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S&T Review of the JMI RB-66

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#1 Joad

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 03:13 PM

Interesting, isn't it? I don't know if I'd be happy if I were with JMI, though.

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 04:15 PM

I haven't read it. What do you mean by your statement? Just curious...

#3 Joad

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 04:34 PM

I haven't read it. What do you mean by your statement? Just curious...


Well, the review is quite mixed. MacRobert is enthusiastic about the low-power (38X) views with the RB-66 but makes the bulk and operation of the bino seem quite forbidding. He practically recommends getting an 8 inch SCT instead with a bino-viewer. Looking at the size of this thing, my concern (were I considering it, which I am not) would be with bulk and operability, and the review is quite tough in that regard.

#4 Bob Pasken

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 05:35 PM

THe claim on the part of Alan MacRobert is that it is amateur engineering on the part of JMI. Further MacRobert went on and on about the fact that a 6" binocular was heavy (~72lbs). MacRobert also complained that he was constantly fiddling with the controls. I have seen at AstroFest both the 10" pre-production which was given away as a door prize and the 6" production. I used both extensively that saturday night. The complaint about the weight (~72lbs) IMHO is bogus and is spreading FUD. A regular 6" refractor binocular with a stable tripod will weigh very nearly the same. The weight is in the optics and not so much in the tripod/mount. So I don't see how the weight is a problem. I found that there was some flexure in the pre-production 10" that resulted in the need to refocus IF you moved suddenly from high elevations to low, but I didn't see any need to do any changes to the 6" scope except when changing eypieces. I obviously had to refocus, but nothing else. I found that using the 6" RB was a pleasure because I was sitting down and using it as if I were looking in a microscope. Alan MacRobert when reviewing SkyWindow thought that this was a wonderful feature, but almost dismissed it in the RB-66. MacRobert claim of amateur engineering is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe if you are rich and can afford several Dobs larger than 15" and buy a 12" RCX just to see how it works than it looks amateurish, but it didn't look bad to me. The part that really bugged me was the claim you could get a 8" SCT and binoviewer for less than a RB-66. Let's assume a Meade LX-90 at $1700. A Denkmier binoviewer WITH all the NECESSARY accessories (powerswitch etc) is $1300 (S&T 03/2005) which brings the total to $3000 more than than JMI not less. You can make the argument that you are getting a general purpose telescope with LX-90, but that is not the point you are buying a specialized telscope. MacRObert did not like the idea of the RB-66 to start with and slammed it.

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 06:54 PM

Thanks Joad. JMI's gear has gotten mixed reviews here as well if I recall so I was wondering. I have never used them personally, and would like to sometime just for personal reference, but the thought of having the objectives facing behind me bugs me. I am not sure I would like that. And the ads I have seen don't make JMI hardware look robust at all. BUT, then again I have never used one, so I admit that I could be completely and pleasantly surprised...

#6 V.A.

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 08:16 PM

I agree 100% with you about that review Bob Pasken. He seemed to not care much about the binocular and slammed it.
the review was way to short for such an instrument, and he dwelled too long on what he didn't like.I had the oppurtunity to try the RB66 and it not nearly as bad as the review makes it out to be,infact it was interesting to me fine tuning the algniment with the push of a button.
8" sct with binoviewer intead of rb66 ? more like 10" sct!
10" sct with binoviewer instead of rb66? not as long as i'm still sane! :lol: :lol:

#7 Joad

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 09:00 PM

Well, that's what I found interesting about the review. It's a bit unusual for a reviewer to be so tough. Poor JMI even put in a special color ad for its bino-reflectors to coincide with the review.

I've read a much earlier thread here on CN which includes (if I am remembering correctly) Bob Pasken's description of his experience with the RB-66, as well as other posters's skepticism about the design. It is certainly innovative, and I am intrigued by anything bino-cular. What interests me also about MacRobert's review is that even though he is an experienced binocular astronomer, his very enthusiastic description of the views that he got with the RB 66 leave me with the impression that he has never gazed through a really giant binocular, insofar as I think any good quality 100mm and up bino will deliver breathtaking low-power wide-field views of the sort he liked so much with the RB 66.

#8 Bob Pasken

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 11:47 PM

I can easily understand not liking the RB-66's because they are reflector binoculars as opposed to "normal' refracting binoculars :grin: I have exactly the opposite point of view :lol: The same kind of differences exist with every kind of product. What I found curious was that Skywindow, which forces you to lookdown with a "binocular" received very good reviews by S&T reviewers because you looked down and could put your starcharts where you could easily look at them. The RB-66 got trashed for exactly that reason. It is the inconsistencies in the reviews by the same reviewer that bug me. Five seconds damping time is horrible or good depending on what month it is (Meade LXD vs Vixen Sphinx).

Oh Well I guess that is why starparties were invented. I would have never thought of the RB-66 until I tried it at AstroFest. If I were flush with cash as some CN are then I would buy an RB-66 use it at my observing site and if I didn't like just sell them. :tonofbricks:

#9 Jeff Morgan

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Posted 06 August 2005 - 06:37 PM

THe claim on the part of Alan MacRobert is that it is amateur engineering on the part of JMI. Further MacRobert went on and on about the fact that a 6" binocular was heavy (~72lbs). MacRobert also complained that he was constantly fiddling with the controls. I have seen at AstroFest both the 10" pre-production which was given away as a door prize and the 6" production. I used both extensively that saturday night. The complaint about the weight (~72lbs) IMHO is bogus and is spreading FUD. A regular 6" refractor binocular with a stable tripod will weigh very nearly the same. The weight is in the optics and not so much in the tripod/mount. So I don't see how the weight is a problem. I found that there was some flexure in the pre-production 10" that resulted in the need to refocus IF you moved suddenly from high elevations to low, but I didn't see any need to do any changes to the 6" scope except when changing eypieces. I obviously had to refocus, but nothing else. I found that using the 6" RB was a pleasure because I was sitting down and using it as if I were looking in a microscope. Alan MacRobert when reviewing SkyWindow thought that this was a wonderful feature, but almost dismissed it in the RB-66. MacRobert claim of amateur engineering is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe if you are rich and can afford several Dobs larger than 15" and buy a 12" RCX just to see how it works than it looks amateurish, but it didn't look bad to me. The part that really bugged me was the claim you could get a 8" SCT and binoviewer for less than a RB-66. Let's assume a Meade LX-90 at $1700. A Denkmier binoviewer WITH all the NECESSARY accessories (powerswitch etc) is $1300 (S&T 03/2005) which brings the total to $3000 more than than JMI not less. You can make the argument that you are getting a general purpose telescope with LX-90, but that is not the point you are buying a specialized telscope. MacRObert did not like the idea of the RB-66 to start with and slammed it.


After reading your post I reread the article. The quote was "the downward viewing arrangement is as comfortable as observing can be". Thats downplaying?

The mechanical portion was at best damning with faint praise. But MacRobert did not claim it was "amateur engineering". He said it lacked "elegance" from a more established manufacturer. What speaks worse of JMI is that a loaner unit was apparently difficult to assemble for an experienced reviewer. That, and too many degrees of freedom controlled by motors having delay and backlash.

The weight issue is not relative, someone has to set it up and take it down at the end of the night. And 72# is a lot of equipment. The review did seem to struggle with something nice to say, that being the instrument was very specialized. Given the versatility of a 10" Dob or SCT with a binoviewer, I would have to agree.

#10 Jeff Morgan

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Posted 06 August 2005 - 06:39 PM

What I found curious was that Skywindow, which forces you to lookdown with a "binocular" received very good reviews by S&T reviewers because you looked down and could put your starcharts where you could easily look at them. The RB-66 got trashed for exactly that reason.


How so? Where did you read this?

#11 Bob Pasken

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 12:31 AM

With respect to the engineering aspect, to quote exactly "To sum up. the unit has the design feel of something from a small workshop; don't expect the engineering elegance you're used to from mass market consumer products". I guess I interpreted "a small workshop" to mean an amateur workshop and by extension amateur engineering.

With respect to the weight issue; Indeed 72lbs is a heavy package, but my comments were with respect to other 6" binoculars all of which are heavy. The 10" Meade SCT I owned and had setup less than 10 feet away weighed much more than 72lbs and showed much less than the RB-66. A 10" Dob will weigh close to the same 72lbs. My weight estimate is based on the S&T table giving the weights of common 10" Dobs.

With respect to "That, and too many degrees of freedom controlled by motors having delay and backlash." Alan MacRobert found he had problems as you stated. I said I didn't have those problems. I only had to adjust the focus when changing eyepieces. Why did he have problems and I didn't can only be left to conjecture

With regards to the downward view; It certainly didn't wax poetic like it did for SkyWindow and the rest of the paragraph damms the concept with faint praise.

I guess after being a subscriber to S&T for 40 years I have watched how S&T has changed. In many respects S&T has improved greatly. Although I really enjoyed Walter Scott Houston, I believe that Sue French is his equal if not better. Having talked with Bob Cox personally about telescope making, I think that S&T has a couple of people who are coming close to his ability. The one area S&T has fallen down is in their reviews. In my opinion the RB-66 review is an example. If you have a different opinion GOOD!! :jump:

#12 V.A.

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 08:53 PM

The foucusing and alignment just take a little time to get used to, you are learning something new when you use a rb66 afterall. i had some focusing problems as well the first times i used a bino, but i learned to focus just as quickly and accuratly as a convetional scope. this should'nt be a big issue however, don't both eyepieces on all handheld binoculars have to be individually adgusted with the main focus and then the dioper adgustment?.
the alignment likewise, once learned how the alignment buttons affect alignment work it gets easy.
I'm not trying by any means to convince anybody to buy the rb6 as it might look like. i'm just sharing what i know about it.
so no ,i don't work for JMI :grin:

#13 Bob Pasken

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Posted 09 August 2005 - 02:32 AM

I happened across an artcile by Richard Buchroeder in volume 37 of Telescope Making. The article was about restoring big binoculars. Buchroeder restored a 30x120mm binocular which weighed in at 35lbs. The article goes on to mention that the Fujion 20x150 binoculars weigh 65lbs. What's my point? Any binocular that big will be heavy and hard to move around


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