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Used gear, horror stories?

astrophotography filters dob
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#1 Kevin Thurman

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 02:54 AM

Any horror stories from buying used astro gear? I ask because I'm looking to save a few bucks on stuff that I plan to buy soon and I'm wondering whether it's worth going down the used route. So far the only used equipment I bought was a modded canon 600D, but that was cheap enough that I didn't mind the risk as much and the seller seemed legitimate based on their eBay reviews.

My particular situation right now is that I need narrowband filters and eventually I want a big dob around 10-14"(I've only ever had my 5" newt so far for visual). I'm keeping my eyes peeled on here and eBay for stuff in the area. I figure a cheap used dob is safer because:

 

A) it's a bit less of a sensitive piece of equipment (many are homemade and issues should be quite obvious upon visual inspection/trial for the most part) 
B) It's easier to repair or purchase and replace parts in a dob than it is to repair a 3nm NB filter (if that's even possible at all)

Are there good ways to test NB filters for aberrations, i.e. halos and other weird optical issues before buying them? I suppose I can bring my camera and computer and set up with the filter installed if the seller would allow it, but I'd have to do it at night to test it on stars.


Other than that, any advice for weeding out good deals vs. scams, how to best test stuff out and inspect for issues and what to look for as red flags? Any common problems checklists out there for certain types of gear? (For example: making sure the shutter count on a DSLR is not too high, making sure the mount/base isn't completely shot, obvious dents and scratches on materials, etc...)



#2 TOMDEY

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 03:20 AM

I bought lots of used filers --- about half had gone bad from misuse, poor storage (or possibly just time). I ran traces on a spectrophotometer to confirm the degradations. So, I'd say... beware buying used filters... especially the narrowband ones.    Tom


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#3 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 03:42 AM

I have bought nearly all my equipment used.  I have only had one bad experience. Some of my thoughts/rules:

 

-  I avoid Ebay, you never quite know who your dealing with and Ebay ratings are meaningless.  Seller clearly selling junk astro gear have high ratings. 

 

-  I buy on Astromart, that's my number one source.  Particularly for a larger Dob and premium stuff, Astromart is the place that I have found most of my equipment.  It costs $15/year and that gives me the opportunity to buy and sell with amateur astronomers using their real names and whose identities have been verified. Ratings have real meaning.  Members are mostly long time amateur astronomers. 

 

  I also buy on my local Craigslist.  It's in person so I can check out the equipment first.  I also buy using the CN classifieds but I am cautious, I mostly buy from members active in the forums.

 

- Dobs are pretty safe, they what you see is what you get.  Shipping them is expensive so in person transactions have been the norm for me.

 

- Eyepieces are something I buy but I look carefully at the description, I want a detailed description of the flaws and photos.  A seller who is careful in the description is a seller who is concerned about the buyer.

 

- Electronics is something I mostly avoid.  Too many possible hidden problems. 

 

- I think narrow band filters are best purchased new.  Filters can be damaged and they can fail with age.  Planetary filters are less risky but they are cheap new.  I did purchase a 2 inch Lumicon H-Beta filter on Astromart and it has worked out nicely.  The seller had a very nice observatory, all said and done, I put it at somewhere around half a million.. I am not sure why he was messing around selling a filter for $100 but he was.

 

That's my strategy. 

 

Jon


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#4 Kevin Thurman

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 04:11 AM

- I think narrow band filters are best purchased new.  Filters can be damaged and they can fail with age.  Planetary filters are less risky but they are cheap new.  I did purchase a 2 inch Lumicon H-Beta filter on Astromart and it has worked out nicely.  The seller had a very nice observatory, all said and done, I put it at somewhere around half a million.. I am not sure why he was messing around selling a filter for $100 but he was.

 

Perhaps he forgot to set some aside for the bills. It happens to the best of us.


Edited by Kevin Thurman, 05 August 2020 - 04:11 AM.


#5 SloMoe

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 08:12 AM

Morning, mostly it would be as Jon said, scopes & eyepieces not much of a proplem, but due to the nature of the coatings band filters it's hit or miss.

 

But you really got to understand filters to even know if there's been a problem with the purchase.


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#6 MalVeauX

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 09:13 AM

Heya,

 

Almost all of my scopes are used. As long as the coatings are intact and the mechanical moving parts are working well, you can get a lot of scope for the money. The nastiest scope I've bought was a $150 fixer-upper CR150HD (old 150mm F8 achromatic doublet refractor). The focuser was junk. The tube had been painted a few times, sloppy. The metal around the lens holding cell was gooped up with paint and scraped up. The lens was dirty. Overall looked like something to go in the bin. I took it apart. Sanded rough spots. Took the lenses out, cleaned them, reassembled them and put a new focuser on it. To this day, it's still my primary high resolution narrowband solar imaging telescope in my observatory.

 

Note, you can buy used scopes from outlets online too, like OPT and Highpoint, Astromart, etc. Also here on this forum.

 

The key to buying used is to make sure there's a way to "make it right" if things are not right, ie, safe payment method, and realistically don't fly blind on a sale unless you can go see it in person or unless you're buying from from a group where there's ratings and stuff, go with someone that has some history. Personally I avoid Craigslist/Facebook stuff, my local area is ripe with garbage being sold for new prices on there, it's a joke; hopefully its better in other areas.

 

I've gotten several used scopes here on Cloudynights, all have been great.

I've gotten a few used scopes off of OPT's used section.

 

Very best,


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#7 DSOGabe

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 09:33 AM

The advantage of buying from CN is that the sellers are honest and transparent about the condition of the gear so one pretty much knows what they're getting. I've bought used stuff here from finderscope rings up to an entire mount and have had no nasty surprises. 


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#8 SloMoe

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 09:44 AM

This is a kind of a controversial subject, 

 

I used to think that members here were like family, I could trust them no problem, and still to this day I have that faith that we'll do each other right.

 

So this isn't about a purchase, it's about a sale, a sale that went very sideways for me.

 

Back about two years ago I started collecting filters, band filters, color, polarize, planetary,,,,,, 1.25" & 2"

 

after a few months of collecting I had over 30 filters, and I had tried most of them to compare and determine if the guru's of astronmy were correct in their preaching that you would have a very hard time as a beginner knowing any difference in between bargain & high end filters of the same type.

 

Nope, not much until you get to really dark skies and go through a lot of prep for the comparison's.

It's not like walking up to the fruit stand and seeing a bruised discolored apple or such.

 

So I picked out what I liked about the different filters then decided to sell off what I had acquired, some were new but most were used.

 

But I wanted to be clear about what I was selling so I contacted a fellow member that was known for his work with a spectro analysis results.

He agreed to do a batch of them for me, and gave me the link to those results, it was like having a fingerprint of each filter

 

I clearly stated their capabilites to the buyers and sold 90% of what I had collected in DSO filters, UHC's, O-III's, light pollution and so on, you name it I had it.

 

In all of those I had a Lumicon O-III, it was an older one but still had high spec's, like 94%.

It was a clean piece of glass, it had been well cared for.

 

During my acquisition period I ran across a Lumicon O-III that was basically the bruised apple, one look at it reflected it's price, I returned it, seller was good about it, a little reluctant but a decent guy, and I still do business with him no problem,,,

 

Anyway during my selling time, about a year later, I sold the Lumi O-III that I had purchased as a test piece, and kept, the price I selected reflected it's age, half of new, but it still had very good transmission, better than most that sell for new from other manufacturer's.

 

About a week went by after the sale and the buyer contacted me expressing displeasure in the filter, I said send it back and I'll refund your money.

 

I felt there might be a problem with him in that his first contact with me he was a raving nut case, all kinds of accusations, foul language & such, 

 

He took his time about sending it back, and before I had received it he started to demand his money, it got worse each day until the filter finally got to me, 

Well low and behold he had sent back the O-III that I had returned to another vendor several months before.

 

Not the same filter that I sold him, same type & manufacture but not the same one, I had the spectro results to prove it.

 

The rest of the story goes sort of like this, first he deleted all his correspondence with me in my message box that described his trying experimental cleaning solutions and techniques, then block me from communicating with him,

then he dragged the moderators into it, then he went to Paypal and declared I had hacked his account, and to do that he had to declare I never sold him anything and didn't know me at all, 

 

The moderators of this site are not mediators.

 

So I guess the bottom line here is that it's not always a "Buyer Beware" situation, sometimes it's seller beware.

 

Right now I still buy off the CN classified's, but I'll probably never sell here again, well filter's anyway.

Still got a few DGM's, Lumicons, & Baader's to sell, but not here.


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#9 SloMoe

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 09:51 AM

oh, and BTW, he was so thorough about cutting all communication and blocks that even if I were offer any refund I couldn't.

 

I've found several sellers here with no history at all, not even posts, those sellers I steer clear of, check their ratings if you have time before you buy,

I know sometimes a screamin' deal hits the classifieds and it's a race to claim the prize, but if you have time, check their background or profile.


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#10 Starman27

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 10:47 AM

Over the years, I find that experienced members of the astronomy community take very good care of their equipment. If you look at my equipment list only one or two items were purchased new. But, you must always get the history of both the item and the seller. I have had the opportunity to try meet the seller of most of my purchases and try many out. 


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#11 LDW47

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 10:48 AM

Research, find references like on this site and buy used if the price is right for you !  Don’t look back !


Edited by LDW47, 05 August 2020 - 02:52 PM.

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#12 LDW47

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 10:50 AM

Any horror stories from buying used astro gear? I ask because I'm looking to save a few bucks on stuff that I plan to buy soon and I'm wondering whether it's worth going down the used route. So far the only used equipment I bought was a modded canon 600D, but that was cheap enough that I didn't mind the risk as much and the seller seemed legitimate based on their eBay reviews.

My particular situation right now is that I need narrowband filters and eventually I want a big dob around 10-14"(I've only ever had my 5" newt so far for visual). I'm keeping my eyes peeled on here and eBay for stuff in the area. I figure a cheap used dob is safer because:

 

A) it's a bit less of a sensitive piece of equipment (many are homemade and issues should be quite obvious upon visual inspection/trial for the most part) 
B) It's easier to repair or purchase and replace parts in a dob than it is to repair a 3nm NB filter (if that's even possible at all)

Are there good ways to test NB filters for aberrations, i.e. halos and other weird optical issues before buying them? I suppose I can bring my camera and computer and set up with the filter installed if the seller would allow it, but I'd have to do it at night to test it on stars.

Other than that, any advice for weeding out good deals vs. scams, how to best test stuff out and inspect for issues and what to look for as red flags? Any common problems checklists out there for certain types of gear? (For example: making sure the shutter count on a DSLR is not too high, making sure the mount/base isn't completely shot, obvious dents and scratches on materials, etc...)

And don’t hesitate too long because used will be gone in the blink of an eye !  Clear good luck skize !


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#13 MDT

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 10:53 AM

I had a couple of scopes with threaded adapters that the previous owner used Loctite to secure them (ebay).


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#14 SloMoe

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 11:06 AM

OK, Kevin, you're chasing an 8" to 10" dob for AP, steer clear of paper tubes, watch out for spider webs in the ota from long term storage, spider droppings are acidic and destroy primaries.

 

Check the focuser draw tube for movement both up & down but also side to side.

 

And of course any discoloration of either mirror.

 

Closely examine the mount, sometimes kids like to play merry go round on them or teeder todder,,,,,,,

 

The scope has got to be as close to manufacture perfect if you're doing AP.

 

For general visual you can find a nice deal on your local CL or from a seller here.

 

Because, as Starman stated, a vast majority of astronomers take very good care of their equipment.


Edited by SloMoe, 05 August 2020 - 11:13 AM.

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#15 Kevin Thurman

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 01:41 PM

OK, Kevin, you're chasing an 8" to 10" dob for AP, steer clear of paper tubes, watch out for spider webs in the ota from long term storage, spider droppings are acidic and destroy primaries.

 

Check the focuser draw tube for movement both up & down but also side to side.

 

And of course any discoloration of either mirror.

 

Closely examine the mount, sometimes kids like to play merry go round on them or teeder todder,,,,,,,

 

The scope has got to be as close to manufacture perfect if you're doing AP.

 

For general visual you can find a nice deal on your local CL or from a seller here.

 

Because, as Starman stated, a vast majority of astronomers take very good care of their equipment.

I don't intend for the dob to be used for AP (that's where all my money has gone so far and why I have neglected visual). I will probably try lucky imaging on the moon or the planets as it would be the biggest aperture I'd have up till now, but if the scope isn't fit for AP I won't be bothered. Thanks for the tips. I hadn't even considered some of this.



#16 Richie2shoes

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 02:35 PM

I've had decent experiences in the used market.  I bought an Orion 8" intelliscope from Craigslist which was in excellent shape for around $350 and sold it  for the same amount a year later when I was ready to upgrade.  I bought an old Meade 10" newtonian on a homemade dob base, also from Craigslist.  The base was pretty rough and the mirrors needed cleaning and showed some slight degrading, but the whole set was only $75.  I rebuilt the base and later I sold it for $125 to a couple college kids looking to build their own scope.  Every ep I bought from the classified here as been in the described condition and a fair price.  I was able to score an 8mm Orion Stratus for $10 off craigslist which was a steal.  If you hesitate on most ads you'll miss them.  Although I probably wouldn't buy a used scope unless I was picking it up in person.


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#17 MikeTelescope

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 09:27 PM

I've bought almost all of my stuff used from Craigslist.  For used Dobsonians the main thing to look out for is a good, working focuser and smooth movement of altitude and azimuth.  Most imperfections you can see on mirrors won't be noticeable in the eyepiece.  It's more the shape of the mirror, which you won't be able to tell until you get it out under the stars and star test it.  A well-used Dobsonian is a good sign that it has a halfway decent mirror, that's why they held on to it and used it.  

 

Recently there have been many Dobsonians in the 8" range on CL of locals who bought one and never really got into it and it's just taking up floor space.  Those can be great deals.  

 

Binoculars on CL that you can test in person and check for collimation issues are fine.  Beware of used binoculars bought on Ebay or without some way of testing their collimation.  


Edited by MikeTelescope, 06 August 2020 - 12:41 AM.

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#18 Echolight

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 09:41 PM

I got a decent deal on a big alt/az mount for my 6 inch refractor that I wouldn't have wanted to pay full price on. Seems very nice even with a few scratches.

 

And a spotless old Nexstar 8 with a couple hundred dollars of accessories and $300 heavy duty tripod.

But I'm afraid I might spend more than I want putting a 2 inch optical train on it, and a rail to mount it on my AVX. So I might have to sell it.

 

And an old Bogen 3050 for pennies on the dollar that I'll use when I get a little refractor.

 

All cash and carry though. I'm not hip to sending money to some random internet figure and hoping everything's on the up and up.


Edited by Echolight, 05 August 2020 - 09:42 PM.

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#19 Jethro7

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Posted 06 August 2020 - 12:35 AM

Hello Kevin,

I have bought used gear and for the most part have been happy. Buying used does have its Caveats. I have purchased one of the best telescopes that I own, the Astrotech AT102ED. I have also bought a wonderful Crescent 60mm F/800 on EBay it was manufactured in1958 and when I received it, this little scope looked almost new and the views are really pretty nice. Then I bought a Astro telescopes 102mm F/11 Super Planetary, all the reviews on this scope are two Thumbs up and its owners cherish them. Mine looked near brand new but unfortunatly it turned out to be a piece of junk. I bought a used Losmandy AZ8 mount. And I dont, in any way think, the previous owner actually realized that it had unintentional damage and after replacing the damaged and missing parts, removing the encoders, meshed the worms I finally have a like factory new AZ8. To be honest this was not that big a issue and I was not mad about the AZ8 because I did not have to wait for three months to get a new one and it is my favorite non GoTo mount. 

I guess really, I have done okay buying used all in all. The Astro Telescope is really the only loser but I own it as is where is. I am looking into adding 15.75" to the telescope body and a new set of ED glass lenses and making a 102mm F/15  Telescope, so all may not be lost.

 

HAPPY SKIES AND KEEP LOOKING UP Jethro


Edited by Jethro7, 06 August 2020 - 07:46 AM.

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#20 kjkrum

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Posted 06 August 2020 - 12:43 AM

I just got a refractor from ShopGoodwill. When it arrived, something was rattling around inside the tube. It turned out to be an eyepiece barrel. It had obviously struck the inside of the objective a few times, but most of the marks came off easily with an eyeglass cleaner wipe.
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#21 Mbinoc

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Posted 06 August 2020 - 10:44 AM

I have only purchased used telescopes, and never had a bad experience. With a online sale from e-bay it might be more risky, but just about all of mine have come from either the local goodwill store or craigslist. This gives me a opportunity to inspect them first, and figure out what I'm getting into before a purchase is made.

 

I have ordered accessories on ebay, and have not always received exactly what I was hoping for, but in those few instances things still worked out okay.

 

Examples: "Ordered a set of new eye pieces, and only received one - Ordered a set of color filters and received a different brand then pictured "no big deal, and I let this one slide"- I once ordered a 1.25" 45% diagonal, and received a .965". In each case the seller corrected the issue when politely asked and pictures were sent.

 

I also ordered a 40mm eyepiece from China, and it did not show up in the time frame, I waited another week and then contacted the seller, they then provided a 2nd tracking number and shipped out another, a week later it showed up, and about 6 weeks after that a 2nd one showed up. They then told me to keep it as it would have cost too much to return.

 

I also once ordered a scope from the online goodwill auction store, and was very happy with both the condition and packaging it arrived in. Prior to its shipment, they sent me a message stating that they accidentally broke a tripod part that was included while packaging it up, and offered me a 50% discount or a complete refund. I accepted the discount, and they shipped it out to me with a broken tripod piece. (It was a plastic arm that connected a leg to the center tray). It ended up being a nice welcomed and unexpected discount on a Celestron 90mm EQ refactor.


Edited by Mbinoc, 06 August 2020 - 11:34 AM.

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#22 gnowellsct

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Posted 06 August 2020 - 12:40 PM

 

-  I buy on Astromart, that's my number one source.  Particularly for a larger Dob and premium stuff, Astromart is the place that I have found most of my equipment.  It costs $15/year and that gives me the opportunity to buy and sell with amateur astronomers using their real names and whose identities have been verified. Ratings have real meaning.  Members are mostly long time amateur astronomers. 

 

Jon

It is *so* difficult to get people to join Astromart.  They just don't know what they're missing.  It's a case study in an efficient market and the rating system is enough to make people go out of their way to give you an accurate sense of what you're buying.

 

Greg N


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#23 kjkrum

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Posted 06 August 2020 - 12:52 PM

It is *so* difficult to get people to join Astromart.


It's a big ask to make buyers join to see and use the full functionality of the site. It seems like a seller pays business model would work a lot better.
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#24 awong101

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Posted 08 August 2020 - 02:59 AM

I just dealt with a user on these forums who lied about the asking price, and s/he set out to start a bidding war for a buyer who would eventually pay more than the advertised price.

 

Shame on people like him/her. How low can you get for a few more bucks?


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#25 whizbang

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Posted 08 August 2020 - 05:05 AM

I have purchased lots of my gear used and have had good luck.  I also believe that most folks take good care of their stuff. 

 

However, I am super cautious about buying gear from an obvious tinkerer, somebody who put Bob's knobs on their SCT, who, IMHO, is most likely to pop off a corrector plate and give their scope an unnecessary improper cleaning their OTA doesn't need.  Run away.  To quote an acquaintance of mine, "Some handymen and handier than others".  Likewise, some telescope tinkerers are handier than others. 

 

From the used gear I have seen, my sense is that open OTA's like Newts tend to degrade more over time than closed OTA's like Maks and SCTs.  It is hard to say if this is due simply to exposure to the air, or exposure to more cleanings.  The mirror in a Newt is much easier to get to after all.

 

So far I have purchased one new scope (currently back at Celestron for warranty work), and 5 used scopes.  Three were CL ads and two were here from members on the CN forum.  I have also tested, inspected, and repaired the dozen or so scopes in the Seattle Astronomical Society lending library.  The scopes I have seen are a very small sample size and may not reflect the state of the used market.  Also, I would not be surprised if the SAS "loaner" scopes have had a bit or rough handling by inexperienced users over the years rather than cared for lovingly as an owner might.

 

There is no substitute for buying in person and inspecting both in daylight as well as under the stars.


Edited by whizbang, 08 August 2020 - 05:07 AM.



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