Skywatcher NEQ6: reliable workhorse. I regretted selling mine so much that I am thinking about buying one back second hand. For its price it probably has the most bang for the buck.
Astro-physics Mach1: beautiful reliable mount. Never miss a beat. Even in windy nights with big scope I still get sub arcsec guided result. Unbelievable performance. It is expensive though, so less bang for the buck than the NEQ6. Its accessories are also expensive, but again they are nicely made. Because it is pricey, I often hesitate to leave it out, unlike my previous NEQ6 which I just left semipermanently mounted outside covered with a Telegizmo 365.
Astro-physics 130GT: beautiful optics. Round stars to corners. It just works.
Cateye collimation tools: would not have been able to collimate my e130D without them.
Pixinsight: if you have a Mac, this is the way to go. Does calibration, stacking and post processing all in one app.
Atik 460: Just works.
Good, but needed work:
GSO 6" RC: an absolute PIA to collimate, but once collimated worked well. Needed tons of upgrade to get to that point. I would not recommend this unless you like a challenge.
Takahashi e130D: also an absolute PIA to collimate, but great once collimated. Also needed tons of upgrade to get to that point. However, the effort is well worth it as it is f/3.2. As far as I know no refractor can get to that speed without some problems. I understand other imaging newts also have similar problems, so this is just a price to pay for the speed.
Celestron EdgeHD 800: My first copy was a dud. My second copy which I still have is a good copy. My first copy of the dedicated reducer was not very good. My second copy of the reducer is better. I am sticking with it because there are not many alternative options if you want to get to that focal length, without breaking the bank. It has a reduced FL of 1400. A refractor at f/7 would need an aperture of 200mm (non-existent). RCs get that FL but difficult to collimate unless you splash out for something like RCOS. For this reason, I am still keeping mine for imaging small galaxies and PN. If I am to buy one of these again I would buy it from a place where you can return it easily.
OK, but a little disappointed / YMMV
William Optics 81GT: Not a bad scope but not worth its price tag. It has WO's signature diffraction artefacts. Stars at extreme corners are not round. If it is priced cheaper it would be acceptable as a beginner scope. But I have seen better images from much cheaper ED80 Doublets.
Skywatcher Espirit 80. QC seems to be a problem.I have bought and sold the same model twice. The first one I bought was a dud with big diffraction artefacts giving uneven halo around bright stars that looks like a cross. Returned it and got a good copy but sold it to finance a FSQ85 (see under "Disappointed"). Purchased a second one to replace my FSQ85, again got a dud and had to return it for a replacement. The replacement still had a hint of the artefact (but it is passable) and a little corner star elongation (but I am a pixel peeper - it is passable). Like the WO81, it would have been acceptable as an intermediate scope if it is priced cheaper. I sold it eventually to finance my Takahashi e130D. Having said this, it is better and more cost effective than my Takahashi FSQ85, which I presume it is positioned to compete with. If one is to choose between a Baby-Q and an Espirit, I would choose the Espirit every time.
Atik EFW and OAG: very solid and well made, but it takes up way too much back focus, such that you simply can't use it on most refractors as a EFW-OAG combo (EFW by itself is ok, but I am partial to OAG). About the only thing you can use this combo on is with SCT.
FSQ-85: Despite its hype and cost, it was a very disappointing scope. My first copy ex Hong Kong was a dud, with clear discollimation out of box. I had to ship it all the way back to Japan for repair. The repaired scope is sharp in the centre, but corner stars are elongated. Takahashi factory said that it is within spec?!?! when I complained. Spent a fortune on focuser upgrade trying to make it work: With the Feathertouch focuser I could get a reasonably good field with my Atik 460, but only if I focused on a star manually off centre (the standard advice is to focus half way between centre and edge). I simply could not use SGPro autofocus feature and get an acceptable result. Without auto focus I could not really use it unless I baby sit it whole night. At this price it should just work but it did not. There are countless other reports of the same problem; I just wished I had read about them before I purchased.
Interestingly, Takahashi has recently released a 1.01x flattener for it, IMO basically an admission on their part that the scope in its native form is not flat. I sold mine just months before they announced the flattener. I always wonder whether with this flattener it would perform better, but then I have moved on and could not try it.
iOptron ZEQ25. I purchased one after reading rave reviews on CN. But honestly this is a POS. I spent countless hours trying to tune it as per instructions here, but my best guided result I got was 2-3 arc sec with mediocre result paired with a 80mm refractor. This is my first "serious" mount and I thought for some time the problem was with me. But when I traded it for a NEQ6 and the difference was night and day. It was then that I realised the problem did not lie with the operator. I know others have had good result with it, but this was not my experience. If you are a beginner, this is the worst thing you can buy because if it does not work well you would never know whether you are the problem or whether the mount is the problem.
I have made many mistakes in my previous purchases. One thing I learnt is that you get what you pay for. The other thing I learnt is that it is often more expensive to buy cheap upfront as you will pay more in the long run. The last thing I learnt is that expensive gear with lots of hype (yes, FSQ85, I am referring to you) does not automatically mean that it is going to be good and careful research is required.
Edited by Henry from NZ, 16 February 2019 - 03:51 PM.