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Help me find the best Mak tabletop scope

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#1 PeterWar

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 06:48 AM

Hi all,

I own a 8" newtonian that I use three or four nights a month during winter in a suburban summer house near the coast.

I've realised that some nights I'm just too tired to drive there and I'm looking into portable scope options to be used intown.

In my terrace I have a flat concrete surface that would be perfect for a tabletop telescope. I always loved the questar but unfortunately my budget is limited to arround 300 euro. I intend to use this telescope for planetary, lunar and solar viewing (I'll need to buy a filter).


So far my options are:

Skywatcher 90mm Virtuoso

http://opticaroma.co...-virtuoso/6192/

Orion 90mm
http://www.amazon.es...arMAX/dp/B00...

Tracking is a nice extra but it is not essential. I was wandering how these two maks compare opticaly?

Also, are there any other options avaliable?

Many thanks!

#2 John Kuraoka

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 10:02 AM

I have the Orion 90mm Mak-Cass.

I love it; for my family, it's been pretty much exactly what we needed. But the thing about these small Maks, is that, despite their compact size, they have really long focal lengths. Their strength, really, seems to lie at higher magnifications for their size.

But at high magnifications, which is with any eyepiece shorter than, say, 15mm, the tabletop mount component was the weak link. I found it hard to aim and almost impossible to manually track anything. (My kids did not have this problem, though, so younger eyes might do better.)

Our Mak became much more usable when we bought a Porta II. It's much bulkier and heavier than the tabletop mount, but also much steadier and easier to track objects with the slow-motion controls.

Given that, I think the go-to on that Skywatcher might be very helpful if you're planning to keep it as a tabletop scope.

#3 A6Q6

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 08:39 PM

I feel a used telescope is your best option. I have a classic orange tube celestron 5 that I found at a pawn shop. It looks like new and I think its from around 1983. I felt it was a gamble because most SC I have looked through had very soft views. I have had a 6" Mak Cas for over 30 years and I was shocked at the sharpness of the little C5. If you can find a good C5 it makes a great grab and go . I'm showing it with my astroscan to show how small a 5" can be.

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#4 Erik Bakker

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 05:35 AM

I agree, a used C5 is very compact and a great scope for the intended use.
A 90mm Mak will work, but has little aperture to compensate for less than perfect optics. A C5 will be much better because of it's bigger aperture while still being small and light. On the used market, you will probably pay around US $ 400 for a nice one, but if you're lucky, they can be had at lower prices. The last of the double forked C5 are from around 1983 and run on AC current. The C5 can be used on a tabletop with just it's equatorial wedge. In the pic is my 1983 C5.

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#5 Erik Bakker

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 05:52 AM

Hi Peter,

I see you set your price-limit in €. In what country do you live?

#6 A6Q6

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 06:30 AM

Hi Erik, I have been meaning to ask you about your C5. I see its double forked and all black, I don't think there are many of those around. How are the optics? The optics in my C5 changed my opinion about the SC design. I Feel if someone can find a C5 with good optics they have one of the best kept secrets around. I'm having so much fun with how small and light 5" at f/10 with clock drive can be. But the key is getting one with good to excellent optics. They are keepers.

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#7 A6Q6

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 06:37 AM

Fun with solar and bino's

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#8 A6Q6

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 06:52 AM

Good deals are around. The C5 was $100.00 USD at a pawn shop. It looked like new but had mold inside the corrector and main mirror. With the info from CN I took it apart, cleaned it, and aligned the optics. I did take a chance, it could have had bad optics.

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#9 Erik Bakker

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 07:20 AM

The optics are good, but not in Q7 territory of course. The best thing about this C5 is, that it's compact, light weight, clock-driven and shows a lot of the universe. From Pleiades to moon to Jupiter, it shows a nice image. The clock drive makes long observing sessions a lot of fun, including those with binoviewers at high powers. Mine is in like new condition, has no mirror-shift and has that rare Super C8+ black look. It's an original European version with 220V drive and has special coatings. The 1983 optics look pristine and stood the test of time even better than my 1985 Q7 optics. I too find these C5 optics very enjoyable, but must admit that I am a lover of medium-slow apo's and smaller than 20% CO mirror scopes. But none of these have the ease of use and compactness of a C5. I couldn't believe how small it was when I first saw it in real life. My Q7 was a monster scope in comparison. This C5 is tiny and a great cornerstone of amateur telescope history. As you can see in the attached picture, the C5 tube is comparable to my 4" apo's dewcap!

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#10 A6Q6

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 08:37 AM

"the C5 tube is comparable to my 4" apo's dewcap!" That's wild! "This C5 is tiny and a great cornerstone of amateur telescope history". all very true and that photo says it all, thanks.

#11 PeterWar

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 03:07 PM

Hi Peter,

I see you set your price-limit in €. In what country do you live?


I live in Spain and as you might know, our economy is not in great shape... hence the price restriction.

Smith Cassegrains are quite expensive here and we don't have a particularly big second-hand market, besides if I want more aperture I could always use my 8" newtonian.

The astroscan however has caught my atention, what a nice scope! :)

#12 Erik Bakker

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 04:43 PM

Peter,

What I meant was € instead of US $, not what amount in €. The € gave me a clue you live somewhere in Europe.

#13 A6Q6

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 04:44 PM

Please,Please,Please don't get an astroscan. They are only for very very low power views. I only included it in the picture to show the small size of the C5. You are better off with a cheap pair of Binoculars. I have had 3 astroscans in the last 30+ years and not one could give a good sharp image of the moon or planets. It is a telescope I have really tried to like but can't.

#14 Calypte

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 05:50 PM

Please,Please,Please don't get an astroscan. They are only for very very low power views. I only included it in the picture to show the small size of the C5. You are better off with a cheap pair of Binoculars. I have had 3 astroscans in the last 30+ years and not one could give a good sharp image of the moon or planets. It is a telescope I have really tried to like but can't.

A few months ago there was a thread about "worst" telescopes. My nomination for "worst" was the Astroscan. I got slammed for dissing it, with lots of remarks that said (essentially) "How dare you!" and "This was my favorite scope when I was a kid." We have an Astroscan. My wife bought it from none other than Scott Roberts when he was just another young sales clerk at OPT (about 1986). I've never figured out what it's good for. I know it's not good for high power -- OK, I get that. But the low-power views are so poor, I really don't see how anyone -- even a beginner -- can enjoy it.

#15 kkokkolis

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 04:38 PM

My favorite tabletop is the Skywatcher 130mm Heritage (Flextube). A great telescope for less than 200 euros. I also used it with a Portamount and Nexstar mount but the included Dobsonian mount is sufficient and can be used with a Mak too (tested with my C4). The only improvement it needs is a lightshield; I made mine from Kydex.
Posted Image
Not a Cat, I know. But you can mount a 90 or 102mm Mak on that at any time.
Posted Image

#16 jimbo728

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 01:37 AM

I purchased an Orion 102mm Mak about 9 years ago to be used as a spotter. It yields textbook star images in and out of focus. I don't think that would be a bad choice for a table top lunar and planetary scope. Very good for its low cost.

#17 jimbo728

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 01:48 AM

Oh,I have owned a C5, sold it, missed it, until I got the Orion 102 Mak. As comment I must say that an Astroscan with a 45mm Celestron ep delivered one of my best views of M31.

#18 Eddgie

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 08:33 AM

Please,Please,Please don't get an astroscan.


Yes, that would be my advice as well.

Horrible focuser, horrible coma, and a very fast mirror with no provision for easy collimation.

#19 Eddgie

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 08:45 AM

You can buy used ETX 90s off of Craigslist for not to much money.

I have one of these. Mount was bad so I stuck it on a Alt Az tripod.

But I don't like it. Not a very good performer.

It has a lot of off axis light loss even with a 32mm Plossl. Only the center of the field is fully illuminated and the falloff is much worse than most scopes. Maybe 45% at the edge of the 32mm.

I also own a C5. It is far, far, far better. Field is will illuminated in ES 2468, it is very sharp and it has about the same true field at low power.

But finding them on a single arm fork at a reasonable price can be difficult.

There is the Meade 2045, and these come up for sale from time to time. They are SCTs. Very cute little observatory in a bag.

If you can find one of these, it might fit your bill. I have always wanted one of these in fact.

I would recommend stepping up a bit though.

My own recommendation would be the Celestron 5SE. Compact, and will run off of high capacity rechargeable AAs for two or three hours, depending on how much you slew.

While the base is a bit small, you could always mount it to a larger piece of plywood.

But be careful here. Unless your has a rather small top on it, using a "Tabletop" scope can be ergonomically challanging.

In a small Cat or SCT, your head can wind up down on the cold concrete, or you can wind up moving the telescope a lot to get it into a position where you can observer.

Honestly, a good small Alt-az mount is just a better solution.

That way, you can use the scope not only in your back yard, but anywhere else you want to use it.

So, 5SE would be a great scope, and I personally would steer away from 90 degree MCT.

And also, C90. I was not all that impressed with the C90 I bought used. Had heard good things about it, but C5 is sooooo much better.

#20 Eddgie

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 08:50 AM

Here is the 2045. This one was sold already, but just included to show you what it is if you are not famaliar with them.

I have always wanted one of these and one day I will find one to buy, but I think I would rather use my C5 for actual observing.

I just always thought the 2045 was like a cute little puppy and always wanted one.

Call me Mr Roboto.

Recent 2045 listing on CN

#21 Erik Bakker

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 09:01 AM

Just get a C5 that fits your budget. Such a great little scope. Those Meade 2045's are cute to look at, but a C5 is worlds better to look through. Used my C5 last night on a little stool for tabletop, wonderful views and great convenience.

#22 A6Q6

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 02:15 PM

Well Eddgie if you must have that little Meade, this is a must read from Orion61 in the Classic telescopes section:
"The ones in the Aluminum cases were nearly always great optically. I have had several through the years.
It was Meades PRE ETX.
Buy it you won't be sorry! have I steered you wrong yet?
You can tell the difference in the ones with the lens in front of the secondary.
They say Mirror Lens on the front cell
The true Little Schmidts SAY Schmidt Cassegrain.
As Glenn stated the non-Schmidts were horrible, low contrast, chromatic aberration, ghosting.
the good ones are about 905 as sharp as a 90mm ETX but brighter. The Little fork mounts are really very nice.
not Questar or Quantom nice but exceedingly more user friendly than the ETX.. Also yes picky little buggers on collimation.
One HUGE point.
If you get it, make sure and have the shipper REMOVE THE FINDER AND BRACKET! and then wrap the finder in bubble wrap!If he doesnt 100% sure it will get broken in shipping, same for the B&L 4000!!!! Again personal experience!"

#23 Ski-Patroller

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 04:59 PM

I would stay away from Table top mounts. A regular tripod is much more versatile and more solid.

I have an Orion Starmax 102 on a EQ-2 Mount. It seems to be quite sharp, and with the RA drive the mount is reasonably solid.

I also have NexStar 5i which is actually easier to set up and probably weighs a little less than the Starmax (mostly because of the counter weight). It is definitely a more solid mount. FWIW the 5i has essentially the same mount as the Nexstar 6SE. It is a a little heavier than the current 5SE

#24 Eddgie

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 05:06 PM

Thanks for posting.

I do want one just because they are so darned cute.

But I have been throwing money at astro-equipment like crazy lately, with a new SV110ED, new eyepeices, a second binoviewer, a 12" Go-To Dob, Moonlight focuser, Newtonian GPC for binoviewer more eyepieces, new solar filter, More eyepieces, extensions for the 110ED, Tuning rings, ES 20/100, Baader MPCC, more tuning rings, Bluetooth Telescope controller, Sky Safari, Android tablet to run said Sky Safari, and 12" telecope wirelessly, and well, I am sure I am forgetting stuff.

So for now, as much as I would like one, I really have to get my fingers out of my wallet.

#25 Eddgie

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 05:07 PM

Thank you though for helping my find more ways to spend my money.. LOL.

Seriously, thanks for the info. I really do mean that because one day, I want one of these miniature telescopes just for the novelty of it. They really are quite fun.






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