I came back last night from an enjoyable observing evening at my club’s semi-dark site and reflected (no pun intended!) on the quality of the scopes I had looked through. It was the usual collection of SCTs, Dobsonians and 100-130mm refractors.
I took my own c. 2006 C8 SCT and Orion 110mm ED refractor - both of which are low-mid level scopes.
Chatting with the other members, many of whom own several scopes, revealed the oft-quoted impression that the refractor images are nicer, with sharper stars, but the aperture is limited.
I own three refractors (the 110mm Orion ED above, a Vixen 140mm neo-achro, and a 100mm Takahashi FC100), and all can produce very sharp star images much more readily than the mass-produced reflectors that I have - SW 6” Mak, C8, SkyWatcher 8” Newtonian, GSO 10” Dobsonian.
For the money I spent on them, the reflectors offer excellent value in terms of quality for the price (combined, they cost less than the Orion 110mm ED on an AVX mount ), so maybe the the quality is simply a reflection of price.
But it has got me to thinking about what’s invovled in creating a good quality reflecting telescope, and why we don’t seem to see many of them. I find myself consistently slightly disappointed with the images from standard Meade, Celestron and SkyWatcher reflectors (SCTs and Newts) and I’ve never looked through a reflector and thought “wow” - this is as sharp as my refractors. The best was a C8 Edge HD, which was very close and quite impressive.
Why is this? Is it just a market driven thing and that there is a limited desire for producing high quality premium reflectors outside of professional / research instruments?
I have no idea of actual numbers produced, but it seems that there one can readily buy nice refractors of 100-150mm aperture in the $1000-10,000 range, but there are few “refractor-like” reflectors in this space. Clearly there are small custom houses producing very nice instruments with precision figured mirrors that would probably meet or exceed the quality of good Apo, but there just don’t seem to be a lot them. At least I’ve never come across them, so I guess this means they are not produced in large numbers, or bought by a lot of people.
It’s become a sort of quest for Holy Grail for me to find this balace of quality of aperture within the bounds of normal affordability - ideally I’d like an excellent quality reflector (both optically & mechanically) in the 10-12” range for the price of of 130mm Apo with the ssme image quality. Does it exist?
Edited by johngwheeler, 14 April 2018 - 08:50 AM.