Takahashi FC-60 Review
The FC-60 was the last of the original FC line of Takahashi refractors, produced during the Nineties and early Noughties to replace the FC-65. Takahashi have since rebooted the FC line, but with the notable absence of the FC-60, replacing it (eventually) with the optically innovative FOA-60.
Takahashi's FC-60 has been a bit of a holy grail among classic scopes for me. I first read Ed Ting's review twenty years ago and have wanted one ever since. Trouble is, the FC-60 has become so collectable in the U.S. that every time one appeared on Astromart someone beat me to it; meanwhile they almost never come up in Europe. Eventually, I took the risk and imported this 1990 example from Japan.
Here I m going to test the FC-60 as a classic, comparing it with its contemporary, the Tele Vue Ranger; but I also compare it against the recent and optically sophisticated FOA-60 and FOA-60Q.
At A Glance
420mm w/o visual back (490mm with)
1.2Kg bare, 1.8Kg incl. clamshell and finder
Data from Tak/Me.
The FC-60 in a 1991 brochure on the P2Z mount.
Design and Build
The FC-60 replaced the FC-65 in Takahashi's FC range of fluorite doublet refractors that went from 50mm to 125mm. All were Steinheil fluorite-at-the-back doublets and have legendary performance, particularly for contrast. Unlike the modern FC series, all were designed first and foremost as uncompromising planetary and lunar scopes.
The FC-60 shared the earlier FC-65's 500mm focal length, but little else (see below). It was introduced later than the rest of the range, some eight years after the generally similar FC-50.
When researching this review I was unable to discover when the FC-60 was introduced, but I was contacted by a helpful reader (Ken Tatematsu - thanks!) who checked the back issues of Tenmon Guide magazine at his observatory and discovered that that the July issue had an introduction to the FC-60 as a new face. So it seems the FC-60 was introduced in mid 1990, making mine an early example.
The later FS-series was introduced just four years later and so the FC-60 was produced after the demise of the other FCs, much as the FS-60 has remained in production after the rest of the FS-series.
Compared to the luxury FOA-60 which has finally replaced it, the FC-60 is a budget Takahashi: it has a fixed dewshield, a plastic objective cap and plastic imitations of the classic Tak silver focuser wheels (on which more below). Otherwise, it's a typical Takahashi of its generation, which is to say I love it: lime green cast focuser and lens ring, a white tube and Fluorite emblazoned on the dewshield.
Below I've included some photos of the FC-60 alongside some other small Takahashis (and a Tele Vue Ranger), for comparison.
As far as I know, all FC-60s have this colour scheme, i.e. lime green and white with blue decals. A variety of other colours and combinations have graced other Takahashis before and since. For more on this, I've written a separate article here. The smaller FC-50 was produced with both the lime green and the older blue-grey enamel (see below), but I can't find evidence that the FC-60 ever was, because it was introduced later.
Three long-f 60mm Takahashis, top to bottom: FOA-60Q, FS-60Q, FC-60.
Takahashi FC-60 and an FC-50 with the older blue-grey enamel.
Takahashi FC-60 with its contemporary, the TV Ranger.
FC-60 with its forerunner, the FC-65.
The FC-60 has a Canon/Optron foil-spaced doublet with the fluorite at the back in a Steinheil configuration. To check that it really is fluorite, I did a laser test (see below): fluorite doesn't scatter light, so disappears, unlike the glass (the bright spots are scatter from air-glass and air-fluorite surfaces).
The non-adjustable lens cell has the old Tak standard of green writing around the edge telling you the aperture (60mm) and focal length (500mm), which gives F8.3. By comparison, the FC-50 has an adjustable cell, like the earlier FC-65.
Those green letters also state MC which means multi-coated. Shine a light in and the lens does look very transparent in the way fluorite doublets do. However, the coatings have a bluish hue compared with the tobacco-colour of the latest on the FOA-60 and this does I think yield a slightly warmer tone to the image that is apparent on the Moon.
The fluorite element at the back is uncoated, as it was on all the original FCs. One of the reasons for adopting a fluorite-at-the-back design was to protect the delicate mineral crown. But interestingly, older Takahashis without the multi-coating seem to suffer from hazing of the flint element.
The later FS (for front surface) series of F8 fluorite doublets had their fluorite at the front in a Fraunhofer configuration; but for whatever reason, the FS-60 was (and still is) F5.9 - a much more imaging-centric format than the F8.3 FC-60.
The latest FOA-60 also has a front-surface fluorite doublet, but a large air gap between the elements to further control aberrations means a larger, heavier cell and potential sensitivity to knocks that affect centring and/or collimation (I have seen this on both an FOA-60 and the Sky-90 which has a similar cell).
Laser test confirms the FC-60 is a Steinheil fluorite doublet.
Whereas the FS-60 has an 80mm tube, the FC-60 shares its slimmer 68mm one with the its modern replacement the FOA-60 and its forerunner the FC-65 and the FC-50 too. The FC-60 and FC-50 share the same slim dew-shield; the older FC-65's is larger.
Compared to the FOA-60, the FC-60 has one big advantage: weight. At just 1.8Kg including its clamshell, the FC-60 is roughly the same weight as an FS-60C and almost half a kilo lighter than the FOA. This weight advantage over the FOA-60 is surprisingly meaningful - on the Teegul it doesn't need a counter-weight, whereas the FOA-60 does. The FC-60 is more stable on a photo tripod too.
For further context, the FC-60 also the same weight as the contemporary Tele Vue Ranger, despite being much longer.
The FC-60 has one knife-edge baffle in its tube, and two in the focuser drawtube, for maximum contrast.
FC-60 focuser has lots of travel, standard 0.965 visual back.
The 0.965 visual back is protected with a plastic cap.
I have experienced a couple of pretty bad Takahashi focusers over the years - one on a Sky-90, the other on an FS-60 (though another FS-60 I owned more recently was fine) - but that's far from typical and was probably due to wear from use with heavy cameras, or perhaps just user fiddling.
However, though the little focuser on this FC-60 is thirty years old it is just perfect: oily smooth and precise, completely free of image shift and with just the right feel and weight. I thought this might have been chance, but the second I've owned is the same and capable of finding best focus even at 200x.
The FC-60 came as standard with a 0.965 visual back and a matching prism diagonal, both terminated with twist-locks. The 0.965 VB is protected with a screw-on cover typical of Taks from that era.
The standard FC-60 focuser has a very short body, same as the FC-50 and similar to the FOA-60. A later version, the FC-60NZ, has an imaging-friendly focuser derived from the earlier FC-65 with a larger body and wider drawtube.
FC-60NZ: image courtesy of Christian Cammoranesi.
Another interesting point for Takophiles is the focuser knobs. On this FC-60 they're plastic imitations of the heavy anodised knobs typical of high-end Takahashis. I ve seen these plastic knobs on various small Taks, including an FS-78 and an FS-60. I think the current FC-100DC may have them too. Strangely, the FC-50 has the solid anodised knobs, but in a smaller size to complement its bijou look.
Another minor point is that these FC-60 knobs are shinier than recent examples. I thought they were re-sprayed, but not so. Again, studying online photos suggests that they were produced like this for a while.
Takahashi focuser knobs, L to R: FC-60 plastic, modern plastic, anodised metal.
The miniature anodised knobs on an FC-50, compared with the standard size on an FS-60Q.
The FC-60's weight is as low as small refractors go this side of a few tiny Borgs: the same as a TV-60 or Ranger. It is a perfect match for mini-equatorials like Takahashi's Teegul SP or more recent PM-SP, but is fine on small alt-az mounts like Vixen's Mini or Mobile Portas too. A Vixen compatible dovetail with 35mm-spaced M8 threads is available, intended for the Mewlon 210 but ideal for all Tak clamshells.
The FC-60 will also mount successfully on a sturdy photo tripod with a fluid head. I used a light Berlebach tripod and Manfrotto 701RC head for this review.
I mounted the FC-60 atop my big and very stable AP1200 mount when imaging.
FC-60 mounted on a PM-SP mount (note different colours). Shown with 0.965 visual back and Tak diagonal.
FC-60 on a fluid photo head and light Berlebach tripod. Shown with 1.25 visual back.
OTA with original accessories - 0.965 visual back, 5x25 finder, 68mm tube ring.
View through the 5x25 finder.
The 68mm tube ring was standard on the FC-60, the FC-50 and the FC-65; it can also be substituted with a modern one for the FOA-60 (compare photos above).
The smaller FCs would have been fitted with Takahashi s tiny 5x25 finder - an outstanding little optic, with properly baffled and blackened internals, a little helical focuser and a wide sharp field; like a smaller version of the usual 6x30 (see above).
Please note: though a ring mount for the 5x25 finder was available for the later FS-60, it doesn't fit these older scopes: the base is too wide, the mounting holes and bolt threads too large.
The FC-60 came with a 0.965 visual back. It can be directly replaced with the 1.25 equivalent from an FS-60. There is no 2" eyepiece holder option for the standard focuser, but Takahashi sell an FC-60/FC-65 adapter ring for their multi-flattener (part no. CA-65) for imaging.
The FC-60 was likely supplied with 18mm and 7mm Takahashi MC Orthoscopic eyepieces (and a matching 0.965 prism diagonal).
Supplied Takahashi MC Orthoscopic 18mm and 7mm eyepieces.
Swapping the standard 0.965 visual back for a 1.25 one from an FS-60 or equiv.
In Use Daytime
Waiting on a fellside for the planets to pop out in the dusk sky, I enjoyed using the FC-60 as a spotter. I viewed the brightly-lit power station across the bay; followed planes whizzing across the western sky; examined a farmhouse in the darkening valley below lit weirdly blue by unseen Christmas lights. A bright satellite slowly passed to the east and I followed that too. Wind turbines turned in silhouette against the sunset horizon.
I discovered that the FC-60 makes an outstanding spotter and birding scope - lightweight and steady on a photo head, quick to focus, it has a wide super-sharp field free of false colour even at 100x and beyond.
Most telescopes I review are too heavy or likely too fragile for use in the field, but the FC-60 would work well so long as you keep it dry and deliver sharper high-power views than the Ranger, which was much more commonly seen in hides.
My usual daytime shot of over-exposed branches is very revealing of false colour. The FC-60 shows the merest traces of green and purple in unfocused parts of the view. This level of performance is close to a triplet super-apo:
In Use Astrophotography
Allowing for its small image scale, the FC-60 takes an excellent image of the Moon at prime focus - sharp and detailed.
F8.3 sounds bad for deep sky imaging, but with modern camera sensors it's usable and the 500mm focal length means a wide enough field for most things. You would at least need the 1.25 visual back to allow any form of imaging, though.
At ISO 3200 my Fuji X-Trans APS-C camera isn t noisy but allows decent 60s subs of brighter subjects through the FC-60. Star images are tight and virtually free from nasty bloat and violet fringing. On an APS-C sensor, off-axis aberrations aren t too bad without a flattener, but there's not much point in full frame with a 1.25" visual back.
FC-60 Moon (cropped) with Fuji X-Trans APS-C CSC.
Unprocessed sub of the Pleiades through the FC-60: 120s at ISO 3200 with Fuji X-Trans APS-C CSC.
In Use The Night Sky
General Observing Notes
Sharp optics, low weight, rapid cool-down and a superb focuser make the FC-60 a pleasure to use.
Note that the FC-60 balances right at the focuser end of the tube, which can look a bit strange but is essential on the Teegul where otherwise the focus knobs would hit the RA housing. The Teegul and FC-60 were very closely designed together from this perspective with just a millimetre or two in it.
False colour is generally absent. Focusing through the bright limb of a nearly full Moon centre field to avoid eyepiece effects produces the merest tint of gold and rose either side of focus through the FC-60.
For comparison, a modern FOA-60Q perhaps the most perfectly corrected refractor ever made - yields no trace of false colour, but needs front-surface fluorite, a large air-gap, four elements and an F15 focal ratio to achieve it.
My first FC-60 had a perfect focuser and my second is the same: wonderfully smooth and precise with no image shift.
Compared to the Mewlon reflector I was testing at the time, cool down is laughably rapid. Straight from a warm house into a freezing November night, the FC-60 gives the Moon a halo of stray light, just the way a poor optic does. After ten minutes, space is inky black again, cool-down complete.
The star test is excellent with just the usual trace of under-correction. In-focus diffraction pattern and Airy disk are text book perfect.
I woke one frosty November morning to excellent (8-9) seeing and a last quarter Moon high in the sky just off the meridian, with Albategnius on the terminator. Skidding out onto my icy balcony, the FC-60 quickly gave a stunning view for such a tiny refractor.
A 3.5mm Nagler giving 143x showed loads of sharp detail along the terminator: Mons Piton, bathed in evening light; the craterlets like a string of beads along Rima Hyginus and nearby Rima Ariadaeus, black with shadow and running off into the darkness; Alphonsus with its offset central peak, dark patches and hummocky ridge; the Straight Wall and its odd arrow-head at one end; the slumped walls of Tycho in extraordinary detail. Clavius and its arc of craters.
On a different occasion, I'd been examining Mare Imbrium through the FOA-60Q at 180x with a 10mm Zeiss Abbe Ortho in the Zeiss 2x barlow. Surely the old FC-60 couldn t take that kind of magnification? I swapped the Zeiss 10mm for a 6mm to give 167x in the FC-60 to see. The view was the same, sharp and full of subtle shading contrast where the bright rays met dark Mare lavas. I watched a star just off the limb in absolutely black space.
The shortest focal length eyepiece I have is a 2.5mm Nagler giving 200x in the FC-60. Amazingly, there is no softness or image breakdown at that mag, just a trace more false colour focusing through the limb and a slightly dimmer view. This was a real close-up encounter with the rugged craters of the Moon with none of the lilac wash suffered by the Tele Vue Ranger I was testing at the same time. The limb showed mountains silhouetted against black space as only the finest scopes can.
The FC-60 gives an extraordinarily beautiful high-power view of the Moon for such an old telescope, comparable with the state-of-the-art FOA-60Q alongside.
With the planets clustered low in the western dusk sky, I had to climb the local fell to see them. It was the first day of Advent and a silvery crescent Moon hung over a blood-orange dusk that reflected in cirrus above and bay beneath. It was brutally cold and my fingers numbed as night slowly fell on a crunchy fellside.
A brilliant, full-disk Venus boiled low to the horizon, with lots of false colour from the atmosphere (not the FC-60!) blue and orange either side of the planet. Some six weeks later in its elongation cycle, a magnitude -4 Venus, at a much higher altitude (~18 ), showed a perfectly defined gibbous disk. It was absolutely pure white at 100x, with not a trace of false colour, even out of focus.
Almost two months after the December 2022 Mars opposition, Mars was just 11.2 in diameter, but at a favourable 60 degree altitude. I had recently received my second FC-60 (I foolishly sold the first) and was anxious to try it. At 142x with a 3.5mm Nagler, Mars was a perfectly sharp and distinctly gibbous disk, with no softness or false colour.
I was surprised to see albedo markings, so I upped the power with first a 2.5mm Nagler and then a 2.5mm Pentax XO giving a very high (for a 60mm) 200x.
I was amazed to find the FC-60 took the high power to reveal bright Hellas (probably covered with cloud) in the south, with the dark stripe of Sabaeus Sinus in the west and Mars' most recognisable telescopic feature - Syrtis Major - in the west.
At 100x with the 5mm setting of a Nagler Zoom, I noted a very sharp planetary disk with excellent contrast. The equatorial belts revealed features, darker spots and variations in thickness. Further fainter belts were visible to north and south, along with dark polar hoods. At 125x with the 4mm, the image was still perfect but didn't yield much more detail.
The Galilean moons were shown as perfect tiny disks of slightly varying hue and brightness, with Io close in and noticeably yellower than the others.
At 100x with a 5mm Nagler, I could see all the usual details with perfect sharpness ring shadow, hints of a partial Cassini Division, polar hood and the planet partially obscured by the rings.
The FC-60 works as well as most 60mm refractors for deep sky, perhaps giving away only a little brightness to the FOA-60 with its latest multi-coatings on all elements. The Pleiades are sparkly and brilliant, with pinpoint stars across the whole field. The open clusters in Auriga show masses of stars, easier to pick out with averted vision. The Great Nebula (M42) in Orion reveals its extended arms and hints of structure in the central region.
But this is an area where the 60mm Takahashi with its uncoated fluorite gives quite a lot away to the 70mm (and fully coated) TV Ranger. The Tele Vue offers brighter DSO views and is the better scope if you like low-power Milky Way surfing.
At 143x with a T6 Nagler 3.5mm the Double Double (Epsilon Lyrae) was a perfect split on both components.
The FC-60 was once Takahashi's entry-level budget scope, but has become something of a collectors item. It's not hard to see why: no one makes anything quite like it today.
Today, small apochromatic refractors are designed for imaging, with hefty focusers and wide visual backs, short focal lengths and improved correction in the blue and violet. In contrast, the FC-60 is optimised for visual use, especially on the Moon and planets. Meanwhile, the doublet objective, slim tube, fixed dew-shield and 1.25" only focuser make it very light-weight, rugged and easy to carry and mount.
Even with its tube ring, the FC-60 is as light as a tiny TV-60 or FS-60, but takes magnification better and gives even better Solar System views. Recent long-focal-length Takahashi 60s - the FS-60Q and FOA-60 - are half a kilo heavier and so slightly more awkward to carry and mount.
So, true to legend, the FC-60 does make a wonderful super-light travel scope for the Solar System - for eclipses, but also for Mercury or the early days of a lunation. For someone with a big Dob or SCT it remains an ideal second scope for quick looks too.
The FC-60 remains the perfect small apochromat for visual use and travel, especially for the Solar System. I love it. It s a classic and it deserves to be.