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What influences your choices of refractor aperture and optics most?

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#1 25585


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Posted 17 August 2019 - 06:29 AM

I have mostly doublets, 1 triplet & 1 quadruplet (Petzval).


Price influences me, mainly replacement cost in case I break it, but also considering purpose is only visual, and anticipated amount of use.

Weight next, for mount needed to hold and allow full potential of any refractor (mounts are what I am most miserly over).

Optics equal, semi-apo as a minimum, but I'm getting geekier over this. 

Then aperture to fit in with price and weight. 

Finally mechanics, a good strong focuser to take heavy eyepieces etc.


So what order of priority do you put on refractors you own or might buy? 

#2 SeattleScott


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Posted 17 August 2019 - 08:05 AM

I would tend to prioritize aperture first I suppose, then price. For example the SV Access clearance sale is a great value for the 4”, but I already have an ED103S so a 4” Access doesn’t help me. The 5” could be useful, but I don’t have $1,500 to drop on a scope right now. If a scope is a useful aperture, and a price I can afford, then I will look into the other details. For example I have a Meade AR6. It was bigger than my ED103S and I could afford it. It isn’t an Apo. It isn’t premium build quality. But the size and price were right. For the price I got it for, I could probably make a little money if I sell it later to fund an upgrade to a 6” Apo or something.

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#3 HydrogenAlpha



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Posted 17 August 2019 - 08:17 AM

Price is the first factor. Not that I go for the lowest priced telescope that I can find, but I have a finite budget (as I'm sure most people do) and have to work within it. Also, due to my limited budget, I am only sticking to one scope at the time so that I could afford the best possible quality. 


The next criteria I look for is focal speed, as I only do imaging. Since colour correction is more critical the faster you go, the minimum optical design for me would be a triplet apo. 


Lastly, I go for aperture. Portability and weight simply isn't an issue for me, as I typically image from home and my G11 will take any refractor I could possibly afford on it. 


With these I ended up with a 5" triplet.  

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#4 TareqPhoto



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Posted 17 August 2019 - 08:39 AM

Band is my first factor, sure the price is a big factor but i try my best and hard in life to make budget not a factor, as i really don't want to end up with so so many items or products being just mass productions and cheap affordable and i prevent myself going with something as high end or top quality one.


The choice of a refractor according to aperture is no longer an issue for me, i looked at so so many images and i have few scopes that i can depend on something, so it made choices easier, for example i do have Canon 300mm and 8" F5 Newt and 7" Mak and later 20" dob, all what i need is a Refractor to do DSO that is not covered by those i have, or it can give me wide field if that 300 is too much wide or 8" is too narrow, i don't need a refr to do the moon or planets because that is covered by 7" and 8" and 20", so i definitely not thinking about 1000mm+ refr now.

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#5 Nippon



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Posted 17 August 2019 - 09:47 AM

Optical figure is number 1 for me. I would much prefer a 3" of superb optical quality to a 4" of so so optical quality. 

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#6 MalVeauX


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Posted 17 August 2019 - 10:15 AM

It's a dance between several variables. I find it silly when I realize I'm looking at 72mm, 80mm, 90mm, 102mm and fussing over needing a little of all of them only to stop and say to myself... "It's basically one inch difference!" to ground myself and stop thinking I need more small refractors. So I start my selection process by reminding myself that whatever I'm looking at, is really something I already have probably, and that I need to look at what I really need instead of just looking at new paint jobs or fancier display. So I start there... and because of that, I have not replaced my ED80 with another APO because each time I'm about to do it and get a 72mm or 90mm or 102mm APO thinking I need more, I stop and realize... I'm doing all that for 1 inch difference and ground myself once more. I have lots of 80mm achromatic doublets. Lots of them. If I see one for $50 or something, I snatch it up. So I have several short fast 80mm doublets. But again, I've yet to replace my ED80 APO with its FPL53 optics with something "better" because really there's not much that is wildly significantly better and I'm not really interested in spending a bunch (thousands) just to get 1 little inch of aperture that's already still small and have it perfectly corrected, etc. I consider 4" small still for aperture.


After that, it's mounting requirements. I struggle between not caring about weight and physical size because I can just put it on my observatory mount and it's not a big deal. But, what if I want to use it manually on an Alt-Az outside of my observatory or take it with me to a star party or have it out for others to use, etc? So then I start worrying about mounting the thing safely because I cannot stand under-mounted "large" scopes, they're terrifying in the dark. I have tons of little 80mm scopes laying around on small mounts, truly one-handers. I add them each time I see a deal because one cannot have too many and I have kids and people using them often so they're all out in my observatory ready to go at all times on their little mounts. But, when I'm looking at bigger refractors, over 102mm, so 120mm to 150mm where things get big and heavy real fast, the mount is my next big consideration because if I cannot properly mount it, then I have to get a new mount... just for that one scope? That grounds me again. And that's why I have not bought a 150mm F8 ED doublet yet to replace my current 150mm F8 doublet achromat. Because I just don't want to also have to buy a good mount, adding even more cost to the whole thing. And while I could eliminate this problem by just getting a better manual portable mount, I also don't want to buy something big and heavy and expensive that will not see a lot of use. So this keeps me safe from spending all day every day. If I cannot comfortably mount it now, then I really don't need it and likely won't use it a lot visually.


Price obviously matters. Otherwise, I'd have an 200mm triplet in my observatory by CFF. But I don't have a $50k scope in there sadly. Price matters. I like to shop around and look at what options there are for the price. What influences this for me is the overall build and the quality of the focuser. I don't want a cheap scope if I have to replace the focuser unless the price is good enough to allow the replacement of the focuser without going over budget and just having gotten a different scope anyways. So I look at that as part of it. If the price is good but I have to sink more into it for mounting and focuser options, then it's not a good price. I try to set a budget and stick to it. We all go over our budgets. But, I really ground myself with budget because while I have a lot of telescopes laying around, I don't mind if they're laying around when they cost next to nothing, but if it's a pricey telescope I don't want it just laying around because... well, why did I get it then? And again for this reason I haven't replaced my ED80 APO with another small APO because I could spend a lot more and end up with a little more aperture, but hardly enough to care at this point because I have bigger scopes and these are all small apertures frankly. But I of course always want a bigger APO I think. My ED80 does the job. But I'm constantly looking at 102mm and 130mm APOs to replace it or pair with it. Then I see the price. Then I see it's really only an inch or so more than what I already have and the immense cost isn't worth it yet because I have other scopes already far bigger so.... yea, it grounds me, I just don't need it. I want it. But I don't need it.


Lately I've been eyeballing 102mm~130mm APO options, triplets. I want a 150mm ED/APO eventually to replace my 150mm achromatic doublet. The price is reasonable for the new Skywatchers and F8 with ED glass is good enough for me. I don't need a quad design and I'm not sensitive to CA really (hence my backyard full of small fast achromatic doublets). But no matter what, a 6" frac needs a heavy mount. So while it rides on my observatory mount, I also want to use it sometimes manually or go somewhere with it, and I don't have a heavy duty manual alt-az mount and I don't like EQ mounts that are manual for visual use. I will likely eventually get the Skywatcher 150mm F8 because it's price makes sense. But then again, I think to myself... what's wrong with a 150mm F6 reflector for $200? Sigh. This is why I don't have nice refractors. They just cost so much per inch of aperture and are still not perfectly corrected without spending thousands. Kind of silly really. And I love refractors. But dang! So I'm back to looking at 102mm~130mm APO triplets as a real replacement for my ED80 so that it's enough aperture to actually see stuff, good for imaging and still reasonable to mount without needing a crazy mount just to handle it (like an AZ8, TWII, SkyTee2 would be good for me) so that it's still reasonably portable. So I'm constantly looking at 130mm F7 triplets lately and the 120mm/127mm triplet options too. Things that can take reducers for imaging but still be great for visual. And then of course I go right back to thinking... why do that when I can just get a 150mm F8 ED doublet for the same price. But then again, no reducer. So visual and solar system imaging would be its job. And I frankly don't need that since I have much larger aperture mirrors. Sigh. So... I'm still grounded and haven't bought a new scope hah.


For cheap refractors, smaller ones, achromats mostly, I just look at the aperture, focal-ratio and focuser. Almost every time the focuser is garbage and must be replaced. So I consider that in the price. I really like getting used big achromats for cheap. Lots of big cheap aperture is great and I don't mind CA when I know I didn't spend thousands for it.


Funny enough I'm less fussy about optical figures and correction than I am about the rest of the scope. And I probably should be more fussy about this. But then again, maybe this is why I don't have any really nice big refractors and I'm still just looking at them... 


At the end of the day, I really don't want a several-thousand-dollar scope of any kind just bopping around the yard or traveling, I don't like worrying about it. I like inexpensive high function stuff that I can replace and not care about it really. So I probably never will really have a "nice" telescope I guess. And I'm not even looking at "nice" scopes, like a Tak or something.


I tend to look at Astrotech/TS ED/APOs for value, versus Skywatcher and ExploreScientific again for value. I don't even look at Taks or Televue, etc. I just can't afford that stuff for the tiny size apertures that they are. So I don't look at the high end scopes at all. I struggle looking at the AT/TS, SW and ES scopes at $2k and less even. They're good, functional, but not "nice" by a lot of people's standards around here. They tend to have good focusers and good enough optics for imaging and are corrected enough to not think about it.


I actually want to get an iStarOptical 200mm F10 objective (R20~R50 range) and have SiebertOptics build a modular OTA for it. Reasonable cost ($5k total maybe?) for what it is. It would never leave my observatory nor come off the mount ever of course. But I would find that reasonable. 




So.... all that to just say, clearly after re-reading it, price is my only true factor for the refractor it seems. I'm cheap. :(


Very best,

Edited by MalVeauX, 17 August 2019 - 10:38 AM.

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#7 Heywood



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Posted 17 August 2019 - 10:52 AM

(1) Manufacturer, (2) aperture, and (3) weight.


I have learned that I don't like refractors that weight more than, say, 27 pounds.  Beyond that and they become unpleasant to deal with.

Edited by Heywood, 17 August 2019 - 10:53 AM.

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#8 bobhen



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Posted 17 August 2019 - 11:39 AM

1. What do I want the scope to do: planetary, low power wide field observing, general observing, etc.


2. Once the above is decided, I decide on weight, portability and a size that fits my storage and set up needs: will this be a quick look, travel or more of a long-session type of scope.


3. Once that is decided, I look for the best optics and mechanics that meet my observing requirements. For high power use, I want the absolute best optics. If it’s just for low power, deep sky sweeping, the optical quality is not as important.


4. Price is always a consideration but surprisingly appears lower on my list. If I can’t afford or do not want to spend the money for a high quality refractor or any scope, I don’t start the process in the first place. When I decide to buy, the money, through saving or selling or both, is available.



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#9 Jond105



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Posted 17 August 2019 - 12:33 PM

The way I did prioritize it was first, do I need to buy a new mount at the moment for it.  I don’t have expensive mounts, as a visual observer only, I don’t feel I need one. With the scope I have now, it maxes out my mounts, some would say shouldn’t work with it, but they work fine for me. 


Price. Never purchased an ED doublet without it being on sale. 


Thats basically it. 

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#10 db2005



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Posted 17 August 2019 - 01:38 PM

Being a visual observer in a location challenged plagued by many clouds, portability is important to me when choosing equipment: something I can bring outside at a moment's notice, and something that I can easily put in the boot of my car and take to a darker location when I get the opportunity.


Since this imposes limitations on weight and size, I have found myself going for still smaller scopes of ever increasing optical quality. Also, since I live in an area where indoor/outdoor temperature differential is fairly large for a large part of the year, I prefer optics that acclimatize quickly. Pragmatically, since I know I'll do most of my observing with my smaller scopes, I want them to be of the highest optical quality to make sure I'm not missing anything that my skies can show me with a given aperture. Being a visual observer I put much emphasis on optics with excellent contrast, which calls for high-end optics.


Mounting requirements are important too. For my grab-and-go scope(s), any scope must be able to ride on my Vixen Porta II comfortably. I have other mounts, but I have found that no other mount is as intuitive and easy to use and move around as the Porta mount. My only wish is that Vixen would make slightly stronger and better quality version of the Porta mount.

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#11 samovu


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Posted 17 August 2019 - 02:01 PM


     - manufacturer   

     - weight


     - quality 

     - manufacturer


How much am I willing to pay for great performers? Ah, I have this rationalization machine that asks “how much will this cost me in the long run?” I almost always buy used where I can play with my toys, er, uh, I mean instruments and then sell them later for about what the acquisition cost was, shipping notwithstanding. Sort of like paying rent. Works for me, YMMV.




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#12 ken30809


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Posted 17 August 2019 - 03:02 PM

I would tend to prioritize aperture first I suppose, then price. For example the SV Access clearance sale is a great value for the 4”, but I already have an ED103S so a 4” Access doesn’t help me. The 5” could be useful, but I don’t have $1,500 to drop on a scope right now. If a scope is a useful aperture, and a price I can afford, then I will look into the other details. For example I have a Meade AR6. It was bigger than my ED103S and I could afford it. It isn’t an Apo. It isn’t premium build quality. But the size and price were right. For the price I got it for, I could probably make a little money if I sell it later to fund an upgrade to a 6” Apo or something.


Good points - I had an AR6 with a nice moonlight focuser which I sold on astromart. I have sellers remorse :-)

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#13 gnowellsct



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Posted 17 August 2019 - 03:03 PM

I don't buy an apo because I'm in it to save money.  They are the most perfect instruments that I own (compared to car, computer, cooking gear etc) and so to have that experience is worth the price premium, I get the best that I can.  


The physical characteristics (weight and size) play a major role so I'm really pretty much limited to 5, 5 1/2 inches and below.    Refractors are secondary instruments (they ride on top of c8 or c14), which tends to push the size requirement towards smaller (physical difficulty of mounting steadily).  My 5" apo is for observing solo with a refractor in that form (on alt-az discmount) it is fast set up and good quality views.  


I've been using my 5" refractor almost all summer I've enjoyed the ease of setup on the discmount but I'm feeling a bit aperture starved.  But I haven't had a good night where there were five or six hours of dark sky that made switching to a German Equatorial (and heftier SCT with top mounted refractor) practical.


Wonderful as the apos are, and some of the best solar views I've had btw, their night time performance is blown away by just about any larger aperture instrument.  A few weeks ago the views of Jupiter in my GT130 were terrific but the two dobs present, both from China, 10" and 12", blew it away.    The SCTs do that too.    But of course the refractors excel in wide fields.  


Greg N

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#14 Sketcher



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Posted 17 August 2019 - 03:31 PM

If I had the same criteria for all refractors, I would not have ended up with as many refractors as I now have.  For some, price didn't matter.  For others, price mattered.  For some, optical quality didn't matter. For others, optical quality mattered.  For some, aperture didn't matter.  For others, aperture mattered.  Variety, as they say, is the spice of life smile.gif


The weaknesses of one telescope can help one become more aware (and appreciative) of the strengths of another.  I never met a telescope I didn't like!  Each has something to offer.

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#15 Bomber Bob

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 03:48 PM

Do I want it?  Do I need it?  Is it worth the price?  Do I want it?  Are the majority of the reviews & posts positive?  Do I want it??


I can be very patient:  Went about 30 years between Brand New refractor buys.  Like a lot of other folks, I got Hooked On The Classics (I think there's an album with that title):  Bargains with good to exceptional lenses.  Most need only a good cleaning, some require more elbow grease.  They do require careful shopping, and APOs aren't nearly as abundant as in the new / recently used market.


Whether it's new, used, vintage, or antique, I do try not to duplicate apertures.  But there are occasions where a really good refractor pops up at a price I can't ignore, so I fall back on my main strategy:  Do I want it???

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#16 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 02:23 AM

I buy used.. price is a factor, how does it fit in with my other scopes?  Optics matter..


Field of view is something I consider. The ST-80 with the 2 inch focuser.. that's a field of view only instrument..


Upper limit on aperture.. it's got to be easier to handle than my 10 inch Dob.


I consider resolution, Dawes limit. 


Mostly though, what matters is if I'm in a buying mood and it catches my eye.



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#17 Kunama


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Posted 18 August 2019 - 02:30 AM

She who must be obeyed !


Were it not for that, I would be getting a TEC 250mm and a suitable mount...


Until a couple of days ago all my refractors came with a pastel green focuser, now I have one that came with a black one, but really different reasons for scopes that are used for different purposes.

The new APM will be an outreach scope and I wanted a reasonable aperture and quality at a reasonable price..

Edited by Kunama, 18 August 2019 - 02:34 AM.

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#18 bobhen



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Posted 18 August 2019 - 06:52 AM



I've been using my 5" refractor almost all summer I've enjoyed the ease of setup on the discmount but I'm feeling a bit aperture starved.  But I haven't had a good night where there were five or six hours of dark sky that made switching to a German Equatorial (and heftier SCT with top mounted refractor) practical.



Greg N

You got that right.


Living in PA (or the Northeast) if you only have a large scope (C14, Dobsonian, etc) and you have to set it up, most springs and summers (especially these past few years) you just don’t get that many opportunities that are WORTH setting up that big scope.


With the mediocre/poor seeing, fast moving weather fronts, cloud cover, rain, high moisture content and the jet stream, a quick setup 100mm to 130mm high quality refractor can be your best friend.


A refractor is also an excellent solar scope and before the day heats-up, bringing clouds and those popup thunderstorms, a few hours in the morning “can” be clear and calm.



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#19 RAKing



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Posted 18 August 2019 - 12:31 PM

My choice of aperture (or overall size) is influenced and constrained by my health.  I am 72 years old and have had three spinal fusions.  I am no longer comfortable lifting anything heavier than my Tak FS-128.


My choices for quality optics are only limited by my hobby money budget -- and it is big enough that I have never been prevented from buying the gear I want.  I think my scopes, eyepieces, and mount are all high-quality.  I want gear that works and simply "disappears" after I set it up so I can spend "quality time" looking at the universe. flowerred.gif





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#20 barbie



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Posted 18 August 2019 - 02:35 PM

Same here due to health related and age issues. A 4" F7.4 Takahashi is my largest and heaviest scope. This 4" and my 3" Tak are my " rest of my life" scopes! I bought high end for these two and it was well worth money!!  My other two are for starparties away from home and, while not Tak quality, they are very good too!!

Edited by barbie, 18 August 2019 - 02:40 PM.

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#21 Redbetter



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Posted 18 August 2019 - 03:28 PM

The single biggest limitation for me for refractors is the size and cost of the mount.  Every time I consider going to a larger and better corrected refractor than the 110ED, the mount is "the bridge too far."    A 6" sounds plausible, but by the time it is appropriately mounted the cost is such that I would have be able to get good and frequent use out of it.   


...which brings me to the size/bulk/portability issue.  Such a scope is big enough and bulky enough that I am not going to use it for quick looks in the backyard.  Now if the seeing was routinely decent in the backyard, I could justify it for planetary, but the seeing is poor in the yard here for most of the year, so I would rarely bring out a large refractor...same limitation I already have with the 110ED, 127Mak, 8" SCT, and 10" Dob and all of them are considerably more portable than large refractor and mount.


And for dark skies where the seeing also happens to be better on average for much of the year, the 20" is going to be making the trip.  Setting up even a second small refractor is a bit of a hassle, and a large refractor is a bigger hassle and time commitment.  So a big refractor will have to wait until my observing situation/location changes to make it a more useful fit.


At ~4" and below this is not an issue.  Adequate, affordable, portable mounts are available.  ED doublets with good color correction are available. 

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#22 dr.who


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Posted 18 August 2019 - 03:39 PM

For me:


Fit with the current scopes I have so I am not duplicating performance 

Quality of image at the eyepiece  (So no CA, poor representation of colors, etc)

Quality of materials and manufacturing of the scope*

Manufacturer reputation & longevity 





* Glass is just *ONE* component of what makes a good scope and sometimes it is a very minor part of it. Figure, grinding, matching, etc are all important. Heck the great Roland Christen of Astro Physics used FPL-51 and currently is using FCD100 for the Stowaway line. If it is good enough for RC then it is good enough everywhere else. And comes down to the manufacturing process used with the lenses. 

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#23 Ballyhoo



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Posted 18 August 2019 - 04:41 PM

I have got to say this last month I have been mulling over what type of 4" refractor I will get, because I do think that 4" is the sweet-spot in several respects, my lower 85mm is nice but lacks grasp; the 5" is big. So I feel the 4" is a sweet spot. and as much as I have been mulling this over, I cannot find anything out there right now as a better deal than that ST Access 102. 


I think that refractor must have it all, except the CA.  I think the 101mm is good for visual and good for imaging.  


I may not be ready to buy until mid week and I hope they still have some then.

Edited by Ballyhoo, 18 August 2019 - 04:42 PM.

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#24 treadmarks


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Posted 18 August 2019 - 04:51 PM

Price is the first factor for me as well. Given the horrid light pollution, seeing, and transparency of my area, there's not a lot of good nights to observe and it's hard to justify more than the thousands I've already spent on this hobby.


Next most important factor is weight and mounting requirements. All of my telescopes are capable of sitting on a lightweight alt-az mount (VersaGo II). My worry is that if I had to use a heavier mount than the others, it would be the least convenient option and therefore the least used.


Lastly I look at how a potential new scope differentiates itself from my current 3 scopes. If it doesn't offer something new or do something better than the others, there's no reason to buy it aside from "I wants it."

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#25 balu01


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Posted 19 August 2019 - 12:19 AM

optical figure , quality

Price doesn’t matter not because I am rich ( I am not , far from it )
Of course I have set limits , but it is not the deciding factor.

Never in my life I thought that I would order a TOA , once I went through my hurdles it was the best decision I made in this hobby so far. There are manufacturers with claims in this hobby and there are a couple who don’t have to

I never had a new car in my life , so I allow myself to let loose and satisfy my desires in astro gear.

Edited by balu01, 19 August 2019 - 12:25 AM.

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