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Classic SP-C102 - Very Clammy Vixen!

Celestron classic equipment optics refractor
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#1 Bomber Bob

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 10:40 AM

It was a very nice surprise (& TGIF!) when USPS delivered this Classic Celestron (Vixen) SP-C102 OTA last night:

 

C102 - First Setup S01 (Mizar - FULL Right Side).jpg C102 - First Setup S03 (Mizar - FULL Left Side).jpg

 

I had to hustle to get it mounted on my vintage Mizar Super Polaris -- didn't bother to put the original tube crusher rings on -- it's using my Dakin 4's hinged rings.

 

Seller did a great job with packing:  OTA was centered & 360* padded in the box.  The finder & 45* diagonal were packed & wrapped separately.  The ring pair was isolated from the more delicate stuff.  No dents or dings from the handling, and it was a long & fairly heavy box.


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#2 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 10:44 AM

I have an original that I bought from Fred at Ad Libs Astronomics way back in the late 1980s.  I drove over and picked it up I believe while on the way to Okie-Tex at Lake Murray.  It's still a very fine performer!


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#3 Bomber Bob

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 10:47 AM

First Cleaning:

 

C102 - First Setup S11 (OTA Assembled RS).jpg C102 - First Setup S14 (OTA Assembled LS).jpg

C102 - First Setup S12 (Sun Warning RS).jpg C102 - First Setup S15 (Orange Celestron LS).jpg

C102 - First Setup S17 (Dew Shield & Lens Cell).jpg C102 - First Setup S18 (ZOOM Lens Cell).jpg

 

I really hate the tube crusher rings!  But... this set is mint, and I had a spare 14" Vixen dovetail (that's been used a lot!), so they're bolted on for good.  (Makes a good carry handle, too.)

 

Overall cosmetics are good.  Lots of paint scratches, but the decals are intact & no peeling (give it a Swamp Summer or two, and we'll see how they do!)

 

My standard lens cleaning & DPAC are next...


Edited by Bomber Bob, 01 August 2020 - 10:51 AM.

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#4 oldmanastro

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 10:47 AM

Nice scope JW. They are known for their excellent optics. Congrats!

 

Guido


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#5 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 11:35 AM

Bob,

Does your lens show Newton's rings in the center?  Mine always has.



#6 Terra Nova

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 12:14 PM

Yikes! I hope you have plenty of sauce for those clams! :wow:



#7 clamchip

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 01:02 PM

I can't see the clams.

One of the best things about that scope is the baffling, beautifully executed and a

oversize tube for excellent contrast.

 

Robert


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#8 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 01:02 PM

Yikes! I hope you have plenty of sauce for those clams! ohmy.png

I think those are reflections of overhead lights in the lens, not clamshell breaks.


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#9 Bomber Bob

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 01:08 PM

A Very Clamchip Lens...

 

C102 Restore S01 - Clamshells (Flint Edge SKY SIDE).jpg C102 Restore S03 - Clamshells (Flint Edge EYE SIDE).jpg

C102 Restore S05 - Lens Edge (Pre Cleaning).jpg C102 Restore S06 - Lens Edge Marks (Post Cleaning).jpg

 

All clams are on the Flint element -- Crown is pristine.  Because of the eye side lip in the cell, only the largest clam extends into the optical path, and only by about 1mm.  There's at least 1 clam to the right of each spacer -- the most are in that clam cluster.

 

That metal band between the retaining ring and the lens is probably the culprit:  The retainer was over-torqued.  I had to work at it to move the retainer -- no clink / clunk or wiggle room!  Once apart, I cleaned all the metal parts, and used a dry toothbrush on all the threads.  Smooth now.  

 

The lens edge was already blackened; and, there was an alignment slash (/) across them.  After cleaning, I set them back at that mark, and taped them together.  I also marked the center of each spacer, and penciled on a Big ^ for future reference.


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#10 Bomber Bob

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 01:12 PM

Bob,

Does your lens show Newton's rings in the center?  Mine always has.

Yes, near-perfect Newton Rings before & after cleaning.


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#11 Bomber Bob

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 01:14 PM

After lunch I'll put the lens on my DPAC rig; then, re-assemble & collimate.  (NWS says another "clear" night is on tap -- yeah, right.)



#12 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 01:18 PM

A Very Clamchip Lens...

 

attachicon.gifC102 Restore S01 - Clamshells (Flint Edge SKY SIDE).jpgattachicon.gifC102 Restore S03 - Clamshells (Flint Edge EYE SIDE).jpg

attachicon.gifC102 Restore S05 - Lens Edge (Pre Cleaning).jpgattachicon.gifC102 Restore S06 - Lens Edge Marks (Post Cleaning).jpg

 

All clams are on the Flint element -- Crown is pristine.  Because of the eye side lip in the cell, only the largest clam extends into the optical path, and only by about 1mm.  There's at least 1 clam to the right of each spacer -- the most are in that clam cluster.

 

That metal band between the retaining ring and the lens is probably the culprit:  The retainer was over-torqued.  I had to work at it to move the retainer -- no clink / clunk or wiggle room!  Once apart, I cleaned all the metal parts, and used a dry toothbrush on all the threads.  Smooth now.  

 

The lens edge was already blackened; and, there was an alignment slash (/) across them.  After cleaning, I set them back at that mark, and taped them together.  I also marked the center of each spacer, and penciled on a Big ^ for future reference.

I've been aware of tight retainers for many many years.  I loosened the retainer on mine a little soon after I got it, no chips.

When the retainer is too tight, the Newton's rings will be more prominent and extend further from the center.


Edited by John Fitzgerald, 01 August 2020 - 01:20 PM.

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#13 Spyke

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 03:03 PM

Beautiful scope. I've always had a secret hope to own one of those. The closest I got so far was a Vixen/Celestron 90mm f13 which I no longer have. 



#14 Bomber Bob

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 03:03 PM

DPAC says...

 

Very Good Lens.  Pattern is most like that Mayflower (SYW / Yamamoto) 60mm (I don't post the pix, but I archive them for comparisons):  Bars are straight, but wider than the Dakin's, and not as black as the Dakin's.  No Zones that I could see, while the Dakin 4 does have one small depression.  If I hadn't used the C102 yet, I would expect a good star test based on DPAC.

 

I expect better performance the next clear night, after cleaning & aligning the elements, properly tensioning the retainer, and collimating the scope.  She's back on the Mizar EQ, waiting for an opportunity to Wow! me...

 

IF the clouds break up before sundown, I'll move my AT102ED to the shed for a friendly contest.  My Tak FC-50 is already out there as a seeing checker.


Edited by Bomber Bob, 01 August 2020 - 03:06 PM.

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#15 apfever

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 04:19 PM

Don't mount the crusher rings on the saddle tangs in the factory manner. 

 

Remove the threaded inserts in the saddle tangs if they are there.  Place the rings on TOP of the saddle and bolt them using clamping knobs up through the holes in the saddle tangs. 

You should have standard 1/4-20 thread holes in the OTA rings. The threaded holes in the saddle are large enough to clear a 1/4-20 without mod. Use the accessory flats on the rings to bolt to the saddle.

This route will hold the OTA up off the rails of the saddle, no more crush.

 

The only precaution is that you need to make sure your clamping knobs do not go all the way through the rings and into the OTA. It is easy to grind down a long thread on the knobs and/or use washers between knob and saddle. The accessory flat on the rings has a boss that is thicker than a nut so plenty of grip. So far this will have added a couple of knobs and NO perm mods to the system. This has been the easy part, but the complicated stuff that follows isn't complicated.

 

You will now have an OTA loose in the rings with no way to tension anything.  Put a fitting stick in the ring bump outs that used to go around the saddle tangs. The OTA can be tensioned by using the original clamping knobs to push on the stick.  Now it gets much better than original. You can put a couple of short holes (dimples) in the stick for the original knobs and the whole system stays captive when you remove the OTA and ring assembly. No more loose sloppy sliding rings when not mounted. Everything stays lined up top drop back on the mount.  Now put a couple of short holes (dimples) in the stick to nest the clamping bolts into. Put the dimples at the same distance as the holes in the saddle. Now the rings will be held in parallel when used. The tension knobs will now be on top with convenient access to loosen if you need to rotate the OTA, and the rings won't flop around like a PITA original.  I've done this to a lot of these, mostly the infamous C4.5, and my early orange C80.   I have long lost (typical) string entries of this mod.  There are never any permanent mods. You add a set of clamping knobs to the system. You need to keep track of the two original tang inserts. You need to make a half way close fitting rectangular stick to slide through the rings. 

 

Want pictures?



#16 Bomber Bob

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 04:55 PM

I bolted the crusher rings to a 14" Vixen dovetail.  Works well, and I can move the scope between mounts in seconds.

 

BIF:  Only 2 baffles in the C102 tube, compared to the baffle assembly in the Dakin 4.  No Side-by-Side tonight, but I think the Dakin will have darker background skies.



#17 deepwoods1

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 08:51 PM

Pics please apfever! Sorry for the ignorance, but I have no clue what a fitting stick is as well.



#18 Bomber Bob

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Posted 02 August 2020 - 08:18 AM

First Star & Sky Test:   https://www.cloudyni...8#entry10387735

 

This is a very good (potentially outstanding) 4" refractor.

 

I saw no evidence that the string of small clam "pearls" adversely affects the view.  I confirmed the Vixen edge mark -- the maker picked a good elements alignment for sure!

 

Mechanically, the 1.25" focuser is adequate, but this scope would benefit from a 2" two-speed rack & pinion (like my AT102ED).  Tweaking that last sub-millimeter at 300x is work -- takes more finesse than I have late at night.

 

Moving the tube for balance / focuser position is easier with the crusher rings than conventional hinged rings.

 

The Vixen finder is excellent, but my neck would appreciate a Right Angle version!

 

My only concern with the clams is that they may weaken the flint -- make it more susceptible to fracturing.  We don't have temperature extremes at The Swamp most nights.  But... I could see a sharp smack on a door jamb happening -- us old folks get sleepy & clumsy...


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#19 JoeInMN

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Posted 02 August 2020 - 10:40 AM

There must have been many sub-variations in these scopes over their production span. Yours looks like it has a collimatable objective cell; mine does not. Probably the same optics, though, because the views are very nice.

 

gpc102_cell_500.jpg


Edited by JoeInMN, 02 August 2020 - 10:41 AM.

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#20 Bomber Bob

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Posted 02 August 2020 - 11:08 AM

There must have been many sub-variations in these scopes over their production span. Yours looks like it has a collimatable objective cell; mine does not. Probably the same optics, though, because the views are very nice.

 

attachicon.gifgpc102_cell_500.jpg

Does yours have the Vixen circle V (V) mark on the scope label?

 

C102 - First Setup S16 (Celestron Label LS).jpg


Edited by Bomber Bob, 02 August 2020 - 11:09 AM.

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#21 deepwoods1

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Posted 02 August 2020 - 11:41 AM

I'm pretty sure the earliest variation has the adjustable cell.



#22 Bomber Bob

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Posted 02 August 2020 - 11:42 AM

Celestron / Vixen & Other Accessories

 

I have a couple of vintage 1980s / 1990s Celestron / Vixen 1.25" accessories, including prism diagonals, and those black eyepieces with orange lettering.  Part of my testing last night was comparing their performance against my Baader prism (currently my best 1.25" model).  I saw no difference in resolution, but the Baader did appear to minimize false color a bit better.

 

I don't know where Vixen sourced the glass, but for bundled accessories, these are much better than typical.

 

My Dakin 4 is a Definite Keeper.  I really don't like having two 4" F10 achros, but my idea is to use the C102 for public viewing.  I think these folks will be Wowed! by what they can see.  In fact, at 150x & above, Jupiter may be too much to fully take in.

 

So, for public sessions, I'll take the C102 + its bundle.

 

Before Jupiter got in the clear, I also tested other eyepieces.  I've held on to 2 very old A. Jaegers Erfles -- 30mm & 16mm.  Like the RKEs, they do well in just about every scope I have.  In fact, for the F8 & higher achros, I prefer these to the Meade Research Grade WAs (Erfles?).  In the C102, all those rich star fields from Lyra to Cygnus to Aquila were eye-popping good -- even with the moonglow.

 

Annoyances

 

Not too much to gripe about.  It's a nose-heavy frac, which puts the eyepiece lower than I like on the Mizar tripod.  For a night of serious high-power observing, I'd put it on either the Tak EM-1S tripod or the Meade SF tall pedestal.  The dewshield uses a felt band, and that's pressed-down / loose after 30+ years.  I'd prefer that it thread on, as I rarely take these off.  Another nit-noid:  I don't like these decals on the sides of scopes.  They're a pain to remove & reapply when I repaint scope tubes -- they never seem to go back on right (corner peels!).

 

I don't like finders mounted on the focuser.  Bumped my scalp often against the finder eyepiece last night, and believe me, I don't need any more brain impact injuries!


Edited by Bomber Bob, 02 August 2020 - 11:44 AM.

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#23 JoeInMN

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Posted 02 August 2020 - 11:43 AM

Does yours have the Vixen circle V (V) mark on the scope label?

 

attachicon.gifC102 - First Setup S16 (Celestron Label LS).jpg

It has the Vixen mark, although I had a minor brain malfunction here, in that mine is a GP-C102 rather than an SP-C102, which would most likely account for the difference, so, my bad... I also have one of the Chinese-made C102-HD's, which has a very different cell. I posted some pics in another thread a while back.

 

Edit: A couple of months ago I also got an SP-C80, which I've been using a lot since then and probably had stuck in my mind, heh...


Edited by JoeInMN, 02 August 2020 - 11:49 AM.

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#24 Bomber Bob

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Posted 02 August 2020 - 11:58 AM

It has the Vixen mark, although I had a minor brain malfunction here, in that mine is a GP-C102 rather than an SP-C102, which would most likely account for the difference, so, my bad... I also have one of the Chinese-made C102-HD's, which has a very different cell. I posted some pics in another thread a while back.

 

Edit: A couple of months ago I also got an SP-C80, which I've been using a lot since then and probably had stuck in my mind, heh...

Thanks for the info & pix.  I don't know a whole lot about the Vixen scopes sold by Orion (first?) & Celestron.  I do recall seeing a new C4.5 + Polaris at a BX (Base Exchange) around 1986, and I liked the looks & build quality.  So, for the gurus, this would be a good place for a Time Line:

 

- Introduced in the USA when?

- Polaris, then Super Polaris, then Great Polaris?

- Production moved from Japan to... Taiwan, then PRC?  Or, straight from Japan to PRC?

- Production ended when?

 

And any other info on this product line...


Edited by Bomber Bob, 02 August 2020 - 11:59 AM.


#25 CHASLX200

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Posted 02 August 2020 - 02:07 PM

Thanks for the info & pix.  I don't know a whole lot about the Vixen scopes sold by Orion (first?) & Celestron.  I do recall seeing a new C4.5 + Polaris at a BX (Base Exchange) around 1986, and I liked the looks & build quality.  So, for the gurus, this would be a good place for a Time Line:

 

- Introduced in the USA when?

- Polaris, then Super Polaris, then Great Polaris?

- Production moved from Japan to... Taiwan, then PRC?  Or, straight from Japan to PRC?

- Production ended when?

 

And any other info on this product line...

I remember seeing the Polaris as early as 1981 in RVR Optical ads.  At least it sure looked like a Polaris with a short 70mm refractor mounted on it.  Seems late 1983 Celestron started showing ads of the black Vixen line of scopes. I bought a brand new SP mount in 1986.  Seems Celestron was ahead of Orion by a few years.  In 1996-97 Celestron started selling the first wave of China made scopes and mounts and they were a huge step down from the Vixen stuff.  The first Gen of CG5 and 4 mounts with the small tripod legs were pretty much junk vs the Vixen mounts.  Seems Orion sold the green Vixen mounts and OTA's around 1990 till about 94 if i remember right.


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