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 Starmaster™ Portable Telescopes
 Rick Singmaster
FX Series Telescopes

14.5" F/4;  16.5", 18", 20", 24" F/3.7

The FX series features optics with lower focal ratios (F/4, F/3.7) made by Mike Lockwood, of Lockwood Custom Optics. Extensive testing of these mirrors has shown that they perform as well as longer focal ratio mirrors on deep sky objects AND planets, but they have shorter eyepiece heights.

Click on this link for a very nice "review" of an 18" F/3.7 FX telescope, posted by its happy owner.

So, if you like the idea of spending less (or none!) of your valuable observing time climbing up and down a ladder, or you need a telescope with fast cool-down time because you can't observe all night, or you want a lighter-weight telescope with large aperture, then an FX-series telescope may be for you.

Let's clarify some of the facts about the FX models.

Hybrid or Truss: The 14.5" F/4 FX is a hybrid telescope, featuring the hybrid truss, which can be left partially assembled for faster assembly. The 16.5" through 30" FX telescopes are truss telescopes, with the standard Starmaster truss system.

Rick observes with a 24" F/3.7 FX, using a stepstool! Optics: The 14.5" F/4 and 16.5" F/3.7 FX telescopes feature a 1.25"-thick Pyrex mirror, weigh 20% less than 1.6"-thick mirrors, and 40% less than 2"-thick mirrors! They also hold 20% and 40% less heat, respectively.

 These mirrors cool more quickly than 1.6"-thick and MUCH more quickly than 2"-thick mirrors, providing superb performance in less than an hour! With a carefully crafted and thoroughly tested mirror cell supporting the mirror, these optics show no gravity-induced astigmatism, and optical alignment is held accurately at all altitudes. (Click here for the story about the origin of the 16.5" FX.)

The larger FX mirrors also sit in the same type of carefully made mirror cell, but the mirrors are thicker - the 18" and 20" FX mirrors are 1.6" thick, the 24" is 1.75" thick, and the 28" and 30" mirrors are 1-7/8"-2" thick.

Hate ladders?  Look at this photo!
It is a picture of 6'2"-tall Rick observing near the zenith with a 24" FX telescope on the second step of an inexpensive, lightweight, easily transported stepstool. For most, the third step will allow them to safely view at the zenith with this telescope. For the 14.5" and 16.5" FX models, you generally don't need a ladder!  If you are:

  • 5'3" tall, you don't ever need a ladder for the 14.5" F/4.0 FX.
  • 5'7" tall, you don't ever need a ladder for the 16.5" F/3.7 FX.
  • 6'2" tall, you don't ever need a ladder for the 18" F/3.7 FX.
  • 6'2" tall, only a 6" step is needed to observe with a 20" F/3.7 at the zenith!
We recommend: In the photo at the top of this page, Rick is observing seated on the StarStep chair with the 16.5" FX telescope pointed nearly at the zenith! After a long day of telescope building, Rick enjoys being comfortable at the eyepiece of a superb telescope. Mike Lockwood, optician for the FX series, says

    "I always see more planetary detail when I observe while seated, because I am more comfortable and I can hold my eye steadier at the eyepiece. I can also observe comfortably for much longer periods of time, and catch more of those wonderful steady moments when planetary detail becomes exceptionally sharp." -Mike Lockwood

Video Astronomy: If you've been contemplating trying video astronomy, the FX-series telescopes are some of the best-suited telescopes on the market. Video astronomy is one of the fastest-growing techniques in amateur astronomy. Short exposures are taken with a high-sensitivity camera and displayed in near real-time on a TV or computer monitor. Faint galaxies and nebulae are revealed using exposure times of only seconds, and groups of observers can all view the monitor at the same time.

This technique is ideal for public astronomy, or for seeing faint and elusive objects, such as the Horsehead Nebula or Pillars of Creation, with small (or large) telescopes from light-polluted areas. Why are FX telescopes ideally suited for this? Because the faster the optical system (the lower the F/#), the shorter the exposure required to reveal a faint, extended object. The FX series represents the most cost-effective telescope for video astronomy that can also provide the highest quality large-aperture planetary images for visual observing. John VeDepo has done quite a bit of video astronomy and astrophotography with his 28" and 16.5" Starmasters, and we have posted his online video astronomy and astrophotography article, complete with lots of his images, all obtained using modest photographic equipment.

Final thoughts: While the prices of the FX telescopes are slightly higher than non-FX models because the optics are more expensive to manufacture, we hope you'll consider the many advantages that the FX series has to offer, such as compact size, fast-cooling optics, lighter weight, all in a telescope built to Starmaster standards.

For more information about the FX series telescopes, see the 14.5" FX telescope information on the Hybrid Telescope Page, and the truss scope specifications and prices pages for other information about all of the FX telescopes.

Starmaster now offers an even more compact line of large telescopes with fast cooling mirrors - the Super FX series.  Contact Rick if you have questions about which series is right for you.

To end this page we thought we'd show a photo of the very first, and very happy, 24" FX owner, Peter Natscher. Peter is 6'3" tall, and only needs a stepstool when the telescope is pointed higher than ~60 degrees. Here is one highlight from Peter's observing reports:

M57 observation: At 371X, its 15.3 magnitude central star was easy and solid, observed directly without a need to use any averted vision. I could never achieve the sighting of the M57 central star so easily from this observing site in 15 years of observing with my past 18" and 20" Starmasters...... using a 7mm Nagler T6 and Paracorr (371X), the in- and out-of-focus star images from the beautifully-figured f/3.7 primary mirror look textbook – very even and circular.-Peter

All major components of Starmaster Telescopes are made with pride in the United States of America by small, community based companies.

-Cancelled orders will be subject to a restocking fee which will be equal to 15% of the BASE price of the telescope, NO EXCEPTIONS.
-Orders are not transferable without permission of Starmaster Telescopes and will be subject to additional fees.
-We are now accepting international orders for telescopes 22" in aperture and under.

For comments or questions about this site, email Starmaster Portable Telescopes.

Rick has a second passion besides astronomy - Click here to see what it is!