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Moving Up to the Solar Max 90 from the PST. any Advice Welcome


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#1 Falcon

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Posted 19 May 2008 - 07:18 PM

Hi,

I posted this as a reply to Larry Alvarez's Solar Prom.
It should have been posted as a new topic to the general audience.
I just joined the forum today and apologize for my mistake.

Your photographs are a work of art. The images you have in Philip Pugh's book "Observing the Sun with Coronado Telescopes" belong in an artistic display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

Last Christmas I purchased a Coronado PST. My heart still skips a beat when I view solar activity thru it. As you are aware we always want a larger scope and when I checked Astronomics website I was astonished to see the Solar Max 60 and 90mm selling at deep discount.

May I ask your advise on my next Coronado scope? I have a Meade LDX 75 equitorial mount which is quite stable and should handle the SolarMax 90mm. Is that a correct assumption?

Scanning the website I hear talk about a rust problem. Is it common? The warrenty is for five years and I wonder what the repair cost would be out of warrenty?
Are there any other bugs or flaws in the 60mm or 90mm that you are aware of?

My thoughts are to try photography of the sun. I have never been artistic, but when I see your images I am enthralled with the beauty you bring out from the sun. I am retired and have been a night astronomer for years. I would like to start viewing the sun as well and see if I can capture its beauty as you do.

Going from the PST to the 90mm is quite a jump, but how often does Meade drop the price by 50%.
If there is any advice or suggestion on my next purchase, I am all ears to your thoughts and ideas.

Sincerely,

Larry Kuklinski

#2 Larry Alvarez

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 08:15 AM

Larry, the 90 will work with your LDX75.  It weighs around 16~20lbs.  Its pretty stout for a 90mm scope.  The tube is thick gauge aluminum and the filter itsself is pretty heavy too. 

The issue "Rust" is a common issue with what's is known as the Blocking filter.  This is not the front main filter but rather the rear filter in the diagonal.  More specifically it is the filter at the enterance of the diagonal.  The part of the filter that rusts out is coated with a sort of metallic coating that is suseptable to moisture.  I have found that if you keep it stored well it keeps for a long time.  Since my original filters rusted I started keeping mine in an air tight tupperware container with some silica packs.  So far 2.5 years and no rust.  If you get a rusted Blocking filter you can get it repaired by Meade at no cost except for shipping within the warranty time frame.  I do not know how much it cost out of warranty. 

All solar filters that I know of no matter what the brand have a shelf life like this for their blocking filter.  Proper storage is the key to a long filter life for all of them.  If you are into photography I would suggest a Coronado filter because it attaches to the scope, is temperature stable, and it is easy to setup and use right out of the box.  Truthfully though any h-alpha filter can produce good results.  When I started I looked into the pros and cons for each.  Coronado was the best bet at that time.  Some of the other filters out there requires more preparation before viewing.  One of the more popular is the rear mounted type h-alpha filter.  This filter is good but be prepared to buy extensions for the back of your scope to make it reach the needed F30 bandwidth, a 2 inch barlow, 2 inch powermate or a telecentric lens.  I found that the extensions to get my scope to f30 would have almost been as long as the telescope length. 

The 90 is a really sweet telescope but the 60 is no small beans either.  Its perfectly crafted both optically and mechanically and is well suited for delivering full disk shots and mild closeups.  The 90 will buy you more close up detail on good seeing days but with the right camera it will be hard to tell the difference when comparing full disk shots. With the 60 you also get a more portable scope. 

As far as imaging is concered the new DMK line of cameras are really excellent for solar imaging.  For photography you want to stick to a camera with a true black and white ccd element.  Color cameras work but not as well as Black and white cameras. 

Clear Skyz, LA

#3 Falcon

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Posted 21 May 2008 - 12:29 PM

Hi Larry,

Great advice! I appreciate your comments especially concerning the 60mm.
At National Astronomy Day I had my PST on the LDX75 with clear calm skies. There were about 150 people and they got to see some solar prominences. A local college had their SolarMax 40mm on a camera tripod. They were never able to see the prominces. And their scope was a "step-up". Maybe with the image never centered for long they did not have the time to adjust the fine tuning.

Is it correct to say that I will notice a better solar image going from a PST to the 60mm, but not as great going from the 60mm to the 90mm?

I was sold on the 90mm until your comments.

What do you make of Meade's price reduction on the 60mm and 90mm.
I asked one dealer and his opinion was "they need the money." Then I inquired if they may go out of business. He did not think that to be the case.

From your comments I will now consider the 60mm Coronado. The advantages are money, portibility and in your opinion close visual images.

Thank you for your sage advice as well as the stunning solar images you capture. They truly are a work of art.

Larry Kuklinski

#4 Larry Alvarez

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Posted 21 May 2008 - 04:08 PM

Your correct, the Wow factor from 60 to 90 is not that much.  but the Wow factor from the PST to 60 will be pretty big.  The view of the sun's disk will be much bigger in the 60 or the 90.  There will be no problem seeing spots, filaments, flares, and all the other h-alpha details with a 60 or 90.  There is simply more to see.

I think part of the reason for dropping the price is that Coronado has recently moved its operation to another location out of the US and they also have direct competition from the Son of the privious owner of Coronado.  Both these things have probably played a part in their decision to reduce prices.  I cannot say which scopes are better because the new scopes have not been demo'd that I know of.  I can speak for the Coronado 60's, 90's and PST's because I have had one of each and I know they deliver.  As this is a Coronado forum I will stick to my descriptions of the Coronado scopes and refrain from my opinions on the others out of respect for both.

I've had a 60mm single stack and double stack and found that the view was just amazing.  When I got my 90 it was mainly for imaging purposes.  Back then I was trying to shoot the sun with a color camera.  It didn't work too well because the image through the scope is monochrome.  Now that I have more experience I am considering getting a 60mm scope again.  Mainly for portability and easy of use.  Alot has changed since I got my first 60 and I now also have a 70mm Calcium telescope as well.  The 60~70 range is awesome for solar imaging and viewing.  I'm not sure why but it would seem that they are some how more balanced for average seeing conditions than the larger options.  I think that there are more days of average seeing than there are days with exceptional seeing.  This may play a part in why the view always looks good through a scope with a wider field but smaller aperture.  When the seeing is good though you still can't beat a 90mm aperture with a smaller aperture but its pretty close. 

I think that a pros and cons list would be in order before you make a purchase.  Here are some quick ones I can think of between the 90 and 60.

The 90 pros:
More aperture and thus more resolution
Larger visual disk through the eyepiece
Built with heavy gauge aluminum parts
Well machined throughout
Is great for full disk or extreme closeup shots

The 90 cons:
Heavy scope at 16 to 18 lbs and is thus harder to setup
Not as portable
More expensive

The 60 Pros:
Less expensive
More protable
Provides excellent views and images
Weighs less and is easier to setup because of this
Getting a 60 will mean more left over money for other things like a monochrome CCD :)

The 60 cons:
Great for full disk images and medium close up images

As you can see, in my opinion the 60 is really an all around good sized scope to have.  About the only thing I don't like about the 90 or the 60 is the focuser on them.  Its an odd helical design and I prefer the traditional style focuser.  Otherwise they are both built to perform.

Clear Skyz, LA

#5 Falcon

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Posted 21 May 2008 - 06:11 PM

Hi Larry,

I like your send off -"Clear Skyz".
Erie Pennsylvania on the banks of lake Erie is where I live.
According to the weather service we enjoy about 60 cloudless days a year.
So you can see that when we see the sun it is a special occasion indeed.

Your advice is swaying me towards the 60mm and your compaison table is right on.
I have a Canon 20Da and a Meade DSL camera. The Canon can be programmed for B&W while the Meade is a mono camera with color filters. Do you add the color in post imaging like Photoshop?

To my knowledge the images are nice thru a bino viewer. Any comments?

On my PST I have tried different types of eyepieces. The Cemax is nice, but the sharpest most eye pleasing image is with Brandon eyepieces from my Questar. I have also used Meades series 5000, but the Brandons have the edge.

Are you planning a book on solar photography? From the quality of the images you have amassed considerable knowledge and technical skills. Do you sell your photos or present them at art show or displays? You should make them available to the general public. They have no clue as to the wonders of old sol. With the increase in solar activity peoples awareness may increase.

Thanks again for taking the time to share your knowledge.

Larry Kuklinski

#6 Larry Alvarez

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Posted 21 May 2008 - 06:34 PM

Wow only 60 days.  I'd go stir crazy but lately that's what we have been seeing.  Most of the time I use a program called gimp which is a photoshop clone (but free).  I think they call it levels in photoshop.  You find that if you take a B&W image and then convert it to rgb it will be B&W still but it will have 3 channels.  Adjusting the blue to near darkness, the green to about half and turning up the red a little will give you a false red / orange color.  From there you can tweak it further to get just the color you like.  If you go the opposite direction you can colorize it blue like a Calcium image. 

Since I rarely view I really can't speak on the best eyepieces to use or binos.  I mainly image the Sun.  I do have a set of still in the wrapper unused Cemaxes that came with my 90.  I hear they are good but I've never tried them.  I typically use a couple old Meade 2000 eyepieces I bought years ago.  I've been wanting to try some Televue eyepieces because I use their powermates and really like the quality.  They are pricey though and I do not do enough viewing to justify them right now.  People have said that the optics don't really matter with h-alpha but I think they do and I have as you have seen good optics in eyepieces and bad ones. 

I do have a large collection of images and I helped Phil with the 90 part of the book that recently came out and I have been working on my own but work constraints have taken priority lately so I have had little time to work on it. 

Clear Skyz, LA

#7 Falcon

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 11:22 AM

Yes 60 days of cloudless skies.
Many more with partial coverage.
Thank you for the salient advice on imaging.
I have a "clone" copy of Photoshop that I am anxious to try.

When I referred to the "bino's" I was refering to using them to observe the sun.
From my understanding you do not view very much?
Do you spend your time imaging?

From the amount of material you contributed you should be listed as co-author with Phil.
I have a copy and your material in it is great.
Sky & Telescope commented on the book in there last issue.
I do not agree with the writer's conclusion and his article should not be considered a review, but a footnote.

Patrick Moore's series cover a lot of pertinent topics in astronomy. It is difficult to get timely information published quickly and sometimes the editing must suffer. Later editions can polish the content. When S&T reviews Meade or Celestron equipment it is always good. Don't bite the hand that pays the bills!

Good luck with your book and save me an autographed copy!

Larry Kuklinski

#8 stephenramsden

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Posted 23 June 2008 - 07:27 AM

Gentlemen,
I also just moved from the PST to the SolarMax 90 at .55 Angstoms.  I just got mine last week and let me tell you, it is quite an understatement when you say there is a wow factor from the change. 
I was absolutely thrilled with the 90, especially at the $4995 price.  I had pre-ordered a Lunt 200mm but got so tired of all of the run around about production, I went with the Coronado price drop.

I use a Canon 40D and a Nikon Coolpix5100 but I am not getting the results I need photographically but as far as visually goes, the 90 is awesome!!!
Stephen Ramsden
Atlanta
www.solarastrophotography.com




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