The ultimate finderscope:
I feel privileged to be writing the first full review on the Takahashi FSQ-85 as far as I know, anywhere in the American market. My intention is to assist the prospective buyer in making up his mind whether to get the FSQ-85 or FSQ-106, NP-101, NP—127, or the TMB-92, -or the 85 versus some slower and inexpensive (but well performing) refractor from Orion for literally thousands less. I won’t touch on any of these (except for a few blurbs on the 106), but knowing more about the 85 will certainly give you much more to work with. I so wish I had this review to read before I made my purchase.
You will also learn a bit about Takahashi's weak link, the Sky-90, in case you may be considering it also. I grew to love that scope in the few months I owned it, but like any on/off relationship, just could not get past a specific behavior. That was its poor wide field performance. During my research period of which short focal length telescope to purchase after I sold the 90, I couldn't find anyone who advocated buying this particular model (the 85) for visual work only. I should add that this review will focus on its visual performance as well as the logic regarding the purchase. Not what it can do with ten pounds of photographic equipment attached to the focuser. We have all seen countless images that the 85 has taken, and we know it is the absolute best astrograph available in its aperture class, and even higher. I stumbled on a few folks who have opined that this scope does a great job visually, but before I bought the Sky-90, I read that also. Please be assured that this will be an accurate assessment of the FSQ-85 and the circumstances surrounding it, because I realize the purchaser will take my opinion seriously, and with some gravity. Just my way of contributing, since these reviews have always helped my greatly in my decision-making process.
Your choice to buy this telescope is probably hinging on the fact that it is extremely expensive for an 85mm instrument. Of the Sky-90, my biggest gripe was that it is "unquestionably overpriced." And the FSQ-85 is a grand more. Perhaps you are more seriously considering the FSQ-106, because at least you can get a decent amount of light gathering for the money. $1300 more money. And 7 pounds more weight. And more bulk. And more wind loading. And balance and mount issues. And more of an objective surface area to catch that tiny foreign debris. And more chances for the formation of dew. And a narrower field. -All for slightly better resolution. Having said all this, if I wasn't so portable, I would own the 106. I actually got very close to ordering it, but three things stood in the way:
1- Weight – inconvenient to carry to say, New Hampshire to explore the high peaks. Also, dangerous to piggyback on my particular LX200 because my mounting rail is offset to one side
2- lesser field of view
3- does not work at native with binoviewers as the 85 is purported to
In fact, the most attractive thing about the 85 is its alleged ability to work with binoviewers without any amplification. The TMB 92L or 92SS achieve this by way of a user-removable extension tube, but it is still a (now truncated) triplet with a very short focal length, which will no doubt lead to field correction problems. To a bino viewer, the ability to utilize one's binoviewers at such a low magnification would be truly remarkable. Especially if the field ultimately results in one with no false color and is well corrected.
The Flatfield Super Quadruplet 85 has an outrageously short focal length of 450mm, at a fast f5.3. This will give you a 44mm image circle without a reducer, and a 4.66 degree true field of view with a 100 degree 21mm Ethos. Sweet! (The TFOV in my Mak is 0.73 – ugg.) If you want to really get crazy, add the very expensive reducer and you'll be down to f3.9 and 328mm of focal length – with a reported four extra elements of glass to contend with, which brings me to my next point. If you go to different websites, the specifications will vary. Why, I don't know. But the numbers are all over the place pertaining to just about every aspect of this scope. Prior to purchasing the Sky-90, I read on OPT's site (no reflection on them as this is on almost every dealer site) – "The Takahashi Sky 90 is a refractor telescope par excellence - created for the optical connoisseur." This was simply not true. I just lost a few hundred dollars in the resale because of this misleading advertising. During your research for the 85, you will encounter some erroneous numbers by Tak along with: "With over 200mm of back focus, it can accommodate any combination of diagonals or binoviewer." Well, I have tried every combination, and it does not work. And I have very common and popular equipment in the Tele-Vue Bino-Vue and 24mm Panoptics.
Now you would think I would have been very upset finding this out, since the assumed binoviewer ability is why I bought the Tak diagonal at $420. But my dealings with Takahashi regarding their short focus equipment have taught me to take what they say in their advertising with some skepticism. Not to mention the fact that where I’m from, a parking space is a negotiation. Besides, with that short focal length, I am going to have an approximate 40X view with the extender installed anyway, so I’m happy. Although I could be down to a sweet 30X without the Extender! The quote should read, "With over 200mm of back focus, it MAY accommodate some combinations of diagonals or binoviewers, as long as you purchase the SPECIFIC diagonal or binoviewer and accessories for hundreds of dollars more." In my particular case, I would have to get the Baader T-2 prism (because prisms shorten the light path over a mirror) diagonal @ $240 and the Takahashi TCD0008 Feldstein Adapter #4 @ $165. Quite ludicrous, really.
Even if you manage, by some miracle, to get the original 2” Tak diagonal to work without its tubes on either side, you have to lay out a lot of bread only to find that now you cannot install the Extender at will because the diagonal is so tightly attached to the focuser because you don’t want the tall bino assembly to turn upside-down on you. Not to mention the fact that the scope is probably sitting sideways because there is a great chance that the threads are not going to line up so that the scope is oriented upright. The major problem with these scenarios is that when you’re out in the field, you don't want to be exposing the rear element to contaminants, as the glass is tricky to clean on these fine scopes. You really want to put that task off as long as possible – like every two or three years or so. All it takes is a minute capillary leak of the cleaning fluid between a group of elements and it could cost you big time in sending the instrument back to Japan. Not Texas, Japan. Personally, when it comes time to clean, I am simply going to hang the telescope upside-down and clean it.
In the case of the Baader, taking the binos out and then the diagonal off and unscrewing a ring and then screwing the ocular adapter back on and then inserting the other diagonal with the Extender and ocular or binoviewers is not acceptable. Of course, you could simply go to the field and leave the TCD0008 Feldstein Adapter #4 attached to the focuser, along with the Baader T-2 and your binoviewers and just view with those all night. I for one don’t appreciate being held hostage in this way. The binoviewing aspect was a big selling point for me. Even with my skepticism, I should have known better. If Takahashi didn’t make the exact scope I was looking for, I’d have no tolerance for them or their dealer, with whom I spoke. TNR didn’t have a clue how to get my binos to work, even though they are somewhat obligated to. I find them selective with what they will assist with. I received much more help from our kind forum friend Tammy. Can you imagine Tele-Vue operating in this manner? No way. And if TV produced a similar scope with the right numbers for my application, I would have easily jumped on it because I love everything about that open and honest company. I couldn’t get the TV85 because it's f.7. I needed faster so that I could just reach up to the Canon 40D and press the button for the maximum 30-second exposure. Most times, I do not want to be bothered by hooking up the TC-8093 remote controller. F.7 would not let enough light in during the 30-second span. Also, it, like the NP-101, is too physically long for me.
I immediately sold the camera angle adjuster because it ate too much back focus. Did they calculate the BF with this piece on or off? Obviously, it should have been with it off. Even with the Extender, the binos would not work with it on. Now does this mean it does not work with all binos? Maybe not. However, I'm keeping the TV’s because they are very comfortable and are already top of the line. As usual, Tak should be more careful in their wording. Let's just take the basics. How much does the 85 weigh? I see it at 7.5 pounds, and I see it at 8.8 pounds. Sorry, in good conscience, I don't own an accurate-enough scale to tell you. And just how long is this scope, just in case, like me, you have a favorite carrying case lined up? The instrument is 14.5 inches (368mm) long with the dewshield retracted, and 18” (457mm) long with it extended. One inch equals 25.4 millimeters. 25.4 millimeters equals one inch. The measurements are from the edge of the dew shield to the edge of the focuser with nothing installed, which would define the term Optical Tube Assembly. I fail to see the difficulty in listing accurate figures. I wish I could work out all of the numbers they get wrong in their specifications, but I am afraid I might make a mistake and create more confusion, so I did the simplest. I double dare you to find my numbers. I have seen it listed at 12", and I have seen it listed at 25”. It all seems so comical, but what if these numbers are important to the potential buyer? If you need to know a certain value, please feel free to contact me and I will do my best to calculate an accurate number for you using my scope itself. I’m quite sure your dealer would be understanding in your return of the instrument for this reason, but none of us really need the hassle.
When you open the box, you are kind of expecting to be disappointed. Especially me, being primarily a CAT man. I have spent less money and have opened boxes from Mr. Brown and been really thrilled at huge, heavy, computer-controlled optical tube assemblies with thick black fork mounts and elegant bases. I recall receiving the Sky-90 – looking down unimpressed, saying, "This little thing better be good." When I saw the textured lime green 85 in person for the first time, through the foam peanuts and bubble wrap, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it is quite a meaty telescope, seeming far larger than the images online. The 80mm rack-and-pinion designed focuser seems like it can hold a small car, and the paint job, not one of Takahashi’s strong points, is beautiful – as long as you don’t closely examine it along the edges. I ran my finger over the red stripe on the dew shield and found that it is not a cheesy decal, and the points just keep coming. As you hold it in your hands, you get the feeling that you actually did get something for all that money. And if that is the case, IF that is the case, everything, I think, will be okay. The only thing I would mention is the lens cap, which really should be a screw-on metal type, as with this one, it seems you could take the paint off the dew shield from the constant pulling off and pushing on. BTW, why are NYC manhole covers round? So they don’t fall in! There’s a reason I mention this. Tak’s logic could be that with a flat, round disk, and the dew shield pulled back, it would be easier to accidentally impact the objective with the edge of the cap trying to screw it on - especially with gloved hands. Though who pulls the dew shield back before they install the lens cap?
FSQ-85 - $3100 ($8,300 with the Temma II)
Takahashi 2" diagonal – $420
Extender Q - $420
Tube holder - $200 (comes with an offset plate, which was a nice surprise)
Finder and bracket - $335 (I use a right-angle Orion - $110)
Focal reducer - $600 (I didn’t buy this but you possibly will)
Plus you will need some of Tak's infamous tubes and adapters for your specific needs, as well as at least one fine ocular. I would recommend a big, fat expensive Nagler or Ethos to take advantage of the 450mm FL.
As you can see, the package is well over five thousand dollars. What do you think? So far so good? Probably not. It's the 85mm that gets in the way. This is not a lot of aperture for that kind of money. Geez Louise! It doesn't even qualify to be called a grab-and-go four-inch scope!
My reason for obtaining such a small high-quality refractor was simple. I needed a very short-focus flat-field visual scope to be piggybacked on my very long focal length (3000mm) Meade Maksutov LX200GPS. I didn’t want to spend anymore than was necessary for the Sky-90, (truth be told, I have no limit when it comes to pure quality – even if I have to hit the credit union,) but I also didn’t want any Sky-90 problems. Additionally, I wanted the finest grab and go flat field instrument so I could enjoy the sky the way it was meant to be enjoyed. No silly and annoying aberrations that totally ruin a nice asterism, just a sharp, pinpointed field and ultra-high contrast DSOs. Long focal length observing can be very rewarding, but seeing things in their vast natural surroundings is magical and a pure joy to behold. Finally, I need a portable high contrast tool for terrestrial exploration of high mountains and other natural wonders.
First light preparation:
The NYC Clear Sky Clock indicates that it will be clear and cold on this turbulent late October night, with the transparency listed as average, and the seeing poor. Testing will be done first on Jupiter as it passes as close to my zenith as possible. The scope has been outside cooling for two hours.
I use a 2.5mm Vixen for collimation checks. The eyepiece did not come to focus straight through, so I had to order another extension tube. If you have never owned a Tak, you would be well advised to expect very small rings and things at very high prices, even higher from TNR. The extra extension tube (Tele-Vue – half the price!) arrived and I pieced the puzzle together- and now I find that collimation is perfect. Always a relief. The initial star test reveals perfect concentric discs inside and outside of focus, with a tight central point. There is no indication of spherical aberration, however, physically, there is focus shift. I will attribute this to the fact that the unit is new and stiff, and the ambient temperature is fairly cold. Also, please regard that a star-test is sensitive to atmospheric conditions, and I am under a polluted city sky.
Theoretically, the rule is that you should use about 50X per inch of aperture max, but I have always fancied a value of half that, or 1X per millimeter of aperture, because it tends to be the best as far as receiving a clear and concise image. Something I discovered many years ago and contrary to popular belief, going over this amount will usually not exhibit enough additional detail to warrant going any further, unless you simply want more scale. I have always preferred crystal clear definition. So, I will probably use this scope at 85X maximum, but for testing purposes, we shall push it a bit and see what it can do-
For the sake of accuracy, let’s try one night of observing from the city, and one night out at Jones Beach State Park on Long Island.
Oculars used are the TV binos with the 24mm Pans, a 21mm Ethos, a 6mm Radian, a TV 2X barlow, and the 2.5mm Vixen, plus of course, the Tak 1.5X Extender ED.
From light polluted skies:
If this scope did not have a flat field with wide-field oculars, the first thing I would have done (again) is get my eyes checked. Then I would have packed the scope up and sent it back. (Not before taking a lot of pictures for memory, of course.) Then I would have just gotten the NP-101. Because I would have absolutely had it with these short puppies. With the TV, I would have been sure to get a flat field and dreamy support, but I would not have been happy about the length of the tube.
My balcony coincidentally faces the ecliptic, thank goodness, and I positioned the Meade standard field tripod and turned the 85 toward the heavens – above the Chinese restaurant. I peeked into the 21mm Ethos and took a breath. With the light pollution and the waning gibbous moon, it was difficult to identify what was in the field of view. I turned the long slow motion cables on the Porta-II and caught some twinkling bright stars in a nice grouping. You must keep in mind that this was the moment I grew horrified with the performance of my last Tak. But as I turned the cables so that the bright stars would gradually move across the field, they stayed round and bright. The roundness was not perfect as they traveled through the last third of the field, but later photographic tests would prove this was the eyepiece and not the scope. I am not looking for miracles, as this setup mates a 100-degree FOV eyepiece with an f5.3 instrument with an undoubtedly steep light cone.
-I did it again and again and reached up and pet the cold tube whispering, Oh yeah…
I tried to gauge whether or not I could perceive the difference in brightness from the Sky-90. After all, now I was working with two more elements, hence more light scatter, and five millimeters less aperture. But I could not go by memory, and truthfully, didn’t really care. I had a flat-enough field. That’s what I wanted. I also found that the instrument was very comfortable to use as a grab-and-go. It was well-balanced without the offset plate (I had to send it back anyway because it was improperly molded – no biggie) and it was easy to move around the sky, even with binoviewers. It was short enough not to hit my legs or the tripod - these small things being a big problem with the long 101.
Everything was going really well. Contrast and resolution were great, I was unable to detect any illumination drop off toward the edge of the field, and there was no ghosting anywhere. I also find that the scope is not reacting to the bad seeing conditions - as I would have expected. I will later notice that it holds focus well, even with some weight attached and tilted back to a sixty-degree angle for hours. I aimed for the moon and noticed a green edge outside of focus, but since I am not CA sensitive, I just moved on – after enjoying a hard starkness of the lunar surface. I can’t really push it on the moon on my balcony because too many buses go by that make the image tremble. As for the color, what I observed may have been caused by some sort of atmospheric dispersion between myself and the moon. Please note that there will be no more color on any other objects this night. -Jupiter was very detailed in the binos, and the field wide enough to see the planet contained by its majestic cosmic surroundings. Regarding higher magnifications, with the extra focal length calculated for each setup, I report the following…
With the Extender:
- The 6mm Radian had Jupiter well resolved and still detailed at approximately 150X. The band exhibiting a bit of roughness, the way it gets under exceptional seeing conditions, even though seeing was poor. The moons were still not clean spheres however, but one could tell they will be at another time and place.
- Barlowed, the above magnification doubled @ 300X, the image was somewhat clear with the detail of the planet discernable. Under better seeing conditions, the image would be more resolved, but I think it is safe to claim that 300X is about the practical limit for this scope, which I believe is much more than adequate.
- At 370X, the image was distorted – as per my mind’s perception of it.
- Barlowed binoviewers @ 84X, the image was excellent in every way.
Interestingly, you may very well forgo the purchase of the Extender, hence the increase to a 675mm focal length and a focal ratio of f.8, as the scope’s performance does not improve enough to justify the expense. Only if you are into binoviewing should you consider it. It seems to do nothing for color, and nothing for clarity. It allows the scope to be pushed a bit farther in mag, but not much. It is listed as having five elements, wait, not five, two. Which is it? I don’t know, and I’m not taking mine apart to find out. Ask Takahashi and/or TNR and good luck. -After careful testing, the scope proved to perform much better than the Sky-90 did at native, the 90 much improved with the Extender installed. In fact, it behaved like an entirely different instrument. Whereas the 85 just kind of waves the unit away, as if to say, I don’t need you.
As for the binoviewing aspect, at 1.5X, the Extender just allows them to work at about 42X, which is a great magnification zone for two-eyed wide field observing. The field is perfectly flat and still quite bright. This configuration is certainly my favorite out of all of the many different ways you can use this telescope. Having said this, I was also very pleased with the bino and the 2X TV barlow with no Extender @ 56X. The images were very nice, and for a second I thought of returning the Extender. But I really dig the low power views with it on. The point is, if you don’t want to go that low with a binoviewer, and you have a barlow or Powermate sitting around like most of us do, don’t buy the Extender @ $420, and throw in that simple piece. The results are great, and you can use it on any scope – unlike the Tak-specific Extender.
*Note: The Denk Powerswitch Diagonal will not come to focus with the 21mm Ethos in focal reduction mode without the Extender. However, it does work with the 6mm Radian and other shorter (than the 21) FL oculars. The 41mm Panoptic, as one would expect, boasts an unacceptable exit pupil and vignettes. I returned this eyepiece which I bought for the Mak, as once you get used to an Ethos…
With the Extender, most eyepieces should come to focus, but the (my) binoviewing set up does not in 2X mode, but it is close in normal.
Without the Extender:
Again, all focal length is accounted for.
- The 6mm Radian @ 105X, produced a very sharp and contrasty planet.
- Barlowed, it is still sharp and well-defined at 210X,
- 2.5mm Vixen @ 260X - resolution in and out indicating seeing conditions were the problem, not the scope. With patience, lucidity and detail would sneak in, but I think it is safe to guesstimate that the scope without the Extender will hold up until about 275X under normal conditions, maybe 300X+ with exceptional seeing.
- Barlow @ 520X - image shot.
- 21mm Ethos @ 29X - clear, flat enough, WIDE!
I waited until 3AM for some interesting objects to overtake the roof of my balcony so that I could report on something other than Jupiter. I used my favorite configuration, the binos with the Extender at 42X. The comfort of this setup is excellent, as is the contrast and sharpness. I use a black Orion cloth draped over my head because there is a streetlight sixty feet out and about twenty feet above me. Still it was a joy to behold the double cluster in all its glory. M103 was next, and finally, the Pleiades. The seven sisters came into view, and I was happy to discover that the entire cluster was easily framed in the binoviewers, with the Extender, of course. That’s a nice field of view!
I stepped down by then using the Ethos, and then the Ethos without the Extender, and the view just kept opening up. During each step, I checked the flatness of field, and the scope did not disappoint. Even though my primary use will be as a finder with the Mak using the Ethos, the binoviewing with this scope, like with the Sky-90, is fantastic. Only now, I have a wider FOV that cannot be topped. As a bonus, the backed-off power results in a deceptively bright image, something that will come in handy under dark skies. It is becoming clear at this point that the 85 is a well-oiled wide field machine.
Dark skies (relatively speaking):
The Jones Beach State Park Clear Sky Clock indicates that it will be clear on this calm mid-November night, with the transparency listed as “Transparent,” and the seeing excellent.
I must begin this section of my evaluation by conveying to you that the 85 renders the most beautiful wide field vistas I have ever seen from such a tiny (I’m used to catadioptrics) package, with no distractions in the FOV. As mentioned, the view with the Ethos is not absolutely flat across the entire FOV, however, the off-axis bloating (definitely not elongation) is not noticeable unless you look for it. Having noted this, I would still recommend it for this scope. Under a dark sky is where your money goes when you buy this telescope. The view at 29X is stunning. Quiet, still, peaceful.
When I first arrived and removed the scope from its soft shoulder bag, I noticed the tube being warm, presumably from my living room, despite the hour-long car trip. I found noticeable turbulence in the images, and checked back every ten minutes. At the 50 minute mark, the instrument exhibited calmer views, so I will generously claim that cooldown is about an hour. With the Sky-90, I never noticed turbulence at any time, probably due to the mere doublet, so I claimed, “very fast cooldown time.”
With the Extender:
- M13 - Even with the waxing moon and this globular a bit downrange to the west, it was resolved well with the 6mm Radian (flat to the edge, I must add.) With averted vision, I enjoyably captured the core and the outer stars of the grouping without fuss. Surprising really, for an 85mm. I would love to test under truly dark skies where I am sure the entire cluster would be resolved and more substantive in a direct view. Barlowed, it became uncomfortably dim.
- M33 = Was just a blob, but the same in the Mak. Again, considering 85mm of aperture, it was unexpected to see it at all.
-M35, 36, 37, 38 – These clusters look divine through the 85 with the Ethos and the Radian. Bino’d, they are simply elegant.
-M42 – Was beautifully crisp and defined at all low power magnifications, the 6mm Radian bringing out a wealth of fine structure.
Jupiter would fare only slightly better than the evaluation done at home in the city. I expected better because of the increase in seeing quality, but it was still a very nice image.
Without the Extender:
The moon. This night would teach me something about small quadruplet refractors. The performance on this object was absolutely mind-boggling. I realize that seeing and transparency were excellent, however, I never would have believed that the 85 WITHOUT THE EXTENDER would render a perfect image at 520X - and have that image devoid of any signs of wear. Also noted was how valuable the microfocuser was here. Overall, I was shocked at the performance of the 85 on the lunar surface. I would not install the Extender because I did not want to know if I was close to the end or not. This was so good, it didn’t matter how much I could go above 520X. Do you know what I mean? Two nights later I went out and double-checked my initial results.
Without the Extender, all of the deep sky objects listed were gloriously sitting in space amid the starry backdrop at this native FOV, and one could just watch and wait. Things that pass in a narrowed view are caught early enough to focus on and follow wherever they may lead across your huge round window.
Wrapping it up:
I saw no color all night on anything bright including Sirius, and no aberrations of any kind for the entire 8-hour period. I kept switching from the binos to the Ethos, with and without the Extender, and found myself thinking, I really don’t need any other scope. Moreover, my conclusion that the Extender is not necessary for this instrument was reinforced by its native performance under a dark sky. The barlow again worked fine, and the difference between it and the Extender minimal. I also found that the scope performed above its 85mm aperture, just as I believed the Sky-90 did, and I established that both excel on open clusters. The ED glass and coatings that Takahashi uses are exceptional, to be sure. It will be fantastic if I have the same opinion of my new little unobtrusive friend in ten years. It was apparent that the view through a fine wide field instrument is so much more appealing than that of the claustrophobic framing of a longer FL telescope. On Jupiter and the moon, the CAT was very useful. When I was done with planetary and lunar work however, the Mak became just the guidescope. In fact, I put the lens cap back on and used only the Tak for the next few hours. Unmistakably, the 85 makes up for its challenged aperture with a beautiful wideness.
I stared at M31 at the zenith and tried to ascertain detail from the spiral arms, but was unable to. So I installed the 40D and took a 30-second exposure and when it was done, sat there and beheld a stunning image of the galaxy with detail climbing out of the spiral. A dust lane was prominent, and exciting to see in the field, through the raw image. I watched M32 stand by like a child. I studied a frame that was still on the camera from years ago when I used the very cheap (inexpensive) Vixen 80ss. The images were almost identical, except for the outer edges which were perfectly flat in the FSQ frame. The 85 also exhibited a bit more contrast, but it was not that noticeable. Your conclusion may be that a cheap achromat for A/P only could be the way to go. But keep in mind that just because it takes nice images of DSO’s doesn’t mean it can resolve planets well.
The following report card pertains to the instrument itself, not Takahashi’s aforementioned shenanigans concerning its specifications and advertising.
-Very portable / also convenient for terrestrial viewing such as exploring high peaks. Inherent ability to extract detail is great for deciphering wildlife/rocks/birds/trees/bushes at a distance
-Great pride in ownership
-Crisp contrast throughout a full, flat, evenly illuminated field of view
-Instrument does not seem to be sensitive to bad seeing conditions
-Startling performance on the lunar surface, far surpassing its 85mm aperture
-Performs extremely well with binoviewers
-Excellent build quality
-Well balanced in any visual configuration (or with Canon DSLR)
-Muscular, backlash-free focuser – even if you are not into A/P, binoviewers, heavy eyepieces and even some leaning do not affect this unit
-Dew shield held in place by a single screw, which produces a nice, smooth glide
-Price includes a good stable of useful accessories
-Perfect weight – stable and easy to carry and mount
-The mount you choose does not have to be accurate, opening up a world of possible options
-For A/P, the flattening element is already precisely placed, so there’s no need to worry about the distance to the image plane, custom spacers, or external corrective optics. If this instrument is in focus, it doesn’t care what type of camera you are using, it’s ready to fly
-Attractive limiting stellar magnitude (YMMV as per your own unique time and observing locale)
-Will retain its resale value well into the future
-Very thoughtfully packed and shipped.
-Expensive, but I believe it’s a fair price. In fact, experiencing the 85 clearly indicates the insanity of the Sky-90’s price in comparison
I must tell you that I am very happy with the FSQ-85. You can go out and buy yourself a nice triplet for so much less money, and you could be perfectly happy with it. For all of us, there are more pressing needs for $3000 (bare) than a small OTA. You will have to search yourself for the courage to pull the trigger.
So… Is the FSQ-85 worth purchasing if you are using it for:
-Astrophotography only – Yes.
-A little A/P and a little visual work – Yes.
-Visual work only – This is where it gets a bit complicated. After all, this is a dedicated astrograph. The professionally designed and massive focuser is overkill for visual to say the least, however nice it is to have. But look at it this way- The wonderful four-element modified Petzval quadruplet design of this scope is a good investment in the future, as our visual accommodation is only deteriorating with age. It will catch up to a short focus triplet eventually. And the 85 comes well-equipped with a microfocuser, camera angle adjuster, compression ring adapter with end plug, 72mm threaded extension, and an ocular adapter. These accessories are worth in excess of $700. Not to forget that at some point in the future, a visual observer usually turns to A/P, if only like me, to uncover objects that are too dim for the eye to detect, but things the onboard computer swears are there. I can vouch for the fact that a Canon 40D with a cheap T mount and a $20 short tube will simply replace the eyepiece on this scope and click away - through the diagonal at a comfortable angle – in focus, without adapters. Best of all, without that expensive and complicated reducing system.
As I suspected, the 450mm FL is an absolute joy to work with. So as for visual only, even if it’s visual only forever, it's a yes.
Good luck on your decision and clear skies!
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