Review of Baader_Sky Surfer_V Red Dot Finder
After a few frustrating nights finding targets hard to locate manually with my standard 8x50 finder scope I resolved to find a better solution for manually guiding the telescope to its targets.

A shop around the market place gave a range of solutions and I opted to go for a red dot finder (RDF).
This is quite a crowded market place and in the end I opted to go for the Baader Sky-Surfer V based on its quality appearance and apparent bomb proof design. When you're a mobile astronomer like myself you need equipment which is hardy enough to take a few knocks and still work reliably.

So how does the Sky-Surfer V hold up in use ?

Baader Sky Surfer V
The Baader Sky Surfer V red dot finder showing its elongated light/dew shields. Practical and solid throughout.

Out of the box
What arrived was a fairly decent sized box which contained the red dot finder, two screw-in metal lens shields, a pair of see through plastic eye caps to protect the lenses and a veritable meccano kit of parts which allow the Sky-Surfer V to be mounted on a wide variety of scopes.

The fittings are mostly plastic with some metal components for some of the options. There are no instructions on the fittings so you have to work it out based on your own particular scope.
The overall finish of the Sky-Surfer is extremely good with all metal construction of the main unit apart from the power on/dimmer switch for the red dot. There is also a metal fitting for any scopes with a vixen accessory shoe. This fitting gives the Sky-Surfer a very solid footing on the scope.
The anodised finish is a silky black colour and of a high quality. Mine has been bumped around in a few fields and still looks like it was bought yesterday.

The Sky-Surfer V
The Sky-Surfer V is, by all accounts, a modified rifle scope that has been adapted for astronomy.
Certainly the overall quality and hardiness is what you would expect from a gun sight and I speak as an ex-owner of a sniper rifle !!
A novel feature are the plastic see through lens caps which are a boon allowing you to use the unit without taking the lens caps off, this is quite useful in heavy dew situations as you can simply wipe the dew caps with your finger without risking damaging the lens coatings.
The see through quality of the lens caps isn't up to the standard of the main units glass but perfectly good enough for most field use.
The actual glass in the main unit is completely see through with no mirrored finish or coatings visible unlike most other red dot finders. This has advantages for astronomy as you can see through the finder exactly what your eyes are seeing with no loss of brightness allowing you to see faint objects which a conventional RDF would lose due to its coated and or mirrored glass surfaces.
The red dot on the Sky-Surfer V is variable in 11 stages from very dim to extremely bright using the large brightness control knob which has a very solid feel and a positive click stop action which is perfect for gloved or frozen hands. The brightness control has a small cap on top which unscrews to reveal the battery compartment which uses 1 CR2032 button type cell.

Adjustment of the red dots position within the sight for aligning to the main telescope is accomplished by removing two screw-on caps and adjusting the small slotted screws underneath for altitude and azimuth. This initially worried me as most telescope finders require collimation with the main telescope before each use especially if the scope has been moved. The thought of having to mess about in the dark with the small setting screws was a bit of a worry. This proved a groundless fear as you will see in the field tests of the unit. The screw adjusters have click stops and are relatively easy, if a little fiddly to set.
Close up of Baader Sky-Surfer V
The SkySurfer V showing its unique see through end caps (left) and the large, click stop brightness control (right).

First Light
As ever I spent time playing with the unit before taking it out in the field. The unit was initially lined up with the main telescope at home. I elected to fit a second Vixen shoe to the telescope to allow both the Baader Sky-Surfer and my conventional 8x50 finder to be mounted side by side.

In the field a quick test on set-up showed that the Sky-Surfer was still lined up with the main telescope optics perfectly well. This has been the case since installation with the RDF always being very closely lined up with the main optics despite numerous field trips. My fears at having to mess about with its alignment each time have been groundless. The steel mounting leg from the finder to the telescope undoubtedly helps in this respect as does as well tightened down accessory shoe on the main scope.

In the field a red dot finder can take a little getting used to - I find its easiest to acquire sight of the red dot by closing one eye and once the dot is acquired open both eyes. The Baader with its large aperture and well defined dot is easy to acquire with your eyes and with both eyes open and the dot appearing against the sky it makes handling the telescope a bit easier.
One of the beauties of the Sky-Surfer V is you can see the red dot easily while being behind the telescope this is crucial with larger and heavier telescope tubes. I found the Sky-Surfer very easy to work with and subsequent use has proven its worth. Targets are easier to locate than with a conventional straight through finder and the fact that you can steer the scope for star hopping simply by standing back a bit and aiming the red dot against the sky makes life very easy.

Using GoTo

I felt when I upgraded my mount to GoTo that the RDF would in many ways become obsolete. Nothing in fact could be further from the truth.
I find the RDF a boon for GoTo alignment. I find that the Sky-Watcher Synscan GoTo is quite often 'off' by a long way on its slew to the first alignment star. Locating a star in the 8x50 finder which may be quite a long way out of line can be hard work and time consuming. With the Sky-Surfer V I simply stand near the back of the scope with the hand controller and adjust the scope to its alignment star with the RDF. A final check in the scopes eyepiece or the finder to centre the star precisely and voila - alignment success every time. The standard 8x50 is used only for locating faint objects manually in this configuration or for fine tuning to an alignment star.

Overall verdict

If you can afford it the Sky-Surfer V is a great addition to a scope as a finder. The unit is well made, accurate and tough. I find mine invaluable for both GoTo alignment and also when I just want to run the scope in manual to objects of my choosing. If you like red dot finders then this must be daddy of them all. For me - it's a keeper.

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