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Japan made refractors from the '80 era

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#51 Joe Cepleur

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 01:59 PM

Some years back I read most likely on Cloudy Nights (though maybe not this forum) that, during World War II, the U.S. Navy was short on binoculars, so it asked people to loan theirs, with the promise of returning them at the end of the war. I can not vouch that this really happened, but especially if it did, this could be the source of rumors of Japanese optics on U.S. warships. Could have been German optics, too, whatever may have been loaned!
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#52 Dave Novoselsky

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 02:07 PM

Some years back I read most likely on Cloudy Nights (though maybe not this forum) that, during World War II, the U.S. Navy was short on binoculars, so it asked people to loan theirs, with the promise of returning them at the end of the war. I can not vouch that this really happened, but especially if it did, this could be the source of rumors of Japanese optics on U.S. warships. Could have been German optics, too, whatever may have been loaned!

I don’t question that although while German binoculars may have been found in the pre-war US given that Japanese optics were virtually unknown I’d be surprised if many were available for donations.



#53 NinePlanets

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 03:42 PM

I recall reading in one of the old ATM books (Vol 1?) about how prism making for the war effort was sort of a cottage industry stateside too. Amateur telescope groups apparently supplied a lot of very fine finished glass at that time.


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#54 grif 678

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 04:14 PM

This thread is supposed to be about, "Japan made refractors from the '80 era," touting how fine they were. It sounds as though after World War II, Japan's excellent military optics industry was redirected toward selling telescopes (and binoculars) to the American export market. This saved it, and brought about decades of the many fine brands appearing in this forum. When the old-timers retired in and after the 1970s, most of this industry died, leaving just a few players. The notables were Vixen (including Vixens branded for Celestron) and Takahashi. Even some larger companies making great optics left the market. There were also whatever companies milked the remnants of the industry to build junk for department stores.

If that is even remotely correct, it's an unattractive story, but it would explain why so many classics are older than the 1980s.

OP, which telescopes of the 1980s prompted you to start this thread?

I was thinking in the line of Vixen. Some of the unitrons, etc were made back in the50's and 60's. I was really not talking about that era. Many of the telescopes back then were supposedly very good, but it seems later in the 80's, when some of those began to fade out, the Vixens and the scopes that they branded were optically better than the other scopes of that era, like Meade, Orion, and some others.


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#55 starman876

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 04:55 PM

I was thinking in the line of Vixen. Some of the unitrons, etc were made back in the50's and 60's. I was really not talking about that era. Many of the telescopes back then were supposedly very good, but it seems later in the 80's, when some of those began to fade out, the Vixens and the scopes that they branded were optically better than the other scopes of that era, like Meade, Orion, and some others.

the later 80's is when the junk began.  Well not really junk that is a bad word.  I should say the quality we all were used to started to fade away.  Less metal more plastic.   More Chinese optics and assemblies.   It has taken a while for Chinese optics to come into what we now call great optics.  However, you still pay for good optics. Nothing comes for free.


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#56 CHASLX200

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 05:19 PM

the later 80's is when the junk began.  Well not really junk that is a bad word.  I should say the quality we all were used to started to fade away.  Less metal more plastic.   More Chinese optics and assemblies.   It has taken a while for Chinese optics to come into what we now call great optics.  However, you still pay for good optics. Nothing comes for free.

I don't remember any China stuff before 1997 when Celestron got cheap on us and dumped the Vixen stuff.  Junk is about it with the first run CG4 and 5 mounts with the small metal tripods. What a big let down that was when i got my first CG4 and CG5 mounts in 1997. Look at the OTA of the C-102 HD that was China made vs the C102 made by Vixen.  All a step down. But the China stuff now is up there with AP and Tec by heck.



#57 Bomber Bob

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 05:22 PM

As I mentioned earlier, economics drives demand, which in turn drives makers & vendors... If we'll buy it, they'll make it...

 

I was thinking in the line of Vixen.  Yes, but by the 1990s, even Vixen was sourcing from China.  Kenko & Mizar are sourcing from China now.  I do applaud Vixen for maintaining some Japan-made models - I bet the profit margin on those is low compared with the "f" China versions.  Why can't Astro Optical, Kenko, or Mizar do that?  They never had the Volume Sales in the USA like Vixen (and we're still a BIG Market!).

 

At a much smaller scale, consider our Sponsor.  I bet... if 100's / 1000s of us asked nicely, we could get an AT branded fluorite APO - at a  very good price.  Astronomics would need assurances that we'll buy enough of these to make it worth their while.

 

Flip Side:  Look at Takahashi, sponsoring the Starbase 80 traditional refractor - with very good basic eyepieces, too.  Who'd a thunk it just 10 years ago?  (My Secret Dream:  Tak gets such a good reception, that they bring back a TS-80 / 1000 achromatic doublet scope.  Tak quality, modern AZ & EQ mounts that use standard hardware, with traditional Tak styling.)

 

Anyhoo, now that the 1980s are 4 decades behind us, I personally consider all the decent old scopes from that era Classics.


Edited by Bomber Bob, 18 February 2024 - 05:26 PM.

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#58 Joe Cepleur

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 06:30 PM

At a much smaller scale, consider our Sponsor. I bet... if 100's / 1000s of us asked nicely, we could get an AT branded fluorite APO - at a very good price. Astronomics would need assurances that we'll buy enough of these to make it worth their while.


Yes; you must be right! Interesting idea. This would belong in a separate thread if the discussion got detailed, but how many Cloudy Nighters are there, how many would want a top-flight, low-cost fluorite refractor, and what are the odds of getting everyone to agree on one specification, let alone to pay a fair deposit upon pre-order?

Great idea. Astronomics would be crazy not to do it, if we could arrange it.

We might not need hundreds or thousands. If even a dozen or two of us agreed to a specification using standard parts, so that the telescope could be assembled with no new tooling, would they arrange the deal?

#59 Dave Novoselsky

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 07:03 PM

Yes; you must be right! Interesting idea. This would belong in a separate thread if the discussion got detailed, but how many Cloudy Nighters are there, how many would want a top-flight, low-cost fluorite refractor, and what are the odds of getting everyone to agree on one specification, let alone to pay a fair deposit upon pre-order?

Great idea. Astronomics would be crazy not to do it, if we could arrange it.

We might not need hundreds or thousands. If even a dozen or two of us agreed to a specification using standard parts, so that the telescope could be assembled with no new tooling, would they arrange the deal?

Don’t hold your breath.  The issue is not ‘crazy not to do it.’ The key phrase you use is low-cost fluorite refractor.”  Ain’t no such beast nor is one feasible.  

 

The only ‘production’ maker of fluorite optics today is Canon Optron.  They supply fluorite to all of the current ‘large’ scale makers with their fluorite objectives, Takahashi, Borg, and the sole remaining Vixen fluorite refractor, the 55FLSS, a scope that given its virtual invisibility in sales is probably due for the chopping block in the near future.  So the two primary fluorite manufacturers (Tak and Borg) charge a substantial premium for their products in contrast to the optically close high end ED refractors.  The handful of premium builders who also use fluorite charge a very healthy premium for their scopes.

 

Fluorite lenses are significantly more expensive to produce than ED. That fact can be seen by going to the Hutech website.  Borg telescopes are modular and the optic cells are individually priced at this site.  Compare the cost of the 54 non fluorite optic module and its near if not actual twin the 55FLoptic. The latter brings a healthy premium based solely on the substitution of the single very small piece of fluorite.

 

Now Astronomics has not been afraid to support new ventures in refractors before.  I introduced Fred and Mike at Astronomics to Tom Back and they were quite willing to support his new line of products.  But now, given the purely niche nature of fluorite versus Super ED and the minimal differences in optic quality versus what is obviously a much higher cost of production, I don’t see them trying to become a manufacturer of that mythical low cost fluorite refractor even if that Unicorn could ever exist.


Edited by Dave Novoselsky, 18 February 2024 - 08:38 PM.

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#60 CHASLX200

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 07:08 PM

Don’t hold your breath.  The issue is not ‘crazy not to do it.’ The key phrase you use is low-cost fluorite refractor.”  Ain’t no such beast nor is one feasible.  

 

The only ‘production’ maker of fluorite optics today is Canon Optron.  They supply fluorite to all of the current ‘large’ scale makers with their fluorite objectives, Takahashi, Borg, and the sole remaining Vixen fluorite refractor, the 55FLSS, a scope that given its virtual invisibility in sales is probably due for the chopping block in the near future.  So the two primary fluorite manufacturers (Tak and Borg) charge a substantial premium for their products in contrast to the optically close high end ED refractors.  The handful of premium builders who also use fluorite charge a very healthy premium for their scopes.

 

Fluorite lenses are significantly more expensive to produce than ED. That fact can be seen by going to the Hutech website.  Borg telescopes are modular and the optic cells are individually priced at this site.  Compare the cost of the 54 non fluorite and its near if not actual twin the 55FL. The latter brings a healthy premium based solely on the substitution of the single very small piece of fluorite.

 

Now Astronomics has not been afraid to support new ventures in refractors before.  I introduced Fred and Mike at Astronomics to Tom Back and they were quite willing to support his new line of products.  But now, given the purely niche nature of fluorite versus Super ED and the minimal differences in optic quality versus what is obviously a much higher cost of production, I don’t see them trying to become a manufacturer of that mythical low cost fluorite refractor even if that Unicorn could ever exist.

Maybe they can make a AT180 EDL for 6k.



#61 Dave Novoselsky

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 08:32 PM

Maybe they can make a AT180 EDL for 6k.

And the Martians are going to land next week, eat pollution and excrete diamonds.  But I am sure that when the 180 EDL appears, if it does, the objective will be sans fluorite.


Edited by Dave Novoselsky, 18 February 2024 - 08:34 PM.


#62 starman876

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 08:58 PM

And the Martians are going to land next week, eat pollution and excrete diamonds.  But I am sure that when the 180 EDL appears, if it does, the objective will be sans fluorite.

the Martians will arrive next week.  Wow, not even on the schedule.  I better get ready.   I think David Hawkins said it best.  If aliens land I would be very scared.  



#63 Kitfox

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 09:06 PM

Dave, how certain are you that Canon Optron is the sole manufacturer of fluorite blanks in the world?  
 

And sorry to continue the off-topic tangent.  The subject is a good one; I have several Japanese scopes from the era, including FLs, EDs and achromats. It was a measurable high point period in the hobby. 


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#64 Dave Novoselsky

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 09:19 PM

Dave, how certain are you that Canon Optron is the sole manufacturer of fluorite blanks in the world?  
 

And sorry to continue the off-topic tangent.  The subject is a good one; I have several Japanese scopes from the era, including FLs, EDs and achromats. It was a measurable high point period in the hobby. 

I’m not.  I do know that Takahashi and Borg get their fluorite optics made by Canon Optron but in contrast to the many different sources of optical glass including ED and Super ED that can be found by found at various manufacturers sites and/or a Google search, I have never discovered a source of fluorite optical lens production other than Canon.  If you or anyone else is aware of an alternative to Canon I would be greatly interested and quite pleased to be wrong in my prior assumption.


Edited by Dave Novoselsky, 18 February 2024 - 09:20 PM.

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#65 Kitfox

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 09:39 PM

I’m not.  I do know that Takahashi and Borg get their fluorite optics made by Canon Optron but in contrast to the many different sources of optical glass including ED and Super ED that can be found by found at various manufacturers sites and/or a Google search, I have never discovered a source of fluorite optical lens production other than Canon.  If you or anyone else is aware of an alternative to Canon I would be greatly interested and quite pleased to be wrong in my prior assumption.

 

I’m not by any means sure you are incorrect. The only data point i have is a visit I made to Lytkarino around ‘06 to consult on large-format photographic lenses.  A couple of the opticians said (slipped?) that fluorite was an option in their designs.  They would not address any follow up questions our group had.  We were quite aware of their proprietary fluorocrowns, but this piqued our interest even further. I was hoping you may have a clue to add to my curiosity kettle wink.gif


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#66 Dave Novoselsky

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 10:18 PM

I’m not by any means sure you are incorrect. The only data point i have is a visit I made to Lytkarino around ‘06 to consult on large-format photographic lenses.  A couple of the opticians said (slipped?) that fluorite was an option in their designs.  They would not address any follow up questions our group had.  We were quite aware of their proprietary fluorocrowns, but this piqued our interest even further. I was hoping you may have a clue to add to my curiosity kettle wink.gif

Sorry, I can’t help answer that question. While the ability to make fluorite objectives is obviously within the realm of feasibility and no doubt well within the scope of the Russian opticians options, I have not heard of any manufacturer other than Canon that is a current source.  I must presume it is a cost issue as my understanding is that Fluorite is difficult to develop, especially in the larger apertures and given the improvements in ED glass and its lower cost nobody else makes it, a purely economic decision.


Edited by Dave Novoselsky, 18 February 2024 - 10:19 PM.

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#67 Joe Cepleur

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Posted 19 February 2024 - 07:02 AM

If the new ED glass is comparable to Fluorite at much lower cost, then there must be options already mass-produced for the market that would be as good as anything that might be made for a custom — but still somewhat small — collective order. Oh, well; it was fun dreaming for a few minutes!

#68 Terra Nova

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Posted 19 February 2024 - 08:03 AM

Yes, and Vixen marks them by country.  An A80M is a Japan product, while an A80Mf is China -- the lower-case suffix is the key character.

And there’s a world of difference between the two. Some years ago I had both briefly and did a side by side test! The M beat the pants off the Mf and then proceeded to beat its butt!


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#69 Bomber Bob

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Posted 19 February 2024 - 08:15 AM

I'm a fan of the AT OTA style - no complaints with that AT 102ED F7 that I got on sale.  Easy for me to imagine an AT 102FL F8 OTA...  Surely by now there's a China source for fluorite objectives.  

 

On Topic, consider the sheer variety of KENKO scopes of the 1980s:

 

- An ED Series of Refractors (haven't tried one, yet)

- A 5" F10 Corrected Dall-Kirkham (mine was a better planet-killer than my C5s)  [Sold mainly in Europe / Asia]

- At least 2 (that I know of) 5" SCTs at F10 & F14.4 (another BB Keeper!)  [Sold mainly in Europe / Asia]

- At least 2 (that I know of) 5" Cassegrains at F8 & F12  [Sold mainly in Europe / Asia]

- At least 3 (that I know of) of each 60mm & 80mm achromatic refractors, in FLs similar to the Pentax J Series

- 2 Borg-inspired (or, co-produced?) 63mm photo-oriented refractors at F8 & F13 with quality helical focusers

- A whole catalog of fast to slow Newtonians

- A hefty Alt/Az mount that competes well with Carton's blue CST Series

- A lighter-weight easy-to-use EQ mount that competes well with Vixen's Super Polaris -- the Kenko NES (one of my favorite Medium EQs!)

 

Yes, the OP was mainly interested in Refractors, but there were so many options available - I bet my long list is missing a few.  And that's just one brand.

 

My prettiest 1980s Kenko, the re-branded  Bushnell / Bausch & Lomb Banner 1000:

 

Bushnell80mmRefractor-2.jpg

 

Mine had average optics, but the NES with Quartz Drive was fantastic -- I just had to get another one!!


Edited by Bomber Bob, 19 February 2024 - 08:24 AM.

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#70 Dave Novoselsky

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Posted 19 February 2024 - 10:17 AM

I'm a fan of the AT OTA style - no complaints with that AT 102ED F7 that I got on sale.  Easy for me to imagine an AT 102FL F8 OTA...  Surely by now there's a China source for fluorite objectives.  

 

On Topic, consider the sheer variety of KENKO scopes of the 1980s:

 

- An ED Series of Refractors (haven't tried one, yet)

- A 5" F10 Corrected Dall-Kirkham (mine was a better planet-killer than my C5s)  [Sold mainly in Europe / Asia]

- At least 2 (that I know of) 5" SCTs at F10 & F14.4 (another BB Keeper!)  [Sold mainly in Europe / Asia]

- At least 2 (that I know of) 5" Cassegrains at F8 & F12  [Sold mainly in Europe / Asia]

- At least 3 (that I know of) of each 60mm & 80mm achromatic refractors, in FLs similar to the Pentax J Series

- 2 Borg-inspired (or, co-produced?) 63mm photo-oriented refractors at F8 & F13 with quality helical focusers

- A whole catalog of fast to slow Newtonians

- A hefty Alt/Az mount that competes well with Carton's blue CST Series

- A lighter-weight easy-to-use EQ mount that competes well with Vixen's Super Polaris -- the Kenko NES (one of my favorite Medium EQs!)

 

Yes, the OP was mainly interested in Refractors, but there were so many options available - I bet my long list is missing a few.  And that's just one brand.

 

My prettiest 1980s Kenko, the re-branded  Bushnell / Bausch & Lomb Banner 1000:

 

attachicon.gif Bushnell80mmRefractor-2.jpg

 

Mine had average optics, but the NES with Quartz Drive was fantastic -- I just had to get another one!!

 

I'm a fan of the AT OTA style - no complaints with that AT 102ED F7 that I got on sale.  Easy for me to imagine an AT 102FL F8 OTA...  Surely by now there's a China source for fluorite objectives.  

 

 

I’m sure a source of Fluorite for the Chinese optics manufacturers but the issue isn’t the availability of it but the need/cost of building a fluorite optic rather than an ED.  Crafting a fluorite optic is reputedly difficult and while Canon has decades of experience doing so, its cost is still much higher as the process is more involved and specialized labor intensive than working with ED. That cost might be lower if Chinese sourced but coming up to speed and eventual cost to meet the small need is not going to produce the mythical low cost fluorite refractor under the circumstances and small numbers contemplated above.


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#71 Bomber Bob

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Posted 19 February 2024 - 11:39 AM

... just having fun with What-If's ...  Like, what if I could put a Dodge HEMI in a Doodle-Bug??  I don't expect VW to do such a thing; but, if VW is reading CN, who knows?  They might appreciate that Challenge!

 

So... I'm kinda challenging Astronomics:  Can Y'all develop a lower-cost Fluorite APO?   There could be a Market for it...


Edited by Bomber Bob, 19 February 2024 - 11:40 AM.

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#72 Joe Cepleur

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Posted 20 February 2024 - 06:23 AM

Time for me, as one of the distracted dreamers, to return to the topic of this thread! If the low-cost Fluorite is unobtainable and maybe not necessary (given the similar properties of the best ED glass), why not ask whether our sponsors at Astronomics could sell us refractors similar to the best offered from Japan in the 1980s?! The short answer is, "kinda-sorta, maybe."

"Kinda-sorta," because times and styles have indeed changed. The longest focal ratio currently available from Astronomics is f/10! The list below is based on a search for focal lengths in the realm of f/8 to f/10. It's all they've got, and it's short!

"Maybe," because we need to vote on quality. My guess is that at least the best of these pass.

Note that the "Takahashi" is not made by Takahashi. Two questions there: "Is it built to a standard equal to a Takahashi made in house," and, "Should we flame and boycott this sacrelidge, or should we all be opening our wallets?"

--------

Convertible Celestron 6" f/8 — 4" f/12, $999

https://www.astronom...x-dovetail.html

("Convertible" due to mask built into lens cap. Obviously, any scope could be stopped down.)

--------

Celestron 102mm f/9.8 Omni XLT 102, $659.95

https://www.astronom...ticoatings.html

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Sky-Watcher Evostar 100ED f/9 apochromatic doublet, $999

https://www.astronom...-refractor.html

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Celestron PowerSeeker 70mm f/10, $169.95

https://www.astronom...-refractor.html

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Takahashi 80mm f/10 Starbase 80, $690

https://www.astronom...t-az-mount.html

(The specs are fine, but is it a real Takahashi? Quoting the Webpage:

("The Starbase 80 is Takahashi's first entry level refractor. The Starbase 80 is made in Japan under contract with Takahashi at a factory in Hanamaki, Japan. Takahashi would not put their legendary name behind any product, or company, that they didn't believe in. From lens coating to final assembly, the telescope is constructed by the skilled craftsmen of Hanamaki.")

--------

How well do these continue the tradition of the best classic Japanese refractors from the 1980s?

What do we think of the price points?

--------

Edited to clarify that f/10 is the longest available from Astronomics.

Edited by Joe Cepleur, 20 February 2024 - 09:11 AM.


#73 Astrojensen

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Posted 20 February 2024 - 06:38 AM

 

The longest focal ratio currently available is f/10!

No. 

 

f/11: https://www.teleskop...larauszug-11262

 

f/15: http://www.kasai-tra.../jscope80l.html

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark


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#74 Astrojensen

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Posted 20 February 2024 - 06:53 AM

 

Note that the "Takahashi" is not made by Takahashi. Two questions there: "Is it built to a standard equal to a Takahashi made in house," and, "Should we flame and boycott this sacrelidge, or should we all be opening our wallets?"

Takahashi is just continuing a long-standing Japanese telescope maker tradition, where different companies bought and sold telescopes from one another to broaden their product palette. 

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark


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#75 Joe Cepleur

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Posted 20 February 2024 - 09:07 AM

No.

f/11: https://www.teleskop...larauszug-11262

f/15: http://www.kasai-tra.../jscope80l.html


Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark


I meant specifically from Astronomics. The longest focal ratio available from Astronomics is f/10. Yes; there are other vendors selling longer, but I am riffing off Bomber Bob's idea to find a first class, low cost refractor from our sponsor that would extend the tradition of the best Japanese refractors from the 1980s.

Sorry for the confusion!

Edited by Joe Cepleur, 20 February 2024 - 09:08 AM.

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