Brief rundown, more in-depth review to follow with all of the juicy details and photos.
Recently received the Takahashi Starbase 80mm f/10 achromatic refractor on alt-az mount. Wonderful fit and finish and pretty good optics. If you have used a Vixen 80mm f/11 refractor made in Japan whether badged as a Celestron Meade, Vixen, etc. then you already know how this will perform. The Starbase 80 is basically like these, but slightly faster and with a smidgen more chromatic aberration.
Star test was good, but no where near as good as what one finds with the regular Takahashi apochromatic refractors and old fashioned long focal length achromats (like those from RAO, etc.) Did notice scattered light at medium to higher magnifications, but couldn't find any sources of glare or reflections inside the tube assembly (it's a well-made unit). Not sure if this is because of rough optical surfaces or something inside the tube assembly I can fix with flocking or flat black paint.
CA was pronounced on Jupiter and Sirius and still pretty significant on Saturn and Vega. I don't mind CA to a certain extent, but I am very sensitive to it and this much color (the same as you will find in any decent 80mm f/10 to f/11 refractor) really kind of bugs me. I am used to my achromats being much slower and better corrected than this.
Handles magnification fairly well up to about 119x and then the images start to fall apart rapidly with increasing magnification. For an 80mm, this isn't too bad, almost 40x per inch which is pretty standard average for most inexpensive, mass produced telescopes.
I compared it to a 76mm/1200 RAO (vintage achromat) and the AT80 (currently made ED apochromat) and both were very much superior to the Starbase in terms of optics, mechanics/tube assembly, and performance.
The RAO had considerably better correction of SA, CA, etc. and delivers a textbook perfect star test. The RAO is also able to deliver sharper images up to much higher magnifications (I routinely use a 6mm for 200x on the moon and double stars with this) and it delivers higher contrast images.
The AT80ED is a marvel - superb color correction, short/fast tube assembly with buttery smooth 2" focuser, solid tube assembly construction, and a very nice lens. It's unfair to compare the Starbase to the AT80 because the AT80 uses a much better, newer design and ED glass. Still, I had them all out and so compared them. The AT80 performed like it had more aperture than the Starbase 80. Not sure if this might be due to better coatings, baffling, more transparent glass or what, but the differences were unmistakable. There were many things I could see with the AT80 I couldn't even glimpse with the Starbase 80. I am scratching my head on this one. I thought maybe there might be some internal reflections or glare hurting image quality, but I have yet to find it. I think it's worth noting the AT80ED appears to be a much more transparent lens and shows noticeably more details and nebulosity than the Starbase 80.
All scopes were allowed to completely reach thermal equilibrium, the seeing out here on the coast for the last week has been absolutely exceptional, all scopes were in collimation (checked several times to make sure), and the same diagonal was used in all scopes. Eyepieces were the same where possible, but I did have to substitute different focal lengths of the same brand/design to get approximately the same magnifications across all scopes for comparing. The eyepieces are known quantities I have been using for years and feel comfortable those chosen were delivering the same quality of images across all three scopes.
It's a good, basic achromat in a gorgeous tube assembly. Unfortunately, most definitely not anything special. If you're looking for an exceptional achromatic doublet, you will do much better with a vintage refractor like a Royal Astro Optical, Unitron, etc. If you want something in a smaller package with better correction or a good scope for a beginner, then the AT72EDII or the AT80 are much better scopes.
I will continue to test and use the Starbase 80 for a while, but it definitely isn't a keeper for me. Honestly, I am mildly disappointed. It's been fun to try though.