For a good few years now, SkyWatcher has brought many quality telescopes to market at very reasonable prices. One of the major reasons for this success is the company’s investment in better manufacturing technology, as well as improvements in quality control. This author can personally vouch for the fine Newtonian and Maksutov Cassegrain telescopes that are now available at prices that won’t break the bank. Apochromatic refractors have remained noticeably more expensive though, and while the same company has offered both doublet and triplet models at prices that are among the lowest in the market, I felt they still remained on the expensive side, especially when one considers their rather small aperture for purely visual use. Their relative expense still registers somewhat as an anomaly to my mind. Why, pray tell, should they command such high prices relative to other kinds of telescopes? That said, recently, SkyWatcher has marketed a few products that are significantly less expensive than even their earlier offerings; and one of them piqued my attention; the SkyWatcher Evostar 72EDS Pro Refractor.
So what does your £265 buy? Well, as it turns out; quite a bit! The telescope has a two speed Crayford focuser that can be locked for astroimaging applications, and it can also accommodate both 1.25 and 2 inch accessories, including diagonals and eyepieces. The machined aluminium dust cap screws on to the dew shield; a very nice touch!. It comes with dedicated tube rings and a universal dovetail plate for easy securing on a variety of light weight mounts. The optical tube is typical SkyWatcher, not overly showy and more practical than overtly ornate. While nearly all other similarly sized instruments come with a retractable dew shields, the Evostar 72EDS is of fixed length but is easily removed for transport. And you even get a nice custom fitted travel case for easy storage and transport. It also has a bracket for mounting a suitably sized finder ‘scope. Check out this youtube video for more details of what the package provides.
In a departure from previous marketing strategies, SkyWatcher has not disclosed the nature of the ED element their optical engineers have mated to the Schott glass crown lens of this 72mm ED doublet, but early indications are that it offers very good colour correction for its attractive price tag. All of this is very good news for the consumer, as it appears SkyWatcher is listening to their customers and bringing to market more economical ED refractors that offer significantly better overall value.
That said, considering the many nice mechanical features this new refractor offers, I wonder what percentage of the total cost of the telescope is divested to the objective? Are ED objectives really that expensive to manufacture? Judging by the modest cost of the entire package, the answer must surely be “relatively easy.”
In comparison to other models recently launched by companies like William Optics, who now offer a 61mm ED doublet for £400 UK, the new SkyWatcher will almost certainly be of greater utility owing to its significantly larger aperture (for many seasoned observers 61mm is just too small). This is especially the case for those amateurs who do not dabble in astrophotography.
I am personally comfortable about endorsing this product and see it as a significant and welcome move in the right direction for money conscious hobbyists. Will I be making a purchase myself? No, as I already have too many telescopes and, as I’ve already disclosed, I do virtually all my observing with modified SkyWatcher Newtonians which offer superior daylight and nighttime views to any small refractor in this aperture class. But I do think more folk can now enjoy the considerable charms of a small, short, high quality refractor.
The move by SkyWatcher will hopefully be part of a much greater impetus to drive down prices for apochromatic refractors generally. The hobby can only grow if more amateurs have access to decently priced products, and in making this move, SkyWatcher will surely impose pressure on other makers to offer their wares at fairer prices. The soon to be introduced ED 150 by the same company promises to continue this trend and I commend SkyWatcher for embarking on this very encouraging (and profitable) venture.
Neil English is author of Choosing and Using a Refracting Telescope.