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Vintage AP Scopes

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#1 Derek Wong

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Posted 01 October 2016 - 10:12 AM

There seems to be a dearth of information about early AP refractors.  Thomas Back’s essay provides a one sentence summary of some of these scopes that may be incomplete, and occasionally inaccurate.  I know that the staff at AP will eventually put together a history of these scopes, but they are quite busy with their current equipment.

 

John Volk, who lives near me is a friend who has a collection of beautiful vintage AP scopes.  I have looked through a 5” f/12 (wonderful images of the Moon and planets), 6” f/9 Starfire (only deep sky so far) and a 5” f/6.  The 5” f/6 scope is only described in Back’s essay as “the least well corrected scope AP has ever produced.”  While that may be technically true, we need to remember that TMB was a planetary fanatic and judged everything on that basis.  The scope is advertised as a “Wide Field Refractor”, and true to its name it provides beautiful deep sky images.  John, Daniel Mounsey and I used eyepieces including a Leitz 30mm, Nagler 17mm, and Nagler 9mm, and even from Los Angeles, we had beautiful views of the M31, the Double Cluster and Stock 2.  There was some false color on Aldebaran and especially Vega, but not bad for such a fast pre-ED refractor.  The Double Double had a beautiful split that looked appropriate for its aperture.  5th and 6th magnitude stars aren’t sensitive to the chromatic aberration and spherochromatism that was present on the star test.  Using a green filter, the star test cleaned up quite nicely.

 

I have abstracted, edited, and summarized a small portion of the information from a Company 7 newsletter about AP scopes from 1987 in a table below.  There are some interesting tidbits of information.  First, there were indeed photo versions and visual versions of some scopes, and the visual versions have violet color whereas the photo versions have a crimson halo.  This runs counter to the argument espoused on by some that the planetary performance of a refractor (other than a classic achromat) is always related to the amount of purple present.  Second, there were some very cool prototypes, including a 7” f/15, 8” f/13.3 Apo (don’t know what AS means), and a pre-1987 10” f/14 with trispace corrector that was supplanted with a newer design, most likely with Starfire glasses.  Finally, the optics in the 2” 2x Barlows were “hand corrected to insure no aberrations are introduced into the system.” Try finding a hand-made barlow today!

 

I am attaching some photos of the scope.  While it is far from the CNC fit and finish of modern AP scopes and lacks a two speed focuser, it is quite charming and usable as is.  Some people have criticized early AP scopes for having cork spacers that sometimes require replacement, but the four scopes I have seen that are reaching 30 years of age are still going strong without evidence of misalignment.

 

If one of these comes up, instead of parroting Thomas Back, we should refer to it as a classic wide field refractor that was advertised as such and performs admirably for its intended purpose.

 

Derek

 

1987 Astro-Physics Scopes in C7 Newsletter (* = Prototype)

 

Low Power Wide-Field Refractor
   Sec. Spectrum (Red-Blue) < +/- 0.008% C-F
4” f/6                FL 610mm       Wt 7#        Discontinued; Visual/photo versions
5” f/6                FL 762mm       Wt 12#      Discontinued; Visual/photo versions

 

High Resolution Portable Refractor
   Sec. Spectrum (Red-Blue) < +/- 0.008% C-F
4” f/10              FL 1016mm     Wt 8#         Discontinued
5” f/8                FL 1016mm     Wt 13#       Visual/photo versions
6” f/8                FL 1219mm     Wt 19#       Visual/photo versions

 

Super Planetary Portable Refractor
   Sec. Spectrum (Deep Red-Blue) < +/- 0.004% C-F
5” f/12              FL 1524mm      Wt 14#       Discontinued
6” f/12              FL 1829mm      Wt 21#
6” f/12F*          FL 1219mm                         Folded
6” f/15*            FL 2286mm

 

Starfire Photo-Visual Refractor
   Sec. Spectrum (Deep Red-Violet) < +/- 0.025% C-G
4” f/8               FL 813mm        Wt 8#
5” f/8               FL 1016mm      Wt 14#
5.6” f/7            FL 996mm        Wt 19#        Discontinued
6” f/9               FL 1372mm      Wt 21#
7” f/9               FL 1600mm      Wt 34#
7” f/15*            FL 2667mm

 

Special/Custom Optics
   Sec. Spectrum (Deep Red-Blue) < +/- 0.008% C-F except as noted
6.8” f/15*         FL 2590mm
6” f/9 NASA    FL 1372mm    Wt 20#
8” f/13.3 AS*   FL 2682mm    Wt 58#
10” f/14 Apo    FL 3556mm    Wt 185#       Sec Spec <0.003% C-F
10” f/14 Tri      FL 3556mm    Wt 175#      Tri-Spaced, Discontinued

 

Visual/Photo refractors are available in Photo (crimson halo) or Visual (slight violet) corrected

 

 

 


Edited by Derek Wong, 01 October 2016 - 11:47 AM.

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#2 Derek Wong

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Posted 01 October 2016 - 10:43 AM

Daniel Mounsey, John Volk and me

 

5F6 #1.jpg

 

5f6 #2.jpg

 

5f6 #3.jpg


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#3 starman876

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Posted 01 October 2016 - 01:53 PM

I have one of the early 6" F8 scopes and it is a wonderful scope.   Have had it up to 480 power in the DC area and the image held up.  Cannot say enough of what a master optician Roland is.  Have the 80mm guidescope also.   Once had the 5" F12 and that scope will hold its own agaisnt any modern scope made today.  The early 6" scopes are a true bargain in todays market.


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#4 The Ardent

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Posted 01 October 2016 - 02:06 PM

http://www.astromart...&news_id=&page=

#5 CHASLX200

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Posted 01 October 2016 - 02:25 PM

I got lucky and only paid around $1500 or 1800 for a blue tube 6" F/9 Starfire back in 1999.  Used it on a G-11 i remember i rigged up a tube ring with a 5lb weight on the focuser end to help with balance since the OTA was very front heavy.

 

I gotta wonder how that cork is holding up after 30 years?  I know some C14's had cork that dried up and fell apart with age.


Edited by CHASLX200, 01 October 2016 - 02:27 PM.


#6 pbealo

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Posted 01 October 2016 - 03:51 PM

I have a 6" f9 Starfire and original AP800 mount. I now use the OTA on a MachOne.

 

I have long wished for a 5.6 f7 as well. I haven't seen many of these!

 

When we speak of Roland's lenses don't forget the Brandon 94mm and 5" scopes that Roland made lenses for. 

 

Peter


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#7 Scott99

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Posted 01 October 2016 - 04:28 PM

In the 80's I bought the 80mm Univ. Optics f/6.6 refractor kit and loved the way it performed vs. the 6" Newtonian I had.  I decided to replace the Newt with a larger refractor.  I had very little money.  For a year or two I saved up and waffled between buying a 6" f/10 Jaegers or a used 4" Unitron a local dealer was pushing. 

 

Astro-Physics sort of burst onto the scene with a couple Richard Berry reviews in Astronomy magazine at that time - one of the 6" f/8 and 4" f/6.  It sounded too good to be true.  I took all the money I had available and ordered the 6" f/8 for $1440.  I believe by that time they had dropped the photo/visual thing and were just doing visual (violet false color).   

 

I had no money for a mount, at first I tried to "get by" with a beat-up Super Polaris mount I found.  I took the scope to Stellafane and people were amazed by the scope, extremely rare to see a 6" refractor in those days.  People loved the scope but several scolded me for using it on such an undersized mount.    Eventually I found a used wooden alt-az mount with tripod and used that for about 7-8 years, I think it was $150.     After some pay raises I was finally able to get a 600GTO mount and have tracking.

 

I eventually signed up for a ED scope in '99 and sold off the 6" when I received a new 160 in 2005.  As soon as the new scope arrived I regretted selling the old one (of course I needed the money).  The new one seemed very heavy.  Now I realize the old scope probably weighed less than 20 pounds.  The tube and lens cell were very simple, minimalist construction.  The focuser was the 3rd and last one they offered, with a blue drawtube, it was smooth and worked well.  

 

The cork is a total non-issue, people don't understand how these lenses work.  The oiled triplets are held together by capillary action and just float in the lens cell.  Eventually the cork dessicated a bit and I had to tighten the retaining ring a smidge.  Later I sent the lens in for cleaning and an alignment check (RC used to have time for this stuff) and when the lens came back the cork was replaced by synthetic pads on the back.  The picture above is total cork-fest!  My scope didn't look like that.  But the cork does not perform a "precise" role, it just holds the lens forward against the retaining ring, you could replace it with anything, it doesn't require any adjustment of the actual lens.

 

 Conversely if my current AP160 needs any lens service it's a minimum charge of $600 to re-align everything.  The old scope had great optics, incredible planetary detail, great wide-field views, etc.  As I've told people, I only see more with the new scope because of 8mm aperture, the old one had a bit of purple around Jupiter but the detail was amazing.  Just racking out and looking at the perfect star test used to impress people, in the 80's you just didn't get scopes with a perfect star test.

 

The 80's scopes have excellent lenses, I've been trying to find a 4" f/6 for years but as AP's reputation grew people started selling them to friends, club members, etc, you rarely see them come up used anymore.  I have a Star 12 ED with an outstanding lens from '90-'92 timeframe, it only weighs 11 or 12 pounds with the current 2.7" AP/FT focuser on there.

 

 I could go on with this topic for pages!   Love the older AP scopes.  are there any more questions?  I can remember almost everything about AP from this time period, I still have some of the catalogs and literature here as well.

 

PS - one more thought, if you're interested in the 80's pre-ED "Christen Triplet" there are 2 articles in S&T you should read, they include color correction graphs and more on these lenses, and the tri-space corrector project.  The graph showed the 6" f/8 as having the color correction of an f/24 achromat.  The Starfire pre-ED's are supposed to be 5 times better corrected for false color, the same as the Tak FS series or better.  I could have ordered the 140mm f/7 Starfire in '86 but it cost more money.


Edited by Scott99, 01 October 2016 - 04:36 PM.

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#8 Scott99

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Posted 01 October 2016 - 04:52 PM

couple of pics of my baby, just before I passed it on to a buyer in Australia!  you can see the pads RC used to replace the cork behind the lens.

 

Also, here is a picture of what a typical 6-inch refractor looked like when RC started production in the 80's - you realize his scope seemed miraculous!  The price was probably 10% of Unitron and Tak refractors of that time..

 

unitron880.jpg

 

lens.JPG

 

focus.JPG


Edited by Scott99, 01 October 2016 - 04:52 PM.

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#9 CHASLX200

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Posted 01 October 2016 - 04:53 PM

I would rather have the 880lb Unitron.  Can't beat the looks of it.  But would rather have the AP to use.


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#10 STE411

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 05:56 AM

IMG_0511.JPG Hi,

This is a picture of my 6"f12 lens. The telescope performs as one would expect an AP to perform ( interject superlatives ). Is it perfect, nope. I have yet to see a perfect telescope.

That being said even after 30 years this scope still amazes me. The pinpoint star images the color rendition... it's an Astro-Physics nuff said.

 

However, at the time that wasn't nuff said, at the time I was taking a sizable risk ( at least for me) on a little known company and as the months rolled by and no scope I was getting pretty antsy. I'm glad I did it. I have thoroughly enjoyed the telescope over the years and still use it every clear night.

Steve

 


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#11 STE411

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 11:41 AM

Attached Thumbnails

  • IMG_0603.JPG

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#12 Derek Wong

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 04:39 PM

Here are some pictures of a sister scope John brought a night later, a 4" f/6 that was the predecessor of the Traveler.  This scope was well worn but gave nice images at magnifications up to 106x, with less false color than the 5" f/6.  This scope has a distinguished history and has been involved with taking quite amazing shots of Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake as well as the 1991 eclipse.  This photo is much more impressive in person: http://www.laughton..../jv_hya_med.jpg

 

Derek

 

AP Pre-Traveler #1.jpg

 

AP Pre-Traveler #2.jpg


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#13 R Botero

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 07:26 AM

Great thread and pictures!  I don't know if my Starfire (152mm f/7.5 EDF) classifies as vintage but it was described by Thomas Back in his now seminal review as:

 

 

 

Roland then set out to make the ultimate astrograph, and he did. It
was the first "EDF." It used the StarFire design, but with FPL-51 with
an airspace. With a 4-inch field corrector and focuser, it took some of
the most impressive widefield astrophotos ever taken. The 152mm
f/7.5 EDF ($6400) was the first apochomatic telescope that I had ever
seen that was completely color free -- even out of focus. I know of no
other lens design that was put into production that was better than this
design. There were a few 206mm f/7.9 EDFs ($12500), and as most of
you know, they sell for twice as much now.

I am not entirely sure about the correctness of the above description since I know my triplet is oil spaced and has no airspace.  There were very few made.  Mike Sidonio (Strongmanmike) has (had?) one and once told me Roland said there were only two made.  My serial number would indicate otherwise (more were made) but they are pretty rare.  

 

Colour correction is indeed superb and a copy of the AP catalog from 1991 (this model was only produced in '91 and '92) claims sec. spectrum (<0.004% from r to h wavelengths) on par or superior to the more modern 160EDF, 175EDF and 180EDFs and better than the 155EDF which was actually the model that followed.  But this is pre-interferometer days.

 

Besides my optical assessment, I have no way of corroborating the above but the scope is indeed colour free.  I have a TEC 250M Mak and there is a much colour in that as there is in the refractor...

 

My sample came from a gentleman in Germany who had in turned bought it from a German observer who was in turn the original/first owner.  I know Tony Hallas and Daphne Hallas (Mount at that time) used one as pictures taken with it using film made it to the galleries of Astronomy and S&T in the early 90s.  

 

Copy of the relevant catalog page attached.

Attached Thumbnails

  • APCatalog1991_001.jpg

Edited by R Botero, 03 October 2016 - 07:29 AM.

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#14 Bob S

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 07:53 AM

I ordered a 6" f/8 visually corrected in 1986 with the 706 mount and a pier, and still have it. I never noticed blue or purple, only an extremely slight bluish green at times around the limb of the moon, and that may have been caused by an eyepiece, since it wasn't always there. The 706 mount is quite heavy, over the years I bought rings and have used it on a GPDX mount, which is just at the limit for the mount. I only use it for visual, I'm not a photographer. It was a good investment back in 1986 ($1440 for the tube), and it still delivers beautiful images, although as I've gotten older I don't drag it out as much as I used to...

#15 Jeff B

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 08:12 AM

Yes, a great thread!

 

I was one of Roland's "early adopters", the first triplet being the 5" F6 except it had the 2.7" Jaegers focuser he originally used before he started rolling his own.  You could actually talk to him on the phone back then, write to him and he would answer.

 

I've had to date:

 

Four of the 5" F6's (all with NASA glass and signed).  I sold one to Tom Back 

Two of the 4" F6's (Never, EVER, should have sold the last one, a superb daytime telephoto)

A one-off 7" F15 lens/cell with NASA glass (perfect correction and NO color)

A 4" F10 triplet

Original 5" F8 Starefire triplet lens/cell and made an OTA (he originally would sell just the lens and cell)

Five inch F8 "standard Christen triplet", a wonderful LW visual scope

Two of the airspaced 6" F9 pre-ED Starfires (Should have kept the one with the white lens cell)

A 6" F9 "blue tube" Starfire (still have it)

A 7" F9 "blue tube" Starfire (still have it and WOW, what a scope)

A 6" F10 "Frankenscope" , originally a pre-ED 6" F9 Starfire that was damaged, was reworked by another optician, then Roland reworked for me too. 

 

The only scopes I ever had any issues with optically were in the 80's with one each of the early 5" & 4" F6's.  Roland took them back, said I was picky (but he liked that), and reworked them into GREAT scopes.  The other was recent with the 6" F9 Blue Tube Starfire.  The spacing gel used for this one changed over time stressing the glass, resulting in a very odd star test.  Roland took it back, took it apart, re-oiled it with the latest and put it back together with the inteferometer, pronouncing the lens excellent (which it is!).  He even removed a mild scratch from the middle of the front element.  

 

Thanks for this thread and let's here some more stories!!

 

Jeff


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#16 Scott99

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 12:23 PM

Here are some pictures of a sister scope John brought a night later, a 4" f/6 that was the predecessor of the Traveler.  This scope was well worn but gave nice images at magnifications up to 106x, with less false color than the 5" f/6.  This scope has a distinguished history and has been involved with taking quite amazing shots of Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake as well as the 1991 eclipse.  This photo is much more impressive in person: http://www.laughton..../jv_hya_med.jpg

 

Derek

 

attachicon.gifAP Pre-Traveler #1.jpg

 

attachicon.gifAP Pre-Traveler #2.jpg

very nice, the lens looks to be in perfect shape which is all that matters!  These photos reveal the one glitch with these scopes - the dewshields were too tight.  They slid on with a simple friction-fit, but I could barely get mine on & off, I had to sand off the paint from the inside of the dewshield to fit it back on on the lens cell after cleaning.  

 

I don't think many of the 4" f/6 were made, the 5 and 6 inchers were priced so low I think most people opted for more aperture.

 

Roberto thanks for the spec sheet on the old f/7.5 Starfire - how did he get that level of color correction with FPL51?  Interesting that yours does not have the air-space.  In those days he would tweak things for individual lenses or scopes - My Star 12 ED is actually an oil-spaced doublet which is sort of cool because nobody's ever made another one.  There must be significant difference between it and the air-spaced 120mm's.  I don't like to bother them, but one of these days I"ll have to find out the story behind this lens.  

 

btw, the Astronomy mag. reviews were Jan '86 for the 6" and March '86 for the 4".  I have the actual Sky & Tel magazines somewhere in storage with the triplet articles but I can't find the dates. 

 

Jeff, wow that's quite a list, you were having fun back in the 80's!   :cool:  I forgot about the early 4" f/10, must have been nice, I wonder where they all ended up.  Hopefully still being used and maintained somewhere.


Edited by Scott99, 03 October 2016 - 01:05 PM.

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#17 starman876

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 01:03 PM

I read somewhere that oil spacing fills in any imperfections in the glass.  



#18 pbealo

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 01:06 PM

Jeff,

 

When Roland removed your scratch did he recoat the lens?

 

Peter B.



#19 Jeff B

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 10:51 PM

Jeff,

 

When Roland removed your scratch did he recoat the lens?

 

Peter B.

Hey Peter how are you?

 

That's a very good question! Roland serviced the lens about 6 years ago after I first bought the scope used.   The work scope was to take it apart, re-align it, re-oil it and tape it back up, with no additional work.  All I know is that the lens went out coated (MgFl) with the scratch/heavy sleek and came back without it and coated (MgFl) so some how he removed the scratch.  But I also know that you have to polish off the old coating first before doing any other re-coat or polishing, but Roland made no mention of doing anything other than the original work scope, so.......  

 

But I also,also know Roland will sometimes "go above and beyond" to make the product right.

 

Jeff



#20 Jeff B

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 08:57 AM

And then there's Clint's the "Pearl" :

 

http://www.cloudynig...-aveman/page-20

 

And these (though some are not classics yet...future classics):

 

http://www.astromart...ified_id=929675

 

Jeff



#21 R Botero

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 11:18 AM

And these (though some are not classics yet...future classics):

 

http://www.astromart...ified_id=929675

 

Jeff

Oh yes, I wish I could have that 206mm... :p ...same vintage as mine but so much larger  :crazy:



#22 R Botero

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 11:19 AM

Roberto thanks for the spec sheet on the old f/7.5 Starfire - how did he get that level of color correction with FPL51?  Interesting that yours does not have the air-space.  In those days he would tweak things for individual lenses or scopes - 

 

I have asked AP about the actual glass in this but they say they don't have records going back as far as that to confirm exact elements (I think they are basically telling me to b** off).  Mike Sidonio told me that Roland had confirmed to him that the centre element was FPL-53, not 51 as per Tom Back's recollection.

Roberto


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#23 semiosteve

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 12:18 PM

Yes, a great thread!

 

I was one of Roland's "early adopters", the first triplet being the 5" F6 except it had the 2.7" Jaegers focuser he originally used before he started rolling his own.  You could actually talk to him on the phone back then, write to him and he would answer.

 

I've had to date:

 

Four of the 5" F6's (all with NASA glass and signed).  I sold one to Tom Back 

Two of the 4" F6's (Never, EVER, should have sold the last one, a superb daytime telephoto)

A one-off 7" F15 lens/cell with NASA glass (perfect correction and NO color)

A 4" F10 triplet

Original 5" F8 Starefire triplet lens/cell and made an OTA (he originally would sell just the lens and cell)

Five inch F8 "standard Christen triplet", a wonderful LW visual scope

Two of the airspaced 6" F9 pre-ED Starfires (Should have kept the one with the white lens cell)

A 6" F9 "blue tube" Starfire (still have it)

A 7" F9 "blue tube" Starfire (still have it and WOW, what a scope)

A 6" F10 "Frankenscope" , originally a pre-ED 6" F9 Starfire that was damaged, was reworked by another optician, then Roland reworked for me too. 

 

The only scopes I ever had any issues with optically were in the 80's with one each of the early 5" & 4" F6's.  Roland took them back, said I was picky (but he liked that), and reworked them into GREAT scopes.  The other was recent with the 6" F9 Blue Tube Starfire.  The spacing gel used for this one changed over time stressing the glass, resulting in a very odd star test.  Roland took it back, took it apart, re-oiled it with the latest and put it back together with the inteferometer, pronouncing the lens excellent (which it is!).  He even removed a mild scratch from the middle of the front element.  

 

Thanks for this thread and let's here some more stories!!

 

Jeff

I can vouch for the 7" F8 Starfire - incredible how much deep sky work I do with that scope. Absolutely pin point stars and great contrast seems to remove a hidden veil between the observer and the observed....timeless classic for sure.



#24 bremms

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 12:27 PM

I would rather have the 880lb Unitron.  Can't beat the looks of it.  But would rather have the AP to use.

Uhh.. One look through the AP would put paid to that for me. 6" Unitron is cool. but the performance of the AP at 1/10 price is enough to send the Unicorn packing.


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#25 Scott99

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 01:41 PM

Uhh.. One look through the AP would put paid to that for me. 6" Unitron is cool. but the performance of the AP at 1/10 price is enough to send the Unicorn packing.

 

 

we have visual confirmation that at least one 6" Unitron did exist!!

 

http://www.unitronhi...ital-camera-25/


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