“Zero magnification” red dot finders are common accessories but vary in price and quality. The Baader Sky-Surfer III red dot finder (MSRP $52) offers decent performance for a reasonable cost and is a solid upgrade from finders often bundled with “starter” telescopes.
Budget red dot finders are often included as accessories with telescopes aimed at beginners. While these suffice for someone dipping their toe into the hobby, they can have a poor build quality and small aperture in the 20mm-range. Before long, owners are often itching for an upgrade. Filling this niche is the Baader Sky-Surfer III red dot finder, providing an appreciable improvement for a price that won’t break the bank.
Made from ABS plastic, the build quality is a step up from stock red dot finders. Though not as sturdy as more premium offerings, this helps keep the weight down, which will be appreciated by anyone using a portable set-up. The 30mm aperture is large enough to provide a suitably wide field of view, aiding in speedy target acquisition. The dew shield is fairly long, helping to keep the front element clear of moisture (depending on weather conditions).
The Baader Sky-Surfer III comes with a range of adapter plates, making it compatible with almost any telescope you can think of. The adapters are made of ABS plastic, too, and some are a little flimsy and prone to wobbling. The Baader Sky-Surfer III attaches via two screws so you’ll need a Phillips-head screwdriver handy. Once in place, the red dot’s position can be aligned with your telescope using two knobs (up/down, left/right).
The red dot itself is well defined but not particularly tight, looking like a small blob. The brightness is easily adjusted from fairly dim to almost dazzling by twirling a knob. Power comes from a single CR2032 “button” battery. The battery fits snugly and is held in place with a clip. While it seems secure, as a father of a young child it makes me instinctively nervous to see any batteries exposed like this, as accidental ingestion by a curious infant would necessitate a speedy trip to hospital!
The Baader Sky-Surfer III has no “auto off” function, so don’t forget to turn the power off at the end of each observing session or the red dot will stay on and drain the battery.
The Baader Sky-Surfer III can also be used as a solar finder by lining up the shadow cast by the front of the dew shield with the back. Standard warnings about safe solar observing apply; don’t look through the finder at the Sun! Baader provides a brief but comprehensive user manual that includes how to use the solar finder function.
In summary, the Baader Sky-Surfer III is a neat little red dot finder that’s well-suited to wide-field and portable telescopes. It’s versatile, affordable, and simple to use. If you require a finder to track down faint objects, then a 1x magnification red dot finder won’t be up to the task. But use it for what it’s designed for – sweeping the skies to quickly bag bright targets or star hopping – and the Baader Sky-Surfer III will prove itself a useful accessory.
* Makes finding bright objects in the night sky a breeze
* Appreciable upgrade from stock red dot finders supplied with beginner telescopes
* Multiple adapter plates supplied
* Plastic construction
* No “auto off” function risks battery drain