I finally pulled the trigger on an AT80ED as a medium-wide field scope to compliment my much longer focal length RC. Of course, having just received a scope, I haven't yet had clear skies to put it to the test with. I am however sharing my thoughts so far as this seems like a fantastic instrument for the cost.
Some background, I've never used an ED or Apochromatic scope before. I take pictures with an AT6RC and observe visually with an ES152 achromatic refractor. I recognize that I went backwards relative to most people's journey with astrophotography, but I've enjoyed using this to shoot medium-small DSOs over the years. I got this with a couple things in mind. It's primary role is to be my wide® field scope as I don't have anything right now with less than 1000mm of focal length that I'd want to connect a camera to. Secondary roles are as a more powerful guide scope for my RC (it really pushes the limits of my mini guide scope and ASI120 guide camera) and a portable visual scope for when I don't feel like lugging batteries and cables around. Right off the bat I'm impressed with what I got for just shy of $400.
Out of the box, this thing feels SOLID. The retractable lens hood is smooth and firm to extend and retract and the included rings are very nice with their oversized thumbscrews. The rings themselves are foam lined inside, so no worries about marring the tube with them and rotating the tube is pretty easy when the screws are loosened. It also includes the nicest rack and pinion focuser I've ever used, having primarily relied on Crayfords. Granted the only other rack and pinion focusers I'm familiar with are all from cheaper telescopes, but I was still pleasantly surprised by how smooth this one is with no discernable backlash.
As I mentioned at the start, I haven't yet gotten a chance to test out the FK-61 ED doublet optics on stars. I did however focus on a distant tree against a very backlit overcast sky. Visually, the edges of the silhouetted tree were sharp and crisp. I couldn't make out any color fringing, which is a stark change from my ES152 and even better than some nice photographic lenses I use for daytime photography. I'm excited see what I can accomplish with this once the skies decide to be more cooperative.
My only gripe with this scope is the lack of a finder shoe. I'm thankful that the cost is kept so low, but I'd rather pay the extra ~$15 up front than have to find one separately. Perhaps there are those who don't need a finder with this scope but I'm not one of them. If anyone else is in the same boat, I used this vixen-style finder shoe and attached it with the screws that were already present on the topside of the focuser. The fit is great and it allows me to easily mount either a right angle finderscope or my mini guidescope. AstroTech has a similar offering at a similar price that likely came from the same factory, but theirs was backordered when I was searching.
I'm hesitant to fully recommend it yet, having not had an actual imaging session with it, but I'm fully impressed with the build quality of what I received and its performance in my simple optical tests. I'll be sure to report back once I've had some time to take photos with this!
Edited by ravenhawk82, 30 January 2021 - 07:39 PM.