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Stellarvue 80/9D Review

When I got back into astronomy in a big way, almost twenty 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 TV-85 but couldn’t afford it, so I bought this, hoping for a good planetary and Lunar scope.

At A Glance

Telescope

Stellarvue 80/9D

Aperture

80mm

Focal Length

750mm

Focal Ratio

F9.4

Length

~800mm

Weight

4.5Kg

 Data from SV.

What’s in (on) the Box?

Tiggy, Our Maine Coon, really liked the Stellarvue box, for some reason.

Design and Build

This early Stellarvue is an unusual mixture of artisan/ATM and bought-in generic parts: it’s neither a Sky-Watcher nor a TeleVue, but something in between. In some areas, the build is a bit patchy, in others heavily over-engineered.

Optics

The 80/9D objective is a longish focal-length 80mm air-spaced achromat, with a focal length of 750mm (F 9.4).

That F9.4 may seem an unusual number, but there’s 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. It’s 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).

The lens is most likely Chinese and has typical ‘China Green’ multi coatings that are less transparent than the best.

Tube

The OTA is massive, thick-walled aluminium and gives the 80/9D a heft and presence that an Evostar lacks. The long focal length means (as you can see) that it’s quite large for an ‘80’. My version has a fixed dew-shield (later ones are retractable I think). Weight is about 4.5kg – again, very heavy for an 80mm refractor.

The impression is of a hand-made scope in both good and bad ways. The internal finish is excellent with four knife-edge baffles. The exterior paint is deep and shiny, the milled and anodised lens ring much classier than a cast enamelled Synta one and threads onto the tube.

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 I’d sprayed it in my garage.

Like a Tele Vue or a Takahashi, though, it has an individual serial number.

Focuser

Twenty years on the 80/9D is both familiar and unfamiliar. The 2” R&P focuser is metal bodied and looks much like the Synta ones you find on entry-level Sky-Watchers today, but in fact it has a finer quality drawtube and a rather different feel: a bit ‘grainy’ but precise and accurate in a way the Sky-Watcher version isn’t.

The oversized and grippy knobs seem to be SV’s own – not exactly Tele Vue mag’ wheels, but quality items.

Still, like a cheap Synta (and unlike the lens cell) it attaches with screws instead of threads.

Mounting

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 Sky-Watcher terms it would need an EQ5 (not an EQ3). The cast tube rings have single ¼-20 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 Tele Vue Panoramic mount as well.

Accessories

The 80/9D came with a basic red dot finder, Synta-like tube rings that go straight on a Vixen dovetail and a 50mm Plossl eyepiece.

Stellarvue 80/9D on a Vixen Porta 1 mount.

Stellarvue’s basic but functional RDF.

In Use – The Night Sky

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 a fluorite apochromat like a Takahashi FS-78 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 2” EP is a doddle (unlike the Vixen A70LF for example with its similar focal length, but 1.25” 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 – 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.

There’s little else to say, because the 80/9D just does what it’s 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, it’s too heavy for a photo tripod (don’t imagine this is SW Evostar 90 weight) and would benefit from a dual speed focuser upgrade.

Recommended if you can find a good one used, but don’t pay APO money for it.