When shopping for a focuser you face a lot of choices. From the cheap eBay Chinese options to the top-of-the-line Moonlights and Feather Touch. I once again perused these options when buying a new focuser for the Cave Astrola.
It has been a while since I looked at what was out there. So I spent some time shopping and wandering website re-educating myself on what the options were.
I considered the cheapest end of the market, a few options found on eBay, and again at the top-of-the-line, machined works of art that cost as much as some telescopes. This time I was limiting the budget for restoring the Astrola, not wanting to spend much more than a hundred on the focuser to keep the cost of the whole effort down.
To this end I concentrated on the budget 2″ Crayford focusers offered by a few of the usual outlets.
Orion has a nice two speed, 2″ Crayford for Newtonian telescopes. A bit spendy at $250, and I really did not need the low-profile design. Anther feature I disliked… The base is the universal style that does not close completely to the sides when bolted to the tube.
Orion also has a few less expensive 2″ focusers in the $50-$80 range. I know these, they use a cast base in place of the machined aluminum base and use UHWM tape in place of ball bearings for the Crayford… No thanks.
Explore Scientific has the Comet Hunter 2″ Crayford for $119. It includes extension tubes for a taller focuser. But they are currently sold out.
OPT has the Orion focuser at the same price, otherwise stock no Newtonian focusers! That is a theme I found at many of the usual astro supply vendors. A wide range of focusers for refractors and SCT’s, very few Newtonian focusers in the catalogs.
I was pleasantly surprised when I found the ScopeStuff option. A very nice appearing 2″ Crayford focuser for $135 with free shipping. The height of this focuser was right, 3-5″, to replace the original focuser on the Astrola. Better yet you could buy one of several different bases to accommodate different diameter optical tubes.
Agena Astro lists what is essentially the same focuser as ScopeStuff, for the same price. The Agena listing reveals the true manufacturer… GSO or Guan Sheng Optical, no surprise there. The only difference appears to be the private labeling.
So basically the choice comes down to the really cheap focusers under $100, the decent mid-priced around $120-$150, and the truly top end around $500. I have a Feather Touch on my 18″, it is a truly nice focuser, it cost a fraction of the current list of $500 when I bought it a decade ago.
So yes, I bought the $135 ScopeStuff focuser for the Astrola restoration project… Good choice!
So what do you give up in buying the cheaper focuser? Nothing. I can really find no issue with the ScopeStuff focuser. It performs very well, the 1:10 reduction gear silky smooth. It securely holds heavy eyepieces like my 35mm Panoptic. It holds focus well during use, seldom requiring a tweak once you get it dialed-in.
A Crayford focuser should have no slop or play in the drawtube due to the bearings riding along the tube. This focuser is true to form. No play and no shift of the image is visible during racking of the focus.
The lock and friction controls work well. The eyepiece lock screw has a brass ring to keep the set-screw from marring the side of your expensive eyepieces. Even the 1-1/4 adapter has the brass ring for the eyepiece lock.
The base I bought for an 8-10″ tube fit perfectly on the 9″ diameter tube of the Astrola, as if it was custom made for it. I like the way the focuser body sets into the base, a beveled ring and set-screw arrangement. You can rotate the focuser to any angle desired and lock the set-screws.
While the fit and finish is not to the extremely high standard of a Feather Touch, there is nothing basically wrong with it either, nice glossy black anodozing. The focuser will look good on just about any telescope, nothing to hide in shame compared to the $500 focuser on the next ‘scope over.
It looks good, it performs well, a very nice focuser for the money.