Our birdwatching gear. Part 3 : Celestron Ultima 80 telescope

Second hand or new

Celestron Ultima 80 with Velbon tripod

Our purchase of the telescope was a bit of a haste job. Because scopes do not come cheap, virtually all birdwatchers that we know or met or read on-line, advise buying a second-hand scope if you are a beginner. We followed the Swedish go-to second-hand website (called blocket.se) for a while but nothing in our price range showed up. Also, we did not have a lot of time to visit the sellers and check the goods.

I was worried about the air-tightness of second-hand scopes. Because we go to the tropics with high air humidity, it is important that the scope is airtight and filled with gas. This prevents (evaporated) water from entering and condensing against the lenses. ( This is the same with binoculars. ) Whether a scope still is airtight is difficult to check.

Nice offer

So, in the end, we decided to buy a new scope in the low-but-sufficient quality range. At that time in many webshops, there was an offer of an Celestron Ultima 60 or 80 including a Velbon tripod for around 400$ (for the 80mm version), which is two thirds the price of the Kite Forster. The reviews of this scope were not super enthusiastic but they considered it a decent beginners model.

The difference between 60 and 80 mm again is a brighter image and a better image quality, even though, as I will show below, the image quality is not particularly good. The 80 mm version was a bit more expensive, but since I was so happy with the choice of the bigger binos, we did the same here.

The Velbon tripod is definitely good value for money. It weighs a bit more than top-range tripods, but we did not think those were worth their money for our purposes. The tripod is more than stable enough for the Celestron scope and probably can take on a far heavier load.

Zoom range from 20 to 60 times

A nice ‘extra’ of the scope is that it comes with a separate eyepiece which zooms from 20 times magnifications to 60. So, it starts with the magnification of the binos and then magnifies that another three times. This is really handy to locate the bird with the scope (after you’ve found it with your naked eye) and of course, you can adjust the magnification until the bird fills the image.

The pictures below give an impression of the magnification. Notice that the pictures were not taken from exactly the right angle. The tree behind the twigs in the blue box of the left photo has moved to the left in the right photo.

Small pupil

There are two minus-points to this scope. One is that the pupil is rather small. This means that you need to position your head and eye very carefully over the eyepiece to actually see through the scope. There is however a device called a ‘clip-on’ to help with that. This a topic of the next post in this series.

The pupils of the Kite Forster 10 x 50 (left) and of the Celestron Ultima 80 compared

Color shift

The second minus point is that the scope is suffering from so-called chromatic aberration or color shift. It means that not all colors of the visible spectrum are treated exactly the same. They travel in slightly different ways through the scope. The result is that the edges of things in the image are not entirely sharp but show small shadows of particular colors. High-quality scopes have the technology (materials, coatings, the design of the lens systems) in place to prevent this. This scope has less of that and clearly shows a shift of blue, especially at the high end of the zoom range.

Depending on the background behind the bird, you notice this very well or not so much. If the background is a light homogeneous color, such as the sky, then it is more noticeable than with a dark background with lots of stuff happening, for example, a bush with many twigs and leaves in different colors.

Quite happy

In spite of these minus points, we are quite happy with the scope so far. Frankly, this is not very far. We have used it only a couple of times. I guess that in contrast to the binos, the scope has not yet entered our routines.

 Which telescope do you use? Or would you like to use?

2 thoughts on “Our birdwatching gear. Part 3 : Celestron Ultima 80 telescope

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