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Vixen A80MF vs. Vixen A80M experiences?

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#1 db2005

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Posted 06 February 2018 - 04:47 AM

Hi everyone,

 

Has anybody made a side-by-side comparison of the Vixen A80MF and the A80M and can share their experiences?

 

I already own the Chinese-sourced A80mf and I consider it to be a nice entry-level achromat of good optical quality. However, the Japan-sourced A80M is more than twice the cost, and some of that is of course due to better mechanics. But what about the optics? It's still an old-school achromat, but is the extra price also reflected in optical performance, better figure and polish in the Japanese manufacture?

 

There seems to be very few owners of the A80M (which makes sense because its price point is pretty close to that of an entry-level ED refractor), but I'd really like to hear your impressions of the A80M. Is it truly a "Vixen-legacy" achromat in the spirit of the classic high-quality Vixens from ages past... or is it a dud, relatively speaking?

 

Thanks,

Daniel.



#2 terraclarke

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Posted 06 February 2018 - 07:36 AM

I briefly had the A80mf and I have the older (25-30 y.o.) black Japanese Vixen Celestron C80 which is the equivalent of the A80M (Japanese 80mm x 900mm air-spaced achromat). I had them out several times for side-by-side viewing sessions. The Japanese Vixen was noticeably better. NOTICEABLY! It star tested better, stars were much sharper, contrast was better, and planetary views of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars were strikingly better. The A80mf petered out at about 150X, C80 will easily do 225X with good seeing. There is no doubt in my mind that the A80M, is a better scope.


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#3 KevH

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Posted 06 February 2018 - 09:00 AM

https://www.cloudyni...584-vixen-a81m/

 

Perhaps you can message the poster in the above thread as it sounds like he has both.  There isn't a direct comparison in that thread but both are mentioned. Good luck! 


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#4 db2005

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Posted 06 February 2018 - 09:32 AM

Thanks so much for the replies (and for the link)!

 

From the answer and the posts in the other thread it looks to me like the Japan-made A80M would be a prime showcase of what a classic achromat can do if made to excellent standards. But I can understand why very few people buy them... at the asking price, getting an entry level ED is simply too tempting for most people in the market for an 80mm refractor. Particularly because achromats have been stigmatized by too many poor samples being sold to newbies for far too many years.

 

Sadly though, in my own personal experience, ED glass does not guarantee optical excellence, just less CA. That's why I would have thought an excellent achromat like the A80M should be able to grab a larger market share. If I had known 10 years ago what I know today, the A80M would have been a prime candidate when I bought my first refractor, an Orion 80ED. I simply love how well even inexpensive eyepieces perform in a slow refractor.


Edited by db2005, 06 February 2018 - 09:33 AM.

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#5 terraclarke

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Posted 06 February 2018 - 09:48 AM

Why not just look for an older, used 80mm Japanese Vixen-made scope or a Celestron-branded and Vixen-made C80 or 80mm Firstscope or the Orion-branded one.

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Edited by terraclarke, 06 February 2018 - 09:51 AM.

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#6 db2005

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Posted 06 February 2018 - 10:14 AM

Why not just look for an older, used 80mm Japanese Vixen-made scope or a Celestron-branded and Vixen-made C80 or 80mm Firstscope or the Orion-branded one.

The idea has crossed my mind more than just a few times...  But they are surprisingly difficult to come by in Europe - either people want to hang on to them or there are not very many of them. And when they are for sale, the prices seem exorbitant, almost like collector's items. And buying overseas where prices seem more reasonable would add shipping and taxes so buying new is not an entirely unattractive option in comparison. But I'll keep looking... grin.gif .


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#7 JuergenB

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Posted 09 February 2018 - 12:22 PM

I have a second hand 80M which unfortunately is the biggest lemon I ever saw, maybe with the exception of an 8" Criterion Dynamax which a friend had many years ago. I have the 80M only since a few weeks and at first thought it would be a good grab and go scope together with the Porta II mount. It could split both pairs of Epsilon Lyrae as well as Castor, but this is not a very tough task for an 80 mm scope. I wondered, however, that the diffraction rings were quite bright compared to the Airy disk, so I asked a renowned optical tester to put it onto his optical bench. It turned out that my 80M is vastly undercorrected. Surface accuracy is 1/2 wavelength PTV and 1/8.9 wavelength RMS, Strehl Ratio is 0.607. I guess that many 80Mf will be better. I asked Vixen to offer a new objective lens, but I am still waiting for their reply.

 

Juergen


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#8 db2005

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Posted 09 February 2018 - 12:30 PM

Thanks for the heads-up waytogo.gif. I hope you find a good solution to the problem.

 

I would have thought Vixen had fairly tight QC on scopes leaving their own factory. The whole purpose of paying the additional premium for a branded high-quality achromat is quality control. Is there any chance that the problem was caused by accidental damage in use rather than at the factory?



#9 Binojunky

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Posted 09 February 2018 - 12:42 PM

One problem the Vixen China made scope had was a plastic lens cell, some owners found the screw holes to be cracked when unpacking, years ago I had the Celestron Premium Firstscope 80, made in Japan.

it was hindered by a couple of things, a 1.25" focuser and the  alt azimuth mount, it was stiff and jerky, the tube was fiddly to mount and the slow motions would run out of travel at the most inconvenient time. I believe the same OTA could be purchased with a basic Polaris mount which was a better proposition, D.


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#10 Peter Besenbruch

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Posted 09 February 2018 - 12:49 PM

I would have thought Vixen had fairly tight QC on scopes leaving their own factory. The whole purpose of paying the additional premium for a branded high-quality achromat is quality control. Is there any chance that the problem was caused by accidental damage in use rather than at the factory?

Yes, that's true. You would think that Vixen would position their high end scopes that way. Juergen's scope is certainly a lemon. I had a Vixen 4" refractor that was lemonish. If there are no signs of physical damage, the problem lies with the lens.

 

Before rejecting a bad lens out of hand, it's a good idea to check it's orientation front to back. Another issue is spacing between the lenses. That would be a bit beyond my pay grade to fix, but in various test reports I have read, changing the spacing has worked wonders under certain circumstances. Finally, there is the issue of how smooth the surfaces are. Is the 1/2 wave from roughness?

 

Regardless, if there is no sign of damage, it represents a QC failure.


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#11 belgrade

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Posted 09 February 2018 - 04:08 PM

I neither had nor I used the A81M version (made in Japan).  Is that the achromat referred here as A80M?  It costs $599 (StarGuy).  I have and use the "Mf" version (i.e., A80Mf made in China).  I purchased mine (OTA) a few years ago as a demo from StarGuy for maybe a bit over $100 and a year or so later I bought the Porta II mount - brand new - from the same seller (if I remember right it was a sale price).  It's  fine for what it is (well, the combo), I use it mostly these days for solar observations (it accidently turned into an ad hoc outreach instrument in Missouri's capital last summer for solar eclipse - shockingly there was only one other scope over there that people could peak through... but, I digress...). Sometimes I do basic observation of the moon or Jupiter, even Saturn, with it and I don't find purple fringing that objectionable but it is a matter of taste, acceptance, tolerance, etc.  I never took one single photo/image with it and I don't think I will - it's not made for it to begin with.  Sure, one can snap pictures with anything these days but "we" know better, right?  Seriously, it's a good introductory medium FL achromatic refractor for not much money.  

 

The 81M seems to be better made but basics should be the same (FL, "f" focal ratio, and aperture virtually the same).  It comes with a carry handle (a nice touch) and a RDF (basic) instead of an optical finder (straight-through, 30 mm, with the Mf version, though mine arrived with the 50 mm one).  Would I pay $600 for it?  No.  That money gets me these days an AT102ED by our host (102mm f/7 fully multicoated doublet optics using FK-61 ED glass with dual-speed 2" Crayford focuser...).  It's more manageable on lighter mounts (length not weight!), must be much better for imaging, it has better glass period, seems well built, looks great, and aftersales support should be better too.  Quite recently, for maybe $40 more, one could buy a SW ProED 100 doublet with even better glass and a host of accessories... to mentioned just those two.  Needless to say, I'm sure such a sale on ProED doublet will come again 'cause it comes every year or so.

 

Now, if I'm wrong and this discussion is about a different achromat by Vixen (again, A80M, not A81M) then sorry, guys, for hijacking this thread.  But I feel it is actually about the A81M.  It's impossible to claim something without comparing one next to another (A80Mf vs A81M) with the same accessories, mount, weather condition... but it seems to me - based on posts above - that there would be some slight advantage having the A81M.  But one would be better served by ED refractors of the same aperture for the same money like two I mentioned.  Just my 2 cents.


Edited by belgrade, 09 February 2018 - 04:14 PM.

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#12 db2005

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Posted 09 February 2018 - 05:31 PM

I believe the A81M is the new version of the A80M which is still in stock with some resellers. But probably basically the same scope. But you are outlining the problem with this model quite well: at this price point, several ED scopes are fast getting within easy reach.


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#13 JuergenB

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 10:24 AM

 

I would have thought Vixen had fairly tight QC on scopes leaving their own factory. The whole purpose of paying the additional premium for a branded high-quality achromat is quality control. Is there any chance that the problem was caused by accidental damage in use rather than at the factory?

Yes, that's true. You would think that Vixen would position their high end scopes that way. Juergen's scope is certainly a lemon. I had a Vixen 4" refractor that was lemonish. If there are no signs of physical damage, the problem lies with the lens.

 

Before rejecting a bad lens out of hand, it's a good idea to check it's orientation front to back. Another issue is spacing between the lenses. That would be a bit beyond my pay grade to fix, but in various test reports I have read, changing the spacing has worked wonders under certain circumstances. Finally, there is the issue of how smooth the surfaces are. Is the 1/2 wave from roughness?

 

Regardless, if there is no sign of damage, it represents a QC failure.

 

Hi Peter,

 

No, the 1/2 wave is only from spherical aberration which is 1,4 waves at 532 nm, according to the test protocol. I am not sure if the previous owner did something with the lenses but in my opinion, the lens cell looks as it has never been touched. Change of lens distance by modifying the thickness of the shims could be an option but would be too expensive because of labor costs.

 

Juergen


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#14 db2005

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 02:29 PM

Thanks for all the replies!

 

It's surely a strange world we live in, quite unlike the time when I entered the hobby a couple of decades ago when achromats were basically the only refractors available to mortals, and most beginners chose reflectors anyway because they where much more affordable. I kind of get the feeling, that if one really wanted a small-aperture longish achromat of excellent quality today, one really should simply acquire a decent ED scope and stop down the aperture with an aperture mask. Just like I did the other day with my ED100, stopped down to around f/18. What's equally remarkable is that this solution is likely going to be no more expensive than buying a premium achromat.

 

It really looks like the market is moving away from achromats except for very low-end refractors and custom-made specialty-items. It looks like almost everything that looks like a bit more than a half-decent scope is made with ED or SD glass. And now Takahashi is reopening the game with the FC-100DL fluorite f/9. Seems like planet and double star fans are getting another option... at a price grin.gif.


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#15 JuergenB

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 11:57 AM

Dear all,

 

Some news: Vixen Optics offered a new lens for the 80M to me, attractively priced. It will be sent from Japan. As soon as I will have received and tested it, I will let you know the results.

 

Juergen


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#16 db2005

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 01:50 PM

Dear all,

 

Some news: Vixen Optics offered a new lens for the 80M to me, attractively priced. It will be sent from Japan. As soon as I will have received and tested it, I will let you know the results.

 

Juergen

That's really great to hear! I look forward to hearing about your findings.



#17 KevH

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Posted 10 March 2018 - 09:49 AM

One nice thing about Vixen is while the various distributors don't stock a lot of spare parts, they can order just about anything you want from Japan. If it's in production, they will get it. I contacted the U.S. Distributor about some tube ring knobs and they were sent to me from Japan.
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#18 db2005

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Posted 30 June 2018 - 11:08 AM

Dear all,

 

Some news: Vixen Optics offered a new lens for the 80M to me, attractively priced. It will be sent from Japan. As soon as I will have received and tested it, I will let you know the results.

 

Juergen

Juergen, I'm really curious to know if you received the replacement lens for your A80M and what your findings are as to the optical quality.

 

Clear Skies,

Daniel.



#19 JuergenB

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Posted 04 August 2018 - 12:01 PM

Dear all,

 

The Meteoblue weather forecast predicted good seeing, well below 2 arc seconds, for yesterday night, so I took the opportunity to take my A80M with the new lens to the fields next to our house. What a surprise!

 

I started with having a look at the planets, all quite low above the horizon. At 22:00, Venus was almost setting, Jupiter 13 degrees and Saturn 14 degrees above the horizon, Mars just rising. Starting with Jupiter, NEB and SEB were prominent, traces of festoons visible, the limb very sharp. More so with Saturn, sharp limb and sharp rings, Cassini's division visible, also some brighter zone around the equator. Compared to observing with a quite good ETX-90 which I had years ago, the views were definitely more pleasant in the A80M. Venus showed of course phase and color. But the color was only atmospheric dispersion, not chromatic aberration. Same with the other planets, no color except atmospheric dispersion. Mars again had a very sharp limb. It was difficult to see the South polar cap, I am not sure about that. But subtle surface markings, although with low contrast due to the current dust storm, were visible in the Southern hemisphere.

 

I moved to deep-sky objects. Stars were pinpoint up to high magnifications. I used the following eyepieces: 25 mm Meade 3000 (Japan) Plössl, 20 mm Vixen NPL, 11 mm TeleVue Plössl and 6 mm Vixen NPL. Epsilon Lyrae was clearly split at 83x, more so with black sky in between both pairs at 151x, nice Airy disks and dim first diffraction rings. I looked at Albireo just because I am used to do so every other time. Next came M 13. Although often claimed to be unresolved in apertures below 15 cm, I am confident to have seen some sparkle with averted vision. Same with M 11, the Wild Duck Cluster. M 71 in Sagitta showed a nice, glowing fuzzball, however unresolved. I switched to M 27 and M 57, both were prominent, their shapes were clearly visible. No UHC or OIII filters used. Any detection of glow inside the ring of M 57 is of course beyond the capabilities of an 80 mm scope. The next DSO were M 31, M 32 and NGC 205 which almost fitted into the field of the 25 mm eyepice. I rather should use a wide angle eyepiece next time. The last deep-sky target was a non-Messier object, NGC 7331. Once found, the oblong shape was clearly visible, the central region surprisingly bright for such a small scope. All that in steady, but somewhat hazy skies, I would estimate Bortle 6. I finished the evening at midnight with returning to Mars, now about 10 degrees above the horizon. Despite the bigger horizon distance, seeing slowly started to worsen, therefore I could not make out more surface details.

 

Now being asked whether I am satisfied with the A80M, I would say absolutely yes. For visual observing, I don't see any need for an ED or APO in this aperture class, except if you need a scope with a very short tube for travelling.

 

Clear Skies

Juergen


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#20 db2005

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Posted 04 August 2018 - 01:29 PM

Thanks for the great report on your A80M!

 

It's great to read that the A80M is clearly a high quality optic and that you are satisfied with the replacement objective lens.

 

From your description it sounds like it performs at roughly the same level as my Vixen SD81S apo (!), and even a healthy step above my Vixen A80mf (also a very good scope). My A80mf does show some visible CA on Jupiter and stars, but it seems like your scope is even better.

 

It's good to know that the very significant price premium for the A80M over cheaper achromats seems to be justified by its quality optics.


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#21 Simon B

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Posted 04 August 2018 - 02:24 PM

Alas, import economics come into play here.... I can understand most of your reservations with a $600 price tag, but in Japan these sell for $400... at $400 it would definitely be more popular.


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#22 db2005

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Posted 04 August 2018 - 03:20 PM

Alas, import economics come into play here.... I can understand most of your reservations with a $600 price tag, but in Japan these sell for $400... at $400 it would definitely be more popular.

Very true indeed. In Europe the A80M costs around 550 EUR including taxes, which I'd consider pretty steep by most standards. On the other hand, it looks like a clever decision by Vixen to keep the A80M in their product range as there seems to be no real alternatives to it today. To me it looks like the only very high-quality achromat in the 80 mm range. If I didn't already own the SD81S APO I probably wouldn't think twice before getting one.


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#23 Pinbout

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Posted 04 August 2018 - 09:30 PM

I'd get a skywatcher ed...with the fpl 53 glass... several I tested on the bench were very well corrected and smooth. waytogo.gif

 

my A80mf was horribly corrected, I replaced it with a jaegers cemented doublet

 

https://www.youtube....M&index=14&t=9s


Edited by Pinbout, 04 August 2018 - 09:33 PM.

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#24 nakazatoGTR

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 07:12 PM

Dear all,

The Meteoblue weather forecast predicted good seeing, well below 2 arc seconds, for yesterday night, so I took the opportunity to take my A80M with the new lens to the fields next to our house. What a surprise!

I started with having a look at the planets, all quite low above the horizon. At 22:00, Venus was almost setting, Jupiter 13 degrees and Saturn 14 degrees above the horizon, Mars just rising. Starting with Jupiter, NEB and SEB were prominent, traces of festoons visible, the limb very sharp. More so with Saturn, sharp limb and sharp rings, Cassini's division visible, also some brighter zone around the equator. Compared to observing with a quite good ETX-90 which I had years ago, the views were definitely more pleasant in the A80M. Venus showed of course phase and color. But the color was only atmospheric dispersion, not chromatic aberration. Same with the other planets, no color except atmospheric dispersion. Mars again had a very sharp limb. It was difficult to see the South polar cap, I am not sure about that. But subtle surface markings, although with low contrast due to the current dust storm, were visible in the Southern hemisphere.

I moved to deep-sky objects. Stars were pinpoint up to high magnifications. I used the following eyepieces: 25 mm Meade 3000 (Japan) Plössl, 20 mm Vixen NPL, 11 mm TeleVue Plössl and 6 mm Vixen NPL. Epsilon Lyrae was clearly split at 83x, more so with black sky in between both pairs at 151x, nice Airy disks and dim first diffraction rings. I looked at Albireo just because I am used to do so every other time. Next came M 13. Although often claimed to be unresolved in apertures below 15 cm, I am confident to have seen some sparkle with averted vision. Same with M 11, the Wild Duck Cluster. M 71 in Sagitta showed a nice, glowing fuzzball, however unresolved. I switched to M 27 and M 57, both were prominent, their shapes were clearly visible. No UHC or OIII filters used. Any detection of glow inside the ring of M 57 is of course beyond the capabilities of an 80 mm scope. The next DSO were M 31, M 32 and NGC 205 which almost fitted into the field of the 25 mm eyepice. I rather should use a wide angle eyepiece next time. The last deep-sky target was a non-Messier object, NGC 7331. Once found, the oblong shape was clearly visible, the central region surprisingly bright for such a small scope. All that in steady, but somewhat hazy skies, I would estimate Bortle 6. I finished the evening at midnight with returning to Mars, now about 10 degrees above the horizon. Despite the bigger horizon distance, seeing slowly started to worsen, therefore I could not make out more surface details.

Now being asked whether I am satisfied with the A80M, I would say absolutely yes. For visual observing, I don't see any need for an ED or APO in this aperture class, except if you need a scope with a very short tube for travelling.

Clear Skies
Juergen



Hi Juergen
Sorry for possibly necroposting(?)
I got myself a pre owned Custom 80M as well.
I am hoping you could help me be able to contact Vixen Optics for a lens, lens cell and dew shield(dented enough to jam it with the lens cell)

I sure hope that theu could at least ship at minimum, the objective and flint lens, at a good pricing, to where i live in, the Philippines.

Many thanks!

#25 barbie

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Posted 15 March 2019 - 01:39 PM

I just got a Vixen A80Mf and the optics are wonderful.  Very well corrected and was able to use 225X on the moon without any image breakdown so it appears these have improved drastically. It also tests well on my optical bench which confirms my excellent star test results.


Edited by barbie, 15 March 2019 - 02:11 PM.

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