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Why do really expensive scopes sell and what attracts us to them ?


John
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This is a genuine question that I have been asking myself for the past 5 years or so but I'm still unsure what the answer is.

We have access to some excellent scopes these days for great prices and yet there seems to be unabated enthusiasm still for similar specified scopes from the really expensive marques.

My personal experience seems to indicate that the actual performance differences between moderately expensive scope and one of the really expensive versions amount to perhaps 5% or so (depends on how you quantify performance I suppose) but the price differential is often very much more than that - sometime 2x or 3x as expensive.

So what is it that motivates quite a number of us (including myself) to want to own these expensive instruments ?.

My best guess is that, once you have been in the hobby for some time, you develop a burning curiosity to see "what the fuss is all about" with these highly reputed brands. With widespread reporting, through forums such as SGL, I think expectations on what they deliver are, broadly well managed so there is no expectation that whole new target areas will become attainable but it is more about an enthusiasts desire to be using something that is, or is close to, as "good as it gets" within it's niche.

I'd be very interested in others views on this though, both those who have "taken the plunge" and those who have not :icon_biggrin:

I've avoided the terms "premium" and "top end" deliberately because I'm not sure that they are helpful.

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I guess there are two main drivers for getting new scopes for many of us

The first is the well known aperture fever. Get a bigger scope to see more. Been there, done that. However I can only go to a certain size. Anything larger than a C11 won’t fit in my obsy. And for visual, I need to set up each night. That has limited me to C9.25. Anything much bigger is too heavy or bulky 

My second driver is quality. That has lead my to the likes of Pentax, Borg and more recently Tak. There is something obsessive for me about getting the finest optics possible. For example, I find a huge joy of ownership from my Tak FOA 60Q, far out of proportion to its size. Similar, but perhaps not so pronounced, for my TSA 120

I find a similar draw from exquisite eyepieces.

The is always an itch to scratch...l 

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It's an interesting question which I've thought about many times. A couple of decades ago there was a noticeable gap between a good refractor and a really good refractor. Takahashi, Astro Physics, Vixen, and the new boy on the block at the time TMB offered some of the best scopes you could get. Today that gap has closed considerably with undeniably superb scopes coming from China. I've observed with my Takahashi refractor alongside supposedly lesser apo refractors, but have been completely happy with the "lesser apo" refractor. So why pay all that money for a Tak?  I suppose its because I feel I deserve the technically finest optics I can afford, just because I love the hobby so much. What it is not though is snobbery. All i ever wanted was a good 4" refractor. I'd be happy with a classic 4" F15 Unitron or a beautiful 4" F15 Vixen achromat, but it makes more sense today to aim for a much shorter 4" apo, especially as i don't limbo so easily these days. The truth is I wish everyone were able to have the scope of their dreams.

When a friend of mine told me in 2002 that he paid £1000 per year to be a member of a golf club, and that he also had to pay another £15 each time he wanted to play a game, it kind of put things into perspective for me. A really good scope didn't seem to be that expensive  after all, especially when you consider that once it's paid for its yours for life. Just don't read eyepiece threads! 😭

Edited by mikeDnight
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This one has really made me think!  I’ve never owned a really expensive scope, but I recently purchased an FPL53 refractor, and saw the huge improvement over my Tal achromat and witnessed amazing views of Mars and Jupiter way beyond what I thought a scope of that size could achieve. I definitely would like to go one step further to the “really expensive” refractors, and I think my motivations would be driven by (1) curiosity over how good the best actually is (2) desire to touch, feel and own some top class engineering  (3) desire to own a little piece of history - Takahashi’s, Televues, Astrophysics and others are kind of ‘historic’ brands that are just lovely to own if you’re an enthusiast. 
 

Well that’s some of my reasoning at least. I’m sure I’ll think of more! 

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29 minutes ago, mikeDnight said:

... What it is not though is snobbery......

 

I think that is the least likely reason for wanting to own one. Astronomers are practical, down to earth folks from the ones that I've met :icon_biggrin:

Curiosity was probably the strongest driver for me, having been in the hobby for many years and having read about these almost mythical brands and models. When the chance came to procure one (or two) of my own, the temptation was too much to resist :rolleyes2:

My observing circumstances are such that I am "aperture limited" as well and the 12 inch dobsonian is as far as I can go in that direction so the other direction to aspire to is quality.

Interesting responses so far - many thanks :thumbright:

 

 

Edited by John
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After getting into astronomy a few years ago my first experience of trying out premium end optical products was purchasing a used Televue DeLite, primarily to satisfy my own curiosity. I’d read a lot about how these high end eyepieces improved contrast, light-scatter, sharpness and colour transmission but usually it was for a marginal 5-10% gain over some of the cheaper ranges.

Unfortunately for my future bank balance I could notice an improvement, despite how marginal it is sometimes described. I found it pretty noticeable and very much enjoyed what I experienced, something that was reinforced when I purchased another premium EP in a Morpheus.

This love of high-end glass and a recent fascination with 3” refractors has taken me down a very expensive path. Personally I wanted to experience the “best”, if I can notice small margins in premium eyepieces I’m sure I can in a scope, so why not just go all in rather than have an itch that’ll inevitably get scratched after even more financial outlay with a bit more trial and error?

As scientific instruments I think telescopes are incredibly cheap, even the real premium end are very reasonably priced. In biological sciences we are talking £5k-£15k for a very basic piece of equipment.

I’ve also dumped thousands into cars that depreciate like mad and become worthless at the end of their mileage! I’ll have this scope until I’m pushing up daisies and hopefully pass it on to my son but not before I’ve spent many a wonderful night with it under the night sky.

 

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In wine, there are blind tastings all the time (even double-blind).  In medical trials, double-blind is standard.  Have people ever tried that in astronomy (either visual or AP)?  The judgment of Paris was (rightly) famous in wine circles b/c it showed that when tasted blind, Californian wines knocked the hallowed French brands off their perch.  Even French drinkers picked (unknowingly!) the Californian wines as better.  Would be v interesting to see that tried in astronomy!

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Over the last few years I've had an expensive 100mm apo and a RASA8 ... but due to unforeseen circumstances I unexpectedly ended up with a 250mm reflector that cost a fraction of either of those ... and I'm more than happy with it. Much prefer it to the apo, will probably eventually end up with a RASA again for speed with UK weather but as an all rounder its an insanely good and affordable scope. Due to its weight the 250 is not a starter scope but 130mm / 150mm / 200mm reflectors are amazing value and can produce stunning images for the price. I'm no longer interested in expensive apos - perhaps just a good value refractor for solar one day.  

Edited by AbsolutelyN
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15 minutes ago, vineyard said:

In wine, there are blind tastings all the time (even double-blind).  In medical trials, double-blind is standard.  Have people ever tried that in astronomy (either visual or AP)?  The judgment of Paris was (rightly) famous in wine circles b/c it showed that when tasted blind, Californian wines knocked the hallowed French brands off their perch.  Even French drinkers picked (unknowingly!) the Californian wines as better.  Would be v interesting to see that tried in astronomy!

I've read of "blind testing" sessions for eyepieces occasionally but not of telescopes. It's an interesting idea.

 

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This same question can be posed of shoes, cars, golf clubs, televisions, computers, kitchen knives, cell phones, and on and on. It is human nature to want the best we can have given what our budgets allow, once one spends many years in a hobby one wishes to gravitate towards the best they can afford. Regardless of how similar said object is to a less expensive brand, it becomes a right of passage to ones self.

Edited by Sunshine
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Oh not everything has to be the most expensive that I use, I’m equally happy using my much cheaper 8” dobsonian reflector and a £50 BCO eyepiece which has shown me amazing sights. I have a real mishmash of an EP collection, lots of cheaper used bits and it’s not wall to wall Pentaxes or Ethoi.

I enjoy trying new things though, tinkering and experimenting to see what works for me and what doesn’t. Trying to eek out some visual improvement is part of the hobby for me and something I enjoy. 

 

 

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16 minutes ago, Sunshine said:

This same question can be posed of shoes, cars, golf clubs, televisions, computers, kitchen knives, cell phones, and on and on. It is human nature to want the best we can have given what our budgets allow, once one spends many years 

in a hobby one wishes to gravitate towards the best they can afford. Regardless of how similar said object is to a less expensive brand, it becomes a right of passage to ones self.

For astronomy equipment I agree. For practically everything else I'm not bothered to be honest. That's probably just me though :rolleyes2:

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Part of the reason is probably that at least with modest sized scopes, it's not actually that expensive to own the very best so why not have it?

A high-end model could be several times the cost of a midrange alternative that would get pretty close in terms of performance but it's still likely to a bargain compared to what a similar optic would have cost 30 years ago (if it was even available), and much less than many people would pay for a car that might get replaced every few years or a new kitchen.

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I do dream about dream scopes and I am glad they exist. I think if a future archaeologist digs up a Questar, they would smile at our folly and think more kindly of our barbaric culture!

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 There are some people who feel they need to buy the best (or at least most expensive they can afford) of anything - irrespective  of their need for it, or having the skill and talent to get the most out of it.

There are well off people who buy the best of everything because they can afford to.

Some people succumb to the advertising and what I call 'upgrade syndrome' fostend in part by members comments on chat groups. Manufacturers will always bring out new models with 'go faster stripes' to keep their business profitable.

Some people think it reflects well on them if they own expensive things.

The first time I bought a telescope for astronomy was 1969 or 1970.  In those days, there were mostly Newtonians or refractors made by a handful of British manufacturers - and you had to wait for it to be made. 

It is noteworthy that in those times people mostly observed visually and when observations were reported in the BAA Journal or The Astronomer Magazine, though the type and size of the telescope was mentioned in observations, the manufacturer generally didn't get a mention.  

I think now, for  most amateur astronomers , the telescope they buy has little to do with need rather than want.  At the end of the day it's wonderful there is such a variety of telescopes available,  but being a skilled and experienced observer or imager is a far greater advantage than having the most expensive telescope.

  

 

 

 

 

 

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What drew me to Takahashi was that after much research on this forum and others and other websites too was that it seemed to me that those who owned Takahashi literally fell in love with them and many who did not own one would have loved to have one. There just seemed to be 'something'  about these scopes. I bought one, loved it so much I bought another and then started on the Takahashi eyepieces and accessories :)

So I've very definitely caught the bug! I love looking at them, through them and reading about them and reading about other people's experiences of using them! For me they are scopes for life, have a personality :) and I get huge enjoyment out of owning a couple!

Malcolm

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7 minutes ago, MalcolmM said:

What drew me to Takahashi was that after much research on this forum and others and other websites too was that it seemed to me that those who owned Takahashi literally fell in love with them and many who did not own one would have loved to have one. There just seemed to be 'something'  about these scopes. I bought one, loved it so much I bought another and then started on the Takahashi eyepieces and accessories :)

So I've very definitely caught the bug! I love looking at them, through them and reading about them and reading about other people's experiences of using them! For me they are scopes for life, have a personality :) and I get huge enjoyment out of owning a couple!

Malcolm

Yes Malcolm, Takahashi owners do like to talk about the experiences they have had with their telescopes.

I remember a post about Takahashi telescopes a little while ago which was about the merits of licking the lense of their Takahashi!  I kid you not.  I remember who posted it, but I'm not saying 😇.

I think being a bit barmy helps if you're an astronomer, but Takahashi owners do seem to take barmyness to a new level 🤪.

 

 

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8 minutes ago, paulastro said:

Yes Malcolm, Takahashi owners do like to talk about the experiences they have had with their telescopes.

I remember a post about Takahashi telescopes a little while ago which was about the merits of licking the lense of their Takahashi!  I kid you not.  I remember who posted it, but I'm not saying 😇.

I think being a bit barmy helps if you're an astronomer, but Takahashi owners do seem to take barmyness to a new level 🤪.

 

 

There is nothing wrong with going into the room where I keep my scope, turning on the light and glancing lovingly once in a while...is there? 🥴 have I just revealed too much? oh boy🤐

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4 hours ago, John said:

This is a genuine question that I have been asking myself for the past 5 years or so but I'm still unsure what the answer is.

We have access to some excellent scopes these days for great prices and yet there seems to be unabated enthusiasm still for similar specified scopes from the really expensive marques.

My personal experience seems to indicate that the actual performance differences between moderately expensive scope and one of the really expensive versions amount to perhaps 5% or so (depends on how you quantify performance I suppose) but the price differential is often very much more than that - sometime 2x or 3x as expensive.

So what is it that motivates quite a number of us (including myself) to want to own these expensive instruments ?.

My best guess is that, once you have been in the hobby for some time, you develop a burning curiosity to see "what the fuss is all about" with these highly reputed brands. With widespread reporting, through forums such as SGL, I think expectations on what they deliver are, broadly well managed so there is no expectation that whole new target areas will become attainable but it is more about an enthusiasts desire to be using something that is, or is close to, as "good as it gets" within it's niche.

I'd be very interested in others views on this though, both those who have "taken the plunge" and those who have not :icon_biggrin:

I've avoided the terms "premium" and "top end" deliberately because I'm not sure that they are helpful.

I am curious i have to admit, and certainly appreciate quality. But for example if i had 3 grand to blow next week it wouldnt be on a Tak. or some such. Not exactly sure what i would get but it wouldnt be that. Maybe because i am more heavily into imaging the moon and planets i tend to look at what my money will buy me cost per performance. And i suppose this is the reason. I can imagine a lot of visual observers. Will appreciate the whole quality experiance of owning and using a premium instrument. With cost per performance perhaps being lower on the ladder of there prime considerations. And nothing wrong in that, Its just different. But its a interesting thread. I like the look of those Mewlon 180s but my stella lyra probably comes real close in performance of one of those. And yes, what i paid could get me less than half of one of those. Hope its the mirror end. 

Edited by neil phillips
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12 minutes ago, Sunshine said:

There is nothing wrong with going into the room where I keep my scope, turning on the light and glancing lovingly once in a while...is there? 🥴 have I just revealed too much? oh boy🤐

Dont worry i am closet glancer too. That needs to be the next thread. Who enjoys a glance. 🤣

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23 minutes ago, paulastro said:

Yes Malcolm, Takahashi owners do like to talk about the experiences they have had with their telescopes.

I remember a post about Takahashi telescopes a little while ago which was about the merits of licking the lense of their Takahashi!  I kid you not.  I remember who posted it, but I'm not saying 😇.

I think being a bit barmy helps if you're an astronomer, but Takahashi owners do seem to take barmyness to a new level 🤪.

 

 

I've noticed the same thing with other brands like TEC, A-P, TeleVue, LZOS and probably a few others but the relative scarcity of their scopes on the used market (especially in the UK), the fact that many of them are not available to buy off the shelf at the best of times (or available at all in the case of A-P), and their much higher cost of entry relative to Tak means there are far fewer people talking about them.

People love to eulogise about an expensive purchase they really enjoy, although I've sometimes wondered whether they're trying to convince themselves that spending all that money was a good idea! Then again I've seen a similar tendency in others to heap praise on very cheap telescopes, sometimes accompanied by remarks that anyone buying something more expensive must have more money than sense.

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