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Refractors: Vintage vs. Modern

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#26 Chuck Hards

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 07:54 PM

Bill, I very much respect you and you opinion. 

 

But I really want to know what the conditions were that let you see the Horsehead with only 90mm of aperture.

 

I've never been able to see even a hint of it with less than 6" and dark- DARK- skies.


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#27 Bomber Bob

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 08:03 PM

I haven't tried for the Horsehead Nebula with my 4" JaegerMeister yet, but I did view it with my D&G 5" f/10, and saw it regularly with my 8" fast Newtonian.  Any other reports with refractors under 4" aperture?


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#28 rolo

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 08:22 PM

As much as I love my Unitron 152 and Pentax 100 f/12 the views through the FS102, FC100 and Vixen 102F are noticeably better. No color and smoother figure make for less light scatter with superior contrast. Easier to see the GRS and delicate color variances on Jupiter specially at higher powers. Also the low contrast polar regions are also easier to see. But, the feeling I get when viewing with one of the classics is unique and memorable.

 

I would however prefer a long Classic achromat over a short ED,for planetary. Side by side with a Mayflower 76mm f/15.8 vs an Orion ED80 and Pentax 75mmSDHF, the Mayflower was obviously sharper when cranking up the power. The sharpness of the Cassinis was easily noticed.


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#29 terraclarke

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 08:53 AM

i thought we had talked about this a while ago.  Forgot the post, but we had many replies.

Precisely why I've been sitting this one out. Like the title of a Tolkien parody I once read which says it all-

Bored With The Rings!


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#30 ftwskies

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 09:27 AM

Sorry if I rehashed an old topic, folks.  :crazy:  I've been following this forum pretty steady for a while now and didn't recall a similar thread; of course, I don't read every single thread that comes up, and sometimes thread titles aren't much of a clue to what's inside anyway, since conversations tend to "change lanes" frequently around here (without signalling)...  :lol:

 

Also, to be clear I'm not trying to foment a heated debate  :slapping: about modern vs classic performance.  I have no dog in the fight since I don't even own a refractor of any kind.  I have thought about adding one, though, and thus this thread to help me decide whether to seek out a vinty or go modern when I do.  I'm already leaning vinty just because (a) I love fixing up old things and making/keeping them new and useful and (b) the construction of the classics (all-metal, etc.) appear to make them better candidates to be passed down to kids and grandkids than modern plastic scopes.  What I wasn't sure about, though, since I have extremely limited experience looking through any scopes but my own, was how well these vintage scopes really perform compared to modern ones.  In the end, I don't just want to own scopes, I want to use them, and if the views are inferior -- and I'm not suggesting they are, just wondering due to advances in coatings, etc. -- then I might not be happy with an "old" scope.

 

One thing I really wonder about, too, with a classic scope is the stability of those spindly, stilty-looking wooden tripods they all seem to come with.  Do those really work well?  I realize I could refurb an OTA and put it on a more modern mount, but that kinda kills the nostalgia for me a litt.e  Of course, if the mount is horrible, then I'll never use the scope much at all, which would really put a damper on ownership as well.  :shrug:


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#31 Joe Cepleur

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 11:27 AM

I never have trouble with the "spindly" legs on my classics. I just jamb 'em into the ground, and they are steady enough. I have considered adding much stronger accessory trays, to stiffen them further. 

 

Speaking of not wanting to start dog fights, the f/15 (or other long focal ratio scope) of yore has another advantage that no modern scope can match. I can not exaggerate how often my simple 60mm f/15 refractor has elicited the response, "That's the best view I've had all night," at public star parties with as many as 65 other telescopes present. Obviously, one must choose one's target carefully. I often point it at Alcor and Mizar, and explain how all of those five stars present (three of which are visible) are orbiting each other. The stars are pinpoints, the background sky is inky black, and the focus holds steady, no matter what the seeing. There are other good targets. If the 60mm were to compete with larger scopes showing, for example, the diamond-like stars in a globular cluster, or the swirling clouds of Jupiter, it would be easily trounced. Small telescopes do not offer the resolution or the light gathering to compete in that arena, yet the aesthetic beauty of the f/15 is valuable in itself, and, as a practical matter, is only available in smaller telescopes. 

 

You can easily see what the view would be like. Mask a reflector or Cassegrain to a smaller aperture, to create an off-axis f/15, or f/20, or whatever you like. See for yourself, and you'll likely want to add a classic, long-focus scope. 


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#32 john.saeger

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 11:50 AM

Well so far I've bought 3 vintage 60mm scopes and one modern 60mm scope. I have the Celestron Powerseeker 60 OTA that I run in a Jason mount. Probably not too different from the modern EQ mount but I don't know for sure. In any case, it's not terrible, a little too much plastic but once you get used to plastic you find it's not terrible either. Not nearly as nice as vintage but definitely usable. This is the genius of the Chinese designers, at least for the 60mm long tube achromats. They are great at making things just barely good enough. If it was the only thing I had, I wouldn't mind looking through it.

 

I have a Tasco Terra which is terrable. Not much point in looking through it at night anyway. Under no circumstances is the complete field of view in focus. Must be that zoom lens or something. I have a Jason 313 which took some serious work to get it going. Not easy for a beginner, but once you get it where you want it, it's great. I also have an Abercrombie and Fitch 313 which is just like a Jason 313 except it's black. It's superb. Eventually I'll clean the objective, but it was seriously great "out of the box." So my attitude is that modern 60mm probably isn't as bad as most folks make them out to be. Vintage can be amazing but it might take more work than you want to do to get them going.

 

If you ask me, it's hit and miss. Just because it's old doesn't make it great - although it can be better than anything you're likely to find new. Just because it's new doesn't mean it's trash. My Tasco is trash, but I'll keep it and fiddle with it anyway. The Celestron long tube 60mm is reasonably OK - if you ask me. It's a classic design and you get a taste of the classic experience. Star hopping with a narrow field of view. And like just about any other scope, maybe some are better than others.


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#33 starman876

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 11:52 AM

vintage long focus scopes perform well.  However, they are no contest for some of the high end APO's that are available.  If you do not have a lot of cash then the vintage scopes are a great value.  However,  a high end APO has no equal when compared to the vintage achromats.  


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#34 Scott99

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 12:12 PM

My 3 1/4" f/15 Jaegers had a slight haze, like scatter, around bright objects.  I always thought it was the simple MgFl coatings compared to modern coatings, but it was probably lens quality.  I think some of it was a blue haze from chromatic aberration.  It resolved nice detail on Jupiter and Mars though.

 

I'm sure many of us remember reading Walter Scott Houston's columns, most of his observations were made with his "retirement" scope, an uncoated 4" f/15 Clark.  He was pushing the limits of what can be seen, regularly viewing and describing 12th magnitude galaxies, so it must have been doing OK without the coatings.


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#35 Tenacious

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 12:47 PM

One thing I really wonder about, too, with a classic scope is the stability of those spindly, stilty-looking wooden tripods they all seem to come with.  Do those really work well?  I realize I could refurb an OTA and put it on a more modern mount, but that kinda kills the nostalgia for me a litt.e  Of course, if the mount is horrible, then I'll never use the scope much at all, which would really put a damper on ownership as well.  :shrug:

Many of the mounts don't compare stability-wise, especially if the scope is a cost reduced version from later years.  OTOH, many techniques have been outlined on this forum to firm up the wooden tripods and transform a shaky platform into an acceptable or even good performer.  It depends what it is and what you are willing to do to make it work.  My Frankenscope (modern 60mm f/15) has been a great project and is a valued but humble member of my arsenal.


Edited by Tenacious, 03 October 2016 - 12:55 PM.

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#36 MrG

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 04:26 PM

I've mentioned it a few times here in the past, but I bought an early to mid-2000's Chinese made 102mm f10 Celestron achromatic refractor OTA from an ebay seller a few years ago. It was one of the worst scopes I ever owned. It exhibited excessive CA, which I tried to correct with a minus violet filter, but I never could get used to the butterscotch cast that the filter imparted to everything. In addition to the CA, the image appeared unpleasantly soft. All-in-all, it wasn't much of a scope. Since I wasn't willing to pass it on to another unsuspecting soul, I thought about just trash-canning the whole mess. Before going to that extreme, I took it apart to see if I could do something to make it better. What I found was terrible machine work on the objective lens cell and sub-standard materials. I ended up realigning the focuser, shimming the objective, and stopping down the objective to 90mm (due to the crooked tube - not due to problems with the objective). After this was accomplished, I was able to properly collimate it the scope. It then performed beautifully and the CA became almost unnoticeable. Many times since working over the scope, I've used it to see the E and F components of the Trapezium, as well as on one occasion under a very dark and transparent sky I was just able to glimpse the Horsehead Nebula. I still own the scope, but no longer have the mount. I do have the ability to mount it on the Vixen Saturn's new dovetail mount, and have set it up a couple of times just for fun. One day, I'll find a nice mount for it, then pass it on to some deserving up and coming amateur astronomer.

 

As for how it compared to older scopes, I currently own a Celestron Premium 80 that was made in the nineties by Vixen in Japan, and back in the eighties owned a Celestron Firstscope 80, which was basically the same OTA as my current Premium 80. Both of these scopes were very nicely constructed and exhibited excellent performance as purchased.

 

Bill

I bought one of these 4-inch Chinese achromats almost twenty years ago, when they first came out.  The lens in mine is fantastic.  It's very sharp and contrasty.  There is some CA around the moon, for sure.  And Jupiter is not my favorite in it.  But I have always enjoyed it, and it is not as cheap/plasticky looking as the newer models.

 

The Chinese scopes were a real gamble for a while.  While the 102s seemed to be pretty good overall, there was a lot of variation.  I have no idea if they are doing better today.

 

Many low-end 60mm from before 1985 or so had excellent lenses.  I had a Bushnell which was a clunker but the lens was amazing, just the same.  But the mechanics had been going downhill for years and I think that has continued as plastic has become the norm.

 

G


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#37 MartinPond

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 04:41 PM

"

bought an early to mid-2000's Chinese made 102mm f10 Celestron achromatic refractor OTA from an ebay seller a few years ago.

"

I had an OTA like that recently...I could never get it to play right.  The contrast couldn't be cleaned up either.

Donated it to a thrift shop with a hefty tripod and a 30mm EP.   Fun like that, but not for any more than that.

 

 

Recent 60 mms come in good and bad.   70mms seem to be more reliably good, though.

The thick focusers can be shimmed and lubed into something like good operations,

but it's a far cry from the tight precise metal focusers of the 60s. 

The oldies usually had miserable diagonals and EPs, but those are easy to replace.

 

Some of the modern tripods actually don't have the rickets....the wide-legged cast-aluminum-topped

gotos, for example.   The drive often gets bashed, but you can tighten just a little and get nice manual

alt.az action from those 'side-arms'.  They have greased nylon / aluminum surface disks...a semi-fluid-head.


Edited by MartinPond, 03 October 2016 - 04:44 PM.

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#38 kansas skies

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 04:53 PM

Bill, I very much respect you and you opinion. 

 

But I really want to know what the conditions were that let you see the Horsehead with only 90mm of aperture.

 

I've never been able to see even a hint of it with less than 6" and dark- DARK- skies.

Chuck, Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner, but work has a bad habit of getting in the way of all this fun stuff. As one who spends much of my time unsuccessfully looking for the impossible, I fully understand your skepticism. Still, I have no doubt that I was able to glimpse the dark nebula that is the Horsehead with a 90mm refractor.

 

It took a little time, but I found the short thread I started on this a few years ago.

 

Link to thread

 

I just read back through this thread, and it outlines my observing conditions pretty well. Also, as I mentioned in the thread, I only saw the dark nebula, but was not able to see anything that even remotely resembled a Horsehead.

 

Bill


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#39 kansas skies

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 06:27 PM

 

i thought we had talked about this a while ago.  Forgot the post, but we had many replies.

Precisely why I've been sitting this one out. Like the title of a Tolkien parody I once read which says it all-

Bored With The Rings!

 

As one who has been married for close to thirty years, I'd have to say that the wife and I pretty much ran out of anything new to say within the first year or so. Still, we keep talking, since repetition is infinitely less boring than silence.

 

Bill


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#40 starman876

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 07:29 PM

Really,  I do not have that problem with my wife.   Plenty of things in the news each day and the kids always keep us entertained and then there are friends who always gives us new things to talk about.  


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#41 AstroPhys

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 01:15 AM

Really,  I do not have that problem with my wife.   Plenty of things in the news each day and the kids always keep us entertained and then there are friends who always gives us new things to talk about.  

 

Yeah, 35 years and today we were talking about the study of element spectrums in various ages of stars. Who'd a' thunk!!?  


Edited by AstroPhys, 04 October 2016 - 01:15 AM.

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#42 Astrojensen

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 10:05 AM

When comparing old scopes to modern ones, one must be very careful not to compare old budget-class scopes with modern middle-class or high-end scopes, as this will be quite unfair. It will make much more sense to compare an old high-end scope to a modern high-end one and here you'll often find them running neck and neck with each other in terms of resolution and planetary contrast, as well as mechanical stability, fit and finish.

 

Also, study the best old double star and lunar/planetary observing reports and you'll often find it difficult to improve on them with even the very latest in modern scopes, from which we can indirectly conclude that the old observers were very skilled and had great telescopes.

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark


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#43 ftwskies

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 11:02 AM

Good points, Thomas.

 

I guess I'm trying to compare the circle-T's, circle-K's, etc. that I see here against today's modern equivalents.  But first I need to understand whether (for example) yesteryear's Towa equates to today's Synta or to today's Takahashi.  I wasn't around when the classic refractors some of you grew up with were on the market, but from what I've seen they seemed to be "consumer-class" scopes within the reach of typical amateurs, so I'd speculate that the fairest comparison should be against today's Orions, Zhumells, Celestrons and Meades, and not the APs and Taks.  Or am I off base?  I'm here to learn...


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#44 AstroPhys

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 02:31 PM

As with any interest or "hobby" the best way to learn is hands on. Get your self a classic and a new telescope and explore the skies. Then, tell us what you learned.



#45 ftwskies

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 05:15 PM

Actually, Dan, it's funny you should mention that...   ;)


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#46 Astrojensen

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 05:30 PM

Good points, Thomas.

 

I guess I'm trying to compare the circle-T's, circle-K's, etc. that I see here against today's modern equivalents.  But first I need to understand whether (for example) yesteryear's Towa equates to today's Synta or to today's Takahashi.  I wasn't around when the classic refractors some of you grew up with were on the market, but from what I've seen they seemed to be "consumer-class" scopes within the reach of typical amateurs, so I'd speculate that the fairest comparison should be against today's Orions, Zhumells, Celestrons and Meades, and not the APs and Taks.  Or am I off base?  I'm here to learn...

It's a bit difficult. The Towas and others were usually low to medium end, rarely high end, depending on the specific model in question. They roughly compare with the Syntas and GSOs, but much has changed in the manufacture of metals in the intervening years, so the modern medium-budget scopes (and some of the cheap ones) have surprisingly good quality mechanics that are well above what was found on similar budget class scopes (I'm talking relative budgets here, since scopes today are so much cheaper, relatively speaking). The modern low-cost eyepieces are amazingly good, compared to low-budget vintage ones. Optically, I've seen mostly usable, but not excellent, scopes in the budget class, both old and new.   

 

If we again compare high end scopes, things are much closer to one another. Even on very old high-end scopes, the focusers are rock solid, ultra smooth and can carry a ton of accesories, just like modern ones. The mounts are rock solid as well, and will laugh at anything you reasonably can attach to the scopes. Often, the mounts are designed to not only carry the scope, but also a BIG astrocamera or two. The eyepieces, although of simple designs, such as huygenians, ramsdens, kellners or orthoscopics, are dead sharp and super crisp. 

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark


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#47 Den25

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 05:43 PM

I like this thread! First time for me to read this topic. Would take me too much to find the old one. Keep it up! 😊
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#48 MrG

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 05:56 PM

When I was a kid, most any telescope worth having was a high end item.  A small refractor or reflector on a mount of fair quality cost several hundred dollars or more.  A Celestron 8 cost well over a thousand, at a time when my father made around $10,000 a year as a teacher.  Really, a 60mm or a 4.5" reflector was a standard scope and anything bigger might well have been home made.  This was just around the time small ads started appearing for high-end refractors from companies that would become well-known.

 

It's hard to make comparisons with scopes of today.  The selection is more diverse and broad.

 

I once used a Mogey telescope that was about 5 inches and cost $2,300 in the 1920s. Prices have been improving for some time now!

 

Mr.G


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#49 Astrojensen

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 06:34 PM

 

It's hard to make comparisons with scopes of today.  The selection is more diverse and broad.

Indeed. Anyone questioning this should leaf through some old issues of S&T from the 1960'ies. 

 

 

I once used a Mogey telescope that was about 5 inches and cost $2,300 in the 1920s.

At that time, you could buy either a Ford T car or a Fordson F tractor for less than $400, just to put things in perspective.

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark


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#50 ftwskies

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 06:49 PM

All good comments, Thomas.  I guess the heart of the issue for me is, never having looked through one of these classic refractors from the 50s-60s --- I mean, the ones within reach for me now, found regularly on AM or here in the sub-$300ish range --- I wish I knew which ones were real performers and which were toys or "dogs".  It's not often I can plunk down cash for a new scope, so when I do I want to make sure it's going to be something that sees well, because I can't afford to collect scopes I won't use.

 

Anyhow, as I hinted above, my first tiptoe into the classic world should be arriving on my doorstep later this week, so my adventure is just beginning...  :happy:  


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