TeleVue TV-85 APO Review
By: Vlad Fedosov
The good “old” TV-85! I have some of my fondest memories of doing visual observing with this scope!!! This was my first “nice” telescope back when I just got into the hobby in the late 1990’s – early 2000’s. This was a time before the Chinese invasion of the affordable APO, your choices were quite limited and TeleVue was one of the top choices for a visual APO scope! Fast forward 20 years and now I have a TV-85 once more in the same evergreen color that I originally owned! The TV-85 as its name implies is an 85mm ED doublet. It has a focal length of 600mm(f/7) and weighs in at 5.95lb. Since my first love with this scope, I have owned over 100 scopes and probably 25+ APO’s. Would my fond memories of this scope’s wonderful and crisp performance be relived or would it disappoint? Read on to find out!
I conducted a series of observations with my second TV-85 over a period of about a month from my green level semi-dark sky(mag 5.5) in the Portland, OR area. I used several different eyepieces from TeleVue, Explore Scientific, and Baader. The first time I set the scope up I was pretty excited to give it a whirl and see how it performed! I’m not going to hide the fact that the first thing I wanted to check out was the color correction of the scope… If you’re wondering why, well from what I originally remember of the scope it had excellent, near-perfect color correction. Over the years and with more observing experience I have found that I can actually see secondary color in all but the best triplet APO’s. Pointing the TV-85 at bright Capella I was greeted with a nice crisp orb for a star. I was using the Baader zoom(see review) with 2.25x barlow I was greeted with a nice secondary color-free image.
This is expected of any ED scope at only 56x. The more I cranked up the power to the max of 168x the more secondary color I saw. I was expecting this as I see about the same about of color with the Takahashi doublets, but in a way, I was kind of disappointed that this scope that I remember so fondly as the ultimate performer is not all I thought it was back in the day. Now to be fair the amount of secondary color that is produced is not really objectable but it is there at above about 120x. I should also say that my eyes are quite sensitive to blue.
Moving on to the overall performance of the optics. I found that the contrast in the scope was in line with most modern ED scopes. TeleVue is kind of unique in that they use a sort of textured material to line the inside of their OTA’s instead of using baffles like most companies. They must know what they are doing as I did not find this to deter from the contrast of the scope. After looking at many deep-sky objects and Mars(which was already quite small by this time) I concluded the sharpness that the TV-85 produces is good but not amazing. I think that it is about as good as a modern ED doublet from overseas. Tak is a step above from memory but I did not do a side by side test.
Moving on to what is certainly the most positive thing about TeleVue scopes: the built quality! These scopes are often referred to as being built like a tank! I would certainly agree with that statement in relation to most other brands. The OTA just has a very high quality “heavy” feel to it overall. All the parts are made out of metal including the dust cap. The tube itself is powder coated(much more durable than paint) and the rest of the parts are ionized. The focuser is a fairly good and smooth unit but is 1-speed(thought the new versions of the scope are 2-speed and you can retrofit the older ones). Realistically even with the 1-speed focuser, you have plenty of control to get a fine focus due to the larger focus knobs that TeleVue uses. Overall I do really like the construction and feel of the scope!
So did the scope live up to my fond memories I had of it from 20 years ago? Well in a way it did, but it was certainly not the magical physics-defying instrument I once considered it. Like I said above, the built quality of the TV-85 is definitely its strong suit, and it’s by far the best thing going for it. It just feels like a scope you can own for 100 years and not put a ding in it. The optics however are about average by today’s standards. They are certainly quite good but I would say not any better than the ED doublets coming out of China. A good triplet is certainly a step above in color correction and even sharpness. Do I recommend this scope? Well if you like the idea of a “Made in the USA” instrument that has a very robust construction then I would! From a pure performance point of view, as hard as it is for me to say, you can easily get an equal scope for half the price these days…