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Tele Vue Focusmate Driver first light

Started by ronbee, 06/03/2006 10:07PM
Posted 06/03/2006 10:07PM Opening Post
Imagine for a moment looking into a "cup of photons" that doesn't shake the "bootie" and doesn't spill the elixir of view ;-). What could it be? You guess right: the Focusmate Driver ;-). Well, my Focusmate Driver arrived this week. Due to hectic work schedule :-(, it wasn't until yesterday that I was able to put it together.

http://users.adelphia.net/~ronbee/Toys/Images/FM-Driver-kit.jpg
http://users.adelphia.net/~ronbee/Toys/Images/FM-Driver-battery.jpg
The kit contains everything I need, the wrench, the longer length screws including alkaline battery and came with instructions that a mechanical dummy like me had no trouble.
http://users.adelphia.net/~ronbee/Toys/Images/FM-Driver-inst.jpg
According to my wristwatch, my mechanically inept prowness ;-) was able to attach the Driver onto the Focusmate seemlessly in 3 minutes!
http://users.adelphia.net/~ronbee/Toys/Images/FM-Driver-asm.jpg
I like the black color which contrast very nicely against the stain less steel color of the Focusmate and with the same matching logo on the knob. With a twist of a thumbscrew and rotating the Driver cylinder, the Driver can be engaged or disenaged at will.
http://users.adelphia.net/~ronbee/Toys/Images/FM-Driver-eng.jpg
http://users.adelphia.net/~ronbee/Toys/Images/FM-Driver-dis.jpg
http://users.adelphia.net/~ronbee/Toys/Images/FM-Driver-dis2.jpg
While engaged, the focuser cannot be used manually which makes fast disengagement all the more convenient!
Here's how the whole setup fit inside the Tele Vue hard case after I've cut the foam.
http://users.adelphia.net/~ronbee/Toys/Images/FM-Driver-incase.jpg

When I got my Focusmate last year, I noted that it would not win in the "good look" dept. albeit its subtle charm grew on me as I continue to use it. Well the rationale is now clear. Uncle Al had thought of the *total system* at the time. It's now obvious why the Focusmate looks the way it does ;-). Al also told me that he's very excited about the Driver and I now understand why. Cudo also to the custom handmade "Tele Vue machine shop" for the fine execution of the design.

First light at last with my NP127 Light Cup on my Vixen SP GEM with motor drive. Now I've used electric focuser on the Meade SCT and confessingly with envy ;-). First target was the Moon. I normally try to achieve rough focus with my 20mm TV Plossl but I didn't do it this time and the focuser had been racked all the way in. So I set the Driver to fastest speed but I felt it was still too slow for the impatient me. I disenaged the Driver (with ease and manually focus with my Focusmate. With rough focus achieved, I slipped in my 2-4mm Nagler zoom (my most often used planetary eyepiece). Crater Theophilus caught my attention. With the Driver engaged but still set to fast speed, I got to where it was close to focus. I then turned the Driver's knob to slow speed (which remained set here for the rest of the evening). Wow, no shakes whatsoever!! With practice, I learned to just "click" the backward/forward buttons. This cause the focus to change very minutely. At 4mm (165x), I immediately saw some features I haven't seen before inside Theophilus. Normally I would have to wait for the shake to settle however short that might be (normally 1 sec or much less). Just to be sure, I disengaged the Driver, and manually focus with the Focusmate. Tonight I couldn't see any difference, only the induction of the a wee bit of shakes from touching the knob ;-). I re-engaged the Driver and it remained engaged for the entire evening. After spending some 15 minutes, I discovered that I have found a new observing technique of "follow the seeing". By this I mean when the seeing changes, I kept changing the focus with the "click" to maintain focus. For this reason, I was able to obtain more time with image in focused than I could ever with manual focusing.

Next I moved to Jupiter. Wow, what fine details when seeing steady. Lots of rifts in the NEB, festoons and garlands. Again I was able to "follow the seeing."

Back to the Moon and I set the zoom to 2mm (330x). While the seeing didn't allow it tonight, the "follow the seeing" technique helped a great deal. At this high magnification, the shake would be much more apparent than at 165x when focusing manually. No shakes at all with the Driver, none
whatsoever ;-)!

I cannot begin to describe the magnitude of advantage to handless, shakeless focusing. If you have never used an electric focuser, you are in for a real treat and a big surprise with the Focusmate Driver! Just try to imagine that when you have to refocus, you get an in focused image almost instantaneously is the best I can describe it!

From the first night, there are a couple of things which I think can be improved upon.
- when reposition the OTA to a new target, I wish there was some place I can hang the control box ;-).
- the only shakes came from twisting the zoom collar. Perhaps Uncle Al is working on electric zoom eyepiece next ;-).

I'm planning to spend more time with the Driver over the next few weeks and more importantly with imaging since this was the primary reason I got the Focusmate Driver.

In summary, I felt 2003 was the year of dual-speed focuser. While electric focuser has been available for sometime (eg. JMI), I'm not sure why it has not been very popular. Well, I really feel that 2006 is the year of the *shakeless* focuser with the Tele Vue Focusmate Driver and I'm very happy that I did pick the Focusmate to begin with and now the Focusmate Driver to complete the system. The experience is truly better than I imagined! And having tasted the "unshaken and not stirred" ;-)elixir of observing view, I cannot imagine ever going back to manual focusing. Lastly, even if you don't own a Tele Vue and if there's an electric focuser option for your refractor such as those from JMI, I urge you to give it a try.

Ron the Electrical Envangelist B[ee]

PS - Back to grunt work for me ... .