Jump to content

  •  

CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.

Photo

Convince me that FeatherTouch focusers are worth it for visual use

equipment
  • Please log in to reply
48 replies to this topic

#1 db2005

db2005

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 989
  • Joined: 23 Dec 2017
  • Loc: Living in Denmark, under Bortle 5 skies.

Posted 22 October 2019 - 11:37 AM

During the past 15 years or so I have owned some scopes with dual-speed focusers, one made by William Optics (ZS66SD), one made by Lacerta (an upgrade to my Orion 80ED), one SkyWatcher on my ED100 and a dual-speed focuser on a SkyWatcher 130 mm reflector. While I have found their operation to have some redeeming aspects I haven't exactly been overly impressed; the ones I've owned either had odd mechanical problems; a "spongy" feel when turning the focuser; were distinctly rough or hard to turn; and/or had problems with either slippage or being too tight. I am a visual observer, and since the problems I have encounted with dual speed focusers so far seem to negate the touted advantage of dual-speed focusers for visual use (the easy and vibration-free fine focusing) I have so far stuck with single speed focusers, even to the point that I quickly reverted to the stock single-speed focuser on my old Orion 80 ED.

 

But I am wondering if I might be missing something because I simply haven't had the chance fo try a truly high quality dual speed focuser. I have read a lot of praise of Starlight FeatherTouch focusers, but I have never had the chance to try one for myself. So I'd appreciate it if you could explain to me what makes them so good that people are willing to spend substantial funds on upgrading their scope's focuser with an FT. Is it only an advantage for astro-photography, or is it also a nice upgrade for visual observers?

 

Also, I am aware that there are other popular dual-speed focuser upgrades made by Moonlite or Baader's Steeltrack. Any reports on how they compare with FT?

 

Thanks & Clear Skies,

Daniel

 

 



#2 choward94002

choward94002

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 597
  • Joined: 25 Jul 2016
  • Loc: Bay Area, Central AZ

Posted 22 October 2019 - 11:41 AM

Simply, the FT focuser is able to adjust in 30 micron steps reliably and consistently; 100 steps in, 100 steps out will result in the same position, not "kinda close" .. combine that with the Starizona Focuser products and you've got a way to consistently keep the focus in the +/- 75 micron critical focus zone ...

 

Worth every penny, IMHO ...


  • db2005 likes this

#3 zxx

zxx

    Apollo

  • -----
  • Posts: 1066
  • Joined: 27 Jan 2010

Posted 22 October 2019 - 11:53 AM

I just adjusted my 2 speed focuser on my SW ED80, I use it for AP and it would slip with the weight of the DSLR. It was a little tricky to get the adjustment where I wanted it but works fine now, You could never convince me to buy a high end focuser for visual.


  • db2005 likes this

#4 SDTopensied

SDTopensied

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 797
  • Joined: 25 Apr 2011
  • Loc: Atlanta

Posted 22 October 2019 - 12:10 PM

Only if you're using giant eyepieces like the Explore Scientific 100 degree series.  Some of the Televue Naglers are huge as well.

 

If you're not having trouble with the stock focuser, put your money into better eyepieces and make sure your scopes are collimated.

 

-Steve


  • db2005 likes this

#5 macdonjh

macdonjh

    Aurora

  • *****
  • Posts: 4561
  • Joined: 06 Mar 2006

Posted 22 October 2019 - 12:13 PM

db2005,

 

Your scopes (except your C8) are faster than mine, so you might get use out of the fine focus knob.  In general, I don't (but see below for the reason I'd buy dual speed anyway).  If you don't have to wait for your scopes to stop shaking after you focus them, you likely don't need after-market focusers, either.  One thing to consider, though: your focuser is really the only thing you touch when you use your scope.  Having a focuser which causes you problems (shaking because it's too stiff, doesn't reach exact focus reliably, etc) is reason to upgrade in my book.  Besides, it's not like you have to replace a focuser, buy it once.

 

I have an Astro Physics focuser which came with my refractor.  It's very nice, with a precise feel.  Once I got the "tension"/ drag set correctly it moves smoothly and easily without inducing "shakes" in my scope.  Actually kind of a big deal:  my refractor is f/12 so it's quite long.  Smooth focusing is pretty important to minimize post-focusing shakes with such a long moment arm.

 

I got my first MoonLite because I didn't like the stock knob on my C11.  Adding the MoonLite allowed me to adjust the stock focus knob once and never have to touch it again.  I liked that one enough that I've bought two others.  My MoonLite focusers are always smooth and easy to adjust without giving my scopes the shakes.  They do need cleaning once in a while to get grit off the draw tube and out from under the bearings.  When I sold my C11, I kept the MoonLite focuser...

 

My FeatherTouch came with my latest scope.  It also feels very precise and solid and does not induce shaking when I use it.  I don't know if it's worth the higher price over a Crayford style (Starlight Instruments makes both), but it is nice.  I'd likely appreciate it more if I was an imager and asking it to support eight pounds.

 

Note, I have slow scopes generally and almost never have to use the fine focus knob on any of my scopes.  I learned the hard way though there is a reason for dual speed: slippage.  Two of my MoonLite focusers are single speed.  One is fine- it only holds a 1-1/4" diagonal and Plossl eye pieces.  The other, though, is not.  I should have taken the recommendation to get a dual speed.  It slips when I have my 22mm or 17mm Naglers inserted.  Live and learn.


  • Richard O'Neill and db2005 like this

#6 TOMDEY

TOMDEY

    Aurora

  • *****
  • Posts: 4938
  • Joined: 10 Feb 2014
  • Loc: Springwater, NY

Posted 22 October 2019 - 01:23 PM

It looks like all of your referenced scopes are pretty slow F/5.9, 7.5, 9.0, 6.9.

 

That would entirely explain why you feel comfortable using plain vanilla focusers for visual use. It's right around F/5 where a (very good) differential focuser becomes more of a necessity than a luxury. The FeatherTouch and Moonlite meet the ~very good~ criterion. Your scopes just don't need the premium focusers... would be like wearing a tuxedo to dine at McDonald's.    Tom

Attached Thumbnails

  • 179 scrooge mcduck eating.jpg

  • Aperturefever, Richard O'Neill and db2005 like this

#7 Richard O'Neill

Richard O'Neill

    Vanguard

  • *****
  • Posts: 2218
  • Joined: 19 Aug 2014

Posted 22 October 2019 - 02:42 PM

 It's not about need. However, a good dual speed focuser is a nice luxury.


  • havasman and db2005 like this

#8 Jon Isaacs

Jon Isaacs

    ISS

  • *****
  • Posts: 79575
  • Joined: 16 Jun 2004
  • Loc: San Diego and Boulevard, CA

Posted 22 October 2019 - 02:57 PM

My own thinking:

 

I have two Feathertouch Focusers on Dobs and a Feathertouch microfocuser and pinion for my NP-101. The design itself is quite different and as a mechanical engineer, I see the design as superior, addressing several issues common with Crayfords. The machining and finish are of the highest quality. They just work and are a pleasure to use.

 

But they are expensive and other Focusers, even simple Crayfords like the basic GSOs, can be equally effective in terms of achieving optimal focus even at fast focal ratios with heavy eyepieces. They will be more finicky than the Feathertouch and will require a bit more care and cleaning.  

 

Jon


  • db2005 and Volvonium like this

#9 Stelios

Stelios

    Cosmos

  • *****
  • Moderators
  • Posts: 7863
  • Joined: 04 Oct 2003
  • Loc: West Hills, CA

Posted 22 October 2019 - 09:24 PM

Rather than incur the expense of a Feathertouch (for visual) I would get a motorized focuser. *Any* motorized focuser will be superior to *any* focuser where you need to touch a knob, in my opinion. 


  • stargazer193857 and db2005 like this

#10 sydney

sydney

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 656
  • Joined: 07 Apr 2010
  • Loc: Upstate NY

Posted 22 October 2019 - 11:20 PM

Feathertouch are excellent, but I also have a Baader Steeltrack that performs just as well for less money. 


  • db2005 likes this

#11 rkelley8493

rkelley8493

    Apollo

  • *****
  • Posts: 1165
  • Joined: 19 Jan 2019
  • Loc: Southeast USA

Posted 23 October 2019 - 12:29 AM

I love the Feather Touch focuser [3" rack & pinion] on my Stellarvue Apo love.gif  It can easily handle my massive eyepieces like the ES 17/92º, 31T5, 21E, etc. And it's buttery smooth! 

I'm also a visual observer, but I find the focuser to be the key component of the telescope other than the objective. After all, it's what you have your hands on 95% of the time when observing. 

 

FTfocuser2.jpg

 


  • niteskystargazer and db2005 like this

#12 Kunama

Kunama

    Aussie at large

  • *****
  • Posts: 4889
  • Joined: 22 Oct 2012
  • Loc: Australia

Posted 23 October 2019 - 01:54 AM

Definitely not necessary for visual but nice to have.... in my opinion... (I do have to use one on my Dob as the SIPS only pairs with the FTF2015BCR)

 

I have had Tak focusers, MoonLite and FT as well as APM and others, all of them have made the scope come to focus.

When I am doing visual I choose an eyepiece, install it and then focus and lock the focus, unlike a few friends who seem to refocus each time they shift to a new target.

 

I must admit that for the Takahashi scopes that I have owned, (19 at last count) the FT Micro Pinion Assembly has been a great gadget.  

I just bought another scope that came with an FT 3.5" but had it come with the APM version I would not have changed it...


Edited by Kunama, 23 October 2019 - 01:58 AM.

  • Jon Isaacs, db2005 and rkelley8493 like this

#13 Raginar

Raginar

    Cosmos

  • *****
  • Posts: 9397
  • Joined: 19 Oct 2010
  • Loc: Pensacola, FL

Posted 23 October 2019 - 03:07 AM

During the past 15 years or so I have owned some scopes with dual-speed focusers, one made by William Optics (ZS66SD), one made by Lacerta (an upgrade to my Orion 80ED), one SkyWatcher on my ED100 and a dual-speed focuser on a SkyWatcher 130 mm reflector. While I have found their operation to have some redeeming aspects I haven't exactly been overly impressed; the ones I've owned either had odd mechanical problems; a "spongy" feel when turning the focuser; were distinctly rough or hard to turn; and/or had problems with either slippage or being too tight. I am a visual observer, and since the problems I have encounted with dual speed focusers so far seem to negate the touted advantage of dual-speed focusers for visual use (the easy and vibration-free fine focusing) I have so far stuck with single speed focusers, even to the point that I quickly reverted to the stock single-speed focuser on my old Orion 80 ED.

 

But I am wondering if I might be missing something because I simply haven't had the chance fo try a truly high quality dual speed focuser. I have read a lot of praise of Starlight FeatherTouch focusers, but I have never had the chance to try one for myself. So I'd appreciate it if you could explain to me what makes them so good that people are willing to spend substantial funds on upgrading their scope's focuser with an FT. Is it only an advantage for astro-photography, or is it also a nice upgrade for visual observers?

 

Also, I am aware that there are other popular dual-speed focuser upgrades made by Moonlite or Baader's Steeltrack. Any reports on how they compare with FT?

 

Thanks & Clear Skies,

Daniel

It all depends on what you can tolerate.  I used my buddy's TV101 with the stock focuser; it was 'ok' as a R&P and I could focus it fine.  But, the FT was significantly easier... it was smooth(er) and easy(ier).

 

Is that worth it to you?  I dunno. It was a nice addition to the experience but probably not required.


  • db2005 likes this

#14 Jon Isaacs

Jon Isaacs

    ISS

  • *****
  • Posts: 79575
  • Joined: 16 Jun 2004
  • Loc: San Diego and Boulevard, CA

Posted 23 October 2019 - 03:44 AM

It all depends on what you can tolerate.  I used my buddy's TV101 with the stock focuser; it was 'ok' as a R&P and I could focus it fine.  But, the FT was significantly easier... it was smooth(er) and easy(ier).

 

Is that worth it to you?  I dunno. It was a nice addition to the experience but probably not required.

 

My favorite focuser is the TV NP-101 fitted with the Feathertouch microfocuser. 

 

Jon


  • Raginar and db2005 like this

#15 TOMDEY

TOMDEY

    Aurora

  • *****
  • Posts: 4938
  • Joined: 10 Feb 2014
  • Loc: Springwater, NY

Posted 23 October 2019 - 08:27 AM

Another consideration is your personal manual dexterity... some folks have the subtle digits of a brain surgeon, but most are fumbling ham-handeds. Although we naturally self-identify in the former category... the reality is usually quite the opposite. To find out for sure... just grab the tiniest needle you can find and thread it a few times. Dexterous comes in around ten needles/min. Anything less points toward needing a FeahterTouch.

 

I'm basing this on my experience in the optics labs. There was a sewing kit in one of the desk drawers... and for amusement, we started challenging needle-threading competitions, as the equipment was warming up or collecting data. Superiority correlated well with the guys we usually chose for delicate adjustments. Now try it wearing cleanroom gloves while standing on a ladder!    Tom

Attached Thumbnails

  • 183 threading needle.jpg

  • Raginar and db2005 like this

#16 Jon Isaacs

Jon Isaacs

    ISS

  • *****
  • Posts: 79575
  • Joined: 16 Jun 2004
  • Loc: San Diego and Boulevard, CA

Posted 23 October 2019 - 08:46 AM

Tom:

 

It doesn't take much dexterity to focus with a two speed, GSO or Feathertouch. One effective technique is rather than twisting it, simply lay your index finger on the two speed knob and move your hand back and forth.

 

Jon


  • Raginar, havasman and db2005 like this

#17 areyoukiddingme

areyoukiddingme

    Skylab

  • *****
  • Posts: 4457
  • Joined: 18 Nov 2012

Posted 23 October 2019 - 11:33 AM

Kinda depends on the particular FT.

 

I have a 2003/04 Portaball, which comes with a lightweight Feathertouch. It's good for light eyepieces, but struggles with heavier loads. I have a teflon screw tightened as far as I dare. Clearly it was not designed to work with a heavy paracorr 2 and 21 Ethos, but it works great with lighter stuff like pentax XWs.

 

When I had an 11" Edgehd, I installed the FT microfocuser. Not their best work. It was notchy and hard to adjust to smooth out. It did the job, but really wasn't a step up from stock.

 

Recently I got a A-P stowaway with a FT focuser, 2.7" I think. That one works extremely well and reminds me that I need to tinker with the crayford on my 80mm Orion.

 

If I were in the market for an upgrade, I'd be looking closely at the German stuff that look like FTs. Sounds like very similar performance for a lot less money.


  • db2005 likes this

#18 TOMDEY

TOMDEY

    Aurora

  • *****
  • Posts: 4938
  • Joined: 10 Feb 2014
  • Loc: Springwater, NY

Posted 23 October 2019 - 12:49 PM

Tom:

 

It doesn't take much dexterity to focus with a two speed, GSO or Feathertouch. One effective technique is rather than twisting it, simply lay your index finger on the two speed knob and move your hand back and forth.

 

Jon

Yep... that's what I'm saying... a regular focuser is the one that takes finesse... and throw in other problematics like crabbing and backlash and Geesh! That's why I changed-out the Stock Focuser on my beloved old TeleVue F/5 Genesis for --- a Moonlite! I got that brand because they also have the perfect-match adapter for that vintage scope! Works great!   Tom

Attached Thumbnails

  • 185 90 Toms early TeleVue Genesis 100mm F-5 mid 1908s.jpg
  • 184 72 Moonlite on 100mm F-5 Genesis.jpg

  • Raginar, db2005 and rkelley8493 like this

#19 db2005

db2005

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 989
  • Joined: 23 Dec 2017
  • Loc: Living in Denmark, under Bortle 5 skies.

Posted 23 October 2019 - 12:57 PM

Thanks for all the replies so far waytogo.gif

 

From the answers it seems to me the FT is an exquicitely made piece of mechanics that could be very nice to have, but really not necessary for my visual use as I mainly use scopes around f/7.7 and slower. On my fastest scope, a 130 mm f/5 reflector, the dual-speed focuser is very nice to have, though; I can definitely feel it makes focusing easier.

 

I can indeed see the use for high-accuracy dual-speed focusers for AP because photographic sensors can't accommodate for any degree of defocus, unlike the human eye which can often relatively easily compensate for some amount of defocus.



#20 rkelley8493

rkelley8493

    Apollo

  • *****
  • Posts: 1165
  • Joined: 19 Jan 2019
  • Loc: Southeast USA

Posted 23 October 2019 - 01:57 PM

Another consideration is your personal manual dexterity... some folks have the subtle digits of a brain surgeon, but most are fumbling ham-handeds. Although we naturally self-identify in the former category... the reality is usually quite the opposite. To find out for sure... just grab the tiniest needle you can find and thread it a few times. Dexterous comes in around ten needles/min. Anything less points toward needing a FeahterTouch.

 

I'm basing this on my experience in the optics labs. There was a sewing kit in one of the desk drawers... and for amusement, we started challenging needle-threading competitions, as the equipment was warming up or collecting data. Superiority correlated well with the guys we usually chose for delicate adjustments. Now try it wearing cleanroom gloves while standing on a ladder!    Tom

Try changing out the motherboard in a 11" laptop lol.gif  A Keebler elf would have trouble handling those tiny screws and cable attachments. Taking them out is the easy part, but putting them back in takes some skill, and a magnetic tip screwdriver grin.gif



#21 rkelley8493

rkelley8493

    Apollo

  • *****
  • Posts: 1165
  • Joined: 19 Jan 2019
  • Loc: Southeast USA

Posted 23 October 2019 - 02:07 PM

Thanks for all the replies so far waytogo.gif

 

From the answers it seems to me the FT is an exquicitely made piece of mechanics that could be very nice to have, but really not necessary for my visual use as I mainly use scopes around f/7.7 and slower. On my fastest scope, a 130 mm f/5 reflector, the dual-speed focuser is very nice to have, though; I can definitely feel it makes focusing easier.

 

I can indeed see the use for high-accuracy dual-speed focusers for AP because photographic sensors can't accommodate for any degree of defocus, unlike the human eye which can often relatively easily compensate for some amount of defocus.

The Feather Touch Micro Focuser on my LX90 was almost a necessity. The SCT came with a stock one speed focuser that was very stiff, and fine focus was a near impossibility. The Feather Touch can move with the slightest pressure in either direction where the stock focuser took some force & elbow grease.

 

FTmicroSCT.jpg


  • db2005 likes this

#22 macdonjh

macdonjh

    Aurora

  • *****
  • Posts: 4561
  • Joined: 06 Mar 2006

Posted 23 October 2019 - 02:26 PM

Rather than incur the expense of a Feathertouch (for visual) I would get a motorized focuser. *Any* motorized focuser will be superior to *any* focuser where you need to touch a knob, in my opinion. 

I'll quibble with your use of "any": I installed an Orion focus motor on the small Dobsonian my son and I used to use.  The motor was so slow it was actually faster to try to focus, wait for the shakes to subside and perhaps focus again.

 

That's a special case, though.  The plastic 1-1/4" rack-and-pinion focuser supplied with the XT6 scope is a new kind of awful.  It was marginal even after I'd fixed it.  Just one more example of a good excuse to upgrade a focuser.  Just keep the stock focuser in case you decide to sell the scope: sell the scope, keep the high-dollar focuser.


  • db2005 likes this

#23 LDW47

LDW47

    Vanguard

  • *****
  • Posts: 2448
  • Joined: 04 Mar 2012
  • Loc: North Bay,Ontario,Canada

Posted 23 October 2019 - 03:04 PM

After reading some of these comments am I led to believe that some commenters are subtly saying that some of the lesser priced, good but much less priced focusers require too much strength, to much effort to get a visual focus that satisfies the brain ? I mean come on what are we talking here, weight lifting, hand manipulation that many older guys haven’t learned yet, right from left, wrong from right ?? Now the true story, the true facts, many of us visual astronomers just want to spend $, as perfectionists, on a piece of precision equipment that they don’t really need and use the excuse that the ones that work well enough aren’t good enough to view something that in many cases are millions or billions of light years away, especially when mother nature is the one, night after night, who controls how well we see ! I know I high jacked another great post, another great discussion but some of these comments mixed in with the good ones are out of this world, they can’t be for real ! Clear skies guys !   PS:  I’m probably wrong again !


  • zxx and db2005 like this

#24 Allan Wade

Allan Wade

    Skylab

  • *****
  • Posts: 4005
  • Joined: 27 Jan 2013
  • Loc: Newcastle, Australia

Posted 23 October 2019 - 05:35 PM

Rather than incur the expense of a Feathertouch (for visual) I would get a motorized focuser. *Any* motorized focuser will be superior to *any* focuser where you need to touch a knob, in my opinion. 

I've used many scopes with motorized focusers, and personally I don't like them. I can focus much quicker with the standard focuser, and as or more accurately with my oversized Feathertouch fine focus knobs. Then, you don't have the hassle of finding a place to put the focuser hand controller and you don't have the cable getting in the way. They are a good idea in theory but a poor one in practice.


  • Jon Isaacs, lphilpot, Kunama and 3 others like this

#25 Jon Isaacs

Jon Isaacs

    ISS

  • *****
  • Posts: 79575
  • Joined: 16 Jun 2004
  • Loc: San Diego and Boulevard, CA

Posted 23 October 2019 - 07:03 PM

I've used many scopes with motorized focusers, and personally I don't like them. I can focus much quicker with the standard focuser, and as or more accurately with my oversized Feathertouch fine focus knobs. Then, you don't have the hassle of finding a place to put the focuser hand controller and you don't have the cable getting in the way. They are a good idea in theory but a poor one in practice.

Alan:

 

Stelios is an AP guy.  For AP, motorized Focusers have their place. For visual, they have no feel, manual is much more precise.

 

Jon


  • lphilpot, zxx, havasman and 2 others like this


CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.


Recent Topics





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: equipment



Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics