I got a break last night from clouds and I was able to perform visual first-light with the new CFF 200mm F6.5 refractor. Bottom-line: WOW! I was able to observe the half moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and some DSO’s. My last large refractor was a TMB APO 178mm F8 LZOS - was a great instrument, unfortunately I sold it 10 years ago - with great regret. I have added many superb instruments since then, where I focused on DSO imaging. As I think about retirement, I decided I wanted a large 200mm refractor with a short focal length. CFF delivered an excellent 200mm F6.5 refractor and surprisingly out performing my TMB 178 on the planets.
I purchased the CFF 200 primarily for DSO imaging - but I also wanted to do some planetary imaging and occasional visual use for outreach (after COVID-19) with local high schools.
Anyway, back to the visual first light initial observations. I am not an expert visual observer, but I have used enough instruments to appreciate the performance of the CFF 200. My first target was a +2 magnitude star to perform a quick star test. Atmospheric conditions cooperated with a lovely in-focus star image displaying a nearly perfect diffraction pattern. I was pleasantly surprised to see no chromatic aberration for a fast F6.5 scope - I was using a 4mm TMB Planetary eyepiece and a Vernonscope 2” 1/20th wave quartz star diagonal giving a magnification of 325x.
I then turned to half moon - I used several different eyepieces (Televue 24mm Panoptic, 9mm Ethos, and 4mm TMB) - the craters were “tac” sharp with much detail. What really amazed me was the contrast - especially the shadows being very sharp. It was fun just flying over the moon surface at 325x magnification. Bad news - I will need now to make another investment into a binoviewer 😊.
Next target was Jupiter - the planet showed considerable cloud details and using the 4mm TMB even the moons showed some detail. Again the high contrast level of detail was clearly evident. Unfortunately, no “great red spot” visible at the this time.
I then turned to Saturn - again a very sharp and contrasty detail of Saturn’s clouds and the rings were tac sharp. Since Saturn takes magnification well I added a 2X Barlow to 4mm TMB eyepiece to see how well the CFF 200 takes magnification (650x) - there was little break down of Saturn - a real testament of the optical design.
Clouds were beginning to roll in so I decided to look at a few DSOs: M57 and then M13. M13 was stunningly resolved in my 24mm Panaoptic. The field of view using the 22mm Panoptic was around 1.3 degrees providing a great rich-star-field experience. I hope to try some double stars in the future as well - stay tuned.
In all I am very satisfied with the CFF200 as a great visual scope. If the weather cooperates this weekend I hope to take some first-light images using my ZWO ASI2600 (APS-C) camera with the supplied CFF 200 field flattener. I also have a FL PL11002 CCD (Full Frame) camera for future testing as well.