to say that for the money, ETX owners are getting a pretty nifty, albeit somewhat tempramental, scope.

There is a certain mystique in owning a professional quality instrument when you aren't a professional. I understand this and actually buy some gear like this. For whatever reason (I think perhaps because the mount has never been really modernized) the Q has never appealed to me in this way. Were I to spend what it costs to acquire a Q, I'd likely buy a small APO instead.

Not trying to badmouth the Q - they are fine telescopes. I really don't understand why I've never been attracted to one of these scopes, as this is the type of thing that typically gets my interest.

#14 Jack Tripper

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 01:12 PM

Without a doubt the Questar is an amazing piece of kit and I'd love to own one (heck, I'd just like to be able to afford to own one)

:funny: Me too!

#15 Joe Lalumia

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 01:12 PM

Hank, for $350 I can have my etx totally repaired and supercharged top to bottom by Dr. Clay about 8 different times with the same money I would spend on ONE Q.

I recently purchased a used ETX125 PE for $350. GOTOs and optics are just fine. Why are we comparing this to a scope that sells for $3000+ and up? I COULD send it to Dr. Clay and have it supercharged for another $350. Total investment $700.

They are two different telescopes. It just so happens visually the optics are pretty much the same. You will not "see" more with a Q than you will with the same aperture ETX, and something like a 6 inch Celestron SCT will have greater light-grasp for 20% of the cost of a Q.

They are works of art and very well made, just very outdated in the current scope market. I give you TAK, TEC, or Astrophysics as examples.

#16 blb

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 01:37 PM

I think it all boils down to how big your ego is. Kind of like comparing a Ford Escort to a Jaguar. It's simply how deep your pockets are and the size of your ego. They both get the job done.

Buddy ;)

#17 rmollise

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 01:54 PM

Just for the heck of it, read down through the titles of threads in the ETX forum. There's lots of stuff like:


Frankly, I don't see anyone here saying the Questar 3.5 is _not_ better mechanically. That's pretty obvious. Optically? Not So Much. Is the Questar worth its much higher price for optics that will perform about the same as the far cheaper Meade? For some it is. It's convenient and works very well within the bounds of its 3.5-inch aperture. On the other hand, most ETXes work well, too, and make their owners very happy.

The attraction of the Questar is at least in part wrapped up in the joy of owning a Fine Thing. There is no doubt that that is enough for some people, but not others. A Rolex is not for everybody. Nor is a Questar. But these Fine Things obviously have enough appeal for enough people that they hang on year after year.

The Questar is not without its faults, of course. The fork/base limit how low you can get to the horizon in the south, at least at my latitude, and I believe it's bonkers that the basic Q3.5 still has an AC drive.

HOWEVER...the Q3.5 is just about as finely made as it is possible to make a telescope. You will probably always be able to get one repaired, and you can be assured you'll be able to pass yours down to your grandchildren. Don't count on that with the ETX. :lol:

I've often thought about owning an Questar, but have reluctantly decided I'm more of an ETX kinda guy. :roflmao:

#18 Paula E

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 02:34 PM

I believe it's bonkers that the basic Q3.5 still has an AC drive.


This is one of the things that has always given me pause. I like technological innovation. I can understand "tried-and-true and bulletproof" vs. "bleeding-edge" and making tradeoffs there. But the entire electronics revolution - and I mean all 60 years of it or so - appears to have bypassed Questar. I just can't make myself buy old tech. I just can't do it. :(

#19 blb

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 03:02 PM

There is something to be said for old tech. I have five mounts that are goto mounts, two of which are ETX's, and if the goto's stop working then you can't use the mount. So I have been thinking about a gem mount that only has a reliable clock drive for tracking only. This doesn't mean that I need the most expensive mount that can be purchased, just a good solid mount for the scopes that I have. Kind of like the differance between an ETX and a Questar.

Buddy ;)

#20 ColoHank

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 03:06 PM

Why are we comparing this to a scope that sells for $3000+ and up?



"We" aren't making the comparison. I believe the original poster opened that can of worms.

As regards other comments, I offer the following:

One needn't "star hop" with a Questar. It's equipped with really superb, finely calibrated setting circles. I simply dial-in the celestial coordinates of any object I might want to observe, and there it is, right in the eyepiece. Of course, I have to look up the coordinates (I use an iPod touch with StarMap Pro), but there's no non-intuitive hand control to contend with, no noisy and time-consuming slewing, no power-hungry go-to circuit board to feed, and little potential for failure. One little 9-volt battery runs the Questar's RA drive for about 50 hours.

With the flip of a lever, and without removing my eye from the eyepiece, I can also scan the heavens and locate objects through the integral viewfinder. Another lever rotates a built-in Barlow lens into the optical train.

The Q is attractive, has an iconic design both internally and externally, and has been copied, at least superficially, by another manufacturer. Even so, I don't consider it as a display item. It resides in its case until I take it out for an observing session.

I've never understood why someone would be content to buy a new scope and then feel compelled to send it off to a third-party aftermarket service for "supercharging." Shouldn't a new scope function properly when received from the manufacturer? And does everyone really believe that their "supercharged" ETX in particular has the best optics that the service-provider has ever seen?

Questars are made in entirely the USA, and the design of the basic 3.5" scope, in spite of continuous improvement, is little changed after more than fifty years of sales. In other words, the company's founder pretty much got it right the first time. What some people find out-dated, plenty of others apparently view as a refreshing and preferable alternative to planned obsolesence.

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#21 Jack Tripper

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 03:14 PM

Why are we comparing this to a scope that sells for $3000+ and up?



"We" aren't making the comparison. I believe the original poster opened that can of worms.

You're not making a comparison? What about your previous post?

This isn't really a can of worms if we can just remain level-headed. All this is, is a friendly, polite, discussion. All telescopes do the same thing for us...they gather light for our enjoyment.

#22 rmollise

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 03:16 PM

There is something to be said for old tech. I have five mounts that are goto mounts, two of which are ETX's, and if the goto's stop working then you can't use the mount. So I have been thinking about a gem mount that only has a reliable clock drive for tracking only. This doesn't mean that I need the most expensive mount that can be purchased, just a good solid mount for the scopes that I have. Kind of like the differance between an ETX and a Questar.

Buddy ;)


I'm not talking about go-to...just a DC powered clock drive, which is pretty old technology, with scope makers producing these drives in quantity since the 1980s. Except for Questar, of course. You can purchase the DC drive option for the Questar, but that is more $$$. On top of lots of $$$. :lol:

#23 dogeddie

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 03:35 PM

I bet it's nice to be able to look down on us common folk with our junky low budget telescopes. Such is life. :p

#24 Paula E

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 03:52 PM

You can purchase the DC drive option for the Questar, but that is more $$$. On top of lots of $$$. :lol:


No kidding! It looks like the DC drive option costs $450. That is almost the price of an entire ETX-90. That seems excessive to me.

One needn't "star hop" with a Questar. It's equipped with really superb, finely calibrated setting circles. I simply dial-in the celestial coordinates of any object I might want to observe, and there it is, right in the eyepiece. Of course, I have to look up the coordinates (I use an iPod touch with StarMap Pro), but there's no non-intuitive hand control to contend with, no noisy and time-consuming slewing, no power-hungry go-to circuit board to feed, and little potential for failure. One little 9-volt battery runs the Questar's RA drive for about 50 hours.


Do they give away an ipod touch with a Q now? Because I'm reasonably sure that the autostar controller is included with an ETX. Looking up the coordinates for an object on a tiny, overly lit screen and then dialing them into setting circles doesn't really sound like the most awesome user interface ever. (Actually setting circles sound like an enormous drag to me too - but then I don't really use a slide rule either. Frankly, I'd rather star-hop.)

However anyone trying to make a "value" argument about Q is going to have a tough sell, so perhaps it doesn't matter!

#25 ColoHank

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 04:20 PM


Quote:
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Quote:
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Why are we comparing this to a scope that sells for $3000+ and up?


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"We" aren't making the comparison. I believe the original poster opened that can of worms.


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You're not making a comparison? What about your previous post?



You're right. My apologies.


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