The AT72ED arrived yesterday. I got lucky finding this one. The waiting lists are pretty constant. They come into the country to Astronomics and by the time that the waiting lists are filled there seem to be few left. With only wait lists finding this one used took a bit of effort. I placed a wanted ad at the Cloudy Nights classifieds. A day later I had a response. As the scope was pretty much new in box I actually offered more than the seller wanted. He kindly only took what he wanted but I would have paid more. He had only had it since October and had seen very little if any use. It had certainly not been attached to a dovetail.
After unboxing and opening its metal case my first thought was "holy smokes". To date I have never held a better built piece of equipment. This thing exudes quality. For only 14.5 inches long it's quite heavy for its size. That's because the construction is as robust as one could ask for. As solid as a rock. As to the finish, it's perfect. The deep glossy black is flawless. There have been reports of fading with other colors (blue, green, red) but the black seems immune. Mechanically it's top drawer. The 2" two speed Crayford is the best that I have experienced. The course wheel is a bit on the firm side but I will be less likely to overshoot my focus. It could be adjusted but I will leave it be. The 11:1 fine focus is perfect. The knobs are nicely sized. While I don't do AP it seems likely to me that the focuser could handle a good amount of weight. The focuser tube is calibrated. The retractable dew shield glides smoothly and stays put in its extended position. Overall, fit, finish, construction, and mechanical are as good as I could ever want. If I didn't know and someone told me that this OTA retailed for $400 I wouldn't believe them.
I suppose that the main reason why the scope isn't more costly is that the 72mm doublet uses FPL-51 rather than the vaunted FPL-53. I'm okay with that. A little CA is going to creep in at the highest powers and with the very brightest objects, but based on many reviews and user reports it isn't at all a concern. It might be more of a concern for AP, but the photos taken with it and its popularity for imaging lead me to believe that if I ever get into AP (heaven forbid) it will be a nice starting point. Not having used the scope yet all I can comment upon is that the coatings on the glass look wonderful. The inside is nicely blackened with three baffles.
The attached foot offers mounting 1/4-20 on a tripod or through its Vixen dovetail profile. My use will be primarily on a Twilight I and the short dovetail foot doesn't thrill me. It's not a lot of real estate. To rectify the issue I decided to add to the dovetail. While the scope was in transit to me so was a red 8" William Optics dovetail plate from Agena Astro. By coincidence both landed on the same day. As it turned out I had to drill and countersink new mounting holes on the plate to get the right positioning. I also had to shorten the plate to allow the focuser to rotate free and clear. By loosening the top thumb screw the focuser rotates 360 degrees. This is key when using a mount like the Twilight I if you want to keep your focuser knobs horizontal.
First light to follow.