Orion optics in the United Kingdom (no relation to the U.S. company) has been turning out excellent Maksutov Cassegrains for quite a while. The company tested the waters 10 years ago with a 5^-inch model, the OMC140 (Plate 32) and then expanded MCT production to offer a whole line of Maks in apertures of 8-, 10-, 12-,
Plate 32. (Orion UK OMC140 MCT) Orion Optics UK's upscale but reasonably priced MCT, the 140mm OMC 140. Credit: Image courtesy of Orion Optics U.K.
and 14-inches: the OMC 200, 250, 300, and 350, respectively. The 140 and 200 scopes are similar in design and execution and incorporate fine optics and robust tubes. The 5/ and 8 are "traditional" high-focal-ratio MCTs (the 140 is an f/14, and the 200 is an f/20) of the Rumak configuration. The 140 and 200 are available as OTAs only or can be purchased with one of the Vixen GEM mounts Orion also sells.
Orion's three big guns are a very different breed of CAT. For one thing, all three, the 10, 12, and the 14, are, at f/9, considerably faster in focal ratio than their little sisters. Most notably, they are not traditional MCTs in the sense that they do not use full-aperture correctors. Instead, they use a subaperture corrector lens mounted on the secondary mirror to perform the same function. This is good since it helps keep the OTAs lighter (the OMC 250 is 20 pounds, the OMC 300 is 30 pounds, and the 350 is 48 pounds). At the time of this writing, the big 350 was, according to the company, temporarily unavailable "due to a large number of back orders." It is also probably the reason Orion can keep the prices for these large MCTs as low as they are.
The big OMCs are amazingly inexpensive compared to other MCTs in these large sizes despite the currently unfavorable (for U.S. consumers) U.S.-U.K. currency exchange rate. The 300 OTA, for example, costs "only" about $5,000, an excellent price for a Mak in this aperture range. Unfortunately for North American amateurs, none of the OMCs appear to be available from U.S. or Canadian dealers at this time. In this day of Internet commerce, there is probably a way to get an OMC nevertheless, a European or U.K. dealer who will sell one of these nice CATs over the Internet.
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