Author Topic: $20K+ refractors?  (Read 227 times)

Ray Gibas

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Re: $20K+ refractors?
« Reply #15 on: January 18, 2018, 12:25:07 AM »
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 I'd love to have a TMBl or Tak, but would never pay the 'freight' for an A-P.
When new, AP refractors don't cost more than other top end refractors; usually less (as in the case with the 130GTX, which is the only AP model that is likely to be produced again). If you manage to wait and eventually buy one of those, it will cost less than a new TOA-130. It is in the secondary market that AP prices are inflated, as Tak and other premium models have been produced in far greater quantity and are also available new. This limits their value on the secondary market to their intrinsic value rather than "collector" inflation. If you don't want to paya premium for a "can't get it" rarity you don't have to. Just select one of the excellent alternatives or wait for a new AP and save even more.

In terms of dollars, Astro-Physics telescopes cost less than others.. But there a major difference in the business model between Astro-Physics and companies like Takahashi. Rather than charging what the market will bear, Roland Christen of Astro-Physics sets a price based on what he believes the scope should be worth based on a number of factors.

The result is that there are long waiting lists for Astro-Physics refractors, I am not sure what they are now but in general, they have been on order of 5 to 10 years..  The reason a used A-P brings more than a new one is that you can get a used one, you can't get a new one.

There is a mystique and a history that goes with Astro-Physics telescopes, part of it is the perfectionism of Roland Christen... He started A-P about 35 years ago because he wanted to provide affordable, high quality telescopes for the amateur astronomical community.. He has done so, not only with his telescopes but with the development of what I call the modern apo triplet that is, today, commonly available. Thomas M. Back, who passed away before his time, was an amateur astronomer and a friend of Roland's. He became an optical designer who helped bring these scopes to the community..

Back in the day, that is before the internet was flourishing and forums like Cloudy Nights were available, it was the UseNet and amateur astronomers hung out on a group called Science.Astro.Amateur, S.A.A. Many well known people in the field posted there, both Roland Christen and Thomas Back were frequent posters.

(As an aside, S.A.A. disintegrated with spam, trolls and flame wars. The members scattered about the internet, Roland Christen posts on Astromart. A fellow by the name of Tom Trusock landed at a small website devoted to testing amateur telescopes. Tom with others, John Crilly is one, had a vision based on the lessons learned on S.A.A. for a friendly, lightly moderated website where amateur astronomers could get together... That website was Cloudy Nights.)

Anyway, here is a post written by Thomas Back called:

A Brief History of Astro-Physics lenses.. This was written in 1999 so it far from complete but I love reading it, Tom's enthusiasm and excitement.

Roland Christen does things his own way.. He is unrelenting in his pursuit of perfection. For example, when he gets a new batch of glass, he does not rely on the manufacturer's specifications, he measures the exact properties himself and slightly tweaks the design, the curves of the lenses. I am not sure if it is true today but it has been true until very recently, Roland had hand figured each and every Astro-Physics objective ever made. This is the stuff of which legends are made.

When Roland decided to build a 10 inch Mak to provide a high quality alternative to the refractors, he spent so much time perfecting the scopes that he decided it was not worthwhile. Today, the 10 inch A-P's transfer between owners for around $30,000..

These days, Roland is getting older, because of the history, because of the persona and impact Roland has had on the community Astro-Physics refractors are collectors items. This has been true for quite some time. The 92mm F/5 Astro-Physics Stowaway, a scope originally designed for Roland's friends Alan and Sue French, these go for over $10,000.. It has been said that most sales of the most desirable models are private transactions..

In the recent auction of the 175mm AP scope on Astromart, it did not sell because it did not meet the reserve, someone bid about $28,000.

It is worth realizing that refractors of this quality and size are rare. You can purchase a TEC 180 manufactured by Roland's friend YuriPetrunin but it will still cost nearly $20,000. These scopes are expensive to manufacture..

Jon

Carl Hanks

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Re: $20K+ refractors?
« Reply #16 on: January 18, 2018, 01:14:05 AM »
Okay, I have a confession to make: I'm on Astro Physics 'notification list' for their 130mm, f6.3 Starfire GTX. The reason is simple--a Japanese 130mm APO will cost about the same, and I like to buy USA if at all possible, not to mention A-P's sterling reputation. Busted.

But the point of my original question was not why someone would buy an A-P refractor, but rather why someone might want to pay $20K or more for a large-aperture scope that's no longer made. If one is afflicted with 'aperture fever' and "needs" a 7 or 8 inch apochromat, I can understand. (My back aches just thinking about it.) But the difference between, say, a quality 130 fast refractor and one an inch or so larger for 3-5x the price still escapes me. And some might argue that the difference between an Astro-Tech 130 APO and the A-P 130 is pretty small as well.

Great responses so far. Love it, and learning a lot.

Chuck Klem

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Re: $20K+ refractors?
« Reply #17 on: January 18, 2018, 02:51:48 AM »
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A Timex will tell you the time as well as a Rolex;the Rolex is mostly for impressing other people.

For those who can afford to pay that extra $15,000 for a barely discernable improvement over a "mass-produced" $5,000 apochromat I must conclude it is the same. But it is their choice.Money spent on expensive durable gear is not morally "wasted" as it provides the livelihood of those making the gear ,and they in turn spend the money on what they need.

A point to consider is how few amateur astronomers live(or have an observatory) where the seeing permits utilizing the full optical capabilities of even the common under $2,000 scopes.


I have to disagree. I wear a Timex because it probably keeps better time than a Rolex, is lighter and given the abuse it takes, will need to be replaced.

But as John Crilly said, there are no $5000, 175mm apo triplets, there are not even any $5000, 175mm FPL-53 doublets.

As far as seeing and optical quality... the other side of the coin is that seeing errors, thermal issues and optical errors are additive. With high quality optics, you start with an advantage..

Over the years, I have learned a great deal from Roland. If you want to read what Roland thinks about the different scopes, which ones he recommends, this rare Cloudy Nights article by Roland, "What is the Best Planetary Telescope" gives you a taste of the knowledge and integrity of the man.  He tells it like it is.

Jon

Mike Meckler

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Re: $20K+ refractors?
« Reply #18 on: January 20, 2018, 07:41:41 PM »
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A Brief History of Astro-Physics lenses.. This was written in 1999 so it far from complete but I love reading it, Tom's enthusiasm and excitement.

Roland Christen does things his own way.. He is unrelenting in his pursuit of perfection. For example, when he gets a new batch of glass, he does not rely on the manufacturer's specifications, he measures the exact properties himself and slightly tweaks the design, the curves of the lenses. I am not sure if it is true today but it has been true until very recently, Roland had hand figured each and every Astro-Physics objective ever made. This is the stuff of which legends are made.

When Roland decided to build a 10 inch Mak to provide a high quality alternative to the refractors, he spent so much time perfecting the scopes that he decided it was not worthwhile. Today, the 10 inch A-P's transfer between owners for around $30,000..

These days, Roland is getting older, because of the history, because of the persona and impact Roland has had on the community Astro-Physics refractors are collectors items. This has been true for quite some time. The 92mm F/5 Astro-Physics Stowaway, a scope originally designed for Roland's friends Alan and Sue French, these go for over $10,000.. It has been said that most sales of the most desirable models are private transactions..

In the recent auction of the 175mm AP scope on Astromart, it did not sell because it did not meet the reserve, someone bid about $28,000.

It is worth realizing that refractors of this quality and size are rare. You can purchase a TEC 180 manufactured by Roland's friend YuriPetrunin but it will still cost nearly $20,000. These scopes are expensive to manufacture..

Jon
Thanks, Jon, for the history lesson. I love this stuff, and of late Roland Christen, Tom Back, and others have become personal heroes. I're seen some of Tom's and Roland's writings, but I hadn't seen this particular piece by TMB.

For the record, I'm pretty sure I won't realize my chance to buy a new A-P refractor. As you say, the lists could run to 10 years, and I'm pretty sure I'm at the distal end of the list. Also, as you point out, A-Ps are available on the resale market, but at a price. That is probably the single best answer to my original question.

enmofinwins

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Re: $20K+ refractors?
« Reply #19 on: January 20, 2018, 11:46:44 PM »
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But the difference between, say, a quality 130 fast refractor and one an inch or so larger for 3-5x the price still escapes me.

That is another case where the imagers might choose differently from visual observers. We do it backwards compared to the visual guys. We start with the focal length we want to use, as that determines what image will be captured. Then we decide how much aperture we are willing to pay for at that focal length because that will determine the exposure time required. A 4" F/5.will capture the same image as a 5" F/4 - but the 4" will take twice as long to capture it.

belohalcu

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Re: $20K+ refractors?
« Reply #20 on: January 21, 2018, 02:38:47 AM »
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I would also like to say I am Not a double star freak. Normally I like to see the planets, and I do have a 10" dob, have had a 16", but just seem to enjoy the planets the most. Not just different scopes, but different viewing sometimes can lead to rewarding experiences. I am wondering if maybe what I need to do is not just build some different scopes but widen my variety of observing habits.

Like my grandpa told me as a kid with my first scope....just point it towards the sky and look.....he was not into astronomy, but did live his life by the KISS principle...

Jose Melo

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Re: $20K+ refractors?
« Reply #21 on: January 22, 2018, 08:07:17 PM »
My original understanding of the OP was this was a discussion about the visual aspect of these class of scopes... I am certainly aware that AP does exact a certain premium where glass and mechanics are concerned... had I known that AP was a part of this equation, I would have bowed out of the discussion well ahead of this point, as AP is WAY over my newbie head right now... bowing out now... hopefully gracefully...Good day all and clear skies!

CB

olchakisur

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Re: $20K+ refractors?
« Reply #22 on: January 30, 2018, 12:37:46 AM »
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My original understanding of the OP was this was a discussion about the visual aspect of these class of scopes... I am certainly aware that AP does exact a certain premium where glass and mechanics are concerned... had I known that AP was a part of this equation, I would have bowed out of the discussion well ahead of this point, as AP is WAY over my newbie head right now... bowing out now... hopefully gracefully...Good day all and clear skies!

CB

I didn't mean to hijack the thread. I was just pointing out that the big bucks refractor market is driven by imagers, which explains why the prices seem inappropriate to the visual gang. They mostly don't need the extra value and generally shouldn't be expected to pay for it.

John Trujillo

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Re: $20K+ refractors?
« Reply #23 on: January 31, 2018, 04:47:33 AM »
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You can get a Zambuto 8" mirror for $1100, build or buy an OTA/mount to go with it, and compared
to a $20K apo you have enough left over to buy...a lot of other stuff.

<p class="citation">QuoteRefractor people are frequently perfectionists with only a tenuous grip on the real world and they seem to huddle round in circles proclaiming about their mutual qualities and occasionally **** about Newtonians...

The refractor forum on CN is the most obsessive-compulsive excessively orderly and fussy forum on this site. The
eyepiece forum is #2.

unamprodce

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Re: $20K+ refractors?
« Reply #24 on: January 31, 2018, 07:30:45 AM »
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I was over in the refractor forum, reading about various instruments that sell for upward of $20K and some that are being resold for perhaps more than $30K. I know that Astro Physics and a handful of other telescope makers produce some awesome instruments, and some have larger objective apertures, but I'm puzzled. I've done some recent viewing through others' refractors--a TMB-designed Astro-Tech, a TMB-brand refractor, a couple of Takahashis, and one gorgeous A-P 6" refractor--sorry I can't recall the model. To my eye the differences between the aforementioned telescopes and the A-P were almost negligible, apart from the benefits of aperture.  All were apochromats, all were quality-built, and all were under $10K, some way under.

My question: Why are $20K+ refractors so desirable? I suspect I know the answer, and it is likely similar to why an individual drives a Bentley, or Maybach as opposed to a BMW or M-B, or even a Toyota or Ford. My take: The benefits from paying 3-4x the price of great refractors, such as TMBs or Takahashis likely have less to do with the view and function than with the mystique, the pride, the perfection, and perhaps the bragging rights. Some individuals have money to burn, and I applaud them for their affluence, but to my Midwestern way of thinking, there are practical limits to extravagance. I'd love to have a TMBl or Tak, but would never pay the 'freight' for an A-P.

Am I close on this? Or am I off-base? Are $20K telescopes really that much better? I'm sure there are diverse opinions.

(I chose not to post this in the refractor forum, as this is obviously a newbie question.)


Well... Not quite the difference between a Maybach and a Ford.  In that the difference between a Takahashi and, say, an Explore Scientific isn't as great as a Maybach to a Ford Fiesta. The color correction in a Takahashi is very very high. The glass used in a Takahashi is a different and higher grade than a ES. The materials used in the Tak are of a slightly to actual better quality than an ES scope. Is there a noticeable difference? Yes. But it is not so much that it justifies the $2,000 difference between an ES 127 CF and a TSA-120. I would say at best it's about $1,000 or so.

Aperture also does make a difference in refractor's. The larger the size of the lens the more difficult it is to make and the more expensive the materials. And the increase in production/material costs and the subsequent retail price is exponential in its progression.

But when we look at the more high end scopes it comes down to the economic concept of scarcity and perceived value.

A good example of scarcity would be that the air we breathe is much much more important than gold. We need air to live we don't need gold. But because there is plenty of air around us we don't consider it all that precious (forgo the environmental argument for this example please). Whereas gold takes a lot of resources to produce in its final state and is much harder to find. Therefore it is considered 'scarce' and is thus has a much higher perceived 'value per ounce' than a bottle of oxygen.

For perceived value it is a bit more abstract. Actual value is the economic utility of a good or service without any influence by emotional connotations aka 'feelings'. It is thought of as a rational value. Perceived value is the satisfaction that people get from a good or service and is typically evidenced by their willingness to pay a higher price than what would be considered not necessarily rational save by the individual. Please note that rational is used in the economic context not the more popular and better known psychological one. Rationality is defined as decision making process based on choices that result in the most optimal benefit level aka utility for the individual making the decision.

Using your scopes as a further example, a Astro Physics scope is a well designed very well manufactured scope. Its color correction may not be quite as good as Takahashi's but it is very close. The glass is the same or similar (FPL-53). The work done to figure the glass is done by master opticians with very high end equipment. The mechanical parts on the scopes are also of similar high quality with the difference being the manufacturer. The material and labor costs are very similar when controlled for geographical manufacture location, exact physical size, and other superfluous variations. So the economic actual value of the Tak and AP scope would be expected to be very close to each other. However AP scopes are manufactured in very limited quantities and perceived as 'artisan' since they have a named optician attached to them and the Tak scopes are not and do not have a named 'artisan' optician. This creates a scarcity and a perceived value that is higher than what, all things being equal, the actual value would be. This generates prices that are out of proportion to what would be normally expected.

Donnell Keown

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Re: $20K+ refractors?
« Reply #25 on: February 03, 2018, 05:01:15 AM »
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Or the color correction may be better... One thing for sure.. The focuser is certainly better on the A-P..

At the top of the heap, there are four main players, Astro-Physics, TEC, Takahashi and TeleVue though TeleVue does not make large scopes and plays a somewhat different game.

Both A-P and TEC do everything in house, the design, the mechanical and optical fabrication, the assembly and testing. Takahashi and TeleVue do the design, the assembly, the testing in house but go outside for the optics, someone else does the optics, both in Japan. The A-P and Tec model give them more control over the final product...

'nuff said.

Jon

otdaebreathat

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Re: $20K+ refractors?
« Reply #26 on: February 03, 2018, 12:40:10 PM »
There is a group of visual observers with multiple decades of experience observing from VERY dark skies who can fire off a check for the largest research class Tak or A-P refractor systems. Good on 'em for their resources, taste and skill.
Ah, skill. Observing is a learned skill. Those top rank scope systems would likely be lost on me and many of us. For us a bleeding edge refractor might be a foolish or pretentious buy.
I had one opportunity to view through a 178mm f9 AP refractor a club member brought to a lunar eclipse viewing party at a local junior college last year on a poor night for observing - high clouds, wind. What an amazing instrument. I hope someday to be able to view through it in better conditions.
The scope's owner is well-heeled and has been observing since he was a boy. Generous with his time and resources and known at the biggest star parties and darkest dark sites, he is just the sort of owner scopes like that deserve.
If I have a point here it is that these scopes are not for everybody but in the right hands they are beautiful resources. In that they are like most bleeding edge luxury objects.

bronedproudem

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Re: $20K+ refractors?
« Reply #27 on: February 04, 2018, 09:39:06 AM »
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My original understanding of the OP was this was a discussion about the visual aspect of these class of scopes... I am certainly aware that AP does exact a certain premium where glass and mechanics are concerned... had I known that AP was a part of this equation, I would have bowed out of the discussion well ahead of this point, as AP is WAY over my newbie head right now... bowing out now... hopefully gracefully...Good day all and clear skies!

CB

No need to bow out, CB. Sure, I assumed that big-money refractors are often used as astrographs, but the discussion wasn't limited to that. After all most astronomers do a little of both--viewing and AP. Your comments are always welcome, as are everyone's.

Jimmy Harbaugh

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Re: $20K+ refractors?
« Reply #28 on: February 08, 2018, 09:47:17 PM »
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For perceived value it is a bit more abstract. Actual value is the economic utility of a good or service without any influence by emotional connotations aka 'feelings'. It is thought of as a rational value. Perceived value is the satisfaction that people get from a good or service and is typically evidenced by their willingness to pay a higher price than what would be considered not necessarily rational save by the individual. Please note that rational is used in the economic context not the more popular and better known psychological one. Rationality is defined as decision making process based on choices that result in the most optimal benefit level aka utility for the individual making the decision.


My original premise was that "perceived value" perhaps plays the dominant role over "actual value" where premium priced refractors are concerned. That certainly is true in my own desire to own one, if not exclusively.