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With a waning moon still pretty high in the southwest and the clouds just starting to vanish, I decided to take a quick look with the new (to me) Celestron 4SE. This is a 4″ Maksutov-Cassegrain with a focal length of 1325mm. It is the only Mak in the SE line and having heard of the “almost apo” like performance of some Maks, I was eager to give it a try. It’s not that I’ve never looked through a Mak – a friend loaned me a 90mm Questar a couple decades ago. But I was too lousy an observer then to appreciate what I was using. Now, if I want to drool and dream of what I would do if I won the lottery, I visit one of the Company 7 Questar pages, such as this one: http://www.company7.com/questar/telescopes/quest35.html

So is the 4SE a cheapy Questar? I guess so – I mean real cheap. It’s the same basic optics, but how can you compete with apackage that has been in production since 1954, been carried on space flights, etc.? I paid $295 for my 4SE used and that included a nice 9X50 finder that I don’t intend to use on it. It also includes the “go to” mount I have no plans for other than to test so I can sell it with confidence. What I wanted to see is the performance of a small Mak and compare it to an 80 mm APO. There was no time to set up for that more serious shoot out this morning, so I mounted it on the Voyager and took a quick look at three things – and I was very impressed. (Yes, I had stuck it outside earlier when it was still cloudy so it could cool down.)

The first thing I turned it on was Mizar and with a 24mm Panoptic I had 55X and a bit better than a one-degree fov. The first thing I saw was textbook perfect out-of-focus images of Mizar and Alcor, so without real careful checking I’d say the collimation survived the trip from Georgia. (Boy, did this Astromarter know how to box stuff!) Focusing gave me nice ,bullet holes for stars. Great! So I moved right to the Double Double. It took a 9mm Nagler – 147X – to get a clean split and a 7mm Nagler – 189X- to come up with a split on both pairs that really satisfied me. But the little scope handled the power – which should be close to its limit – well. I would put seeing at average to poor, but the only thing that would be really helpful here is to have the 80mm APO sitting beside this scope. That will have to wait.

My third quick test was Polaris and it showed best at at 102X with a 13mm Nagler. Not bad considering the moonlight and weather conditions. What impressed me was the contrast and sharpness of the star images. If I continue to be impressed, I’ll put this little scope up for sale along with my C8 and see what I can find in the way of a 150mm or 180mm Mak. Anyone have experiences with larger Maks they would like to share?

The only thing that bothered me with this scope was the delicacy of the focus. The knob turned very easily. It snapped into focus well – but it was also easy to go whipping right past focus, or to knock it out of focus. But there’s only so much you can expect from a scope at this price.

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