Review of an Orion AstroView 90mm EQ Refractor
As is the case with most amateur astronomers I began my hobby with a 60mm
"department store junk" refractor. I could fill a page explaining how lousy
the telescope was, but in the end it was the only telescope I had and it did
its job well. Showing me loads of nebula, the rings of Saturn and the bold
bands of Jupiter, that little scope opened up the Universe to me. Though
when I finally got the chance to replace it I jumped at it. I began my search
for a new scope on the Orion Telescope and Binoculars website. For years
I had poured over the free Orion catalogs that would arrive every few months.
I was always impressed by Orion's large selection and reasonable prices over
competing telescope companies and figured Orion was the best place to start.
I chose to use the Orion website, and didn't even get past the first web page.
Before me was a picture of the beautiful AstroView 90mm EQ Refractor set before
a dazzling picture of Mars. Turns out Mars would be "closer to Earth than
ever before" and the web page proclaimed that this was just the telescope
to see it with. Even better this particular scope was on sale for just this
occasion. Having an affinity towards refractors I was drawn to it more than
the Newtonians and Maksutov-Cassegrains also on sale. With a few clicks I
was the proud purchaser of the AstroView 90mm EQ Refractor. Yes, this was
an impulse buy, one of the biggest no-no's of telescope shopping, but I didn't
see it that way at the time.
After only five days the scope was on the doorstep courtesy of the United
Parcel Service. I was impressed, shipping had only been thirty dollars and
I was told to expect the scope in seven to fourteen days. I immediately rushed
it inside to open it. I was impressed again; the scope was double-boxed with
a generous amount of foam peanuts. I picked up the instructions which were
conveniently placed on top of the packing material. The instructions covered,
in good detail, the assembly of the telescope and its operation. I started
the task of assembling the telescope. With the instructions being as straight
forward as they were, it only took me about ten minutes to have the entire
scope unwrapped and assembled. The included Allen wrench and Philips head
screwdriver and wrench were of great convenience in this. I inspected each
piece as I unwrapped them. First off was the optical tube assembly which
I found to be nicely finished from end to end. I pulled of the dust cap which
proved to have a good seal. Checking out the optics I noticed a light purple
glare revealing the multi-coatings that the ad had promised.
The lenses were flawless with not a scratch or even dust mote on them. I
moved down to the rack and pinion focuser, I found this to have a very jerky
motion, due most likely to too much sticky grease applied to it. The focuser
travels about five inches from the tube.
It also has one screw to lock the motion of the focuser and one screw to
hold any accessories. I found the accessory screw to be somewhat inadequate,
a larger screw or two screws would probably be more reliable. Also, the end
of the focusing tube is threaded for a camera adapter which I thought was
a nice addition.
Next I inspected the mounting and the tube rings. The entire apparatus is
steel (except for the right ascension gear housing), and nicely finished in
a rough black paint.
Upon closer inspection the setting circles appear useless.
They're hard enough to read in well lit room, I couldn't imagine them being
readable by a red flashlight. Attaching the slow motion controls and playing
around with them revealed them to be quite jerky. On top of that the declination
control only has about thirty degrees of travel. One nice thing I noticed
were the axes locking bolts, they firmly held both axes when only being finger
tight. Adjusting the latitude is also a jerky process, its latitude markings
are very vague, I just had to guess at how close I was to my latitude. Moving
onto the tripod I immediately noticed how light it was, I knew this wasn't
a good thing. The Aluminum tripod is about two and a half feet long collapsed.
Fully extended, the tripod is about four feet tall, making the tube stand
about five feet off of the ground. Between the tripod legs is a spreader
piece on which rests an accessory tray.
Included with the telescope are two eyepieces, both Plossls a twenty five
millimeter and a ten millimeter. Both eyepieces have nice black anodized
aluminum bodies with chrome plated brass barrels that are blackened and threaded
for filters and rubber eyecups, in addition the twenty five millimeter plossl
has a rubber knurled band.
The twenty five millimeter's lenses have a purple tinge to them suggesting
a multi-coating. I found no blemishes of any type when looking through the
eyepiece at a light. The ten millimeter's lenses have a hint of blue revealing
the full coatings that are advertised. Overall the eyepieces look very well
crafted and are a nice addition to the telescope.
Finally the sun had set and it was time for my telescopes first light.
Carrying the scope in one complete piece is not taxing, but can be awkward
especially through doorways and down stairs. Plopping the tripod down in
the darkest spot of the yard I got my bearings. I started off by roughly
polar aligning the mount. I balanced the scope which was only a matter of
sliding either the tube or counter weight along their axis. Since Mars was
still about half an hour away from sufficiently clearing the roof top, I pointed
the scope up to Vega. Inserting the twenty five millimeter eyepiece I gazed
at the brilliance of Vega. The star field was beautiful, a giant leap over
anything I'd seen in the sixty millimeter scope. I decided to test out the
optics a little bit, centering Vega I replaced the twenty five millimeter
with the ten. Moving the star in and out of focus I noticed the optics appeared
very good, with no obvious defects. Vega in sharp focus revealed a nice airy
disc with perfectly concentric diffraction rings emanating from it. The eyepiece
itself appeared very good optically with no distortion when the star was moved
from edge to edge of the field. One drawback is the small three or four millimeter
eye relief. Pleased with what I'd seen I switched back to the twenty five
millimeter. With only some slight curvature in the last three quarters of
the field the view is otherwise flat and bright. Scanning the Milky Way around
Cygnus proves to be one of the greatest experiences I've had at the telescope.
I didn't realize that almost an hour and a half had passed, but glancing up
from the eyepiece revealed Mars to be nearly at Zenith. I excitedly zeroed
in on Mars, centering it I replaced the twenty five millimeter with the ten.
I anxiously peered into the eyepiece. I was greeted by a wonderful rusty
disk with a dark wisp cutting through it and a gleaming polar cap. Having
never seen Mars in such a way I was floored, there was so much detail, with
more appearing every second longer I gazed. Chromatic aberration was rather
obvious as a bright blue haze surrounding the planet, though not ruining the
image it reduced contrast on the disc somewhat and proved as somewhat of a
distraction to an otherwise beautiful image. I tracked Mars almost till
it set, slowly turning right ascension control for hours, staring in awe.
I could tell I would be very happy with this scope for a long time.
After having owned the AstroView 90 for over two years now, I defiantly have
a more refined opinion of it. I've gone from loving it to hating it many
times over and again. I've bought many accessories for it, some very useful,
some almost useless. The scope has moved with me three times, one time from
coast to coast and has stayed in good shape. Its rugged construction and
relative compactness is defiantly a strong point. I have taken some digital
images of mars and the moon with great results in my opinion, considering
its small aperture. To the prospective buyer I have this advice: this
scope is wonderful and a bargain as it is bought, adding tons of accessories
will only frustrate you and complicate observing. The only accessories I
recommend are an R.A. drive (but NOT the cheap "AstroTrack" nine volt powered
one), a broadband nebular filter, and perhaps a seven millimeter orthoscopic
for high magnification planetary and lunar views. Upgrading this scope any
further is just an attempt to make this scope what it is not. What this scope
is is an affordable and very enjoyable way to get started with amateur astronomy.
As noted above I have used this scope for digital imaging of the Moon and
Mars and am very happy with the results. I would like to share them with you
to give you some idea of the views you can see with this scope.
Both images were stacked and processed using Registax
Mars was imaged 10-29-05 and the moon was imaged 11-12-05
Review by Justin M. Dildine
San Diego, CA
All pictures by Justin M. Dildine