iOptron Smartstar Cube 80mm Refractor Review
Posted 22 November 2012 - 10:48 AM
By Max Byerly
Posted 27 November 2012 - 11:07 AM
Thanks for a great review!
Posted 27 November 2012 - 12:18 PM
Posted 01 December 2012 - 09:54 AM
I purchased an iOptron N114G (4.5" Newt)about 2 years ago as a starter scope. It's definitely one of their low end scopes and was available through Walmart. The "Cube" as they call their GoTo Mount is excellent as stated just as long as you get it level.
I found a few things with mine that I wasn't very happy about in the beginning but found ways to work them out. It came with a very cheap and quite unstable aluminum Tripod that has a small bubble level. I found that if I used that bubble level, the scope wouldn't track properly. After further investigation, I found that the bubble level on the tripod was WAY off. To get things perfectly level, I removed the Cube from the tripod and set it on a known perfectly level table. I then set a bubble level on the top of the GPS receiver on the top of the cube (little square box). I found that the GPS surface was off a little so I used small pieces of transparent tape where needed to get the bubble level to be dead center. I now use a bubble level on the top of the GPS receiver for leveling the Mount. Since I did this all of my tracking woes have disappeared. This thing DOES track and move from target to target amazingly well!
I also came up with a way to make the tripod nearly rock solid from a movement standpoint. Just a slight breeze would make the whole thing bounce around and was quite frustrating. What I came up with was the use of a "ground screw" and a couple of bungee cords. I screw the ground screw (from a dog tether or swing set anchor system) into the ground below the center of my tripod and then bungee the tripod spreaders to the screw. Then I make final adjustments to my leveling.
Another bit of frustration came with the focuser. It was very sloppy in side to side movement which made the scope next to impossible to collimate properly. I solved this issue by removing the focuser tube and wrapping it with a layer of aluminum tape. It's now very stable and A LOT easier to get the scope collimated. The focuser also came with a cheap plastic 1.25 tube adapter that was also very sloppy when it came to inserting lenses. I used essentially the same fix for this. The adapter was also prone to coming loose so I removed the adapter, put a couple of small dabs of glue on the tube threads and screwed the adapter back on. Problem solved.
The scope also came with a very cheap plastic "red dot" finder which was nearly impossible to keep aligned. I've since replaced that with a red dot finder designed for pistols. Stays aligned period!
I also purchased some Meade Plossle's to use along with it for more capability.
Oh! One more thing! A WARNING. If imaging, some of you may be interested in coming up with a "remote" setup so you can sit somewhere warm while the scope's outside in the freezing cold. This can be done. I'm doing it. Here's the warning. Even though the controller connecting cord looks to be a standard telephone "curly cord" it IS NOT. DO NOT CONNECT A STANDARD PHONE CORD BETWEEN THE CONTROLLER AND THE CUBE! You will fry your controller. If you look closely at the ends of your supplied controller cord and the ends of a standard phone cord, you will see that one end connector is reversed on the iOptron cord. In order to control the scope using a longer phone cord, you MUST reverse one of its ends. As stated, I purchased mine a couple of years ago. iOptron may have changed this since (at least I would hope so). So it would be best to compare the stock cord connectors with a phone cord before proceeding.
So, with all of that said, after working out all of the niggles, this is an awesome little "starter" scope. I currently even do some imaging with it using a Lifecam Studio webcam at prime focus. A relatively cheap, and easy setup for getting into Astrophotography with some surprising results.
Posted 07 December 2012 - 01:51 PM