to many choices
I'm in the market for a new telescope (my first), and I have become overwhelmed by all of the choices. I have narrowed it down to a few and would like to get some honest opinions of them. They are, Celestron Advanced Series C8 or C6 SGT, Celestron 8" CPC, or Meade LX 90 series 8" AND LX 200 series 8". If there are better options please let me know. I'm also not too sure which mounts are better? I have also been looking at a 6" mak cass from Orion? Any help or advise would be great.
Yes, I understand, completely.
Here's an article of mine which explains the basics, How to choose the right telescope. Hope it helps a bit.
You are on the right track, though. An SCT (Schmidt-Cassegrain) on a fork mount, such as a CPC or LX is widely regarded as the best choice in a do-it-all telescope design and user-friendly mount and I quite agree. An SCT may not be the very best design for a single task, but it is always a good choice, simply because it is possible to tailor it to almost any job with the right accessories. Same with a fork mount. An equatorial, such as the Advanced series is a better choice, right out of the box for astrophotography, but it is much less portable and user friendly than a fork mount. Add a wedge to a CPC or LX and you are right in the game for astrophotography.
LX90 or CPC? Really a Ford vs Chevy or whatever you prefer in cars, these days. These are the bread and butter scopes for Meade and Celestron and nearly identical as features go. Have used both and can recommend both. Matter of brand choice, here. If you plan on going into astrophotography, the LX200 is a better platform with better stability and tracking, but a CPC or LX90 is no slouch. Going ACF also gets you better images for astrophotography, but for visual work, a standard SCT is fine.
For that price, you are going to get either a mid-sized achromatic refractor or a small APO, ED and possibly just an OTA without a mount. The SCT will have slightly less contrast than an achromat refractor, but the 8" SCT will definitely be superior in color correction and, with its larger aperture, also resolution. Going to a small APO refractor gets you the very best in image quality, but small is still small and even the best quality 80mm or 85mm APO will not have the resolution, not to mention image brightness of an 8" SCT. The laws of optics dictate that you can't turn a small scope into a big scope, contrary to all the advertising and wishful thinking in the world and that is coming from a passionate fan of APO refractors (me). You choose an small APO refractor for its image quality, knowing full well what you are giving up in terms of performance on the other end. In other words, you will see things in an 8" SCT that will be invisible in a good 80 mm or 85 mm ED or APO refractor. Can you live with that? I can, but you may not. Furthermore, you can forget about motorized fork mounts with a refractor. You will end up putting your refractor on an equatorial and that puts you right back into a mount question as to portability and ease of use. Lastly, even a 6" refractor is a beast in terms of size compared to an 8" SCT
Personally, I would still opt for the SCT as a first serious scope and add a small APO refractor, later.
Between an LX90 and a CPC fork mount, take your pick. Both are very good.
Thanks for you input
Put your money into eyepieces, for now and upgrade the diagonal, later. You will need the eyepieces, right away, to get started.
There is a lot of personal preference when it comes to picking eyepieces, not to mention a huge range of prices, so it is always a bit hard to tell someone else what to buy. I can only give you some of my personal preferences, but be sure to cover all your bases as to magnification, whatever you choose. You will want a low power eyepiece, somewhere in the 70x to 120x for large clusters, nebulae and the faint stuff, as well as for scanning. Contrary to what a lot of beginners understand, this is really your most important eyepiece and typically the one you will use the most if you are hunting deep-sky objects. Here, I love Televue Naglers, Meade Ultra-Wides, Pentax XWs and other wide-field designs. You will also want a mid-range eyepiece around 150-170x for closer looks at clusters and also for planets on nights when the seeing is not that good. Lastly, you will want a high power eyepiece, but caution, here! Pick a maximum magnification based on what your observing site can support. Makes no sense to buy an eyepiece that gives you 250x when your site and scope seldom allow good viewing over 200x. For mid and high magnifications, I am very partial to Televue Radians, especially because I can use them and leave my eyeglasses on, unlike so many short focal length eyepieces. This allows me to observe without resorting to barlows, which I tend to avoid in my scope since they raise the eyepieces too far above the diagonal and cause some balance problems. Probably won't be an issue, though in a CPC 800
Be sure to read my article on eyepieces for an overview. Ten Top Telescope Eyepiece Questions