Review of Stellervue F50M RACI Finder Scope
After the experience with the Antares I decided to move up market to avoid any further disappointment. With the addiction to telescopes biting hard (gotta get that astro-monkey off my back) I decided to try the Stellarvue F50M finder scope. Now this product runs in rather expensive at twice the price of the Antares which makes it the most expensive finder by far. What it promised though was a near perfect piece of optics. So how did it perform ?
Stellarvue F50M Finderscope
The Stellervue F50M 9x50 RACI Finder - Perhaps the ultimate finder scope. Its beautiful but expensive.

First Impressions out of the box
We are talking pure class. This little scope IS a serious quality telescope in its own right. It arrived packed in a deep die cut foam lined box such as is usually reserved only for REAL telescopes not mere finders. Make no mistake this is a REAL telescope albeit in miniature.

The initial impression of the SV F50M is that it's a joy. Its fit and finish is perfect. The main scope tube is in a dusty black finish that has a slight 'crackle' coat type of feel (its also produced in a gloss white version) and all of its main parts are made of metal.
Unscrewing the long lens shade revealed edge blackened main optics. The lens shade is very deep which should provide some protection against dew as well as stray light and its both ridged internally and painted a flat black. Coatings on the main optics are of the best quality showing a lustrous finish.

The scope is quite fast at a tad below F4 and designed to give bright images. The unit features a rotatable eyepiece held in place by a small thumbscrew and features helical focusing for the main optics plus separate helical focusing for the reticule. The reticule is a standard crosshair and is VERY fine, I would suggest if you think about buying this unit make sure you get an illuminator. The super fine etching on the reticules single crosshair would be near impossible to see under a dark sky.
I opted for the Rigel Pulseguide illuminator on mine which allows you to use both the brightness of the reticule and whether you want the illuminator pulsed on and off. Two small settings on the illuminator allow you to set the LEDs on and off duration periods.
close up view of Stellarvue F50M The Illuminator also came with an alternate yellow LED which can be installed to replace the standard red LED. Some imagers prefer the yellow illumination I am told.

The Rigel Pulseguide looked a little plastic and I was not crazy about the odd battery size it uses but that's a very minor moan in an otherwise perfect finder scope.

The F50M comes with a removable very high quality 23mm eyepiece which offers a good field of view and comfortable eye relief at around 19mm. The eyepiece has a soft fold down rubber cup as well as soft rubber grips for the twin helical focusers and lens caps for both the objective lens and the eyepiece. It all adds up to a quality piece of equipment.
Stellarvue F50M showing the twin focusing rings,thumbscrew for locking the rotation collar and the Rigel Pulseguide

As the F50M can not use a standard quick release finder bracket due to its wider body I also ordered up the Stellarvue F50D mounting rings and stalk. These also are extremely well made and a bargain at the low price Stellarvue charge for these fittings. The collimating screws are plastic/nylon tipped to stop them from damaging the F50Ms beautiful finish.

Stellarvue no longer appear to have a UK distributor so I ordered mine from OptCorp a US store. Their service was fantastic and they got me the scope delivered only 3 days after I ordered. Pretty good going from California to the UK I think you'd agree.

First Light
The views through the F50M are superb and every bit as good as I had hoped. The scope was used standalone for the first clear night and the views were quite amazing for a finder scope. This truly is a standalone telescope in its own right on a par with a small spotting scope.
Focusing is smooth and precise. The Rigel Illuminator takes a little getting used to but works very well. Focus is near perfect for about 80% of the view with the supplied eyepiece which is perfectly acceptable given the fast focal ratio of this scope.
Views were bright and clear on a range of objects.

Mounting to the scope was simple enough but collimating the F50M to the main scope optics proved a bit of a challenge. Used as I am to the ease of the quick release finders supplied on the Sky-Watcher hardware I found the collimating rings a bit fiddly. I only hope it holds alignment as well as the Baader Sky-Surfer over time. I did find that the Vixen shoe on the finders stalk was a bit too small and as a result the fitting can tend to wobble unless the accessory shoe on the scope is tightened down very hard. The stalk is also rather tall. This may suit a refractor but the mounting is too high for stability in my opinion for an EQ mounted reflector.

Mounted on the main scope the Stellarvue F50M is quite heavy. Its stated weight for the scope alone is 19oz but with its mounting hardware and the Pulseguide Illuminator it tips the scales at just over 2lb. That's not a big problem for my telescope but a Dobsonian owner might advised to get some back end weights especially if they also like heavyweight EPs.

The rotating rear end was something I never tested. I just ran out of time. I have heard (and Stellarvue state on the site) that the scope will show some shift in its position when the back is loosened and rotated. I am pretty sure thats livable with for myself and considering the overall spec of this product I would consider that a minor quibble. If the image shift turned out to be unnaceptable - well your no worse off than using any other right angle finder which has no rotation facility at all.

It just gets better….
As if the perfect fit and finish and beautiful design weren't enough the F50M can also accept any other 1.25" eyepiece. I tried mine with a small selection of mid range Plossl eyepieces, a Baader Hyperion and even with a Barlow.
Stellarvue F50M mounted on astro-baby scope I found that eyepieces above 10mm work tolerably well, around 13mm the F50M really picks up and at 20mm plus the scope is perfect. This is about what you would expect from any scope with such a fast focal ratio when matched to average quality eyepieces.
The supplied 23mm is obviously well corrected to suit the scope.

So there you are - not only can you use it as a finder you can use it as a small spotting scope in its own right with any 1.25" eyepiece you already own. You can also remove the supplied 23mm eyepiece and plug it into your main scope if desired.
My final set-up. Stellarvue F50M mounted alongside the Baader Sky Surfer V

Simply the best - if you can afford it. No one said this hobby was cheap but only you can decide whether a finder that costs almost as much as a medium sized reflector is worth it. If you want the last word in finder scopes then this is probably the one for you. The Stellarvue mounting hardware for my scope is a bit weak and this will be a little project to find a better mounting. Overall though its total class and a definite keeper.

First Light Optics - Click to go there Astronomia - Click to go there Rother Valley Optics - Click to go there Opt Corp - Click to go there