In 1977, when this scope was new, I would never have bought it. In fact, I would have turned up my nose at the idea that anything named “Jason” could be any good. It was a classic “department store” scope to me back then. What we serious amateur astronomers warned newcomers to the hobby not to buy. Among other things, it came with dinky .965 eyepieces when any “real” telescope by that time had 1.25 inch eyepieces.
Man, was I wrong. I just paid $75 for a used Jason 60mm, f/15.2 equatorial refractor Model 313 Discoverer – and after first light this morning I would declare the objective lens excellent, if not exceptional, and the mechanics are a cut above an awful lot of stuff sold today to beginners – or for that matter, some stuff sold 30-50 years ago as well. My measuring rod – my touchstone, if you will – is my Unitron 114 refractor. I love it and I feel it performs flawlessly. The optics are excellent and the elegantly solid and simple alt-az mount is as good as any I’ve ever used. But it wouldn’t surprise me if the Jason objective equaled or exceeded the Unitron. I just haven’t done a side by side comparison on a difficult target or two yet – but I will.
I had just come off a less than positive experience with a Tasco when the Jason arrived. The Tasco – model 12TE had cost me about the same thing. The optics are acceptable – maybe quite good. But the mechanics of the alt-az, yoke-style mount left a lot to be desired. I won’t go into detail, but what I did was shift the Tasco to a “modern” EQ-1 mount I bought from Orion about 10 years ago. And that mount – not the Tasco optics – became the first indicator of the quality I found in the new/old Jason. That is, I think the EQ-1 is acceptable for small scopes, but it doesn’t measure up to the Jason mount. Here are the three “classic” scopes and mounts with the Jason in front, then the Tasco on the EQ-1 mount, and then the Unitron.
If you look closely there are a couple of indicators of the Jason build quality over the Orion EQ-1. For example, start with the simple mechanism for setting the latitude. On the Orion you guess. . .
. . .on the Jason, you can be pretty precise.
You get a similar difference when it comes to the setting circles. Now I don’t take the setting circles seriously on either of these scopes. In fact, in those days when setting circles were the last word in locating objects by the numbers, what was put on most small telescopes were inadequate. But I’m going to give the Jason circles a try. They are certainly bigger than usual and look like they might be helpful.
Here are the Orion circles – notice they are of different sizes – I’ve got the ruler next to the larger one . . .
. . . and the Jason setting circles. (You can’t see both circles in this image, but they are both the same size.)
Jason even took an innovative approach to providing a 10X finder – they use the objective lens by way of a flip-down mirror! (Shades of Questar!)
And finally, as with the Unitron, the Jason tube can be quickly removed – or more important for an EQ mount, the tube can be easily rotated so eyepiece and finder are in a comfortable position no matter where the scope is pointed. (That beats the one-position-only brought about by attaching the Tasco tube to the Orion EQ-1 by a couple of bolts. Yes, I could use rings and a dovetail, but 60mm rings are hard to come by and cost half again as much as the scope!)
Jason’s good – how good I can’t be sure. Just looking at and using it for an hour or so is hardly a sufficient measure. But at this point I’m very pleased. We’ll see how it wears – and if there are serious changes I’ll incorporate them as comments here. So here’s my experience from this morning.
The finder needs to be collimated a bit and I’m not sure how to do that, but there are directions. In theory this should not happen – or so the owner’s manual claims – but the scope traveled from Utah to Massachusetts and while beautifully packed, that’s a lot of jouncing. It took me a while to reacquaint myself with such fundamentals of the EQ mount as you have to lock it real tight if you expect the slow-motion cables to work – and I was already well into twilight when I discovered the advantage of having a rotating tube – boy, it’s been a long time since I seriously used this type of mount ;-)
I don’t think an EQ mount will be easy for my star hoppers (students) to find things with – but I’ll see. In any event it might take more getting used to for them than its worth. It will be easy for my seniors (and other visitors to Drfitway Observatory) to keep things in view, once I’ve found them, however, and that’s good. I plan to use the 60mm scopes for the Moon, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, bright doubles and a select group of deep sky objects that show particularly well in this size instrument.
That said, in the end I was looking at Jupiter this morning and was very impressed. (Still a single belt shows – although, of course, you see signs of others, but only one large, dark one.)
Uranus threw me. First I mistook a magnitude 10.5 star about 15 minutes above Jupiter for Uranus – but it showed even less of a disc than Ganymeade! Then I put in a wider field eyepiece and looked around and sure enough, there was Uranus off to the northwest and looking in this scope a lot like Ganymeade – only bluer.
The main objective may just be excellent – or it may be exceptional – too early to say. But it did a fine job on Vega – no sign of false color and a perfect, bright dot with concentric rings. It was also great on Mizar and Albireo, but what scope isn’t? Well – not all give these perfect little bullet holes.
No comparison testing. I did try it on the Unitron alt-az and discovered what I’m sure John already told me – that the Unitron tubes are just a bit bigger and so you can’t just drop another 60mm in that mount without compensating for this difference..
Stay tuned. I plan to give this scope a lot of opportunities to prove these first impressions wrong.