Review of Altair Astro ED80
Used at Astrofarm Astronomy Centre
Since we moved to France and set up the CEM60 in the observatory, I have only had one telescope on the mount, the Altair Astro ED80. I will be writing this review as a lay person who is using equipment for both Digital SLR and CCD cameras with narrowband filters. Therefore; there will be no long drawn out mathematical formulas and I will not be writing about the technical aspects of the Altair Astro ED80 telescope as these are covered in detail on the Altair Astro Website
I purchased the telescope new, from Altair at the European Astronomy Festival in London in February 2015 for £380. At the same time I got a dew band and a Bahtinov mask for the ED80, the latter was to prove to be the best item under £10 I have ever bought! I was very impressed with the case that the telescope was packed in. It had two mounting rings, base plate bracket for a finder scope and a dual speed focuser was also fitted. Unfortunately the telescope stayed in the case until August that year when we eventually moved over permanently to Astrofarm. Eventually the day arrived and it was time to unpack the Altair Astro ED80 and mount it on the CEM60 for the first time and use it.
This image is the Horsehead taken in Ha with an Atik 16ic mono camera
The build quality of the scope is very good in comparison to some of my 17 other telescopes. Very solid and tight in build which gave it a reassuring feeling when placing it on the mount. The feather touch focuser is lockable and was very sturdy in the first instance. I found that when changing between DSLR and CCD I needed to remove my diagonal which was needed for the CCD but not for the DSLR. The focus distance is very long and does allow for most changes of camera, so from Canon to Nikon and Sony there was some movement required but not great distance and with the Bahtinov mask it was even easier to find focus when pointing at a bright star.
In comparison to other refracting telescopes, the images taken using the Altair Astro ED80 were very sharp, crisp and rich in both colour and contrast. Depending on the quality of the sky I sometimes found that dark frames were not required. However; there was vignetting on the images, when using a DSLR, which would be rectified with a focal reducer and flattener. The telescope is a perfect all-rounder which suits both DSLR and CCD. My CCD images are very good quality and suited in size for most astronomical objects.
This Andromeda image is a stack of 15 5 min of my exposures, stacked and processed in PixInsight by Darren Knight.
With the 555mm fl it makes the Altair Astro ED80 perfect for objects like the Andromeda galaxy using a DSLR as it fits perfectly from one corner diagonally to another. For all my images I only use free software such as DSS and Registax along with the free version of Adobes PhotoShop CS2. This is through choice as we want to be able to show people what can be done using standard free software and relatively low budget equipment. As people's skills develop they can then, if they wish, move on to more sophisticated software.
Negatives: The lens cap is a screw cap and seems to take ages to get on and off and you have to be careful not to cross thread it. The dew extension tube, built onto the telescope, is held in place by a single screw and, when fitting the lens cap for example, it can turn, thus marking the tube. Also, when fully extended it drops slightly in the diagonal making the telescope look like a banana. However none of these have an effect on the telescopes images. The focus lock is temperamental and, when locking it, it can move the focus slightly. When using the Atik camera I had some issues when the software was showing 2.0 for focus and when I locked the focuser it jumped to 3.0.
Overall verdict: For anyone starting in Astrophotography I think this scope is a must - if you have the mount to run it on. The quality is very good and solid and optically the telescope is more than adequate, especially considering the amount paid. I feel that with better high resolution cameras and proper processing techniques, the Altair Astro ED80 is a telescope that will tick a lot of boxes for many people. As I said at the beginning, this scope has not left the mount in nearly 15 months and I do have 17 other telescopes I could use!