I believe I'm suffering a bit of analysis paralysis. I've run the numbers, backwards and forwards, and I thought I had decided on a Quark Chromosphere hooked up to an AT80ED, for a dedicated solar scope. It seems that many of you, however, would rather recommend double-stacking a Lunt 50, for around the same money. For a purely visual observer, is it really worth giving up the extra 30mm resolution/mag. potential for the added contrast of a double stack? I just wanna see the most I can for under 2 grand...
I appreciate your insight.
It's a personal thing.
One pathway is to get the biggest aperture you can, to resolve things the best, if seeing conditions allow. This is indeed a great way to see prominences on the limb. However, it can be difficult to really view subject matter on the face of the disc due to being lower contrast as a single stack, but with experience and HA-eye-adaptation (similar to dark adaption) you can see every structure in HA.
The other pathway is to get a smaller aperture and double-stack it to get the highest contrast you can on the surface of the disc, by eliminating the parasitic continuum that is leaking through.
For the same price, getting a dedicated instrument with a double stack will give full disc views that are bright and with really high contrast. The difference is rather stark. Filaments are very dark and high contrast, plages are very bright and high contrast, the disc surface is dimmed appropriately and the proms pop out on the limb without being overwhelmed with brightness from the disc. You give up resolution. However, you will still see and resolve the structures of the chromosphere with a 50mm no problem.
The only way to know is to experience it. It would help to be able to visit a club or member who has one or the other so you can take a look.
For me, HA is all about the massive active regions and the structures found near them (chromosphere network, plages, filaments, fibrils, spicules and prominences (which are filaments) near the limb). So for me, HA is better as a wider field of view to see the entire enormous structure. HA for me is not about the sunspot, which is a photosphere feature. So for HA viewing, I much prefer a double stack with smaller aperture, compared to a single stack much larger aperture. The only exception would be really complex prominences where aperture single stack is great (because there's no photosphere behind a prominence, so its not overwhelmed with brightness from the continuum leaking through). But, the surface is where all that HA activity and structures are, and so again, for me, a double-stack wins there. Just my personal preference.
Since the option of a Quark is involved, which cannot be double-stacked easily, this means you are on the pathway of a single stack with larger aperture. It's different if we were talking about a 80mm or 90mm single stack etalon that could potentially be double stacked later, as that would be superior in general. Unfortunately double the cost too.
My range of instruments for solar viewing goes from 200mm to 40mm, single and double stacked in various ways. My biggest aperture doesn't get used visually much because it's a single stack and simply lacks the contrast that a double stack has, and because of its fine image scale and high magnification its very seeing limited and also the field of view is narrow so many structures do not fit in the field of view, and again, HA structures are often enormous. So if I'm doing single stack larger aperture viewing, I usually will use a 102mm~150mm aperture range with binoviewers. However, ultimately I much prefer viewing the entire disc and all the structures all at the same time in very high contrast with a smaller aperture double stack system and binoviewers, and for that, I use 60mm aperture etalons.
Ideally I'd want an 80mm~90mm double-stack for all of it. But ultimately that costs too much for me right now. But that's the size I would target for "life."
8" with a Quark and Binos:
60mm Double Stack with Binos: