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First Impressions on a 80mm f/5 Refractor - The Vista 508 - Richard Harvey

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A few weeks ago I decided to acquire a small and portable rich-field refractor. Living in Sooke without a car (poor me indeed), and my 10" Dobsonian being quasi-permanently stored at Pearson College, I had a strong desire to be able to admire the heavens from my home, with minimal fuss and maximum enjoyment. The Vista 508 80mm refractor from Sky Instruments seemed to be perfect for the task. Its short f/5 focal ratio, extreme portability (I can carry it in my day pack), oh-so *low* price ($300 Canadian) *and* surprising performance, have combined to provide me with a clear winner.

As far as I know, the scope is sold in two places near Victoria: Island Eyepiece on Salt Spring Island ($299.95), and The Field Naturalist on Blanshard and View ($319.95) in downtown Victoria. For the price thus quoted, one gets the optical tube assembly, a 20mm or 17mm Omcon Plossl eyepiece, a very decent 6X30 finder, a 45-degree erect image prism, and a tube cradle and camera block, which allows one to install the tube on a regular camera tripod. The objective lens is a multi-coated doublet achromat. The unit is very light, yet is solidly constructed. The rack-and-pinion focusser is very smooth to operate with very little --if any-- backlash. The finder is mounted a full 4 inches away from the main tube, so your head won't bump into it when aiming for your target. One can also remove the finder (for easier transportation) and put it back into place in a snap, thanks to a very convenient dovetail mount on the tube and a single set screw. I bought my unit from The Field Naturalist and they were very flexible in what they actually provided with the tube assembly; I ended up replacing the 45-degree prism with a 90-degree diagonal, and the 17mm eyepiece by a 25mm (since I already had a 18mm) at no extra charge.

I don't have to tell you how wonderfully depressing the weather has been for the past few months (never mind weeks), but in the sparse opportunities I have had to look up with the scope I was greeted with sights my eyes were delighted to feast on. My 32mm TeleVue Plossl gave me a 4-degree field and 12.5X power, which were wonderful for Milky Way travel. In the end however I found that a somewhat higher 22X power from a 18mm SuperWide still gave me an ample 3.1 degrees while allowing more detail to be seen. I panned and repanned my gaze from the foot of mighty Aquila through shieldy Scutum and down to Sagittarius the Archer. I saw pinpoint, round stars with very good definition, every open cluster which came into view, such as M11, M6 or M7 and especially the Small Sagitarius Star Cloud (M24), being, quite simply, beautiful. The Lagoon nebula with a UHC filter was sharply defined with its embedded open cluster (NGC 6530).

Images of the moon were crisp. On the (slightly) down side, this is not a scope for high magnification, and color correction is not perfect. Translation: this is not a TeleVue Pronto or a Ranger. I found that a power of 40X was the highest I could go while still maintaining very good image quality. So far the views I have had at 50X and 80X were adequate, although I want to look more closely into David's Pronto to have a better feel for them. However, for the price, the 80mm Vista508 is a beautiful instrument which has provided me with genuine pleasure. It's a perfect first scope for one who wants to "graduate" from binoculars, or want an additional, highly portable unit. Recommended.

For comments / questions Richard can be reached at richard.harvey@home.com


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Last updated: December 12, 2013

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