Stellarvue 80/9D Review

When I got back into astronomy in a big way, over ten years ago now, the first thing I did was to re-commission my long dormant, bought-from-new orange tube C8. The second thing I did was buy a refractor. This is it.

Back then decent refractors were expensive and this was one of the cheapest available. Now the price I paid, shipping and duties included, seems eyewatering (about £600); the market has changed meanwhile.

Vic Maris was just setting up Stellarvue in the first years of the new millennium and this was one of their early refractors. I wanted a TV85 but couldnít afford it, so I bought this, hoping for a good planetary and Lunar scope.

 

Design and Build

The 80/9D is a longish focal-length achromat, with an 80mm/750 (F 9.4) lens which means (as you can see) that itís quite large for an Ď80í and my version has a fixed dewshield (later ones are retractable I think). Weight is about 4.5kg Ė heavy for an 80mm refractor.

That F9.4 may seem an unusual number, but thereís method. I have mentioned before the rule of thumb that says an achromat needs a focal ratio of about 1.2x the lens diameter in cm to perform well in respect of chromatic aberration and that ratio is right where the 80/9D sits. Itís a good choice because the 80/9D is still compact enough to go on a grab-n-go mount like the Vixen Porta (see photo below) and able to deliver a reasonable field of view (up to 3.5 deg with a 55mm Plossl).

Ten years on the 80/9D is both familiar and unfamiliar. The R&P focuser is metal bodied and looks much like the Synta ones you find on entry-level Skywatchers today, but in fact it has a finer quality drawtube and a rather different feel: a bit Ďgrainyí but precise and accurate in a way the Skywatcher version isnít.

If the focuser looks like a bought-in item, the OTA certainly isnít. Itís massive, thick-walled aluminium and gives the 80/9D a heft and presence that an Evostar lacks. This does give the impression of a hand-made scope in both good and bad ways. The internal finish is excellent with multiple baffles, the exterior paint deep and shiny, the milled and anodised lens ring much classier than a cast enamelled Synta one. But there are some rough-edges here and there (this is an early Stellarvue, more recent ones have been more polished): the lens cover is a very crude and falls off at every opportunity; the edge of the dewshield has overpainting like it would if Iíd sprayed it in my garage.

 

 

Looking in the front the lens has familiar ĎChina Greení coatings that are deep, but more reflective than the best. The lens is not collimatable, despite the custom-made countercell.

 

In Use

Large and heavy though it is for an 80mm refractor, the 80/9D works fine on most small mounts and I typically use it on a Vixen GP or Porta; in Skywatcher terms it would need an EQ5 (not an EQ3). The cast tube rings have single ľ-20 threads and will fit most dovetail plates (the one you see below is an original Vixen). Stellarvue supplied me with a nice little plate that allowed it to fit my TeleVue Panoramic mount as well.

Like most small doublets, cooldown is quick and benign and the scope produces nice images from the word go. Chromatic aberration is still present at high powers on planets or O-B stars, but it is always well controlled and unobtrusive in a way even a 100mm F8 achromat is not. However, compared to an APO like the FS78 it does produce high-power images just a little warmer in tone and dimmer and slightly less crisp.

Finding things with the big-window RDF and potential for a 2Ē EP is a doddle (unlike the Vixen A70LF for example with its similar focal length, but 1.25Ē only focuser and toybox finder).

Focus snap is excellent and the star-test near perfect. Stray light is very well controlled. A Stellarvue promise from the beginning was to test each scope; this is certainly a good one, but the word on the street is that it is typical.

Whilst the Moon is doubtless its favourite object, with typical refractor crispness Ė icy greys and blacks and superb contrast - it does work well on the planets and DSOs with overall performance just a notch below a good APO.

Thereís little else to say, because the 80/9D just does what itís supposed to and has no nasty surprises.

Summary

A much classier way into a budget refractor than the usual suspects, with a hand-made feel, careful design to maximise performance and quality pretty much guaranteed. However, itís too heavy for a small child (donít imagine this is Evostar 90 weight) and would benefit from a dual speed focuser upgrade.

Recommended if you can find a good one used, but donít pay APO money for it.