Sunday, June 07, 2009

 

Uncle Rod’s Telescope Hall of Fame

Hall of fame or hall of shame? Hall or fame or hall of shame? Hall of fame or hall of shame? I couldn’t decide whether this should be a “best of” or a “worst of,” as both can be illuminating. Eventually, I settled on “best.” Not only might that ensure I got fewer emails telling me I ain’t got the sense god gave a goose, it would also mean I didn’t hurt anybody's feelings. You see, in this old boy’s experience, every scope there has ever been is remembered fondly by some amateur, and it ain’t my intent to spoil anybody’s memories.

You may still be hopping mad that I’ve committed the sin of omission, of course, “Hell, Unk, how come you didn’t include the Fecker Celestar and the Mayflower 3-inch?” But I think you will nevertheless agree that every one of these telescopes belongs in the Hall of Fame. Not necessarily because of optical or mechanical fineness, mind you; I’m basing inclusion not just on that, but also on the innovation demonstrated and the impact on you and me, Joe and Jane Amateur Astronomer.

Astronomy Technologies 66ED/William Optics 66SD 66-mm ED apochromats

If you read the previous installment of this here blog, you know how much I love the Short Tube 80-mm refractor, and that my occasional reference to this 66-mm APO as “the new Short Tube 80” is high praise. Yeah, it’s a little more expensive than the achromat, with an OTA going for about $350.00 as compared to the $250.00 the ST80 commanded when it was introduced, but those dollars have shrunk over the last 13 years, and in some ways the 66 is worth the small amount of extra moola required. Yeah, it’s smaller in aperture, but it is unarguably better than my beloved 80 both optically and mechanically.

On M13, which, as I noted last time, can be a tough nut for the Short Tube to crack, the 66 picks out a few stars regularly and without complaint. And it’s easier to get those few stars in focus due to a two-speed Crayford that’s worlds better than the primitive rack and pinion of the Short Tube. Your extra $$$ also wins you a retractable dew shield and, on most examples, a very serviceable and attractive case. If the Short Tube is a versatile scope, the 66 is more versatile, since it is much more capable of producing good looking CCD images thanks to its (relative) lack of chromatic aberration. Visually? Despite the smaller aperture it will take more magnification on the Moon and planets than the Short Tube and show you more.

Similar also-rans: I’m not quite sure, since I’ve never been quite sure which Chinese scope factory(ies) produces the 66es, which are sold by a variety of vendors under their badges with differing accessories and in a wild array of colors (check out the paintjob on my 66, William Optics’ “Patriot Edition”). Closest competitor that appears to be made by somebody else is likely StellarVue’s sweet 70-mm ED.

AstroPhysics f/12 Super Planetary Refractor

I could easily have put any AP here: a 150EDF or any of the Starfires, the Traveler, you name it; they are all beautiful, finely made, and reasonably priced. And yet, this late 80s scope is the one I’ve always fancied (I never got around to putting myself on the waiting list for one and it’s long been too late to correct that). Maybe the color correction on this and Roland’s other earlier scopes wasn’t quite as marvelous as on the newer ones, but at the Super Planetary’s f/12 you’ll never know that. The few I’ve used have been essentially perfect in that regard.

But it’s not just that. With that long tube, this one truly looks like your retro Uncle’s conception of what a lens scope should be. No, it’s maybe not quite as delicious as a Unitron, but it’s right up there. And good luck getting a 6-inch Unitron. The few that were made were priced in the stratosphere (7000 heavy dollars in the 1970s), and you can imagine what one would command now. The Super Planetary? An insanely reasonable $1500 for the OTA. Put one on a sufficient mount, turn it to Jupe, and prepare for a jaw-dropping experience. For me there’s just something about a high focal ratio 6-inch of any kind that warms the cockles of me little heart, and this one just about sets it on fire.

Also Rans: As far as I know, there is not a refractor around at this time that resembles the Super Planetary, combining long focal length and an apochromatic lens. Sure, you can get some big, long refractors from D&G, but they’re achromats.

Cave Astrola 8-inch

The 1960s and (early) 1970s were the golden age of the commercially produced Newtonian telescope. There were quite a few to choose from—Optical Craftsmen and Starliner and Edmund and Criterion come to mind. More than anybody else, though, there was Cave, the telescopes remembered thirty years after their heyday as being the pinnacle of the Newt Maker’s art. If you wanted and could pay for better than Edmund and Criterion, you went to Tom Cave for one of his “Astrolas.” Not only was he a master observer who knew what constituted a good telescope, he was perceptive when it came to hiring the best people, legendary mirror maker Alika Herring, for example.

Cave produced Newtonians in apertures from 6-inches up to a gigantic 18.5-inches. I know the word “gigantic” might seem inappropriate when describing a “mere” 18-inch scope in these days of big Dobs, but take my word for it, an 18-inch Cave on a GEM was a towering beast. Cave made Cassegrains, too, which were almost as highly regarded as the Newtonians. For most amateurs, though, the Astrola to have was one of the 8-inch models. Lots of light gathering compared to the 4 and 6-inch telescopes we’d cut our teeth on, but relatively affordable and relatively portable compared to the larger Caves, which even at 10-inches were getting big enough to make hauling ‘em around a pain even if you owned that fabled Chevy Van.

My fave, and the one I finally ended up owning briefly was the 8-inch Deluxe. If I’d admired Edmunds and Criterions in the past and thought ‘em “beautiful,” this was a scope in a whole ‘nother class. Audrey Hepburn compared to Jayne Mansfield. White fiberglass tube (Parks), a rack and pinion focuser that left the Space Conquerors and RV-6es in the dust, primary and secondary mounts that did the same, a 50-mm finder, a big and (fairly) steady GEM on a hefty pier, a clock drive good enough for imaging (maybe), three Orthoscopic eyepieces, and—well, you get the picture. The telescopes were as good working as they were good looking. Yeah, some folks think some Cave years are better than others, and that quality began to slide as the 70s got underway, but I can testify that my 70s Deluxe produced great images. So why did I sell my Cave after owning it for barely a year?

The answer is simple: amateur astronomy for me and for most amateurs changed in the 1970s. We went from observing mostly the Moon and planets and Messiers to focusing on the deeper deep sky, following in Scotty Houston’s footsteps. Certainly a Cave is as capable of producing good deep sky images as any other telescope, but in the 70s, the problem was becoming getting the telescope to a spot where you could see those objects. Whether in Possum Swamp or my adopted home of Little Rock, Arkansas, I had to pack the scope in the car and drive an hour or three to get to truly dark skies.

Imagine, if you will, the pain involved in wrestling an 85-pound Cave Newtonian from my upstairs apartment, into the back seat of a Dodge Dart, and doing the same thing in reverse at 3 a.m. on a 20 degree Arkansas morning. It wasn’t just portability, either. I and many of my brother and sister amateurs were now obsessed by taking pictures of the deep sky. A Cave could do that—Evered Kreimer proved that in spades—but not without a lot of modifying and fussing. One of them new-fangled C8s was just about astrophotography ready out of the box, and was as portable as portable can be. Which was why I sold the Cave for an Orange Tube. And have never looked back. I respect the Caves but I do not miss them.

Also Rans: None, really. The Cave 8-inch hit the mark, and nobody, not Starliner nor Optical Craftsmen, much less Criterion or Edmund, did one better—or as good.

Celestron Orange Tube C8

In some ways, this is the ultimate legend, the scope that, with the Dobsonian, rang in modern amateur astronomy. Sure, it’s possible to argue that the predecessors to the Orange Tubes, the Blue and White Celestrons of the 1960s, are more deserving of Hall of Fame Status. They were, in many ways, better telescopes with superior drives and a zero image shift focusing system. They were also the telescopes that cracked the code (thanks to Celestron owner Tom Johnson) when it came to mass producing Schmidt Cassegrains. The problem was that they were very expensive. Few Blue and White C8s were made, and the next size up, the C10, cost dern near as much as a Volkswagen Beetle.

The Orange Tube didn’t introduce the mass produced Schmidt Cassegrain, it just made it affordable. Sort of, anyway. You still had to fork over 1000 dense 70s dollars by the time you paid for “options” like a tripod, and I couldn’t afford one until I was in my mid-20s—and then only just. It was worth it, though, to finally experience a telescope that wasn’t just portable, but adaptable. Astrophotography was only the beginning. Almost anything astronomical that can be imagined can be done with a C8, from peeping at a fat gibbous Moon to taking the spectra of distant stars.

Also Rans: From Celestron? We thought the C5 was nice, and admired the C11 and C14 when they came along, but neither stole our hearts like the C8. The C8 had absolutely no challengers for a decade, not until Meade released their 2080, which was at least somewhat of an advance, being equipped with a (semi) worm gear drive.

Coulter Odyssey I (13.1-inch) Blue Tube

Jim Braginton’s humble 13.1-inch Odyssey Dobsonian won’t win any optical prizes. Oh, it’s usually good enough; especially if you run it at low power, or, as Jim used to say, at “visual equalization.” Contrary to what he used to preach, though, low power is not always good for deep sky observing. Whether it’s appropriate or not depends on the object in question, but it sure does help cover up optical sins. It was no secret even In The Day that when you were buying one of Coulter’s telescopes you were not buying optical fineness and planetary performance, you were buying pure and simple aperture horsepower that would allow you to see things you’d never seen before and see things you had seen before in a wholly different way. The Odyssey I is a true classic for that single reason.

What was it like? If you want details, have a look at my article “Meade Forever” but the equation is purty simple: 13.1-inches of aperture + $395.00 = compromises. Those compromises included not just optical, but mechanical ones. Whether we are talking the Blue Tube or the less good Red Tube that replaced the original as the 90s came in, we are talking “cobbled together, simple as simple can be and still be called ‘telescope’.” Nevertheless, amateurs loved the Odyssey I, and it is easy to see why. For folks used to observing M13 in a 6 or 8-inch telescope, the Great Glob in a 13-inch, especially from a dark site, was, to put it mildly, a revelation. These big, gawky, but loveable telescopes will never win any design awards, but they did what they needed to do, turn a whole lotta boys ‘n girls on to the beauties of the Great Out There.

Also Rans: Really weren’t none from this company. The 29-inch wasn’t around long enough to have any effect on amateur astronomy, even if it hadn’t been so dadgummed big and heavy. The 17.1-inch Odyssey II was still too big and too heavy and usually had optics considerably worse than those of the 13.1. The 10-inch wasn’t so much cheaper that we would want to settle for it. The 8-inch? With that we were back in C8 territory and there was no way Jim Braginton’s 8 could compete with Tom Johnson’s—‘cept on price, of course. Today? It’s Dob heaven thanks to the Chinese telescope invasion; take your pick from ultra cheap to purty dern good.

Criterion RV-6 Dynascope 6-inch f/8 Newtonian

If you hang out where classic scope fanatics gather, especially where classic reflecting telescope fans gather, you may at first be surprised that ever’body talks about the Criterion RV-6 Dynascope 6-inch f/8, but almost nobody talks about the (nearly identical) Edmund 6-inch f/8, the Super Space Conqueror. Not only do the two scopes look right similar, they are similarly equipped with eyepieces, clock drives, and good optics. Hell, the mirrors are from the same maker, Upco. So why? Most of all, I reckon, because there are more RV-6es around. Criterion sold more six inch telescopes than Edmund did. Mostly, I suspect, because their advertising was better. Through the 1960s and into the 1970s, the RV-6 occupied a full splash page almost every month in Sky and Telescope, while the Super Space Conqueror was usually confined to a postage stamp sized area of one of Edmund’s multi-product ads.

There was more to it than that, of course. The RV-6, which debuted in 1959, wasn’t a whole lot better than the SSC, but it was some better for almost the same price. The focuser, finder, and drive were just a tad nicer than those of the Edmund. You also got to choose your three eyepieces from a wide selection, which even included some Orthoscopics. The RV-6’s tube was at least semi-rotatable while the Edmund’s wasn’t, which caused the Space Conqueror’s eyepiece to assume some wicked bad angles in some areas of the sky. For whatever reason, amateurs just liked the RV-6 and still do. It is still capable of producing fine images within the limits imposed by its somewhat small aperture and lives on not just as a collector’s item, but as a working telescope.

Also Rans: Criterion produced a full line of Newtonians including an 8-inch and a 12-inch. The RV-8 8-inch is prob’ly the company’s other sweet spot, right behind the RV-6. I know my Bubba Phil Harrington still loves and uses his. The 12? I’ve used one frequently and both mount and optics seem a little subpar compared to the other RVs.

Edmund Scientific Astroscan 4-inch f/4 Newtonian

I began noticing this weird looking little scope not long after its debut in 1977 as a no-name RFT. It was hard to miss, since Edmund hadn’t had ads as interesting in years, if ever. The telescope didn’t remain anonymous for long, either, with Edmund soon running a contest to name the little bugger, eventually settling on “Astroscan 2001.” As the new century approached, the no-longer-spacey “2001” was dropped, but the telescope remained and remains the same. It is a 4-inch Newtonian in a sealed tube (the optical window on the end is just that, a flat—more or less—optical window; this is a straight Newtonian). The most innovative thing about it? Edmund adapted the “bowling ball telescope” that ATMs had been making for years into something mass produceable and light and very manageable. A little tube that could be aimed anywhere in the sky sitting in its proto-Dobsonian cast-aluminum base or easily handheld—CUDDLED—at low power.

And I ain't got one because? Once I got over my doubts as to the efficacy of an RFT, there remained some mutterings I heard about the quality of the scope. Yes, it offered an insanely expansive wide field, but at f/4 most eyepieces tended to turn ugly even fairly far out from the field edge. That wasn’t the worst though: Images would likely degrade the longer you had the scope and the more you hauled it around. The Astroscan couldn’t be collimated by end users (!), and the mirror mounting scheme meant it wouldn’t hold collimation over the long run. You could have Edmund re-collimate it for you, but by the time UPS got done with it on its return voyage, it would likely be “out” again. Basic optical quality of the 4-inch parabolic primary could vary, too, especially as the years of production rolled on. I pitted a mid-production A-scan against my Short Tube 80, and the 80, despite its aperture disadvantage, kicked the Edmund’s booty all over the field. Last and least (good), the Astroscan’s focuser was—no way to mince words on this—t-r-a-s-h.

Nevertheless, this is such a convenient and easy to handle telescope that it still is and probably will long remain popular. Get one out under the Milky Way, cradle it in your arms, start Astro-Scanning, and all those daunting minuses just evaporate. I still may buy one one of these days. I ought to. If rumors are correct and Edmund (the new Edmund, “Scientifics” which bought the consumer division of our old friend some years ago) comes out with one with a collimateable primary, I prob’ly will.

Also Rans: Nuttin’ from Edmund, who ain’t much interested in scopes these days, and little from anybody else. Bushnell has sold an Astroscan clone, but despite an adjustable primary, this one don’t make it. I mean, come on, a spherical primary at f/4? I don’t think so! The closest competitor is the Orion StarBlast, which offers a quality mirror in an adjustable cell. It is not really suited to hand-holding, though, being best in its micro-Dob mount.

Meade ETX 90-mm MCT

When John Diebel and company began this project, “ETX” stood for “Everybody’s Telescope,” and in many ways it is that. Not that everybody greeted it with open arms. When the ETX-90 first appeared in Meade’s ad spreads in 1996, the reaction of the more cynical among us was, “Ho, ho, ho, Meade is trying to clone the Questar 3.5, what a laugh!” And in truth, that was exactly what they was trying to do with this ETX, 90-mms of f/14 Gregory Maksutov on a little fork mount which sported tiny screw-in legs just like the real deal. It soon became apparent that it was a rather pale imitation of its inspiration in most ways: the fork mount and drive base were plastic, and there was a small and insufficient finder rather than the Questar’s elegant built-in finder system.

Yeah, there was no denying all that. And yet...and yet...the optics on the little telescope were, it turned out, fully competitive with the Q's. In fact, the result of my "shoot out," which pitted one buddy's ETX against another buddy's Q3.5, were that I COULD NOT TELL THE DIFFERENCE IN IMAGES. Sure, the Questar was much more pleasant to use, but nothing looked much--if any--better in it. I took some heat from Questar owners for saying that in a magazine article of the time, but I stand by it.

Competition? There are plenty of small MCTs out there these days, most notably from Synta (sold by Orion), but there is only one ETX.

Meade LX200 10-inch (Classic)

When Meade first began advertising its go-to telescope in 1992 or so, I proclaimed it was destined for failure. How could they make all that computer stuff work for a price that was about the same as that of Celestron's "manual" Ultima 8 SCT? "Stuff and nonsense," said the Rodster. Sure, I hadn’t seen an LX200 in the flesh, but so what? My mind (such as it was) was made up.

Until, just a little while later, a fellow club member in search of a new scope took the plunge and ordered a 10-inch LX200. Out at our old Hurly, Mississippi dark site on one chilly fall eve, I was prepared for disaster. My buddy, set up his admittedly pretty blue-tube CAT, turned on the power, zipped it around with the hand controller a bit, and beckoned, “Take her for a spin, Rod.” After a minimal amount of instruction, I was punching in “M15,” and inititating somethin’ that sounded like the coffee grinder down to the A&P. When the racket ceased, I put my eye to the eyepiece. HOLY SMOKES! Not only was M15 centered, it was sharp and beautifully resolved. And so it went for the rest of the evening, one object after another, prob’ly more than I could have starhopped to in a week. Was I a convert? You bet. It was still a few years before I switched over to go-to myself, but I have, and the Classic is responsible for that—and for me seeing far more over the intervenin’ years than I would have by fumbling around with a Telrad and Sky Atlas 2000.

Also Rans: There was also the 8-inch LX200 Classic, and, after a while, a 12-inch and a 16-inch. But the 10 was the winning filly. Its optics seemed a bit better than those of the smaller scope, not just light gathering wise, but quality wise, and it was generally more problem-free than either big sister. Not surprisingly, Meade sold more 10s than any of the other LX200s (maybe even combined).

Questar 3.5

Some of ya’ll don’t think I pay sufficient obeisance to this most hoary and legendary of all amateur telescopes, the Questar 3.5-inch Maksutov. Not that that matters much, since obviously somebody must like it or the Questar Corporation of New Hope, Pennsylvania would not have been able to keep selling these expensive scopes (four grand plus) year after year for more than half a century. It ain’t true, anyhow, as I’ve acknowledged this as a genuine and beautiful classic in my SCT books and in my Used Guide. Do I think the Questar is a good choice for everybody? Now that is another kettle of fish.

In some ways, the Questar is still innovative. No one has ever equaled its “control box,” which allows you at the flick of a lever to switch the eyepiece between the undertube finder, the main scope, and a Barlowed main scope. The dewshield is built in, and, like the rest of the Q, lovely. How my mouth has watered at the dewshield’s engraved star map and the tube’s engraved Moon map. The whole thing fits in a beautiful leather case, and the build quality is such that you will hand the Questar down to your children and grandchildren. The optics (made now as in the past by J.R. Cumberland) are exquisite, with it bein’ (almost) unheard of for anything the least bit subpar to slip out of Cumberland or Questar and make it to a customer.

Beauty is only skin deep, though, even with telescopes. Those optics, while exquisite, yeah, are small. A 600 buck Orion 5-inch MCT will show you much more. For all its beauty, this is not a very versatile scope, either. It is a long focal length MCT with a naturally narrow field. The average 1000 dollar 4-inch Chinese APO will do a lot more. Yes, the Questar does have that cute little fork mount, but while cute, it can be awkward. The drive base interferes with the tube when you are trying to view objects in the far south if your latitude is low, and those silky slow motion controls are not always backlash free. Oh, and forget those cute little tripod legs that screw into the base. They are useless. You will need a substantial tripod to provide sufficient support for this long focal length baby, something which tends to abrogate the “observatory in a case” mantra of Questar lovers. Drive electronics? There ain’t no stinkin’ electronics on the base model. With that you get an AC synchro motor jus’ like in 1954.

And yet…and yet… I still want an Omega Speedmaster Pro watch, though I know an humble Casio or Timex will likely keep better time. Sometimes, muchchachos, you gotta take the whole gestalt o’ the thing into account. As I said in Choosing and Using a New CAT, I sometimes daydream myself onto a desert isle, Questar at my side and cold drink in my hand, waiting on the beginning of a long total eclipse. So why don’t I stop wanting and do something about it? I defer to Mr. Spock’s opinion: “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.”

Also Rans: Questar also sells a 7-inch MCT, but its price has prevented it from being anything but a pretty curiosity. The (no longer produced) 12-inch Q? Its sky-high price tag made it not just rare, but R-A-R-E. Optical Technologies Incorporated set out to out Questar Questar in the 1970s, selling a whole range of Maks with Cumberland optics. In just a few years, though, they found out there is only room for one Questar in the telescope bidness, and that that wasn’t them.

Synta Short Tube 80

From the sublime to the ridiculous, I reckon. Unlike the Questar, Synta’s Short Tube 80-mm f/5 refractor is not here because it is beautiful or finely made, it ain’t. It is here because thousands of amateurs have found it highly useful and fun and because it is so cheap (less than $250.00) that almost every amateur can have one and most do. For a complete rundown on the small wonder, see last week’s blog entry. Here, I’ll just say, as I did last week, that this is a versatile scope that delivers images as good as can be expected from a fast achromat. I hang on to mine because it’s continually making itself handy: as an uber portable grab ‘n go, as a capable guide scope, as an excellent wide field visual instrument, as a passable wide field imager. This adaptability is what makes it more useful to me than my ETX (or my imaginary Questar 3.5). That and the fact that it is so cheap and sturdy that I don’t have to worry about babying it. I’ll toss it in the back of the car for a weekend at the beach, and leave it in the motel room without frettin’ about it possibly bein’ stolen by some denizen of the Redneck Riviera.

Also Rans: Orion sold a (non-Synta) Short Tube 90 for a while, and Synta still produces 100, 120, and 150-mm f/5 achromats. All have their fans, but the 80 is by far the best.

Tasco 11TE (or TR)

Like the Short tube, this is an humble telescope. The Tasco 4.5-inch reflector of the 60s – 80s (made, usually, by Japan’s Towa), whether in its original white tube (TE) version or the later red tube mutation (TR) had a huge but seldom acknowledged impact on astronomy. For over twenty years, Tasco sold a scope that for most of that time was of good quality, sold for a reasonable price, and was available almost anywhere. Whether you got yours from the local department store or from the BX like Unk, what did you get?

You got a spherical f/8 primary mirror that did a surprisingly good job, a small but workable GEM comparable to today’s EQ-2, and a couple of eyepieces that were passable at least (.965-inchers of course). I know I had some awesome views with the scope from the very dark skies of the northern Arkansas of the 1970s. No, the Tasco was not a fancy scope, but as I say in “The Good Tasco,” it is fondly remembered by almost everybody who owned one, and got more than a few started in a career in amateur—or professional—astronomy.

Also Rans: Nothing similar in the reflector realm from Tasco. The other most fondly remembered scope they sold is probably the 10TE 3-inch refractor. This was an unarguably fine instrument, but a somewhat rare one. The good, ol’ 4.5 reflector had a much larger impact due to its more reasonable balance of quality/price (the 10TE was close to 600 fat dollars).

Unitron 4-inch Photo Equatorial

As I’ve said a time or three previous, if you were raised in the amateur astronomy of the 1960s, this was the telescope you wanted, and maybe still want. Back then? Good luck. Unless you (or your ol’ man) was Mr. Moneybags, you could prob’ly forget it. But, still, what a dream! That long (f/15) tube! That Unihex! Those zillions of eyepieces (simple .965s though they might be)! A clock drive (maybe a weight driven clock drive)! That weird and funky lookin’ astrocamera (which took 3 ¼ x 4 ¼ PLATES)! Unitron achromats reigned supreme for near-bout three decades; in fact, “reigned” is probably too weak. From the 1950s and into the 1970s, if you said “refractor” to an amateur astronomer it was usually understood you meant “Unitron.”

How good were they, really, though? I’ve been lucky enough to look through quite a few, and usually, though not always, the answer is “very good indeed.” No, you don’t got much field with any but the longest eyepieces, but so what? Long focal length has its uses, too, despite what I said when I was picking on the Questar, and not just on the planets. Most deep sky observers tend to use too little rather than too much power.

As is the case with more than one scope from the classic age, older examples tend to be better optically, but even some I’ve used from the company’s winding down period in the 70s have impressed me. So why not just go out and buy a new Unitron? Shocking as it would have been for us to know in the 1960s, these were Japanese scopes (a few of the larger objectives were sourced from U.S. companies); Unitron (United TRADING Company) was just the importer of these beautiful instruments, which were largely made by Nihon Seiko. When the owner of that business called it quits, the components needed to make Unitrons dried up. Unitron is still around, and even has a web page with pix of a few of their beautiful scopes on it, but they don’t seem to sell much of anything.

Also Rans: Back then, I agonized over the choice of the 4-inch Model 160 Photo Equatorial or the Model 145 3-inch Photo Equatorial. I mean, that huge, long tube and non-collapsible tripod of the 4-inch… wouldn’t that be a bit much? Since I didn’t have a dog’s chance in hell of actually owning either, the answer was, “Hell no, I’ll take the 4!”

There y’all have it, Uncle Rod’s Telescope Hall of Fame. Sure I coulda kept going…the TV Genesis prob’ly belongs here. The Orion StarBlast too. How about the Celestron Ultima 2000? Or the Meade LX6? Surely the Palomar Junior should be there. Maybe some more cogitating on my part and some suggestions on yours will give me enough candidates for a “Part 2.”

Comments:
IMHO the Meade LX200 was revolutionary in that it popularized GOTO, and sold like hotcakes.
It was the telescope of the decade.

Now Meade has improved on it with the GPS and ACF series.

Matthew Ota
 
The Ultima 2000 does not get my vote. I found it hard to balance, and the handbox software was crude.
Problems with the software included the inability to find planets after the year 2000.

Matthew Ota
 
I was getting ready to cuss you out for omitting Unitron, then you gave me one of my favorite Sixties telescope porn shots!
 
Back in 1976 I finally got the money together to buy my dream telescope.I had the tasco 4.5(before 1976,dating back to the late 1960's),but I think my tasco was even older than the picture on this site.I remember the dec/ra control knobs were black and knobby on the edges,not smooth chrome like in the pic.I bought additional eyepieces and a black barlow lens from Edmund scientific.
But my dream scope finally became a 12 and one half inch reflector with an f/7 focal length bought from Cave Optical Co.in 1976.Lucky I had a station wagon to haul it around!I still own the scope today,but I could use a new mirror and diagonal since age has deteriorated the mirrors.Anyone have some mirrors they want to sell me?Anyway it still would take 2 people to set up such a heavy monster.Back in those days,I was deciding between a 16 inch optical craftsman scope or the 12 and one half inch cave scope.Money was an issue,or I think I would have gotton the 16".I remembered paying around 1250.00 for the cave scope.The 16",I believe was closer to 3000 dollars...wasen't it?
 
Chances are all your mirros need is a recoating, which will be far less expensive than replacement. Do that, rebuild the scope into a Dobsonian, and you might find yourself having fun with it all over again!
 
I have been fortunate enough to have owned a 10" f/7 Cave OTA with an AH mirror. A 4" Unitron photoequatorial with a clock drive, a 10" Celestron blue & white and a 12" Tinsley Cassegrain on a gigantic old Schaefer mt. Among others. Many others. My favorite, bar none us the 10" Celestron, although the image scale in the Tinsley was formidable. My first telescope was an Edmund 4" f/12 which was quite good!
 
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