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Stellavue F502M Finderscope


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For those of you wondering what to buy yourself for Christmas this year heres something for consideration :rolleyes: Its actually what I bought myself for Christmas so technically I cant use it yet but I cried a bit and threw myself on the floor and was allowed to use it just 'to check its ok in case its duff and needs to go back'

Anyway here its is - the Stellarvue F50M - I believe these may be a generic finder sourced from China (isn't everything) but this one came from the USA.

Anyway heres a pic and a brief review of it........

Stellarvue F502 9x50 RACI illuminated Finder

Having tried out a range of finder scopes of late to find something I liked and having had a few disappointments I decided to bite the bullet, get the purse out and accept that I'll have to go without shoes a bit to try the Stellarvue F502 finder scope. Now this product runs in rather expensive in fact for a similar spec its the most expensive finder by far.

What it promised though was a near perfect piece of optics. So how did it perform ?

First Impressions Out of the Box

We are talking pure class. This little scope IS a serious quality telescope in its own right. It arrived packed in a deep die cut foam lined box such as is usually reserved only for REAL telescopes not mere finders. Make no mistake this is a REAL telescope albeit in miniature.

The initial impression of the SV F502 is that it’s a joy. Its fit and finish is perfect. The main scope tube is in a dusty black finish that has a slight ‘crackle’ coat type of feel (its also produced in a gloss white version) and all of its main parts are made of metal.

Unscrewing the long lens shade revealed edge blackened main optics. The lens shade is very deep which should provide some protection against dew as well as stray light and its both ridged internally and painted a flat black.

Coatings on the main optics are of the best quality showing a lustrous finish. The scope is quite fast at a tad below F4 and designed to give bright images.

The unit features a rotatable eyepiece held in place by a small thumbscrew and features helical focusing for the main optics plus separate helical focusing for the reticule. The reticule is a standard crosshair and is VERY fine, I would suggest if you think about buying this unit make sure you get an illuminator. The super fine etching on the reticules single crosshair would be near impossible to see under a dark sky.

I opted for the Rigel Pulseguide illuminator on mine which allows you to use both the brightness of the reticule and whether you want the illuminator pulsed on and off. Two small settings on the illuminator allow you to set the LEDs on and off duration periods. The Illuminator also came with an alternate yellow LED which can be installed to replace the standard red LED. Some imagers prefer the yellow illumination I am told. The Rigel Pulseguide looked a little plastic and I was not crazy about the odd battery size it uses but that’s a very minor moan in an otherwise perfect finder scope.

The F502 comes with a removable very high quality 23mm eyepiece which offers a good field of view and comfortable eye relief at around 19mm. The eyepiece has a soft fold down rubber cup as well as soft rubber grips for the twin helical focusers and lens caps for both the objective lens and the eyepiece. It all adds up to a quality piece of equipment.

As the F502 can not use a standard quick release finder bracket due to its wider body I also ordered up the Stellarvue F50D mounting rings and stalk. These also are extremely well made and a bargain at the low price Stellarvue charge for these fittings. The collimating screws are plastic/nylon tipped to stop them from damaging the F502s beautiful finish.

Stellarvue don’t appear to have a UK distributor so I ordered mine from OptCorp a US store. Their service was fantastic and they got me the scope delivered only 3 days after I ordered. Pretty good going from California. All told the unit plus the Rigel Pulseguide and the finder rings fittings cost £235 delivered to my door.

First Light

The views through the F502 are superb and every bit as good as I had hoped. The scope was used standalone for the first clear night and the views were quite amazing for a finder scope. This truly is a standalone telescope in its own right on a par with a small spotting scope. Focusing is smooth and precise. The Rigel Illuminator takes a little getting used to but works very well.

Focus is near perfect for about 80% of the view with the supplied eyepiece which is perfectly acceptable given the fast focal ratio of this scope. Views were bright and clear on a range of objects.

Mounting to the scope was simple enough but collimating the F502 to the main scope optics proved a bit of a challenge. Used as I am to the ease of the quick release finders supplied on the Sky-Watcher hardware I found the collimating rings a bit fiddly. I only hope it holds alignment as well as the Baader Sky-Surfer over time. I did find that the Vixen shoe on the finders stalk was a bit too small and as a result the fitting can tend to wobble unless the accessory shoe on the scope is tightened down very hard. The stalk is also rather tall. This may suit a refractor but the mounting is too high for stability in my opinion for an EQ mounted reflector.

Mounted on the main scope the Stellarvue F502 is quite heavy. Its stated weight for the scope alone is 19oz but with its mounting hardware and the Pulseguide Illuminator it tips the scales at just over 2lb.

That’s not a big problem for my telescope but a Dobsonian owner might advised to get some back end weights especially if they also like heavyweight EPs.

It just gets better….

As if the perfect fit and finish and beautiful design weren’t enough the F502 can also accept any other 1.25” eyepiece. I tried mine with a small selection of mid range Plossl eyepieces, a Baader Hyperion and even with a Barlow. I found that eyepieces above 10mm work tolerably well, around 13mm the F502 really picks up and at 20mm plus the scope is perfect. This is about what you would expect from any scope with such a fast focal ratio when matched to average quality eyepieces. The supplied 23mm is obviously well corrected to suit the scope. So there you are – not only can you use it as a finder you can use it as a small spotting scope in its own right with any 1.25” eyepiece you already own. You can also remove the supplied 23mm eyepiece and plug it into your main scope if desired.

Verdict

Simply the best – if you are prepared to eat beans on toast for a bit and you want the last word in finder scopes then this is the one for you. The mounting hardware for my scope is a bit weak and this will be a little project to find a better mounting. Overall though its total class and a definite keeper.

post-14805-133877409135_thumb.jpg

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I've had three Stellarvue F50 finders and two of the similar looking APM finders and the optics are definately not the same. The Stellarvue are much better. Stellarvue buys the mechanical parts in from the far east but then puts their own tested optics in them.

John

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I stand corrected then John, they do look identical to the APM finders and the price is more or less the same plus a box that says 'Made in China' led me to the conclusion they are the same scope. Mine picked up customs duty and shipping costs that were highre than bringing stuff in from Europe.

By the way I did try Altair who said they had no stock and were hard to get hold of - they sounded a bit less than enthusiastic about ordering one up when I called so I figured they werent very interested in it so I dropped it and used the dealer in the US.

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I bought one off Altair Astro last year as they had it in stock. At that time I asked them about the availability of other Stellarvue equipment and they said Stellarvue deliveries were a bit unpredictable. Oh well it looks like having to order in from the US now.

The APM 50mm and 60mm are not bad actually, just not as good as the Stellarvue. An APM 80mm I tried out however had the worst optics ever, absolutely horrible. Made my eyes go funny just trying to look through it.

The best finder I've ever used would be the Takahashi 7x50, but unfortunately it was a straight through finder so I replaced it with a Stellarvue F50 right angle.

John

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The Stellarvue finders are superb. I think that Altair Astro is the only UK stockist of them. Stellarvue makes the optics themselves, there not imported from China.

http://www.bazaarbuilder.com/cgi-bin/nickaltair/myshop.php?catparid=321&merchant=nickaltair&page=3

John

Hi Guys, they are manufactured in China. Altair no longer stock these products, having found alternatives and having sold our last few units recently. That link is a link to the old website, which won't persist for much longer, as we clear up caches post-launch of our new ecom site. My apologies for any inconvenience.

Best regards, Nick

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