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Aluminum vs. Carbon Fiber


102-comparison-page-2.jpgStellarvue currently offers our 102 mm and 130 mm apo triplet telescopes in either an aluminum or carbon fiber tube and dew shield. Many prefer the "sexy" appearance of the carbon fiber tube, while others like the classic look of the aluminum tube. We get a number of questions from customers wanting to know which is best. This page will help you decide for yourself by giving you the real pros and cons.  

Cool-Down Time: Aluminum tubes adapt to the night air rapidly. Carbon fiber tubes may retain heat depending on how they are made. Former models that used felt lined interiors cooled more slowly than our current SVX models that use interior painted carbon fiber. Customers who have purchased both have yet to complain about cool down time.

Durability: Aluminum tubes are powder-coated, while carbon fiber tubes are plastic coated. Tightening the rings too much on a carbon fiber tube can create marks on the tube. The aluminum tube is technically more durable. 

Aluminum tubes are threaded to accept aluminum fittings. Carbon fiber tubes have aluminum fittings bonded to them using epoxy. There have been cases where import telescopes on the market have had issues with parts falling off; much of this is due to improper cementing. For this reason, we bond these parts together ourselves. Our bonding process increases durability and ensures alignment of parts during the process. So once again, there is no reason for concern with carbon fiber Stellarvue SVX telescopes, as they are bonded here using the proper materials.

Solar Work: Our white aluminum tubes do not get as hot outside in daylight as the graphite-colored carbon fiber tubes, so many customers consider them better when used for solar work. For only occasional solar work, the color of the tube does not present a major issue.

Thermal Expansion/Contraction: Some say they prefer carbon fiber since it does not contract when temperatures drop, which they believe maintains focus better. What they may not realize is that lenses shorten in focal length as they cool down. This does not mean that aluminum is better in this regard; it only means that you should not select carbon fiber thinking you will never need to adjust focus as the telescope cools down. Refocus is required for all telescopes as the temperature drops. 


 At 8.8 pounds without rings, the carbon fiber SVX102T-R weighs one pound less than the aluminum SVX102T, which is 9.8 pounds. The carbon fiber SVX130T-R weighs 19.8 pounds whereas the SVX130T in auminum weighs about 21 pounds. This is a clearly practical advantage to carbon fiber tubes: they are lighter. 

The Bottom Line

You should select the tube type based on your personal preference. Carbon fiber tubes are lighter, but cost a little more. Aluminum tubes may cool down a little faster, although we have sold over 1,000 refractors with carbon fiber tubes and to date no one has complained about thermal issues! Other than these, there are really no practical differences.