Joplin New Member
- Skill Level
- Time with Product
Feb 9, 2007
- User Notes:
A nicely made 5" achromatic refractor that was a great deal when new.Cons:
No longer available new (used prices are high), rings and finder are junk.Comments:
I’ve been an avid amateur astronomer for the last twelve years. My first “real” telescope was a 6” Dynascope RV6 which I still use on occasion. Thanks in large part to the Astromart classifieds my collection now includes the Burgess 1278, an 80mm APO, 8” Dob, and a 10” F6 Newtonian.
Anticipation – When the Burgess Optical 1026 (4” F6) and 1278 (5” F8) achromatic refractors were announced on the Burgess Optical and ATWB websites they drew much interest from the Astromart Community. A combination of curiosity and a price that was simply too good to pass up convinced me to place an order for the 1278 with Burgess Optical. Speculation about these scopes on various Internet groups reached frenzy in the months that followed. There were a number of setbacks that delayed delivery of the telescopes. I already had a number of other scopes to use so I did my best to sit back and wait patiently for the 1278 to arrive.
In November of 2003 I received notice that a number of the 1278’s were ready for shipment with the exception of the thumbscrews for attaching the rings to the dovetail bar. I couldn’t wait any longer, I phoned Bill Burgess and made arrangements to pick up my 1278. I drove to Knoxville and met Bill and his wife Tammy in person. They were some of the nicest people I’ve met and Bill is so enthusiastic about astronomy and telescopes it is amazing. I did have a long drive back through the Smokey Mountains to get home so I had to leave earlier than I would have preferred.
First Light 11/15/2003 - Conditions for first light with the 1278 were not good but I did manage to get some short but satisfying views through it before the clouds rolled in. The conditions the next night were better and I posted the following report in the Burgess Optical forum on Astromart:
I had the 1278 out last night for a multi-club dark sky observing session in the Sumter National Forest. The conditions were good to excellent with high, thin clouds drifting by at times. First target was Vega, which was a bit above the trees in the west. I used it to adjust the finder then inserted a 7mm Pentax XL eyepiece for 142x magnification. Vega appeared as a brilliant white orb surrounded by a dim violet halo. I headed over to the Ring Nebula and was surprised by the contrast of the image. The ring structure was very clearly defined as well as some irregularities in it (no filter was used). The Dumbbell Nebula was also quite nice and revealed a hint of texture/ structure. I couldn't wait any longer at this point - I had to check out Mars. I raised the power to 220x (9mm ortho, 2x barlow) and observed some well defined albedo features and the minuscule polar cap. I ran the power up to 275x (3.6mm Apogee Easy View) and was very impressed. The image was only beginning to break down under seeing conditions that were only average.
I decided to drop the power down to 33x and hunt down some clusters, etc. with my 30mm 80deg. eyepiece. First was the double cluster, always a favorite of mine the two clusters were stunning and well framed within the 2.37deg. field of view. Again, the contrast of the image was startling and the colorful stars in and between the clusters were quite beautiful. Next was the Veil Nebula (same eyepiece and an Orion Ultrablock filter) which was quite nice despite some thin clouds in that area of the sky. I also gave M31 in Andromeda, M36 and M38 in Auriga, the Pleiades, and M42 in Orion a good look. I needed a good dose of globular cluster at this point so I set the scope on M15 in Pegasus with the 7mm (142x) it was quite nice with a few individual stars resolved. I also had a look at it with a nearby Takahashi 250mm Mewlon Dall-Kirkham which of course blew the 1278 away, but that is to be expected when you compare a scope to one with twice the aperture and 20x the price. Next was the double star Zeta Aquarii, which was nicely split at 142x. I had the Mewlon beat here since the seeing conditions had deteriorated a bit and the image in it was a mess :-)
At this point Saturn was rising above the trees in the East. The image was a mess at first due to the seeing but gradually settled down as Saturn rose in the sky. Saturn showed only a hint of a Violet halo and revealed some nice ring structure and a couple cloud bands on the disk at 220x. Last object observed was the last quarter moon that was obscured at times by the clouds that were moving in. The image was nice at 50x but the seeing was terrible down low in the sky. The moon showed the characteristic thin violet or green halo on either side of focus one would expect from an achromat.
Six Month Report - I’ve had my 1278 for a little over six months now, long enough to draw some conclusions about it. The overall performance of the telescope is excellent, better than I imagined considering the cost of the scope when it was introduced. The optics are exactly what I would expect from a 5” Achromatic refractor – the chromatic aberration is noticeable on bright objects but significantly reduced as compared to the 6” F8 achromats I’ve looked through. Build quality of the optical tube is excellent with heavy gauge metal for the tube and dewshield, the weak points are the rings which are a bit flimsy with a non standard fitting and the finderscope which wasn’t useable as supplied. The focuser is very good, I would rate it as not quite equal to the best Vixen focusers I’ve used in smoothness but the construction of it is more robust in some aspects. I’ve yet to receive the fine focus adjuster and diagonal so I can’t comment on those items.
The closest size of telescope I have to compare with the 1278 is a Criterion Dynascope RV6 (a 6” F 8 Newtonian). Both scopes have advantages over the other. I prefer the planetary views through the RV6 to the 1278 due to the more accurate color and lack of fringing in the Newtonian. Where the 1278 really excels is star clusters, nebulae, and brighter galaxies. The image contrast provided by the well baffled 1278 continually surprises me and leaves the older RV6 behind. Some of my most memorable views through this scope were of winter showcase objects like the Double Cluster and the Orion Nebula.
Conclusions – One of the most important aspects of any telescope is the enjoyment one gets from using it. In that respect, the Burgess Optical 1278 has fulfilled all of my expectations. I’ve received many compliments of this scope from other astronomers at star parties and numerous WOWS! from children and adults upon their first view of Saturn through it.
sal_42000 New Member
- Skill Level
- Time with Product
Jan 19, 2007
- User Notes:
Burgess 1278 - Fantastic Achro ValuePros:
Built like a tank with excellent mechanics and optics.Cons:
Poor finder scope design. Heavy scope. Rare – only about 300 built.Comments:
It is a shame the Burgess 1278 has been discontinued because it is simply the finest achromat I have ever viewed through. But the telescope is not without some issues as I will outline below. As its name implies, 1278 is a 127mm (5 inch) f/8 achromatic doublet. It is a Chinese sourced telescope. The build quality is significantly better than similarly priced Synta offerings. The Burgess is built like a tank and is a heavy telescope for its size. It sports a fully machined and baffled dew shield which is screwed onto the lens cell. The dew shield alone has over 100 micro baffles. The lens cell is a metal two piece design with three sets of push-pull collimation screws. The lens cell screws onto a machined aluminum tube. The aluminum tube is fully knife-edge baffled. The rack and pinion focuser also screws onto the main tube and includes brass compression rings on both the visual back and 2 inch to 1.25 inch adapter. The initial 1278’s were sold in “kit” form which was to include an aluminum carrying case, 50mm finderscope, 40mm and 6mm Burgess Plossl EPs, fine-focus adapter for the focuser, and 2-inch diagonal with brass compression ring. The scope has a very “solid” feel and fit and finish on the OTA is excellent. It reminds me a great deal of the Stellarvue 80/9D achromat I owned in build quality.
But the scope faced some detracting issues as well. The 50mm finderscope was nearly useless. It had been manufactured with the cross hairs outside the focal plane so the cross hairs are nearly invisible against the night sky. The finder’s optical quality was also poor and some buyers had the finder objectives fall off after the glue that held the finder objective failed. Obtaining good focus with the finder was difficult with many samples. The finder definitely did not live up the quality and performance of the main OTA.
Supply issues created long delays in getting the scopes and some “kit” items like the 2-inch diagonal. The promised diagonals and fine focusers were not offered to owners until several months later. The diagonal had excellent performance and was indistinguishable optically to me from my William Optics diagonals, though it was not threaded to accept filters. I never bothered to retrofit my 1278 with the fine focus adapter that was offered many months later by Burgess Optical.
Burgess Optical also offered the 1278 for sale as an “OTA only” package minus the aluminum case, diagonal, Plossls, and finder scope. A total of about 300 1278s were sold before Chinese production of the scope stopped altogether. The last scope was sold in early 2005. The manufacturing origin has never been disclosed by Burgess Optical, but many have speculated the 1278 was a Jihghua Optical product. Jihghua is the same company that produced the fine Antares 5 and 6 inch achros. The scope was clearly not a Synta product which Burgess optical confirmed.
I have owned and enjoyed several Synta achromats. They ranged in size from 70mm to 120mm. I actually owned two samples of the excellent Synta 120mm f/8.3 achro. One was clearly better corrected optically than the other, though it was not a bad scope by any means. I have viewed through three Burgess 1278s and all three were clearly better optically than my Synta 120mm f/8.3 scopes. The Burgess 1278 is a stunning performer at this price point ($500 for the full kit scopes and $300 for the OTA only option). Contrast is excellent and fine detail stunning. Some of the best images I have ever seen of Saturn through a refractor have come through Burgess 1278s. Being an f/8 achromat, the scope does have some false color which is to be expected. It does not violate the laws of physics in this regard. The use of a good antifringing filter should be employed for high power work and the viewing of bright objects. I use the Orion V-Block filter with my 1278. Without the V-Block bright stars like Vega and Sirius give off a bluish purple ring. Using the V-Block filter eliminates 95% of visible CA from the image and makes finding best focus easier. Images “snap” to focus better with the filter employed. Greater detail is seen on Lunar and planetary images with the filter as well.
At f/8 the scope has a nice medium focal ratio which allows for good planetary and lunar work while still affording nice wide views as well. The Televue 35mm Pan produces a 2.2 degree TFOV at 29x. The Televue 24 Pan produces 1.5 degree TFOV at 42x. Star images through the 1278 are tight points of light. The scope is very sharp. Framing the Double Cluster in Perseus with the 24 Pan and 13T6 Nagler EPs is a spectacular sight. But I feel the 1278 really shines the most as a double star and planetary scope. I primarily use Televue Plossls, Type 6 Naglers, and a 2x Televue Barlow lens for high powered work. I have pushed the Burgess 1278 to over 333x with excellent results when seeing conditions permit. The scope is a double star and planet killer considering its 5 inch aperture. Using Barlowed 9mm and 7mm Nagler Type 6 EPs I enjoyed the best views of Saturn I have ever had through this scope. Detailed cloud banding and the Casssini division were vividly presented. These images are forever etched in my memory as hour after hour of superb seeing conditions allowed me to push the 1278 to its full potential. It easily outperformed my Synta 120mm f/8.3 which caused me to sell the Synta. Even though I now own a 4 inch APO, I still regularly use the 1278 and greatly enjoy it. The stock rack and pinion focuser is very smooth and much better than Synta R&P units I’ve owned. The 1278 focuser has large metal knobs and can be adjusted to butter smooth action. It does not employee the “Synta Glue” found in Synta R&P units. But since I like this scope so well, I decided to invest in the excellent dual rate MoonLite Crayford focuser for it (model CF-2). I wouldn’t normally do this for an inexpensive Chinese achro (the focuser cost nearly what the entire scope package did) but I feel the 1278 is a special telescope and I wanted to maximize its performance since I plan on keeping it long term.
The 1278 produces a very nice star test. Under good seeing conditions stars produce beautiful diffraction rings. I have had the chance to view through three 1278s and all were very similar in performance. In fact when I bought mine I traveled to Burgess Optical and Bill Burgess and I tested three scopes on Saturn, some double stars, and with a Ronchi tester. I purchased the one I thought might be just a tad better than the others, but really it was pretty much a toss up. All three were very impressive performers right out of the box.
It is a shame that only 300 of these fine achromats were ever produced. Even with the delivery delays and problems with the original finder scope, the scope was still a real bargain IMO. Optically I have never seen another inexpensive achro approach its performance, though I have not had the opportunity to view through the much praised Antares 5 inch achros. So if you are in the market for a 5 inch achromat and can locate one of these increasingly rare scopes, by all means give the Burgess 1278 a try. I think you will be very impressed with the mechanical and optical quality of the telescope.Sort by