Home / Sky-Watcher SW12 Dobsonian
by Kevin Zoellner 11/11/09 | Email Author
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Hi, Iím Kevin, from Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. I ordered my Sky-Watcher SW12 from Skies Unlimited, they had it shipped from Sky-Watcher in
California. It took 7 days from when I ordered it, till it was sitting on my front porch. We were definitely off to a great start.
Packaging and contents
The Scope came in two very large boxes; they arrived in great shape, no outward damage.
The wood and hardware are in a large flat box with heavy cardboard cutouts around all the pieces. It is very nicely packed and protected.
The OTA is in a huge box that is a box inside of a box with custom foam packing. It is very well protected. I am saving the two center
pieces of foam, they will make a great saddle when setting the OTA across the back seat. Note the location of the assembly instructions, they
are not in with the base like you would expect. The accessory box is slipped down the side under the instructions
The accessory box (in with the OTA) had a simple unbranded finder scope with a 90 degree eyepiece, an aluminum 1.25 adapter, an aluminum 2
inch adapter and two eypieces. The box said 25 but the Eyepiece is a 26mm Plossl and a 10 mm Plossl. The finder scope matches the OTA finish,
but itís hidden by the mount. Nice effort thatís wasted.
The Accessory bag. (from the base box) Screws, handle, eyepiece holder, bearings, Tensioner handles, feet, and of course the infamous tools.
Some of the tools were indeed hopeless. The allen wrench I used to assemble the base worked just fine. But the screwdriver is a small
Phillips head, when what you really need is a #2 or bigger Philips. And the wrenches didn't fit, but you only need them for the base pivot
bolt and it doesn't need to be tightened. The other allen wrench was for the handle bolts which fit fine.
The base was easy to assemble; of course itís just simple pressboard with melamine laminate that is nicely edged. It came out of the box, with
a flawless finish. I managed to bang two boards together and chip the edge of one of the wing supports. The Base is put together with large
grabber screws with large flat heads. The oil from the screws got on my hands and all over the white melamine. Oh well looked pretty till I
touched it. The holes were all drilled accurately and assembly went very smooth. The screws for the feet were too long and they pushed up the
melamine. The damage is between the base plates and not seen, but it will probably let moisture in. I pulled them back off, took a grinder
and removed an eighth of an inch from the tips of the screws.
The azimuth bearing is a plastic wagon wheel with imbedded needle bearings sandwiched between two galvanized steel plates. You can lightly
flip the OTA and it will go all the way around in a circle. I need to slow it down.
The altitude bearings are round nylon blocks. I have ball bearings, but, thatís a mod for another day. The tensioner handle has a bearing
race washer in it, so when it tightens down its not grinding washers, itís actually clamping down on a bearing, works very smooth.
I carefully unpacked the OTA, its black with a greenish gold metal flake finish. Inside the OTA is all flat black. All of the white support
framing is painted on the inside. It came with two trashcan lids, one for the main OTA and one for the Secondary OTA, they are solid and fit
tight. When the trusses are extended and locked down the tube is very solid. No noticeable flex. In fact I put the OTA straight up and
pushed it from side to side, it just rocked the mount without any noticeable flex in the trusses. Very nice, much better than I expected.
My first mod was knobs for the secondary mirror. While I was collimating for the first time I changed the secondary screws out for knobs.
The Primary mirror mount came with collimation knobs. The center spot is etched, and man when the beam hits it lights up like a flare. When
you get the laser dead center the flare dies down making it very obvious when you hit the sweet spot. I found that you have to be careful
when adjusting the main mirror, the lock screws push on the mirror so you have to adjust short and finish up with the lock screw. I collapsed
the OTA, and opened it back up. The collimation was dead on. I found that moving the scope around causes more problems than folding it up.
It had been raining all day so I didnít plan to even try to take it outside. My first experiment was a mountain top radio site about 20 miles
away. LOL, the picture was in the late afternoon, out my front room window blinds and all, it was raining and I just stuck my cheapie camera
up to the EP. Howís that for a first astronomy picture. Then about 10pm I realized that the storm had blown over and it was only partly
cloudy. The clouds were white puffy cotton ball looking things that just fairly glowed from the city lights. I honestly thought my back patio
would be a great location for viewing. But, I discovered that I have a street light across from my house, and I have to be careful not to go
toward the edge of the patio or it jumps out at me. Also, I have a neighbors security light that kept turning on for no reason, at least not
that I could see. And my Wife seems to think she needs every light in the house to be on. Itís funny what you donít notice till your actually
sitting on the patio with a telescope then you discover all kinds of problems. All in all it made for exceptionally polluted seeing
So, Jupiter was the obvious first target. This is not a review for the Baader Hyperions, but, I didnít even try the scope with the eyepieces
that came with it. I received the Hyperion Eyepieces I ordered the day before I got my scope, so I just used them. I started with the Hyperion
24, nice view, two bands four moons, standard Jupiter. I tried my Hyperion 17, the view was bigger but not much changed. But, with the
Hyperion 8, wow, just wow, I could see a third band about halfway toward one of the poles and the biggest surpriseÖ I could see a fifth moon
casting a shadow on the surface of Jupiter. The 8mm was not as hard to use as I expected, the Earthís rotation was not as fast as I thought
it might be at that magnification, and the scope was easy to push along and keep the view in the eyepiece.
I Found M52. This is where the wide angle 24mm eyepiece comes in handy for star hopping and looking for objects. Anyway, Itís a beautiful
star cluster. When I switched to higher magnification there were simply more and more stars, it was quite stunning. My conclusion is that it
draws in the light and really makes up for the poor conditions.
A week later, I did some epic star hopping and found M27, the dumbbell nebula. Using the 17mm eyepiece and an Oxygen III filter, all I can
think to say is wow. The nebula took on a very defined image, like a soft cube with a rubber band around it. The clarity and detail were just
Well, the azimuth bearings were just way too easy. I had to tighten down the center bolt, to put just a touch of tension on it so it would
hold still. Also the Hyperion eyepieces are designed to be used in a two inch focuser, but they set down in too far and I could not run the
focuser out far enough to bring it into focus. Not a big problem, Iíll just use them in the 1.25 adapter, better anyway, I donít have to
change the adapter out when switching from laser collimator to eyepieces. Oh and donít forget to take a little off the tip of the foot screws
before you put them in.
The Sky-Watcher SW12 is my first scope, so I will refrain from making comparisons. But overall my impression is that it is well made, the
optics are superb, and it really captures the light. I have received several compliments at star parties about how nice the view is. Itís
easy to pack up with a minimum of loose parts. I am pleased with my choice. With the Sky-Watcher SW12 I have a Scope that is not too difficult
for me, yet will challenge me for a long time, without feeling the need for something better.