|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 ?
Stellervue F50M 9x50 RACI Finder - Perhaps the ultimate finder scope. Its
beautiful but expensive.
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
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.
||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
|Stellarvue F50M showing the twin focusing rings,thumbscrew for
locking the rotation collar and the Rigel Pulseguide
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
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
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 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.
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.
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.
||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.