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Starting thinking about getting a classic refractor

Refractor Classic
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#26 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 01 March 2021 - 05:13 PM

You’ve come to a great place. Lots of friendly and knowledgeable folks here to help. I recommend you start with a 60mm. You can definitely find a nice complete kit for under $500. Look for a Tasco 7TE, a Unitron 114, a Swift model 839, a Mayflower model 816, or a Monolux model 4380. Keep an eye out in the CN classifieds or put a want ad in them. Good luck!

It’s an awesome community, I’m amazed by the willingness to share advice so freely.


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#27 Bowlerhat

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Posted 01 March 2021 - 06:28 PM

Those focus knobs look very Vixen-like. 

Daiichi kogaku made them so. They've been making some vixen models from early times.

 

I'm not sure which telescope you have OP, but remember most of the recommendations here mentioning the price as a set, not the OTA (tube) only. They got much cheaper if you got them only by the tube and mount it on modern mount. Mix and match for practicality.

 

Vixen Grab and Go
 
ALso remember to check this about 60mm scopes.

Edited by Bowlerhat, 01 March 2021 - 06:30 PM.

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#28 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 01 March 2021 - 09:02 PM

 

Daiichi kogaku made them so. They've been making some vixen models from early times.

 

I'm not sure which telescope you have OP, but remember most of the recommendations here mentioning the price as a set, not the OTA (tube) only. They got much cheaper if you got them only by the tube and mount it on modern mount. Mix and match for practicality.

 

 
 
ALso remember to check this about 60mm scopes.

 

I’ve got a 102mm f/5 Celestron StarSense on an alt az mount. I’d be ok with OTA only, but after hearing about how wonderful some of the classic mounts are I’d probably like to get my hands on one. I view the longer focal length as being a perfect compliment to the faster achromat. 



#29 Bowlerhat

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Posted 01 March 2021 - 11:01 PM

I’ve got a 102mm f/5 Celestron StarSense on an alt az mount. I’d be ok with OTA only, but after hearing about how wonderful some of the classic mounts are I’d probably like to get my hands on one. I view the longer focal length as being a perfect compliment to the faster achromat. 

I see. most of the recommendations here is on EQ mount though. However if you want something like 60mm, unitron, asahi, and pentax make some good AZ mount. I wouldn't trade my asahi's mount for modern set.

 

Asahi transplant

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#30 AstroKerr

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 04:17 AM

Skip the 60s, go straight to a 76 or better - you can backfill later. Other than that, follow everyone's advice.  


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#31 Alanvogt

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 11:23 AM

Bang for the buck, it's hard to beat a Tasco with their excellent  RO optics. I think their mounts are excellent as well.  I paid $150 for the 7TE-5 and $250 for the 10TE.  One advantage of the 10TE (76x1200mm) is a Vixen adapter easily converts them to 1.25 to fit all your diagonals and eyepieces.  On the 7TE-5 (60x1000mm) you will need a hybrid diagonal. That said the 7TE is much easier to find.

Size comparison:

tasco.jpg


Edited by Alanvogt, 02 March 2021 - 11:25 AM.

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#32 Kasmos

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 01:36 PM

The 7TE is probably one of the easier to find good classics that really says classic. Same with the Unitrons but you will pay more. As an example, a Alt-Az Unitron 114 will generally cost much more than a 7TE GEM. That said, I personally like the style of the components of Unitrons and the SYW made Mayflowers a bit more, but others might argue the Tasco's optics are more consistent.

 

Also, Buy a brand that is known to have a good mount and a as complete kit as you can find with its box and accessories. Using a classic on a modern mount is OK (I'm probably in the minority) but feel it kind of spoils the whole reason of owning a classic. Especially if you already have modern equipment to use. Having a classic with a good mount means you can enjoy the whole kit and not just for display.


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#33 Alanvogt

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 05:16 PM

Also, Buy a brand that is known to have a good mount and a as complete kit as you can find with its box and accessories. Using a classic on a modern mount is OK (I'm probably in the minority) but feel it kind of spoils the whole reason of owning a classic. Especially if you already have modern equipment to use. Having a classic with a good mount means you can enjoy the whole kit and not just for display.

I agree. I like to experience a classic as a whole with it's original mount. I will also say I prefer gems over alt-az.  I don't use the old eyepieces though. 



#34 Brent Campbell

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 05:20 PM

The 1960s Tasco Model 7TE (or TE-5) shows up fairly often on CN and/or the auction sites -- it's a 60mm F15 from Astro Optical (JP) -- and an Iconic Classic.  The AO or SYW (Yamamoto) 76x1200 (F16) refractors also come in under $300, and many are branded SEARS or Mayflower or... LOTS of other brands.  The Towa 305 (60mm) or 339 (80mm) are common, but... optical quality is nowhere near as consistent as AO -- most of these are from the mid-70s to 1980s...

 

I've found the 1980s Celestron (Vixen JP) C80 F11 & C102 F10 refractors Excellent / Outstanding:

 

attachicon.gifCelestron C-80P S21 - Mizar SP (RS Full).jpgattachicon.gifC102 - First Setup S01 (Mizar - FULL Right Side).jpg

 

I got each OTA for about $100.  Mine share a vintage Mizar Super Polaris; but, the Celestron (Vixen) Polaris, Super Polaris, & Great Polaris EQ mounts run $150 to $350.  With patience, and careful shopping, you could put together a kit for $300 or less.

Those scopes are excellent.  However, as shown they have a great mount.  Many of these scopes come with the Vixen Alt Atz mount which sucks.   An excellent upgrade for an 80 mm like that is a polaris mount.



#35 pdxmoon

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 05:23 PM

A vote for alt-az mounts, in general. Of course, it depends on your target. I've never had any problem seeing and tracking any solar system target with alt-az. I've even configured my Vixen Polaris mount to ride alt az.  There is much to be said for observing this way, and Unitrons, in particular, have terrific alt az mounts.

 

You have a lot to think about! Good luck! 


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#36 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 07:38 PM

A vote for alt-az mounts, in general. Of course, it depends on your target. I've never had any problem seeing and tracking any solar system target with alt-az. I've even configured my Vixen Polaris mount to ride alt az. There is much to be said for observing this way, and Unitrons, in particular, have terrific alt az mounts.

You have a lot to think about! Good luck!


I’ve only had an Alt Az mount, it’s just so easy and intuitive to use. Since I’m using long FL eyepieces 95% of the time tracking has never been an issue.
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#37 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 08:14 PM

Those scopes are excellent.  However, as shown they have a great mount.  Many of these scopes come with the Vixen Alt Atz mount which sucks.   An excellent upgrade for an 80 mm like that is a polaris mount.

What makes it a bad mount? Is it inadequate for the scope or are there other issues?



#38 Bomber Bob

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 08:47 PM

I'm not a fan of this style AZ mount, either:

 

Vixen FL80S S31 (Custom AZ).jpg

 

In this case, it's a 1990s Vixen FL80S F8 APO on a Vixen ALT/AZ.  You have to press up / down on the scope to change altitude; and, if you loosen the axis bolt to make it easier, it can "fall back" as you point close to overhead.

 

Compare that kit with:

 

ATM 5x5T - Restore S28 (VG Closeup).jpg

 

My 5" F5 RFT on an Orion VersaGo 2.  That long handle moves the scope up / down.  No slow-motion controls, but I rarely use an AZ mount for higher than 150x.


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#39 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 09:04 PM

I'm not a fan of this style AZ mount, either:

 

attachicon.gifVixen FL80S S31 (Custom AZ).jpg

 

In this case, it's a 1990s Vixen FL80S F8 APO on a Vixen ALT/AZ.  You have to press up / down on the scope to change altitude; and, if you loosen the axis bolt to make it easier, it can "fall back" as you point close to overhead.

 

Compare that kit with:

 

attachicon.gifATM 5x5T - Restore S28 (VG Closeup).jpg

 

My 5" F5 RFT on an Orion VersaGo 2.  That long handle moves the scope up / down.  No slow-motion controls, but I rarely use an AZ mount for higher than 150x.

I can’t imagine not having the slow motion controls, maybe I’m just spoiled.



#40 Terra Nova

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Posted 02 March 2021 - 10:37 PM

I'm not a fan of this style AZ mount, either:

 

attachicon.gifVixen FL80S S31 (Custom AZ).jpg

 

In this case, it's a 1990s Vixen FL80S F8 APO on a Vixen ALT/AZ.  You have to press up / down on the scope to change altitude; and, if you loosen the axis bolt to make it easier, it can "fall back" as you point close to overhead.

 

Compare that kit with:

 

attachicon.gifATM 5x5T - Restore S28 (VG Closeup).jpg

 

My 5" F5 RFT on an Orion VersaGo 2.  That long handle moves the scope up / down.  No slow-motion controls, but I rarely use an AZ mount for higher than 150x.

The later Vixen Porta mount is so much better that the old-style Vixen Custom mount. (That is what Vixen called that alt-az mount in your top picture, the ‘Custom’ mount. Here’s my trusty Vixen Porta II that I’ve had around 10 years. It’s a very good mount. I use it a lot with several of my scopes. Prior to that, around twenty years ago, I hade a Vixen alt-az mount that I liked a lot. It was much better than the Custom, but not as good as the Porta. It was called the ‘Custom-D’. Here’s a picture of the Custom-D with no scope. I used to regularly use a 102mm F7 refractor on my Vixen Custom-D mount.

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#41 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 03 March 2021 - 09:51 PM

The later Vixen Porta mount is so much better that the old-style Vixen Custom mount. (That is what Vixen called that alt-az mount in your top picture, the ‘Custom’ mount. Here’s my trusty Vixen Porta II that I’ve had around 10 years. It’s a very good mount. I use it a lot with several of my scopes. Prior to that, around twenty years ago, I hade a Vixen alt-az mount that I liked a lot. It was much better than the Custom, but not as good as the Porta. It was called the ‘Custom-D’. Here’s a picture of the Custom-D with no scope. I used to regularly use a 102mm F7 refractor on my Vixen Custom-D mount.

I’ll make sure to take a look, what’s a reasonable price for a used one?



#42 pdxmoon

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Posted 04 March 2021 - 12:02 PM

The later Vixen Porta mount is so much better that the old-style Vixen Custom mount. (That is what Vixen called that alt-az mount in your top picture, the ‘Custom’ mount. Here’s my trusty Vixen Porta II that I’ve had around 10 years. It’s a very good mount. I use it a lot with several of my scopes. Prior to that, around twenty years ago, I hade a Vixen alt-az mount that I liked a lot. It was much better than the Custom, but not as good as the Porta. It was called the ‘Custom-D’. Here’s a picture of the Custom-D with no scope. I used to regularly use a 102mm F7 refractor on my Vixen Custom-D mount.

I also use the Porta II with my classic scopes (probably because of Terra!). It's just so easy to set up, and 60-8omm scopes ride well on it. Heck, in a pinch, I've even used 4" scopes on a Porta II, as long as the magnification isn't too high.  I can't say enough about this mount. It is really the only one I use. It holds my Tak, my TV, my classic 60s, my old Celestron Vixen 80mm achro. The only other mount I really use is the Orion tripod I have set up with an AT60. Even the Vixen Polaris is put away because I don't use a 100 refractor anymore, preferring the ease of the MAK on the moon.

 

The ONLY original mounts I use, classics wise, are the Unitrons, because they are beautiful, but mainly because they are functional. They--just--work. Always. And these are Alt Az mounts.

 

You can set up a Tasco 7TE with it's original mount, and it will be fine. But you will soon find, if you are like me, that for space and functionality, if you have a Porta II and some 60mm rings and dove, using your Tasco on a Porta II will be a pleasure. I can't emphasize that enough. It will be a rock steady, easy peasy experience, from set-up to take down.

 

70 and tasco.jpg

 

(Tale of Two Porta IIs: A Vixen 70, a good modern lunar scope, and classic Tasco 60mm.)


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#43 Bomber Bob

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Posted 04 March 2021 - 05:53 PM

OP, as you can see, there are about as many Mount Options as there are Classic Scope Options...

 

For LONG refractors & larger Newtonians, I'm partial to Pedestals:

 

Meade SF - Pedestal Restores S03 (Both).jpg

 

No wide tripod legs to dodge.  Scope can point straight overhead without hitting the mount.  Comfortable eyepiece height.

 

I pack those 4" tubes with alternating thick foam disks & polyfill (compressed!) to absorb vibrations.

 

C102 Restore S22 - Meade SF TALL (RS Full).jpg Meade 826 Restore S01 - Lumicon 125 HF.jpg

 

FYI:  I bought the Celestron (Vixen JP) C102 and the Meade 826 scopes here on CN for $150 or less (not counting Shipping, of course - when you live in a Classic Telescope Desert, you're gonna have to have scopes shipped to you!)...  Got each Meade StarFinder EQ for about $100 a pop.  Really love how the motor drives are self-contained:  battery pack stores inside the motor housing.


Edited by Bomber Bob, 04 March 2021 - 05:57 PM.

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#44 Defenderslideguitar

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Posted 04 March 2021 - 06:12 PM

First off  it is great to be looking for a classic     BTW love the Vixen 80 fluorite   but I agree with BB here   that the Vixen or Celestron alt az is the weak link.

 

My Celestron firstscope 80 was a great scope but I did not like the mount....

 

I do like a good Alt Az mount  for easy point and shoot   I do like slow motion controls on them and  I have some good ones.   I like the Twilight  mount as simple easy and stable up to 3 inch scopes     the Vixen 80fl likes it,,,,I have a heavy duty Unistar   these are great even up to big refractors, but no slo mo controls    I have some others

But I think the Vixen porta as recommenced above   is very good  if you want an easy stable Alt Az.....

 

Here is the Vixen 80fl on  a twilight pic

and the twilight with the Vixen 80fl and its big brother the C-102fl on the Unistar

 

 

   Here is the Firstscope 80 on the vixen mount I did not like  

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Edited by Defenderslideguitar, 04 March 2021 - 06:32 PM.

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#45 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 06 March 2021 - 01:14 PM

OP, as you can see, there are about as many Mount Options as there are Classic Scope Options...

 

For LONG refractors & larger Newtonians, I'm partial to Pedestals:

 

attachicon.gifMeade SF - Pedestal Restores S03 (Both).jpg

 

No wide tripod legs to dodge.  Scope can point straight overhead without hitting the mount.  Comfortable eyepiece height.

 

I pack those 4" tubes with alternating thick foam disks & polyfill (compressed!) to absorb vibrations.

 

attachicon.gifC102 Restore S22 - Meade SF TALL (RS Full).jpgattachicon.gifMeade 826 Restore S01 - Lumicon 125 HF.jpg

 

FYI:  I bought the Celestron (Vixen JP) C102 and the Meade 826 scopes here on CN for $150 or less (not counting Shipping, of course - when you live in a Classic Telescope Desert, you're gonna have to have scopes shipped to you!)...  Got each Meade StarFinder EQ for about $100 a pop.  Really love how the motor drives are self-contained:  battery pack stores inside the motor housing.

I wasn’t even aware of the pedestal design. Unfortunately where I’m at is the epitome of a scope desert. On Craigslist there are only 3 scopes listed in the whole of eastern NC.



#46 Bomber Bob

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Posted 06 March 2021 - 02:58 PM

I agree with BB here   that the Vixen or Celestron alt az is the weak link.

 

Know what's nutz??  That CHEAP Taiwan-made Meade 390 AZ mount is easier to use than the much more expensive Vixen Custom that I used with my FL80S... WUWT??  The Meade looks like a clone of the Vixen, but its nylon bushings are super-slick with a thin layer of red lube...

 

Unfortunately where I’m at is the epitome of a scope desert.

 

Yep!  My only 2 local purchases required a drive to the B'ham metro area -- RV-6 & Space Scope 151.  Otherwise, it's Walmart Plastic Crudtastic scopes on the CL...


Edited by Bomber Bob, 06 March 2021 - 03:01 PM.


#47 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 06 March 2021 - 03:38 PM

 I agree with BB here   that the Vixen or Celestron alt az is the weak link.

 

Know what's nutz??  That CHEAP Taiwan-made Meade 390 AZ mount is easier to use than the much more expensive Vixen Custom that I used with my FL80S... WUWT??  The Meade looks like a clone of the Vixen, but its nylon bushings are super-slick with a thin layer of red lube...

 

Unfortunately where I’m at is the epitome of a scope desert.

 

Yep!  My only 2 local purchases required a drive to the B'ham metro area -- RV-6 & Space Scope 151.  Otherwise, it's Walmart Plastic Crudtastic scopes on the CL...

I’d probably have to go to Raleigh/Durham. I can mount on my Celestron alt az, but aesthetically it’s not as pleasing.



#48 Kasmos

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Posted 06 March 2021 - 03:56 PM

You guys are missing the point. If you don't plan on having more than one classic refractor completely rule out the Celestrons and (most) Vixens, the Franken-Classics and all the modern mount talk. I say this because they are generally not found in f/15 format and are too new for a authentic classic experience. The whole concept of owning a classic is to have a complete kit which includes a wood box and wood tripod. For that you'll need to go back to at least the 70s, or more likely the 60s for a box with wood dividers. Of course you'll still have the option to use it on a modern mount should you choose to.


Edited by Kasmos, 07 March 2021 - 05:11 AM.

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#49 Terra Nova

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Posted 06 March 2021 - 04:02 PM

You guys are missing the point. If you don't plan on having more than one classic refractor completely rule out the Celestrons and (most) Vixens, the Franken-Classics and all the modern mount talk. I say this because they are generally not found in f/15 format and are too new for a authentic classic experience. The whole concept of owning a classic to is to have a complete kit which includes a wood box and wood tripod. For that you'll need to go back to at least the 70s, or more likely the 60s for a box with wood dividers. Of course you'll still have the option to use it on a modern mount should you choose to.

I completely agree. It looks like you’re back to a Unitron, the epitome of the classic refractor experience. Just imagine yourself at the controls of a Unitron. And I’m sure the good folks here can point you to one. Eastern Carolina isn’t too far south from DC, and up there, it’s far from a Unitron desert!


Edited by Terra Nova, 06 March 2021 - 04:03 PM.

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#50 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 06 March 2021 - 04:15 PM

I completely agree. It looks like you’re back to a Unitron, the epitome of the classic refractor experience. Just imagine yourself at the controls of a Unitron. And I’m sure the good folks here can point you to one. Eastern Carolina isn’t too far south from DC, and up there, it’s far from a Unitron desert!

How much would one run on average? I have family in CT so that may be an option post-COVID.


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