My VMC200L arrived yesterday evening, but I didn't get it unpacked until after work today -- thanks to Tom for a very thorough packing job, it made it from Cali to Alabami with zero damage. The collimation was close, and I tweaked the primary to get it closer to dead center, but I didn't have time for a push-me/pull-you with Allen wrenches -- I had to get it in the shed to temp adapt (high today was 92F / HE 101F). Also, I noticed that the collimation point on the laser shifted very slightly as I racked the focuser in & out, so that'll have to be tightened up.
It has the built-in long dovetail, so I put a pair of Sheldon's machined aluminum couplings on my TAK EM-1S + the large counterweight (I'll try to get a photo of the rig posted tomorrow), which is on a vintage Filotecnica wooden surveyor tripod. With the spikes pressed in it's a very stable platform, and the TAK tracks near perfectly when the load is balanced.
Star Tests: I started with Arcturus. It was lower than I prefer, but I needed to align the 50mm finder. Took longer than usual -- that thing fought me! Used a UO HD OR9mm. Tight rings, but very very slightly off center -- as expected. Lots of wash that low, so I spun over to Sadr, which was nearing the meridian. Much more stable image, but same pattern. I really can't blame the scope, I knew the collimation wasn't perfect. I expected the stars to be smeared at focus, but they were small & tight. Not the micro-dots of my Vixen 80mm fluorite, but not blobs, either.
Seeing: Gordon saturated the ground, and it was clear & HOT today, so The Swamp had its usual haze band from the horizon to 15* - 20* -- variable thickness. The Vixen 80 was out to confirm seeing. Jupiter was already in the mire, but Saturn was well placed, with practically no haze. Still, seeing hopped between 6 & 8, so magnification went from 98x to 260x.
First of all, Saturn was bright -- about like my APM 152 F8 ED. At 98x, besides Titan, I spotted 3 other moons -- and possibly a 4th in the variable seeing. I ran most of my 1.25" eyepieces through first, and had no problem reaching focus while using a Baader prism diagonal. It was while I was testing my vintage spectros Plossls that I got a long period -- at least 15 minutes -- of 8/10 seeing, which is when I topped out at 260x with the 7.5mm. These are Swiss-made .965" eyepieces that I think are very close to my Zeiss for quality. I got my best views of Saturn's disk at 195x with the PL10 - one of my favorites in the set. Saw 4 belts. IIRC, from the EQ, colors were subtle, gray-green, pale yellow-tan, very light rose, & dark gray (I didn't make notes, so the order my be off). Pewter to gray polar region.
Switched to DSO mode. Truth: I toted the complete rig from the north end to the center of the back yard -- at least 60 feet -- without pain or injury. Swapped the Baader for a GSO 2" dielectric mirror + vintage UO Erfle 32mm for 61x. Set the Vixen 80 close enough to compare views, with the Baader + vintage Jaegers Erfle 16mm for 40x. M57 is a true smoke ring in the VMC with a black center. M56 is brighter & larger than in my 6" reflectors, but no better resolved. Star colors in the VMC look a bit redder than in the V80 fluorite, which to me has the most natural colors of any of my scopes -- really saw this with Sadr. Naturally, all my favorite star fields from Sadr to Deneb are richer in this 8" scope.
Overall, I'd call this a good first sky test. With exact collimation, I think the planetary views could compete with my 6" APO at equivalent powers, but I doubt this CAT can stay sharp at 80x per inch like the frac. OTOH, it's a good choice when I don't feel like hauling out that much heavier rig -- that is not mobile at all.
Weather still bad! Gordon sent lots of clouds my way. Did not even try the star party, since I hate camping in the rain. Good report and fair skies.