TeleVue 85 Refractor
By Bill Dellinges
I bought this little gem for a “grab and go” telescope. It’s a 85mm (3.346”) F7, 600mm focal length, 2 element APO. The OTA is 19” long excluding diagonal. The idea was to have a small but optically excellent scope on a simple alt-az mount for simplicity (i.e., no heavy equatorial mount requiring a battery). I first ordered a brass model. I didn’t care for what appeared to be dust particles on the inside surface of the objective. The vendor agreed to take it back. At the same time I asked for a green model as a replacement as I found the brass difficult to keep clean in only the 24 hours I had it. The new scope arrived with even more dust particles on the inside surface of the objective. The vendor asked me to deal with TeleVue from this point on and banned me from doing business with them- a unique distinction I’m proud of. I called TeleVue and they agreed to take a look at it, so off it went to N.Y. It came back mostly cleaned but there was still one large speck on the lens. Tired of shipping scopes, I removed the speck of dust with a long wood dowel with a lens brush taped to it by running it up through the tube from the eyepiece end. I could have done this all along but never knew exactly what those specks were, in the beginning. All is well now. I’m very happy with the telescope and glad I bought it though sometimes think it funny that I have $2800 invested in it with mount and for $200 more could have bought a Nexstar 11! The TV85 is a beautiful looking scope weighing 8 pounds with diagonal and tube ring. It has a nice smooth slide-out dew cap.
I opted for the Telepod head with Handle ($230) to place on a Bogen 3236 tripod ($221) to support the scope. It works very well, movement being smooth in both altitude and azimuth. Damping time is 4 seconds, 2 with vibration pads. I added a Caddy ($55) and Starbeam finder ($205). I highly recommend the Caddy and Handle. The whole system weighs about 25 pounds. The finder is pricey and I think you could get by with a cheaper red dot finder.
The focuser is silky smooth. However, you will have to use the tension screw on top of the focuser to add drag to the drawtube on any eyepiece (e.p.) heavier than a standard 1 ¼” when the scope is aimed high. I didn’t find this to be a problem and quickly got used to using it routinely. It does not mar the drawtube. The telescope comes with a 2” diagonal and 1 ¼’ adapter. I retired the supplied 20mm TV plossl e.p. and use a Pentax 21mm XL e.p. (29x) for its superior eye relief.
This little scope is a killer. The stories I’ve heard about its surprising performance (for a 3.3”) appear to be true. First light views of the Superstition Mountains took my breath away. The images were tack sharp and contrasty. With a TV 32mm Pl at 19x, I can resolve all four stars in the Trapezium. Castor (3.9”) no problem at 100x. Beta Mon triple resolved at 100x. Zeta Ori (2.6”) split at 69x. Rigel, difficult due to unequal magnitudes of 0.1 and 6.8, 9.5” split at 60x. Saturn was razor sharp one night at 143x, better than my Questar. One aspect of the scope I really like is its ability to act like a richfield telescope. I love the huge fields I can get out of this F7 peashooter allowing me to see larger star fields than I’ve been accustomed to with F10 SCT’s over the years. The Pleiades are a knock out at 27x and 3 degrees of field with a 22mm Nagler. Maximum field is 4.4 degrees with a 2” 55mm e.p. Yep, I gotta a keeper here.
Any negatives? How about the cost! While I like the alt-az mount for quick, easy pointing, I must say I miss a tracking mount for observing planets (or anything) at high power. The telepod handle prevents aiming the scope at the zenith. It can be quickly unscrewed however and stored on the caddy. Though it works, for esthetic purposes, I wish TV had made this scope with a tube commensurate with the lens cell size. It utilizes the same tube as the Pronto 70mm, so it looks a little goofy to me. That is, a huge lens cell area compared to a smaller tube. To my knowledge no other refractor is made like that. I think Uncle Al tried to save on materials by using Pronto tube stock for their 85’s. I don’t like it and let him know how I felt about it long ago. He replied he thought it looked cool.
In conclusion: this is probably the best 3.3” portable scope a person could buy. Pricey, yes. But think how neat it would be to tuck this little jewel under your arm and fly to the southern hemisphere for a look-see.