Celestron 80WA. Replaced (2002) by Stellarvue AT1010
My 'second' telescope is a Celestron 80 mm short tube refractor, also available from a variety of manufacturers in different guises.
This little 'Rich Field' telescope has a focal length of only 400 mm, giving it a fast (f5) focal ratio and a wide angle view. Although relatively inexpensive, its air spaced doublet objective (particularly after fine tuning, see Bob Berta's tips) gives crisp images with hardly any fringeing or colour distortion. The finder 'scope is a standard Celestron 6 x 30.
The spotter 'scope version came with a couple of Plössl eyepieces (10 mm and 20 mm), an erecting prism and a 1 1/4" camera T-adaptor. Good value for money, even in England. I bought a decent camera tripod, so that I could use it for other photography, but when the telescope was elevated, the system was totally out of balance and uncontrollable. I considered buying an equatorial mount, then hit on the idea of a counterbalance system.
A bit of scrounging (from a nearby ornamental gate manufacturer) and I had a couple of 2" mild steel balls, some 8 mm bright bar and a piece of steel plate. I drilled holes through the balls to allow them to slide up and down the bar, and fitted each one with a clamp screw. The rod was welded onto the mounting plate at an angle of about 20 degrees to the vertical, the plate then sandwiched between the 'scope rings and the mount adaptor. The balls are painted silver so I can find them if dropped in the dark. (Preferably not on my foot!)
The assembly works beautifully, with enough drag in the tripod hinge to allow about 20 degrees movement without readjusting the balance weights. Not that that is a chore anyway - it only takes a couple of seconds.
Good quality Astronomical Telescopes with their finely tuned optics make excellent telephoto lenses, but most are too bulky or too powerful to be convenient for daytime use. Not so the 80WA with its 400 mm focal length. Here it is with a 35 mm reflex camera. A couple of photos are shown in the Photo Gallery.
Now sold, October 2007
Although the Chinese made 80 mm ST (above) was surprisingly good for the money, I hankered after a better quality 'scope, and eventually settled on the AT1010 from Stellarvue. Still an 80mm objective, but a slightly longer focal length of 480 mm, a very good quality objective and a 2" focusser. I'm very pleased with it - it is much more able to handle higher magnifications, and the fringing is less than it's predecessor, completely cured with a Minus Violet filter.
Because of the telescope's ability to carry higher magnifications, the photographic mount proved inadequate, and in the Spring of 2003 I bought a (secondhand but brand new!) EQ3-2 equatorial mount. This substantial mount is more than sufficient to carry the tube, which is rock steady. I then fitted the Meade DS motor kit and Autostar, so the mount is GOTO with good accuracy. A nice 'go anywhere' telescope.