Zeiss Telementor Review
Telementor image scanned from the Zeiss catalogue.
I spotted it on Ebay and itís an example of whatís possible if you are willing to sift through the flotsam on that website. It was clearly from a house clearance and the guy didnít have a clue what it was, which was a mint Zeiss Telementor in its original packaging on its equatorial mount and equipped with a range of Zeiss 0.965Ē eyepieces (not to be confused with the Abbe orthos, though still of high quality). In the end, a mate bought it as I was abroad at the time. I think he paid a couple of hundred pounds.
The Telementor was made by Zeiss in communist East Germany as a response, so the story goes, to a government edict that all schools shall have a telescope (and who said communism was all bad), hence the name! Today the Telementor is much prized for its high optical and mechanical quality, although unfortunately is has also been swept up in the general collectorís mania for all things Zeiss, so prices from dealers can be very high and some are a bit jaded from a hard life at school.
The box for the Telementor in this review came wrapped in a big piece of heavy orange sailcloth or tarpaulin Ė all part of the ďthey donít make Ďem like this anymoreí Telementor mystique.
Design and Build
The 63mm F13 (840mm F.L.) achromatic doublet nestles in a beautifully-made black metal cell (nothing like your typical 60mm achromat), but you never get to see it because it sits way down inside the OTA. These lenses have a very strong reputation for quality and from what Iíve seen of bench tests that reputation is warranted to some degree. The same bench tests indicate a level of chromatic aberration similar to a fast ED doublet APO.
Just a 63mm scope it may be, but the Telementor is both quite large and unsusual in design; itís also weighs about as much as a truckload of Chinese 60mm scopes on account of being built from spare battleship armour (well thatís how it feels). The long, grey metal tube is a Telementor hallmark and the OTA does have a certain functional beauty. There is no optical finder, just a pair of gunsights at top and bottom of the tube: they work and thereís less for over-enthusiastic school children to snap-off.
The Telementor focuses by an internal mechanism which moves the objective lens up and down inside the tube; the eyepiece is fixed. You focus using a single knob sticking vertically out a good way up from the Eyepiece end on the right hand side (not so great if youíre left handed, but then again I think communist regimes taught all kids to be right handed anyhow). Another bad point about this system is that the Telementor is really only set-up to use 0.965Ē EPs Ė adapting it to take 1.25Ē ones is surprisingly hard. However, consider that all these quirks confer idiot-proof classroom ruggedness and they start to make sense.
The Telementorís mount is a simple, robust, non-driven (in most cases) German equatorial, finished in the same grey as the tube. The OTA sits in a proprietary dovetail. The mount has precise setting circles and nice chunky slow motion controls which are usefully colour-coded to indicate which ones you should twiddle in the dark and which not (maybe Iím an idiot, but how many times have I reached for the wrong identical-silver knob on my P2Z?). The mount is supported by a lovely beech-wood tripod with sculpted and curved wooden legs and blue metal parts. The tripod reminds me of school desks and chairs from my youth; if only Tele Vue tripods were built like this (Sorry Mr Nagler)!
The Telementor surprises in use and is another example of the way poor optical quality can fool us into thinking small scopes donít work in general. It may be just a 63mm achromat, but given its excellent optical quality and a focal ratio well outside the 1.22D criterion for achromats, the Telementor gives sharp, high-contrast, colour-free views.
Of course this isnít much of a deep sky scope, the small aperture, old fashioned single coatings and long focal length see to that. No, the Telementor is famously at its best on two targets: The Moon and double stars.
The Moon through the Telementor is reminiscent of Takís fluorite doublets: very sharp and cool, with every minute tonal contrast between Maria lava and wispy ray perfectly delivered in icy greys; no purple achro-wash here. The supplied Zeiss Eyepieces work well and that strange focuser does its job smoothly and precisely too. The mount is equally smooth and precise in its slow motion controls.
As promised, the Telementor splits doubles right down to theoretical limits and in the brief tests I did it surprised me by managing both Epsilon Lyrae and Rigel.
The only negative thing about the Telementor (apart from the price of accessories) is that for a 63mm telescope it is not that portable, not really grab-and-go: the down-side of that classroom-surviving quality is surprisingly high weight.
Overall, the Telementor has a rugged, serious, dare I say scholarly charm that is hard to explain. I would like one, but I have enough small refractors.
As a final note, I should say that the friend who bought the Telementor eventually sold it at vast profit to help fund a Harley Davidson; he now regrets it and says the Telementor was his favourite scope. Given that he owns or has owned various Tele Vues and Takahashis, thatís saying a lot.
Highly recommended, but not at Zeiss collectorsí prices.