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Help deciding on a 180mm refractor

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#1 supermucho

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 05:52 PM

I am planning to purchase a 180mm refractor from a German, French, Italian, Japanese or American manufacturer. So far, I have narrowed my choices to 3 models, which all appear on the surface to share some DNA since some of their specifications are so blatantly similar.  Following are my 3 potential choices:
1) APM (LZOS Design) 180mm f/7; focal length: 1260mm; tube diameter: 8.5 inches 43 pounds.
2) Stellarvue SVX180T; 180mm f/7; focal length: 1260mm; tube diameter: 7.95 inches; 40 pounds; guaranteed to an accuracy of .99 Strehl or higher.
3) TEC APO180FL; 180mm f/7; focal length: 1260mm; tube diameter: 8 inches; 36.5 pounds; theorical resolution: 0.66 arcsec and the only one offering a special Gutekunst Compact Atmospheric Dispersion Corrector out of the gate and the only manufacturer displaying the theoretical resolution of the instrument.

Stellarvue guarantees an accuracy of .99 Strehl or higher; however, APM and TEC offer similar specs, which are a hair under the advertised Stellarvue claim.  If I were looking for a 150mm instrument my choice would have been the TAKAHASHI TOA-150B REFRACTOR; however, this is the largest offering from TAK.  My main goal is optical resolution and optimal quality since I plan to mate the SBIG Aluma AC4040; BSI Class 1 Sensor camera to my instrument of choice and will be mounted on a PlaneWave L-500 Direct Drive.
Since this is going to be a lifetime acquisition, I certainly would appreciate and welcome any thoughts from the group related to your experiences with these wonderful instruments and manufacturers, including the instruments and respective customer service experience.  I have learned a lot just from reading some of the members’ posts.  Cloudy Nights has some expert members, which truly step out of the box in a very responsible, scientific and unbiassed fashion to offer data only found in professional astronomy resources.   I have also settled on a refracting instrument since I prefer not to deal with the maintenance and idiosyncrasies of reflectors; however, I am fair game to reflector enthusiasts and willing to listen to you all. Thank you all in advance; keep this wonderful site moving forward and I look forward to your responses.


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#2 Stellar1

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 06:05 PM

when mentioning names like TEC, APM LZOS (not familiar with large Stellarvue APO's) but i'm sure they are top notch, I would pretty much toss any strehl concerns out the door and concentrate on things like focusers and other features. Companies like those don't let lemons out the door and, when youre talking about one scope being a .99 strehl compared to a .95  no one has ever looked through a scope and picked out which was which at the eyepiece. Simply because I am not familiar with large Stellarvie APO's I would choose a TEC or LZOS (not saying anything about stellarvue quality at all) when comparing, just a matter of we stick with what were familiar with. If it were me getting ready to purchase one of these, I would decide what I plan on doing with the scope most and, pick the one with the best focal length, focuser, accessories available, weight etc, best suited for the job. Soon after I would call a good divorce lawyer and get ready to live under the nearest bridge cause the wrath I'd face would be epic!. 


Edited by Stellar1, 31 March 2021 - 06:10 PM.

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#3 eyeoftexas

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 06:27 PM

I'll preface this with, I have not nor will I ever own such a scope (divorce would be the nicest thing to happy to me if I tried).  But, given that the specs you list are almost exactly the same, and as Stellar1 says, these will be guaranteed to be the highest quality, you may also want to take into account customer service and availability.

 

And, since I'm living vicariously through you for the moment, did you consider this: http://www.cfftelesc...ctor-180-185-mm


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#4 David I

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 07:11 PM

The scope that eyeoftexas links to has a Back-Focus of  220 mm and  is a bino-viewer friendly design , something to seriously consider. Then you can put on a "The Carl Zeiss Apochromatic & Sharpest Binoviewer" without a GPC or OCA  so your wide views will not have added maginification.


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#5 dron2015

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 07:21 PM

this is dilemma I am dreaming of to have once :)

 

consider all  in the complex - what my  flattener and reducers are going to be? are they the same good quality as the objective? what are the focusers? how it will work with the flattener/reducer? 4040 is quite large one - you will surely need to have flattener.

 

I know it is a bit silly to address mechanical problems but I literally have the tilt issues and I assume it is going to be the one with that huge sensor.

 

also what is your location wrt the vendors? if you life in California, e.g. Tahoe - it would be relatively easy to pay a visit to Vic or grab your Astrodon filters so UPS will not lost them as it was in my case.

 

Best,

Andrey


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#6 spereira

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 07:31 PM

Moving to Refractors.

 

smp


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#7 supermucho

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 08:06 PM

Great to hear from you folks and from taking the time to help out.  Stellar1, your advice is the same as the one I got from one of the writers of "Astronomy Technology Today"  You both indicated that the Strehl number in such high quality instruments is nothing to be concerned about.  I am indeed inclined towards your two top suggestions; the TEC and APM.  The TEC folks have emphasized exactly the additional issues, which you mentioned, the focusers and other accessories and is the only company, which responded to me immediately addressing all issues such as the weight of the camera etc., the complete picture, which is quite complex indeed.  Another plus for TEC is that their focusers are top notch components by Starlight Instruments and their first question was: "what is the weight of your imaging components"?.  In other words, they looked at the entire picture in addition to addressing the quality of their instrument.  APM is closely behind; however, when I contacted their only dealer that I am aware of, Lunt Solar, a salesman attempted to offer other options instead of addressing my questions related to the 180mm APM.  This scope will be mainly for imaging but I also want the visual side of the equation.  Thanks a lot, it is truly appreciated.


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#8 supermucho

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 08:09 PM

Eyeoftexas, no I did not consider the CFF; however, I will go into the link you provided and will check them out.  If you would like to expand on this particular scope, please proceed and thanks for your help.



#9 supermucho

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 08:12 PM

dron2015, I am in Southern California, not close to Tahoe but doable.  When I purchase the instrument, I will definitively go to the source and avoid all middle men such as UPS, etc.  Thanks 


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#10 supermucho

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 08:17 PM

Spereira, thanks for moving it to another forum.  I am new to Cloudy Nights and will try to find it.  Is it under "refractors"?  Thanks again.



#11 Nippon

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 08:19 PM

Gutekunst Compact Atmospheric Dispersion Corrector. Wow I had to look that up. Sounded like a CN April Fools joke. I'd get the TEC but not for the fancy seeing thing a ma bob. Just cause  they have been making excellent scopes for a long time.


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#12 supermucho

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 08:35 PM

Nippon, the Gutekunst Compact Atmospheric Dispersion Corrector is one of many components found in TEC's inventory and I believe it is also offered by APM.  I had not even heard of it myself, but I got quite an education from the folks at TEC and then I contacted the writer at Astronomy Technology Today who has also been giving me his advice on scopes and he claims that this absolute top notch corrector will make a substantial difference in visual and should also help in imaging. I was told that it corrects the effects on the telescope image caused by the atmospheric dispersion and helps maintain the full optical performance of the telescope. Heck this corrector alone is $4400 from TEC and even more expensive from APM!  At this pace my 401K retirement will evaporate into a dark hole!



#13 eyeoftexas

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 08:38 PM

Eyeoftexas, no I did not consider the CFF; however, I will go into the link you provided and will check them out.  If you would like to expand on this particular scope, please proceed and thanks for your help.

Like I mentioned, I have none of these extreme premium scopes.  I just know the CFF exists and are considered top quality, so I just wanted to make sure you had considered all options.


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#14 supermucho

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 08:49 PM

eyeoftexas, I just went into CFF's site and they appear to offer premium instruments.  They have a 185mm with a focal length of 1260mm and f/6.8.  Don't know much about it.  All these instruments have a focal length of 1260mm.  Will continue to search for info and again, thanks   


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#15 supermucho

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 08:52 PM

BlueMoon I am relatively new with only about two years of observing.  To make it plain and simple, I am a total novice at this hobby; however, I have been working hard for decades and have reached the point where I will please myself for once in my life.  It should be obvious to anyone that I am a rookie in diapers at this game.


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#16 Rollo

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 09:00 PM

I am planning to purchase a 180mm refractor from a German, French, Italian, Japanese or American manufacturer. So far, I have narrowed my choices to 3 models, which all appear on the surface to share some DNA since some of their specifications are so blatantly similar.  Following are my 3 potential choices:
1) APM (LZOS Design) 180mm f/7; focal length: 1260mm; tube diameter: 8.5 inches 43 pounds.
2) Stellarvue SVX180T; 180mm f/7; focal length: 1260mm; tube diameter: 7.95 inches; 40 pounds; guaranteed to an accuracy of .99 Strehl or higher.
3) TEC APO180FL; 180mm f/7; focal length: 1260mm; tube diameter: 8 inches; 36.5 pounds; theorical resolution: 0.66 arcsec and the only one offering a special Gutekunst Compact Atmospheric Dispersion Corrector out of the gate and the only manufacturer displaying the theoretical resolution of the instrument.

Stellarvue guarantees an accuracy of .99 Strehl or higher; however, APM and TEC offer similar specs, which are a hair under the advertised Stellarvue claim.  If I were looking for a 150mm instrument my choice would have been the TAKAHASHI TOA-150B REFRACTOR; however, this is the largest offering from TAK.  My main goal is optical resolution and optimal quality since I plan to mate the SBIG Aluma AC4040; BSI Class 1 Sensor camera to my instrument of choice and will be mounted on a PlaneWave L-500 Direct Drive.
Since this is going to be a lifetime acquisition, I certainly would appreciate and welcome any thoughts from the group related to your experiences with these wonderful instruments and manufacturers, including the instruments and respective customer service experience.  I have learned a lot just from reading some of the members’ posts.  Cloudy Nights has some expert members, which truly step out of the box in a very responsible, scientific and unbiassed fashion to offer data only found in professional astronomy resources.   I have also settled on a refracting instrument since I prefer not to deal with the maintenance and idiosyncrasies of reflectors; however, I am fair game to reflector enthusiasts and willing to listen to you all. Thank you all in advance; keep this wonderful site moving forward and I look forward to your responses.

Takahashi might make a custom order refractor for you,, I've heard people talk about it in the past.   They can make it to your specs for a price.   But,, it might not be cheap.    Good luck.


Edited by Rollo, 01 April 2021 - 03:35 PM.

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#17 BlueMoon

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 09:15 PM

BlueMoon I am relatively new with only about two years of observing.  To make it plain and simple, I am a total novice at this hobby; however, I have been working hard for decades and have reached the point where I will please myself for once in my life.  It should be obvious to anyone that I am a rookie in diapers at this game.

Sorry, I pulled my posts thinking that perhaps this was an April Fools joke being perpetrated. That time of the year and all. Your level of experience was guessable but one hates to make assumptions that why I asked.

 

Your going to spend some serious coin and you haven't mentioned how you intend to mount and protect it. Any particular thoughts in that direction?

 

Clear skies and best of luck with your endeavors.


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#18 supermucho

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 09:19 PM

Rollo, I had no idea that Takahashi would accept a custom order.  I have their FSQ-106EDX4, which is my only instrument and some folks claim that this particular TAK is as good or better than Astro Physics' 92 or anything out there short of NASA. I have never even seen an Astro Physics even though I tried to reach out when I bought the TAK and was told that I would probably hit the lottery before I could buy an AP so I had to settle by default for the TAK and have no regrets whatsoever.  If TAK can stretch out the FSQ-106 to an TOA 180 equivalent for a reasonable price, I would definitively bring it to the top of my list.  I am just planning on having two instruments of top quality and then concentrate on learning how to maximize their use.  My TAK has quality from inside out and capabilities that I am just dreaming of using in the future.  As Stellar1 indicated, at this rate my wife is probably looking for a hit man! 


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#19 k5apl

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 09:23 PM

If you are in the USA, I recommend TEC.   My friend has one, and I've looked through it many, many times at all kinds of objects.  His photos are top-notch too.  A proven refractor, with many in the field.  Can still be taken portable with one person in good health, two in not so good health.  Factory support is exceptional.  It looks good too.

 

Disclaimer:  Never looked or even seen an APM refractor.  Don't know if any SV refactors even have been                          built.   The    TEC 180 "walks the walk".  It is a lifetime refractor.

                    I have owned TEC MAK6, TEC140, TEC160FL, TEC Turret.  All worked great.

Wes


Edited by k5apl, 31 March 2021 - 09:24 PM.

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#20 supermucho

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 09:54 PM

BlueMoon, no problem at all.  After decades of hard work and pleasing the wife and kids it's time for me to enjoy a hobby, which I could not afford when I was young but now I can and it is indeed, serious coin!  I indicated in the initial post that it would be mounted on a PlaneWave L-500 Direct Drive mount or maybe even the smaller L-350, which I prefer if the weight of the two scopes are tolerated by the smaller mount. I was looking at those small domes, which PlaneWave also offers; however, since I only plan on having just two instruments, the future 180mm and a TAK 106, which I own, I am trying to simplify a complex process as much as I can and a dome brings about certain technical requirements and expertise, which I prefer to avoid.  With only two instruments, the TAK 106 can go anywhere and the 180mm could reside permanently on the PlaneWave mount, which by the way, it is designed to house two scopes as long as the weight capacity of the mount is observed.  PlaneWave has a portable rolling pier for the mount and I could just roll it in and out from our so-called California room, which is nothing but an attached enclosed outdoor room facing the patio and just keep both scopes on the "rolling mount" and roll them out to the backyard.  This is probably my best option and forget about the dome, which in my case is not necessary.  In fact, both scopes could potentially be taken to other locations but not the mount and at this point in time I am not planning to buy a "traveling mount".  The PlaneWave mount has to reside in a fixed location and the best I can do is set it on the optional rolling pier to move it in and out.  Thanks for the help and keep the info rolling my way!


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#21 supermucho

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 10:01 PM

k5apl, thanks for sharing your thoughts.  No question at at this point in time, that TEC has my attention.  Getting this info from someone like you who has owned several TECs is really meaningful.  I am certainly looking for a lifetime instrument since it is a serious investment.  Like you, two other folks who own TECs share your sentiments. Did you ever have any issues with customer service?  Any additional info is truly appreciated.  Thanks a lot! 



#22 StarAlert

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 10:08 PM

eyeoftexas, I just went into CFF's site and they appear to offer premium instruments.  They have a 185mm with a focal length of 1260mm and f/6.8.  Don't know much about it.  All these instruments have a focal length of 1260mm.  Will continue to search for info and again, thanks   

Yeah, isn’t that a shame? It sure would be nice if someone offered an f/8. I love my TEC160ED at f/8. 


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#23 supermucho

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 10:15 PM

StarAlert, please feel free to expand on your experience with your TEC160ED, which I have been told is just like the 180, which I like.  Do you use it for visual or imaging, or both?  Any issues with customer service or the scope itself?  Would love to hear about your total setup, any pluses or minuses?  You are the fourth TEC owner totally satisfied with the instrument and obviously, before a serious investment any and all info is welcome and appreciated.



#24 StarAlert

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 10:44 PM

I live about 35 miles east of L.A. My skies are Bortle 7/8 so you won't find me imaging. I use my TEC mostly for visual (planetary, lunar and double stars), some EAA (CN has an EAA challenge every month that I like to play with) and tracking the ISS when if flies overhead.

 

If you live in SoCal, I'm assuming you live in light pollution, too, so don't bother with wide fields of view (visually). If you want to wide FOV, you'll have to travel to a dark site. For me, that's about an hour away. Any when I do that, I take my big APM binos. I think they do a much better job at that than any TEC. 

 

I bought the TEC used about six months ago and I haven't had any problems with it, so I haven't had to call Yuri. I hope it stays that way. 

 

From my viewpoint, you can't go wrong with TEC. As for an Atmospheric Dispersion Corrector, that's a lot of money to spend just to take pictures near the horizon. Why not just wait until your target is at Zenith or close to it? There's a lot less filth, muck to look through. 

 

Good luck on your quest. 



#25 BlueMoon

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 10:59 PM

 

After decades of hard work and pleasing the wife and kids it's time for me to enjoy a hobby, which I could not afford when I was young but now I can and it is indeed, serious coin!

I understand this completely. It took me 30 years, raising 3 generations of my wife's family and retiring at 60 to have the time myself to devote more consistently to the hobby.

 

 

I indicated in the initial post that it would be mounted on a PlaneWave L-500 Direct Drive mount or maybe even the smaller L-350

Ah, evidently I missed this. I was considering your choices of telescopes and focused there.

 

Well, when you get it all done, I'd hope you'll post a pic or two in this forum. It should be something to see and appreciate.

 

Clear skies.


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