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The Televue 60mm APO

Posted by Ivan Ong   08/10/2005 12:00AM

The Televue 60mm APO
The Televue 60mm APO is the smallest apochromat in the Televue refractor family. Weighing 3lb and having an aperture of 60mm with a fast focal ratio of f/6, this diminutive telescope boasts a tube length of around 10” long with the dew shield retracted. Such a compact design allows the utmost in portability and ease of use.

I’ve been using mine for 7 months now very extensively, and I continue to be impressed by its tremendous versatility. I’ve used it as a birding scope, a telephoto lens and a guidescope and as a grab-and-go scope and finally as a super finder.

As a Birding Scope

The TV-60 APO is a great birding scope. The optics is impeccably sharp, especially when paired with a variety of Radians and Naglers. I observe birds in my backyard and in the field. I typically use a Bogen tripod and pair the TV-60 with a Universal Astronomics MicroStar Alt Az mount. This arrangement is very portable and you can grab the whole setup with one hand and quickly relocate yourself with no effort whatsoever (just try to do that with a 4” scope!) I find the MicroStar highly desirable here as the optional eyepiece tray can hold 3 extra eyepieces. Previously I had used a Celestron C-90 but I find the TV-60 to be much better in terms of optical quality and versatility of magnification options. Even with a 3mm Radian in the TV 60mm, the images, while slightly dim, remain tack sharp across the field with superb contrast. In contrast, the C-90 has a lazier focus and is subjected to thermal considerations when used in the daytime.

This spring, I used the TV-60 and MicroStar setup and traveled far and wide along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is easy to park the car, jump out and be observing within a minute if you keep the TV-60/MicroStar assembled by the front passenger seat.

As a Telephoto Lens

I have a Canon 20D DSLR and purchased the appropriate adapters for the TV-60. On sunny days, with some practice, I frequently handhold the TV-60 with the camera attached (although for the sharpest images, I will still recommend a tripod). The helical focuser is a little awkward initially to adjust on the same hand as you use to handhold the scope and camera but I am used to it. The photo of the mockingbird is a handheld photo at ISO400. I find that when shooting in dense vegetation, the autofocus of my Canon zoom lenses frequently gets confused and I have gravitated to using my TV-60 hand held. The sharpness of the TV-60 lens allows a discernable “focus snap” and makes focusing easy- and certainly much easier than manual focusing a Canon zoom/telephoto lens (even an “L” model). Considering that high-end Canon zoom lenses cost thousands of dollars in the 300-400mm range, the TV-60 is certainly not a bad cost conscious alternative for ED quality. For dim lighting, you would of course need to use a tripod but that cuts down on portability. If you want to hand hold and shoot with the scope, a useful hint from my army days is to relax your shoulders and always shoot when you breathe out gently and not when you breathe it (and remember to use the highest ISO setting).

On the other hand, I could not use the TV-60 for astrophotography with my APS-sized imaging chip in the Canon DSLR. The field distortion was severe and rendered 60-70% of the image area unacceptable. Of course, if you are using a smaller CCD chip you might not have an issue, but the soon-to-be-released TV-60 imaging system should take care of this with a built in field flattener, and, coupled with a larger focuser, the system should be eminently suitable for this use. It should be remarked that the distortion I mentioned is expected in these fast APO systems, and in no way an intrinsic design flaw or quality fault of the optics. You will see the same exact thing with a Takahashi FS-60 without a field flattener.

As a Grab and Go Scope

The 60mm aperture is small, and one needs to first accept the light grasp limitations of such an aperture. Having said that, this little scope more than makes up with its portability and outstanding image quality- tack sharp, pinpoint stars, no discernable false color or halos even at high magnifications and simply outstanding contrast. I have two young kids and everytime we travel, the vehicle is packed to the hilt with stuff (you parents out there will know what it means), and it seems that I can never quite pack my Takahashi Sky 90 or Traveler (forget about that C9.25"!)without fear of it getting trampled by a cooler or high chair or by a hyperactive two-year old. On the other hand, the TV-60, with the MicroStar mount, fits right under a car seat with room to spare for a couple of eyepieces! My wife complains about the tripod, but she has not quite figured out where I stash my scope.

Under severe light polluted skies, I find the scope to be limited to the half-an-hour before bedtime kind of viewing. Messier objects are very faint and double stars frequently challenging. However, the TV-60 is surprisingly enjoyable under dark skies. With an old-style 24mm TV WF, I enjoy touring the sky and seeing all kinds of DSO’s. Of course, you will want something bigger to truly enjoy something like M13 but this scope gives you a positional perspective of DSO’s among the heavens that is hard to get in bigger scopes. Once again, even with a 3mm Radian, the optics does not give up any quality. Lunar viewing becomes quite a treat! Jupiter easily shows two equatorial cloud belts and delicate color gradations.

I have an old style TV-60 so the retractable lens hood has no predrilled holes for a TV zero-powered finder. However, I stuck a Rigel finder base to the lens hood and I actually like the fact that I can rotate the Rigel finder to wherever I want.

As a Super Finder

When piggybacked onto my Traveler or C9.25, the TV-60mm makes a great rich field finder. The ability to change eyepieces, the wide field of view and the sharpness and contrast of the optics puts it a league above many commercially available finderscopes. I do not own an adjustable stage so the TV-60mm is never quite pointing exactly where the main scope is, but that is not a big deal for me.

As a Guide Scope

I always use my SBIG STV attached to the TV-60mm as a guidescope system when my DSLR is coupled to either my Tak 90 or A-P Traveler for astrophotography (which is kind of an overkill given the accuracy of the STV). I like it much better than the eFinder configuration, which is in my opinion insanely awkward to fine focus without upgrading to the nice Hutech helical focuser. The 360mm focal length of the TV-60mm is optimal for the STV and finding guide stars is never an issue although occasionally you might have to play with the FOV a little bit. One should always use a star diagonal in order to bring the STV into focus with the TV-60mm. The adjustable dovetail on the TV-60mm makes it very easy to balance the guidescope setup when in a piggyback mode. Currently, I have not felt the need for an adjustable platform for the guidescope as guide stars have always been plentiful.

Concluding Remarks

While the small TV-60 is clearly not for everyone’s taste, I hope to have highlighted its superb versatility, portability and optical quality. These wonderful scopes rarely ever show up for sale in the used market, and that portends to many happy owners. This scope is ruggedly built for extensive field use. My only beef with the TV-60mm APO is that the lens cap is cheap for this class of scope and one of the plastic spring grips has snapped off within 4 months of use. How about a nice metal slip on cap? Other than that, I am very happy with my TV-60mm APO and will be using it for many years to come.

Click here for more about this subject. -Ed.