Tele Vue TV-60 Review
I once lived in a small Swiss town, just one street back from the lakefront. My first storey flat was in the old town, on a narrow, cobbled street of tall houses. I had no balcony, no garden or yard, nowhere to put a telescope. I needed something I could just carry about and set up quickly, but I also needed something stealthy – long white tubes would just have attracted too much attention. So I bought the smallest, stealthiest little scope I knew of – Tele Vue’s TV-60.
During those years the TV-60 was ideal. I would walk through an archway to the lake front promenade and set up there, or climb up into the terraced vineyards behind town where it was really dark. I had memorable views with it and even used it to search for comet McNaught from a viewpoint high above Lake Geneva.
I’ve since bought a little place in town again and another TV-60 for stealthy urban viewing.
My viewing spot in the Swiss vineyards.
At A Glance
Tele Vue TV-60
Data from TV.
Design and Build
Tele Vue’s first true grab-and-go ‘scopes, the ones that started a revolution in keep-it-simple visual astronomy at a moment’s notice, were the Ranger and Pronto. These scopes had very different tubes, but they shared the same 70mm/480mm optics. Those optics were good quality, but cheap ED glass meant they were nonetheless achromats.
The Pronto was aimed at the astro’ market, with a sliding dew shield with screw-in dust cap, a heavier tube and a 2 inch rack-and-pinion focuser; the Ranger was much lighter, with a draw-tube and a helical focuser and was aimed more at birders and nature viewers, or astronomers wanting the lightest possible scope purely for visual.
When Tele Vue replaced the Ranger and Pronto with the TV-76 and the TV-60 on test here, they got different optics – proper ED apochromats both - and the TV-60 got a new CNC tube.
The TV-60’s forerunner was the Ranger.
The TV-60’s objective is an F6 (360mm focal length) doublet with a crown of ED glass, making it a full apochromat and one of Tele Vue’s best lenses. Best why? Because the larger ED doublets suffer from some chromatic aberration, whilst the TV-60 shows virtually none for either imaging or visual.
In fact, the TV-60 puzzlingly suffers less from chromatic aberration than the same-spec-but-fluorite Takahashi FS-60C. An even more stark example is Borg’s 60ED (see comparison below) – an ED doublet with near-identical spec’s, but much more false colour.
What’s the TV-60 magic then? The answer is that the TV-60 has a large air space between its crown and flint elements to help with correction.
The objective is likely made in Taiwan, but subject to Tele Vue’s rigorous QA. As you can see from the photo, the TV60 lens is held in its simple cell by a thread-in ring and the cell attached to the OTA via three bolts.
As with all Tele Vues, collimation is set at the factory by tapping the cell into perfect alignment and then tightening the screws, an extremely robust approach: I’ve seen a small Tele Vue refractor dropped onto tarmac and suffer no ill effects or mis-collimation.
The lens has top quality coatings as you would expect (not those bright ‘China Green’ ones).
The glass is protected by a plastic clip-on dew-cap. This has a cheaper feel than the Tele Vue standard thread-on metal cap, but is much more convenient in use (no more screech – screech in the dead of night, waking your neighbours).
Objective is an ED doublet with a large air space.
Like its forerunner the Ranger, the TV-60 has a sliding drawtube and helical focuser to keep size and weight down, but otherwise the OTA is completely different.
The Ranger was quite bulky, with a fixed dew-shield, but the TV-60 is tiny: just 10 inches long with the dew-shield retracted and a mere 1.5kg in weight, including the mounting bar. So the TV-60 is the smallest APO I know of this side of a Borg and almost exactly the same size and weight as a Questar Duplex OTA (or Field Model).
The TV-60 is much more finely crafted than the Ranger too, with a tapered CNC tube that has machined-in micro-baffles in place of the old matt-black sandpaper that lines the Ranger (and the Pronto/TV-76 for that matter).
An “I.S.” (imaging system) version of the TV-60 with a different tube and bigger focuser was once available, but it is a completely different ‘scope built around the same lens, weighs twice as much!
Stock image of the TV-60IS.
One thing the TV-60 does share with the Ranger is its focuser - a short-travel helical on the end of a draw-tube with a lock-screw: coarse focus with the draw-tube, fine adjustment with the helical.
The helical focuser works by a twisting a brass ring with rubber grip, which extends and retracts the 1.25” focuser tube. It is super-smooth and precise and acts like a micro-focuser.
People either seem to like or loathe the TV-60’s helical focuser; personally I like it a lot. However, there are a couple of disadvantages. For one thing, it is 1.25” only. This is irrelevant for visual use in my opinion: the TV-60’s maximum 4.3° field is sufficient. However, it means you can’t use the TV-60 (in its non-I.S. form) as a proper astrograph the way you can with, say, a Takahashi FS-60.
Also, the helical component has a short travel, so you sometimes have to refocus with the drawtube when swapping eyepieces. The trick is to adjust the drawtube to avoid using the helical in its last 5mm of travel where there’s some image shift at high power (but not much otherwise).
In order to save weight, the TV-60 has kept the mounting bar from the Ranger. This allows you to adjust the balance point, but avoids the weight of a ring. The bar carries three ¼-20 threads – two with the standard Tele Vue spacing for their mount heads and a central one for photo tripods.
The TV-60 is so short and light that it will go on just about any tripod with a panning head. Tele Vue’s own TelePod tripod and mount – quite flawed with bigger scopes – works superbly with the TV-60. You really can grab the whole lot with one hand, then just walk out and use it. In Switzerland, I would pick up the little TV-60 in its case with eyepieces and diagonal already packed, put a photo tripod in a little backpack and go hiking for an hour up to a dark site amongst the terraced vineyards. I wouldn’t have done that with a larger scope, even a TV-76.
Tele Vue sell a short Vixen-compatible dovetail that works well with the TV-60 for other mounts.
Tele Vue TV-60 on TelePod mount with TV-76 and TV-NP127.
The TV-60 doesn’t come in a ‘package’ like the larger scopes. That means no eyepiece, diagonal or case (just a draw-string bag).
You will need some fancy eyepieces to get the high magnifications the TV-60 is capable of: 3.5mm and 2.5mm Type 6 Naglers and the 2-4mm and 3-6mm Nagler zoom are ideal. The guy I bought it from only owned Plössls. He nearly fell off his seat when I popped in a 3.5mm Nagler and pointed the TV-60 at Saturn, saying, ‘I didn’t know it could do that!’
Note that Tele Vue eyepieces are designed to work down to F4 and give an almost perfectly flat field with the TV-60, but some other eyepieces (Pentax XWs for example) don’t, due to the steep light cone of the F6 lens.
Later versions have threads on the dewshield to fit a finder, like the Qwik Point you see in the Ranger pic above (though personally I don’t need one at this focal length).
The TV-60’s semi-rigid case is a must if you intend to travel with it. The case takes the OTA, a diagonal and up to three eyepieces; all of which weighs just a couple of kilos and is the size of a small handbag.
Note: for travel I’d now prefer a rigid case like a Peli, because that soft case has a flaw – the top is thin, with minimal padding: something heavy dropped on it will still damage the TV-60 (this happened to me – the plastic drawtube lock knob snapped).
Tele Vue TV-60 with optional case, diagonal, 19mm Panoptic, 3-6mm Nagler Zoom eyepieces. Pen for scale.
In Use – Daytime
The TV-60 makes a fantastic spotting scope – sharp, bright and able to take higher magnifications (up to 100x plus) than any prismatic spotter. False colour is minimal, even focusing through silhouetted branches at 100x.
In Use – Astrophotography
With a 1.25” visual back, you can’t do ‘serious’ imaging, but I took a quick snap of the Double Cluster, straight from the camera just reduced in size below. Off axis stars are very distorted and suggest drawtube droop (never good!). Vignetting is severe, as you’d expect, but centre field is excellent.
The sharp central stars and minimal blue bloat suggests that the TV-60IS should be a great imaging machine, but by cropping down to ~1.5° field width you could start imaging with a basic TV-60. To illustrate, I’ve included a 100% crop of the centre field.
The TV-60 is a huge improvement over the Ranger here, much more so than for visual use, because the Ranger produced loads of blue bloat on O-A stars. See the image of M31 taken with a Ranger below for comparison.
A quick TV-60 snap of the Moon is good – sharp and detailed – despite the small image scale.
Double Cluster: 30s at ISO 3200 with Canon EOS 6D Mark II with 100% crop of the centre field.
For comparison, this image of M31 taken with a Tele Vue Ranger (NOT the TV-60!) shows much more blue-bloat.
In Use – The Night Sky
General Observing Notes
Getting sufficient magnification is the main challenge with the TV-60. I often use the TV-60 with just two eyepieces (which fit perfectly in the case): a 25mm Plössl for wide fields and finding and a 3-6mm Nagler Zoom for the Moon and planets.
With the TelePod you simply raise or lower the central post to get perfect viewing height (so that’s why the TelePod tripod is built that way!) The TelePod mount works smoothly with the TV-60: none of the balance and stiction problems you get with heavier scopes.
The TV-60/TelePod are so portable you just pick the lot up and move it to the most inaccessible part of the house or garden to sneak a peek at a fox in the field across the way, or the moon when it’s low and behind trees from every other position.
The small size and flat black appearance of the TV-60 may not be as pretty as a slim white tube, but in an urban setting they are, well … stealthy is the word. I used to appreciate this, viewing from the busy lakefront promenade where I lived in Switzerland. My habit was to hide in a dark corner, right next to the lake where hardly any of the customers at the nearby takeaway noticed me. Yes, I know Al Nagler used to set up a Dob’ on a Manhattan street and show the Moon to passers-by … but I’m British, for goodness sake! I’m just too reserved for ‘sidewalk astronomy’; maybe you’re the same and the TV-60’s stealthy nature will help.
If you want to observe somewhere like this and avoid hearing, “Is that a telescope? Can you see Uranus?” every five minutes, you need a stealth-scope: the TV-60.
You can use the TV-60 virtually straight from a warm house. This is a huge advantage over something like a C5 or Questar, or a small triplet or quadruplet refractor.
The star test on mine is textbook perfect.
As with any small scope, the Moon is the TV-60’s favourite target. It will take up to 142x with a 2.5mm T6 Nagler on steady nights and shows a level of detail that might surprise users of larger SCTs and Dobs. The TV-60 shows no chromatic aberration on the Moon – just greys and whites and buffs. On nights when the seeing is poor, you notice and appreciate the lower level of boiling that a smaller aperture delivers.
That said, this aperture is never as involving as the next class up and fails to show all but the most obvious rilles, doesn’t get you into that Lunar Orbiter closeness that a 4” APO does. But 4” APO performance simply isn’t possible at this compact size.
A point of interest here: you might think that a perfect 3.5” Maksutov (a Questar for example) would deliver better performance in a similarly compact package. However, I recently tested a 60mm APO alongside a Questar and found that, even if the Questar did offer up a bit more detail on the Moon, the view was less pin-sharp and contrasty.
Mars surprises by yielding its polar caps and some albedo detail near opposition. With Mars at 16.9” and high near transit (57° Alt) in fine seeing, I could make out Syrtis Major just off centre and Meridiani Planum on the limb at 120x with the 3mm setting of a Nagler zoom. The image was completely sharp at that magnification and with just very minor red blur inside focus – noticeably better than the larger TV ED doublets in this respect. I thought the TV-60 gave better views of Mars than Takahashi’s FS-60 too.
In good seeing, Jupiter can be an engrossing sight at 142x, with multiple belts, the polar hoods and the largest dark storms visible. Shadow transits are possible with the TV-60.
Saturn is another surprisingly satisfying target for the TV-60. Unlike the vague and fuzzy image delivered by a 70mm Mak’ I tried, the TV-60 gives a very sharply-defined view of Saturn, with the ring shadow and (perhaps!) the Cassini Division visible on good nights.
The TV-60 is obviously limited by its aperture on deep sky. You can see most of the Messier Catalogue, but few show the detail they can with larger apertures. For example, M13 remains a dim smudge in the TV-60, whereas even a 4” starts to show myriads of stars in its outer regions. Similarly, objects like the Dumbbell, Ring and Crab nebulae remain faint smudges as in large binoculars.
However, the Orion Nebula is still a spectacular view and open clusters are superb in the TV-60, with the intense contrast between brilliant stars and velvety black space that I so love with the best small refractors.
Star fields look great, wide and sharp and sparkly to the edge with a Tele Vue eyepiece. I especially liked the view with a Panoptic 19mm giving 19x.
Tele Vue TV-60 vs Mini Borg 60ED
These share optical spec’s (originally price too!) and make an interesting comparison:
· Physical (as opposed to optical) build quality is very different, similarly high
· The 60ED is slightly faster at F5.8 vs F6
· Both have built-in ¼-20 threads and are ready to mount on a photo tripod
· The TV-60 weighs over twice as much at 1.5 vs 0.6 Kg
· The TV-60 is of higher optical fabrication quality, has a better star test, takes high powers better
· The 60ED’s objective has a small air space and so worse false colour, for visual or imaging
· Hybrid focusing system is drawtube plus helical on both
· As shown, the Borg helical focuser takes far less load than the Tele Vue (a larger Borg M57 focuser is better)
· The Mini Borg’s M57 back makes it much more adaptable:
o For imaging with an extender, flattener or reducer
o As a terrestrial telephoto
o With a 2” eyepiece holder for wider fields
If the Borg was of better optical quality (and with a one of Borg’s larger focusers) it would be a win – lighter and much more adaptable. As it is, the TV-60 is much more desirable for anything but prime-focus imaging where the Borg’s lower optical quality matters less and the ability to fit a flattener more.
I’ve heard it said many times that a telescope should be a long white object. If so, the TV-60 fails spectacularly; but in every other respect it’s a great success. Yes, it’s expensive, but the design is thoughtful, the build quality superb and rugged.
The objective is outstanding, with much better correction than most small doublets due its design with a large air space and superb optical quality as well.
Is there anything negative about the TV-60? In truth, not much. The helical focuser has some image shift at the limits of its short travel and its grease gets stiff on cold nights. The hefty build mean it is still much heavier than a 60mm Borg.
The TV-60’s biggest limitation is the obvious one: with a 1.25”-only eyepiece holder you can’t take advantage of the imaging potential of the fast but well-corrected objective. For the same reason, the TV-60 can’t do dual-duty as a telephoto lens like a small Borg.
You would need to buy fancy eyepieces (like Naglers) in the 2-4mm range for the TV-60 to yield the high powers it can cope with, Plössls and Orthoscopics just don’t come in short enough focal lengths.
But if you want a premium grab-and-go or travel scope for visual, one that you’ll never feel intimidated about taking along on that trip, then the TV-60 is your scope: small, beautifully made and optically near perfect. Its stealthy black finish is a bonus for urban viewing.
The TV-60 is highly recommended for visual use: it’s still one of the best and most portable quick-look and travel scopes around, but at a price.
Updated by Roger Vine 2023
You can take the TV-60 places you couldn’t most other scopes (except maybe the Questar alongside).