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Telescope Review: Vista 508SE / Orion Short Tube 80

1999-03-06 by Rick Towns

Telescope: Vista 508SE / Orion Short Tube 80
Type: Refractor
Description: 80mm f/4 achromat refractor with 6x26mm finder, 25mm Plossl eyepiece, $279 CAD including table top EQ tripod
Setup: I bought this scope as a portable grab and go to compliment my big C8. This scope came on a tiny table top EQ-1 tripod, but it had a threaded hole in the base that allowed me to mount the whole assembly on top of a camera tripod. The whole rig was a bit jiggly, but with the low powers afforded by the ST80, it didn't turn out ot be a big issue.
Appearance: The scope comes with a plastic OTA tube, a metal 1.25 inch rack and pinion focuser and a sonotube dew cap. The 80mm achromat objective lens had promising green and red coatings, and the focuser was just about the smoothest I've ever used on a low end refractor. Overall the construction of the scope itself was very good. The EQ-1 table mount was also smooth and solid, with excellent operation of the slow motion controls on both axis.
Performance: I had the Vista 508SE - a Canadian version of the ST80. The build quality of the scope is good, and it's equipped with a nice metal 1.25 inch rack and pinion focuser. I used a Celestron prism 90 degree diagonal and the supplied 25 mm Plössl eyepiece. The super short focal length (400mm) of this scope affords very nice wide field views. Open clusters and patches of the Milky Way are a sheer joy to drink in. However, that same short focal length means that getting some serious magnification out of this unit involves Barlows and small eyepieces. I could push the scope to around 80x, and the images remained crisp. Above 100x, though, and things got mushy in a hurry.
Star images were tack sharp at low power, and it showed star colours quite well (such as Albireo). However, this scope isn't very good at splitting close doubles. The power just isn't there. But for wide, contrasting colour doubles, the views are great. The Pleiades was just an awesome view, and I suspect this would be a great bright comet scope.
My views of Jupiter and Saturn were quite satisfying, with plenty of detail available. False colour was quite evident, with a ghostly purple hue surrounding bright objects. Still, I could make out a hint of the Cassini Division on Saturn, and I watched Io's shadow transit Jupiter's face. Also visible were 2 bands, and the GRS. When compared to my C8, the views were quite good, just a great deal smaller and dimmer.
On deep sky stuff, the ST80 does a decent job, and uses it's 80mm aperture well. M13 showed some granularity, but no stars were resolved. It easily show Andromeda's bright disk, and it's two companions M32 and M110 all in the same field of view.
  • Excellent wide field views
  • Solid build, nice tight focuser
  • Ultra portable and a good deep sky performer
  • Runs out of steam around 100x
  • False colour is pretty "loud" on bright objects like Jupiter and the moon
Conclusions: Overall, this is a great little grab and go scope. It's got enough aperture to haul in most of the popular stuff, and if you get one on an EQ mount, it's really worth the money. I think it's an excellent compliment to a bigger, narrower field scope like an SCT or a big refractor.
The bottom line? Recommended (decent, wide field views, compact package, great price).
Reviewer: Rick Towns
Review Date: 3/6/1999


My name is Rick Towns and I am an amateur astronomer and computer programmer from Canada. This is a collection of interesting posts I've gathered over the years.