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Monthly Archives: August 2007

31 Aug

Might be a little early for some folks to be thinking of the Christmas shopping season, but not for us in the retail business. In that regard, I have been thinking of more articles on telescopes, since that is one of our hottest product categories during the holiday shopping season. I’ve done four, so far, but I will add more if needed. Be sure to read How to choose the right telescope if you are a first-time telescope buyer and you should also read Telescope FAQs and A Dozen Telescope Observing Tips For Beginners if you want help on how …

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30 Aug

It’s often hard for a beginner to understand why anyone would pay more for a single telescope eyepiece than they paid for their beginner’s telescope, telescope, mount, eyepieces and all. It must seem stranger, still, for a beginner to see how some of us astronomy nuts stay up late at night arguing the merits and pitfalls of various telescope eyepiece designs and telescope eyepiece brands. What’s all the fuss?

On a telescope eyepiece, you are paying for two things. First, how sharp and bright, not only in the center, but at the edge of the field and second, how wide …

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29 Aug

Hardly a day passes that a beginner does not ask me about the maximum magnification possible with this model of telescope or that model of telescope. I patiently explain all the basics and variables of observing and point out that the quest to know the maximum magnification of any telescope is pointless.

Being more of a positive person than a negative one, I’d just like to make a sales pitch for low magnification in a telescope. Listen up, you beginners! Life as an observer is easier and more enjoyable at low magnifications. Images are brighter and sharper – image quality …

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28 Aug

I bought my first Leica spotting scope back in the year 2000. It was something of a miracle to me, both in the fact that I managed to find the money to buy it (I actually worked a second job to get the money for it) and also because it was such an incredible optic. It was an angled Leica Televid and an APO Televid at that. I was later forced to sell it, but, fortunately it went to a friend who, to this day, has given it all the loving care it deserves.

Naturally, then, when Leica announced a …

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27 Aug

Perhaps in no other type of optic is performance more related to price than in a spotting scope. Why? Higher magnifications put greater demands on an optical system. However, there are always good buys at every price point, even in premium grade spotting scopes. Although most people would not conclude that $1400 is a bargain for a spotting scope, the Nikon Fieldscope 82mm ED is just that. In my tests, it scored right up there in terms of resolution, contrast and, especially image brightness, with all the more expensive European brands. Not to say that the Fieldscope is perfect, but …

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24 Aug

If you are one of those fortunate to live in area without light pollution, you should think big when you think telescope. Take it from me, someone trapped under the city lights, a big telescope under light polluted skies will never reach its full potential and, to make matters worse, an area with a lot of light pollution is also an area that typically has a lot of other kinds of pollution. This means that sky transparency in the big city is never what it is in a rural area and sky transparency is almost as important for seeing the …

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23 Aug

Had a customer ask me why he couldn’t find one those solar filters that attach to an eyepiece of a telescope, like the one supplied with the telescope he had when he was a kid. I told him to count his blessings. It would be better if he did not find one.

A solar filter that attaches to an eyepiece is simply dangerous. Should the filter crack, the full brunt of solar light as well as the heat being “collected” by the telescope immediately enters the eye, instantly resulting in a burned retina and that awesome amount of heat also …

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22 Aug

“Why is a good spotting scope so darn expensive? Why can’t I get one that is tack sharp at 60x for under $500, even? “

These are questions that I get all the time on spotting scopes. The problem is magnification. As magnification goes up in any optical system, the demands on the optical system also go up rapidly and thus the more critical optical quality becomes. It is relatively simple to make an optic sharp at 8x and even with two optical systems, you can get a relatively sharp 8x binocular for under $200. 60x, on a spotting scope, …

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21 Aug

Had the Kowa 663 spotting scope out the other night under the stars to frame some open clusters and was once again impressed with how well a spotting scope can perform for these deep-sky objects. With the TSE-21WD 20x wide angle eyepiece, views of large open clusters were breathtaking and as good as I have seen in any telescope of any kind. And why not? The Kowa 663, is, in effect, an APO refractor telescope. It should do well in the same applications as any small refractor. With the Z9B 20-60 zoom eyepiece, I have even seen cloud belts on …

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20 Aug

As I bike along the trails during the summer months, I stop and collect interesting specimens that I might want to look at under my stereo microscope on a rainy day. This Sunday was definitely a rainy day, so I spent a couple of hours with my LOMO SF-100 stereo microscope.

I was surprised to discover just how much I have accumulated in the way of rocks, twigs, old wasp nests, mosses, dried seed heads and even a few dead insects this summer. All such specimens are fun under a stereo microscope.

I upgraded this microscope by adding an aftermarket, …

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