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TAL 125 Apolar


Marki
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Well, I've gone and done it now. After dithering about a new scope, bouncing between aperture, exotic glass, weight, type, suitability for photography and so on, I finally decided a nice apo in the 4.5" - 5" category would be good. So what did I get? Notwithstanding sensible advice to the contrary, and having read many and varied posts about the potential pitfalls, I've bought a TAL 125 Apolar.

For a bit of context about the madness of this decision, check out this review of the Apolar by John back in 2011 - http://stargazerslounge.com/topic/104408-tal-125r-apolar-apochromatic-refractor/?hl=+tal125%20+apolar.

Now, I already own a TAL 100RS, a fantastic cheap robust and optically excellent 4" achromat, albeit somewhat indifferent in finish. I also own a TAL125r, a 5" achromat which I had to import from Italy, and which reuired the attention of a proper optical engineer to get it to give reamotely near its best. Also indifferently finished. So why have I exposed myself to the ups and downs of yet another TAL adventure?

Simple - I've hankered after one since I read John's review, And recent reductions in price by OVL (presumably shifting stock) meant that I could get one new for around a third less than the standrd price (c. £1k as opposed to £1.5k).

Ordered from Widescreen Centre on Thuraday evening, and arrived today. So on to the unboxing... .

Obligatory stickers in Cyrillic shots ;)

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The contents in a rather nice wooden (pine?) box (as opposed to the rough weapons crate my 125r came in);

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From the Instruction booklet, serial number 0165 and acceptance date in August 2010!:

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More to follow.

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The sharp-eyed amongst you will have noticed something amiss with the black plastic trim, where the scope flares towards the objective end (not sure thats the right expression given the complex optics of this scope!). Full horror below:

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Now at this point my heart started to fall. More details:

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This trim masks where the tube flares, but theplastic pushed back easily enough. Detail below shows badly filled holes where another of the optical elements sits, but the paint job is actaully pretty good and uniform (certainly compared to the other TALs I have):

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The front end is multicoated, with a dstinctly purple hue, but which seems to disappear entirely in some directions. Tube is well baffled and blacked inside.

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So. I'm at this point now convinced its a dud...but may as well stick it outside and see what the optics are like (at least so far as I can tell in daylight). Onto the mount with it:

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Didn't bother fitting the finder for this. You'll notice the tube rings don't have the trademark APOLAR handle - this did not fit the dovetail I had, so I simply switched over the rings from my 125r.

Metal dewshield:

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Focusser end:

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And so I turned it on a chimney pot some 500m away (the farthest thing I can see from my garden during daylight). Now, when I first tested my 125r achromat, it was excellent at low and medium powers but always felt "soft" at higher powers (until I got it professionally sorted). How would the APOLAR compare?

47x - (20mm plossl) lovely clear image - so far so good. In with a 5mm ortho for 188x - again clear, sharp image. Ok, feeling a little happier now - in with an 8mm  and barlow x2 for 235x. Still ok - a jubilee clip on the edge of an aerial on that chimney showed clear detail. No colour spill,  but not the conditions to really show any being so dull out. Focusser works well, but "snap to focus" not as marked as it could be at the highest power in this test.

Now this short foray outside is not a great test - the air here is damp and its grey and pretty dark even mid-aftrernoon here. Uncooled tube, uncooled optics (and the 8mm is a bit iffy anyway). But much happier than I was with the 125r when I first tested that.

A few other impressions - I like the case, the paint job is ok, focusser a nice smooth crayford. Its pretty heavy (all that glass inside it). Optics seem ok so far...roll on a clear sky please so I can test it on some stars!

Status - cautiously optimistic (can't say I didn't know what I was letting myself in for - lol).

Edited by Marki
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Interesting report Mark.

I've seen and handled two Apolars - one was completely unusable, the other poorly finished but performed quite well. I posted a report on the latter some time back, you might have seen it.

I'll follow the progress of this one with interest :smiley:

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I must confess I reread your review about a dozen times last week, John. In the end, I decided at the current price point it was worth a punt. Decidedly not a £1500 scope, but if the optics are decent, then I'll be happy at £1100. I'll draw the retailler's attention to the condition it came in, but really I need to see some stars with it (I'm not bothered by the cosmetic side so much, if the optics work as intended). I'll keep you all posted!

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Give it a good star test as soon as you can Mark. Use high power (200x - 250x) and examine the airy disk of a star such as Polaris really carefully. I found it difficult to get clear diffraction rings with the example I used but I put that down to the 6 element / 3 group optical design plus the conditions. Hopefully the airy disk will be tight and circular though.

Is the tube round on yours ? - it was egg shaped on the one I tested !

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Tube isn't too bad, John. Maybe not a true 360 circle, but not egg-shaped and no pronounced seam. Better finish than my 125r not withstanding the poor filling I highlighted earlier. Forecast is pretty poor here for the next week (according to the BC) so no idea when I'll get to properly star test it!

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Very interested in this. My thoughts are you don't buy Tal for their blingy exterior. You buy Tal to look through. They won't win any design awards  :grin:

Looking forward to your first light.

Steve

The 1st one that I had delivered had a smashed inner lens element and a 1cm scratch across the front surface of the objective lens. Goodness knows how they managed that because it was contained securely in a massively built wooden case and the tube of these scopes is about twice as thick as most other refractors I've used.

The fit and finish on the ones I had was certainly as far as you can get from "blingy" as it's possible to get :rolleyes2:

If it star tests well and performs though then I guess everything else is minor.

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TAL apolar is out tonight. Dodging cloud and some pretty poor seeing/lots of turbulence - sky is also bright (even where no cloud) quite high up from the horizon, so not sure how useful a test this has been so far. Put my 100mm f13 achro out for a bit to give me a comparison point, after the TAL had been out for a while. The F13 seems to cut through the seeing a bit better than the TAL, but as that is only f7.5 I guess thats not surpising, "apo" or not). Anyway, the TAL is back out for another test, but its clouded over again.

Initial impressions - this scope needs a considerably longer time to cool than I had at first assumed, I suppose because of all the glass! Colour correction is good. Can't see any obvious errors, such as pinched optics or astigmatism, but the turbulance isn't helping to make a proper assessment.

Question for John (or anyone else...), how much difference does having multi-piece eyepeices and/or barlows affect the testing? Is it best to try to use simpler eps like orthos/plossls? Highest mag I can get with my simpler eps is with a 5mm bgo for 188x. Otherwise I have to start using more complex eps and barlows to get over 200x.

Not sure the seeing is up to much over 200x tonight anyway judging by the murk and indifferent images my f13 was showing of easy targets like Castor (albeit that is still pretty low).

Will update again if the cloud passes - at least the apolar should definitely be at ambient temperature now!

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I used to use orthos or plossls for star testing but as long as the optical quality is good I think more complex designs are OK as well. Roland Christen of Astro-Physics used a 4.8mm Nagler to star test the AP scopes he was developing.

The conditions do need to be reasonably good to get reliable star tests I feel.

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I guess the seeing in York must be fairly stable - flip side of the fog you often get. Anything over 180x is a bonus for me but I don't think you necessarily need the highest magnifications for a reasonable star test. Glad to hear there are no optical horror stories thus far though.

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I really need to invest in a sensible collections of eps :).

I was wondering about using my TV 2.5x powermate with a 10mm Delos...but not sure if I want to risk them yet ;). Actually, the focusser end seems pretty solid, to be fair.

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Given up for tonight and packed up. Too much cloud so didn't get any further than I previously posted.. So, first test has been a bit inconclusive. Colour control is good, and no obvious astigmatism or pinched optics but I wonder whether the poor seeing/turbulance is masking any other problems (i think there may be some spherical aberration maybe). Not sure when I'll get a chance to test again (forecast is not good for a few days, plus other commitments) or whether to just send it back, given the cosmetic damage it came with.

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Thanks John - will do, just feeling a bit frustrated. The scope is certainly much better optically than the 125r was when I first got it  - just annoying I can't really put it though it's paces and come to a definitive conclusion!

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Marki, i would email the vendor with a couple of pics regarding the finish and state that you will keep it if the optics are spot on but if they are not then it will be winging its way back, i would suggest trying to meet up with some one with a 120 ED one night to make a comparison, the 120ED will give you a reference to what to expect, good luck

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Thanks Jules. Already emailed them with a link to all the unboxing photos and report on my star tests.

I went out again for a brief period between 2 and 3 this morning. Scope well cooled and at ambient temeprature by then (it'd been left out for hours by then). Still not ideal seeing but a bit steadier than earlier. Still not altogether spot on - some spherical aberration, and stars not ideal across the outer third or so of the field of view. Still feels "soft" and I think it could do better as it approached higher magnifications. The telling thing for me is that the uncooled achro I put out to compare performed noticeably better - but then the f13 should go through bad seeing better than the f7.5, "apo" or not, so maybe not a fair comparison.

Ideally I'd wait for a crisp clear night to properly test the Apolar, but I'm not sure the turbulence is fully to blame for whay I'm seeing. Maybe I'm being super critical though.

I've emailed the vendor to see if they can wait a better report, or whether I lose my rights to return it (could be ages til a good night comes along!).

Will keep you posted.

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Hi Mark

I, like you, am a long time fan of Tal optics. That said, I just don't think that it's good enough for scopes to be sold that have clearly not been checked and tested at THIS end of the supply chain, before shipping.

This should have been done by Optical Vision - who frankly in my experience have zero interest in customer service, or by Widescreen Centre themselves- the latter, being the seller of the goods to you, should check that the goods are fit for purpose BEFORE shipping..after all, this is not a £25 sale, it's a scope originally being asked £1500 for, now £1000, and that's a lot of money.

I would ask for a replacement scope that has been physically checked carefully, optically bench tested and ideally field tested: if they can't or won't do that for you, take your money back.

Good luck to you Mark:-)

Dave

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Thanks Dave

I agree with what you have said. I am in contact with the Widescreen Centre with a view to making a swap/replacement - probably not on a like for like basis. I am awaiting their response to my suggestions made some days ago, and I spoke to Simon Bennett yesterday who said he would get back to me...I appreciate they are a bit busy at this time of year. I can't comment any further on this until they actually have come back to me.

It looks like being a decent night here, so I may just give it one more try out, if only to confirm what I already know/suspect about the scope.

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Update:

Simon at the Widescreen Centre has just got back to me (pretty pleased with how they've handled themsleves with this issue so far). We've agreed a replacement, date to be agreed in January. Not a TAL - although I am glad I made an effort with this, and I'd have been delighted if the APOLAR had performed better, I'm not prepared to take another risk!

Edited by Marki
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