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The "new improved" Portaballs 8", 12.5" & 18" - any owners?

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#1 25585

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 06:46 AM

http://www.mag1instr...taball-12-5-f-5

 

18" F4.5 to be made, currently in 8" F5.5 and 12.5" F5.

 

The 18" is an exciting prospect!  Does anyone own a new 8 or 12 inch version?


Edited by 25585, 20 July 2019 - 06:48 AM.


#2 Astrojensen

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 06:53 AM

Looks good! What are the approximate prices?

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark



#3 25585

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 07:14 AM

Looks good! What are the approximate prices?

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark

I am enquiring about the 18", also shipping.....



#4 gwlee

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 12:48 PM

I am enquiring about the 18", also shipping.....

I owned an 8”f6 Portaball for several years, and I have made several requests for basic information about the new 8”f5.5 without getting a meaningful response from the new owner. Don’t get the impression that MAG1 is really a going concern these days despite the website. 


Edited by gwlee, 20 July 2019 - 12:52 PM.


#5 pao

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 01:29 PM

I sent an information email and they never answered me.



#6 CHASLX200

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 04:19 PM

I would guess a 18" would be pushing $13K.



#7 davidpitre

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 04:30 PM

So what is new and improved about them?
It sounds like not their communication.

Edited by davidpitre, 20 July 2019 - 04:31 PM.


#8 areyoukiddingme

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 07:13 PM

You really need to phone the guy to have much of a chance at a response. His primary business is a machine shop, so he clearly gets distracted. But once you make contact, he is very helpful. Just be patient.

 

My Portaball is a 2003 vintage . . . 12.5" F5. But I have done some upgrades, and can report on those:

 

I have "upgraded" to the new mirror cell without the edge supports. I had problems working with my 1.625" primary, finding that the collimation shifts, so I switched back to the original. I had the springs tightened down as much as possible, and entertained the idea of stiffer springs, but I think the primary was just a little too heavy to have only 6 contact points. Maybe I could get it to work with more patience, but the original wooden cell with side supports is just easier to figure out for me.

 

I also "upgraded" to the new tripod. It is all aluminium, and has a wider ring for more surface area/stiction. Vibrates like a bast#@$. If you pick it up and give it a whack it rings like a bell. I much prefer and always use the original wooden tripod which dampens very quickly. I will figure out how to fabricate some wooden legs for it one of these days, and suspect that would work pretty well.

 

Also decided to get the cart. With handle, it falls over b/c it isn't balanced (which gets old quick). Also comes with hard plastic wheels that make going over bumps a pain. I will upgrade to pneumatic tires one of these days, as the thing is pretty well constructed otherwise. Might put some sand in the front support to stop it falling over.

 

My guess is that the new scopes will be better electrically (I've yanked all the electrics out of mine and don't miss them), and I would also expect the new cell with 6 spots on the bottom of the mirror to work fine with a thin quartz mirror at 12.5". But don't expect great performance if you get a heavier pyrex unit. I'd be especially careful with the 18", but would bet the 8" will be fine in any case.

 

Well, that's my experience with mixing old and new, so take it FWIW (possibly little!). The new scopes may have better engineered surfaces on the sphere to get smoother operation with the new tripod, and maybe my silicone skills on the primary were sub-par. And the newer mirrors may well be lighter (quartz definitely is).

 

All my whining aside, the Portaball is a wonderful scope. Extremely portable, very comfortable and easy to use--just swing the eyepiece to the angle that you find most comfortable. Motions are very smooth and intuitive. Mine has little in the way of balance issues. The bridge too far was Paracorr 2 plus Explore Scientific 17/92. But I don't have issues with a 31 Nager in P2.

 

Optics are fantastic. Finally got my cell silicone sorted out (I cut the side support silicone with floss, but left it in place), and I am no longer getting significant astigmatism on cool down. Was looking at Saturn and the Moon last night close to 500x with great detail.



#9 gwlee

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 09:24 PM

You really need to phone the guy to have much of a chance at a response. His primary business is a machine shop, so he clearly gets distracted. But once you make contact, he is very helpful. Just be patient.

 

Peter built an 8”f6 for me several years ago, but I wouldn’t be comfortable fronting the new owner, someone I don’t know personally, but know didn’t respond professionally to my pre-sales inquiries, with several thousand dollars to build a scope for me sometime in the future. The new owner would need to show a much more serious commitment to resurrecting MAG1 than a website for me to take him seriously enough to place a new PortaBall order.  


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#10 areyoukiddingme

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 11:57 PM

Well, you have to decide that for yourself. We are used to good customer support these days, but when it's a one-guy operation my opinion is that you have to cut some slack.

 

The recent Teeter thread put things in perspective.

 

What would you rather have? A distracted guy who makes his living doing something other than telescope manufacturing, but who can knock out a great scope, versus what has become of Teeter? 



#11 Astrojensen

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:13 AM

No, we do not have to decide that for ourselves. It is simply crucial for any business today to have good customer support. And today, this absolutely requires fast email reply. Many people are much more comfortable writing down a technical question and sending an email, than to call over the phone, myself included. 

 

If the new Mag1 owner does not realize this, I don't give the company many chances to survive in the long term, no matter how high quality his products are. 

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark


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#12 25585

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:24 AM

No, we do not have to decide that for ourselves. It is simply crucial for any business today to have good customer support. And today, this absolutely requires fast email reply. Many people are much more comfortable writing down a technical question and sending an email, than to call over the phone, myself included. 

 

If the new Mag1 owner does not realize this, I don't give the company many chances to survive in the long term, no matter how high quality his products are. 

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark

At least an auto reply email acknowledging receipt! 



#13 Pierre Lemay

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:26 AM

As a fan of ball scopes and inventor of the tracking platforms made specifically for them (see my web site in my signature for details), I've been following the Mag1 Instruments company ever since its beginnings under the late Peter Smitka. Having read about the ball scopes I was making, Peter contacted me early on and we corresponded on several issues to help improve his excellent design. I'm pleased to see that new owner David Juckem continues to build and improve them and I wish him all the success in single handidly keeping a commercial version of this design alive and available to amateur astronomers.

 

However, one thing I've noticed about the website is that the 18 inch ball scope page has not changed in at least 10 years. It continues to say "We will be adding more information soon regarding the addition of the 18" f/4.5 Portaball to the Mag 1 product line". The OP mentions that the 18 inch will now be built. Is that confirmed by someone having spoken to Dave Juckem or is it just a market rumor? I remember that at least one 18 inch prototype was made many years ago by Mag1. It would be great news if it actually happens.



#14 Pogo007

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:29 AM

As well, don't put a contact form on your commercial website if you are not going to pay much attention to those contacting you using the form.  If you only plan to respond to phone calls then only supply the phone number.


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#15 CHASLX200

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 10:23 AM

No, we do not have to decide that for ourselves. It is simply crucial for any business today to have good customer support. And today, this absolutely requires fast email reply. Many people are much more comfortable writing down a technical question and sending an email, than to call over the phone, myself included. 

 

If the new Mag1 owner does not realize this, I don't give the company many chances to survive in the long term, no matter how high quality his products are. 

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark

I don't play with any comp that lacks support or no reply back to calls or E mails.  


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#16 starman876

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 10:51 AM

Considering the weight of my 12.5" portaball I cannot imagine what an 18" would weigh.  However, considering the awesome views I have had with the 12.5" I could only imagine the views that an 18" would provide.   They certainly make an awesome scope. 



#17 gwlee

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 12:19 PM

 

However, one thing I've noticed about the website is that the 18 inch ball scope page has not changed in at least 10 years. It continues to say "We will be adding more information soon regarding the addition of the 18" f/4.5 Portaball to the Mag 1 product line". The OP mentions that the 18 inch will now be built. Is that confirmed by someone having spoken to Dave Juckem or is it just a market rumor? I remember that at least one 18 inch prototype was made many years ago by Mag1. It would be great news if it actually happens.

Yes, it’s the same skimpy, unattended website that went up about 10 years ago when S&T wrote that puff piece about the resurrection of Mag1. Notice there are no dates associated with any of the reviews on the web site, still no pricing information, and still no delivery information. 

 

A lot of us were encouraged when the S&T story first ran, hoped it was true, and repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to get more information from MAG1. Ten years later, it seems that the story was mostly wishful thinking. However, I have read a few reports here of the new owner providing spare parts for older scopes, refurbishing older scopes, and producing at least one new scope, so there’s still some faint hope. 


Edited by gwlee, 21 July 2019 - 12:47 PM.


#18 Don W

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 01:12 PM

The new owner is a personal friend of mine. Several years ago he decided to not make many (if any) new scopes. He will provide support for those already sold but that's about it. He is so busy with his other  business that Mag1 is not getting much attention. Next time I talk to him I will suggest that he put information on the web site as to the status of the scopes. Although the late Pete Smitka was the front man for Mag 1, most of the parts were made by the current owner and the mirrors from Zambuto when he could get them.

 

Dave is a great guy, but he's very busy with other things. Mag 1 is on the back burner if it's even a concern anymore.


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#19 areyoukiddingme

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 02:23 PM

Clearly on the backburner . . . I hope he'll keep at it.

 

If his choice is keep making a living, or answering emails, it's pretty clear where this is going to go.



#20 areyoukiddingme

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 03:52 PM

No, we do not have to decide that for ourselves. It is simply crucial for any business today to have good customer support. And today, this absolutely requires fast email reply. Many people are much more comfortable writing down a technical question and sending an email, than to call over the phone, myself included. 

 

If the new Mag1 owner does not realize this, I don't give the company many chances to survive in the long term, no matter how high quality his products are. 

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark

 

Well . . . the poster I was responding to was indicating that he's about the give up on Mag1. That's up to him.

 

I do of course agree that good customer support is important. But everything is a trade-off. It would be great if Mag1 et al. were growing, multi-employee companies. The unfortunate situation is that these companies are typically 1 man operations, and dealing with customer support and making a living do not comport well.

 

I think from the experience of Teeter, it does indeed look like spending (say) several hours each week talking with customers and keeping them up to date on progress took time away from him making a living. Now there's a strong possibility of no more Teeters.

 

It's a delicate knife edge to balance and I don't envy the manufacturers.



#21 Dana in Philly

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 04:28 PM

How do you ball scope folks deal with weight balance -- in particular, when you have, say, a coma corrector and a large wide field eyepiece in the focuser? Is there a point where that front end (UTA) is just going to want to drop? How do you deal with that?



#22 areyoukiddingme

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 04:37 PM

How do you ball scope folks deal with weight balance -- in particular, when you have, say, a coma corrector and a large wide field eyepiece in the focuser? Is there a point where that front end (UTA) is just going to want to drop? How do you deal with that?

 

There are two countermeasures. I think the scopes are tailored to the eyepiece sets planned for use. The spheres have weights added into the bottom. And you can of course add extra later if you needed to. I bought mine used, and it's got a good amount of weight. I'm balanced at all angles with a paracorr 2 and 31 Nagler. Put in a 17mm Explore Scientific 92 however, and I get to about 45 degrees and the scope starts to drop.

 

Other than that there's the static friction between the sphere and the ring on the tripod. A bit of wax and elbow grease can affect that. I've waxed mine twice in 5 years of ownership. I have nice smooth movements, and the scope does not go anywhere with any eyepiece, and you can move stuff in and-out of the scope and it stays put.

 

Finally, the newer tripod has a wider ring with more friction than the original, so that should give more stiction for heavy eyepiece situations.



#23 starman876

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 05:01 PM

There are two countermeasures. I think the scopes are tailored to the eyepiece sets planned for use. The spheres have weights added into the bottom. And you can of course add extra later if you needed to. I bought mine used, and it's got a good amount of weight. I'm balanced at all angles with a paracorr 2 and 31 Nagler. Put in a 17mm Explore Scientific 92 however, and I get to about 45 degrees and the scope starts to drop.

 

Other than that there's the static friction between the sphere and the ring on the tripod. A bit of wax and elbow grease can affect that. I've waxed mine twice in 5 years of ownership. I have nice smooth movements, and the scope does not go anywhere with any eyepiece, and you can move stuff in and-out of the scope and it stays put.

 

Finally, the newer tripod has a wider ring with more friction than the original, so that should give more stiction for heavy eyepiece situations.

If I recall the newer tripod was available as an upgrade.  On the other hand , how hard would it be to make a larger base for a porta ball.


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#24 areyoukiddingme

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 05:50 PM

If I recall the newer tripod was available as an upgrade.  On the other hand , how hard would it be to make a larger base for a porta ball.

Depends on skill level and availability of tools. I live in a condo and have basic hand tools, no work bench, no vice.

 

For me, well nigh impossible.

 

For someone who dabbles in precision, piece of cake I'd think.



#25 Roger Corbett

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 06:53 AM

Another data point.  

 

Rick Singmaster of Starmaster Telescopes answered emails promptly; took calls or called back right away and provided detailed help; customized scopes to fit customer's needs and interests; and produced high quality, well-regarded scopes for *years*.

 

He'd even provide direct personal support for those who bought his scopes on the *used* market.

 

So, it can be done, although as the old saw goes, he may be the exception that proves the rule.  However, I'll wager we could come up with a number of others who were responsive and produced high-end work.  In fact, Michelle Stone of Plettstone Telescopes was superb, too, creating beautiful telescopes, and even provided extra goodies for customers with their orders!

 

Yes, Rick eventually retired and Michelle moved on to other things, but they show it can be done!  Even Rob was successful for several years, produced excellent telescopes, and was, from all accounts, quite responsive.




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