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


John
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My take on this is based upon personal experience and akin to what others have said.

My first big dob was a 12" SW flextube goto, I liked using it but it was quite a beast to shift around, didn't hold collimation particularly well and it's tracking was ok to a point. Anyway, I sold it and got myself a 10" Orion Pushto.

I really did enjoy using the pushto as it was quiet, very easy to lug around and kept you in touch with the sky so was a little more interactive however there was a problem, it was 10".

During early lock down I started getting itchy for more aperture again, 14 or 16 inch was what I had in mind. I also wanted something I could settle with and call my forever scope.

I looked at the usual suspects of SW and the flextubes but the weight of a 14" flextube scope was over 40kg and so it was with anything 16", too heavy.  I did consider the the ES range but some reviews made me hesitant.

I looked at different brands overseas retailers, notably Teleskop Express and that is where I came across the Taurus. Did a little reading on here and found someone who owned one. Hearing nothing but good things I took the plunge.

In my eyes it is a thing of pure beauty. It is pushto so quiet and works with a phone app so keeps you very much in touch with the skies, it is very lightweight at just 22kg so very portable and it is given a lovely Oak look finish.  I added the optional bells and whistles because I thought if this is going to be my forever scope, I do not want to find myself wanting once I own it.  I could have got a SW flextube for less than half what I paid for the Taurus 14" but in my eyes it is worth every penny and won't be leaving me until my health tells me to stop. 

In short the quality in this instance was worth paying extra for as it ticked all my boxes and even some I didn't know I had. 

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1 minute ago, vlaiv said:

Those Hyperion eyepieces are interesting example.

I've read so many reports on those and wonder how come they are still being made. So many reports said that they are not worth asking price. Never tried one of them myself though so can't really tell.

Are they really that bad?

Awful in a fast scope such as an F5 dob but put them in a mak and they are great eyepieces.

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54 minutes ago, vlaiv said:

What about independent testing?

We simply record sight thru two different scopes and compare results? In fact - doing simulations, there is very very little difference between diffraction limited aperture (Strehl 0.8) and perfect aperture (Strehl 1).

Reports often indicate that difference is more than simulations say there could be, so I'm wondering about observer bias in all of that.

Running blind testing multiple times. To see if results are changing over time (consistency ).Simulations could miss things only a human eye could perceive maybe ? 

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Not entirely envy, but I recently saw a famous science advocate ask a rank
beginner question re. his VERY expensive scope?!? I almost suggested he
"Buy a book" -- In same way he often suggests that, re. those he writes? 🤡

Sometimes I think it no BAD thing to buy a scope that is "commensurate
with your abilities"? But there is nothing WRONG with owning the most
expensive... "whatever" you can afford? Share your "fortune" by helping
others better understand Telescopes... Once you have learnt yourself?!? 😅

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7 minutes ago, bomberbaz said:

My take on this is based upon personal experience and akin to what others have said.

My first big dob was a 12" SW flextube goto, I liked using it but it was quite a beast to shift around, didn't hold collimation particularly well and it's tracking was ok to a point. Anyway, I sold it and got myself a 10" Orion Pushto.

I really did enjoy using the pushto as it was quiet, very easy to lug around and kept you in touch with the sky so was a little more interactive however there was a problem, it was 10".

During early lock down I started getting itchy for more aperture again, 14 or 16 inch was what I had in mind. I also wanted something I could settle with and call my forever scope.

I looked at the usual suspects of SW and the flextubes but the weight of a 14" flextube scope was over 40kg and so it was with anything 16", too heavy.  I did consider the the ES range but some reviews made me hesitant.

I looked at different brands overseas retailers, notably Teleskop Express and that is where I came across the Taurus. Did a little reading on here and found someone who owned one. Hearing nothing but good things I took the plunge.

In my eyes it is a thing of pure beauty. It is pushto so quiet and works with a phone app so keeps you very much in touch with the skies, it is very lightweight at just 22kg so very portable and it is given a lovely Oak look finish.  I added the optional bells and whistles because I thought if this is going to be my forever scope, I do not want to find myself wanting once I own it.  I could have got a SW flextube for less than half what I paid for the Taurus 14" but in my eyes it is worth every penny and won't be leaving me until my health tells me to stop. 

In short the quality in this instance was worth paying extra for as it ticked all my boxes and even some I didn't know I had. 

👍 they do look like great scopes, at a good price point too!

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3 minutes ago, neil phillips said:

Obviously the scopes being tested would need to be as close as possible. Focal length. Apeture.  glass types ect. Otherwise little point.

Not sure if that is needed.

We can simply do the test between two same class scopes - to see which one performs better and by what margin.

For example - I did small shootout between 4" Mak and 4" F/10 achromat on Jupiter this summer. I was actually surprised that frac pulled ahead and by how much. I think main issue there was thermal stability and will love to do the test again. Frac had obvious color issues - but view was sharp end detail was there (more than I expected).

If I had color rendition of Mak and sharpness of that achromat in say 4" F/7 ED - I'd say that is as good as 4" aperture can provide and would be surprised if any 4" scope could deliver significantly better image, cheap or expensive.

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1 minute ago, vlaiv said:

Not sure if that is needed.

We can simply do the test between two same class scopes - to see which one performs better and by what margin.

For example - I did small shootout between 4" Mak and 4" F/10 achromat on Jupiter this summer. I was actually surprised that frac pulled ahead and by how much. I think main issue there was thermal stability and will love to do the test again. Frac had obvious color issues - but view was sharp end detail was there (more than I expected).

If I had color rendition of Mak and sharpness of that achromat in say 4" F/7 ED - I'd say that is as good as 4" aperture can provide and would be surprised if any 4" scope could deliver significantly better image, cheap or expensive.

I thought the point of the test was to see if the premium instruments could be picked by the owners of such instruments ? Or if other less expensive alternatives could do just as well. If that was the criteria. No point in throwing a achromatic lens in there ?

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2 minutes ago, neil phillips said:

I thought the point of the test was to see if the premium instruments could be picked by the owners of such instruments ? Or if other less expensive alternatives could do just as well. If that was the criteria. No point in throwing a achromatic lens in there ?

I see your point, and yes - no point in throwing an achromat in there as it has "dead giveaway" feature, but what about 4" mak?

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8 minutes ago, JeremyS said:

But I know what my Taks smell like 🤔

But that is a interesting point. Can you imagine if no one had thought of that, And everyone was 100% identifying the scope. And yet the views were so close. Statistically there should have been some variance. Everyone would be scratching there heads wondering what was going on. And all along they could smell their instrument. That is pretty funny i have to admit

Edited by neil phillips
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40 minutes ago, vlaiv said:

And what about all the scopes in between?

Don't know is the honest answser vlaiv. I used them in an 8" SCT years back and loved them, then upgraded to the previously mentioned 12"  F4.7 dob and ugh. Great on axis but outside about 50% and quite mushy.

My guess is and it is just that is they would be ok down to F8

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15 minutes ago, neil phillips said:

But that is a interesting point. Can you imagine if no one had thought of that, And everyone was 100% identifying the scope. And yet the views were so close. Statistically there should have been some variance. Everyone would be scratching there heads wondering what was going on. And all along they could smell their instrument. That is pretty funny i have to admit

I could also detect  @johninderby’s mounts blindfolded, too. That lovely aroma of Aeroshell 33 grease 👍🏻

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33 minutes ago, vlaiv said:

I see your point, and yes - no point in throwing an achromat in there as it has "dead giveaway" feature, but what about 4" mak?

What would worry me is, if there was anything in the different designs that became a giveaway. Even subtly, would invalidate the test. I am uncertain of course. if that would apply or not ? Let the experts figure that one out

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1 hour ago, vlaiv said:

And what about all the scopes in between?

When I tested them back in 2010 the scopes I used were a 250mm F/4.8 newtonian, an F/5.9 150mm mak-newtonian and an F/6.5 102mm ED doublet refractor. The astrgmatism (which is what I think I was seeing) was very apparent in the outer 20% of the field with the newtonain and quite a lot less, but still there to some extent, in the slower scopes. I suspect that @bomberbaz is correct that around F/8 and slower will enable the Hyperions to show their full qualities (and they do have them).

The Hyperions are thoughtfully designed and nicely made eyepieces.

Edited by John
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19 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 wanted to try and test everything so I bought pretty much everything that can fit on my balcony. My eyes are not perfect so take this with a grain of salt. What I am left here with is a simple 127 Maksutov that puts to shame all premium, mid and low range refractors in ~80mm for planetary and Moon (this is what I can see from my polluted sky). Yes, even Takahashi 76. On to refractors. I thoroughly tested Tak 76 and Altair 80ED-R. I really liked the Tak but Altair is just as sharp and a little brighter as well. Focuser is much much better on Altair. The weight is the same. Guess which one I am left with? Unfortunately Tak is not worth it in my opinion when the view is the same and everything else is better on Altair. I suspect that at the end I will be left with Maksutov for quick planetary and Moon and sell Altair as I am looking for smaller refractor to fully automate EAA sessions.

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Many people are drawn to expensive items whether they can afford them or not. The feel good factor plays a large part. My neighbour across the road is a decent bloke but insists on buying Audi and BMW. Our vastly cheaper Toyota and KIA are massively reliable, have better mpg, cost less to service, are chocca with gadgets, comfortable and nice to drive. I read a car magazine review of our specific KIA and the reviewer actually stated he couldn't fathom why anyone would spend twice as much on the 'premium' brand equivalent.

Undoubtedly the expensive telescope brands are superior, but as discussed above, just how superior is really unclear and debatable.

Ultimately if you can afford £5k for a telescope, good luck to you. I'll never spend that much because I can't afford to. I'll have to make do with a Tecnosky 125/975 for my next scope. 😁

The good thing about astronomy as a hobby, is snobbery seems to be pretty much absent.The people with expensive gear are often delighted to let others have a peek and those with experience to match are usually incredibly helpful. 👍

Edited by ScouseSpaceCadet
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18 hours ago, RobertI said:

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! 

I think your motives are sound Rob. There have been true classics over the years that still have a faithful following and that still grab my attention no matter how often I see them.  Unitron is the brand I still lust after, even though a modern apo or ED is likely to be a better scope in nearly every way, apart from looks. Its an illness!

When I first saw through a SW120ED I thought it was the nearest thing to the views through a Takahashi FS128 I'd seen. It was very Tak!  Probably in buying a Tak you are ensuring a truly high spec lens from Canon Optron, where as the SW ED hasn't got the same guaranteed quality control. The difference may be the SW may display a little more SA and CA, but unless you like to heap on the magnification way above 300X to say 500X or even 1000X, you're unlikely to notice a world of difference.

Edited by mikeDnight
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7 hours ago, JeremyS said:

I agree John. The thing about top end telescopes is that they will last more than a lifetime - at least that’s how I justify to myself. The next iPhone or car will be outdated in a few months. I don’t go with high end ephemera like these

Alas Jeremy, there is a caveat to what you say.  If you get to live long enough, any telescope you buy might last for your life time, not only 'top end 'ones.  I have to admit,  I'm old enough that a life long guarantee is no longer a factor in making a purchase decission 😁.

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