Should I get a TAL refractor?
I wonder if you could assist me. I have been talking to a chap at Beacon Hill Telescopes (nice man) and he passed on your details.

I would like to purchase a telescope for my wife who has started showing a interest in astronomy. I am not looking at expensive ones but I am at a loss. The one I have in mind is the Tal 100R refractor or would the Helios range be worth a look. Any ideas.
Jonathan H 

I havenít tried a TAL 100 refractor, though my experience with the TAL reflectors is that they are excellent value. This does not mean to say that they are the best telescopes available, but they give good performance at a very good price. They are Russian made.

The Helios instruments, now known as Sky-Watcher, are made in China by Synta and are also available in the US from Orion Telescopes and Binoculars. They are similar in design and specification to the Celestron range. It may be that the two ranges are identical, but I would not guarantee this. Telescopes have traditionally been made on a subcontracted basis, with one plant making castings, another the optics and so on, so itís possible to get two similar telescopes that have been put together in different plants and with radically different performance. Much the same applies to many other goods, from radios to cars. The optics of telescopes, however, are more difficult to mass produce, so the quality of two instruments from the same company could vary widely.

So all I can give is a general comparison based on limited experience of TAL and Celestron reflectors. Both gave good optical performance, but the TAL was much more robust and therefore heavier. From one point of view this is a major advantage because the TAL will stand up better to harsh treatment and will not shudder with every breath of wind. If you want a telescope that is easy to carry, the Celestron is better, and may therefore suit your wife more. It is possible that the Celestron/Helios will accept a greater range of bolt-on extras, as it is designed for the US market where these things are made. The earlier TAL reflectors, for example, had a limited focusing range which meant that you could not use some additional eyepieces with them, though that may not be true of more recent models.

Personally I donít like refractors, as I find the false colour irritating. I note that SCS Astro (http://www.scsastro.co.uk) suggest you use a UV filter to reduce the violet fringing for which the cheaper refractors are notorious.

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