Of Skypods & Refractors
Here's an interesting scope/mount I just stumbled upon in the Vixen-Scopes group:
It looks like a GOTO version of the Porta with a "lite" version of the Sphynx SkyBook controller. The mount is rated for a 5kg (11 lb) load, adequate to carry that 4" refractor that I hear calling me lately.
No mention of the Skypod anywhere on the Vixen North America site (or the Vixen Japan site, either) but it is listed by Orion Optics in the UK at Â£699.00 (a bit over $1,200.00 in Yank money). That price includes a 110mm (f9.4) modified Cassegrain, which might not be too bad for a second small scope to complement the TV85 (assuming I don't sell one or the other, or both, to help pay for a 4".) No word yet whether the mount is available as a stand-alone; I'd rather see the Skypod mount packaged with a nice wood tripod than with the scope.
On the refractor front, I have been doing some window shopping and find myself very impressed with three somewhat affordable 4" apo refractors: Vixen ED103SWT, William Optics ZenithStar 105 [since replaced by the ZenithStar 110], and Tele Vue TV-102. The Vixen and WO scopes include mounting rings (and a 2" diagonal, in the case of the latter); the TV-102 is OTA-only. At this point, the WO is looking like like the best value.
A couple of good reviews of the ED103SWT and ZS105ED on AstroMart.
Counting the days until NEAF...