So I changed the focus tube on my 80ED for the uprated Crayford type, finished in glossy black. But was it worth the monetary investment? Let’s find out. Glossy black finish, smooth plastic, a fine looking aesthetic complete with additional goodies over the stock focus tube fitted to most Skywatcher series refractors; this uprated focuser looks to have everything you want.
But it isn’t that straight forward.
Sky-Watcher Crayford Focuser Review
At £140, does it bring enough to the table? Aside from its looks it does add compression rings as standard (I bought a compression ring mod for my standard focuser) and distance markings. The distance markings are definitely quite interesting – especially if you tear down at the end of the night and don’t leave it set up. You can quickly find your focal plane again, or get so close enough that you can go straight in with a bahtinov mask and achieve that critical focus.
The biggest feature though is this – the camera rotator. So previously on my original focuser I would just undo the clamps and rotate the camera that way. The issue with that is that it can affect your focus. Using a camera rotator focuser like you get with this Crayford upgrade moves the entire tube and doesn’t affect your focus. Though it does go straight onto smooth plastic, and I really would have liked to see angle markings so you can easily set it to like 85′ or 115′ or whatever it is you’re after.
The Focus Tube
The dual speed focuser is silky smooth with just the right amount of resistance to it. It’s very pleasing to use. Though the focuser itself has adjustable tension, which means you can make it very stiff or very loose to adjust. When I got mine out the box, the tension was loose, when I was pointing upwards trying to focus, the weight of the camera was literally pulling the focus out. I had to tighten these grub screws here just a hair and that fixed the tension issue. I’ve not had a fault since. It’s not too difficult:
- Tighten the grub screws up until the focuser binds (stops in place)
- Back it off quarter turn
- Release the focus lock, add your camera and equipment and point it up
- If the camera drags the tube, tighten the grub screws an eighth of a turn
- You want the focuser to be silky smooth but it has to hold its position when the lock is off
To revisit the focus markings, they are possibly the greatest addition this can bring to the table. It really speeds up setup once you’ve dialed in your focus. With my setup I find focus at about the 2 marking. From there you can easily use the fine control knob to set it just so. Combine this with a bahtinov mask and you’re well away.
The Crayford focuser is designed to be a direct replacement for the original Sky-Watcher one. So it should be a simple case of unscrew the old, and then screw the new one on. Fitting is quite straight forwards and easy. However, if you have the same kind of luck like me, then your original screws will just chew up as they’re made of cheap metal and then you’ll have a fun time getting them out.
Other than that, you just slide it into place, hold it in the middle and screw it on. There isn’t any special fitting instructions. Just pray to the cheap metal gods and use a good screwdriver.
I think one thing they market on with this focuser is the rotator. It doesn’t actually mention it on the product description weirdly. The thing is though, I really don’t find much use for the rotator. I actually find very little use for. Unless you’re absolutely cognizant of it and just want to use it, I find I will just rotate the camera in the tube, and not rotate the focuser. If it had an indexed angle gauge then I think it would be a different story though.
What I used to do with my stock focuser is just rotate the camera in the tube. I would find out the camera orientation and use Stellarium and a simple angle meter on my phone to set my camera orientation. The point of the rotator is that you don’t have to unbolt the camera in the tube. That can affect focus you see. Rotating the entire tube stops the focus from potentially moving. It does also move the focus controls as well. Also make sure it’s clamped properly as I find it sometimes would come loose.
Also the finder-shoe fittings are on the barrel that rotates as well. So what you’ll find is you’ll calibrate your guidance in one part of the sky. Then you go to your imaging target. Realising the camera requires rotating, you rotate it. But wait!
You’ve now moved the guide camera and rotated it. This could affect your guide calibration. So now you go over to your calibration star and have to possibly calibrate again. Wasting time.
The focuser is £134. I think it’s quite expensive for what it is. To be honest it’s basically £140 as it doesn’t include a finder shoe. So if you want to use a finder scope or a finder/guider you’ll need to buy the finder shoe as the shoe from the original focuser doesn’t come off. That’s another £5. If you want it to be black, it’s £12.
So, has the uprated crayford focuser revolutionised my life?
It does make my 80ED look very nice though for sure, and it can hold a little more weight and has no noticeable droop. But aside from that, I don’t see many upgrades to the original – least not from the Evostar 80ED Pro. It may be different on the non-pro series or the achromatic StarTravel telescopes.
Another thing is if you’re using the Sky-watcher matched reducers for your scope, they use a threaded system to screw onto the focus tube. This Crayford doesn’t actually have threads on it to do that. For a focuser designed for Sky-Watcher products I think this is something of an oversight.
It means you would need to find an adaptor that steps down from the reducer threads into a 2” nosepiece. There is an Astro Essentials item that does just that. But this adds more to the price-tag. Now I’m not going to tell you how to spend your money but there are some very nice points about this focuser – such as the rotator and the distance index. But really – to me personally – the rotator is kind of take it or leave it. I’ve hardly used it in the several months I’ve owned it.
It’s nice, it adds a nice gloss to the telescope, and has some useful features, but I wouldn’t miss it if I didn’t have it personally.
If they make a new version of this, then I think they could do well with adding an angle gauge. Without it, with a bit of planning on what target you’re shooting that night, it’s no different than just rotating the camera yourself. How often do you re-orientate your camera during the same session?
Though I guess if you had a flat flap or something, or take flats before turning it would be a lot more useful.
What really I think I suggest is save your money. Don’t buy this Crayford focuser, keep using the original and then possibly invest in the Baader SteelTrack version with the Sky-Watcher adaptor. That’s what I think. Of course, this is just my personal opinion. Let me know what you think about my conclusion? Let me know.