Like its little brother, the Vixen Optics VMC200L, the VMC260L (MSRP: $4,899) utilizes the field Maksutov-Cassegrainian design that employs a small sub-diameter correcting lens to cancel aberrations from the spherical primary mirror. The advantages are light weight and faster cool-down times, and no problems with a large front meniscus serving as a magnet for dew.
The telescope weighs in at a mere 22 pounds (10 kg) with a compact length of only 20 inches (51 cm). With a clear aperture of 260mm (10.24”), the instrument operates at f/11.5 and efl of 3000mm. An available focal reducer provides an f/7.1 system for imagers.
Focus is achieved by a moving-primary spindle similar to that found on Schmidt-Cass scopes. There is a small amount of image shift, so I added a FeatherTouch dual-speed focuser to provide additional precision.
Optically, the telescope is excellent. Once cooled to ambient temperature, the scope generates pinpoint stars against a dark sky background. Some owners have reported difficulty in collimation, but I found that a gentle adjustment of the secondary mirror locked the telescope into perfect alignment that has not changed despite numerous trips to outreach events.
Lunar and planetary views are impressive. The moon’s surface shows stark contrast and fine resolution without a hint of false color. Saturn displays the Cassini Division with absolute clarity, and reveals the Crepe Ring and low-contrast belt detail as well as a number of the planet’s inner moons. At a public observing event, several uninitiated observers pronounced the view as equal to that of a fine C-14 with just a tad less brightness.
Similarly, Jupiter serves up a wealth of fine belt detail when seeing conditions permit.
Because of the high-reflectivity dielectric mirrors, the scope is an excellent deep-sky performer that resolves brighter globular clusters to the core and provides fine images of planetary and diffuse nebulae and compact open clusters. Field-of-view, however, is limited by the long focal length.
On balance, the VMC260L is a worthy alternative to Schmidt-Cassegrainian telescopes in the 10- to 14-inch aperture range.
The good: Excellent optical quality, light weight
The bad: Expensive, spider diffraction spikes on bright objects