Tele Vue TV-60 Review
I once lived in a small Swiss town, just one street back from the lakefront. My first storey flat was in the old town, on a narrow, cobbled street of tall houses. I had no balcony, no garden or yard, nowhere to put a telescope. I needed something I could just carry about and set up quickly, but I also needed something stealthy – long white tubes would just have attracted too much attention. So I bought the smallest, stealthiest little scope I knew of – Tele Vue’s TV-60.
During those years the TV-60 was invaluable. I would walk through an archway to the lake front promenade and set up there, or climb up into the terraced vineyards behind town where it was really dark. I had memorable views with it and even used it to search for comet McNaught from a viewpoint high above Lake Geneva. I can’t think of another ‘scope portable enough to hike with the way I did with the TV-60, simple enough to be set up and observing in moments.
If you need a really tiny scope for travel or for quick looks around your house and garden, when you don’t want to take it apart first or wait for it to cool, the TV-60 must be at the top of your list.
My viewing spot in the Swiss vineyards.
At A Glance
Tele Vue TV-60
Data from TV.
Design and Build
A bit of history is in order here. Tele Vue had been making small high-quality refractors since the 1980s, but their first true grab-and-go ‘scopes, the ones that started a revolution in keep-it-simple visual astronomy at a moment’s notice, were the Ranger and Pronto. These scopes had very different tubes, but they shared the same 70mm/480mm optics. Those optics boasted ED glass and were good quality, but they were nonetheless achromats.
The Pronto was aimed at the astro’ market, with a sliding dew shield with screw-in dust cap, a heavier tube and a 2 inch rack-and-pinion focuser; the Ranger was much lighter, with a draw-tube and a helical focuser and was aimed more at birders and nature viewers, or astronomers wanting the lightest possible scope purely for visual.
When Tele Vue replaced the Ranger and Pronto with the TV-76 and the TV-60 on test here, they got different optics – proper ED apochromats both - and the TV-60 got a new CNC tube.
The TV-60 has different optics from the TV-76. The objective is an F6 (36mm focal length) doublet with a crown of FPL53 ED glass, making it a full apochromat and one of Tele Vue’s best lenses. Why? Because the larger ED doublets (including the 102mm F9) show some chromatic aberration, whilst the TV-60 shows virtually none.
The objective is likely made in Taiwan, but subject to Tele Vue’s rigorous QA. As you can see from the photo, the TV60 lens is held in its simple cell by a thread-in ring and the cell attached to the OTA via three bolts. As with all Tele Vues, collimation at the factory is achieved by tapping the cell into perfect alignment and then tightening the screws – simple but effective! If this sounds a bit primitive, know that it is an extremely robust approach: I’ve seen a small Tele Vue refractor dropped onto tarmac and suffer no ill effects or mis-collimation.
The lens has top quality coatings as you would expect (not those bright ‘China Green’ ones).
The lens is covered by a plastic clip-on dew-cap. This has a cheaper feel than the Tele Vue standard thread-on metal cap, but is much more convenient in use (no more screech – screech in the dead of night, waking your neighbours).
The TV-60 adopts the Ranger approach of a sliding drawtube and helical focuser to keep size and weight down, but apart from that, it’s all new.
The Ranger was still fairly large and bulky, with a fixed dew-shield, but the TV-60 is tiny: just 10 inches long with the dew-shield retracted and a mere 1.5kg in weight, including the mounting bar. Those statistics make the TV-60 just about the smallest, lightest APO I know of this side of a Borg 67FL and almost exactly the same size and weight as a Questar Duplex OTA (or Field Model).
The TV-60 is much more finely crafted than the Ranger too, with a tapered CNC tube that has machined-in micro-baffles in place of the old matt-black sandpaper that lines the Ranger (and the Pronto/TV-76 for that matter). The result is that the TV-60 is a very different product from the TV-76 – far smaller and lighter and more suited to terrestrial use, with appearance and finish that are more like a camera lens or a pair of high-end binos. An “i.s.” (imaging system) version with a bigger focuser is available, but is a completely different ‘scope built around the same lens.
One thing the TV-60 does share with the Ranger is its focuser - a helical on the end of a finely-machined draw-tube held in place by a locking screw. You get coarse focus with the draw-tube, then fine adjustment with the helical focuser. The helical focuser works by a twisting a brass ring with rubber grip, which extends and retracts the 1.25” focuser tube. It is super-smooth and precise, almost at the level of a micro-focuser, with no play or shift, but has short-travel.
People either seem to like or loathe the TV-60’s helical focuser; personally I like it a lot. However, there are a couple of disadvantages. For one thing, it is 1.25” only. This is irrelevant for visual use in my opinion: the TV-60’s maximum 4.3° field is sufficient. However, it means you can’t use the TV-60 (in its non-i.s. form) as an astrograph the way you can with, say, a Takahashi FS-60. Also, the helical component has a short travel, so you sometimes have to refocus with the drawtube when swapping eyepieces. More annoyingly, I found that the focuser grease hardens up on cold nights making it stiff to turn.
In order to save weight, the TV-60 has kept the mounting bar from the Ranger. This allows you to adjust the balance point, but avoids the weight of a ring. The bar carries three ¼-20 threads – two with the standard Tele Vue spacing for their mount heads and a central one for photo tripods.
The TV-60 is so short and light that it will go on just about any tripod with a panning head. Tele Vue’s own TelePod tripod and mount – quite flawed with bigger scopes – works superbly with the TV-60. You really can grab the whole lot with one hand, then just walk out and use it. In Switzerland, I would pick up the little TV-60 in its case with eyepieces and diagonal already packed, put a photo tripod in a little backpack and go hiking for an hour up to a dark site amongst the terraced vineyards. I wouldn’t have done that with a larger scope, even a TV-76.
Tele Vue TV-60 on TelePod mount with TV-76 and TV-NP127.
The TV-60 doesn’t come in a ‘package’ like the larger scopes. That means no eyepiece, diagonal or case (just a kind of bag). Of course, you can pay extra for all those things.
The TV-60’s semi-rigid case is a must if you intend to travel with it. The case takes the OTA, a diagonal and a couple of eyepieces; all of which weighs just a couple of kilos and is the size of a small handbag.
Tele Vue TV-60 with optional case. Pen for scale.
In Use – Daytime
During the day it makes a fantastic spotting scope, coming close to the top of my rankings for chromatic aberration on high-contrast terrestrial targets – sharp, bright and able to take higher magnifications (up to 100x plus) than any prismatic spotter.
In Use – Astrophotography
With a 1.25” visual back, you can’t really do imaging with this version of the TV-60, but I managed a quick snap of the Moon, which is excellent – sharp and detailed.
In Use – The Night Sky
General Observing Notes
Getting sufficient magnification is the main challenge with the TV-60. I often use the TV-60 with just two eyepieces (which fit perfectly in the case): a 25mm Plossl for wide fields and finding and a 3-6mm Nagler Zoom for the Moon and planets. Type 6 Naglers and the Nagler zoom are ideal for higher powers with the TV-60. Naglers offer an almost perfectly flat field in the TV-60, but some other eyepieces don’t due to the steep light cone of the F6 lens.
The guy I bought it off only owned Plossls. He nearly fell off his seat when I popped in a 3.5mm Nagler and pointed the TV-60 at Saturn, saying, ‘I didn’t know it could do that!’
Despite being an F6 ED doublet, the TV-60 is very well corrected for chromatic aberration, better than Takahashi’s FS-60 that shares its optical spec’.
Using a photo tripod or the TelePod you can simply raise or lower the central post to get perfect viewing height (so that’s why the TelePod tripod is built that way!). The TelePod mount works smoothly with the TV-60: none of the balance and stiction problems you get with heavier scopes.
The TV-60/TelePod are so portable you just pick the lot up and move it to the most inaccessible part of the house or garden to sneak a peek at a fox in the field across the way, or the moon when it’s low and behind trees from every other position.
The small size and flat black appearance of the TV-60 may not be as pretty as a slim white tube, but in an urban setting they’re, well … stealthy is the word. I used to appreciate this, viewing from the busy lakefront promenade where I lived in Switzerland. My habit was to hide in a dark corner, right next to the lake where hardly any of the customers at the nearby takeaway noticed me. Yes, I know Al Nagler used to set up a Dob’ on a Manhattan street and show The Moon to passers-by … but I’m British, for goodness sake! I’m just too reserved for ‘sidewalk astronomy’; maybe you’re the same and the TV-60’s stealthy nature will help.
If you want to observe somewhere like this and avoid hearing, “Is that a telescope? Can you see Uranus?” every five minutes, you need a stealth-scope: the TV-60.
You can use the TV-60 virtually straight from a warm house. This is a huge advantage over something like a C5 or Questar.
The star test on mine is textbook perfect.
As with any small scope, the Moon is the TV-60’s favourite target. It will take up to 142x with a 2.5mm Nagler on steady nights and shows a level of detail that might surprise users of much larger but more optically-compromised telescopes. The TV-60 shows no chromatic aberration on the Moon – just greys and whites and buffs. On nights when the seeing is poor, you notice and appreciate the lower level of boiling that a smaller aperture delivers.
That said, this aperture is never as involving as the next class up and fails to show all but the most obvious rilles, doesn’t get you into that Lunar Orbiter closeness that a 4” APO does. But 4” APO performance simply isn’t possible at this compact size.
A point of interest here: you might think that a perfect 3.5” Maksutov (a Questar for example) would deliver better performance in a similarly compact package. However, I recently tested a 60mm APO alongside a Questar and found that though the Questar did offer up a bit more detail on the Moon, the view was somehow less pleasing. Overall, I felt the performance was very similar, with different strengths and weaknesses on both sides.
Mars surprises by yielding its polar caps and perhaps a hint of albedo detail near opposition. The TV-60 gave better views of Mars than Takahashi’s FS-60.
In good seeing, Jupiter can be an engrossing sight at 142x, with multiple belts, the polar hoods and the largest dark storms visible. Shadow transits are possible with the TV-60.
Saturn is another surprisingly satisfying target for the TV-60. Unlike the vague and fuzzy image delivered by a 70mm Mak’ I tried, the TV-60 gives a very sharply-defined view of Saturn, with the ring shadow and (perhaps!) the Cassini Division visible on good nights.
This is where the limitations of a 60mm aperture start to show. Even a 76mm has 60% more light gathering power, so the TV-60 is frankly a bit dim on many DSOs. You can see most of the Messier Catalogue, but few show the detail they can with larger apertures. For example, M13 remains a dim smudge in the TV-60, whereas even a 4” starts to show myriads of stars in its outer regions. Similarly, objects like the Dumbbell, Ring and Crab nebulae remain faint smudges as in large binoculars.
However, the Orion Nebula is still a spectacular view and open clusters are superb in the TV-60, with the intense contrast between brilliant stars and velvety black space that I so love with APOs.
I’ve heard it said many times that a telescope should be a long white object. If so, the TV-60 fails spectacularly; but in every other respect it’s a great success. Yes, it’s expensive, but the design is thoughtful, the build quality superb and rugged, the optics perfect.
Is there anything negative about the TV-60? In truth, not much. The main limitation is just its small aperture – although the views are always top quality, they just aren’t as detailed and involving as they are with larger scopes.
I wouldn’t recommend this (or any other 60mm scope) for a beginner or as your only telescope – it’s just too limited.
I should also point out that the TV-60 can challenge some eyepieces and needs expensive designs to yield the high powers it can cope with.
My only other complaint is that the grease in the focuser can get very stiff on cold nights. Oh, and the sticker on the side of the TV60 isn’t as classy as the name plate on the TV-76, but I’m really nit-picking now.
Overall then, if you want a premium grab-and-go scope that can be used when otherwise you’d only have time for binos, or a true travel scope that you’ll never feel intimidated about taking along on that trip, then the TV-60 is your scope: small, beautifully made and optically perfect.
The TV-60 is highly recommended, but probably not as your only scope, unless you have no choice but to go super-portable, as I did whilst living abroad.
Updated by Roger Vine 2018
Out of town, you can carry the TV-60 places you couldn’t with most other scopes (except maybe the Questar alongside).