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Tell us about your observing equipment purchases – brands, vendors, items

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Tell us about your observing equipment purchases – brands, vendors, items

 AAVSO members and friends

In preparation for the AAVSO Annual Campaign and Annual Meeting in 2020 HQ staff are trying to collect data on the brands of astronomy related equipment you are using for observing, the vendors you purchase from, the travel companies you use to book special trips for observing, the telescope farms you rent time from etc.  It seems only right that vendors who are benefitting from your purchases year after year should think about supporting the AAVSO as sponsors at our Annual Meeting or donors to the Annual Campaign. Take a minute and email me. Your answers will help so please take a minute to respond!

Thank you!

Kathy Spirer

Operations Manager

CTX's picture
Suggest Main Page Post


I think youi have a great idea that can surve a lot of purposes but your forum topic will continue to get bumped before you can get many, if any replies..... suggest you try and get a link for this topic as a main item for the main page so it stays in front of everyone until you feel it has surved its purpose.

Per Ardua Ad Astra


ldj's picture
Vendors and manufacturers

Vendors and manufacturers that I have spend lots of money with personally and for the university are: Planewave, Celestron, Pegasus Optics, Diffraction Limited (SBIG too), ZWO, ATIK Cameras, DC3 Dreams, AAG. And of course OPT which has nearly all of these manufacturers products in stock!


I've got stuff from Celestron, Stellarvue, Astrophysics, Televue, iOptron, Losmandy, SBIG.  Ithink that's all.  A 130 mm Takahashi refractor.  Sources are Company  7 and (mostly) OPT and a few used items from other amateurs.

I trust the top brands

I come from a nature/wildlife/birding passion.  The "best" binoculars (universally accepted by nearly all vendors and participants in the birding world) are Zeiss, Swarovski and to some extent Leica in that order.  I have Zeiss 8 x 42 FL T* binoculars. Current top of the line is approaching and exceeding $3,000 USD for these three makes depending on model.

The vendor I buy from is   I use Manfrotto tripods and heads.  I just purchased a new Manfrotto 410 geared head that is ideal for heavy equipment, preventing drift.  It locks solid and has fine adjustment for all three-way movements as well as a rapid-large movement release to get in the general vicinity.  Most wildlife use heads need more fluid movement but for astronomy, this head seems perfect as "drift" was common with my other heads.  To fine adjust and look at nearby or comparison stars from the current target and back by turning a knob is very nice.

My scope also comes from a birding background.    It is a 95mm objective with a 30x70 zoom Swarovski ATX.  They do have an eye-piece (BTX) that is dual-eye so in effect you are looking through a scope yet able to see with both eyes (in effect, like a binocular).  It's about $5,400 USD, the regular eyepiece with the 95mm objective is about $4,900 USD.  Vortex is known for a good mid-range price binocular.  I have their 10X42 Viper.  

The Swarovski ATX system is modular.  I am thinking of purchasing the BTX (both eyes) eyepiece to replace my 30x70 zoom.  It is a fixed 35mm when used with the 95mm objective (they have 65mm and 85mm objectives also at a lesser cost).  Because I already have the objective module, my cost will be $3,100 vs the complete set at $5,400.

I use a Canon 5D Mark III camera.  In the nature/birding/professional news etc, Canon and Nikon are the only two top-end makes.  With camera and lens reviews, there are outstanding review orgs like "" that do professional, benchmark testing comparing one lens/camera to another.  This was always a great help when pondering purchases of photo equipment.

I see that with binoculars and scopes, there are no independent, unbiased review sites (as far as I have learned so far).  There is "opinion" but there is no science or equipment/technology testing that gives a factual difference in optical quality, edge sharpness and other important traits one looks for.  It seems buying binoculars and scopes are done on "faith" and what one hears from a friend, unlike camera and lens where you have science and actual optical tests to support your buying decision.  I suppose that's why with binoculars, nearly everyone I knew serious into nature/wildlife used Zeiss, Swarovski or Leica.  The reputation and uses by colleagues was accepted as "the best" (and priced accordingly) as there were never any true unbiased, technical reviews available like with camera/lens.



mdrapp's picture
My stuff is fairly modest. 

My stuff is fairly modest.  Lots of classic Meade stuff.  A Celestron scope or two.  iOptron mount.  Explore Scientific eyepieces.  Pentax binoculars (which is my primary variable star instrument).


--Michael in Houston

When the Meade fork mount for

When the Meade fork mount for my gifted Meade 14 inch telescope broke down, I was able to purchase a Paramount MX+ (purchased from OPT), de-fork the Meade and mount on the Paramount.  With mounting rings from Parallax.  This performs very well.

104 mm refractor from Lunt.  Used principally for photographing the 2017 total solar eclipse.

Explore Scientific 8 inch Dob. 

Don in N. Carolina

Bernhard's picture
Just take a look at he profiles.


many people have their telescopes listed at their profiles. 

Or, ask the forum admin, maybe he can sort out all the items listed at personal equipment, from the personal account. Look at

my account / equipment


kindly Bernhard

lmk's picture
No vendors here! My visual 16

No vendors here! My visual 16.5" F/2.9 ball scope is homebuilt, including the primary mirror. Except eyepieces of course, most of them are the Televue Ethos, Ethos SX or clones. Primarily use the 3.7mm for most faint stars and a 13mm for wider fields and brighter stars.

I am planning for some CMOS imaging too, and will use a QHY5iii178 color camera at prime focus in a homebuilt 12.5" F/2.8 reflector.


CrossoverManiac's picture
What it's like looking

What it's like looking through a Newtonian with an F-ratio less than 3 better in comparison to the vendor Dobs with the higher f-ratio?

HBB's picture
My Vendors

My big ones are:  Software Bisque, Diffraction Limited, DC-3 Dreams, FLI cameras, Optec, AstroDon filters (sold to OSI Farpoint), Meade, Orion Telescopes, Canon cameras for DSLR photometry.



CrossoverManiac's picture
Both my mounts and my Dob are

Both my mounts and my Dob are all made by SkyWatcher, though the tripod for my Star Adventurer is Berlebach (because, for some unknown reason, SkyWatcher only recently put the Star Adventurer tripod on the US market).  My imaging scope is ES Comet Hunter (Newtonian-Maksutov). I have been experimenting with an AT66ED doublet for observing W Uma eclipsing binaries, though I may break down and buy a triplet as learned the hard way that the doublet refractor may be in focus with your B and V filter but won't be in focus for the I filter thanks to CA.  My new cameras are the ZWO 120MC, 178MM, and 183MM-Pro and Canon 6D.   My used cameras are two SBIG ST-7s (the second one was thrown in with a filter wheel and AO-7 adaptive optics unit I intended on purchasing) and a Nikon D80 full spectrum I got for cheap on Ebay (how about having them for a AAVSO supporter).

Edit: I forgot to mention I own a Synguider II stand-alone autoguider.  It's easier to use than PHD2, once the guide scope is in focus, and it's useful if your computer can't handle both imaging and autoguiding at the same time.

Though I never used a DSLR for imaging, I have used the Backyard EOS and Backyard Nikon for astrophotography and the Shoestring Astronomy GBUSB for my Nikon since it's an older model.


What I have is listed in my profile. I've purchased from Company 7, OPTcorp and Hands On Optics (no longer in business).  Most of my observing has been solar, but I want to get more into nighttime variable stuff.

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