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A review of three Laser Collimators.

Posted by Floyd Blue   07/11/2004 12:00AM

A review of three Laser Collimators.
Hello all,
I decided after doing an article about collimation of laser collimators, that I should write a review on the three lasers that I included in this article.
This review will try to show the best and worst characteristics of the three. It will tell about the experiences with each and the results gained through their use.

I have no affiliation with any of the companies and have paid for each of them without compensation.
There are two sizes available on the market for laser collimators, 1.25” and 2”. The size of focuser you have will influence your choice of lasers. So if some comments concerning the 1.25” seem to say they are not as good as the 2”, it does not mean that you will not benefit from using either one of these sizes.

The first one to be reviewed will be the Lasermate by Orion. My first impression is that it is made rather inexpensively and the fit and finish are not in the same category as the other two.

There are a few problems with the design. One of these seems to be common with all 1.25” lasers, that the diameter or the laser barrel is not closely fitted to the diameter of the focuser tube. This seems to be true with either a 1.25” focuser or a 1.25” to 2” adapter that comes with 2” focusers. This causes the laser to be easily misaligned to the optical path. When coupled to the excessive clearance of the adapter to the focuser tube, the problem is made even worse. The resulting inability to get the laser in the same spot each time is not very reliable and difficult to maintain. Though you can shim the barrel of the laser with tape or other methods, the combination of the play in the adapter and the laser to the adapter is a big minus.

The second problem is the switch assembly. It is a screw that is quite easy to accidentally leave on or turn on while putting it away after use or while it is in the case. The screw can be lost in the field as well, making it a poor design in my opinion.

The laser is made with a pen laser used for pointing and is collimated with three screws that require removing the label to reach them. It is the most difficult to collimate of the three from my experience. Once it is collimated, it does seem to hold collimation well enough however. The barrel is also rather short and it is difficult to see the returning beam at the focuser where it lands on the face of the laser. This is especially true in a solid tube DOB.

On the positive side, the beam is strong and easily seen and this laser can be used if you take precautions when placing it in the focuser and spinning it to make sure it is sitting straight and not at an angle. Also, be certain that it is turned off and secured so it will not accidentally turn back on again.

LaserMate's housing is made of black-anodized aluminum. Three LR-44 watch batteries (included) power the Class IIIA laser inside. Weight is 5-1/2 oz. Instructions included. One-year limited warranty. The batteries are a bit expensive to replace compared to the AAA batteries used by the other lasers.

Next in the line up is the Kendrick unit. First impression is that of a high quality well-made laser with nice fit and finish. It does not look like a laser put together from parts purchased and assembled but one that was engineered and well thought out.

The switch is well positioned and is a good rocker type that is positive in the off and on position. The barrel is machined to a close fit and has two nylon screws in the barrel for adjusting it to fit your particular focuser tube size. This is a big plus and allows you to place the laser in the barrel with repeatable results.

The 45° angle of the face of the laser and the starburst cuts in the face make it simple to see the returning beam and very accurately shows correct alignment with a symmetric starburst shape that is bright and precise. You can use it turned to the primary or toward the secondary depending on which is easier to see with your scope design.
There are four collimation screws on the barrel near the end, where they are easy to reach. Having four screws makes collimation easier and the fit of the barrel to the focuser makes it more reliable when spinning to make adjustments to the screws. Though it is not a piece of cake to collimate, it is easier than the Orion model.
I have not found anything negative to say about this laser and I find it to be a great asset to my DOB telescopes.
The laser is a class IIIA, 650 nm laser diode of less than 5 milli watts. The collimators take two AAA batteries (included). There is a one-year warranty for defects in materials and workmanship on the collimators.

Last reviewed is the LaserMax by LaserMax Inc. First impression is again, fine workmanship with attention to detail. Good fit and finish with well-engineered design. The switch is a high quality push type with a LED display to show when it is powered on. It is the only one that has 1.25” and 2” capabilities built in the laser.

The LaserMax has three screws at the end of the 1.25” portion of the barrel that are easy to reach and adjust. It was about as difficult as the Kendrick to collimate but I still find three screws more difficult to use than four. This is because four gives you adjustment in left, right, up and down when collimating.

This laser comes with a Hologram type display that is well designed and useful when first installing mirrors or when collimating them after assembly. The usefulness of this cross hair and tic design shows it’s abilities in many areas. You can tell the offset of the secondary by observing the shadow cast on a surface such as a piece of paper. It very accurately shows just how much and which direction the mirror is offset or out of center. It also shows the true center of the primary by matching the four lines and tics to the edge of the mirror until they are equal on all sides. Then the center dot of the laser is the exact center of the mirror and can be easily marked without removal.

The laser barrel does lack the adjustable nylon screws of the Kendrick laser, which is its only short fall. This means that the laser cannot be adjusted to fit the individual size of the focuser tube it is placed into for accuracy. Because of this you have to be careful about checking the accuracy of the alignment by spinning it in the focuser and carefully adjusting the focuser set screws to keep it straight. Because of this I have to rate it below the Kendrick laser for accuracy and ease of use. But it is still one fine laser collimator.

It uses a wavelength of 635 nm for highest brightness under all lighting conditions and is a FDA compliant design. It incorporates a laser light emission indicator that is a recessed switch to avoid accidental laser activation. The LaserMax is a quality industrial laser and not a pointer, has a hard anodized housing for industrial strength ruggedness and uses low cost AA batteries.
In closing, I will attempt to rate them according to my experiences using all three units.

#1 Kendrick 2” Laser $115.00
#2 LaserMax 1.25”-2” Laser $389.00
#3 Orion LaserMate Laser $64.95

Click here for more about all three of these collimators. -Ed.