Gregory Gross

Chapter 6. Questar in the 1990s

In This Chapter

  1. § 6.1. New Product Introductions
  2. § 6.2. Challenges Come to a Head
  3. § 6.3. Marketing and Sales
  4. § 6.4. A Celebration of Questar

At the beginning of the 1990s, the 3.5-inch Standard Questar looked almost identical to the one that first appeared on the market in 1954. But while Questar’s signature product remained largely unaltered, the landscape of amateur astronomy had undergone a sea change. Rather than having limited choices between small-aperture, long-focus achromatic refractors and ungainly long-tube reflectors on bulky equatorial mounts—the two types of telescopes that Lawrence Braymer disparaged in his earliest marketing materials—amateur astronomers now had at their disposal a wide variety of high-quality options to choose from. Most were available at a fraction of the cost compared to what one would have paid in the 1950s.

Although the Standard Questar had retained most of its past form, development of new products was not completely absent at the company. Questar introduced a new Birder telescope that it based on its Field Model, it incorporated sophisticated equipment for observing the Sun’s chromosphere into its optical train, it introduced two new heavy-duty tripods for mounting its 3.5- and seven-inch telescopes onto, and it even put significant effort into designing a wholly new variant based on Maksutov’s original catadioptric design.

Still, the tide of change within amateur astronomy could not be ignored. Competitors kept pressure on Questar as they introduced new Schmidt-Cassegrain models to the market. Both large-aperture reflectors on simple mounts and refractors with superb performance, both at increasingly reasonable prices, added to that pressure.

Inside the company, choices that Questar’s managers made to pursue lucrative business opportunities in the special applications market led to trouble. It took Questar years to recover.

But in spite of everything, the Questar telescope continued to stand out from all the other ordinary ones on the market. If a person standing on a typical observing field at the dawn of the twenty-first century watched others set up their gear for an evening of stargazing, what would he see, and how would he react? Surely a Schmidt-Cassegrain or two would appear. A variety of reflectors and refractors would probably emerge, too. A few of them might even loom over the others with the sheer presence of their large apertures. But if someone else turned up with a small case and pulled out a telescope with “Questar” on its side, others on the observing field would surely notice. A few might scoff at its diminutive size and question its high cost, but even they would look at it with at least a bit of envy. Someone else with less cynicism in their eye might say, “Yeah, that guy over there has a 20-inch reflector and this guy over here has a 14-inch SCT... but that guy over there has a Questar!”

Next: § 6.1. New Product Introductions

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