|Description:||The ultimate finderscope:|
I feel privileged to be writing the first full review on the Takahashi FSQ-85 as far as I know, anywhere in the American market. My intention is to assist the prospective buyer in making up his mind whether to get the FSQ-85 or FSQ-106, NP-101, NP—127, or the TMB-92, -or the 85 versus some slower and inexpensive (but well performing) refractor from Orion for literally thousands less. I won’t touch on any of these (except for a few blurbs on the 106), but knowing more about the 85 will certainly give you much more to work with. I so wish I had this review to read before I made my purchase.
You will also learn a bit about Takahashi’s weak link, the Sky-90, in case you may be considering it also. I grew to love that scope in the few months I owned it, but like any on/off relationship, just could not get past a specific behavior. That was its poor wide field performance. During my research period of which short focal length telescope to purchase after I sold the 90, I couldn’t find anyone who advocated buying this particular model (the 85) for visual work only. I should add that this review will focus on its visual performance as well as the logic regarding the purchase. Not what it can do with ten pounds of photographic equipment attached to the focuser. We have all seen countless images that the 85 has taken, and we know it is the absolute best astrograph available in its aperture class, and even higher. I stumbled on a few folks who have opined that this scope does a great job visually, but before I bought the Sky-90, I read that also. Please be assured that this will be an accurate assessment of the FSQ-85 and the circumstances surrounding it, because I realize the purchaser will take my opinion seriously, and with some gravity. Just my way of contributing, since these reviews have always helped my greatly in my decision-making process.
Your choice to buy this telescope is probably hinging on the fact that it is extremely expensive for an 85mm instrument. Of the Sky-90, my biggest gripe was that it is “unquestionably overpriced.” And the FSQ-85 is a grand more. Perhaps you are more seriously considering the FSQ-106, because at least you can get a decent amount of light gathering for the money. $1300 more money. And 7 pounds more weight. And more bulk. And more wind loading. And balance and mount issues. And more of an objective surface area to catch that tiny foreign debris. And more chances for the formation of dew. And a narrower field. -All for slightly better resolution. Having said all this, if I wasn’t so portable, I would own the 106. I actually got very close to ordering it, but three things stood in the way:
1- Weight – inconvenient to carry to say, New Hampshire to explore the high peaks. Also, dangerous to piggyback on my particular LX200 because my mounting rail is offset to one side
2- lesser field of view
3- does not work at native with binoviewers as the 85 is purported to
In fact, the most attractive thing about the 85 is its alleged ability to work with binoviewers without any amplification. The TMB 92L or 92SS achieve this by way of a user-removable extension tube, but it is still a (now truncated) triplet with a very short focal length, which will no doubt lead to field correction problems. To a bino viewer, the ability to utilize one’s binoviewers at such a low magnification would be truly remarkable. Especially if the field ultimately results in one with no false color and is well corrected.
The Flatfield Super Quadruplet 85 has an outrageously short focal length of 450mm, at a fast f5.3. This will give you a 44mm image circle without a reducer, and a 4.66 degree true field of view with a 100 degree 21mm Ethos. Sweet! (The TFOV in my Mak is 0.73 – ugg.) If you want to really get crazy, add the very expensive reducer and you’ll be down to f3.9 and 328mm of focal length – with a reported four extra elements of glass to contend with, which brings me to my next point. If you go to different websites, the specifications will vary. Why, I don’t know. But the numbers are all over the place pertaining to just about every aspect of this scope. Prior to purchasing the Sky-90, I read on OPT’s site (no reflection on them as this is on almost every dealer site) – “The Takahashi Sky 90 is a refractor telescope par excellence - created for the optical connoisseur.” This was simply not true. I just lost a few hundred dollars in the resale because of this misleading advertising. During your research for the 85, you will encounter some erroneous numbers by Tak along with: “With over 200mm of back focus, it can accommodate any combination of diagonals or binoviewer.” Well, I have tried every combination, and it does not work. And I have very common and popular equipment in the Tele-Vue Bino-Vue and 24mm Panoptics.
Now you would think I would have been very upset finding this out, since the assumed binoviewer ability is why I bought the Tak diagonal at $420. But my dealings with Takahashi regarding their short focus equipment have taught me to take what they say in their advertising with some skepticism. Not to mention the fact that where I’m from, a parking space is a negotiation. Besides, with that short focal length, I am going to have an approximate 40X view with the extender installed anyway, so I’m happy. Although I could be down to a sweet 30X without the Extender! The quote should read, “With over 200mm of back focus, it MAY accommodate some combinations of diagonals or binoviewers, as long as you purchase the SPECIFIC diagonal or binoviewer and accessories for hundreds of dollars more.” In my particular case, I would have to get the Baader T-2 prism (because prisms shorten the light path over a mirror) diagonal @ $240 and the Takahashi TCD0008 Feldstein Adapter #4 @ $165. Quite ludicrous, really.
Even if you manage, by some miracle, to get the original 2” Tak diagonal to work without its tubes on either side, you have to lay out a lot of bread only to find that now you cannot install the Extender at will because the diagonal is so tightly attached to the focuser because you don’t want the tall bino assembly to turn upside-down on you. Not to mention the fact that the scope is probably sitting sideways because there is a great chance that the threads are not going to line up so that the scope is oriented upright. The major problem with these scenarios is that when you’re out in the field, you don’t want to be exposing the rear element to contaminants, as the glass is tricky to clean on these fine scopes. You really want to put that task off as long as possible – like every two or three years or so. All it takes is a minute capillary leak of the cleaning fluid between a group of elements and it could cost you big time in sending the instrument back to Japan. Not Texas, Japan. Personally, when it comes time to clean, I am simply going to hang the telescope upside-down and clean it.
In the case of the Baader, taking the binos out and then the diagonal off and unscrewing a ring and then screwing the ocular adapter back on and then inserting the other diagonal with the Extender and ocular or binoviewers is not acceptable. Of course, you could simply go to the field and leave the TCD0008 Feldstein Adapter #4 attached to the focuser, along with the Baader T-2 and your binoviewers and just view with those all night. I for one don’t appreciate being held hostage in this way. The binoviewing aspect was a big selling point for me. Even with my skepticism, I should have known better. If Takahashi didn’t make the exact scope I was looking for, I’d have no tolerance for them or their dealer, with whom I spoke. TNR didn’t have a clue how to get my binos to work, even though they are somewhat obligated to. I find them selective with what they will assist with. I received much more help from our kind forum friend Tammy. Can you imagine Tele-Vue operating in this manner? No way. And if TV produced a similar scope with the right numbers for my application, I would have easily jumped on it because I love everything about that open and honest company. I couldn’t get the TV85 because it’s f.7. I needed faster so that I could just reach up to the Canon 40D and press the button for the maximum 30-second exposure. Most times, I do not want to be bothered by hooking up the TC-8093 remote controller. F.7 would not let enough light in during the 30-second span. Also, it, like the NP-101, is too physically long for me.
I immediately sold the camera angle adjuster because it ate too much back focus. Did they calculate the BF with this piece on or off? Obviously, it should have been with it off. Even with the Extender, the binos would not work with it on. Now does this mean it does not work with all binos? Maybe not. However, I’m keeping the TV’s because they are very comfortable and are already top of the line. As usual, Tak should be more careful in their wording. Let’s just take the basics. How much does the 85 weigh? I see it at 7.5 pounds, and I see it at 8.8 pounds. Sorry, in good conscience, I don’t own an accurate-enough scale to tell you. And just how long is this scope, just in case, like me, you have a favorite carrying case lined up? The instrument is 14.5 inches (368mm) long with the dewshield retracted, and 18” (457mm) long with it extended. One inch equals 25.4 millimeters. 25.4 millimeters equals one inch. The measurements are from the edge of the dew shield to the edge of the focuser with nothing installed, which would define the term Optical Tube Assembly. I fail to see the difficulty in listing accurate figures. I wish I could work out all of the numbers they get wrong in their specifications, but I am afraid I might make a mistake and create more confusion, so I did the simplest. I double dare you to find my numbers. I have seen it listed at 12”, and I have seen it listed at 25”. It all seems so comical, but what if these numbers are important to the potential buyer? If you need to know a certain value, please feel free to contact me and I will do my best to calculate an accurate number for you using my scope itself. I’m quite sure your dealer would be understanding in your return of the instrument for this reason, but none of us really need the hassle.
When you open the box, you are kind of expecting to be disappointed. Especially me, being primarily a CAT man. I have spent less money and have opened boxes from Mr. Brown and been really thrilled at huge, heavy, computer-controlled optical tube assemblies with thick black fork mounts and elegant bases. I recall receiving the Sky-90 – looking down unimpressed, saying, “This little thing better be good.” When I saw the textured lime green 85 in person for the first time, through the foam peanuts and bubble wrap, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it is quite a meaty telescope, seeming far larger than the images online. The 80mm rack-and-pinion designed focuser seems like it can hold a small car, and the paint job, not one of Takahashi’s strong points, is beautiful – as long as you don’t closely examine it along the edges. I ran my finger over the red stripe on the dew shield and found that it is not a cheesy decal, and the points just keep coming. As you hold it in your hands, you get the feeling that you actually did get something for all that money. And if that is the case, IF that is the case, everything, I think, will be okay. The only thing I would mention is the lens cap, which really should be a screw-on metal type, as with this one, it seems you could take the paint off the dew shield from the constant pulling off and pushing on. BTW, why are NYC manhole covers round? So they don’t fall in! There’s a reason I mention this. Tak’s logic could be that with a flat, round disk, and the dew shield pulled back, it would be easier to accidentally impact the objective with the edge of the cap trying to screw it on - especially with gloved hands. Though who pulls the dew shield back before they install the lens cap?
FSQ-85 - $3100 ($8,300 with the Temma II)
Takahashi 2” diagonal – $420
Extender Q - $420
Tube holder - $200 (comes with an offset plate, which was a nice surprise)
Finder and bracket - $335 (I use a right-angle Orion - $110)
Focal reducer - $600 (I didn’t buy this but you possibly will)
Plus you will need some of Tak’s infamous tubes and adapters for your specific needs, as well as at least one fine ocular. I would recommend a big, fat expensive Nagler or Ethos to take advantage of the 450mm FL.
As you can see, the package is well over five thousand dollars. What do you think? So far so good? Probably not. It’s the 85mm that gets in the way. This is not a lot of aperture for that kind of money. Geez Louise! It doesn’t even qualify to be called a grab-and-go four-inch scope!
My reason for obtaining such a small high-quality refractor was simple. I needed a very short-focus flat-field visual scope to be piggybacked on my very long focal length (3000mm) Meade Maksutov LX200GPS. I didn’t want to spend anymore than was necessary for the Sky-90, (truth be told, I have no limit when it comes to pure quality – even if I have to hit the credit union,) but I also didn’t want any Sky-90 problems. Additionally, I wanted the finest grab and go flat field instrument so I could enjoy the sky the way it was meant to be enjoyed. No silly and annoying aberrations that totally ruin a nice asterism, just a sharp, pinpointed field and ultra-high contrast DSOs. Long focal length observing can be very rewarding, but seeing things in their vast natural surroundings is magical and a pure joy to behold. Finally, I need a portable high contrast tool for terrestrial exploration of high mountains and other natural wonders.
First light preparation:
The NYC Clear Sky Clock indicates that it will be clear and cold on this turbulent late October night, with the transparency listed as average, and the seeing poor. Testing will be done first on Jupiter as it passes as close to my zenith as possible. The scope has been outside cooling for two hours.
I use a 2.5mm Vixen for collimation checks. The eyepiece did not come to focus straight through, so I had to order another extension tube. If you have never owned a Tak, you would be well advised to expect very small rings and things at very high prices, even higher from TNR. The extra extension tube (Tele-Vue – half the price!) arrived and I pieced the puzzle together- and now I find that collimation is perfect. Always a relief. The initial star test reveals perfect concentric discs inside and outside of focus, with a tight central point. There is no indication of spherical aberration, however, physically, there is focus shift. I will attribute this to the fact that the unit is new and stiff, and the ambient temperature is fairly cold. Also, please regard that a star-test is sensitive to atmospheric conditions, and I am under a polluted city sky.
Theoretically, the rule is that you should use about 50X per inch of aperture max, but I have always fancied a value of half that, or 1X per millimeter of aperture, because it tends to be the best as far as receiving a clear and concise image. Something I discovered many years ago and contrary to popular belief, going over this amount will usually not exhibit enough additional detail to warrant going any further, unless you simply want more scale. I have always preferred crystal clear definition. So, I will probably use this scope at 85X maximum, but for testing purposes, we shall push it a bit and see what it can do-
For the sake of accuracy, let’s try one night of observing from the city, and one night out at Jones Beach State Park on Long Island.
Oculars used are the TV binos with the 24mm Pans, a 21mm Ethos, a 6mm Radian, a TV 2X barlow, and the 2.5mm Vixen, plus of course, the Tak 1.5X Extender ED.
For the rest of this review, please see the REVIEW section in Astromart or Cloudynights. It seems it is too long for Excelsis.