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VMC110L w/Porta II

Posted by Hugh Peck   11/11/2009 12:00AM

Negatives first: I didn't like the plastic cap as it doesn't fit properly and can be hard to put on. It took a couple of minutes to put it back on after viewing. I'm going to have to take a Dremel tool and a grinding wheel to the cap to try remove some of the plastic to enlarge the cap enough to fit snugly but still be easy to take off and out back on. It really is a poorly made item.

The other big annoyance is with the slow motion control cables. Like most I have seen they are held on by a single set screw which don't tighten well. This has been a problem since I first used a scope in 30 years ago. A set with two set screws would be much better at staying on but apparently a second screw would be too great a financial burden for the manufacturers. Or making the tolerances tight enough that simply turning the handle didn't cause the set screw to loosen and start to back out.

There are a couple of things with the tripod that shouldn't be due to the cost. Both the "strengthener"/accessory tray and the three support arms it fastens to are plastic. The tray is also too small to be of any use. I didn't use it at the "screw" to hold it to the support arms is also plastic and it's useless size. The legs make a rather horrid screeching sound when the extensions are pushed back up. This happens regardless of how loose the clamps are, whether the tripod is warm or clod or how one holds the tripod.

Fortunately, these are fairly minor things with the exception of the endcap not fitting properly and the controls not wanting to stay which are not minor.

That said, the setup is very nice. The tripod does care the load well, though I would not use it for anything larger than a 5" reflector. The mount and tripod are fastened together by a large handled captive screw on the tripod mounting plate. This allow the mount to be used with Vixen's tabletop tripod.

The mount itself is well designed and well made. It is very smooth and sturdy with several adjustment for handle positions which make it convenient for using the scope as a spotter. The keys for the adjustment screws are in the base of the mount so it isn't necessary to carry them separately if, for instance, one is going camping and plans on using the scope both during the day and at night. This is my 16th or 17th scope and it has the best alt-az mount I've ever used.

The scope itself is very good. The design, which like a Rumak Mak-Cass is an open tube design, does seem to help somewhat with cooling. It also has the black background of newts or higher quality refractors in contrast to the "dark grey" of the S-C and M-C scopes I've owned/looked through in the past. Of course, that is also helped by living in an area where the closest city over a few thousand people is 45 miles away.

Optically, it is what one would expect from something with Vixen on the side. It is one of the best I've owned. The only one I would give an edge to would be a Vixen made C-6 I owned back in the mid-80s. The bands on Jupiter were easily noticeable at 32x and it's "Big 4" moons were bright little pinpoint dots. Stars in clusters stood out in high contrast to the very dark background. I have not used it on the moon or galaxies nor at high powers. I limited myself to 32x, 41x, and 74x. I used an Owl 32mm, Antares W70 25mm and a 14mm Speers-WALER so it will work rather well with lower quality eyepieces.

I replaced the red dot thingy with a finder: an Orion 6x30 RACI which is very easy to use due to the well designed placement of the finder shoe holder's placement on the scope. Some scope, such as the older C-5s had the holder too far forward for easy RACI use as they were designed for straight-thru finders.

Also added was a 45* correct image diagonal for daytime viewing. This works rather well with the flip mirror system. Even with the diagonal in the end visual back it was not in the way at all when using the top port for astronomical viewing. Neither of the other 2 people who used the scope even noticed the diagonal.

It is a rather light telescope so it's easy to move. The tripod/mount combination is also light and fairly easy to move although I prefer to have them separated as the mount really shifts the center of gravity. Since it only take 20 seconds to reattach the mount it's really a nice convenience. It's a nice, stable setup with plenty of adjustments available for the mount, including tension.

I did not use the included eyepiece so I cannot comment on that.

Overall, I think it was well worth the money.