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Meade LX850 10in F8 ACF Scope Back Focus & Flat Field - Informational

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#1 dhaval

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Posted 23 April 2019 - 07:15 AM

In this rather longish post, I am going to answer the elusive question of Meade's back focus and how flat a field does the scope produce - read on if interested! 

 

I recently bought a used Meade LX850 10in F8 ACF telescope with the view to use it for remote DSO imaging. Being excited, I started a post on this forum to announce to the world that I was finally moving away from refractors and also to ask a couple of questions. Additionally, I was wanting to put Moonlite's NC on the back of the scope (I already own the NC, just required a Meade ACF 10in scope's flange from Ron at ML). 

 

I was met with a couple of questions about the scope's specifications (primarily back focus and field curvature). I have to be honest, when I purchased the scope, I had no clue what I was getting in to, so those questions came as a jolt and I started questioning my decision to purchase the Meade scope for remote imaging. The two biggest questions were - what is the published back focus for the scope (and by extension, if I could use a decent focuser and camera system with this telescope that would be operated remotely) and whether the scope produces a flat field for larger sensors (again, I had no clue that these scopes were not corrected for field curvature). It really started to look like a bad decision, to buy the scope. 

 

To answer the above questions, I searched the web. I first started looking for images on Astrobin. That resulted in bringing up images by 2 people. One of them has exceptional images and even the second person's images are decent (at least the underlying data seems to be really good). They both seemed to be using a 4/3 sensor and achieving a fairly flat field. I don't know any other specifics - like if they are using a reducer or a flattener in their imaging train. Of the two people, one is using the STT8300 with FW and AO. That system by itself uses up 103mm of back focus, but I don't know what focuser that person is using - so there is no way for me to know what the actual back focus is. Regardless, I would still wanted to know if Meade had published the scope's back focus anywhere - but there is nothing on the web or on Meade's website.

 

Next, I called up a couple of my imaging friends - primarily Chris F. Both live in the Austin area. Chris actually uses a Meade F10 scope for imaging (he recently made a post about resurrecting his Meade F10 for DSO imaging on this forum. While Chris did not have an exact answer for the back focus (he said his camera hangs about a foot from the flange of the scope) - he did mention that when he used a full frame camera (DSLR) for testing, he could see that most of the field was pretty flat (maybe just a bit of curvature at the extreme edges of the field, but nothing that couldn't be cropped out). His current set up includes a 4/3 sensor (ZWO1600) and that produces a flat field. That seemed to be consistent with the images that I was seeing on the web. He also mentioned that he uses two reducer/flatteners - AP27TVPH and Optec Lepus. Given that his scope hangs at about a foot from the flange, that changes the focal ratio at which he images - makes it F12 (native). With the two reducers that he uses, he can bring that down to around F8 or F5, depending on how he uses it. However, again, while encouraging, this did not give me Meade's take on the back focus for the scope itself. This being critical because I wasn't sure if I could use the NC and achieve automation. One thing that was becoming quite apparent was that a 4/3 chip would be the most workable chip with this scope without having to worry about field curvature. 

 

Now, I have heard about the non-existent Meade's customer service. So, I grudgingly put a call in to Meade, not sure what the expect, but hoping to find out the back focus for this particular scope (Meade's website lists the back focus as "TBD"). I got through to customer service, however, the person on the other end did not know the back focus - but he promised to call me back within 30 minutes after consulting their engineering department. A couple hours pass by and I am thinking, the customer support guy had punted and I would not be getting a call back, but after about 3 hours. I had a VM - the back focus is 4.56in from the back flange. They were even courteous to send me a diagram (attached)! So much for the "non-existent" customer service. I am not sure why that is not published on their website, but I am a happy camper as of now. 

 

Coming back to my decision though, getting to know that the back focus is just 4.56in was a big bummer - the NC is 4.5in by itself. No way I can attach a camera to the back of this scope and hope to achieve anything. So, I was back to square one - the decision to get the scope was looking bad.

 

That is when I decided to call Tolga. I had heard that Tolga had recently set up a system using the 14in version of this scope and NC - I wondered how he'd done that. Tolga mentioned he was not aware of the 4.56in back focus requirement, however, it was a fact that he had set up the system. But given that Meade had claimed the back focus to be 4.56in, he too confirmed that the NC would not be a viable option. In desperation, I asked him, what could be done to automate focusing - and viola - Tolga mentioned that the existing focuser on the Meade LX850 system is rather robust and that I can use a solution provided by Optec - DirectSync ACF to automate focusing. I have to admit, I had no clue such a thing existed. There just isn't material on the web regarding these scopes. So, this came as a pleasant surprise. 

 

So, I am hoping that the Optec solution (thanks Tolga) along with me settling on using a 4/3 sensor (most likely using the STT8300) will help me use this scope for remote DSO imaging. I am looking forward to receiving the scope and testing it before commissioning it at the remote observatory. Hopefully, I will start using it later this summer at which point, I hope to provide images once I have it fully commissioned. Keeping my fingers crossed! More to follow ......

 

 

CS! 

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#2 RedLionNJ

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Posted 23 April 2019 - 01:47 PM

Hi Dhaval,

 

I suppose this (prevoiusly-unpublished) 4.56 inches only applies to the 10" F/8 model?

 

I'd be curious to repeat your process (calling Meade) for the 12" F/10.



#3 dhaval

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Posted 23 April 2019 - 04:21 PM

I imagine so. For the same scope (10in F8), if using a reducer that brings down the focal ratio to F5, then the back focus is 3.5in...I wouldn't be surprised if the F10 scope has a different back focus. 

 

And yes, I think you should call them. If nothing else, maybe Meade will update their website if multiple people call asking for same/similar information.

 

CS! 


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#4 AF7JQ

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Posted 23 April 2019 - 08:28 PM

Something to keep in mind...the only reducer I know of so far that will work with the ACF optics is the Optec Lepus .63x. It requires 105mm back focus to achieve full reduction. With my LX600 12" F/8 (same optics that come with the LX850 OTA)  I can NOT reach 105mm before running out of focus knob rotation. This only seems to be a problem with the F/8 optics not the F/10. As you continue to turn counter clock wise the knob gets increasingly harder to turn and starts to distort the stars before you get in to full focus.After doing some tests with stacked up spacers I found I CAN get to about  90mm and still stay in the easier to turn part of the  focus range. I went with a 70mm adapter from Optec, and with the nose piece for the ZWO ASI1600mc-Pro, and the depth to the sensor I get a measured reduction down to about F/5.7 instead of F/5. The Direct Sync ACF focuser works well in this range...allthough you have to change the controller setting from the Direct Sync model to the HIGH Torque Model to keep the motor from stalling on cold nights. Also in line with the optical train is the Peterson Engineering Eyeopener and tube adapter. These take up more of the backfocus...I have the generation ll. There is a new generation lll that takes up less space, and Mr Peterson said he could machine a bit more of it to make it even smaller. You need the Eyeopener to get the full 2" optical path, otherwise you'll have vignetting on the image!

Love the F/8 optics

Love the Direct Sync Focuser....uses the focus knob...not space in the optic train (won't work with F/10 optics!!!)

Love the Temp Compensation of the Direct Sync...without it you have to refocus every 18 Minutes due to shrinkage of the OTA and glass, and such.

 

I don't see any field curvature with the ZWO ASI1600MC-Pro, but may be a problem for larger chips...but doubt I'll ever afford one of those!!!

Happy to answer your questions

John



#5 dhaval

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Posted 23 April 2019 - 09:13 PM

Hi John,

Let me know if it is OK to send you an IM? I have a couple of questions based on what you've stated in here.

Thanks,
Dhaval



#6 cfosterstars

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Posted 23 April 2019 - 11:41 PM

There must be a big difference between the F/8 and the F/10 for backfocus. This is my SCT with my optics train and Feathertouch R/P focuser:

 

IMG_2624.JPG

 

My ASI1600MM-C is at least a foot back from the visual back and I have no issue reaching focus with the main mirror focus control. I have the Lepus F/6.3 focal reducer that gets me to 2100mm. This is due to how far back I have to move the mirror to reach focus. The F/8 has a steeper light cone, so I must have to focus closer. The feathertouch has that large adapter to allow the draw tube to fully retract  since it is a larger diameter than the baffle tube of the OTA.

 

I actually did motorize the main mirror focuser also, but the F/10 OTA has so much backlash on the mirror so that it is useless for autofocus. that is why I went with the feathertouch R/P:

 

IMG_2623.JPG

 

This was also an upgraded focuser for the main mirror. That was not the issue. The F/8 has a crayford design focuser for the main mirror that I heard has much less backlash. If so, then it should work for auto focus.

 

FOr the feathertouch, I have nice v-curves with SGP auto focus:

 

SCT autofocus blue.jpg


Edited by cfosterstars, 23 April 2019 - 11:46 PM.

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#7 dhaval

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 06:13 PM

Something to keep in mind...the only reducer I know of so far that will work with the ACF optics is the Optec Lepus .63x. It requires 105mm back focus to achieve full reduction. With my LX600 12" F/8 (same optics that come with the LX850 OTA)  I can NOT reach 105mm before running out of focus knob rotation. This only seems to be a problem with the F/8 optics not the F/10. As you continue to turn counter clock wise the knob gets increasingly harder to turn and starts to distort the stars before you get in to full focus.After doing some tests with stacked up spacers I found I CAN get to about  90mm and still stay in the easier to turn part of the  focus range. I went with a 70mm adapter from Optec, and with the nose piece for the ZWO ASI1600mc-Pro, and the depth to the sensor I get a measured reduction down to about F/5.7 instead of F/5. The Direct Sync ACF focuser works well in this range...allthough you have to change the controller setting from the Direct Sync model to the HIGH Torque Model to keep the motor from stalling on cold nights. Also in line with the optical train is the Peterson Engineering Eyeopener and tube adapter. These take up more of the backfocus...I have the generation ll. There is a new generation lll that takes up less space, and Mr Peterson said he could machine a bit more of it to make it even smaller. You need the Eyeopener to get the full 2" optical path, otherwise you'll have vignetting on the image!

Love the F/8 optics

Love the Direct Sync Focuser....uses the focus knob...not space in the optic train (won't work with F/10 optics!!!)

Love the Temp Compensation of the Direct Sync...without it you have to refocus every 18 Minutes due to shrinkage of the OTA and glass, and such.

 

I don't see any field curvature with the ZWO ASI1600MC-Pro, but may be a problem for larger chips...but doubt I'll ever afford one of those!!!

Happy to answer your questions

John

Hi John,

Thanks for the detailed information about your set up. Having said that, I was looking at Meade's website this afternoon and saw that they have a 2in diagonal at the back of the scope - admittedly that is for visual, but I would have guessed that the opening would support a 2in camera nose piece as well - is that not the case? My point being, is the Peterson Eyeopener a requirement? I will soon find out of course, but wanted to see if you know. 

 

I will also have the check on the backlash. I saw a video from Optec and they had backlash set at 160 steps which configuring the DirectSync focuser. I am not sure if that is high, so any information about that will also be helpful. 

 

CS! 



#8 dhaval

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 06:16 PM

There must be a big difference between the F/8 and the F/10 for backfocus. This is my SCT with my optics train and Feathertouch R/P focuser:

 

attachicon.gif IMG_2624.JPG

 

My ASI1600MM-C is at least a foot back from the visual back and I have no issue reaching focus with the main mirror focus control. I have the Lepus F/6.3 focal reducer that gets me to 2100mm. This is due to how far back I have to move the mirror to reach focus. The F/8 has a steeper light cone, so I must have to focus closer. The feathertouch has that large adapter to allow the draw tube to fully retract  since it is a larger diameter than the baffle tube of the OTA.

 

I actually did motorize the main mirror focuser also, but the F/10 OTA has so much backlash on the mirror so that it is useless for autofocus. that is why I went with the feathertouch R/P:

 

attachicon.gif IMG_2623.JPG

 

This was also an upgraded focuser for the main mirror. That was not the issue. The F/8 has a crayford design focuser for the main mirror that I heard has much less backlash. If so, then it should work for auto focus.

 

FOr the feathertouch, I have nice v-curves with SGP auto focus:

 

attachicon.gif SCT autofocus blue.jpg

Chris,

Thanks for posting images of your set up. 

 

Meade's indication of the back focus does not seem to jive with the fact that you have the camera a foot behind the flange and also Tolga's acknowledgement that when he set up the 14in ACF F8, he set it up with a NC focuser. I think there has to be some discrepancy somewhere - if it is in the actual back focus distance, I may be able to understand, but I am not sure if the back focus distance is wildly different between these scopes. 

 

I know you do use your scope with a reducer, I want to see if I can use my set up at native 2032mm FL. If I can, that will be awesome! 

 

CS!



#9 AF7JQ

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 06:54 PM

The Meade setup as came stock has a diagonal that has a 2" opening for eyepieces, and the scope side has an SCT (screw on ) connector that fastens to the back of the scope. That opening is 1.25". You will really notice the difference visually when you use a "real" eyepiece other than the 26mm they include. Without the Peterson eyeopener and using a bigger eyepiece you'll have to keep your eye centered to keep from seeing the "looking through a tube" effect. With the eyeopener it's like looking out the window of the Space Station...you can look all the way to the edge...really KOOL. With a camera attatched ( without the eyeopener) you will have vignetting all the time. Get the Gen lll eyeopener and ask Pete about making it with the very least backfocus possible. I will be replacing my Gen ll soon.

The amount of backfocus for the F/8 is indeed different from the F/10. My friend has a LX90 12" F/10  and has no trouble reaching the required 105mm backfocus for the Lepus, and he has the Meade Zero Shift focuser inline as well which is 88mm. I can't get there with only the eyeopener plus the reducer. I think with the Gen lll made as small as possible I can get a new adapter made from Optec, and at least on paper I should be right at the magic 105mm that the Lepus is looking for. Right now my measured reduction is about F/5.5. With the Gen lll and a new adapter I should be at F/5. I'm not sure how it will be with the 10", but with the LX600 12"  F/8 and my ZWO ASI1600 MC-Pro BIN 1x1 the arc-sec/pixel scale is about .32. That puts you right at about the same as the atmospheric distortions...stars are messy. You'll find except for galaxy season you want to be reduced. works way better! With the reducer inline and BIN 2x2 I'm at about .95 scale...at full reduction I should be at 1.0. I think that last little bit will be worth the price for me.



#10 jhayes_tucson

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 08:54 PM

There must be a big difference between the F/8 and the F/10 for backfocus. This is my SCT with my optics train and Feathertouch R/P focuser:

 

attachicon.gif IMG_2624.JPG

 

My ASI1600MM-C is at least a foot back from the visual back and I have no issue reaching focus with the main mirror focus control. I have the Lepus F/6.3 focal reducer that gets me to 2100mm. This is due to how far back I have to move the mirror to reach focus. The F/8 has a steeper light cone, so I must have to focus closer. The feathertouch has that large adapter to allow the draw tube to fully retract  since it is a larger diameter than the baffle tube of the OTA.

 

I actually did motorize the main mirror focuser also, but the F/10 OTA has so much backlash on the mirror so that it is useless for autofocus. that is why I went with the feathertouch R/P:

 

attachicon.gif IMG_2623.JPG

 

This was also an upgraded focuser for the main mirror. That was not the issue. The F/8 has a crayford design focuser for the main mirror that I heard has much less backlash. If so, then it should work for auto focus.

 

FOr the feathertouch, I have nice v-curves with SGP auto focus:

 

attachicon.gif SCT autofocus blue.jpg

 

The back-focus spec has nothing to do with how far back you can place the sensor and still get the system to focus.  It's all about field performance.  When the system is designed the designer make a decision about where the focal plane will lie and then optimizes the system to provide good field performance out to the specified field radius.  The fact that your system works reasonably well with the camera so far from the back of the scope is more likely due to the small sensor size than anything else.  I don't have access to the Meade prescription to check but it's possible that the design may be more tolerant when the sensor is moved outside focus (rather than inside.)  That also makes it hard to say how what you might be losing in field performance with the sensor that far back.  (I've posted detailed analysis of this effect for the C14 Edge systems elsewhere in these forums.)  Either way, you will always achieve the best imaging quality when the sensor is placed as close as possible to the correct position shown in the design specification.

 

John


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#11 cfosterstars

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 10:27 PM

Chris,

Thanks for posting images of your set up. 

 

Meade's indication of the back focus does not seem to jive with the fact that you have the camera a foot behind the flange and also Tolga's acknowledgement that when he set up the 14in ACF F8, he set it up with a NC focuser. I think there has to be some discrepancy somewhere - if it is in the actual back focus distance, I may be able to understand, but I am not sure if the back focus distance is wildly different between these scopes. 

 

I know you do use your scope with a reducer, I want to see if I can use my set up at native 2032mm FL. If I can, that will be awesome! 

 

CS!

The only time I was not able to reach focus was with a very long image train and a reducer right at the visual back with a DSLR which has a long back focus itself and using a 2" diagonal.. 



#12 cfosterstars

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 10:45 PM

The back-focus spec has nothing to do with how far back you can place the sensor and still get the system to focus.  It's all about field performance.  When the system is designed the designer make a decision about where the focal plane will lie and then optimizes the system to provide good field performance out to the specified field radius.  The fact that your system works reasonably well with the camera so far from the back of the scope is more likely due to the small sensor size than anything else.  I don't have access to the Meade prescription to check but it's possible that the design may be more tolerant when the sensor is moved outside focus (rather than inside.)  That also makes it hard to say how what you might be losing in field performance with the sensor that far back.  (I've posted detailed analysis of this effect for the C14 Edge systems elsewhere in these forums.)  Either way, you will always achieve the best imaging quality when the sensor is placed as close as possible to the correct position shown in the design specification.

 

John

John,

 

The setup that I have is the only set up that I have ever been able to get to work for several systems with this OTA. The Meade F/10 mirror focus is terrible and is completely useless for autofocus due to huge backlash and hysteresis. Only an external focuser will work with this OTA to do autofocus that I have found. I also have tried numerous focal reducers and optic setups. I have used it with a Canon 6D full frame with the AP reducer or at native without my Feathertouch focuser and it has a relatively nice flat FOV. With the feathertouch and the Optec reducer, I have a very nice flat FOV for my 4/3 sensor size and that is completely fine for me. I now can run completely automated with SGP and that is what I was after. I dont have a full frame cooled camera and doubt I will ever have one. I am just very happy to now be able to really use this OTA after several years of basically just a dead weight on my mount. The fact that it is not the design specification at this point does not bother me. So far, my data is looking better than I have ever achieved with it before. In my dreams, I would have a Planewave CDK with a full frame mono CMOS camera, but I highly doubt that will ever occur. So for my 4/3 sensor, This works for me.

 

Chris



#13 RedLionNJ

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Posted 25 April 2019 - 08:54 AM

John,

 

The setup that I have is the only set up that I have ever been able to get to work for several systems with this OTA. The Meade F/10 mirror focus is terrible and is completely useless for autofocus due to huge backlash and hysteresis. Only an external focuser will work with this OTA to do autofocus that I have found. I also have tried numerous focal reducers and optic setups. I have used it with a Canon 6D full frame with the AP reducer or at native without my Feathertouch focuser and it has a relatively nice flat FOV. With the feathertouch and the Optec reducer, I have a very nice flat FOV for my 4/3 sensor size and that is completely fine for me. I now can run completely automated with SGP and that is what I was after. I dont have a full frame cooled camera and doubt I will ever have one. I am just very happy to now be able to really use this OTA after several years of basically just a dead weight on my mount. The fact that it is not the design specification at this point does not bother me. So far, my data is looking better than I have ever achieved with it before. In my dreams, I would have a Planewave CDK with a full frame mono CMOS camera, but I highly doubt that will ever occur. So for my 4/3 sensor, This works for me.

 

Chris

But the point we're trying to nail here is - given no optical components between the secondary mirror and the focal plane, how far back from the rear cell is the optimum position for the focal plane?

 

Since rough focusing can be achieved by moving the primary along the optical axis, which changes the spacing between the corrector, primary and secondary (and the rear of the tube), there are a wide range of potential locations for a focal plane - but as John says, the entire optical system should be spec-ed with respect to a single, optimal position. That's the position we seek, here.

 

Celestron makes no secret of this location for many of their SCTs - I'd like to know the location for a Meade 12" f/10 ACF.


Edited by RedLionNJ, 25 April 2019 - 08:55 AM.


#14 cfosterstars

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Posted 25 April 2019 - 09:34 AM

But the point we're trying to nail here is - given no optical components between the secondary mirror and the focal plane, how far back from the rear cell is the optimum position for the focal plane?

 

Since rough focusing can be achieved by moving the primary along the optical axis, which changes the spacing between the corrector, primary and secondary (and the rear of the tube), there are a wide range of potential locations for a focal plane - but as John says, the entire optical system should be spec-ed with respect to a single, optimal position. That's the position we seek, here.

 

Celestron makes no secret of this location for many of their SCTs - I'd like to know the location for a Meade 12" f/10 ACF.

Well good luck with getting a diffinitive answer from Meade. I have tried with no success over the years. 


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#15 dhaval

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Posted 25 April 2019 - 06:48 PM

Referencing back to the diagram that Meade sent me - but can anyone who has the said scope (LX850 10in F8 ACF) please let me know what the thickness of the flange (please refer to the attached diagram and the comment callout) is? I guess I can wait till I get the scope, but I want to be able to order the adapter to connect from the back of the scope to the SBIG camera (or AO, depending on whether the scope will have the necessary back focus after removing the thickness of the flange).

 

TIA!

 

CS!

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#16 RedLionNJ

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Posted 26 April 2019 - 11:32 AM

Wow. Actually got an answer out of Meade today - in case anyone with a 12" F/10 is following this thread, Meade just informed me the backfocus spacing for the 12" F/10 ACF is 5.9 inches.

 

Grant


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#17 dhaval

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Posted 26 April 2019 - 01:25 PM

And I also got answer to the question in the blob (post #15) - 0.44". At this point, my guess is that the 0.44" will be completely covered by either the adapter or EyeOpener (I will wait till I get my scope to check that out). I suppose, I can go ahead and order a precise parts adapter for the scope to the camera and I should be set, hopefully!

 

CS! 


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